By Anatoly Rybakov and Tim Kyle
That night I slept badly. Not because I thought of Maya. If I thought of Maya, I only thought one thing: that I will never think of her again. Who needs her anyway?.. I no longer care if she likes me or not. She betrayed me. And sure she's hot, and sure I wanna do her, but I have my principles. I'd rather do it with Matty than her at least he cares about me.
No, I didn't think of Maya. I thought about Lester Hugh, about those guys, about the shock absorbers which Vern and I so thoughtlessly left for the night in that truck. They were put there so that it would be easier to take them out of the depot. And, maybe, tonight is the night they are going to be driven out of there. For some reason I connected it all together: the shock absorbers, those two guys and Lester Hugh. Gradually I formed a version: Lester put the shock absorbers in the truck, and these guys are then ones who are going to take them out. A harmonious, logical version.
Thinking of this version I eventually fell asleep, very deeply. In the morning my dad had trouble waking me. I was nearly late for work. I came running in when the shift was just starting. In the gate I bumped into Vern: he always comes at the last minute.
I showed myself at the garage, received an assignment. Then I went to the yard where Vern was waiting for me. We went to the manager to tell him about the shock absorbers. But one small peek into his office was enough to see that the room is full of smoke and people. They're already in a meeting.
We decided to go and check whether the shock absorbers were in place. I needed to be sure. We crossed the lot, approached the truck with the inscription "W.REPAIR" and climbed into the dumper. And, as soon as climbed up there, we saw that the shock absorbers aren't there. All that remained was once piece of roofing felt, that's all.
The shock absorbers had been carried away. We silently looked at each other. Then Vern uncertainly said:
"Perhaps the guard found them."
Of course, that could have happened. And it would've been just peachy if it did; the shock absorbers would've been found, and we had nothing to do with it!
But I knew that there was a very slight chance of that happening. I knew that most likely, they were picked up by the people for whom they were put here. They probably came with the car, put the shock absorbers in it and left. The guard sleeps all night long. And even if he'd hear an approaching car, he wouldn't pay any attention to it. He'd assume that one of the trucks is returning late, it does happen.
The depot's lot is a square located behind the repair shops. On it's right side it is fenced by a wooden warehouse. On it's left, behind a ditch, is an old access road. The access road connects to the lot with a patch of sandcovered trail. The access road is rarely used nowadays, as the trucks leave through the depot's main gate directly onto the main street. The access road leads to a side alley. Thus, it would have been perfect to steal the shock absorbers through, as it's not in use and is far from the guard's booth.
We climbed down from the truck and approached the access road. And the first thing that we saw was a piece of roofing felt. It was laying in the ditch. Everything became clear at once: the shock absorbers were carried by here. They carried them wrapped in felt, so that they wouldn't rattle. And when they loaded them into the Lark, they threw the felt into the ditch.
We climbed over the ditch to the road. The road started at the sandy patch, so it was covered with a gradually thinning layer of sand. It was drizzling yesterday, the sand was damp, so it kept distinct tire tracks.
We bent down and tried to figure them out.
Tire tracks are traces that remain on the road from a car's wheels. More precisely, from the tire covers. Or, even more precisely, from the protector. A protector is the top part of the tire cover, which is made in the form of a drawing. The deepenings of this drawing allow the wheel to have better grip on the road.
We saw very deep, very sharp, wide and slanting traces, made in a furtree formation. These were not the tire tracks of a Lark, but of some other car, unfamiliar to us. A Lark does not leave such deep traces.
"It looks like a tractor," Vern uncertainly spoke.
"Yeah, right! A tractor will not leave traces, it'll leave a furrow."
We went to the sandy patch, following the tire tracks. I was very much upset my theory was failing. After all, those guys were on Lark, and here was the trace of some other car. Could it be that it was not Lester Hugh, but someone else who put the shock absorbers here?
At the sandy patch we saw a lot of traces. Here the car was turning around. It went forward, then back, then forward again. The sand here was deeper, and traces were more distinct. I studied them attentively and near the deep traces of the unfamiliar car I noticed a small, figured trace of a Lark's tire...
My heart started beating with excitement. So, a Lark was here after all... I hunkered down. The traces were very near each other, very close. Both cars turned around here. Forward back, forward back... But why were the Lark's traces only here? Why didn't we see them on the road? Maybe we looked inattentively?
We went back, carefully examining the traces. But as much as we peered, there were no traces of the Lark on the road. On the road there was only one trace: a sharp, deep, slanting, unfamiliar one.
"It's all clear," Vern said, "The Lark's trace is small, so it was blown away by the wind."
"So why wasn't it blown away at the sandy patch?" I objected.
A very strange picture was being drawn here! It turned out that there was a Lark, and then behind it, following it precisely trace in trace, passed a second, unfamiliar car. It's deeper and stronger trace destroyed the Lark's trace...
"It's all clear," Vern said again, "the second car was purposely following the first to destroy it's traces. They took away the shock absorbers on the Lark, so, they had to cover up their tracks."
This explanation seemed logical at first. But after some reflection I realized that there is no logic in it whatsoever. What a foolish way to cover up traces! How are you going to hit it exactly, trace in trace, and at night time too? And it's silly anyway! It would be easier to just get out of the car and destroy the traces with a broom. It's surprising that at first Vern's assumption seemed reasonable to me.
We started walking along the access road towards the alley. The sand was thinning, the traces appeared more dimly. Nevertheless, the traces from the second car were still clearly visible. And only at the very end, where the access road turns onto the alley, in the place where the cars turned, we once again spotted the Lark traces. There was the rounded off sandy trace of the unfamiliar car, and near to it, also sandy but very faint, was another trace of a compact car tire covers, clearly visible... Further on, along the asphalt of the alley, there was nothing that we could see anymore...
So, without understanding anything clearly, we returned to the depot. My version hung by a thread, but was still alive: there was a Lark there. That means that we can assume that the shock absorbers were taken away by those guys, and Lester Hugh was the one who hid them on the lot.
"Where'd you disappear to?" Smako asked me when I returned to the garage.
I vaguely waved with my hand:
"Here, close by, needed to check something..."
"The foreman was mad," Smako said.
Before the foreman never said anything about our absences. And now all of the sudden, he is mad. It's clear, that the relation to me has changed. And all because of Lester Hugh. Because he slandered me. Never mind, justice will triumph!
I started my work alongside Smako, and asked him:
"What did you tell the foreman?"
