Havoc's Children - Harrison Faux

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Nov 26, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)

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David Faux © 2012 Dav
id Faux

1
2954 Bryant Street
11/26/2013

Yucaipa, CA 92399

1


Havoc’s Children




Halloween night
,

1984.

The crazy man had been
sentenced to life in prison for assassinating President Carter
and President Mondale was going to lose the White House in a
month. No
-
one knew if the election would help or hurt the world
situation where The Soviet Union seemed ready

to press the
button.

Yancy
Whitford
sat in the food court with Oscar.
This
should be where everyone was dying to go, he thought. But on the
one night that the mall should be full of happy crowds, the
place was dead. H
e unbuttoned his Pizza Dude shirt’s t
op button
and sipped a Coke.


“Where is everybody tonight?” Oscar asked. “Remember last
year?”


Yancy nodded. Last year he had met Nattie. That had been
Halloween.

She was dressed as Raggedy Ann
. Yancy was trying to
be a punk rocker
.

The vinyl black jacket

and spray painted hair
gelled into a sort of wannabe Mohawk, (Yancy had no guts to
shave his head)looked okay. He had gotten thumbs up from a lot
of folks. But the girl with green hair, Megan had been her name.
That was who he had wanted to impress.
The m
all had been the
place to be again.

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id Faux

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2954 Bryant Street
11/26/2013

Yucaipa, CA 92399

2


Yanc
y had passed crowds and cliques. He walked past the
place where the wall was busted out and they were building the
new parking garage.

Then

Yancy
spotted the gang of kids with
Megan. There were guys with real shaved

heads. And a lot of
those jackets looked like real leather. There had been Megan,
hair dyed green. Her eyes were hidden under black eyeliner.
Holes were cut in her jeans and safety pins adorned her ears.
Yancy had stopped walking when he spotted her with
the others.

Just keep walking, he told himself. So he did. He had
walked through the crowds until he heard his voice being called.
Oscar had been there in the food court dressed in his
dishwashing outfit. Some other kids, mostly friends of Oscar had
been
there. Older kids and even a few adults had sat around a
few tables pushed together. Some were in costume, most were not.

When Yancy had gone over, an unfamiliar face had looked at
him and smiled. She was a little on the heavy side, at least
that was one
of the first things Yancy noticed after staring at
Megan with her long skinny legs. This girl looked a little like

Oscar, who had Mexican ancestry and big bones

too. He had
guessed the hair was a wig being bright red. But her face with
red freckles painte
d on was olive
-
skinned. And her eyes were
deep brown. When she had smiled, they narrowed, but seemed to
flash. Yancy had felt his stomach thump like a heartbeat when
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id Faux

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2954 Bryant Street
11/26/2013

Yucaipa, CA 92399

3


she had done that. Seeing that smile was like eating a Milk Dud.
That caramel center hit t
he mind and body and there was a sweet
feeling of wellness.


“Yancy,” Oscar had said. “These are my cousins from San
Diego.” He introduced each one. Yancy had half
-
heard the names
as Oscar went around. When he had looked at the few costumes he
saw mostly
cool stuff. He realized that he was the only one with
a failed attempt at a costume. Maybe this girl had smiled
because she had been trying not to laugh at him. He had been
ready to excuse himself and just go home and watch TV when Oscar
had said

something

and he heard the girl’s voice.


“What?” Oscar had said.


“Nattie, not Natalie,” the girl answered.


“Whatever,” Oscar shrugged. “
That’s my cousin’s friend
Nattie. Now she’s everybody’s friend.
Yeah, and everybody, this
is Yancy Whitford. He goes to my s
chool.”


“When you go,” one of the other girls had said

to Oscar
.
Yancy recognized her as Trina. She hung around Oscar a lot.
They
ditched together sometimes.


Yancy had risked a glance back at the girl he now knew was
named Natalie, or Nattie. She caught
his eye.


“I go to your school,” she said. It had been a smile of
recognition. Oscar had pulled a chair over for Yancy. There had
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id Faux

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2954 Bryant Street
11/26/2013

Yucaipa, CA 92399

4


been one of those moments in his head. Go home or stay here and
hang out with friends? TV or socialize.


“Sit down, dude,” sa
id Oscar.

Yancy had felt grateful for
the guidance.


It turned out that Nattie and her family were living up in
the valley. Oscar kept looking at Yancy that night, checking
maybe to see if he was looking at Nattie.


That had been Halloween 1983.

They didn’
t see a lot of each
other at school.

Yancy took a lot of advanced English and Math.
Nattie was in most of the normal classes. But they were in
speech class together. Yancy had done a scene from a play with
her were they were an arguing old couple. She had
perfect comic
timing and did a very good old
-
lady voice. The class had laughed
out loud. After that Nattie joined drama. She hadn’t been cast
in
the Christmas play, but they loved her sewing skills and she
had ended up working on costumes for the rest of t
he year.


But if they weren’t at school or home, they mostly hung at
the mall.

It wasn’t long before Nattie was working at a sewing
notions store. Yancy got a part time job working the counter at
the Pizza Dude. The manager had quickly discovered that Yanc
y
barely had the skills to weigh the dough or ingredients, much
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id Faux

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less cut a pizza. After the second pizza had landed on the
floor, Yancy was on the register where he did fine.

He had asked Nattie once why he felt socially awkward but
did so well talking to people at work. Nattie had told him that
it helped standing with a counter between him and the world. But
it was mostly he knew what to say.

“If someone tells you what to do
or say, you’re cool,” she
had explained.

Yancy got to know most of the other workers at the mall.
There were the security guards, most of whom were failed or
retired cops. Jett was ex
-
LAPD. He wasn’t that old and there
were all kinds of rumors about why he

wasn’t on the force
anymore.

There was the custodial crew. Most of them stayed invisible
in their grey coveralls. Evan was the only one who was friendly
and didn’t seem ashamed of his lowly position. It could have
been that he was friends with Rick. Rick
owned the mall.

I
f anyone hung out at the mall long enough they met
Rick
.
Yancy thought is must be perfectly normal for the owner of a
mall to walk around and talk to people.
He knew a lot of the
kids who worked in the food court eateries and shops.
He ate

lunch in the food court with Evan just about every day.
Rick had
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id Faux

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mentioned they had been together in Vietnam. They didn’t look
it, but Rick said that he and Evan were the same age.

Rick was tall and muscular. Once the gym opened with its
windows facing i
nto the mall, Yancy and Oscar and some other
boys would hang out and try to act like they happened to just be
stopped there for a minute. Through the window they saw girls in
spandex and leg
-
warmers. Rick would be there at least once a day
too.

Evan, on t
he other hand was thin like
a sapling. His hair
was salt and pepper and he had a pair of eyeglasses usually
pushed up on his forehead.
He seemed pretty clever for a
custodian, Yancy had thought. The custodian at his school had
asked Oscar to help him read
a document once.

One day Evan had found Yancy reading
Heart of Darkness

at
an empty table. He was delighted to learn that it hadn’t been
homework. They talked about books occasionally after that.

Rick checked up on them too. He asked to see report cards.

Oscar refused, saying he had no right. Rick said that was true.

Rick explained that the stores and franchises paid a lease to
use the mall and that the mall owner had no say in who they
employed.
Rick explained that no
-
one’s grades had any effect on
their employment and that he would actually offer homework help
or tutors to anyone who wanted it. The general opinion of Rick
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id Faux

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grew more favorable after that.
Oscar had backed down. They got
along bette
r from then on.
Oscar told Yancy that Rick was the
most truthful man he knew.


