By Anatoly Rybakov and Tim Kyle
We were amazed by the quantity of the people who arrived for us on the mobile repair unit. Two drivers and a mechanic that's a must. The foreman James Dennon okay, fine. Ian understandable, he always has to be in the center of events. But why did the chief engineer and our homeroom teacher Mrs. Natalie Petters come as well?! We were simply stunned, watching as they all trickled out of the van.
Mrs. Petters rushed over to us and began to feel us from head to toe, checking, is it really us? And if it is us, are we alive? And if we are alive, are we whole?
The chief engineer told her:
"See, I told you they're fine. And you were so worried!"
But on his face it was visible that he too did not hope to find us among the living.
"What a mess you caused, boys," said the foreman James Dennon. He even removed his beret. Under the beret, it appears, he had a bald head, and he immediately ceased to resemble a Spaniard.
It became clear to us that our absence had caused a big alarm in Somerset.
"If you wouldn't have been so pigheaded and came back to the city with me," said Ian with reproach, "then there'd be no noise."
"But you knew why we remained," we answered Ian.
"Nobody wanted to believe me that you remained here to guard this piece of junk," Ian said.
Great, so again, it turns out, we are guilty.
"Just think, boys, how worried your parents were!" Mrs. Petters said. "There was an accident and you are nowhere to be found! What should they had thought?"
Right! As if parents can think optimistically. Or at least logically. >From our short talk with Ian, we found out that Vern's parents wanted to drive up and look for us when they found out, but their car was in the shop, so apparently Ian convinced them not to go and try to get my parents in the middle of the night. I knew for a fact that nothing would have come of it anyway, because my father had a night shift at the factory and he took the car with him. As for Smako's grandparents, they don't own a car.
While this conversation went on, our truck was fastened to the mobile repair unit. Not with a cable, but with a rigid metal tow structure. Now nothing can happen to our truck, even if the steering is faulty.
The chief engineer took the passenger seat in the cabin of the tow truck, foreman James Dennon sat in the cabin of the truck being towed, the rest went into the van of the mobile repair unit. They offered Mrs. Petters a seat in the cabin, but she declared that she will sit with us. Every slightest bump in the road she grabbed our sleeves. Maybe she was afraid that we will fly out of the van. She very much wanted to get us home safely.
During the entire trip she was questioning us about what happened. We, of course, hid nothing. It was senseless to lie, everything was already known anyway. We only did not specify, who did what. We spoke in plural: "we". Like: We decided to drive the trucks to the camp's gate, We incorrectly fixed the cable, We are guilty...
Suddenly Mrs. Natalie Petters declared:
"You are not guilty of anything!"
Her face became severe. When she got that look on her face, we knew: Mrs. Petters is going to show firm character.
"You are not guilty," she said, "it's those people who sent you and who went with you, had allowed you to make an accident and then abandoned you at night on the road, they are the ones who are guilty!"
We did not begin to argue with Mrs. Petters, though we were surprised at her naivety. She considered us children. And on the truck depot we're not children, we are workers, we are receiving a salary and are responsible for our actions.
But, as it has appeared later, Mrs. Petters' point of view didn't seem so naive to a lot of people.
What we saw at the truck depot had surpassed the worst of our fears.
None of the other kids went home, all waited for us. As soon as the mobile repair truck drove into the yard, people poured out workers from shops, office employees from the office. And when we got out of the van, we saw our parents: my mom, Smako's grandparents, Vern's mom and his two sisters.
The mess was grandiose.
And to think, that only this morning we peacefully sat in the truck's cabin, ate sandwiches we made at the camp and thought of no such thing.
The holes on my trousers made an enormous impression. Everyone knew, that I was the one who turned over with the truck. My mom was actually afraid to approach me. She just stood there and swung her head from side to side.
Peter was picked up by his armpits by both his grandparents and dragged away home. It really looked ridiculous: Smako minced between them as Gulliver between two Lilliputians. Around Vern hassled his two sisters, two very small but already very posery and very annoying girls.
Then the manager approached, took me by the shoulders, turned me this way and that, and said:
"Alive, healthy... And what panic you boys caused..."
And he laughed. But it was an uneasy laughter...
Vern's mother declared with a quarrelsome voice:
"Still, you will answer for this!"
The manager's face instantly turned sour, he lowered his hands and head and went into his office. I pitied him, even. Really! If such mommies like Vern's mom are going to start a squabble, he will get into trouble. And he did absolutely nothing wrong... I told Vern's mother:
"Please, don't make a scene."
"Steven!" my mom cried and made big round eyes, as always when it seemed to her that I am being impolite. Vern also said to his mother:
"Don't talk about what you don't know!"
"You I will talk to at home!" his mom answered, seized Vern by the shoulders and dragged him away. Both his little sisters were skipping behind them.
The other kids couldn't leave me alone. Maya looked at me with such admiration I even became a bit embarrassed. Ian was also here. On his face I saw, that he envies me. Envies that I am in the center of attention. He would have liked to be in my place now. But when I was capsizing with the truck, he probably wouldn't have liked!
"Let's go home, Steven!" my mom said.
"Just a minute," I replied and addressed the other kids: "People here are talking nonsense, preparing to squabble. So, keep in mind, we are the ones who are guilty, not anyone else."
Mrs. Petters discontentedly spoken:
"We will figure out without you kids who is guilty of what."
"Justice will triumph."
"Sure, sure," Mrs. Petters hastily answered, "it will all be taken care of, don't worry! For now you should go home, change your trousers."
"There are more important things than a pair of trousers," I objected.
Surrounded by the other kids, mom and I went home. The entire way I was trying to convince the other kids that the accident was our fault, and nobody else's. But the kids were not interested in that. They kept badgering me about my sensations while the truck was flipping over. I said that I had no sensations at the time.
