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Red Piccirilli looked at the school behind him, glad he only had another day left. The scent of lilacs and fresh mown grass hung in the air, and a soft breeze caressed his back. He had a lot of plans for summer vacation he wanted to throw into motion once it began. He’d just turned thirteen and life had a glow to it. Thor—who preferred to call himself Pig because of his weight—walked beside him. Red had always thought Pig would evaporate or something by now, he didn’t think an imaginary friend could stay with you once you hit junior high. His world was full of facts now, not imagination, and he had to get used to it, had to grow up.

Pig elbowed his ribs, and though Red couldn’t feel it, he acted like he did, because it was nice to let his friend think every little thing he said and did was real. Pig snorted and said, “I been thinking.”

Red slowed as they neared the intersection of M-46 and Blithe Street. A crossing guard stood with a handful of younger kids beside a light pole. Traffic was light, the sun bright, and he felt good, thinking of freedom. He smiled at Pig. “Thinking about what?”

Pig tugged at the collar of his shirt. “What if I’m not imaginary? What if I’m a ghost?”

Red shrugged his backpack into place. “Ghosts aren’t real either.” It hurt to say it, hurt to see Pig frown, the pout forming on his thick lips. Pig shrugged too and looked at the sidewalk as Tommy and two other boys walked up behind them. Red was glad that Pig wasn’t real, because he’d watched Tommy pick on Derrick Brick too many times for being chunky.

Pig said, “I think I am a ghost. I have memories of my family, of Christmas. Then ice, a lake, a loud crack, and screaming.”

Red didn’t know what to say. Tommy shoved into him; shoulder to backpack. Red lost his footing and almost tripped over his sneakers as he stumbled forward, arms flailing out for something to grab hold of. He caught his balance at the last second, just when he thought his chin would bounce off the concrete. Shaking, he spun around. Tommy said, “Watch where you’re going, runt.” The other two boys—Aaron and Jason—laughed. Both of them stood a head taller than Red, and Tommy stood a head taller than them. His dad was the coach and lots of grownups thought he’d be a star quarterback in a few more years because he had an arm on him. Red wished he’d get cancer and die first, but he doubted his wish would come true.

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