Preparations, Part 1

[Continuing my series of Town Tales, where I show each of my novel’s central characters interacting with the world outside their school and fencing club.]

Ocotober, the second Wednesday

“Butch, be a dear and come give me a hand with this.” Tina Hayes, a frail widow in her seventies, knew better than to try to lift the coffee percolator up from the floor-level cabinet she had just opened.

Butch Goodman eagerly obeyed. He was good at lifting things, and enjoyed the process of getting equipment and supplies from storage, taking them from where they were to where they needed to be. He looked forward to the preparations each week for Wednesday night Bible study, would gladly have done everything himself (and had, on several occasions over the years) but also enjoyed the company of Miss Hayes and other volunteers from the church.

As he lifted the percolator to the kitchen counter, he felt a chill breeze. The basement kitchen of the church seemed much colder than it had the week before, even though evening temperatures in Bark Bay were still comfortable. He rubbed his hands, as Miss Hayes came over with the box of filters and a large red coffee can.

“Are you cold?” Miss Hayes was wearing the pink sweater her mother had made long before Butch had been born. Butch, who hadn’t put anything over the short-sleeved collared shirt he had put on after school, nodded — and then saw a look of surprise, touched with a little fear, burst onto Miss Hayes’ face. He asked her what was wrong, and she pointed to his hands, which he was still rubbing together.

“Are you hurt?” Butch looked down at where Miss Hayes’ eyes were focused, and immediately saw what had elicited her concern, the purple spot on the back of his left hand, about the size of a silver dollar.

“Oh!” Butch smiled, shook his head. “No, I’m not hurt. Well actually, it does hurt a little, but not as much as when it happened last night.”

Miss Hayes had walked up to him, her eyes examining the bruise on Butch’s hand like it was a spot of mold on a loaf of bread. “What — happened last night?”

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