Such an answer did not satisfy them, and they asked, nevertheless, what did I feel when it was happening?
I answered that I did not feel shit.
...I will not describe what went on at home. Really! I, probably, told the story about twenty times to my mother. And then I told it twenty times again when dad came home from his overnight shift.
Dad took my textbook of automobile service, carefully studied how a reversal of the steering pulley causes the loss of steering. Then he laid out a sheet of drafting paper and drew a schematic drawing of the accident. After that he declared, that it is all clear to him. And, when he declared that, I was finally dismissed. I was wound up, tired and annoyed. Calming down and relaxing was top priority... so I headed off to see Matty.
I got a bit nervous after ringing the bell at Matty's door, because I realized this was the first ever time that I've come to see Matty without being asked to babysit. How would his mother react to me, a fourteen year old, dropping in on her precious son as a friend? But, of course, my fears were completely vain. She was delighted I stopped by and after scolding me about making my mother worry (my mother, naturally, already informed her of the accident and my overnight absence in the morning), she utilized my visit and took off to some friend of hers she wanted to see. I got the vague suspicion that she is going to see a male friend, or in other words to get laid. But it was too much of a stretch for even my horny imagination to picture Matty's prude of a mother having sex, so I just resorted to being happy she's gone. Matty seemed ecstatic about it as well.
Generally speaking, Matty was expectedly excited I came to see him. After his mom left, he jumped on me with questions about the accident; but having told the story about forty times at home just now I cut those off at the bud:
"Please, don't do this to me. I'm telling this story the whole day already, I need a break."
Matty didn't press the issue:
"Okay, you can tell me whenever. What do you want to do then?"
I was still very horny from the unexpected peep show I got this morning at the camp. I decided not to beat around the bush:
Matty seemed perplexed:
"What, do you want to like sleep or something?"
"No," I answered, slyly smiling. "I want to RELAX," I said with an emphasis and suggestively made a wanking motion with my hand.
"Oh!" Matty lit up, "Great! I was just about to suggest... that..." and his cute mouth stretched into a happy smile.
We went into Matty's room, sat on the bed and started taking our clothes off. Matty was, as last time, showing no hint of shyness or apprehension he was anticipating this, and now he couldn't wait to get to it. We assumed our regular position me sitting behind Matty and stroking his firm little dick. And as I was enjoying the contact of the milkysmooth skin on his back as he leaned into me, I began considering trying to take things to the next level. I was planning, at first, to be cautious, as not to scare the boy. But Matty was turning out to be such a little horndog, I started thinking that my hesitation to try something new is silly. He was so into this, there was probably nothing I could do at this point that would scare him. He was all desire and curiosity, in the most adorable mixture. I felt his breath quicken as he deliciously squirmed against my hard dick with his lower back, then he started to gently push his pelvis forward, trying to push his cute tool deeper into my fist. I figured this is the perfect time.
Stopping my gentle wanking, I said:
"Hey, wanna try something cool?"
Matty looked back (his eyesight somewhat glazed over) and mumbled:
"Okay... but can we try it after I have the feeling?.."
"No, then there wouldn't be much point. This is something great, trust me."
Matty's eyes cleared a bit, curiosity appearing in them, and he turned around to face me:
"Close your eyes," I told him. He did as instructed, his face wearing an adorable expression of happy anticipation. I slid down off the bed, crouching on the floor, and carefully touched the tip of his dick with my tongue. As expected, he twitched and opened his eyes:
"What are you..." he started to ask. But I, without delay and without letting him finish the question, slid his entire hard length into my mouth. Matty whimpered, softened, and let out a long, excited breath. Looking up, I could see his eyes fixed on my head, and as our eyes met I could see the wonder of realization, that what he experienced so far, was nothing but an appetizer, a precursor to the main event. His hips bucked as his body started shaking finely. His tool fit quite comfortably in my mouth, I could feel it's entire length with my tongue. I started slowly sucking on it, running my tongue all over, and Matty's fine shaking started picking up amplitude, and my hand resting on his thigh started to feel like it was resting on a hood of a rumbling V8. This was new to me: Pete was never this sensitive, this passionate; he was just interested in the payoff and we did whatever we did quite mechanically, just to get off. Matty, on the other hand, was like a wound up string, vibrating with my every touch, he felt like a bomb that is ready to explode from that very first time I wanked him off. It seemed that what he was feeling was beyond what Peter or I were capable of. I was curious to see where this would take him and us eventually.
Feeling his pelvis beginning to stir, I took his dick out of my mouth to give it a bit of a gentler, more playful workover: I started playing around the head with the tip of my tongue, going into the tiny slit on the top of it occasionally. Matty squirmed and giggled. I went further down and ran the tip of my tongue along the center of his very tight ballsack, and was rewarded with more giggles and squirming. But after a bit of this, Matty moved left and angled himself so that his hard little pencil was touching my lips again. I was given a hint: enough playing around, it's time to finish what you've started. I was happy to oblige, and took his tool into my mouth again, and started sucking on it, this time also bobbing my head back and forth, being careful to keep my teeth out of the way. Matty's breathing jumped up by ten notches as soon as I started bobbing my head, and his whole body started shaking again. After about half a minute, he let out another long whimper and started to rhythmically push his pelvis into my face with a quickening pace. I no longer had to move my head he was genuinely fucking my face, with long, joyful strokes. How about that, the shy kid from the next floor over, that was afraid to talk to me when they first moved in, was now all out fucking my mouth, as if he'd been doing this for years. With continuously rising surprise I felt his hands on the back of my head, as he positioned himself to hump faster, and a few seconds later I heard him let out a pretty loud continuous moan, as his dick started pulsating in my mouth, and his body suddenly froze for a few seconds, his hard little thing still pulsating wildly against my tongue. Then he let go of the back of my head, took his tool out of my mouth and slid down from the bed into my arms, nestling to me in an affectionate hug, putting his head on my shoulder, his breathing slowly returning to normal.