"I said that you were summoned by the director of studies," Smako answered.
I was once again amazed at Peter's ingenuity. Only he could think up such a dexterous answer on the spot. "The director of studies summoned"! That's important! If Smako said, for example. that I was called into the manager's or chief engineer's office, the foreman could have checked it. But how would he check about the school's director of studies? He probably doesn't even know what a director of studies is in our school. And even if he knows, he won't go to school searching for him. "Director of studies" is something far, unclear, and thus convincing. I noticed a long time ago that the most convincing things for people are the ones that are the farthest from their everyday life.
He's a good guy, Peter! A true friend! I became ashamed that I said nothing to him about the shock absorbers. After all, Smako is a much more reliable person than Vern. And as slowly as he thinks, he does have a practical grasp of things, I've seen it many times before.
I decided to tell Smako everything. And just as I was ordering it in my own head so I could tell it better, an unexpected thought came to me: why didn't I copy the traces of the unfamiliar car?! After all these traces will soon disappear. And I should copy the second trace too. After all, I thought that it's from a Lark, but maybe it's from some other compact car? This was too important to wait. I took a piece of cardboard that we use to cut out linings, grabbed a piece of chalk, a pencil and, having warned Smako to lie to the foreman about the director of studies again, ran to the lot...
I returned in half an hour. In my pocket was a carefully copied print of the protector of the unfamiliar car and the less carefully copied trace of the compact car's protector. It was difficult to copy, as it was very small, wasn't clearly visible, and was more intricate.
I joined Smako with the work again. The foreman came, looked at me, but said nothing. It was clear that the magic expression "director of studies", that works so well on schoolboys, also worked on him. We didn't have a lot of work remaining. Soon the break of shift rang out. The workers went on a break, and we could go home.
I told Smako:
"Stay a bit. I have something to show you."
"All right," Peter answered.
He never asked questions: what do you want to show me, why? I like that.
We went to the public library, found a book called "Automobile Service: Family Cars", took a seat at a table and opened it. I took out the drawings of the protectors that I made on the road, put them near the book and said to Peter:
"Here's the question: what cars did these tire covers come from?"
The Lark's tire was easy to find. It really was a protector from a Studebaker standard compact car tire, size 6x16, fitted to all Lark models produced. I was very relieved. Thank God! That means that the Lark was there after all. Wonderful! Remarkable! This means I was right... But no matter how hard we looked, we couldn't find a drawing similar to the protector of the second car in the book.
Smako attentively looked at my drawing and said:
"This is a tire cover from some offroad vehicle."
"What offroad vehicle?"
"Probably, a Jeep".
"You think so?"
"Almost positive. It's the only car I know of that size that has that kind of tire."
I went to the librarian and asked if they have a book about the Jeep. She gave me a book called "The Willis Jeep: Technical Service Manual". We looked through it and in the section "Wheels and Tires" we found a few variants of protector drawings, fitting to different manufacturers of the Jeep. One of them precisely coincided with what I sketched on the road. The same wide slanting strips in the form of a fur-tree... Very deep for increased offroad grip.
We returned the books to the librarian and returned to the depot, where I led Peter to the back lot. On the way I told Smako everything. It was quite a long walk, so I had more than enough time.
Again, this time with Peter, we examined the tire tracks. The sand had dried up by now, the traces started to scatter, but were still visible...
Smako thought and said:
"If the Lark carried thieves, the Jeep carried the police."
I even struck myself in the forehead. How could I have not guessed! Of course, he might be right! That what it means to have a practical grasp! So...
However, it's early to say "So"... There is still the question why there are no traces from the Lark on the straight bit of road?.
Certainly, Smako's explanation it is more logical than Vern's. But it's not good enough for me to trash myself on the forehead.
Smako has a practical grasp. But, to solve a mystery, one must have something else... What exactly? Who knows! Perhaps, something opposite a practical grasp. For example, imagination.
We decided not to tell anyone else this story. They won't believe us anyway. And if they will believe us, they'll think us fools. And not without justification: we had the shock absorbers within our reach, and still let them get stolen.
I haven't told Vern that Smako knows about everything. If Vern finds out that I told Smako, he'd go and tell someone else. And he'd justify himself with the fact that I was the first to break the secret. Such a person is Vern. He can only be influenced by example. And I will be an example to tell, if I admit that I told everything to Peter. However, the next day we had no time for all of this: the first pay was coming.
The salary in the truck depot is given out twice a month. For the workers this was routine, but for us is was a big event. After all it is the first pay day of our lives.
We received the information from Ian. He works in the office and is informed about such things. When he told us, his face had such an indulgentlygoodnatured expression on it, as if for our salary we are obliged entirely to him; and if it wouldn't be for him we would not receive a dime.
At first he declared that we "are included in the pay sheet". Our surnames are put into the list of wages. Also he let us know, that he made considerable efforts for this to be so. Then he informed us that we will receive only the advance payment half of our salary. We will receive the other half at the end of the month after calculating our total. The total will vary according to what we earn, depending on how many hours each one puts in. It can be both more and less than the advance. Ian, of course, will try to arrange that it'd be more.
Then he came and said that the cashier went to the bank, to receive our cash, as we cannot receive cheques like the other employees due to being underage.
Then he informed us that affairs in the bank are not going well, and that probably there won't be cash today. Then he came and declared that it was all straightened out, but we will only receive our salary after five o'clock. Generally speaking, throughout the whole day Ian held us in suspense and prevented us from working.
Smako and I weren't worried. The salary is ours we'll receive it eventually. Today, tomorrow what does it matter. And we told Ian to stop making a big deal out of nothing. He got offended and left. But couldn't restrain himself, returned after a while to cajole us, and said that everything is all right. We'll receive the salary at twelve.
Smako and I answered him:
...Having finished our work, all of us kids gathered at the cash desk. The window opened. We started receiving our wages. We signed on the sheet near our surname. The cashier, a passionless person, looked at nobody. He was only looking at the sheet, put a tick next to the signature and counted the money. A hundred and three dollars, twenty five cents.
The boys behaved with dignity. Carelessly stuffed the money into their pockets. Some, to tell the truth, tried to cut in line. But it wasn't because of greed, but because of mischief. Only Smako accurately folded his money into a wallet. Such a habit he has.
