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And the Young Devour Themselves




Be sure to bookmark where you pause reading, so you will find your place easily!

CHAPTER 7
Bully, Brother, and Books

Linc drove them to Molly's. It was early afternoon and customers were few. He put a quarter in the jukebox while Dan got them a booth.

Dan saw Mary Lapp sitting in a corner with two of her girlfriends. He decided that then was as good a time as any to tell her what was what.

The two girls with Mary said hello to Dan as he neared the table. He ignored them; he didn't even hear them. With a scornful air, he stood over Mary.

"What do you want?" she said, gathering her own share of scorn.

"I just wanted to tell you that your friend Bully Biggs came over to my house last night and nearly broke my jaw. Why would you do me like that, Mary? We might not like each other, but I would never send somebody around to punch you in the jaw. I never hurt you."

That killed her, his saying they didn't like each other. Two emotions washed over Mary: the first being unbearable guilt about Bully's having hit Dan, the second being her frustration over Dan not realizing how his total indifference to her had hurt her since kindergarten. It was too much to bear up under. She lowered her head to the table and broke down and cried right there in front of Dan and her friends.

"What are you crying for?" asked Dan, surprised by her reaction, for she had always displayed such fire while battling him. "Quit that," he added, wringing his hands.

But for her heaving chest, causing her back and shoulders to rise, she sat motionless. Finally she lifted her face wet with tears. She had laid her face down on her wrist, and that, too, was slick with a sheet of wetness. She started to say something, but the words would not come to her. It occurred to her that even though she and Dan had known each other for twelve years, since Dan was such a difficult person to get close to, she still didn't feel she knew him well enough to be open and honest with him about her deep feelings for him. And now high school was behind them, and she knew she would no longer be seeing him five days each week, five days out of seven with the promise of the chance of winning his heart, and sometimes on weekends, too. She knew her chance with Dan Blair was lost forever. Oh, she wondered, why can't I speak up? Her lower lip trembling, she sat there in silence, certain he had despised her all along.

Dan gave her a look that told her he thought she was nuts for carrying on that way, and then he went and joined Linc at their booth.

"What were you and Mary talking about, Dan?" asked Linc, because his view of the crying Mary had been blocked by Dan standing before her.

"Who knows?" said Dan.

And that was that; he had already forgotten about it.

"Burgers, guys?" asked Jack the waiter, slapping Linc on the back.

"Yeah, Jack," said Linc. "Fries and Cokes, too."

"How's your jaw, Danny?"

"Not giving me any trouble at all, Jacky. It would take a tougher sort than Bully Biggs to damage my goods."

"You laid him out pretty smooth with that chair," said Jack.

"Damn right! And I might do the same to you, too, Jacky," Dan teased, "if you don't trot out that food pretty darn quick. I'm about starved, man."

"Coming up," said Jack. He turned to take in their order, then called back over his shoulder: "Speaking of Bully Biggs . . . look who just walked through the door."

The boys looked up. It was Bully all right, and he was heading in their direction. Linc was more than a little nervous, because it looked to him like Bully had grown six inches in every direction since that day he tackled him for Dan. He felt the day of reckoning had arrived.

Bully stepped up to the booth. "Dan Blair," he said, "I've been looking all over for you this morning. Where've you been? I've been in here twice already."

Linc was relieved to see the giant seemed peaceful enough. He allowed his tense extremities to relax.

"Been at the lake, Bully," said Dan. "What's news?"

"I thought we might hang around together for a while," said Bully, looking hopeful, not sure of how deep a friendship he and Dan had forged.

"Sorry, Bully, old pal, but Linc and I've got a lot going on today--You remember Linc Lebeau, don't you?" Dan nodded at Linc.

"Huh?" said Bully, needing things mapped out more thoroughly for his understanding.

Dan said, "Linc's the one who tackled you from behind when I hit you in the foot with that baseball."