“You ask him anything, he’ll tell you the truth. Or he’ll
say that he can’t tell you nothing ‘cause it isn’t any of your
concern.”


Rick had even told a war story to Oscar. And
he was known
for not talking about Vietnam at all. But Evan had been there
too and Oscar had told Yancy that Evan started the story and
Rick finished it. They had both been in a helicopter crash. Rick
had been knocked unconscious and Evan pulled him from t
he
wreckage. Evan suffered third
-
degree burns on his arm from that
and was discharged. They met up in Southern California a few
years later. Evan had been living on the streets and Rick gave
him a job.


Eventually they both were at the mall with Rick ownin
g it
and Evan cleaning it. No
-
one was sure how Rick got to own a
whole mall. Even now he was expanding it.


The new parking garage looked like it was going to be
mostly underground. A lot of the construction went on all day
and night. Rick kept the food co
urt open at night for the
construction crew. Yancy couldn’t work graveyard. Oscar’s boss
paid him under the table to work weekend nights.

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id Faux

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2954 Bryant Street
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Oscar had told Yancy that most of the work looked like it
went on at night. He said it looked like they had dug deep
enough for a ten story building to fit down in.


Rick installed security cameras
around the mall
in January,
1984. Evan had asked Yancy if he saw the irony and Yancy had
answered that he did. In the spring of that year when Yancy’s
class read the Orwell bo
ok,
then
the rest of the class saw
the
irony

too. Yancy re
-
read the book over a weekend and then loaned
the book to Oscar to read. He never saw it again.


That spring,
Yancy had gone “stag” to the Junior Prom.
Oscar had taken Trina and they had sat at a ta
ble full of her
friends. Yancy ended up at a table with a bunch of other guys
from the math league and/or the science club.


Yancy watched Oscar adjust his mirror shades for the
portrait. The flash went off and Oscar said that he had blinked.
Trina laughe
d way too loud and hugged him. Yancy had watched
them cross the room to the dance floor. When he glanced back at
the photo
graphy station, there was Nattie and four other girls.
He wondered what it was called when girls went without a date.
Maybe doe? Natti
e’s dress was black and silver. He guessed that
she had made it.


“That Ingrid is a babe,” said a guy next to Yancy. The boy
was small and
twerpish
. Yancy remembered him producing a note
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id Faux

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2954 Bryant Street
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Yucaipa, CA 92399

9


early in

the
school
year
excusing him from P.E. He had explained
to t
he teacher in a loud, declarative voice all about his asthma
and anemia. Yancy had wished he had thought of that.

But he knew
the real reason Mark wanted out of P.E. and figured everyone
else knew too.


Yancy looked next to Nattie and saw a blonde girl sho
w her
teeth in a smile.


“She’s from Austria,” the boy next to him said. “I would
totally date her.”


Yancy grinned. This little science nerd was fantasizing
about a knockout. But he probably didn’t have the guts to even
ask her the time of day.


Then Yan
cy watched as Nattie, Ingrid, and the other girls
all went to their table, laughing and talking as if it was no
big thing to not have a date for the prom.


“Hey,” said a voice behind Yancy. Oscar stood behind him
and glanced over at the girl’s table. “Go
ask her to dance.



Yancy made a face. “No,” he said. “No way, man.”


Oscar smirked. “Yeah, I thought as much, you chicken,” he
said. Then he reached into his pocket and brought out a five
dollar bill. Then he bent lower as a new song started.


“I’ll pay
you five bucks to ask Nattie to dance,” he said.
“If she says no, I’ll give you twenty.”

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id Faux

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10



“I got a job,” Yancy said. Oscar punched him.


“Dude, she likes you,” he said.


Yancy shook his head and bit into a dinner roll.


“I don’t want to, okay?”


Oscar did
a dramatic sigh, shook his head and walked away.


“Your friend is a big A
-
hole,” said the kid next to him.


“No,” Yancy said. “He’s not.” He dropped his half
-
eaten
roll onto the plate.


“Yes he is,” said another kid at the table. “Lookie there.”


Yancy lo
oked where the fat kid pointed. There was Oscar at
the girl’s table.
He was shaking hands with Ingrid. He kissed
her hand and looked quickly to his own table. Then Yancy saw him
talk to Nattie.


No, Yancy thought. Don’t do that. And deeper down, Yancy
tho
ught just the opposite. Oh yes, please Oscar. And then
further down, Yancy felt a deep shame. It was the same feeling
he had felt years ago when his dad had put the training wheels
back on Yancy’s bike. Yancy had not known whether or not to cry
over the sk
inned knee or the look of disappointment on his
daddy’s face.


At the end of the song, Nattie came to Yancy’s table. The
next song was a bouncy girl singing.


“May I have this dance, please?” Nattie had said.

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id Faux

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11



“Sure,” Yancy said.


All through the dance,
Yancy had thought he felt eyes on
him. Nattie smiled and danced a simple step back and forth.
Yancy bounced his head back and forth. At the end of the song he
thanked her. She offered her hand and he shook it. At the last
minute he thought to kiss it. He p
ulled her hand to his face and
she moved closer to him as if he had pulled her closer.

The next song started. It was a slow song. Yancy felt his
stomach start to hurt. He looked into her eyes
.

He couldn’t see
where her brown eyes met her pupils.
Just that

moment, he wanted
to keep looking at her. But he broke his gaze and fled to his
table. For the rest of the evening, Yancy didn’t allow himself
to look in the direction of her table. Once he thought she was
back on the dance floor, but he didn’t look hard
enough.

For the rest of the school year, Yancy tried to immerse
himself in his science and math. Nattie sat in his speech class
and didn’t seem to try to avoid him or be close to him. He saw
her at the mall, but they didn’t talk.

That summer cement trucks
came and went all day and night
to the mall. Rick would be at the gym every day for a week and
then gone another week. And the TV news started getting scary.

Then at the beginning of Yancy’s senior year, Oscar said
that Nattie was doing her last year at a
private school. Yancy
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only saw her at the mall. Sometimes they said hi. Sometimes
Yancy dreamed about her.

Now it was Halloween, 1984.
It had been a nice hot summer
and Yancy was thinking about how behind he was about applying
for college and scholarships.

He was hoping his mom or dad would
do it for him, still.

“A year ago, huh?” Oscar said out of the blue.

“What?” Yancy said, blinking.

“You met Nattie.”

Yancy sighed and rolled his eyes.

“No, man. She’s working tonight. Go tell her hi. You can
say somethi
ng like, ‘hey remember last year? That’s when we met,
you know?’”

Yancy shook his head.

“Why is the mall so empty anyways?” Oscar asked.

Yancy didn’t think about the empty mall or the armed
soldiers walking around. His thoughts touched on the TV at home
with his parents watching the evacuation of West Berlin.
There
had been an assassination in India today too. But that story
took a backseat

to the escalation of tension between the U.S.
and the Soviet Union.
He could see the TV set up on the counter
at The Pizza Dude with a B
-
52 taking off. He didn’t want to
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id Faux

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think about that. He wished that Oscar would persuade him to go
talk to Nattie.

“You
listening?” Oscar asked.

“Yeah,” Yancy looked at his friend’s face and saw real
concern. “Dude, I’ll talk to her, maybe.”

“You stupid,” Oscar snapped.

He pointed to the television.