But the girls were ridiculously over-excited. Each one of them, having stepped away from the cash desk, recounted the money and started briskly discussing something with her friends. Only Maya didn't rustle, she just folded the money and put it in a dress pocket. I, of course, only noticed it by accident. I wasn't looking at her specifically. It's all finished between us. And she unexpectedly smiled at me with her affable smile. Strange! Doesn't she know I want nothing to do with her?..
Ian stood at the cash desk and complacently smiled, as a hospitable owner treating his friends. He suffers from exaggeration of his own persona. He received his salary before us, as an office worker. Near to him stood Vern and collected debts. I gave him the money I owed for the dinner at Wolton. Smako thought for a moment, and also paid him.
I had just under a hundred bucks remaining. I decided to go to the mall and buy gifts for my mom and dad. Also, I had a sudden craving to buy something for Matty. He's such a great kid, why not spoil him a little bit?..
"Let's go to the mall," I offered Smako.
"I need to buy something."
I didn't want to tell him about my gift plans. Smako's parents work in India, managing some factory that was moved there. He lives with his grandparents. And I didn't know, whether or not Peter wants to buy gifts for them. And, having found out that I'm going to buy gifts, he could decide not to go. And it's boring to shop alone.
On the mall's ground floor there were a few sporting goods and toy shops, and also what I needed the perfumery.
I've long since noticed that in multistory malls the less necessary shops are down below, and the necessary higher up. And the more necessary, the higher they are. For example, the shoe store is up on the fourth floor. I shared this observation with Smako. He thought and said:
"Nobody will climb four stories for some trinket, but they will to get boots, you have to have `em." and added: "And if you're going all that way, you'll buy some nonsense along the way. It increases their profits this way."
And I was once again surprised at Peter's practical understanding of things.
In the sporting goods store everything looked so brand new and shiny, I wanted to buy it all. It wouldn't be bad to buy some boxing gloves. And I also need dumbbells. But most of all Smako and I liked the training trousers they had. Dark blue, knitted, with elastic bands on the bottom. I'd look very sporty in a pair of those. Especially if I add a dark blue sweater with a white strip under the collar. A real training suit.
But if I buy the sweater, trousers and gifts for mom, dad and Matty, I'll spend half my money. I'll do this: buy the training trousers, they cost eight bucks. Another tenner I'll spend on gifts. That'll leave about 80 remaining. If on the second payday I'll receive another hundred, as Ian said, coupled with my saved up allowance, it'll be an even twohundred. And that money I can spend on something capital.
"Are we buying?" I asked Smako.
He, with a concentrated face, was playing with the trousers, feeling them, turning them every which way and kept silent.
"I'm gonna pay!" I resolutely declared.
On Smako, as well as on Vern, one must influence by example.
I paid the eight bucks at the cash desk, received my package, and Smako still stood at the counter and played with the trousers.
"Hey, cheapskate," I said to him, "Go and buy them already."
"The fabric sucks. It'll get stretched around the knees... After a couple of weeks."
I have grown cold:
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?!"
As a reply followed the usual Smako response:
"I didn't have time."
I was no longer admiring his practical grasp. The fuck with this grasp! It worth squat with such sluggishness.
Whatever! What's done is done! I lost eight bucks, henceforth I'll be cleverer. I decided to go to the perfumery shop right away and buy perfume for mom. But on the way we bumped into the writing supplies shop. We got held up next to it. Our attention was caught by quality pens and thick notebooks in a nice cloth binding. The pen I wanted to buy for father. That would be a gift! He just said the other day that his pen is no good anymore.
But it's eleven fifty! That'd be going over the ten I decided to buy the presents with... The hell did I have to buy these trousers for! If I wouldn't had bought them, I'd just have enough for the pen and a small bottle of perfume for mom, and eventually still have a precise two-hundred remaining after the second pay...
"We should get those notebooks," Smako said. "What color do you want?"
I didn't really need a notebook. But what's a buck thirty in comparison with the eight bucks which I paid for the trousers? So I answered:
"Brown. And you?"
Smako made a head movement meaning "I need to think".
I paid the buck thirty at the cash desk and received a fine thick notebook in a brown cloth binding.
"Choose faster," I hastened Peter.
"Nah, I don't want one."
"You're a miser, that's who you are!" I said to him.
In the perfumery I asked, how much is a "Laura Channelle" perfume gift box; I knew that this is the kind my mom uses.
"Six dollars? Wow!"
Apparently, a gift box contains both perfume and cologne. You can't buy the perfume separately, only together. Strange!.. Not knowing if I should buy it or not, I faced the counter in total confusion. I even became slightly hot.
"Pete," I said, "lets go get some icecream."
"I don't want any," Smako answered.
I bought me an ice-cream cone. I needed to cool down a little. Also, what is fifty cents in comparison with what I already spent?
Eventually I chose "Evening light" perfume for two sixty. So I had just over seven of the gift budget remaining. I'll buy a Gift for Matty with some of that, and after the next pay day, I'll get the gift for dad. That works out just right. With this pay I bought a gift for mom, with the following I'll get one for dad...
Perhaps, I envied Smako a bit. After all, he still had all of his money. But I consoled myself with the fact that he is a miser, and I'm not.
"Let's take a stroll through the shops," Smako offered.
I refused flatly. It's fine for Smako with his miser character. And I'll definitely buy something else if we just go walking around. What I needed was to get a gift for Matty and get the fuck outta here. But at that moment we suddenly saw Vern waving at us. I didn't even notice whence he appeared from. We only saw how he waved at us and ran off into the sporting goods shop. We ran in after him.
"Take a place in the line," Vern heatedly whispered.
Near the counter really was a queue forming. It wasn't there before. We stood behind Vern. Right away some man stood behind us.
"They brought underwater diving masks and flippers, a full set," Vern whispered, "at a huge discount. There's only a few, they'll sell them off now."
"What do we need them for?" I asked.
"Whadda you mean, what for!" Vern was surprised. "For diving!"
I, of course, liked diving. But there is no sea in Somerset. On the other hand, if I go to a trip (not with Maya, I hate her now, by myself!) to somewhere where there's sea, they might be useful there. But if I buy the diving set, I'll have no money for the trip! Why the hell did I buy these foolish trousers!
Tormented with doubts, I stood in the queue. It was quickly increasing in size. Some really wanted the set, others just joined the queue because it was there and they were curious.
Ian and Jimmy Tavias suddenly appeared, and cut in between me and Smako. They pretended, as if it was all planned ahead and we were saving them a space. We went along, and nobody objected.
