Pickle stood outside Mrs. Lane’s classroom. “Parking lot, Cutie. After school.”
I didn’t see his lips move. I’d been watching his eyes.
Sammie Davis Jr. looked solemn. “You gonna fight Pickle?”
I shook my head. “Why should I?”
“Because you can’t back down.”
“That’s in the student handbook?”
Sammie’s hand clasped my shoulder. “Because everyone will know. The good news is, it’s Pickle, not Spit or Scoot.”
“Write that on my tombstone: ‘He had the great good fortune of being pummeled by the golem Dillon, not the demon Spit, nor the banshee Scooter.’”
“Pick’s a bully, but he’s not mean.”
“What a consolation!”
“It is. When he wins, he’ll stop. He won’t maim you. I haven’t had a chance to tell you what Tommy did. I watched him fight the doggie.”
“At the Freeze? The night we talked to MBe?”
“You left before I did. I was waiting for Daddy-o in the parking lot when Spit saw the soldier pull up in a cherry-red Barracuda. After they drag Main, doggie and O’Murphy come back to the Freeze and stop a few inches from me. O’Murphy’s not even sittin’ on her side–she’s all the way on the doggie’s console. Spit just jumps in the doggie’s ‘Cuda. Doggie says, ‘To what do we owe this faint pleasure?’”
“Mockery in the face of fear,” I said. “Gotta admire that.”
“Spit points at the station. Tells O’Murphy, ‘Bring your new boyfriend. Ten o’clock.’”
Ma Andersen’s Sinclair is directly across Highway 81 from the Freeze parking lot. That’s why they’d been sitting in Spit’s jalopy. They were lying in wait for the dogface.
“Spit says, ‘Tommy’s gonna kick the shit out of you.’
“The doggie’s not scared of a high-school janitor, but he sees O’Murphy’s scared shitless, so he raps, ‘Should I bring a few girlfriends, just to make sure it’s a fair fight?’
“Spit says, ‘Bring every doghead at Fort Sill. We don’t give a rat’s ass.’ And then he says, ‘You bring Murph too, so she can watch.’
“Doggie says, ‘What if I don’t?’
“And Spit says, ‘Tommy’ll probably beat the ssshit of out her.’”
Pig Binson approached from the opposite direction.
“Hey, Pig.” Sammie smiled.
He tried to backhand her.
“Hey,” I chided him. “What’s that about?”
“She called me Pig.”
“Sammie’s half your size. And she’s a girl. And we all call you Pig.”
“That’s not my name.”
“Cutie’s not mine, but everybody pins it on me.”
Pig made the you-don’t-understand face.
“I offended you,” Sammie said. “I’m sorry. What do you want to be called?”
“No sweat then. Siggy.”
“Seymour,” he insisted.
“You’re right.” I withdrew a No. 2 pencil from my pocket protector. “Bend a knee, mighty Seymour.”
He looked at me askance.
With an exaggerated gesture, I arced the yellow pencil over his left shoulder. “First of His Name, Principal Acolyte of Higher Education . . . ”
Seymour grinned self-consciously as the pencil swung to his right shoulder.
“ . . . defender of Hell Creek High School.” I suspended the pencil over his eyes. “I knight thee! Arise, noble sir.”
He beamed goofily.
“Now look, Sir Seymour. Do me a favor.”
His eyes turned down. “Yeah.”
“Be a friend to Lady Sammie. She’s what, five-three? Buck ten?”
Sammie nodded. Seymour didn’t move.
“You know, defenders live by a code. We help each other. We respect each other. We fight only to protect others. Be her gallant friend?”
That sank in. With a half-grimace, Seymour acknowledged his responsibility, plopped a hand on Sammie’s shoulder, and silently walked away. Sammie smiled her reply at Seymour.
“So, you were saying the Andersens belong in trees.”
“Darwin had it backwards,” she agreed.
“Absolute proof that apes evolved from Andersens.”
“Yep,” Sammie said. “Stone Age Boy says his piece in front of O’Murphy, so the doggie’s gotta show up for the showdown. Long story short: Daddy-o was working OT, so I was still there for a legendary beat-down, just across the parking lot of their mama’s service station.”
“Splitsville. Scooter’s between the gas pumps when the doggie drives up. Lights are off; everybody’s gone. Doggie opens his car door and Scooter kicks it so hard, the window cracks on the doggie’s skull. Only thing holds it together is a new-car window sticker. Door bounces, and this time Scoot slams the doggie’s noggin’ on the frame. Kicks it over and over. Just whales on Soldier Boy till the doggie’s as near to dead meat as he’s gonna be without bein’ evacuated from a war zone. Scooter really, actually grinds this doggie into an Oscar Meyer. No way the doggie gets to lift a hand. Daddy-o works at Hell Creek ER. Said next morning, an ambulance transferred the doggie to Fort Sill Army Hospital.”
Sammie’s tight lips showed her contempt. “Dirtiest fight I ever seen or heard of. And Doggie Dumbass didn’t bring nobody to watch his back. Hell, even if he had, there’s movie mean and there’s Andersen mean. They’re that scary.”
My eyes must have bugged like a toad on blacktop. That’s an argument not to fight. Some injuries last a lifetime. Somebody may bring a knife. Someone might get killed. If it ain’t worth killing over, it ain’t worth fighting over. But I pretended. “So the Andersens scramble a soldier’s head like Humpty Dumpty. What’s scary about that? Well, next week.”
“You really ain’t comin’ to your own fight?”
“Sure. When 7-Eleven serves Slurpees in Hell.”
“You don’t have to beat him; you just have to show.”
“And his brothers? What if they gang up on me?”
Sammie grabbed my arm. “Dude, fight him here. On the school grounds. In front of people. That’s your protection. I’ll watch your back.”
“Yeah. Right. You’re a girl.”