What are they talking about in
your
current events

class
?”

Yancy looked ar
ound. The mall was pretty empty for a
Halloween night. There were some kids walking around in costume.
There were also a lot of army guys whose uniform wasn’t a
costume and M
-
16 was not a toy.

“I wish Rick was here,” Oscar said. “He could tell us
what’s go
ing to happen.”

Yancy looked around the food court. He didn’t see Evan.
Evan would know what Rick was up to or at least when he would be
back. Rick had been gone over a month.

“The Soviets are bugged about us interfering in
Afghanistan,” Yancy said. “They
want us to get out of Iran. And
they think we’re helping the Polish people in their war.”

“Are we?” Oscar asked. Yancy shrugged.

“I don’t know what the U.S. is doing,” he said. “We’re in
Iran trying to make a democracy. President Mondale is probably
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going
to win the election, but Al Haig is a general and he might
win. I think the country wants to not go to war, you know?”

“Well would it be a real war? You know? Guys jumping out of
helicopters like Rick and Evan did? Or will it be those big
planes,” Oscar po
inted to the TV with another picture of a B
-
52.
This time the plane was flying high. It must have been a long
lens taking the film. Vapor trails ejected from the jet engines.

“I don’t know,” Yancy said. “We’ve got enough nukes to blow
up the world three ti
mes over. I don’t know if anyone is crazy
enough to use them, though.”

“Stock footage,” said a voice.

Yancy turned and saw Evan.
He pointed to the TV screen.

“That’s an old shot of the bomber,” he said. “I’ve seen it
a lot. It could be over Da Nang even.”

“Evan,” Oscar said. “Pull up a chair.”

Yancy hoped Evan would tell them what he thought about the
world situation. He tended to be truthful like Rick.

“Tell me what you think,” Oscar began. “Shouldn’t Yancy go
talk to Nattie Ortiz?”

Yancy slapped his knee
s and stood up.

“I’m going back to work,” he said. As he passed the TV,
there were images of army trucks. Long lines of army trucks and
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id Faux

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jeeps stretched down a long road. Yancy didn’t know where it
was.



Yancy went in the kitchen and looked at the stacks of pans.
Each one was filled with dough ready for ingredients. The dough
was mixed at the beginning of the day and put into the pans. The
shift supervisor, Marcie had instructed them to make twice the
amou
nt that they would normally make for a weeknight. It was
what they would have made on a rainy day. Yancy had thought that
this was a wise move.
There should be a lot of folks at the
mall. But everyone was home watching TV. T
he mall was Monday
night dead to
night.

Marcie had gone home to take her kids trick or treating.
She would be back to close and have to decide what to do with
the leftover dough. Yancy thought they ought to send most of it
through the oven. It was already
laid in the pans ready for
sauce

and cheese and pizza stuff
. Sometimes at the end of the
shift they would brush the top with a little cooking oil and
bake it into breadsticks. He wished he could just do it now.
Oscar, Evan and anyone else might like to have some.

Yancy went back to the r
egister.
Michael

was leaning over
the counter, almost looking asleep. But he saw Yancy and pushed
himself up fast.

Michael had blond hair that looked shaggy even
when it was short and a constant hung
-
over look.

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id Faux

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“I’m going to take a long break,” he said.
“Call the music
store if it gets busy.”

“Hey,” Yancy said. “Do you think we ought to make
breadsticks?”

“Up to you, man.”

Yancy leaned on the counter. It was still warm from
Michael
. Now a few more people were walking into the mall. A bus
may have pulled u
p outside. Classical pipe organ music played
over the sound system.
That was their idea of Halloween music?
Evan was still talking to Oscar. Yancy tried to catch their eye.

Finally Oscar looked over. Yancy waved them over. When they
got there he told them

about the abundance of dough.

“You gonna make breadsticks?” Oscar asked.

“You think I should?”

Oscar shrugged.

Evan spoke up, “Ya
ncy the dough will go to waste if you
don’t

and the oven is on. You go ahead. Marcie would tell you to
do it anyway.”

Yancy f
elt relief and nodded. He straightened up and then
paused.

“What were you guys talking about?” he asked.

“You and Nattie,” Oscar said.

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Yancy felt himself tense again. The thought of Nattie
clouded his mind. He let himself lean back on the counter and
put
his face in his palms.

“Dude, I’m kidding you,” Oscar said. “What, you think
you’re all we talk about? We were just talking about the news
and stuff.”

They hadn’t been talking about him. Yancy felt his face
grow hot now. He should have guessed that they wo
uldn’t be
talking about him. There were other things in the world.

“Still,” Oscar began. “What do you think she’s wearing this
year?”

Yancy stood quiet.

“Serious, man,” Oscar said. “You see her tonight?”

Yancy shook his head.

“Well go over and check her ou
t.”

“I’m back on.
Michael

went to the music store.”

“What,” Oscar said looking around. “All these people will
starve to death?”

“I can’t leave the store. I’d get in trouble.”

“Yancy go ahead,” Evan said.

Yancy and Oscar both looked at him. Evan, who didn’
t even
steal toilet paper from his cleaning closet and if he was a few
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minutes late to work would stay a few minutes late at the end of
his shift just said to walk away.

“I’ll stay here in front of the register and say you needed
to go talk to someone,” Ev
an said.

“Yeah,” Oscar put in. “That’ll be the truth too. Hey I can
start the dough through the ovens.”

Yancy looked from Oscar to Evan. “Shouldn’t you be back at
The
Aunty Fran’s
?” he asked Oscar.

“I’ll catch up all the dishes later,” Oscar said and came
behind the counter. “You go and talk to Nattie. Tell her you
remember that last year is when you first met. Tell her
something you remember about her that night. Make her
imagine
that

you think abou
t her.”

“I shouldn’t leave,” Yancy said.

“Yancy, it will be okay,” Evan said. “Your job doesn’t
matter as much as talking to her.”

“What?” Yancy asked. Even Oscar looked at him with a
puzzled face.

Evan gave a sad smile and shrugged. “I’ll explain later,”
he said. “You go ahead over there. Take just ten minutes or so.
What Oscar said was good. Tell her what you remember about her.
And tell her that you will have a lot of breadsticks in just a
little while for her and any of her co
-
workers. Tell her she can
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come by here and get some soon. Make that your main reason for
going there. But do tell her what you remember about last year,
don’t forget that.”

The food court got quiet except for some popular music now
playing over the speakers.

“Okay,” Yancy said. “Sh
ould I leave my apron on?”

Evan and Oscar looked at each other.

“Yes,” Evan said. “You’ll look like you’re ready to get
right back to work.”

Yancy nodded and walked back out to the front. Oscar
brushed past him and went into the back.

“Wow, look at all th
is dough!” he shouted.

“Go ahead,” Evan said. “This is important.”

Yancy tried to nod, but it felt more like a tremble. Then
he started off through the food court. Which way was the sewing
notions store? To the left, down the North wing.

The last thing Ev
an had said played in Yancy’s head. This
is important? Why did it feel way more important that just going
to talk to someone? Oscar thought it was just a fun thing to go
do and not get in trouble. But Evan had something on his mind.
The way he was talking
it sounded like to Yancy like him talking
to Nattie was a life and death thing. And Evan talked like the
job wasn’t that important anymore.

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Yancy passed the music store. The biggest crowd he had seen
all night was gathered in front of the TV in the window
.
Michael

was there and didn’t notice Yancy walk by.

