“You probably are. Not aware of this.” Mr. Nestor’s voice sounded cold, the sound of a knife scraping an ice cube. “But this boy on your team, Double-J — he not only. Is no longer enrolled. At your school. But also has had. More than one incident. With the. Authorities.”
The Bird couldn’t remember him being so circumspect, as if reluctant to speak his mind. She asked if he was saying Double-J was a criminal.
“Oh no, dear no!” She wished they were speaking in person, The Bird hated telephone conversations, not seeing the face of the people she was speaking with. “I haven’t found — he has never been arrested, never charged. But he has been questioned. On several occassions. About his friends, some of whom have been arrested, have been charged, have been convicted. Nothing violent, fortunately. But still — disturbing.”
She let the line’s static hum a moment, reviewing her memories of him, all from the fencing practices he infrequently attended. His open defiance of Coach Dan, the mocking sarcasm he weilded against every team member. And she remembered the rumors she heard, about his apartment, the parties he thew. Next time I have the guys over, maybe I’ll just send the cops an invite, save the neighbors a phone call. What she was hearing now from Mr. Nestor didn’t contradict any of her impressions of Double-J, yet there was something in his analysis that she didn’t trust, that seemed distorted, incomplete.
The Bird asked if he had ever spoken to Double-J; he tutted, and she envisioned him shaking his head. “Only that one evening, my sweet. Not long enough to evaluate whether what I’ve heard is consistent with his personality.” She noticed the hesitation was gone from his voice. She felt an urge to challenge him, shame his gossip, but decided instead to relate facts — he was rarely at pratice because he had a job, never at school because he’d already graduated (she wasn’t sure of this, but he was evidently certain), and had never said or done anything that made her feel unsafe.
“I.” Mr. Nestor cleared his throat. “See.” And at that moment the front door of her home opened, her mother striding in and, a few moments later, taking the receiver from The Bird. Who went to her upstairs bedroom, closed the door, and while sitting on her bed listened intently to her mother’s side of conversation, never once hearing any suggestion that Mr. Nestor had returned the conversation back to the short, powerful sabre fencer she knew from the occassional Tuesday afternoon practice.