It was the phone again, and this time it was Uncle Ball.
“Well, they have found medical evidence.” He sounded broken. “We know for sure now that it has happened. No one was lying. I’m just so pissed at your mother.”
“Yeah, they did an examination.”
“Why are you pissed at Rose?” I said.
“When this first came up, I took the kids over to talk to her. This was about two years ago, she was still living at the old house and running daycare. Anyway, I told her what the kids were saying and she yelled at them. She said that they had gotten into a fight with Grasp that day and they were trying to get him in trouble. She made them apologize and that fucker just stood there and nodded and said he forgave them.”
Guardian was flaming. He wanted to rip this guy to pieces. Wanted to reach through the phone and clench a fist around this Uncle Ball’s neck.
“Your mother is a piece of work.”
“Why didn’t you do anything about it?” Guardian said through grit teeth.
“She is my sister. I trusted her,” he said. “What was I supposed to do, go against my sister?”
“I gotta go,” Guardian said. He hung up and screamed. Johnson rushed into the room and wrapped his arms around Guardian without asking any questions.
“He actually said to me ‘What was I supposed to do, go against my sister?’ He said those words to me.” Guardian screamed again and beat Johnson’s back with his fists. Johnson weathered it without complaint.
“It’s going to be okay. You’re going to get through this.”
“I’m not worried about me. They found medical evidence,” I said. “This is no longer accusations, this is fact.”
“Good. That is what we want,” he said. “It is ghastly, and the worst thing we have ever heard, but at least it is not up for debate. At least it is fact now, and we can go from there.”
The next day I threw my covers in a tumble at the foot of my bed and grabbed my bottle. I unscrewed the cap and tipped it back. It was terrible. The worst taste I had ever had in my mouth. I knew I was not appreciating it for what it was, but I needed something. I took three big swigs and felt my head lighten a little. I dressed. It was time for class.
First class was History of Automobiles. I had really been interested when I took it, but now sitting in class, hearing this history professor talk about when they put the automatic starter in the first car was mind numbing.
Evidently, they created a push button start instead of the crank start for female drivers, assuming that all of the male drivers would want to keep the crank. They were super surprised when men started buying the push start cars because they assumed it was too fucking blah blah. Who gives a shit the world is on fire! I sat in class that day, staring at my teacher and realized this was his passion. This was the class he had to beg to teach. I looked around at all the guys and girls who had taken the class and I knew that if I did not punch someone soon I would die.
Then the teacher asked me to meet him outside.
I walked out into the hall and he squeezed my shoulder. “Are you okay? Do you need to go home?”
“Why do you ask?”
“You have been crying for the last ten minutes. I just want you to know that if you want to leave you can and—”
I just turned and walked away. I did not take my books, my bag, nothing. I would come to see him during his office hours and get my bag. He asked me what was happening and I told him. He just stared at me. He just stared and this man, this learned man that made a living imparting knowledge, had no idea what to say. He ended up saying something like “Chin up,” and sending me on my way.
To be fair he did better when he had some time to think about it. In the next class, he slipped me a piece of paper that said that his door was always open if I needed to talk, and we could work things out if I missed a few assignments. He would be there for me.
That night I went to my movie class and got a different kind of reception.
My films teacher was a dick who thought he taught the most important class in the college. He was giving his lecture and saw me sitting there with no paper, no pencil or pen. I was not writing a single word down and he stopped for a minute, glared at me and shook his head.
“Well, I guess you have someone else taking notes for you today, don’t you? It must be nice to be able to just sit and let others do your work for you.” He shook his head and Guardian stood up.
“Excuse me?” Guardian said.
“Sit back down. I am trying to give a lecture. Some of your classmates are trying to learn.”
“My brother is a child molester!” Guardian shouted.
The room dropped to dead silence and the teacher looked at Guardian as if he had slapped him. He was terrified about what would come out of my mouth next, and Guardian grinned.
“Yeah, I called the cops on him and now my family hates me. I am finding out all kinds of terrible things as the details come out, and really, I’m just trying to find a way not to shoot myself in the fucking head. I came to class knowing that I would not be able to concentrate on anything at all, but hey, we get to watch a movie and it’s a thing to do besides kill yourself and drink, so I decided to come on out.”
“I understand, sir. If you could—”
“Do you get paid by the A?”
“Do you get paid more if I do well in your class?” Guardian said.
The class was getting restless now.
“You don’t, do you?” Guardian said. “You get paid whether I fail this class or pass it. So, hey why not you do your fucking job and I can decide my GPA without your judgment.”