The sewing notions store was empty too. It was quiet too
once Yancy let the door close behind him. There was almost a new
car smell to the place. Yancy walked by the tables of fabric and
shelves of littl
e things that ladies sewed onto things. He
supposed that they were notions.

“Well good evening,” said the old lady behind the counter
without smiling. She was dressed in some kind of costume with
shiny material, leaves and flowers and colorful streamers. S
he
looked at Yancy.

“I’m

Morgan le Fay
,” she said. “She was the
half
-
sister of
King Arthur.”

“The mother of Mordred,” Yancy said. “I read

Le Morte
d'Arthur
.


“Oh, well then,” the lady smiled now. “That’s nice to know.
And what are you dressed as, a chef?”

“No, I just came from work,” Yancy said. He looked at the
candy dish on the counter with the same kind of hard candies
that his grandmother kept out at her house.

“Go ahead,” the lady said. She pointed to the dish. Yancy
took a red one.

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“Um, is Natalie h
ere?” he asked looking at the candy in his
hand.

“Nattie,” the lady’s voice said. Yancy looked up and saw
that she had spoken into the back room. “Someone here to see
you.”

Yancy dropped the candy into his pocket. Nattie came out
through a curtain behind t
he register. Yancy looked at her
costume.

She was dressed all in black. It could have been leather or
very realistic looking vinyl. Yancy guessed that at least the
boots that went up almost to her knees were leather. Her pants
had snaps and pockets and two

or three belts. She had shoulder
pads, bare arms and her hands had black fingerless gloves. Her
hair was pulled into a single ponytail from the top of her head.
Her face had a red and yellow triangle painted across it like
war paint.

“Wow,” Yancy said. “T
hat’s pretty cool.”


“Meet our apocalyptic warrior woman,” Morgan L’Fey said. “I
drew the line at a crossbow. But I still feel safer here tonight
with her guarding my back.”

Yancy looked from Morgan L’Fey back to Nattie. She was
smiling broadly and Yancy r
emembered the night a year ago like
it had just happened an hour ago.

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“Um, I’m making breadsticks,” he said as if it was a
question. “If you want to come by and get some, you can.”

The room was quiet for a moment. Yancy was sure the music
and noise in the
mall outside had stopped.

“Okay,” Nattie said. And then it was quiet again.

“Well,” Yancy said. “I better get back to work.”


Nattie smiled and nodded. “Well, thanks for coming by,” she
said.

“You look really cool,” Yancy blurted. “Just like last
year.” H
e felt his face smile. “Bye,” he said and turned and
left the store.

Just like last year? Last year she had been a doll. This
year she was a warrior chick. Stupid… stupid, thought Yancy.

Just past the music store, Yancy heard his name. He turned
around to
see Nattie smiling and striding past the crowd
watching the TV.

“Lydia gave me the rest of the night off,” she said when
she caught up.

“Are you in trouble?” Yancy asked.

“Oh no, it was really slow,” she said. “I was just working
in the back anyway. Rick h
as a project and it’s almost done.”

“Rick?”


Turner
, the owner of the mall?”

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“Yeah, that Rick,” Yancy said. They started walking back to
the food court. “What does he want?”

“It’s a light cotton jumpsuit,” she said. “It would be very
comfortable and adapt
able. That’s what he wanted.”

“Okay,” Yancy said. He saw Evan standing at The Pizza Dude.
There were no customers. “So sort of like what Evan has on?”

“Just a lot lighter,” Nattie said.

“What’s it for?”

“He didn’t say.”

“Really?” Yancy said as they arrived

at the counter. “I
thought Rick always told the truth.”

Evan cut in. “He will tell the truth,” he said. “But
sometime he won’t tell you what he thinks you ought not to know,
at least yet.”

“So where is Rick anyway?” said Oscar coming out of the
back.

“He’
s finalizing a construction project,” Evan said. “It’s
nearby.”

“Where?” Oscar asked.

Evan looked from Oscar to Yancy and Nattie.

“China Lake,” he answered.

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“There,” Oscar said. He pulled out a pizza box full of
steaming slices of pizza crust. “That wasn’
t so hard was it
Evan?”

Evan smiled and shook his head. “It’s no secret,” he said
and took a breadstick.

“Put some parmesan cheese on them,” Nattie said.

Yancy winced as Oscar shook the cheese container and put a
liberal helping of on the breadsticks.
Then Oscar turned to
Evan.

“You know a lot more than you’re saying,” he said. “There’s
some serious business going down, isn’t there?”

Evan chewed his food and everyone waited. He took his time
and finally swallowed.

“Yes,” he said. “But Rick will make sur
e you all know when
it’s time. He doesn’t want rumors spreading around. He’ll be
back probably tomorrow.”

“Yes,” Nattie said. “But not saying anything makes people
speculate. Isn’t that right? Rumors will fly regardless of
whether or not we know what’s goi
ng on. In fact, if we knew the
truth, there wouldn’t be rumors.”

Evan took another bite of his breadstick. Everyone waited
again for him to slowly chew and swallow.

“Well?” Nattie said.

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Evan looked at her. He brought the breadstick to his mouth
and Oscar p
ushed it down.

“What do you say to that?” he demanded.

Evan nodded and took another bite. “She’s right,” he said
with food in his mouth. “But that’s what Rick said. You guys can
talk to him tomorrow if he’s back. Check your mailboxes
tonight.”

“What?” Yanc
y asked.

“Your mail,” Evan said. “You should be getting an
invitation to… to something. It’s supposed to get to you guys on
the first of November.”

“I got something in the mail this afternoon,” Nattie said.
“I thought it was to a Halloween party.”

“You di
dn’t read it?” Evan said, straightening up. “Did you
throw it away?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Nattie said. “I didn’t read it.
It’s still on my bed I think.”

“Well check it out when you get home,” Evan said.

Nattie nodded, reached over and took a breadstick.

“You know everything,” Oscar said. “Don’t you man?”

Evan looked at the breadsticks. Oscar handed him the box.
Evan took it and put it on his cleaning cart. Then he wheeled it
off in the direction of the south wing.

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“I’m going back to work,” Oscar said qui
etly. “There’s a
buttload of dough still.” And then he left.

Yancy went back behind the counter and looked at Nattie.

“Well I don’t want to bother you at work,” she said.

“Oh, it’s okay,” Yancy said. “I’m not busy.”

Just then
Michael

appeared with a huge

crowd behind him.

“The news is a trip, man,” he said. “You make some
breadsticks yet?”

Nattie looked from
Michael

and the crowd with him to Yancy.

“I’m going to go home,” she said and started to turn. Then
she paused and turned back.

“Do you remember
last year?” she asked.

“You were Raggedy Ann
,” Yancy said.

Nattie smiled again. “Yeah,” she said. “You had purple
hair. Her eyes rolled up to her own hair. “Well, see you later,”
she said. “Happy Halloween.”

“You too,” Yancy said.

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Yancy watch
ed her go until the crowd of people started to
form a line at the register. He stayed busy for the awhile
ringing up orders, then it was dead for the rest of the evening.
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Michael

stayed to close and Yancy walked out into the parking
lot and waited for his
dad to come and take him home.



“Can I drive?” Yancy asked when his dad pulled up in the
Mazda.


“No,” he dad said. “Why don’t I just drive us this time?”


Yancy sighed and got in the passenger door. He had driven a
lot when he was getting his license. Bu
t now that he had it, his
dad preferred to drive. Yancy could tell his dad didn’t care for
his driving. Yancy didn’t drive a stick shift very well and
wanted to get more practice in with the Mazda.