"It's a good set," Ian said. "You can't find it anywhere for less than forty bucks. And they're selling for a twenty"
The shop workers dragged out sheaves of masks and flippers. The queue became agitated. The people in the back were afraid that they will not get any. Some volunteers stood near the counter to observe that order is maintained. Among them, of course, was Ian.
I didn't know what to do. On the one hand, I don't really need a diving set. But if I would go to the coast? Everyone will dive, and I'll sit on the sand like an idiot? And I've been standing in this queue forever! If I don't buy them, I'll regret it!
So I deliberated, moving slowly to the counter. I would've liked it if the queue was moving even slower. The standing order was: Vern, behind him Ian, then me, Jimmy Tavias and Smako was the last of us. The seller declared:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, please be advised, there are only twenty more sets available!"
The queue became agitated. But nobody left. All were hoping for something.
Smako counted those who were in front of him, and said:
"I think I won't get one."
I also counted and calmed Smako:
"No, you'll get one, you'll get the last set."
Could I really resist such agiotage? It's a huge discount. Everyone wants to buy a set. Some are nearly crying, because they won't get one. And I, who was standing in line for the past half hour and squeezed myself into the number of the lucky few, really will pass? It would be ridiculous and silly!
I paid the 18.99 requested and received my diving mask and flippers.
But Smako's fears came true. The last set went to Jimmy Tavias.
Smako had such a horrid expression on his face. I pitied him. It's always inconvenient, when you get something and your friend doesn't. To be frank, Ian or Jimmy should concede their set to Smako. After all, we let them cut in front of us in line. But Ian, Vern and Jimmy all suddenly disappeared without a trace.
We went outside. Smako was silent. He is always silent. But now he was silent as a man who has nothing. It was awfully sad to see him like that. I don't really need this set, but I got one. Smako wanted to buy one, but he didn't get one. Very unfair!
I stopped and handed the bag to Smako:
"You know what, take `em. We'll consider that you bought `em, instead of me. I don't really need them!"
Smako negatively shook his head. He didn't want to deprive me of such precious things.
"Take it, take it," I insisted, "I only bought it just in case. I don't really need it."
"I don't need it either," Smako declared.
I was taken aback.
"Then why'd you stand in the queue?"
When Smako rejected the trainers I have grown cold. Now I have simply stiffened. So, I once again threw out money in vain. Nevertheless a hope glimmered in me that Smako refuses due to nobleness. Doesn't want to leave me without these damned diving essentials. I threatened:
"If you won't buy `em from me, I'll take them back!"
"Go ahead, that'd actually make sense!" Smako approvingly noticed. "who needs this mask anyway? An elastic band with some rubber and a glass fragment! And the flippers are inconvenient to swim in anyway."
With a shivering voice I spoke:
"I'm asking you for the last time: will you take them or not?"
Smako shrugged his shoulders:
"What are you, stuck or something! I don't need this fucking junk."
I went back to the shop.
There was no more queue. But there were a lot of people. I put the mask and flippers on the counter and told the seller that I want to return them.
"Firesale goods are not eligible for return," the seller answered.
Well, that sucks! Fine, fuck them. I put the mask and flippers on the counter to the side, and stood next to them invitingly. Let those who waited but didn't get a set buy them.
But for some reason nobody hurried to buy. What the hell? Just a few minutes ago there was an enormous crowd wanting them, some nearly crying. Some guy approached, touched the mask. I looked at him with hope. He touched it again and left.
"Hey kid, don't stand at the counter, you're interfering!" the seller said.
I took my package. My heart was broken. I spent a lot of my money, and on what? From everything that I bought, only the damn notebook was something that I really needed.
Now counting bucks didn't matter anymore! I went to the writing supplies shop and bought the fancy pen for dad. Then, before I went home, I stopped at the book shop and bought a nice, colorful, illustrated print of "Three Men in a Boat" for Matty.
When I came home Matty was sitting at my doorstep. This was beginning to worry me: is he becoming too dependent?.. I need to have a talk with this kid. Why doesn't he have any friends his own age?..
But, naturally, that talk would not be happening right now. Matty beamed when he saw me and jumped up, illustrating with his whole being how happy he is to see me. I sighed and unlocked the door.
While I was eating the food my mother left for me on the stove, Matty was in his usual position: sitting across from me and looking into my mouth. I grumpily offered:
"Don't just sit there. Tell me something. What did you do today?"
"Nothing much. Hung around at home. Then when my mom left I went to your place. You weren't here, so I waited, then you came, and..."
"Yeah, I know what happens then, genius..." I interrupted. "Is this what you plan to do with your entire summer? Hang around near my door when I'm not home?"
Matty, a bit taken aback, lowered his eyes, and said quietly:
"I'm sorry. I'm being too clingy, aren't I?"
I was immediately ashamed of myself. Once again, I'm in a foul mood, as I so carelessly squandered my money at the mall today, and once again I'm taking it out on the sweetest, kindest boy in the world, who did me absolutely no wrong. What an asshole I am. I stretched my hand across the table and ruffled Matty's hair.
"You're not 'clingy'. You're sweet. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said it like that. What I meant is that I'm worried that you don't have any friends except me around here. What about the Henderson boys, from the building across?.. I always see them playing ball outside. Why don't you ever play with them?"
"I don't know. I... I'm not good at that kind of stuff. I don't know how to play."
I stared at him:
"It's soccer. It's impossible to not know how to play. You kick the ball in between the gate posts."
"But I suck at it... and the other boys will laugh at me."
"We're going out later today and I'm gonna train you. And if somebody laughs at you, we'll kick their ass."
Matty immediately cheered up:
"Okay! But first, can we... you know... do stuff?.."
What an adorable little horndog.
"Sure we can. After I finish eating."
When we entered my room, Matty started to unbutton his shirt right away. I, however, was impatient about a different issue, and stopped him:
"Wait a sec with that, bud, I wanna show you something."
Matty let go of his buttons and looked at me questioningly. I rummaged in the bag I brought to the mall (my heart once again flinched at the sight of the lowquality trousers and the useless diving set) and extracted "Three Men In a Boat".
"Check this out," I said, holding it out to Matt.
Matty's eyes lit up:
"Wow! Lemme see..." he took the book from my hands and excitedly thumbed through the beautifully illustrated issue. I asked:
"Have you read it?.."
"No. It's funny, right? I heard about it."
"It's the funniest book I've ever read in my life. It's awesome."
Matty looked at me beggingly:
"Can I maybe borrow it?.. When you're finished with it, I mean?.."