"That was... like..." he started, looking up into my eyes, "like... the best thing I've ever felt in my entire life, really!.."
I smiled at him:
"Told'ya it was cool," I said. Matty sighed gratefully, and looked down, a bit embarrassed at the emotion that washed over him. Looking down he noticed my throbbinghard tool, that was looking straight up at him, demanding attention. Matty didn't remain in debt for long, slid even further down to the carpet, and took my cock into his mouth. However, as could be expected, he grazed it with his teeth, causing me to yelp. Matty looked up at me, frightened:
"It's okay," I laughed, "Just easy with the teeth, okay?"
"Okay," smiled Matty and wrapped his lips around my hardness again. This time he kept his teeth out of the way, and I felt a pleasurable jolt of electricity when his wet tongue made contact with the head of my hard joy. My dick was, of course, much harder to get into his small mouth that his little tool was to get into mine; which caused another senseless influx of pride into my ego big deal, I'm bigger than an eleven-going-twelve-year-old, whooptido. But still, say what you may, it was nice to feel big. Matty was progressing at a geometric rate: he already figured out how to get just about half of my length in without gagging or grazing it with his teeth, and was now earnestly going to town on my cock, which caused wave after wave of rising pleasure to stir inside of me. True to the roadmap I laid out with my blowjob, he took my dick out of his mouth and started playing with it using the tip of his tongue. He was getting on quite well, considering it was his first time, and when he licked my balls I was already in seventh heaven. I was in no rush to hurry things along, but Matty decided probably based on his very recent experience that this is enough playfulness, and returned to sucking my dick in earnest. Watching his head bob up and down the length of my cock was a trip, and pretty soon I was nearing the point of no return. I blurted out between breaths:
"It's gonna squirt soon... Finish it off with your hand."
Matty obediently took my dick out of his mouth and tried stroking it, but the wetness prevented smooth motion. He looked up at me:
"It's not working this way... Can't I just finish with my mouth?"
I was perplexed:
"Then it would squirt into your mouth!"
Matty looked up at me:
"Is that bad?"
Now I know that at that moment I should have just said "yes" and be done with it. But, you see, I really wanted to feel what it's like to be sucked off all the way again Pete never did it to me after I started shooting. And so, instead of being cautious, I started thinking about it, and this is what I came up with:
"Well, no, not really. But it might be gross..."
Matty, while trying unsuccessfully to continue wanking my wet dick with his dry hand, said:
"Well, if it'll be gross, I can always spit it out, right?"
Perhaps my state at the moment was partially to blame for this, but for some reason that argument made a lot of sense to me. I said:
"Yeah, I suppose so."
And with that Matty slid down again and swiftly got his lips wrapped around my length again, starting to bob up and down instantly.
I don't know what it was maybe it was this incredibly hot session we were having, or maybe it was the knowledge that I'm gonna get to cum in someone's mouth but I only took half a minute to teach blastoff state again. My pelvis started bucking forward uncontrollably, and just like Matty a few minutes prior I put my hands on the back of his head, guiding his motion up and down my shaft. Feeling Matty's tongue on my rigid, quickly expanding tool as I neared the boiling point was unbelievable, I can honestly say that I never felt anything like it with Peter. And as I felt the blinding wave of pleasure wash over my entire being, I just managed to hoarsely squeak:
"Here it comes!"
I felt the first squirt of my watery cum jet out of the tip, hitting Matt on the roof of his mouth, causing him to gag slightly. But he kept on going, diligently milking my tool, as the second, much weaker spurt shot onto his tongue, and then a few dribbles followed. Finally, my very wet, glistening cock slid out of Matt's mouth, as I've slid down to the carpet like a noodle, completely drained of power.
Matty sat there for a few moments with a weird, slightly fastidious look on his face, and then, much to my surprise, he swallowed. Speechless, I looked at him, a range of emotions illustrated on my face. But he seemed fine. Looked at me with a funny expression and said:
I finally came to my senses:
"Why didn't you just spit it out?"
Matty shrugged his shoulders:
He was right, of course. We didn't prepare anything not a towel or a tissue, and his room was walltowall carpet. What a jib! I looked at him sheepishly and said:
"Sorry, I should have thought of that."
"It's okay," he said, and then confessed quietly: "I wanted to see what it tasted like anyway."
Didn't I say it already?.. Horny little devil!
After we got dressed, we just sat on his bed chatting. I told him, in full detail, the entire story of yesterday's towing and the accident. After all, he more than earned it! When I was telling him about the moment I was capsizing with the truck, Matty grabbed my hand and clung to my side, like a little boy. And after I finished telling the story, he said:
"Tinny, don't get into any more accidents, okay?"
I assured him that I had no intention of crashing again, that once was more than enough for me.
"It's just that..." Matty carefully said, "I don't want you to go anywhere."
I nearly choked at this honest and tender display of affection. And half a minute later, when my throat became usable again, I said:
"Yeah, I'm quite fond of you too."
Next day on the bulletin board at the depot was an order of the manager. Bud Zephron is given a strict reprimand and warning, for leaving the trucks unattended. And as for us kids, if one of us dares taking the wheel once more, they will be expelled from the summer program.
"What do you think?" I asked Ian.
"It is well written."
"What's so well about it?"
He derisively and significantly blinked one eye. To let me know, that the secret promptings of adults are clear only to him.
"The reasons are revealed, the guilty parties are punished, measures are taken..."
"So, Bud Zephron is guilty?"
Ian raised his eyebrows:
"So it was needed."
"Fuck you `so it was needed'! Is Bud Zephron guilty or not?"
"Well you see," importantly said Ian with his adultlike bassy voice, "from our point of view, Bud Zephron is not guilty. And from the point of view of the manager he is guilty. He should have provided for our safety. And he didn't. Be I the manager, I too would reprimand him!"