“You need more practice with the standard shift,” he dad

said merging into traffic.


“Then why can’t I drive now?” Yancy asked.


“It would be better to practice in the daytime.”


“Then why didn’t you bring the Buick?”


“I like this car,” his dad said. “Hey, would you rather
take the bus?”



Well
,

the conversati
on went to the bus quickly this time,
Yancy thought. He didn’t bother to answer and just looked out
his window. The radio news came on and his dad turned it up. The
boarder in East Germany was being closed. Even aircraft was not
supposed to fly through. Su
bmarines were said to be off the
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coast of California. The election was coming up and polls were
saying there would be a record high turnout.


“Who are you voting for?” Yancy asked.


His dad turned the radio down a little and shook his head.


“Mondale is in

over his head,” he said. “Carter would be
re
-
elected easily. Too bad he took that bullet. He surprised
everyone on handling Iran with that rescue. He really proved he
knew how to handle other counties who messed with us. But
Mondale doesn’t really know wh
at to do, I think.”


“So you’re voting for the general?” Yancy asked.


“I think so. It’s not an easy choice.”


They drove for awhile without talking. Yancy saw army
trucks on the freeway. Temporary barriers were set up at one
entrance.


“I never thought I
would see martial law,” his dad said.
“Closing the freeways at night and talking about curfews.”


“It’s not martial law.” Yancy said. “The police are still…”


“I know,” his dad interrupted. “It just feels like it. You
really will have to take the bus if th
ere is gas rationing.”


It stayed quiet again.


“How was work?” his dad asked finally.


“Fine.”


“How’s Oscar?”

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“He’s okay,” Yancy said. Thinking about it, Oscar seemed a
little bugged. He had looked a little sweaty when he finally
went back to work. Evan was exasperating him, but that was how
he usually was. Oscar liked playing around with him like that
usually. He

had almost looked sick when he left them. Maybe the
world situation was getting to him. Out his window a group of
adults in costumes walked down the sidewalk.


“You got a letter today,” his dad said. “The mail came in
the afternoon.”


“Did you read it?”


“No, Yancy I respect your privacy.”


“Well, do you know who it’s from?”


“Rick
Turner
. Isn’t he the owner of the mall?”


“Yeah.”


“Well,” his dad said. “It looked hand addressed. Are you
guys friends or something?”


“Kind of.”


“Do you know what the lette
r might be about?”


“Nope.”


Yancy had no idea what it could be. But Evan said that they
would be getting letters. He wondered how many other people got
them. Nattie said she got one. Evan had actually said they were
invitations. He wondered what Rick was
up to. He thought about
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Nattie going home and reading her letter. He wondered if would
get out of her costume before reading it or stand there in her
warrior woman outfit and read it. Maybe she would start to
undress and read it.


“What’s he like?” his dad

asked.


“What? Who?”


“Rick, I hear he’s kind of eccentric.”


“No, he’s a nice guy. He owns the mall and a he says some
other malls around the country. He’s been expanding a lot
lately. He put in a grocery store a few months ago.”


“Is that new parking ga
rage done yet?”


“Yes,” Yancy said. “Well, construction is done, but he
hasn’t opened it yet. There’s a new movie theater on the top of
it and it hasn’t opened up yet either.”


“Another theater?”


“Yeah. So now the mall has a multiplex and this single
scre
en theatre that is as big as the twin cinemas.”


“He does sound a little eccentric.”


“He’s alright. He has a reputation to always tell the
truth. When Oscar got his new Chevy Rick was the only one to
tell him is was a piece of junk.”


“How did Oscar take

it?”


“He was pretty sad.”

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“Well what does Rick drive? A limousine?”


“Actually, no.” Yancy said and smiled. “It’s an old Dodge
Van.”


“You’re kidding,” his dad said.


“And he says it gets 50 miles to the gallon.”


“That’s incredible,” said his dad as
they pulled into their
driveway.


When Yancy got out of the car he heard party music playing
down the street. There was also a distant roar somewhere off
overhead. It could have been a commercial jet going to LAX. But
something in him said it was a militar
y plane.


Yancy passed the punchbowl of hard candies and the TV with
the image of a concerned man talking at a podium. Once in his
room he locked the door and found the letter on his bed. He got
out of his pizza smelling clothes before opening and reading
it.


Dear Yancy,


It was a typed letter that looked like a copy. The bottom
had what looked like a personal signature and a written note.
Yancy resisted the urge to read the end and started at the
beginning.


You are invited to the grand opening of the new

movie
theatre on Saturday, November 3
rd

1984 at 5:00 p.m. pizza will be
provided. I urge you to not miss this grand opening. In addition
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to the movie, there will be a short presentation by me and an
important announcement.

After the announcement, we will
be traveling by bus for an
overnight excursion to Joshua Tree National Park. Meals and
lodging will be provided. Anyone under 18 should get their
parent’s permission, of course. Any parent is free to call me if
they want. My number is on the letterhead.


W
e are all aware of the world situation. All I will say for
now is that I have a plan. I can’t stop certain things from
happening, but I can guarantee a few things. I will explain a
lot at the movie. So please don’t miss this, you won’t regret it
if you att
end. You will regret it terribly if you miss this.


Sincerely yours,


Rick Godwin.


The signature was in blue ball
-
point pen. Yancy read the
note underneath.


Yancy, I mean it when I say you need to be here. I’ve
invited a lot of folks you know too, incl
uding your buddy Oscar.
I think you’re a really smart kid and the world needs good kids
like you. See you there, RG.


Yancy folded the note and put it on his desk. He was
working Saturday. The Pizza Dude was probably providing the food
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for this event. He w
asn’t off until nine that night. He would
have to miss it.


When he went to bed, Yancy turned on the local FM station
to listen to. Instead of the usual top 40 music there was news.
Yancy put a tape on instead and turned out the light. After an
hour of not

sleeping he got up and read until he finally fell
asleep around two in the morning.


Thursday November 1st


The next morning Yancy stood blinking outside his house and
looked at the neighborhood. Pumpkins were broken in the street
and candy wrappers were
littering the sidewalk. He heard the
gentle scraping sound from next door and looked over to see
Mister Watanabe raking leaves. He looked up and gave Yancy a
nod. Yancy waved back. Mister Watanabe’s lawn looked nice every
day. Yancy’s dad always complement
ed him on it. He said the few
words he knew in Japanese to him which sounded like Ohio,
something. Yancy wanted to hide when his dad did that.

Instead, most of the time, Yancy worked in their own yard,
mowing and raking. He had tried to break the lawn mow
er once
trying to get out of the work. He had hoped that running over a
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good sized rock would do it, but the rock only flew and hit the
side of the house and chipped the paint.

Yet Mister Watanabe did yard work every day and seemed to
like it.

Yancy look
ed down the street for Oscar’s car. No sign of it
yet. He looked back at his neighbor raking, then walked up to
the clean wooden fence.

“Good morning,” Mister Watanabe said not looking up.

“Hi,” Yancy said. “Your yard looks nice.”

“Thank you.”

“You like t
o rake leaves? I hate it,” Yancy laughed.

Mister Watanabe nodded.

“The world might be coming to an end,” Yancy said. “You
still take care of your yard.”

Mister Watanabe stopped raking and turned to look at Yancy.

“Even if I knew the world would end
tomorrow, I would still
plant my apple tree,” he said.

