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Whenever you saw Rory Dunn walking down the street or riding his bicycle, he was with Derek Curry. The boys were best friends and always seemed to be together.
Rory, whose real name was Richard (but no one ever called him that except his grandmother), had dark brown hair and wore glasses. Derek was much taller than Rory and had curly blond hair.
The differences in their appearance were not the only differences the boys had. Rory was bossy and liked to make all the decisions for himself and his friend. But Derek didn't seem to mind. They got along just fine. "You'd think they were brothers," their neighbor, Mrs. Golding, often said. That showed how little Mrs. Golding knew. Brothers and sisters fight with one another. Rory and Derek never quarreled, from the moment they met on the way to school in the morning till the end of the day when they said goodbye. Half the time during the week, Rory wound up eating dinner at Derek's house. And the other evenings, Derek found himself sitting around the table with Rory's family.
"What a joy to see such good friends," Mrs. Golding would say with a smile.
Mrs. Golding saw a great deal of the boys. Her home on Dogleg Lane in Woodside, New Jersey was right between Rory's house and Derek's house. If anything could be said to come between the two boys, it was the Goldings' house. Luckily the Goldings were easygoing people and didn't complain when the boys, at a very young age, started taking a shortcut through their backyard when they went out to play. Before long, there was a well-wornpath through the Golding's grass as well as a hole in the hedges on either side of their property. But Mr. Golding could remember back to his own younger days, and he knew that the twenty seconds or so the boys saved by using his yard was very important.
Rory and Derek had known each other since they were three years old. Neither of them could remember a time before the Currys moved to the street where the Dunn family already lived. There were only six weeks separating the boys in age. So from May 4 they were always the same age until the following March when Rory was once again temporarily older than his friend. This year the boys were ten years old and they had just finished fourth grade. Some years they were in the same classroom in the Woodside Elementary School. There were four sections of each grade and the teachers liked to mix everyone up so that they would make new friends. But it didn't matter whether Rory and Derek were in the same room or not. Nothing could separate them or change their friendship, not even being assigned to different classrooms.
"Your friendship is a matter of propinquity," Rory's father had once told his son.
"Pro-what?" asked Rory."Pro-pin-quity," said his father, slowly sounding out the word. Mr. Dunn taught English at the Woodside Middle School, and he often used big words to enrich his son's vocabulary. "It means that your friendship with Derek has developed because of the nearness of our home to his. If we had moved a couple of blocks away or to a different community, you guys wouldn't know each other at all."
Rory didn't agree. He was sure that wherever they lived, he and Derek would have met and been friends. Propinquity, or whatever it was called, only made life more convenient for them. And since it was now summer vacation and they lived so close to each other, it meant that they had even more time to play.
Rory liked knowing that for the next two months no teacher would tell him what to do. He didn't have to think about arithmetic homework or book reports or spelling quizzes. Instead, he and Derek could read comics or go swimming or practice basketball shots whenever they wanted. Derek's mother had suggested that the boys go off to a sleepaway camp for two weeks during the vacation.
"A change is always stimulating," she had said.
But Rory didn't want to go. He didn't need a change. He liked things just as they were. The last big change in his life had been when his sister Edna was born, which showed how unnecessary changes could be. So Rory convinced Derek that he should refuse to go to camp, too. "We don't need new experiences or camp counselors ordering us about," he told Derek. And because Derek was a good friend, he agreed with Rory.
On the first day of summer vacation, the boys were sitting under the maple tree in Derek's yard rereading all their old comic books. Between them, they owned close to two hundred. There was Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, and a lot of others. Even though they had read them many times before, Rory enjoyed rereading them over and over.
Suddenly Mrs. Golding stuck her head through the hole in the hedge and called to the boys, "I have wonderful news!" Her face was red with excitement.Rory looked at Derek and smiled. Derek returned the smile with a knowing look. The flushed face and the broad smile probably meant that Mrs. Golding had been making cookies. She often did.
"I didn't want to tell you until I was sure," she continued. "But I just had a phone call from my niece and the plan has been all worked out."
Rory looked puzzled. Could Mrs. Golding's niece have given her a new cookie recipe over the telephone? It seemed unlikely.
"What is it?" he asked suspiciously. He didn't mind having his reading interrupted for chocolate chip cookies. But somehow, he suspected that Mrs. Golding hadn't been baking at all.