“You’re doing it wrong,” Phoebe said with zero patience in her voice.
“Forgive me, I’ve never cleaned up dog poop before.” Gus tried to keep the sarcasm from his words but knew he failed.
“Didn’t your mommy ever let you have a puppy?” Phoebe teased.
“Of course, I had a puppy,” Gus said. “But our servants cleaned up after him, not me.” That got the attention of the other service workers. If they hadn’t already suspected he was a privileged kid, they knew now. Gus gulped.
“You need to use the shovel first.” Phoebe’s statement was derogatory. “Get the solid waste out of the way, then use the hose.”
“Wouldn’t you save a step by just blasting it with water until it rinses down the drain?”
“That’s a lot of extra water, and water is expensive,” Phoebe said.
“Can’t I just write a check and you can hire someone to do this?” Again, that got everyone’s attention. He realized he needed to be a little more careful about how he spoke so flippantly around these kids who had nothing. He would be a prime target for getting mugged.
“Must be nice to have enough money that you can snap your fingers and make all your problems go away, Your Highness,” Phoebe said. “The idea is for you to do service. You can’t buy your way out of this using your daddy’s money. You did the crime; you do the time.”
“You drank almost as much as I did that night,” Gus said.
“Not even close.” She laughed, “Besides, I wasn’t stupid enough to get behind the wheel of a car.”
“I wasn’t stupid enough either.” Gus realized he and Phoebe had moved closer to one another so that they were right up in each other’s faces. “But I was too drunk to realize what a stupid choice I was making. And my best friend almost died because of it.”
“How is Alex, by the way,” Phoebe asked, her voice a little softer.
“He has very little feeling in his legs,” Gus said. “Oh, and he thinks he spoke to God.”
“He had a near-death experience?” Phoebe took a step back and raised her eyebrows.
All the other workers had stopped what they were doing, and he had a captive audience. “He says he was awake the whole three days he was in a coma and described details at the scene of the accident in frighteningly accurate detail.”
“Is it true you stayed by his side that whole time?” Phoebe asked.
Gus shrugged. “He’s my best friend. And I felt responsible. I still do. That’s why no amount of shoveling dog crap will ever be enough of a punishment.” Gus creased his eyebrows, grabbed his shovel, and lowered his head with a scowl. He pushed past several other hooligan bystanders and entered the next kennel. No one bothered him for several hours.