"Ha!" said Bully. "Linc, is that you? I've never seen you without your catcher's stuff on. Well, you really held on to me that day, Linc. I thought an old bear had me by the legs. Shake hands, Linc Lebeau."

He reached his huge hand across the table while Linc prepared himself for a crushing grip. Much to Linc's relief, Bully's grip was firm but nothing more.

"No hard feelings, I hope, Bully," said Linc.

"Ha! We won the game--didn't we?"

"Handily, Bully, handily," said Dan. "But it was kinda chickenshit for Linc here to tackle you from behind like that, don't you think?" He eyed Linc and gave him a wicked grin.

"It was your idea," said Linc, turning to Dan and frowning on him. "It was Dan's big plan, Bully. He always has 'em."

"Ha!" said Bully. "You guys are sure a pair to draw to. I like you guys. What did you do at the lake? Any fish bitin' in this heat?"

"Don't know," said Dan. "We just went to feed the ducks."

Hearing that lie, Linc eyed Dan strangely. He wondered what mischief Dan had in mind.

"Man, I used to do that when I was a kid!" said Bully. "It wasn't anywhere around here, but we had ducks where I come from, too. Hey, you two, let's go back out there and feed them some more."

"As pleasant as that sounds, old buddy," said Dan, "I'm sad to say we're flat out of bread. We gave the beasts all we had."

"That's all right: we can go buy another loaf or two--I got money," offered Bully.

"Really, Bully," said Dan, "they were turning their noses up at the stuff, so we left. The poor things were fit to burst from too much bread."

"Christ, it must be a hundred degrees out there, Bully. You don't need to be out in that," said Linc, truly concerned for Bully's welfare, and knowing Dan was making up the whole story.

"It is pretty hot out there," agreed Bully.

"Damn right," said Dan. "You know, though, there was an old mother duck out there with twenty-four tiny little babies following her all over the place."

"Ducklings!" enthused Bully.

"Yes, I believe they were," said Dan. "I just think seeing something like that would be worth any old heatstroke."

"I'm damned!" said Bully. He doffed his cap out of respect for such a wonder. "I'd like to see that for myself."

Dan said, "And you can, too; you oughta head on out there."

"You're telling me one old mother duck had twenty-five baby ducklings following her around?" To Bully, that sounded too good to be true.

"I believe I said twenty-four; and yes, she did," said Dan.

"Were they all hers, or was she just leading them around?"

"Now how in the hell am I supposed to know that, Bully?" asked Dan. "Who do I look like, Marlin Perkins?"

Bully scratched his head. He said, "But how can you count twenty-four waddling ducks for certain? That seems like an awful lot of waddling to me."

"With great care, Bully," said Dan. "But like you say, there was a good deal of waddling going on out there, so let's just say twenty-four ducklings, more or less, just to be on the safe side."

"Well, that's still a bunch of 'em," said Bully. "You guys sure you don't want to ride out with me?"

"As much as we'd like to, we can't," said Dan. "Graduation's tonight, and we have a lot to do."

"Ours is tomorrow night, but they're not letting me out," said Bully. He looked down, overcome with embarrassment, crushing the poor cap in his hands.

Linc asked, "Come up short, did you, Bully?"

"Yeah, I came up a little bit short."

Linc said, "Sorry to hear it. Are you going to summer school?" Linc could sympathize with what the boy must be going through.

"Yeah," said Bully, "and regular school again next year."

At that, Dan howled with laughter and said, "Yeah, that's too bad, Bully. But it doesn't sound like you came up 'a little bit short' to me; no, it sounds to me like you came up one helluva long way short!"

When the three boys stopped laughing, Dan added: "You might want to consider taking a book along with you to the lake, Bully."

"Nah, I've only got a few more days off till summer school starts, and there's not gonna be any more books for me till then. My mom says books have addled me as it is."

"Done a lot of reading, have you, Bully?" asked Linc.

"Me? Nah. Guess what little I have read has been too much."