Yancy considered that.

“Who said that?” Oscar said behind Yancy. Yancy jumped.
Oscar had coasted up with no engine again. Mister Watanabe
looked at Oscar.

“I mean, is that a wise saying?” Oscar asked.
“Like
Confucius?”

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Mister Watanabe smiled and shook his head. “Martin Luther,”
he said.

Yancy looked at Oscar and mouthed, “Confucius?” Oscar
shrugged and they got in the car and left for school.

“The freeway is still closed,” Oscar said. “That’s why I’m
la
te.”

“You don’t need the freeway,” Yancy said. He took off his
backpack and put it at his feet. Even without his work uniform,
it smelled like pizza.

“I needed to go to L.A.,” Oscar said.

“What for?”

“Nothing.”

Yancy opened his mouth to say something, but
decided not
to. He felt sleepy still and shut his eyes. He leaned his head
on the passenger window and listened to the radio. Even Oscar
had the news on this morning. He felt the car make the usual
turns on the way to school, stop at the lights and felt th
e sun
shine on his closed eyes when they turned into it.

“Dude, wake up.”

Yancy sat up and felt the drool on his shirt. It must have
taken longer to get to school. He felt rested. Despite that,
Yancy found himself dozing in first period. Late morning he wa
s
okay and then in his afternoon class he actually laid his head
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down on the desk while the teacher answered questions about the
history homework.

“Mister Whitford?”

Yancy looked up. Everyone was looking at him including
Mister Miller.

“Were you up late l
ast night trick or treating?” his
teacher asked him. Yancy shook his head.

“Okay, I won’t ask you again,” Mister Miller said. “Can
anyone answer me?”

Hands went up. Yancy was happy to see a few other students
yawning. He heard a voice behind him answer.


Libya,” said the kid. His voice was nasal and he had a
condescending tone is if everyone should know the answer. He was
the same boy who had been next to him at the junior prom and was
smarter than Yancy and most of the other kids.

“Thank you Mark,” said
Mister Miller.

Oh sure, Yancy thought. Use his first name.

After class, Mark stood behind Yancy as he fumbled with his
books. Finally Yancy looked at him.

“Did you get an invitation to the movie theatre for this
Saturday too?” he asked. Yancy nodded.

“I’ll

bet I know what’s going on,” Mark said.

“What?” Yancy asked. “What do you think it’s about?”

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“I don’t think I should disclose that information it this
time,” said Mark. “It would possibly detrimental to the master
plan.”

Yancy sighed. Then why are you

saying you know, he thought.

“Cause he’s a know it all and wants everyone to know that,”
Oscar said later when they were driving to the mall. “Little
twerp”

“He’s pretty smart,” Yancy said.

“Smarter than you?”

“Yeah.”

“Not as cool though, right?” Oscar s
aid.

“No, not as cool,” Yancy said. No
-
one made Yancy feel
better about himself than Oscar. Maybe Nattie sort of made him
feel good, but he also felt uncomfortable and inadequate around
her too. That was a weird feeling to feel good and happy about
yoursel
f and at the same time feel like you were walking around
just out of the shower wearing a little towel around your waist
dripping wet and cold and exposed the world.

Oscar on the other hand didn’t make Yancy uncomfortable
unless he was pushing him to go b
e with Nattie. It had always
been like that. They had both been new kids in the third grade
and had gravitated together. Even though Oscar was a big guy he
had never taken much of an interest in sports. He and Yancy both
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liked to build with Legos as kids.
They played video games first
at the arcade and then at Yancy’s home when he got an Atari
console.

Oscar had had several girlfriends and that made Yancy a
little uncomfortable the few times he had been a third wheel
when they hung out at the mall. Most of

Oscar’s girlfriends had
been cool though and not minded having Yancy around. Hanging out
was okay, but Yancy never sat near them at the movies, not after
that one time when all they did was make out.

And here was the new movie theatre. It looked like it h
ad
been built right on top of the new parking garage. Oscar drove
by the ramp leading down into it. The gates were still closed.

“That’s tall enough to handle a big rig,” Oscar said.
“Wonder when they’ll open it up. It’s been done for a long
time.”

“I don
’t know,” Yancy said. “Did you get your invitation?”

“Yeah, you going?” Oscar put the car in park.

“No, I’ve got to work,” Yancy said and got out.

But when Yancy checked the schedule minutes later, he saw
that there was yellow highlighter on that day. You
always had to
look for that. And there was Saturday with Yancy getting off
work an hour before he was expected at the movie.

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Michael

was looking at the schedule.

“I’m off Saturday,” he
said. “I was supposed to be working.”

“Are you going to the movie?” Ya
ncy asked.

“I was supposed to go to the movies with Cindy,”
Michael

said. “But I got scheduled to work before I could get the night
off.”

“That’s right,” Yancy said. “You asked me to work for you
and I was already. No, did you get an invitation to the movi
e
and the road trip from Rick?”

“No, I invited Cindy.”


Michael
, listen to me,” Yancy said. “Did you get an
invitation in the mail from Rick
Turner
, the owner of the mall?”

“Rick? Who hangs out here sometimes and eats lunch with the
janitor? Tall guy with
short curly blond hair?”

“Yes,
Michael
. Did you get anything from him in the mail?”

“I don’t know. I never get letters except on my birthday.”

“Well check when you get home,” Yancy said. “I was supposed
to work Saturday and I’m off now too. I got a letter
from Rick
inviting me to some event this Saturday. I don’t know if it’s a
coincidence or not.”

Yancy started out of the store’s break room and then paused
and turned around.

“Who is working that night?” he asked.

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Michael

looked at the schedule. “Marcy and
Dave,” he said.

“The manager and a shift manager? On a weekend night?”

“Yeah,”
Michael

tapped the paper stapled to the wall.
“Weird.”

Yancy started out again.

“Hey aren’t you going to work?”
Michael

called.

“Dude, I’m off today,” Yancy said. “Do you see me

in
uniform? You’ve got the schedule right there. What does it say?”

Michael

looked at the paper. “You’re off today,” he
declared. “On tomorrow and Saturday.”

“Thank you,” Yancy called back as he walked away. Honestly,
Michael

seemed like a dim bulb to him
. He was quick with his
hands though. Nobody could cut dough like
Michael
. He could grab
a handful of dough off the big lump from the mixer and know what
it weighed. Then he could form it into a disk, toss it and get
it in the pan before Yancy was done put
ting sauce and cheese on
the previous one.
Michael

was the champion box folder too. That
was a dubious honor, though. Dave the manager said that the
fastest box folders were doomed to a live of Pizza servitude all
their life. Dave was the only one who coul
d fold boxes faster
but was exempt from competitions.

Yancy passed the stage in the center of the mall and
remembered that
Michael

could play the guitar too. There had
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been a talent show and
Michael
’s band had performed some heavy
metal music. They hadn’t

even placed. But Oscar had speculated
that if
Michael

had played solo he could have at least won
second prize. Yancy agreed. The lip
-
syncing dancers won because
they were good looking and popular.

Evan was helping some other workers break down the
Hallowe
en display on the stage.

“Turkey display next week,” Evan said. “We’ve got an event
on Saturday and we’ll get out the pilgrims and turkeys and
Indians Monday, I think.”

“What’s happening Saturday?” Yancy asked.

“Well you got your invite didn’t you?” Evan
said.

“Yes, does that have anything to do with the stage inside
the mall, though?” Yancy asked.