"Fortunately, you're not the manager!" I noticed.
But Ian coolly continued:
"If Bud Zephron wouldn't had left us there, we wouldn't had started to tow."
"Sure!" I exclaimed. "You have forgotten to lock your house, and you were robbed so that means that you are guilty instead of the thief?"
"Unsuccessful metaphor," Ian objected, "And what are you worried about anyway? Bud Zephron could care less about this reprimand."
"We shouldn't be hiding behind his back!" I said.
"Say, what an altruist you are!" Ian grinned.
"It's better to be an altruist than an egoist," I noticed.
Ian has a surprising feature. If someone hints at his lacks, he pretends as if he doesn't understand the hint. That's the face he made right now. He lowered his voice and said:
"And about Bud Zephron just so you know: remember those shock-absorbers?.. Well, they say..."
And he significantly stirred his fingers. It was clear what he meant: that Bud Zephron is suspected of the theft of the shock-absorbers.
I looked at Ian with surprise. What the hell! After all, I knew all too well, who switched the shock-absorbers. But I didn't want to tell Ian about that. He will demand proof, and I don't have any.
"We should write a statement and submit it," I said. "About the accident, that we are guilty and not Bud Zephron."
"Tinny, you're ridiculous! Who needs your statement? Understand this: if Bud is not guilty, that means that the manager is. He sent us to get that truck. You want the manager to reprimand himself? And anyway, who wants to write those stupid statements on people..."
I cried in despair:
"But this will not be a statement on someone, it will be for someone!"
"You are silly!" Ian said contemptuously.
I was very much upset. Such injustice! And nobody was indignant, nobody even paid attention.
Everything was normal. Trucks came and went. Mechanics worked in the shops, office workers in the office. The chief of operations was still shouting at the phone for everyone to hear.
It was most surprising that Bud Zephron himself did not care a lick about that reprimand. He was working with us. Asked Smako different questions. And Smako answered him, after approximately half an hour. The questions were such:
"The laws of gravitation... What if they will cease working? Would we all just float in the sky then? It'll be a total mess."
For an answer, Smako for some reason started to explain the theory of relativity to Bud. Smako knew nothing about it himself and blurted out incredible nonsense. And Bud kept approvingly nodding his head.
When Bud Zephron left, I told Smako about the unfair reprimand.
Smako thought a bit and answered:
"The hell with it!"
Vern too was unaffected by it:
"Right, like who cares!"
Vern still ran around the motor depot. It was still impossible to understand, where he works.
...After work we all gathered on the back lot and started to disassemble the truck. The one we brought from Wolton, that is. Bud Zephron was sent to aid us. I started to understand that he is like a plug in the truck depot. If there is some random job that needs doing charge Bud with it. Both the chief engineer and foreman James Dennon were also around, but the practical supervision was Bud's.
Some kids worked on dismantling the flatbed, others took apart the cabin, a group from the motor shop was taking out the motor. The boys detached fastenings, removed whole units, the girls removed bolts and washed out nuts and screws in kerosene. A truck has almost ten thousand different parts. We dawdled with it till the evening.
The next day we removed the forward and back axles, the spring coils and wheels and carried them to the shops. Only the frame remained on the lot. Eventually we dragged that away too, into the welding shop. Then only the wooden supports remained. But in the end they were also dragged away by someone.
All worked well. As Mrs. Petters said, "excitedly". It was a pleasant thought, that from an old derelict we will turn out a working truck. Everyone understood that restoring the truck is a big undertaking. So everyone worked with enthusiasm.
I was also inspired with the thought that from scrap metal we will put together a working vehicle. And it was also pleasant for me to realize that me and Smako learned something after all. Even more than the other kids. They knew how to work only on separate parts of the truck, and we knew the truck as a whole. And Bud Zephron was used to working with us, he trusted us. If somebody addressed him with a question, he nodded to me or Smako: show them. And we'd help the kids. Our authority had very much increased.
When I first met him, I didn't like Bud Zephron much. He seemed kind of a slowcoach to me. I was laughing at his thoughtful conversations with Peter. But gradually I changed my mind about him. First of all he was pleasant to work with. With other mechanics we were nervous, afraid that we'd do something wrong. And we were never afraid of Bud. He never made us uncomfortable. Even if we did something incorrectly, he'd say:
"That's not bad, allright. And here we'll just change this a little bit."
And he'd fix what we did wrong.
Also, I really liked how he conducted himself in Wolton, with the accident and all. He didn't show any signs of being angry at us at all, then he received that reprimand for us and also said nothing about it. Someone else would have said: "Look at the trouble I'm in because of you" or something of the sort. Bud said nothing.
The more I liked and respected Bud, the more worried I was about that unfair reprimand he received because of us. He is a quiet, noble person, who does not know how to defend himself, so he gets blamed for everything.
At first when Ian hinted that Bud is a suspect of the shock-absorbers theft, I was surprised, but didn't really pay much attention to it. Now, however, I understood that it is very serious. If they pushed the blame of the accident onto him, they can do the same with the shock-absorbers. It worked once, it will work again. A meek person, lets blame him for everything!
And he doesn't even suspect any danger. Just works easy and doesn't know what a threat hangs over him...
What can I do under such circumstances? Warn him? He will not believe it, he'll do nothing, just dismiss it as idle chatter. And how can you tell a person that he is an unjust suspect of larceny? Maybe, I should go to the manager and tell him that the shock-absorbers were taken by Lester Hugh? I don't have any evidence.
And here I had a thought to talk to Lester Hugh himself...