Just then the waiter brought the boys' food and drinks. He nudged Bully out of his way so he could set down the boys' trays.

"You still hanging around here, Biggs?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," said Bully, his mouth watering at the site of thick, messy hamburgers fresh off the grill.

Jack wasn't feeling very friendly toward Bully. He hated a troublemaker. Since she didn't want any fighting in her place, and since Dan and Linc were two of her best, and favorite, customers, Molly had instructed Jack to keep an eye on Bully.

"Well, if you're not eating and you're not drinking, you better clear on out of here. I've got enough paying customers to clean up after without you standing around," said Jack, frowning in Dan's direction.

"Yes, sir," said Bully, replacing his cap. "I was just leaving. See you guys later."

"See ya," said the guys.

Dan took a huge bite of his hamburger, and with his mouth full, tomato juice running from the corners of his mouth, he said to Linc, "You didn't want to further that acquaintance, did you?"

"Not much. He's pretty rustic," said Linc, quickly looking away from the spectacle of Dan's table manners.

"Look who's talking," said Dan with his still-crammed mouth.

Bully Biggs walked back in and went directly to the boys' booth.

"That's a pretty big lake out there," he said. "Whereabouts did you say those ducklings were?"

"On the north shore," said Dan--the first direction that came to mind.

Bully turned as if to leave, but then faced back around, saying, "If I'm standing in the marina parking lot and facing the marina, which way is north?"

"Right behind you," said Dan. "And it wouldn't make much difference if you were standing or sitting."

Hearing that, Linc hid with his hamburger the huge grin he could not hold in check.

"And east would be at my right, or left, hand?" Bully wanted to know.

"Your left," said Dan. "Of course, this only works if you have a compass; if you don't have a compass, you'll just have to wing it. Do you have a compass?"

"I had one in scouts," said Bully.

Dan said, "That's all well and good, Bully, but it won't do you much good unless you have it on your person."

The boys waited in silence a moment for Bully's response to Dan's implied question. And then they waited some more. Realizing no response was imminent, Dan said, "Well, do you?" His pretense of impatience might have been sliced with a knife.

"Do I what?" asked Bully.

"Have it on your person?"

"I don't know what you mean by that, Danny."

"Do you have your old scout compass on you?"

Dan looked over at Linc to make sure he wasn't missing any of this. Linc just shook his head.

Instinctively, Bully felt of his pockets. "No," he said.

"Then you've got nothing to worry about," said Dan. "Since you're not burdened with a compass, you don't have to worry about north, south, east, or west. You can just wing it."

"Whew," said Bully. "I'm glad, too. I was never very good at directions. My mom always says I couldn't find my way across the street. She says I crawled off from my real mother on the day I was born and then latched onto her."

"Oh, but I'll bet you were good at directions back when you were in scouts. I'll bet you were a regular demon with that compass of yours," said Dan, nodding emphatically.

"I don't really remember. That was a long time ago, Danny. I guess maybe I was."

"I have no doubt about it."

"Well, see you guys later," said Bully. He turned and left in quest of ducks.

"See ya," said the guys.

"You're a real good guy, Dan," said Linc. "I haven't seen more than ten ducks at that lake in my whole life."

"What an idiot. I wonder if he'll run into Jamie out there."

"I don't know. That's a sad situation she's in out there, don't you think? Sad and sick."

"Oh, I guess she's about as happy as anyone else," said Dan upon slight reflection.

"At eighteen? How would you like to be locked up like that when you turn eighteen? What really gets me is that that could've just as easily been you and me who found her skinny-dipping. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah. Where would we have kept her locked away, my place or yours?"

"Funny, Dan."

"Listen, Linc, Pete can give her a lot, a helluva lot more than we ever could. She's not exactly needy or anything. She has everything any girl could want."

"Yeah, she has everything all right; everything but her freedom."

"Oh, Christ, yes, Linc. Listen, don't get started on your philosophy again . . . I mean . . . well . . . Christ, is all. Jesus, Linc, please don't start that again."