Evan frowned for a moment, then recovered. “I think it
does,” he said. “You meant what was happening Saturday here on
the stage, right?”

“Yes, and you thought
I meant the mysterious invitation
from Rick?”

Evan set a box down on a flatbed cart and walked over to
Yancy. “Yeah,” he said. “That invitation is really on my mind a
lot. So, of course, that’s what I thought you meant.”

“You do know what everything is all

about, don’t you?”

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Evan’s nodded with a sad, closed mouth smile.

“Okay then,” Yancy said. “What about what’s here onstage
Saturday? Can you tell me anything about that?”

“Just some out
-
of
-
towners coming in and there’s going to be
a little show going on,”
Evan said. He walked back over to the
stage and lifted a box. When he set it down he looked at Yancy
and smiled a little more cheerful.

“Rick’s back in town for good now,” he said.

“No more traveling ever?” Yancy asked.

Evan looked down at the box he had
set down. “No,” he said.
“Not for a while, I think.” Evan put both hands on the flatbed
and leaned into it. Once it was moving he straightened up and
pushed it off toward the south wing. Yancy looked at the empty
stage. He had been on it singing Christmas
carols years ago. He
remembered watching the food court from his standing position
and wishing for some french fries. He had held a candy cane that
he was promised when the singing was done. Yancy hated
peppermint and just wanted fries.

Behind the stage w
as the fountain and pool that took up the
whole back of the stage. One of Yancy’s earliest memories of the
mall was falling in after trying to get a penny out. Yancy had
stood up in the water not quite up to his knees. He was dripping
and shivering and did
n’t know whether to laugh or cry. After his
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dad had scolded him Yancy had cried. In the years following,
Oscar would fish coins from the fountain for the arcade. Yancy
preferred not to.

So now here he was, 17 years old and standing in the middle
of the mall. The food court was behind him. To his right was the
south wing with the least interesting stores including the very
expensive department store with the security guards that didn’t
lik
e loiterers. The only thing good down there was Aunty Fran’s
where Oscar was a dishwasher, or as he called himself, a dish
-
pig.

To his right was the music store the multiplex and, yes,
the sewing notions store. And in front of Yancy was the new
façade of t
he single movie theatre build over the deep parking
garage. That’s where he would be Saturday evening.

Yancy tried to make this a metaphor for his life. Behind
him was his job at The Pizza Dude. That’s where if you were
really good at folding boxes you mig
ht be cursed to become a
manager there someday.

To his right, what was there? Emptiness? Then Yancy
remembered that the army recruiting office was there. Forget
that.

In front of him, the mystery. The uncertainty of the
future. What did that hold?

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And on h
is left, well there was Nattie. She always seemed
happy to see him. She was probably there now. He could walk down
there. He’d need a reason though. Oscar would say he didn’t need
a reason, but Yancy felt he did.

Oscar must have gone straight to work. May
be he was getting
in trouble for taking so much break time in the food court. He
worked at a sit
-
down restaurant and it wasn’t as relaxed about
breaks. Most food court places let you hang out and then duck
back to work when you were needed.

Yancy walked fo
rward enough to see down to the end of both
the south and north wings. He saw two uniformed soldiers walk
past Aunty Fran’s, but they kept walking past the Army
recruiting office. Then Yancy turned around and headed toward
the multiplex. He would see what
was coming soon. Maybe that is
what they would see Saturday.


The mall’s crowds looked about right for a Thursday
afternoon, Yancy thought. We tried to remember what most
Thursdays looked like. Some of the best TV was on that evening.
That was why he liked

that evening off. Yancy thought that maybe
others felt the same. But now he felt hyper
-
aware of how many
people were or were not here at the mall. Now that he had looked
at the theatre where he would be Saturday the world situation
seemed to take over and

press to the front of his mind.

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There was a small crowd in front of the music store. Four
TV sets faced out all on different channels. One of them might
have been the music channel and was showing a pretty
-
boy band.
That was the only one with sound being

fed outside the window.
The heavy keyboard and effeminate voice dominated the sound.
Yancy never thought he would be happy to see them, but it was
nice to see something else on TV for a change from the news and
images of military buildup.


Another TV look
ed like local news. There was the Hollywood
Freeway near Cujenga with Army trucks stopped. The other two
TV’s were showing people looking purposeful with serious
expressions. They were packing items like blankets and canned
food. A little boy watched as th
e dad filled water containers.
The mom was emptying a medicine cabinet. Yancy felt his breath
escape and his stomach start to hurt when he realized what they
were doing.


Yancy watched the TV family go into what looked like a
storm cellar. The dad frowne
d and took a melodramatic look
around before ducking inside and closing the door. The next shot
showed them inside turning on an old fashioned looking radio.
Yancy imagined the same voice narrating this little how
-
to movie
as the movies he watched as a lit
tle kid in school that talked
about the origin of popcorn or extolled the benefits of soap.

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Yancy looked at the faces of the others watching the TVs
with him. Everyone stood still. Every face was grim. The film
ended and a reporter came on with a slightly

amused expression.
He began talking and a slide appeared behind him with a map of
the Middle East. Some people turned to leave.


Yancy was about to leave too when the TV with the local
news caught his eye. The image was of Rick’s van pulling up to a
curb

somewhere in Downtown LA. Yancy listed to the music channel
with a solo girl singer, but the same driving keyboard sound. He
wished he could hear the news instead.


The TV showed Rick getting out of his van and feigning
surprise at the news cameras. Actu
ally it was an exaggerated
reaction that almost looked sarcastic. He bent his ear to
someone off camera and then several news microphones appeared in
the shot pointed at him. Rick put on his disarming smile and
spoke briefly. Yancy watched him listen again

and then react
with the same pretend surprise. Rick laughed and shrugged and
gave another answer. Another shot showed a reporter on the
scene. She was smiling too. Rick had a great way of putting
people at ease.


But when the TV cut back to the studio th
e news anchor
looked un
-
amused. He spoke for a half minute, and then the
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camera changed. The anchor turned to the new angle and a slide
of the vice president appeared behind him.


Why was Rick on the news? Yancy wondered. He looked like he
was in some kin
d of trouble or something. He hoped not. Rick
seemed like a nice guy. He ate lunch with the custodian, or at
least one of them. They were old war buddies. Yancy and others
figured that Rick had gotten Evan the job.


Yancy glanced back at the TVs. The two o
n the national news
were showing the vice president, and so was the local news in
maybe the same story but a different film clip. The music
channel was showing a commercial for an acne cream. Yancy
absently felt where his hairline met his forehead and ran
his
fingers over a few blemishes. He pulled his hair down over them
and walked on to the Sewing and Notions store.


The store was still empty. The lady who had been dressed as
Morgan L’Fey still towered behind the counter. Yancy could tell
now that she was

as old as his grandma. She was still very
severe looking. Her eyes bored into him, then softened in
recognition.


“Well hello, Pizza Man,” she said. Yancy waved a little
hello.


“Nattie isn’t here this afternoon,” she said. “She’ll be
back tomorrow and,
of course, work all day Saturday.”

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“But not Saturday evening, right?” Yancy said.


“Why wouldn’t she be working Saturday evening?” the lady
said.


What had Nattie said was her name? Linda? Yancy swallowed
and tried to get his throat to not be so dry.


“U
m, she was supposed to get an invitation to the movies,”
Yancy said.


“Oh was that from you?” Lydia, that was her name.