Quite an idea! The more I thought of it, the more I was convinced it was a good one. Lester Hugh, of course, is a dishonest person. But after all he's still a human being. A fellow worker. Will he really remain indifferent to the destiny of his coworker? Perhaps, he's not so bad. Perhaps, he just stumbled on his path. We were taught in school that it is necessary to help those who had stumbled on their path, it is necessary to give them a push in the right direction. Perhaps, Lester Hugh's rehabilitation will begin with this? With the thought that because of him, an honest, noble person, will suffer in his place?
I imagined myself approaching Lester Hugh and telling him about the suspicions surrounding Bud. I, of course, won't accuse him of switching the shock-absorbers. I'll say:
"Bud is being accused of it. But you know it is not so. Bud did nothing wrong".
"Well, so what?" Lester Hugh will ask.
Then I will say:
"He's our fellow worker. We should help him".
"All right," Lester will answer, "I'll think about it".
And the next day Lester Hugh will go to the manager, will put the shockabsorbers on the table and will say:
"Mr. Jessie, I switched the shockabsorbers. Do with me what you think is right, but Bud Zephron didn't do anything!"
Then the manager will ask:
"What induced you to come to me?"
Lester Hugh will answer:
"There were some people... A person, really..." But he will be ashamed that this person is just a schoolboy, so he will gloomily add: "Doesn't matter who..."
"Do you promise to be straight from now on?" the manager will ask.
"Definitely", Lester Hugh will answer.
And at our last day at the depot, Lester Hugh will approach me, will extend his hand forward and say:
I will shake his hand and I will answer:
The kids will ask, what are we thanking each other for.
"Never mind," I'd answer, "for this one thing."
And I won't say anything else.
So I imagined the conversation with Lester Hugh. I was so convinced that it will all go like I planned, that eventually I overcame the fear I felt in light of this conversation, and decided not to postpone it.
I waited for the shift to end, caught up with Lester Hugh in the street and said:
"Mr. Hugh, can I have a word?"
Lester Hugh stopped and stared at me. We were standing in the middle of the sidewalk.
"Let's move a bit to the side," I offered.
We moved to the side.
"You see, there is this thing..." I begun. "Bud Zephron is suspected of that deal with the shock-absorbers. As if he took them."
And exactly how I thought, Lester Hugh asked:
"Well, so what?"
Encouraged by the fact that is was going the way I imagined, I confidently continued:
"We have to do something. After all he is our fellow worker."
Lester Hugh just stared at me silently. And I too looked at him. Our eyes met. And at that moment I became convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he stole the shock-absorbers. And Lester understood that I know it. And I suddenly felt inconvenient, even scared.
Ominously smiling, Lester asked:
"Maybe he did take them?"
I was silent. There were people passing by, so I knew that Lester can't do anything to me. But I was still scared. Still tensely and ominously smiling, Lester said:
"What if he did take them?!"
I got it. I was scared because this was the moment to say that I know that he, Lester Hugh, not Bud Zephron, took the shock-absorbers. But I couldn't bring myself to say it.
"Ah, you kids!" Lester twisted his mouth. "Made an accident blamed Bud for it. Took the shock-absorbers also trying to blame him. What a swine you are!"
I was terrified:
"What are you talking about! Who of us ever blamed Bud for anything?"
"You said: Bud Zephron took the shock-absorbers."
"I said that he is suspected of it!" I cried in despair.
"You're fucking little liars, all of you!" Lester floutingly spoken. "You said it! You just want to blame someone else for it. What kind of people are you!"
I got myself into a silly, idiotic position. Who did I decide to confide in? That asshole Lester Hugh! What the heck was I thinking, found with whom to be frank!
The next day foreman James Dennon, while checking my work, said:
"You talk too much."
I understood what he means. Lester Hugh told him of our conversation.
Bud Zephron said nothing. But from the way he looked at me, I understood that he too knows about this conversation. My heart ached from his reproachful look.
Even Kevin, the mechanic, contemptuously said through his teeth:
"You're a prattler!"
I answered nothing to no one. Unless I will manage to prove that Lester Hugh muddled my words, there is nothing to talk about.
This whole thing is Ian's fault, that's what! If he wouldn't had told me that Bud Zephron is suspected of the theft, I wouldn't had talked nonsense to Lester Hugh. Ian came to us with his brilliant folder. I told him what an awkward situation I found myself in because of him.
"See, Tinny, what is the result of your obstinacy," instructively spoken Ian, "You're meddling in stuff which is none of your business! You brought this on yourself."
I cried out:
"But it was you who told me about Bud being suspected!"
"Don't shout," Ian coolly answered, "I don't remember what I said to you. Maybe I said Bud Zephron's name. But after all it's only my assumptions."
"How are they your assumptions? You said `people are saying'."
"It's the same thing. And I stated those assumptions personally to you, to my friend, casually, by the way, confidentially, and you accused Bud Zephron officially."
"When have I ever accused him officially?"
"You told Lester Hugh, and Lester Hugh is a member of the collective. It's one thing when we chat about such things, but it's a different matter when it is discussed in the working collective. Don't you get it? You have to understand the difference. And all of this trouble is because you consider yourself smarter than everyone."
I have been crushed. After all, I wished to do Bud a kindness, to make things better, and what did I get? Why does it always turn out this way? I wish to make things better, and it turns out worse.
Take Ian as an example. He blabbered a bunch of bullshit and nothing. He just keeps on going. And I only told one person, and not as a statement, but as a negation. And what? I'm thought of as a gossip and a slanderer.
How could I have not guessed right away that Ian fabricated it all? Wished to impress me, to suppress with his awareness. He just didn't want me to write the damned statement, so he thought up this nonsense. And I took him seriously. And Lester Hugh took advantage of my naivety. And with my help he is covering his tracks. After all, he is the one who stole the shock-absorbers. It is absolutely clear now.
I was now convinced that everyone despises me. My soul was really heavy. I could not look anybody in the face. It would've been better if people were cussing at me, or if I would have been kicked out of the program! But no one said anything to me. They all did not wish to raise the issue again. And correctly so. All are behaving sensibly, and only I proved to be a fool.