Guardian sat back down. He glared at the teacher who looked stunned and scared.
“You can continue,” Guardian shouted.
The man stared at Guardian before folding up his lecture notes and walking to the back of the room. He started the movie and I left halfway through. I never went back to that class. Never cared about my films class at all. This is what it was like to try to be in college while all of this was happening.
I got a call from Rose on Thursday.
“Jesse, you’re coming into town this weekend, right?” She sounded furious.
“I might be.”
“No,” she said. “You are. We need to talk. Be at my house Friday night.”
“I have plans Friday. I can make it Saturday.”
“Fine. Saturday afternoon.”
“And I am not coming to your house,” Guardian said. “I’m not walking into your place so you can yell at me and scold me like I am a child. I will meet you at a restaurant and we can talk there.”
“That is ridiculous.”
“So, I am hanging up then?”
“Don’t you dare hang up on me, young man. I am The Mom.”
“Fine, then. Arby’s at two. Do not bring Grasp. If you bring Grasp I am walking right out. I’ll probably rip his throat out with my teeth first, but I will walk out.”
“I don’t like this disrespect. I am The Mom, and I demand to be respected and treated like—”
“Two. Arby’s.” I hung up.
So, at one thirty in St. Robert, Bekah dropped me off at Arby’s. “Should I come in?”
“No, I’m on my own today.”
“Why didn’t you bring your car?” Bekah said.
“I wanted to be stuck here,” Guardian said.
“Just in case she brings him.”
She looked at me confused but it didn’t have to make sense to her. I wanted her to have to come back and pick me up. I wanted to be stuck here in case she brought Grasp and he got lippy. I knew at times I would black out and things would have happened. By not bringing our car, Guardian was trapping us there. If Rose brought Grasp we could not get away. We had to deal with him. We had to either let him go on about his way or kick his ass. Either way, Guardian was forcing the situation.
Guardian got to Arby’s half an hour early. He knew that the person who arrived first had every advantage. This is a warrior we are talking about. He had read Sun Tzu. He knew how to set a battlefield. He took the booth in the corner where he could see every exit and see the only opening in the parking lot. No one would be surprising him.
Ten minutes later, Rose arrived. She wanted to come early, too. She was just out-classed by Guardian. She had Honed with her. When they walked in, Guardian could tell by the look on her face that his being early had set her on edge.
She sat down with her back to the restaurant. “I thought we said two.”
“Yet here we both are at one forty.”
“I already don’t like your tone,” she said.
Guardian was furious. He pointed to a door. “There is one right there,” he pointed at the other door, “And one right there. If you don’t want to be here take your pick.”
“You need a slap,” Rose said.
Guardian pointed at Honed. “Is he man enough for you to give me one?”
Honed fumed but said nothing.
“This is getting us nowhere. I don’t know why we couldn’t do this at my house. Anyway, here is the thing. You called the cops on your brother, which is unforgivable, but he is a great man, your brother, and he is willing to forgive you. He wants you to—”
“No.” I waved her off. “This is not why I came here, is it? So you can tell me how to beg Grasp’s forgiveness? Because he is a child molester.”
She hissed and looked around. “Hush, speak quietly.”
“This is why you didn’t want to meet me in public, you were afraid of what I would say and how loud I would say it.” Guardian laughed.
“I can’t believe you called the authorities on your own brother,” Honed said.
“Kids were saying that he was touching them and making them do things to him. What was I supposed to do?”
“Keep your voice down,” Rose hissed.
“Well, he was my brother. I guess if I heard something like that, I would have called my brother and been like, ‘Dude you had better get out of town until things cool down around here.’”
“That right there makes you a piece of shit,” Guardian said, pointing his finger in Honed’s face. “You are better than that. And that comment is going to haunt you for the rest of your life.”
Honed looked like he had been slapped.
“Get your finger out of my husband’s face. He is a grown man and if he has to take you in hand—” Rose began, but Guardian jumped to his feet.
“Is that what you came to do, Honed? You gonna kick my ass now?” Guardian had his hands out and was leaning over the table in Honed’s face. “I’m right here, Honed, and after what you just said I would love to make this happen!”
“We are leaving. I am never being seen with you in public again,” Rose said.
“Yeah, I bet.”
Honed got up staring at me.
“Remember the words you just said to me, Honed. Remember them for the rest of your life,” Guardian said. “That is the kind of man she has turned you into.” They took off. Guardian walked out of the restaurant with everyone staring at him. He got out in time to see Rose blazing away in her car. From the passenger window, Honed looked shocked and broken.