Ride 1A

October. First Tuesday

Butch Goodman jumped reflexively as the car swung quickly in front of him, the road’s soft shoulder sinking into a gravelly squish under the vehicle’s tires.

Through the rain and dusk, Butch saw the car’s brake lights illuminate. He could not make out the license plate, but was sure he recognized the car’s shape — it was a coupe, the one that always sped through the Bark Bay High School parking lot immediately after the last bell for the day rang, sometimes sooner.

There was barely enough daylight left for Butch to see the driver’s window roll down, followed by a head, covered with thin wires of long black hair that rose wildly in the air as if charged with static electricity, from which a voice commanded through the falling rain, “Get in.”

Now certain who was driving, Butch jogged up to the driver’s door, his feet splashig in shallow puddles, looked into the car and confirmed it was — him, the senior on the fencing team that had worked with him that night, the team’s first practice of the year.

Butch stopped beside the door. The driver looked up at him, his long black moustache bristling with impatience. “Passenger side, dude. I’m not getting up to let you in.”

“You’re the — you were at fencing tonight.” Butch shuddered involuntarily in the cold rain.

The driver smiled, his eyes revealing that the warmth of his expression was to be temporary. “That’s right, from fencing.” He nodded in the direction of the passenger side. “I’ll give you a ride home, get in.”

“You’re, what was it, Mister — ”

The driver’s response dripped with impatience. “Dude, I’m not a mister anything. Call me Double-J.”

“Oh! That’s right. Well thank you Mister Double-J — ”

Double-J rolled his eyes, threw his head back. “Holy Christ.”

“Sorry. Double-J — I just live up the street here, it’s only about a mile, I don’t need a ride.” Butch turned his head, sneezed, excused himself.

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