Roadside Encounter – Gray Metal Faces, March 5A

Three days later

“Pull over.” Rex punctuated his uncharacteristically insistent command by reaching over from the passenger’s seat and nudging Double-J’s right arm, which lay on the front seat as his left arm commanded the coupe’s steering wheel.

Double-J glanced in the direction his slim friend was pointing, and suppressed the urge to groan. He kicked the accelerator like an annoying dog, Rex’s voice rising in objection as the coupe sped towards the solitary figure walking along the road’s dirt shoulder, passing less than a foot from contact, the couple then swerving sharply right and stopping abruptly.

“Christ, take it EASY!” Ignoring his passenger’s complaint, Double-J rolled down his window, stuck the profile of his head outside the coupe, and without looking back commanded the person whose path his coupe was now blocking — “Banks. Rex here wants a word with you.” He then sat back in his seat, grinning with the left side of his mouth and frowning with the right, and waited with dark anticipation for the sharp cry of objection that was sure to erupt from the rear of his vehicle.

Yet the only audible sound for a moment was the hum of the coupe’s engine. Double-J squinted, looked up at his rear-view. Banks, the kid everyone else called Rune, was standing in the exact position he’d been when the coupe sped past him, his hands remaining in his jacket pockets. And he was — smiling.

Sneakered feet crunched into soft gravel as Rune sprinted up to Double-J’s door. “HEY THERE!” A cloying mirth in his voice. “How’s it GOING, Mr. Double-J!”

The burly teen twisted toward the grinning fool standing to his left. “The fuck — ”

Rune.” Rex leaned across the front seats, nearly bumping heads with Double-J. “Where you been, man, I haven’t seen you.”

The eyes of the teen standing outside the car GREW, then EXPANDED even further, and then got EVEN BIGGER. “Where have I BEEN?” Hands flew out the jacket pockets, arms spread wide. “I’ve been EVERYWHERE, you’re just not in the same PLACES I’ve been!”

“Tuesday afternoon, practice.” Double-J leaned back as far as he could as Rex continued speaking, sounding more like Coach Dan with every word. “You ain’t gonna get any better unless you practice.”

“Better at WHAT?” An additional sense of delight seemed to erupt on Rune’s face as he stared down at Rex’s blinking, blank expression. “Hey Double-J — ” Rune’s arms flying forward, slapping on to coupe’s roof — “when’s your next PARTY?”

Rex reclined back into his seat, as Double-J remembered the last time he’d seen Rune. A Saturday, last month, a buddy of his had brought Rune to his apartment, mistakenly assuming that any fencer at Bark Bay High School would be welcome. The back room — Jez had taken Rune’s hand, was leading him back there to get high — 

“Don’t tell me you’re not having parties no more?” Rune’s voice was now barely a whisper, his face contorted in mocking disappointment. “I mean, I had so much fun the last time — ”

Double-J had bruised his hand, the punch to Rune’s stomach hitting a rib. That’s why he had started kicking.

” — we just GOTTA do that again, dontcha think?”

“You need a lift?” Double-J pointed behind him with his left thumb. “I can get you home.”

“A RIDE?” Rune stepped back, his arms spreading wide again. “You really think I need TRANSPORTATION?” He stepped back into the middle of the road, nearly tripping over a mound of bituminous patchwork. “I don’t need a ride in your CAR, because — and I don’t think you know this yet — ”

The manic figure standing in the road leaned forward, waited for the proper look of bewilderment on the faces of the two teens in the coupe.

” — I’m an AIRPLANE!” Rune then turned sharply up the road, buzzing his lips and waving his outstretched arms wildly up and down, bzzzzzzzz.

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