Double-J leaned back, the front legs of his plastic chair rising off the floor. “So don’t worry about me, little bird. I’m doing fine. Never been better, in fact.”
The Bird shook her head, and said she wasn’t worried about him; Double-J responded with the look of a judge who’d lost patience with an attorney’s argument. It was other people, she explained, other people were worried about him. Not her.
“That a fact?” Nod, Double-J raised his tumbler, saw it was nearly empty, waved the waitress over. Stroked an eyebrow with his thumb — “That checks out. You called about the team, didn’t say nothing ’bout me.”
That’s right, said The Bird. She said she couldn’t explain it, sometimes she would have feelings about people, that they were headed in a certain direction, good or bad. These weren’t like predictions, she didn’t know what was going to happen, but she was convinced that if things didn’t change — her eyes grew big. It’s patterns, she said, I see patterns of behavior, it’s like what Coach Dan says about fencing.
The last statement seemed to fully engage the burly teen sitting across from her. “See what patterns your opponent is following, then find its weak point and exploit it.”
And don’t fall into patterns yourself, The Bird added.
“Be predictably unpredictable.” He snorted a laugh through his nose.
The waitress revisited their table, carrying Doulbe-J’s sandwich and a glass pitcher of Coke. A soothing pop song descended from the ceiling’s loudspeakers, masking the conversations from other tables. Refilling Double-J’s tumber, the waitress left abruptly.
Haven eaten several bites from her salad, The Bird placed her fork back down on the table. There’s something wrong with the team, she said as Double-J tore into his sandwich. It wasn’t just about who showed up at practice — she remembered they had three four strips going two weeks ago, must have been close to a dozen, the two Pauls, OK, Micky and her brother — just about everyone, except Rune.
“Banks?” Nod. “Big loss there.” The Bird flinched at his sarcasm, Double-J responding with a dismissive head shake. “Don’t worry about Banks, his family’s gonna take care of him, like they always have.”