An awful position!
To make matters worse, Ian prattled this story to the other kids.
Maya called me outside the garage and asked:
"Steven, what happened between you and Bud Zephron?"
I was silent. What could I say? Whatever I'd say I'd still end up looking like a prattler.
"Don't you trust me?" Insisted Maya.
I gloomily said:
"Nothing special. I opened my mouth and made a fool of myself."
"Still, can you tell me?"
I told her how I wanted to write a statement to protest Bud being blamed for the accident, and how Ian said about the bogus shock-absorbers suspicion and how I foolishly blurted it out to Lester Hugh.
"You shouldn't feel so bad about this," said Maya, "after all you wanted to make things better."
"Who cares what I wanted! Look what turned out! Everyone is looking at me funny."
"So they'll stare a bit and then stop. You worry too much, this isn't like you. After all, you're judicious and smart."
It was pleasant that Maya understands me so well. But also, I felt inconvenient, that she has to console me. This means I look really pitiful.
"It's all Ian's doing, really!" I said. "I was a moron to believe him, but he is the one who blabbed out lies. And again he gets away with it! It's just amazing."
"Because Ian is insincere, and you are sincere," said Maya.
That was also pleasant to hear. But it is always inconvenient for me when I'm being praised. I don't know how to it to react. To agree is immodest, and to deny... What the heck would I deny it for?!
"If all people were sincere," I said, "everything would be much easier and simpler."
Maya agreed with that.
The conversation with Maya did little to calm me, however. Don't get me wrong it is pleasant to get companionable support. I was really afraid that Maya, who let's face it I like, will also consider me a gossip and blabbermouth. I was glad that she didn't. But what Maya knows and understands, others don't. Everyone despised me, and I felt like a leper.
I wandered about the truck depot and could not find a place for myself. I felt as if I was a stranger to all. Sonorous blows of a bench hammer reached me, blowtorches hissed, welding chirred, smells of acetone blew into my nose, an air compressor rustled... But these habitual noises and manufacture smells only underlined that people are working, feeling good and cheerful, they are serene, they have a clear conscience, and only I am a stranger despised by everyone.
I noticed Vern. He stood in the entrance to the central warehouse, where he now worked. He waved at me with his hand and disappeared into the warehouse. I followed him there.
The warehouse is the only place in the motor depot which I do not like. The ceilingHigh racks form narrow passes, dark and claustrophobic. On them, in boxes and containers, lay parts and screws, with long numbers over them. Vern doesn't even know the names of the parts. You say to him: "Give me nuts for fastening a wheel hub!" And he asks you for the number. As if a number is easier to remember than a name. It's boring, bureaucratic work. I don't understand why Vern finds pleasure in it.
The storekeeper was gone somewhere. Vern sat behind his little table. I sat opposite him. Vern looked at me:
"Why are you so gloomy?"
"As if you don't know." I answered.
Even though there was no-one in the warehouse except for us, Vern leaned in close to me and quietly spoken:
"Tinny, I found the shock-absorbers."
I was stunned:
"Let's go!" Vern had risen.
"But how will you leave the warehouse?"
"I'll lock it."
"And if someone will come to get parts?"
To this Vern answered like a true warehouse worker:
He locked the warehouse and led me to the back lot. All the trucks were out working. Only on the edge of the lot, near the road, stood five trucks that were awaiting to be sent back to their dealers for warranty repair. On their dumpers was a chalk inscription: "WREPAIR". We approached one of these trucks and climbed into the dumper's body.
In the corner of the dumper lay something covered with pieces of roofing felt. Vern raised the roofing felt, and I saw the cadillac's shock-absorbers. Absolutely new ones. The very ones which I received in the warehouse.
"How did they get here?" I asked.
"I have no idea", Vern answered.
"Who put them here?"
"I have no idea", repeated Vern as a parrot.
"How did you find them?"
Vern was restive:
"Totally by accident... I was searching for something..."
"What were you searching for out here?"
"I was looking: maybe there is something that'll fit our truck here," Vern admitted.
"You're still snooping around, even after what happened!"
Vern hung his head:
"As you see..."
"Well, see, here are the results your damn snooping," I said.
"Hey, that's not fair," Vern objected. "if I wouldn't had been snooping, I wouldn't've found `em."
"You moron! You actually think it's good that you found them?"
Vern was struck dumb, looking at me. His thick, ruddy muzzle expressed the uttermost bewilderment.
"Understand, you idiot," I said, "Who is going to believe you that you just found them here? They'll say that you put them here yourself. And if you moron wouldn't have been snooping, someone else would have found them, and we'd be in the clear..."
"So what can we do?" Asked the unfortunate Vern. "I thought this would help, that it'd be better."
"With us, fools, it always turns out this way," I said with bitterness, "we want it to be better and it turns out worse!"
Of course, I was exaggerating to frighten Vern. We can just take the shock absorbers and carry them to the manager. He will believe us that we found them. If a person is eternally afraid that people will not believe him, he is eternally doomed to inactivity. But if we take them to the manager now, we will never find out who put them here. And it was Lester Hugh who put them here! So that he can drive them out of here at the first opportunity. And, when everyone will learn that Lester Hugh put them here, it will become clear to all why he slandered me.
And everyone will be ashamed that they believed him over me.
This means that we must proceed cautiously. We can't touch the shock absorbers. Let them lay there. We must only tell about them to the manager. He will take the appropriate measures...
Vern and I went to the office. The secretary told us that the manager and the chief engineer are not present, they went to negotiate a contract. That means that they will return late and angry. They always came back from contract negotiations angry. Why I don't know. Probably because the customers wanted the impossible: impossible rates, impossible delivery times, impossible schedules...
