“Hey, how about if you come home with me for supper?” Will thought he wouldn’t get into as much trouble for being late if he had a friend with him. And his dad had been asking if he’d made any friends yet, so bringing one home would show him.
Doof shifted from one foot to the other, twirling his baseball cap around his finger. “I dunno. Maybe your mom wouldn’t like that.”
“She won’t mind. She always cooks way too much food. Come on.” Will led the way at a brisk trot. They had followed the ice cream truck farther than he’d realized.
Will’s house was warm and full of good smells. Will showed Doof the bathroom so he could wash his hands and went to tell his mom about his guest.
Will’s dad was standing by his chair at the head of the table when the boys came into the dining room. Will carried an extra plate, glass, and cutlery for Doof. “Will, you know it’s disrespectful to be late for supper. This is the second time this week.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. This is my friend Doo—uh, Harold. Harold Duffy.” Will shifted his plate over and put the extras on the table. “This is my Dad.”
Doof and Will’s Dad stared at each other. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Todd.” Doof stuck out a hand, but Will’s dad ignored it.
“That’s Professor Todd,” he said and turned to Will, eyebrows crumpled. “This boy is joining us for the meal? Does your mother know?”
“She says it’s okay.”
Doof was backing up like he was planning to run out the door. Will pulled one of the spare chairs over and put it in place. “You can sit here. It’s okay.”
Will’s dad nodded and they all sat down.
While they ate pot roast, mashed potatoes and broccoli, Will couldn’t help noticing things about Doof that didn’t seem to matter before. His shirt had holes in the elbows and wasn’t too clean. There was a fading bruise on one of his wrists. Without his baseball cap on, you could tell he needed a haircut.
Will’s mom kept a kind of conversation going by asking Doof things like how did he like school and what sports he played and did he have any pets. Doof did okay answering her questions, didn’t even talk with his mouth full, used his napkin properly, ate up everything on his plate, and accepted seconds.
“I have a dog,” said Doof, answering the pet question. “Well, he’s not really my dog, but he’s my pal, you know.”
“It’d be cool to have a dog,” said Will.
Will’s dad cleared his throat. “We’re not getting a dog, Will. I don’t care for dogs. What does your father do, Harold?”
Doof didn’t reply right away. He lowered his glass of milk and looked like he was consulting an inner authority. “Business,” he said finally.
“What kind of business?” asked Will’s dad.
“All kinds,” said Doof. “It depends.”
“Where do you live, Harold?”
For a couple of seconds Will thought he would say, “None of your business,” but instead Doof gave a little one-sided smile and said, “Walnut Hill.”
The best neighbourhood in town, where all the rich people lived. Will was pretty sure Doof was lying, but after that Will’s dad stopped asking questions.
Dessert was apple pie and ice cream. As soon as he was finished, Doof put his folded napkin on his plate. “May I be excused?” he said. “I have to go home now. Thank you for supper, Mrs. Todd. Good night, Professor Todd.” He was out the door before anyone got up to see him out. Will ran after him, but all he saw was the pale blur of Doof’s shirt fading into the dark.
When he got back to the table, his father gave him a look. “That the only friend you managed to make at school? Can’t you do any better?”
“The boy was hungry,” said Will’s Mom. “Did you see how much he ate? I wonder if he’s getting proper meals at home. His table manners were good, though.”
“Do you really live in Walnut Hill?” Will asked Doof at recess the next day.
Doof narrowed his eyes. “What do you think?”
“I think you were lying.”
“Two points for Willy! Yeah, I lied to Professor Todd. So what? Don’t you ever lie to your dad? Or don’t you dare?”
Will shrugged, blushing. “So what kind of business does your dad do?”
“It depends,” said Doof,
“My dad said he figured it was probably funny business.”
Doof’s face turned red. “Your dad thinks he knows everything, doesn’t he?”
“Well, he is a professor.” Will paused. “But he doesn’t know about that ice cream truck.”
Doof threw a rock at a bird sitting on the schoolyard fence. The rock missed. The bird flew away. “Race you back to school.” He took off.
By the time Will caught up, Doof had a grin on his face. “I dare you,” he said.
“Dare me what?”
“Find that ice cream truck. Tonight.”
“After supper? I’m not allowed—”
“‘I’m not allowed! My daddy won’t let me!'” Doof mocked, his voice high and whining. “That’s why I’m daring you. And not just after supper. I’m talking real night time. Midnight. Are you up for it?”
“Midnight! That’s stupid. Nobody’s going to be selling ice cream then.”
“I’ll bet that ice cream truck does,” said Doof. “I’ve heard its music at night. So’ve you.”
“But nothing! Are you with me or not? ‘Cause I’m going anyway.”
“You bet! Big ol’ Friday night.”