Gray Metal Faces – March 6.5

[As the conclusion to this chapter revision approached, I decided there needed to be an additional scene. This takes place between March 6C and March 7A; material from March 6A has been cut and added to this new scene.]

“A — halt.” Guy jumped the start, ref’s giving him a warning, not sure why he didn’t issue a yellow. “Pret — ” guy’s holding himself back, might be able to use it against him — “allez.” Take the center, he’s backing up, this one’s mine, small quick steps, wait for him to open — he flinches, I go, miss DAMMIT, hit on the backswing, EEEP EEEP, “halt.” All up to the ref, could go either way, he doesn’t look certain. Shakes his head, “attack no, counter no, the remises are together, no touch.” Got lucky there. 

Double-J smiled, nodded down at the first flanneled man, slowly getting to his feet. “You and your friend, best be getting outta here.” The newcomer picked up his companion and carried him away, Double-J standing over the man in the pickup as he watched the two men get into a green hatchback.

As the car drove out of the parking lot, Double-J got down to one knee, and glared down at the pickup man, who no longer had any fight left in him. The teen spoke with quiet anger, the man replying with short, shame-filled nods. Double-J then stood, and walked briskly back to his coupe.

The Bird heard him cursing under his breath as he opened the door and got into the driver’s seat. She asked what he’d said to the pickup man before leaving him alone on the pavement, and Double-J snorted. “Told him if he ever drew that shotgun he had in his front seat on me, I’d break both his arms.”

A week from Thursday

Double-J was exiting a pharmacy when he saw Butch walking in to the store three doors down the strip mall. He could not remember the last time he had been in Page Turners, and he was not sure why talking to Butch was suddenly so important enough to warrant this diversionary trip, but Double-J always enjoyed following his instincts.

He decided to follow the overweight junior with the short crop of tow, curious to see Butch’s literary destination. The aisle furthest to the left of Page Turners contained rows of newspapers and magazines; Butch walked past the News, Travel, Music, and Politics sections, finally stopping at the far corner stand: Comics.

Stopping at a comfortable distance, Double-J raised his chin. “Thought you usually came here with your buddy, Banks.”

Butch didn’t jump, but his face had its typically surprised expression. “Oh! You mean, Rune?”

Double-J frowned, as he recalled the memory of his roadside encounter with Hugh Banks. “Is it me, or has that guy gotten even more flaky lately?”

Butch stared back blankly, and for a moment Double-J thought he would have to define flaky in order to get a response. But then — “I don’t know what’s going on with him.” Butch’s voice was unusually cold. “He hasn’t been to practice, doesn’t wanna read comic books no more, won’t even talk to me, or Annie, or anyone.”

Double-J waved his right hand. “Nothing new there. Teen angst.”

Butch bit his lower lip, his eyes narrowing. “What did he ask?”

From experience, Double-J knew that if this conversation didn’t move forward, it would quickly get mired in a place he didn’t want to be stuck. “Didn’t see your family’s truck outside.” It had been in Lefty’s shop last week, and he had repaired the heat shield on the exhaust.

“Oh! I got a ride here from Mrs. Everett, and my mom, she won’t be here for another hour.”

“Ah.” Double-J pointed at the rack of comics. “Really going to take you that long to make your selections?” Butch replied that it wouldn’t, and after receiving Double-J’s promise to get them to the Baptist church before her mother left, and making a quick purchase of four Marvel comics, he left Page Turners with Double-J.

They had just exited the strip mall’s parking lot in the coupe, when Double-J, struck by an impulse he could not resist even if he had wanted, said that he was not actually certain Butch had a mother.

“Oh! Well, she’s dead.”

The coupe momentarily swerved over the center line. “You mind telling me who the hell’s over at your church?”

“Oh! Sorry, that’s my stepmother. My mom, she died, when I was a baby.”

“Ah.” Double-J made a silent promise to himself to not act on any more impulses on this trip.

“My dad, he married Faith after mom died. Faith, she’s my mom. Well she’s not — “

“Got it,” Double-J waving his right hand towards his passenger. “What I was trying to say before, not very effectively, was that I’ve never actually met your mo – stepmother.”

“Oh! Well, she don’t work, when she’s not home she’s at the church — “

“Been working on your family’s truck for years. Sometimes your dad brings it in to Lefty’s, or one of your brothers, or sisters. I’m pretty good with names, don’t ever remember a ‘Faith’ coming in to the shop.”

“Oh! Well, my mom, she doesn’t do a lot of the errands.”

Double-J smiled reflexively as he saw they were approaching the driveway to the Baptist church. “She sounds like a person who doesn’t like being away from home.”

As he pulled the coupe into the driveway, Double-J expected another Oh!, followed by another perplexing explanation. He certainly didn’t expect silence from his passenger. When he stopped the car, he looked over to see Butch staring blankly at the front of the church.

“My mom likes to do a lot of things. She’s asked to do more of the errands. But my dad — “

The image of Reverend Goodman’s stern face, from a summer camp many years in the past, came to Double-J’s mind.

“Thank you for giving me the ride.” Without another word between he and Double-J, Butch then quickly exited the vehicle, and a moment later entered the church through a side door.

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