"You want anything else to eat?"

"No."

"Then let's go."

They walked outside, got into Linc's car, and then Linc dropped Dan off at his house. Dan stuck his head through the window of Linc's car and asked if Linc would be going to graduation. Linc told him yes, he would see him there.

When Linc got to his own house he found his brother Royce sitting on the floor, in the middle of the living room. The boy was surrounded by several scattered library books.

Linc said, "What's all this, Royce? Jesus, what a mess."

"I got these at the library. I'm trying to get ahead of all the other kids for next year."

Royce never even looked up from his book. He sat there like an ancient medicine man, rocking back and forth on his bottom, already forgetting that Linc had entered the room. He kept fanning through the pages, slowing down when he reached the index and really scrutinizing it, fit to burst from excitement when he found there an alphabetical list of all the compelling topics the book would address.

"Royce, school ended yesterday, for Christ's sake."

"I gotta keep getting A's."

Linc threw up his hands, saying, "But you don't even know what your classes are gonna be next year. What's that you're looking at there?"

"It's a book."

"I can see that, Royce. What's it about?"

"It's a book about practical math. I wanted to get books on just about everything, but the old librarian will only let you borrow ten books at a time. I tried to slip another one past her, but she caught me."

"Why not just move into the library so you can have every damn book near at hand?"

"You make me feel stupid when you talk to me like that, Linc."

"But this is stupid, Royce! I can't believe you're sitting there reading a thick old book about math."

"Oh, hush up."

"Let me see this one," Linc said, as he reached for another of Royce's books. "Hmm . . . Principles of Accounting."

He quickly thumbed through the tome, and his heart sank when he discovered there wasn't as much as a single picture in the whole volume. He knew that the text of any book fit for a child must be dominated by pictures, intriguing pictures to be thrilled with and committed to memory. The closest thing to that this book had were countless data sheets pointing out the do's and dont's of accounting ledgers, with their concomitant columns of accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Linc said, "Well, a book about accounting sounds about as interesting as dead grass. I promise you, Royce, you won't be having any accounting classes next year."

"How do you know?"

"Because I went through that grade and never had it--not much, anyhow: maybe just a little chapter on it in some math class."

"Oh, I bet you did, too. I bet you had a whole trimester of it, but you just weren't paying attention. You don't take school seriously enough, Linc."

The amount of stress Royce put on the word 'trimester' made Linc laugh. He supposed a whole trimester was equivalent to an eternity to a boy of Royce's age.

He said, "Well, you're right about that, Royce. Know what else? If I ever did take it seriously enough, I wish someone would shoot me."

Linc was being sincere. To him, accounting was a sad business, one that could actually lead to a lifetime concerned with adding up never-ending rows of figures.

"Leave me alone, Linc. I'm not hurting anybody."

"Wait a second," said Linc, reaching for another book, "I haven't seen this one yet. I wonder what this one's called. . . . Hmm . . . The Geopolitical History of the World. Now what in the devil do you suppose that one's all about?"

"I'm not to it yet."

"Oh, here's a good one: Barlow's Discourse on Soil Formation. Man, this one will probably give you hours of pleasure, Royce, maybe even days. Just think of the fun you'll have."

"It's a geology book, Linc," said Royce, as if that should explain it all and be reason enough for reading such a dry work. "Aren't you interested in how soil is formed?"

"You must be slipping, Royce. And no, I'm not the least bit interested in the history of dirt, for Christ's sake."

"Leave me alone." Royce hunched up his shoulders and lowered his nose ever closer to his book.

Linc picked up another book. "Botany of the Ages. What's this one?"

"Not to it."

"Royce, I guarantee you're not gonna have classes on any of this junk next year. This is the kind of stuff that some old guy, maybe some ninety-year-old guy, might want to read when he's given up on life and is ready for the boneyard." He looked at his bent-over brother and shook his head in disgust and frustration. "Come on. Let's go do something."