I ruffled his hair:
"It's yours. I got it for you."
Matty looked at me with utter disbelief:
"Mine?.. You mean... for keeps?.."
I assured him:
"Yes, for keeps. It's a gift, really."
Matty looked at me again, then at the book, then back at me... Then he carefully, as if handling a kitten, put the book on my desk, and suddenly lunged forward, jumped up and pressed his lips against mine.
Wow! I didn't expect that. At that moment, I didn't really consider the fact that it was another boy I was kissing, or weather or not it was "queer", or whether we were crossing some line, it just felt so good and right that I just went with it. Also, I hadn't really been kissed by anyone before. I did read "Love me little" enough times however, and had the mechanics all very clear in my mind. So after a while of our lips being pressed together, I instinctively parted my lips slightly, feeling Matty follow suit. So I slipped my tongue in there, feeling Matty's tongue. The feeling was electric.
We kept on kissing, occasionally parting for a moment to take a breath. I've never felt closer to anyone, really, than I felt to this kid at that moment. It was quite an experience. However, it wasn't the end all and be all of our desires; both of our dicks were already uncomfortably tenting our pants, begging attention. While still kissing, I found the hem of Matty's shirt with my hands, groped for the buttons, and started to undo them one by one. After a moment, I felt Matty do the same for my buttons. Eventually, both of our shirts were pulled off of our bodies without us even breaking our lips. Then both of us simultaneously reached for our flies.
However, managing to take off our pants while still kissing turned out to be a harder feat, so, giggling, we broke our lips and finished stripping with the speed that must have set some sort of record. Then we locked in a passionate embrace and once again pressed our lips together. Our rigid tools were pressing into each other's bellies and feeling exquisite. This went on for a couple of minutes punctuated by soft moans occasionally escaping Matty's lips during which we were inching closer and closer to the bed, and finally we fell on it, still embraced. Matty turned out to be slightly on top of me, and he suddenly and earnestly started to dry hump me, while covering my face with little kisses. He was out of control, his little body obviously feeling things that I could only imagine how powerful they felt. I definitely don't remember myself being that passionate when I was his age. Then he started trailing the kisses down my neck, continuing onto my chest. By the time he reached my stomach he couldn't keep humping me anymore, so his slid his entire body down along the edge of the bed, and quickly enveloped my knob with his mouth. I gasped at the feeling. Matty was becoming an expert cocksucker, he was careful not to graze me with his teeth, and at the same time he had some interesting tongue action going that sent shivers all over my body. The way he lay, our bodies formed a V shape, and I could see his feet and knees across the bed, in my direct eyesight. That gave me an idea: I started inching my head closer to him, careful not to slip my tool out of his passionately working mouth, until my head was just a few inches from his groin. I reached with my hands, placed my palms on Matt's buttocks and pulled him closer to me. Now we were lined up face to crotch, and Matty, while still going to town on my rigid little friend, immediately picked up my idea and turned sideways, pointing his very hard boypencil at my face. A second later, we were both sucking each other with abandon, slurping sounds and occasional muffled moans making up the only noises in my quiet room. My hands were still on Matty's butt, and after a while of this heaven, I felt him start to finely shake, something like a refrigerator vibrates if you hold your hand against it. His moans also became more frequent. I figured out I need to pick up the pace, and did so. Matty started shaking more noticeably and also increased his efforts on my tool. I was feeling the orgasmic delight starting to build up deep within me, and tried as best I could to delay that moment of bliss, as a thought entered my mind that it would be really neat if we climaxed at the same time. The buildup (and gradual pace increases) continued for another minute or so, at the end of which Matty began to shake so violently that my hands slipped off of his butt. As my hands left him, he started to allout fuck my mouth, ramming his entire (be it not that substantial) length into my mouth with abandon. I also felt him slow down his efforts on my stick, as he was engulfed by his own sensations. I figured that won't do; I was just moments away from what promises to be an explosive release, and also resorted to fucking Matt's mouth as fast as I could. And just as I felt his little tube start pulsing against my tongue, my own orgasm hit me, shocking my entire body. I felt like a tesla coil was lighting up in my head, and only with the edge of my consciousness I kept feeling Matty's hardness slide in and out of my mouth, while spasming wildly. And then I felt the first jet of my cum burst out, just as Matty was finishing a long, joyful moan. He gagged slightly, his moan ending abruptly, but quickly regained his composure, and enveloped my dick again just as the second spurt was shooting out of me. After that, I felt my dick slide out of his mouth, just as the last few dribbles slid out onto my bedspread. Matty's tool was still buried ballsdeep into my mouth, so I knowing how sensitive it must be now carefully moved back, letting it slide out. It was very red and slightly deflated, compared to how it was a few moments ago. Then both of us, simultaneously, rolled onto our backs, breathing heavily. I skewed my eyes down at an angle, to look at my lil' buddy's face. He was similarly twisting his head to look at me. Neither of us said anything. We just smiled at each other. And then, for no reason at all, we started giggling. And in a few moments, both of us were full out laughing. Why?.. Fuck if I know!.. All I know is that it was fun.
Twenty minutes later, we were outside, kicking my raggedy old soccer ball back and forth. Matty was a bit awkward at first, but after a while he got into it, became all red with excitement and started to hit harder, stopped being afraid of being hit by the ball, and even managed to get passed me once. Of course, he was so excited at passing me that he kicked the ball clear away from the goal posts, but I monogamously counted it as a goal for him anyway. We spent about an hour playing, then we just sat in the grass and chatted away about this and that. Matty was already planning how he's gonna start his new book when he gets home before we went outside he, carefully as if it was a little bird, carried his gift to his apartment. But then some kids from across the yard, including the Henderson boys, came out to the pitch with their own ball. Matty became instantly shy, and hinted at me that it's time to get out of here. Instead, however, I got us included into their game. The three Henderson boys knew me fairly well, and gladly accepted me into their team, as they knew I was pretty good. At first they wanted to stick Matty into the opposing team, but he refused flat out, saying that he wanted to play with me. So in the end the Henderson boys and us two ended up playing the other five boys that came with them. Matty was trying his best, and I could see he was really drawn to the middle Henderson boy Joe, who was just about his age. Joe was an impressive kid, good looking and a great soccer player, even better than his older brother Thomas, who was thirteen. The youngest Henderson, Tally, was ten. He also managed to be the loudest; shouting and running around like a deranged little squirrel. I could see that Matty was a bit weary of him. But Joe, thankfully, was a calm and levelheaded boy, he immediately noticed that Matty is new at this, and patiently, if a little indulgently, helped Matty by passing to him a lot less aggressively that he would have otherwise, and throwing him a tip here and there. Seeing that this is going rather well, I excused myself from the game after about fifteen minutes, saying that I had stuff to do. Matty looked at me with worry, but to my delight opted to stay and keep on playing. As I was leaving, I winked at Joe, and nodded towards Matty, as if silently saying: `take care of him'. Joe seriously nodded back. A few minutes later I glanced onto the yard out of my window, and saw a delighted Matt next to Joe, running towards the other team's goal posts.
