Friday, October 28, 2011

Edith and Ben - Erica, Tricia and the Dance

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Things that I probably should say before writing this:

Ben's truck got crunched. It was hit by a van, after all. And yet here it stands. My take on this is that Edith fixed it. She was around when the truck was new, I see no reason for her not to be interested in automotive things, so I figure that she offered to fix the the truck for free. Ben was very much in favor of not paying for repairs, and so it was.

I can't get into too much detail because I know nothing about how one goes about repairing a crunched truck from the 50s, but I will say that I am convinced that Edith enjoys any chance to use her welding equipment. Also, working on any vehicle from more than 50 years ago would be like returning to an old friend.

The other thing is that after spending a while trying to figure out what would ever possess Ben to assume someone was in the chess club, I decided that Erica uses a chess piece as jewelry. It's a just plastic pawn on a string that hangs around her neck. I bring this up here because Ben wouldn't see any reason to describe it at this stage, he'd just call it, “the pawn.”

Also, I think Ben is left handed.]


The problem with gym was that Shell was in that class with me. She didn't say anything to me but the fact that she was there kept the uncomfortable confrontation from biology class in my mind which was distracting. The ground came up and hit me more than once. Mostly on the right side for some reason. Right knee. Right hip. Unspeakable pain in the right elbow.

You'd think that by now I'd have some understanding of how these things work, but I've never been able to figure out why sometimes when you hit something you can shake it off and other times, even though you don't seem to hit it any harder, the pain is indescribable.

The really annoying thing is that basketball is something I'm actually not completely incompetent in. I can't dribble, I can't run, but given an opening shooting is something I'm not half bad at. Basketball should have been one of the few times I could be marginally useful in gym. Not very useful, outside of foul shots there are very few times someone can stand still and make a shot without someone else getting in the way to block, but at least a little bit useful.

It should have been my first chance to not suck in gym instead it just pain. Well, pain and humiliation. Which was my point.

I left as fast as I thought I could without risking a fall. I wanted to leave, I especially wanted to be gone before Michelle could have another chance to talk to me. It didn't think she was going to, but I didn't want to risk it. What I didn't want to do was get carried away and end up falling. I did that enough in gym, and at least in gym I didn't risk getting gravel or asphalt in me.

So I walked as fast as I thought I could without putting myself in danger, and pretty soon my truck was in sight. I could see that someone was at it, and I slowed down, suspicious. It was a small figure, but that meant nothing. Size doesn't really matter when you're utterly incapable of defending yourself. The posture was casual, leaning back against the hood, which might mean friendly intentions or might mean dangerous arrogance.

I looked around, walking fast meant that I was one of the first people in the lot. There were maybe -maybe- four or five other people in the lot, none of them near enough to be helpful if the person at my truck was unfriendly.

I tried to figure out if I'd annoyed anyone lately. I didn't think I had, but it could be so difficult to be sure.

And then I realized it was Erica. Erica would not be hurting me, she was my first friend here. I picked up my pace and returned to plan A: get the Hell away from school. I hoped Erica didn't want something that would take a while, because I wanted to be gone.

When I got to the truck I said hi to Erica and started to unlock the door, she said, “Hi, Ben,” in a way that was clearly nervous.

“What's up?” I asked.

She rubbed the pawn with her right hand, looked at the ground, and said, “I was wondering if... if you'd go to the dance with me.” She quickly looked back up.

I didn't want to tell her no. The look in her eyes was so ... it was a mixture of hope and fear that I knew well myself. I knew how much a rejection could hurt, and I didn't want to inflict that on her.

The problem was that, though I didn't want to turn her down, I definitely didn't want to go to a dance. I'd already made up my mind to be out of town, so I told her, “I'm going to be in Seattle that day, sorry.”

Her entire posture changed, she seemed to deflate, she nodded, and said, “Maybe another time.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

She walked, slouching, back to school. I'd meant the maybe. I had no desire to go to a dance, ever, but if I did I'd much rather go with Erica than Shell. Maybe another time, maybe something other than dancing.