"Will you shut up so I can read? Hushhh."

"Royce--"

"--What?"

"Give me your library card."

"Why?"

"Just let me see it a minute."

"No."

Linc got Royce in a brotherly headlock and said, "Hand it over."

"No. Owww!"

"Royce . . . I'm telling you . . . give it." He began to increase the pressure on Royce's neck.

"I put it away. I don't have it on me."

"Swear?"

"Yes. . . . Owww! . . . My hair's caught. . . . You're pulling my hair!"

Linc let go of him. He said, "I just hate seeing you read those kinds of books, that's all. Those are books probably written by dead people who never knew how to live. You should be reading books by the Bronte sisters, or ones by Sir Walter Scott--books like that." (Never having read her biography, an account of Emily Bront's relatively sheltered existence would have come as a great surprise to Linc.) "You need to be less interested in facts and more interested in ideas. By the time you're my age, you'll probably be as dull as those books you're reading."

"Well, what's so great about those other books?"

"They show imagination, Royce. Creativity. Beauty."

"Who wants to read that sissy junk?"

"It's not sissy junk," insisted Linc. He hated Royce saying that; that was just the sort of thing Dan might say if he learned of Linc being a reader.

"So, when do you read them? I never see you reading much--except your crummy box scores. You don't even read the newspaper."

"The newspaper? The newspaper is the worst thing in the world for you to read. The people who write newspapers only want you to think the way they think. That what you want, Royce? Do you want to think the way somebody wants you to think?"

"You still haven't answered my question about when you read those books," said Royce. He crossed his arms across his chest, as if to say: If you're not answering any questions, then neither am I.

"I read 'em late at night."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do," said Linc, crossing his arms across his chest to mimic his brother's stubbornness. "Mom around?"

"Yeah. She was up before noon today."

"Really? On a Saturday? Where is she?"

"In her room, I guess. Get out of here and leave me alone."

Linc went into his parents' room and found his mother putting fresh sheets on the bed. She wore a scarf over her hair and looked matronly because of it.

"Hi Mom," he said, sneaking up behind her and kissing her neck.

She shivered and then went right back to work. "How's my little graduate today?" she asked.

He hated whenever she called him her "little" anything. "Fine, Mom," he said.

She then went on to ask him what time he got in last night. He told her it was late.

"Out with Clare?" she said.

"Not really."

"Danny?"

"Yeah. Hey, Mom, if you don't need us for anything, I'm gonna take Royce to the library."

He was standing right in her way, so he stepped back, allowing her to progress around the bed, tucking, tucking, tucking as she went. He marveled over where she got her energy, and if she had any to spare.

"But he's just back from there. Why not take him somewhere outdoors? It's such a beautiful day, and he's been looking so pale." She straightened up and felt of her lower back.

"Is he sick?" asked Linc. "He'll never say so." (Royce was famous for waiting until the last moment before informing his parents that it might be a good idea to get him to some doctor--or to the nearest emergency room, for that matter; he had to be as tough as Linc.)

"No, not that I know of--but then you know how he is."

She had finished making the bed. As a final nicety, she folded down one upper corner, revealing the top of her pillow in its pretty, lacy case. She always did that. She always knew what made things look just right. And what was the point of having such pretty, lacy pillowcases if only she and her husband were to see them?

"Royce has been staying indoors so much of the time lately, and I'd like to see him outside for a change. That boy needs to get some color in his cheeks. He needs to breathe some fresh air."

"But I want to take him to the library," Linc insisted. "Tell you what--we'll walk over."

She told him not to be too long, because he would need something to eat before graduation. He told her they would come straight home.

He went back into the living room and found Royce still stooped over his math book. The boy had taken pencil and paper and had begun to work some problems, checking his answers against the ones provided in the back of the book.

"Let's go to the library, Royce."

"I'm just back from there."