Some famous author, I don't remember who, once correctly stated: life is a river of time. It flows on and on. Some things happen, then other things happen. You're like a chip of wood in the water, it turns you round and round, and takes you downstream.
Somehow gradually everyone forgot about the missing parts found in our warehouse, and about the accident in Wolton, and even about the shock-absorbers no one talked anymore. I quit regretting about how I stupidly squandered my money. The only one of my purchases which eventually became useful to me is that notebook in a cloth binding, in it I am now writing this story.
Even the fact that that Maya danced with Lester Hugh did not seem like such a considerable offense to me anymore. So she danced once with Lester Hugh, so what? Maybe it was not the best idea, considering she knew my hatred of him. But even with all her wit and firm character, she is still just a fourteen-year-old girl, and was probably afraid to start a scandal by refusing. Maybe if I was near Maya then, I would have helped her reject Lester Hugh's advances. But I wasn't near, so she was defenseless.
If now Maya would've approached me and said all that, we would've reconciled. If she'd come and say: "I'm sorry it turned out this way, I know I shouldn't have danced with Lester Hugh, but I only wanted to avoid a scandal", then everything between us would've become clear and good again.
I ceased avoiding Maya, on the contrary, I tried to come across her as much as possible. To give her a chance to approach me and say all those things, that is. But Maya did not approach me and said nothing. She only smiled at me from a distance as though nothing happened between us.
I didn't want to approach her first: it wasn't me who danced with Lester Hugh, but her!
People can't quarrel eternally. At some point every quarrel can be reconciled. If people wouldn't ever reconcile, then eventually everyone would end up hating each other. But in each quarrel there is right and wrong. And the one who's wrong should take the first step to reconciliation.
Everything changes, but not all gets forgotten. There are things which I remember always. And the more time passes, the more I think about them. The kinds of things I just can't let go.
For example, the more I thought about Bud Zephron, the more shameful my behavior seemed to me. I did nothing to correct the injustice caused to him because of us, even though there was my fault in the incident. Besides, because of that asshole Lester Hugh, it turned out as if I slandered Bud. I felt myself a traitor. A person suffered because of me, and I'm going nothing. That's nasty! And I don't get how can Smako talk to Bud so easily, to argue about some trivial nonsense. After all, Smako is also guilty. Maybe less than I am, but nevertheless... Who was it that adhered the tow incorrectly?
I told Smako and Vern again that we should write a statement for the manager.
Smako indifferently answered:
"Who needs that?"
And Vern said:
"Hello, this again?.. Let it go already!"
So I wrote the statement myself. Short, but convincing. It stated that concerning the accident, only we are guilty: me, Ian, Vern and Peter. We autocratically started to tow the truck and incorrectly adhered the cable. And Bud Zephron did not leave us unattended because he was slacking off, he went searching for Trent Smith. So the reprimand blaming him is incorrect.
I went to the manager's office and put this statement on the table in front of him. He asked:
"What is this?"
"A statement," I answered.
"It's all written inside."
The manager frowned. He did not like when statements were handed to him. Statements always demand things that he doesn't want to give. Otherwise, they would be given without any statement.
The manager read through my statement once, and then started to read it again. What, did he really not understand something? It's all written clearly and simply. Having read it for the second time, the manager raised his eyes at me:
"What do you want? Practically!"
If he wouldn't have said the word "practically", I would've explained what I wanted: I wanted to prove that Bud Zephron is not guilty, that it was all us. But that's not practical. And what is practical? The practical part of this is the order with the reprimand for Bud. If the manager cancels it, that would be practical. But if I make such a demand, it will be ridiculous. I diplomatically said:
"Your order is wrong. Bud Zephron it is not guilty. We are guilty."
"Oh, really?.." the manager said as if he heard about all of this for the first time, and touched the aluminum piston which served as an ashtray on his table. "So, I should also declare a reprimand on you boys?"
"If you consider it necessary... Only why also on us? Only on us."
"Oh, really?" the manager said again.
Someone opened the door. The manager said: "I'm busy!" The door immediately shut.
"What's your name, boy?" The manager asked.
"Do you have a father, Steven?"
"Where does he work?"
I named the factory where my dad works.
The manager was again silent for a few moments, and then he said:
"So, this means that you're clever, and I'm a fool?"
With this he wanted to say that he is the clever one, and I am the fool. Did he expect me to argue? I answered nothing.
Having waited but received no answer, the manager looked out the window. I also looked out the window. There was nothing interesting there. Continuing to look out of the window, the manager said with an equal voice:
"Let's say a delivery of materials for a construction project wasn't delivered. Who failed to deliver it? The driver failed. Who organized it badly? The chief of operations organized it badly. And who received the reprimand and had to apologize to the client? The manager. Why? Because the manager is responsible for both for the driver and for the chief of operations. Who was responsible for the towage? Bud Zephron was. So who should I hold responsible for any problems? Bud Zephron. Understood? I am not obliged to explain all this to you, you're not a company shareholder. But I'm explaining, because you boys are still green, you need to know these things. And now go, people are waiting for me."
...It's easy for the Manager to argue this point. If he'll get a reprimand from the shareholders, he'll get to the motor depot and reprimand someone under him. And who can Bud Zephron reprimand? Nobody. Bud is at the bottom of this chain, he's got no one to dump on, he's responsible for himself. That is what I should've answered the manager. But the right answers come to me approximately an hour after the conversation.
So my statement amounted to nothing. But at least my conscience was clear. I did everything I could. I would've liked to tell Bud that I handed in the statement. So that he'd know. But that is impossible. It will turn out that I'm bragging.
Whatever. Let him think what he wants. And let everyone think what they want. I'll just keep on working. And I won't pay attention to anyone. Anyway, the practice will soon come to an end. In twelve days. And I have nothing to answer for anyway. I don't have technical leans. Everyone knows that.