It took me a minute to remember that my keys were already in the truck's door. I got in, started up, and I pulled out of my parking space only to be stuck in a small traffic jam. I was between Edith and Tricia. Tricia had a new car, well new to her at any rate. I know people who wouldn't be satisfied when they hear someone has a new car unless they're told the exact make and model of the car. People like that don't like me very much. Her car was a blue car. A darker blue than her van had been. I'm sure it was a nice car.

I didn't have a good look at the beginning of the jam, but based on Edith miming what seemed to be an introduction to how to use a standard shift and finally, in frustration, dropping her forehead to her wheel in defeat, I was guessing that someone somewhere stalled their car and was taking far too long to get it restarted. I don't think the person in front noticed her, I'm pretty sure he or she didn't, I guessed that just Edith's means of dealing with the unexpected wait.

“Hey,” I was startled. Tricia had appeared at my window. I looked in my rear view, I'm not sure why. Maybe to reassure myself that I'd been right when I thought I saw her behind me. Her car was still there, door left open. “I was wondering if I could ask you-”

I considered doing an Edith impression: forehead meet steering wheel, steering wheel meet forehead. It must have shown because Tricia stopped. Then she said, “Sorry, I didn't realize it was a bad time,” and walked back to her car.


[At a later time:]

“Michelle told me you'd out of town on the day of the spring dance.”

“Yeah. I'll be in Seattle.”

“The way she... the thing is... um...” Tricia squirmed a bit. Then she quickly said, “Michelle can be a bit much.” She paused for a beat, then said, “I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to get away from her, but Seattle is a long way to go and-”

“I want to go to Seattle,” I told her, but it wasn't at all convincing. I did want to go to Seattle, and I fully intended to enjoy it, but Tricia was completely right about trying to get away from Michelle and I couldn't really hide that.

“I know you don't think I owe you anything-”

“You don't.”

“But I'd like to help if I can and this is something I can help with.”

“How?” I asked.

“I've lived here my whole life, I know plenty of places to be alone that are a lot closer than Seattle. I can show them to you. I can run interference if you want to keep away from Michelle. I can try to talk to her, but I wouldn't count on that working. I can stand next to you and growl at her if you think it'll help.” I tried not to smile, but I must have failed because she smiled back. Then she continued, “I'm serious, if you ever think having a fake date would get someone off your back, feel free to use me as an excuse. Just give me a heads up so I don't blow the story.

“I'm also convinced I could do creepy stalker. Watch this,” she changed her posture, hunched forward elbows squeezed into her sides, clasped her hands together turned slightly away from me and pointer her head somewhat down so that she was looking at me askew, then said with a truly bizarre pace and tone, “So, Shell, I heard you're going to ask Ben out, I hope you don't plan on using your,” she broke completely out of character, “I'd check to see what kind of a car she drives first, so that I could give disturbingly detailed technical specifications,” she returned to character, “The break lines are so easy to cut, and it would be a shame if something happened to Ben. Or you, I suppose.”

And she broke out of character again, “And after that she'd probably leave you alone.”

“And you'd be in jail,” I said. She shrugged. I continued, “That was truly disturbing, by the way.”

Her face lit up, “Thank you!” I really don't think someone should be that happy about being told they were disturbing. I suppose if you want to be an actor it makes sense. Maybe.

I told her, “I don't need any help.”

“I can still show you around. Places I've found no one knows but me, and I can only ever be in one of them at once, so if you want to be alone they're a pretty safe bet.”

“I'll think about it.”

“Ok,” she said. It looked like she considered leaving it at that, but then she said, “Please don't tell Michelle we've been talking about her. I like her but she can be ... um ... Michelle. She can be herself a little too much at times.”


1 comment:

  1. I think you have the right idea about Edith jumping at the chance to repair the truck. On top of the "old friend" thing, cars from the mid-20th-century are notably easier to work on than more recent ones; they aren't stuffed with electronics and weird plastics, and components like the starter and fuel pump weren't just "black boxes" that you have to replace because you can't take them apart to fix them. This is according to my dad, who got his start working on hot-rods as a teenager in the early 1960s and worked as a professional mechanic well into the 2000s.

    The downside is finding parts; you either need to be rich to buy them, or very good with precision metalwork to make them. Edith, luckily, can probably take her pick.

    (J. Random Scribbler)