We sat on a bench and began to wait. The other kids went home, but the working day still continued. The storekeeper approached us, took the keys from Vern. He did not make any remark about Vern autocratically locking the warehouse. Now I understood, why it is often necessary to wait for the storekeeper for so long: he does not worry at all that work stands idle because of him. I told Vern about this. And again, like a true warehouse worker, he answered:
"There are a lot of you, and only two of us."
I told him he was a moron.
It was annoying enough to wait for the manager, but my mood had improved. Now I will unscrew this story. Lester Hugh will learn what it means to slander me.
At three o'clock a group of young workers passed us by. They studied at night school, so they were released from work earlier.
"It's good that they're studying, it raises the general culture level."
Vern objected that they study not for the general culture, but for a high school diploma.
We began to argue about what general culture is, but at that moment the secretary came out and said that the manager will not return today, that he is being held up in negotiations. Vern and I decided to postpone this business till the morning. As for the shock absorbers they laid there for two days, they'll survive another night.
That evening, after having some more fun with Matty this time at my house, I decided to go out with the guys to a dance club. The club belongs to the textile factory, but everybody goes to it; as there are no other dance clubs in our area.
On my street there is also a cinema called "Spark". But at a cinema you'll see a movie and go home. That's good when you've already got a date, preferably one that you know you'd get to make out with. The club is a much better place to meet girls: there are concerts, comedy shows, and every Wednesday and Sunday there is swing and rockandroll dances.
We try to get into the club without a ticket. Only three of us manage to do it: Ian, Vern and Peter. I cannot do it.
Ian's motto is such: "an artist gets access to art free of charge". Ian considers himself an artist. He participated in two movies, as an extra. And all the people who run this club are his friends. Vern also hangs around in the club a lot, carries out all kinds of errands, and is considered an appreciable person. And as an appreciable person he goes in free of charge. Smako, on the contrary, goes in as an imperceptible person. He stands near the ticket booth, silent, and then imperceptibly passes it and goes inside. Looking at his serious, concentrated face, no one can even suspect that he slid in without a ticket. That evening when Vern and I didn't get to meet the manager, there was swing dancing at the club.
I like dancing. Not the way some people love it, thinking it's the meaning of their life. I just think it's good fun, and I like it. I also like jazz. Books, movies and jazz that is, perhaps, what I love most of all. Oh yeah, and sex. Now if I had technical inclines, I, likely, would've loved something more serious.
I dance everything. Both old swing music and rock'n'roll. But I like swing dancing more. You can really dance to swing music, and you can reveal more of your character. Of course, some dandies dance the swing really badly. But you can dance to anything badly, including to Beatle records, in my opinion.
The club was full of people. Almost all of our grade was there. Also, there were many workers from the truck depot. Lester Hugh was dancing with Susan, the dispatcher. The relationship of these two people is very unclear to me. Ian was dancing with a girl I'd never seen before. He was dancing as if he did an enormous favor to the girl, to the band, and to everyone who were in the hall. He had the tired look of a person who was disappointed in all and moves his feet only from feelings of condescension. In the middle of the hall Vern was dancing, by himself. He considered himself a big expert in rock'n'roll. Basically, he just twisted his hands and feet however he wanted.
As for Peter, he is not a very good dancer. To be more accurate, he is an awful dancer. But he dances to all the tunes in sequence. At first he silently stands near a column and picks out a girl who sits without a boy. Then he approaches her and invites her to dance. While he dances, Smako's face is so serious and concentrated as if he's doing some difficult and responsible work. He never looks where he's leading his lady to, and runs into the crowd like a steam ferry. Steps on the girl's feet. And, if the girl does not escape him and run home straight away, he invites her to the following dance as well. If he keeps this tradition on, he'd never get laid. Also, Smako does not say a word to his dance partner and in general he's silent all evening long. Only when the band starts playing, he always asks me: "What dance is it?" He himself can never hear what they're playing: he has absolutely no ear for music. And I don't even know what he asks me for. Whatever is being played, Smako always dances the same: something between a foxtrot and a tango. Some girls even think that this is a new style, and when they dance with Smako they try really hard.
Naturally, I like to dance with Maya most of all. But Maya is so pretty that all boys always want to invite her, and she never refuses to anyone. I like that about her. It's pleasant to me, because it shows her simplicity. She doesn't make a big deal of it, she came here to dance and enjoy herself, and doesn't want to offend anyone with a refusal. In reply to an invitation she smiles, rises and goes to dance.
But, of course, the downside of dancing with anyone, is that you can run into some impudent bastard. One such jerk once stuck to Maya for an entire evening. A shaky, thin kid in glasses, fifteen years old, that goes to Jefferson, the other high school in town. The guys and I quickly pushed him off, by dancing with Maya one after another. But, when the dance was over, we saw that he is waiting for Maya in the street. So all of us went to see her off. The impudent kid got frightened of us lot and didn't follow us.
Because Maya refuses to nobody, she is difficult to invite. You can't just sit next to her, it looks importunate. It's not a custom in the club to sit in pairs. These aren't the movies, we don't come here to make out, we come here to dance. The girls sit at one wall, the boys stand at another. And while you're crossing the hall to invite her for a dance, somebody can outstrip you and invite her first.
When I entered the club, Maya was already dancing, and guess who with? That nerdy asshole from Jefferson! When the number was over, he remained in Maya's vicinity, with an obvious intention to invite her again.
I decided I wasn't going to let that happen. So I, while the band was silent, approached the girls and started chatting with them about this and that. And as soon as the music started, I extended my hand to Maya right away. She smiled at me and took it. The nerd remained standing at the wall, glasses and all. He didn't even invite some other girl, decided to show Maya his fidelity.