I returned to the garage and got to work. Lester Hugh was looking at me slantwise. He probably saw that I went to the manager. Well the fuck with him, let him stare!
I started on the forward bridge for our truck. It was the last thing that Smako and I needed to do for it, and I wanted to finish it today. If Smako and I declare that all of our parts are ready for assemblage, it will urge the other kids on. Otherwise we won't finish out truck before the practice is over.
But Smako said:
"Leave it, we need to grease this truck here."
And pointed to a dumper truck standing nearby.
"No," I answered, "let's finish our forward bridge today."
"The foreman forbid to do our truck," Smako said.
"What do you mean forbid?"
"He forbid it, that's all."
I approached foreman James Dennon and asked, whether it's true that he forbid restoring our truck. James Dennon replied that no one forbade restoring our truck, but we shouldn't do it during our working hours. It appears that we don't get paid salary for the restoration of our truck.
"You and Peter spent two days in Wolton," James Dennon said, "you weren't working here, but received a salary as if you did. At the expense of the brigade. Is that fair?"
Of course it's not fair! There is a discrepancy here. But the staff, led by Ian, should consider these things and plan for them. As for me, I'm done interfering with all of these affairs.
Nevertheless, I was interested to find out how the staff intends to operate in these newly formed conditions. I decided to talk to Ian about it. Not as an intervention in their affairs, but just to satisfy my curiosity. Ian was sitting in the technical department, having made himself so comfortable on the chair that his feet stuck out from under the table.
"I know," he answered indifferently, "All the shops have such a delay."
"Let's do it after work then," I offered.
"Thanks a lot!" Ian answered. "People have other things to do. I, for example, have a filming at the studio. And generally, I think that we have a bigger problem. The working force does not show consciousness for our work."
"What are you blaming the working force for?!" I objected. "It's you who didn't organize it properly!"
"Probably," Ian answered indifferently.
"So what, it all goes south?"
"Yes, it all goes south!"
I was indignant:
"You're the one who came up with the idea of the restoration, and now you're the first to wash off."
"A person assumes, and God decides," uttered Ian.
We put so much work into our truck! And now we were forbidden to restore it. And right in the heat of the moment, when everyone is working so earnestly. Smako and I have almost everything done, we only need to assemble the forward bridge, the kids from the forge and welding shop corrected and prepared the frame, the upholsterers also did almost everything... Can we really allow for all of this work to be for nothing?..
And what does it mean: "the working force does not show consciousness"? It's nonsense! The workers perfectly understand us. But they don't want to work by the by, they don't like work being unclear. So, it's necessary to clear it up.
Certainly, I decided not to interfere with these affairs. But that is in case when the affairs are moving. And if everything is stalled? I have to interfere! To get it going again. And when it's going again, then I can wholeheartedly not interfere any more.
First of all I went to the motor shop. It is the main shop of all the workshops, the most welllit and cleanest, completely the opposite of our garage. It must be speckless: the repair of motors demands accuracy, and accuracy demands cleanliness. An error in a 100th share of a millimeter, and all goes wrong the motor knocks. Not without reason Ivan Polak works in the motor shop here it is necessary to understand technical matters well. The mechanics in this shop are all mechanics of high qualification they know their worth. With each of them the manager is on a first name basis with.
I always hesitate before coming into the motor shop. They have an angry chief, a self-confident young man in specs. He doesn't like strangers. It's not at all like the garage, where anyone who has nothing to do can come and hang around. I opened the door slightly and beckoned Ivan Polak with my finger.
Ivan Polak is a good guy, plus he's a really good technician. But he has a foolish habit of putting a hand on the shoulder of the person he's speaking with. And he's very tall. And if his interlocutor is just hardly smaller than him, it looks okay. But when he puts his hand on the shoulder of a kid who's much smaller than him, me for example, he involuntarily underlines his small stature. Therefore I always stand at some distance from Ivan.
Ivan agreed with me completely, he recognized that the staff is idle, but added:
"There is one more problem replacement parts. They're not giving them out for our truck. Some things we can scrape together; but how would we get parts that are in deficiency? For example, these parts..." And he began to strew numbers of parts. Precisely like Vern. But Vern said numbers of parts because he didn't know what the parts actually were. Ivan Polak, on the contrary, did it because he knew them too well.
I interrupted him:
"So are we giving in?!"
"What for!" objected Ivan. "We just need clearness."
"You should clear things with Ian, he says we're giving up."
"Ian and I don't work well together," declared Ivan Polak. "I'm not talking to that asshole."
"To think, what a cabinet of ministers!" I said and went to the woodworks shop.
Some kids treat the woodworks shop with contempt. Especially kids with technical bents. They think that technics are exclusively metal and plastic, and wood is an antiquity. "The tree shop", they contemptuously say.
But I like the woodworks shop. It's different to the other shops. There is a special sound here: the squeal of a saw and plane rustling, the smell is a smell of wood shavings and resinous tree. It reminds me of a small town where my grandfather lives. And the workers here are quiet, good-natured, sluggish, smoking roll-ups. The roll-up smell also reminds one of a rural town.
In the woodworks shop worked four of our kids, among them Evie Summer and Gail Mackie, the girls that always write stuff down in turns. And these four kids still did nothing concerning the flat-body and cabin, only taken out the broken boards and decayed planks. But didn't replace them with new ones. I said:
"There's four of you here, and nothing is moving."
"Calm down!" Gail Mackie derisively answered. "We're not the ones holing things up."
"As opposed to others!"
"I'm not blaming you. But you see the mess we're in everything is stopped."
"Not here," Gail objected, "our chop chiefs didn't forbid us to work on our truck."
"So why aren't you working on it then?"
They pointed to freshly cut out and lacquered boards and planks standing in the corner.
"See that?.. It's all prepared. We'll install `em on time. The flatbed is put in last. And for now, let the material dry."
Gail and Evie surprised me. After all, they have less technical interests than even me, and I, as is well known, don't have any.
Gail and Evie represent literature and art in our grade. Gail is literature, Evie is art. Gail writes stories, Evie sings. However, she doesn't sing at school events, says that she is training her voice; and singing at the school is bad for her. She has one teacher who shapes her voice, and then another one who rearranges it. And this will go on until she'd find herself at a conservatory. As for Gail, her stories always end with the same one phrase: "It was the break of dawn".
... A Boy, who is an orphan, found his father and mother. They cry, kiss, go outside... It was the break of dawn...