Big brother dragged little brother by the collar to his feet. "Come on," said big brother, "I'm gonna show you some real books."

"But I've got all these," said Royce, indicating all his volumes littering the floor.

"I said real books. Come on; we can put some on my card."

After Royce showed what he considered a proper amount of shock at discovering Linc possessed a library card, Linc said, "Let's go, Royce."

The boys made the short, hot walk to the library, Royce occasionally glancing up at Linc. Upon reaching the library, Linc held open the door for Royce, who was always proud to be seen with his popular big brother.

"Hello, Linc," said the librarian. "You're kind of late today, aren't you? You've usually come and gone by now."

"I brought my brother along to show him where you keep the good stuff."

"Is this little man your brother?" she asked, removing her glasses for a better look.

"Yes, ma'am," Royce answered.

"Well, I had no idea," she said abstractly, comparing the boys' faces.

Linc said, "What's the idea of turning him loose with those books he came home with?"

The librarian smiled and said, "They were rather . . . scholarly, weren't they?"

"At least," said Linc. "Come on, Royce." He took him by the wrist.

With Linc leading the way, they began to wind their way through the shelves toward the back of the library. Because it was always so cool inside and a nice place to take the kids on the weekend, the library was relatively crowded. When they walked past a quiet reading circle, Linc quickly scanned all the faces to make sure none of his friends were there.

"You really do come here a lot, don't you, Linc?"

"Yeah; and you better not tell anybody about it--especially Danny."

"Why not?"

"Oh, that would go over real big with Danny, don't you think? I'd never hear the damn end of it."

They wound back through the shelves of books until they came upon a dim aisle with a step stool blocking their path. "This is my chair," said Linc, pushing the stool to one side. He began to scan the shelves, determined to find some suitable reading material for his misguided brother.

"It's kinda spooky back here," said Royce. "Kinda dark, too."

"Damn right it's dark," said Linc. "Why should they put in a high-watt bulb if I'm the only one who ever comes back here?" He resumed scanning the shelves. "Man, you almost need a flashlight back here. . . . Look at this . . . The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac . . . On the Road, too! This must be your lucky day, Royce. These are usually checked out."

Royce said, "I thought you said nobody but you ever comes back here." (Royce didn't miss many inconsistencies.)

"I can't explain it, Royce. Must be some freak of nature. I've always wanted to read these two again, but they're never here."

Linc pulled down the two books. Royce asked him what the books were about.

Linc was thoughtful for a moment, then said, "They're just books about friendship. And the guys in these books are alive. They show you that living has nothing to do with a job or anything like that--not a damn thing."

Linc fanned the pages past his nose and enjoyed the familiar, worn scent of the book. He learned at a very young age his love for books. He remembered vividly his mother dropping him off to spend warm summer days amid the cool stacks of books. That first time, so long ago now, he became intrigued with shuffling and dragging his feet on the new carpet, and then touching the metal shelves in order to create a shock, observing closely his fingertip, hoping to see a spark. Soon tired of that, he turned to the shelves to find out what they had to offer. He remembered finding fat, red--or sometimes, orange--leather books about such legendary figures as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, unforgettable books packed with illustrations and dog-eared, fly-blown pages, showing the wear of God knew how many readings. Often he pulled out the slip in the back of the book and felt close to those other readers who had gone before him, ones who knew before he did just what a terrific book it was. He would wonder how many names would now follow his on that slip, and just how many readings one book could stand before being relegated to the trash heap. The more he read, the faster he read, and he was soon devouring entire books in one sitting, not realizing he was only reading fictionalized histories of these historical figures, fabulous exaggerations inflating the characters larger than life.

Then, one fine summer Saturday, he happened across Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, a completely different book from the ones on which he had whet his voracious literary appetite: a book, though not true, that was somehow important anyway (that importance lying in its artistic merit).

