The Pickup (Ginger Man 12D)

“Should I come back later?” Charlie looked back at the large analog clock hung above the kitchen wall. The thin red second hand sped past the black minute hand, leaning closer to the 1 than it was the 12, and made its way towards the short hour hand, pointed directly at 4.

He heard Rune utter a dismissive nah. “We’re done today, right coach?” Charlie turned back to see the person who he only knew as a teacher nod his head.

Rune walked back to the other fencers. An athletic girl in a pony-tail unzipped the back of his uniform, as a fat boy took his sword (foil, Charlie reminded himself) and glove from him.

“Dan Jacobs.” The teacher whom Rune had called coach extended his hand in greeting. Charlie muttered his name in return, shook Dan Jacobs’ hand. “They call me Coach Dan during practice. I seem to recall you graduating last year.” Charlie nodded. “You friends with Rune?”

For the first time that afternoon, Charlie made eye contact with Coach Dan. He replied truthfully. “Not — really.”

“It’s cool, Coach.” Rune had removed his fencing equipment, was now pulling a jacket onto his body. “Rex says he’s done work for his family.” The tall teen who had been fencing against Rune lifted his right thumb above his head; Charlie didn’t recognize the face, but nodded in his direction anyway.

Minutes later, Rune was in the passenger seat of Charlie’s pickup. He reached over his right shoulder, and as Charlie turned the ignition he knew what Rune was looking for. “Seat belt’s busted — sorry.”

“Oh.” Rune turned, faced forward, arms tight to his sides. Charlie looked at him. “You OK?”

“Yeah.” Rune waved a hand in front of him. “Let’s just go — I mean — ” He turned his palm, waved in the direction behind them.

Charlie put the pickup into reverse, and within moments had guided the vehicle out of the Bark Bay High School parking lot, headed in the direction of the Pizza Place, the location Rune had recommended for reviewing the notebook that lay on the seat between Charlie and Rune.

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