The band was playing "Someday my Prince will Come". A bit corny, but it gave me a chance to dance close with Maya, and show off how well I can waltz. I dance to it by leading with both the left and right shoulder, changing them occasionally. And, to morally suppress the impudent pointdexter, I did one circle leading with the left, and then then another circle leading with the right. The whole number we danced right in front of him, as I wanted him to see what a fine dancer I am, and to understand, that Maya would much rather dance with such an outstanding dance partner as I am, than with such an idiot as he is.
When we were passing the pointdexter for the third time, Maya suddenly said:
"Steven, are you bragging?"
I didn't really know what to say to that; as to tell the truth I was bragging. Maya laughed quietly at my confused expression, and said:
"You know you don't have to. I like you better than him. In fact, I like you better than most boys..." and she looked at me, slightly embarrassedly, and winked.
My ears instantly turned red. Did you hear that? She likes me better than most boys!.. But... does that mean that she likes me best, or is there someone she likes better than me?.. She did say most, not all... and was she even serious, or was she joking?..
All of these questions started racing through my head, and I had to have answers to them. But before I could work up the courage to ask, the number ended, Maya smiled at me and returned to the girl's wall, and just as she was getting there, the band started playing a hot version of "How High the Moon", and everyone who could broke into hot swing dancing, with no particular couples forming. Maya started dancing with a circle of her girlfriends, with Natalie Fleck in tow. I danced absent-mindly, trying to figure out in my head what did she mean by "better than most boys", and was adamant to ask Maya to dance again for the next number, so I could ask her. But when they finished "How High the Moon", the musicians put their instruments down and went on a break. What a jib!
I couldn't talk to Maya during the break, with all of her girlfriends there. So I joined Smako. We took stamp-tickets and went outside to get some fresh air and to drink a soda.
By the way, Smako always goes outside during the break. To take the stamp-ticket. And, coming back into club, he tries not to give it back. Smako collects stamp-tickets. And when he does not manage to slip in for free, he goes in during the break with a stamp-ticket. The stamp-tickets vary in color each night, but Peter always has a fitting one.
There was a small drizzle outside, but it didn't bother us at all. We drank our sodas, breathed in the fresh, rainy air and looked around. Or, to tell the truth, I looked around. Peter was looking at the bottom of his soda bottle.
While looking around, I noticed a Lark approaching. A regular, gray Lark. I only paid attention to it because it didn't drive up to the club entrance, but stopped in a dark alley, behind a corner. Two guys got out of it, and passed by us into the club. Two guys in dark jackets, tshirts and caps pulled low over their foreheads. One was wearing white canvas shoes.
But, regardless of how they were dressed, I immediately realized that they are bad apples. I don't know why, but I can always sense such things. I can see one of this kind of guys in the street, in the shops, in a bus, in the cinema foyer whatever, I can instantly distinguish them among a thousand other people. There is something special in them, I cannot explain it... Maybe it's their sight, or something... It appears indifferent, not caring, but actually it's guarded, attentive. Such a guy walks along, without looking back, quiet, but really he is strained, he feels with his back whether someone watches him...
Anyway, I had no doubt that it was this kind of guys who got out of that Lark.
Smako and I returned to the club. The break was not over yet, but a lot of people were flowing into the hall. Some wanted to take up a good place at the wall, others didn't want to miss any dance. I too began to push my way in as to not allow the possibility for the pointdexter to hijack Maya. I wanted to have the next dance with her, I had many questions that needed answering. But I suddenly noticed Lester Hugh in the corridor, talking to those guys. I moved a little back and aside, pretending that I'm just waiting on the crowd to pass me by.
Lester Hugh and those guys didn't stand together long, maybe a minute or two. I wasn't close enough to overhear what they were talking about. I only saw Lester's gloomy face. Then both guys, as if on command, turned around and went by me to the exit. I heard music being played and entered the hall. Maya was not at the wall where our girls usually sat. After a quick scan of the room, I saw her dancing with the pointdexter. However, what an importunate impudent fuck! Why doesn't he go and cling to some girl from his own school?..
I crossed the hall and stood near a column. Near to me stood Susan, the dispatcher. She was wearing a green woolen jacket and shoes on very thin heels. How do women walk with such heels I'll never understand.
Lester Hugh appeared in the hall after me. He also crossed the hall and approached Susan. They stood on the other side of the column, close enough, but the orchestra drowned out their voices. Lester Hugh was angrily insisting about something. And Susan clearly fluctuated, she did not want to agree with him, red stains appeared on her face.
The music ceased. I saw how the impudent pointdexter leads Maya to her place. I decided to watch the orchestra closely. As soon as the musicians will raise their instruments, I will approach Maya and be the first to invite her.
But, before I could execute my plan, I was outstripped... And by whom? By Lester Hugh! He suddenly and angrily pushed away Susan's hand, which was clinging to his jacket, crossed the hall with large steps, approached Maya and started talking to her. Then the music started playing, and they started to dance.
I will never forgive this to Maya! After all, she knows perfectly well, that Lester Hugh is my number one enemy. It was he that caused that entire horrific incident with Bud. Simplicity and naturalness are great qualities, but not to such a degree! One must know when to stop! After all, this is treachery in relation to her friend (and I really wanted to consider myself her friend)! To dance with the person who slandered me! Would I go dancing with a girl who slandered Maya? Not in my life!
And anyway, I don't understand what did she agree to dance with him at all! He is a man, he's almost twenty years old, and she is a fourteen year old girl!.. And besides, anyone who cares to took can see that he's only dancing with her to vex poor Susan, and by dancing with him, Maya indulges the dirty little games he is playing and hurting a woman who did her nothing wrong!
I will not forgive her for this, ever!
Maya and Lester passed right by me, and, having seen me, Maya smiled at me in a friendly way again. I turned away and made it very clear that I do not see neither her smiles, nor herself. Then I left the club and went home.
End of Part 4 (includes Chapters 16,17,18,19,20)
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