His favorite character was Rebecca, the Jewess shepherdess. What she must have looked like, he often thought, longing to behold her those many years before. He was drawn to her out of his pity for her unrequited love for Ivanhoe. He felt that if some girl ever loved him like that, so steadfastly and with her entire soul, he would, in turn, love her like that forever. How, he wondered, could Ivanhoe not feel the same way about her? He considered Ivanhoe the greatest fool in literature.

Linc's incessant reading had always hurt his school grades. But how could he bother with the finite when he had discovered the infinite? (The finite being the small amount of course material that any fool could master if he took the time, and the infinite being the boundless world of literature with its limitless ideas and possibilities.)

His parents realized his outside reading had a negative effect on his grades, but they had no doubt that Linc was giving himself a better education than the public school system could, so they left him to his own devices. Anyway, they couldn't be any more pleased with the way their son had turned out, the one everybody always referred to as the nicest boy.

"You're starting with these, Royce," he said, as he carefully laid aside the two old favorites. He wet his thumb and wiped away a gummy smudge from the plastic back cover.

"How many of these books have you read?" asked Royce.

Linc took a step back, sighed, and said, "Most of 'em. Some of 'em twice."

"Why?"

"Well, maybe I wouldn't mind wandering around some and then writing about different things when I get older. And maybe I wouldn't mind knowing how to do it right, when I do. Shoot, I just know I could write a good one if I ever got the chance to see some of this world."

It would have been a surprise for Royce to learn that Linc had been writing since he was twelve. But he was never happy with anything he wrote, because all of it paled to the writing of anyone with a talent for description. His trite, simplistic descriptions, he was certain, could never measure up to theirs. How he hated and envied those gifted writers, those gifted writers like Clare's father.

"What kinds of things would you write about?" asked Royce, intrigued by this new side to the brother he thought he knew so well.

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe some stories about what people do--and I don't mean stories about their work, unless it's farming or something respectable like that. Just stories about what makes people alive."

"What's a Dharma Bum?"

"He's a guy who wanders around with a knapsack--kind of a bag of tricks, filled with camping stuff, like pots that stack one inside the other. He lives outside of what people call society. And he only works when he absolutely has to. He hitchhikes, hoboes on trains--all that!" Linc stared down at his shoes after saying that, wondering how many miles they might range.

Royce asked him which other books he should get. Linc told him that when he was just starting out reading, it was difficult for him to select from all the wonderful books, too. He said he finally learned to close his eyes, reach for the shelf, and take whichever book his fingers touched first.

"I'll try that," said Royce, becoming more and more interested. He made his next selection, then another, then another. He said he wouldn't look to see what they were until they got back home. Linc checked out the books. Then, with Linc carrying three books and Royce the other two, the Lebeau brothers began their walk back home, both of them looking forward to discussing the books once Royce had read them.

They found their mother dusting in the living room. She told Linc that Dan wanted him to call.

"Thanks, Mom. When did he call?"

"I only that minute hung up the phone."

Linc went into his room, sprawled out on his bed, and phoned Dan:

"What did you want, Dan?"

"I wanted to know what you're wearing to graduation tonight."

"My old gray suit."

"Oh. That's not too boring."

"Well, what are you wearing?"

"Man, I'm wearing jeans!"

"Your mom know that, Dan?"

"Noooo. I thought I'd surprise her."

"You will, Dan. Hey, did you ever get the nerve up to call that barber lady?"

"I did better than that."

"Did you go over there?"

"Yeah."

"What happened?"

"You remember how you said if she says no, she means yes?"

"No. I said she might mean yes."

"Oh, now you tell me."

"What have you done now, Dan?"

"Well, whenever she said no, I said yes right back to her."

"And?"

"Well, to make a long story short, I got my face slapped."

"Ouch."

"Yeah."

"So I take it the two of you won't be going out on the town any time soon."

"It's doubtful at best."

"Anything else?"

"Hmmm. . . . No. I'll see you tonight."

"Talk to you later, Dan."
Continue . . .


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