... Another boy, who's a total idler, was reeducated. For the first time in his life he did his homework and, happy, he goes outside. It was the break of dawn...
... A third boy, an honors pupil, is bullied by his friends. The collective holds a meeting, they bullies realize their errors. All are happy, they go outside. It was the break of dawn...
She just crams this fucking dawn anywhere...
Anyway, the position in the woodworks shop had calmed me a bit. If only it was so in other shops! But in other shops it was not going well... In the electroshop Adam Grinko told me:
"The foreman said: `We hardly have enough time to complete our own work, there's no time to do yours!'"
This message especially afflicted me, because the smell of sulfuric acid standing in the electroshop reminded me about the burned trousers in Wolton.
The welders are reticent people in general. Perhaps, because of the constant noise of welding, they don't hear what you're telling them. Every time I come to the welding corner, I only heard one thing from them: "Go away!" I looked at the frame of our truck standing lonely on some bricks, admired the blue flame of the torch and went on.
So I checked all of the shops. Only the textile shop I skipped Maya worked there. To tell the truth, I should have gone to see her first Maya is great at figuring stuff out. But it's all finished between us... However, when I passed by the textile shop (and I passed by several times), Maya saw me and came out to talk to me herself. Just like that. We discussed the project's horrid position and decided to assemble a class meeting. I was glad, of course, that Maya came to talk to me.
Of course, anything romantic that was between us is finished. But I figured that if she came to me first, we might as well be friends again. Maya, apparently, didn't really know that I wasn't speaking to her. But come to think of it, really, whence would she know it from? I didn't tell her, and she couldn't just guess.
As always, we all gathered on the lot. From the staff came the manager, the chief engineer, the chief of the motor shop, our foreman James Dennon, who's similar to a Spaniard, and two more foremen: from the textile and welding shops. A real ceremonial meeting this was turning out to be.
The chief engineer said:
"Your initiative is commendable. Restoring a truck, you will see socially useful results of your work. But it is necessary to reckon with the real conditions of our business. The truck's restoration was not included in the plan made with your school; so it is not funded for either salary payments, or materials. We have to figure this out, this matter should be discussed."
Our foreman James Dennon said:
"They're good kids. Work well. But restoring their truck during the working hours, while using our shop's resources for this work, is impossible. We have our own plan to complete."
The foreman of the textile shop asked:
"Whence should we take the material for their restoration?"
The manager noticed:
"If you'd've used your limit carefully, you'd find some leftover for their needs."
"We have just barely enough for our needs, Mr. Jessie," answered the foreman.
The chief of the motor shop, the self-confident young man in glasses, said:
"Maybe, they can find some canvas for the seats. But where would I find a set of pistons? We're essentially assembling a new engine here."
The manager, looking under his feet, spoke with an equal voice:
"You're all formalists! You know how to ask for more, you know how to hang about, but where to take four boards to help out some kids you do not know."
From this we understood, that the shop foremen want the manager to recognize the restoration of our truck as official business, release materials for it and pay salary for it. And the manager, on the contrary, wants for the restoration to carry on in an informal order, so shops help us by themselves, from their internal resources. In other words, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
"You should all have some conscience about helping the school," the manager continued, "Here, let's listen what the kids have to offer!"
What could we say? If the foremen don't know what to do, we definitely can't help... But, of course, Ian had to open his mouth:
"Mr. Jessie, what can we say? If the shop foremen do not wish to help us, then we cannot go on."
This meant that Ian's desire to restore the truck was gone. He is always like this. He'd put forward an idea, will make a big fuss, show himself as an organizer, and then he'd cool down, and lose courage.
"Our class was full of enthusiasm," continued Ian, "but the circumstances are overpowering us! The circumstances are compelling us to stop our work."
Maya derisively said:
"You shouldn't have taken up arms, quitter!"
Ian pouted with an insult:
"Please, let's not start insulting each other. It is completely irrelevant."
"Actually, it is very much relevant," answered Maya, "and you are a typical opportunist and a compromiser!"
All other kids also unanimously agreed that Ian, certainly, is a typical opportunist and compromiser. I also said that giving up the truck's restoration would mean for us to disgrace ourselves.
"You're bending this line for a while now quit!" Maya added. "but we said we'd do it, and we should finish what we started. Shame! People who had much less resources than us overcame much more difficulties!"
Ian grinned again:
"Anyone can say pretty words. But how do you suggest we overcome the difficulties?"
Then I said:
"Our only difficulty is you. Your instability plus bureaucratism."
Then everyone started to shout, that we should stop bickering. Instead of bickering, we should search for a way out.
Then I said:
"I have an offer!"
"We know your offer," grumbled Ian.
"You know it, others don't," I answered, "My offer is: lets finish the truck after work. Really, can't we work a few extra hours for a couple of weeks?"
"Of course we can!" confirmed Ivan Polak.
"Sure we can!" said Jimmy Tavias, Adam Grinko and the other kids who had technical inclines.
"Yeah, we can probably do it," uncertainly said the kids with less technical interest.
"We'll stay, but not for long," said most of the girls.
The manager turned to the foremen:
"Aren't you ashamed? Schoolboys agree to work for the good of the community, and we, their chiefs, don't want to help them. Your own children will learn to drive on this truck. What kind of parents are you?"
Our foreman James Dennon declared:
"If the children work on their truck during off hours, we will help them. But what to do with missing materials?"
The chief of the motor shop said:
"Well, this whole issue becomes simpler now that the kids are willing to work overtime, and the workers will help them as a community effort, so we, the shop chiefs, will find some materials from our shop's internal resources. But where would we get the deficiency needed?"
The deficiency is what workers here call expensive or custom-made parts which are difficult to obtain. The manager himself is in charge of their distribution.
"Well," the manager sighed and looked at the sky, "if the children are putting in overtime work, and the workers are helping them, and the chiefs of shops are releasing materials, I'll release the deficiency. As a matter of assistance to the school. The important thing is that this whole project is helping the community."
"I think, two hours per day will be enough," the chief engineer said, "Children their age are allowed by state law to work for six hours, and they only work four. So it'll all be right."
"It's not about hours, this work is done on a public basis, so it is not reported as work anyway," said the manager.
This public basis was, in effect, suggested by me and non other. But I didn't even think of saying that out loud... I understood that it is empty vanity talking in me.
End of Part 5 (includes Chapters 21,22,23,24,25,26)
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