“No, but I’m going too,” Yancy answered. “Rick invited a
lot of people to the movie theatre Saturday evening. I think
it’s maybe a pr
emier or something and there’s a bus ride
afterward.”


“Oh, the invite is from Rick, is it?” Lydia said. “Well
I’ve already told Nattie that she needs to be here working. I
like to be flexible, but I have an engagement that I cannot be
released from.”


“Oh,” Yancy said. He wondered if Nattie’s invitation
sounded as urgent as his, or if it had the personal note.


“I’m going to a campaign rally,” Lydia said. “It’s a one
-
hundred dollar a plate dinner. I get to sit at a table near the
Vice President.”


“Oh
,” Yancy repeated. “It’s really important.”

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“Well of course it is. The California electorate could
decide the election this year.”


“Isn’t there someone else who can work?” Yancy asked. “I
think she really should be there.”


Lydia’s face reddened a bit an
d her thin lips all but
disappeared.


“When I make the schedule it stays fixed,” she said. “If
Nattie had requested this day off, I would still have had to ask
her to work. We don’t have a plethora of employees like a fast
food franchise to pull from. And

Saturday night tends to be a
rather busy night at the mall. I need her here and here is where
she will be.”


Yancy sighed and slouched.


“I own this store you see,” Lydia continued. “I’ve been
here since ten this morning and will be here until closing. I

eat my lunch in the back room with one eye looking out at the
floor. I lock the front doors when I go potty.”


Yancy winced inside. He didn’t like the image of an older
lady and the word potty.


“So I’m sorry, Pizza Man. That’s the way it is.”


“Rick got
me off work,” Yancy said softly.


“Yes,” Lydia said. “He left me a message about something
like that, come to think of it now.”

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So Yancy wasn’t the first to tell her this.


“That rapscallion can run his mall and let me run my
store,” Lydia said. “And he
can sell his property and liquidate
all his assets and buy whatever he wants. It must be nice to be
able to get rich off of an unscrupulously invested government
pension. But some of us must work for a living every day until
we die.”


“Okay,” Yancy said. H
e just wanted to agree with her and
leave. “Well, thanks anyway,” he said and left the store. He
didn’t know why he thanked her. She hadn’t been helpful at all,
except to give him a different idea of who Rick was.


Had Rick sold a lot of stuff and liquidat
ed his assets?
What would he do with all that cash? Had he sold the mall to?
That couldn’t be. He had just finished the new parking garage
and the theater on top of it.


Then what was Saturday about? Not thinking about the
invitation to the movie and the
bus trip, what was going to
happen on the center stage that afternoon? Yancy walked back in
the direction of the mall’s center. Three of the TVs showed maps
and arrows moving across borders. The fourth TV had a music
video with a bunch of partygoers dresse
d in oversized pastels.

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The center of the mall was quiet except for the splashing
of the fountain. Evan was on the stage with a wide dust mop. He
looked up and gave Yancy a nod.


Evan would know what was up with Rick. Why was he on the
news? Was he in so
me kind of trouble? Yancy sat on a bench and
looked into the shallow pool. Pennies were scattered around its
bottom with a nickel or dime here or there. There were no
quarters. Oscar always went for the quarters. He might have gone
for a nickel or dime. Th
e drug store had gum for 15 cents. Yancy
reached under the bench he was at and felt the lump of gum that
he and Oscar had built over a summer years ago. Evan was a good
janitor but had not cleaned under the benches.


Yancy thought of going down to the book
store, or he could
take the bus home. Maybe he would walk down to Aunty Fran’s
first and see if Oscar was there. He had dropped Yancy at the
curb and then what.


Yancy glanced back at the food court. There was a short
line at The Pizza Dude. Yancy finally
realized that he felt
board and lonely. Did he feel like this every afternoon that he
didn’t work?


He got up and walked down in the direction of Aunty Fran’s.
In the middle of the mall was a jewelry kiosk with a small
crowd. Yancy had seen it enough time
s to know all of the
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earrings and costume jewelry. There were also spools of chains.
The chains were the cheap, pseudo
-
gold and silver that turned
your neck green after a week. Laughter came from the crowd. When
Yancy got close enough he saw a tall man unr
olling one of the
gold spools. It was Rick.


“Yes,” he said in a nasal Shakespearean accent. “I’ll just
take a few yards of this if you please, and can you just wrap
that up for me? There’s a good girl, now.”


The girl at the kiosk was laughing hystericall
y.


Rick took a long Gold chain almost completely off the spool
and wrapped it around his head and shoulders.


“What do you think

people?” he said. “Too glitzy?”

He
spotted Yancy and pulled Yancy close. Then Rick started wrapping
the chains around Yancy. Yancy felt his whole head blush. He
smiled and hung his head.


“To fancy for Yancy?” Rick said. “Good gracious you look
like a deposed king on the run.” He start
ed rolling the chains
back up. The girl tried to get it.


“I got it Mandy,” Rick said. “That’s okay, no, I got it.”


Yancy watched the group of people start to drift off. Rick
looked up from face to face with a brief serious flash. Then he
grinned at Yancy
.

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“Yancy,” he said. “You’re not working this afternoon, I
take it?”


“No, I’m off,” Yancy replied. “And I got Saturday off
during the movie.”


“That’s good,” Rick said with another serious face. Then
his grin was back. He jerked his thumb at the entrance
to Auntie
Fran’s. Do you want to get a slice of pie then?”


“Sure.”


Aunty Fran’s wasn’t as empty as the rest of the mall. Old
folks were taking up several tables. Servers were busy moving
around.


“Ah yes,” Rick said. “Thursday is senior discount day.
Au
ntie’s has an outside entrance and bus parking. They herd the
fossils in to fill them up. Then roll them back onto the busses
and away until next week.”


Yancy smiled at the image. Rick looked toward the outside
entrance where there looked to be a bus park
ed. He nodded his
head. A dark haired girl came up to the front register. “Two of
you?” she asked.


“Yes please… Katie,” this time Rick leaned in to look at
her nametag. Yancy tried to remember and was almost certain that
the girl at the jewelry kiosk had
not been wearing a nametag.

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When they were seated at the booth, Rick opened the menu
and Yancy flipped through the desert cards.


“You don’t need to get pie it you’re hungry for real food,”
Rick told him. “I’m getting a sandwich.” Rick closed the menu
an
d looked around the restaurant. “There’s no TV in here,” he
said. “The whole tone of the place is more upbeat than any other
place in the mall. These folks are unconcerned for the most
part. A lot of them saw World War two, Korea and ‘Nam. They
lived throu
gh the Cuban crisis and made it though that with no
war at all. They can sit here and gum their mashed potatoes and
chicken salad sandwiches and not worry about the world.”


“Do you remember Cuba?” Yancy asked.


“Yes I do,” Rick said. “I was 17. We didn’t

care as much in
California about missiles, but a war with Russia was still
terrifying. I didn’t know if I would graduate and see college.”


Then Rick looked very grim. “I think a lot of kids feel the
same way today,” he said. “Man, even I’m afraid. I visi
ted my ex
when I was back East. She’s re
-
married. Her kids are scared.”


Rick looked at Yancy and must have seen surprise. “I don’t
have kids of my own,” he said. Then he said something softly
that Yancy didn’t hear.


“It’s all really scary,” Rick said ba
ck at normal volume.
Then he leaned back in his chair and drew in a deep breath. “We
David Faux © 2012 Dav