a tale by Chris Lewis Gibson
Part Two of Chapter Two
Published on December 4, 2004 By Owen Ellis In Blogging
“I thought we would catch up,” Justin told him.
“And we will,” Waverly said, moving past his brother, out of the bathroom. “But I
have to work.”
“At night?” Justin said, incredulously.
“Yes, night,” Waverly repeated with a tone of finality.
Justin moved ahead of him, and said to Rush and Cassidy, who were sitting on
opposite ends of the sofa, flipping through magazines, “Can you believe this cad? He works at
night, and can’t even take off when his big brother comes to town.”
“Some of us like to keep our jobs,” Wave said simply, and Rush said, “Actually, it’s a
“What?” Justin looked at his younger brother with a mingled expression of confusion
and respect.
“Actually it is work,” Waverly said, eyeing Rush reproachfully. “My boss asked me to
take his wife out.”
“What an interesting boss,” Justin quipped. “What else is he going to ask you to do
for his wife that ends in out?”
“God, Judd!” Waverly murmured.
“Besides,” Cassidy said, “Mr.s Ross, or whatever the hell her name is--”
“Cynthia Neary,” Waverly said, putting on his suit jacket and adjusting the lapels.
“Mrs. Neary,” Cassidy corrected himself, “is not Waverly’s true love.”
“What?” Justin turned to his brother. “You got a new true love in just two weeks?”
Waverly looked at all three of them with something like disdain and then said,
“There is no true love. There’s just a bunch of chuckleheads gathered in one houseboat.”
Rush shrugged, Cassidy grinned, and Justin said, “Nope, little brother. You don’t get
off that easily. Who’s the new girl?”
Waverly did not answer. Instead Rush said, “Nelson Tolliver’s baby sister.”
“Nelson Toll....” Justin began, and then said, “Ara? Oh, my Wave.... I always
“Thought what?” Waverly’s voice came out sharper than he meant it to.
“Just... I always thought you were a little too white bread for Jungle Fever.”
Wave snorted and mumbled, “I gotta go.”
“Bye,” Rush said.
Justin followed after his brother singing, “He’s got jungle fever! She’s got jungle
fever!” and then came back into the house, and said, “What’s his problem? Or is he only
uptight and mean around me?”
Cassidy didn’t answer, but Rush said, “Yeah, it’s around you, Justin. Don’t ask me
“We’re really different is why,” Justin said. “Are you guys coming to dinner up at the
house? That’s what Cecil sent me down here to ask?”
Rush turned to Cassidy.
“You ready?”
Cassidy nodded and hopped up, sliding his feet into flipflops.
“Let’s go, then,” Justin said with cheer that Rush knew wasn’t completely real.
“What’s up, Judd?” he said.
They came onto the deck of the houseboat. The sky was deep blue, and the sun was
sinking beneath the trees.
“I was sort of hoping that me and Wave could actually get along.... This time


The history of the Matthews men was one of trouble and eccentricity. Rush, unemployed,
living on a houseboat with Cassidy was not only not a shock, but almost low key compared to
those who had gone before him. Rush had actually gone straight to university, been degreed
and stayed around home. This was more than could be said for his father, Monterey, who,
after using usually good sense and staying on the honor roll all the way through his career at
Assisi College Preparatory Men’s High School had, upon early graduation, climbed down the
trellis from his window at the age of seventeen to flee home and embark on the first of five
disastrous marriages.
Nor was Rush’s life choice nearly as erratic and vagrant as Delorian’s who had broken
his father’s heart upon graduating from the same Assisi High School by running off to
Georgia to live with his brother, get on a Greyhound and tour the country, try to assemble a
rock and roll band. Fail, attend college, drop out of college, ride arund the West Coast with
Fred, go back to school--this time with honors. Drink and smoke his way through his final
years, hit the road again and then begin the long years of piecemeal graduate studies that
would, in the end, make him wake up one day surprised to learn he was a doctor of the
Cecil never worried too much about his boys, or his grandson. He worried more
about Monterey’s daughter, Phoebe, because the only thing remotely interesting about her
was her name. She was doing well enough for herself out east, and less bohemian patriarchs
would be pleased for her life. Cecil, however, would rather see his blood interesting or
interested than safe. Cecil’s own life had been riddled with danger and romance in the early
years, and after his children had run off acting like damned fools, he’d decided he might as
well do the same. Mountain climbing, at fifty, motorcycling through the Southwest at sixty.
Life did not seem to be getting any duller any time soon.
But it was Cecil’s own father, Gibraltar, who, when a white woman had called him a
nigger in 1923, has taken the notion to slap her full in the mouth and then-- of course-- not
just get the hell out of town, but the hell out of Mississippi. this was over a decade before
Cecil was born. His father had come to live with Gennesaret Matthews, a cousin, who was
living in this large brick house on Mernau Street, often to the upset of the good white white
people of Willowfield. They could not really protest his presne. Gennesaret had inherited the
house fair and square.
Though the family lines have been compiled precisely, and photographs of all the
Matthews are to be found in the house library, one should not be expected to remember the
precise relation Matthews bear to the other. But Gennesaret was fifty and past when Gibralter
came up from Mississippi, and an extremely yellow, straight haired old man who had
inherited the house from his employer, Old Mr. Malloy. Genessaret’s mother was Lena,
short for Magdalene, and her brother was the father of Gibralter. Magdalene Matthews fled
Mississippi in 1860, which was to say with a chain around her foot. She was said to have had
a string of adventure’s, one of them being birthing Mr. Malloy’s yellow baby, and thus
bringing that old house on Mernau Street into the Matthew’s family.
Before Genessaret had died he built the huge porch that wrapped all around the back
of the house and the sides and, when Cecil had complained as a child that he wanted to go to
the swimming pool, but no colored children were allowed, Genessaret had said, “Well hell!”
and had a fine pool constructed which was the joy of Willowfield and Negro children up
until the time Cecil, then in his forties, said it was just too hard to maintain, and had it filled
Now, on the back porch of the house on Mernau Street, aware of the old history,
Delorian pumped up and down on the swing with Justin, and Justin said, “I know you
wanted to leave so bad, but now I want to stay so bad. I need to stay for a while, Dory.”
Nothing like the frantic man he’d been on the phone the other day, Delorian said,
“Of course you do.... Of course you do, Judd.”
“But I will go,” Justin said. “If you come with me. You and me just like in the old
days. We’ll go and it’ll be great.”
Delorian nodded, and then he turned to his nephew and Cassidy.
“Unless you boys have pressing plans, you can come too. Can’t they?”
Justin looked surprised, “You needed to ask?”
“Maybe we can get Wave to come,” said Delorian.
“Don’t joke,” Justin shook his head. “You couldn’t tear that boy from his work.”

“I’M SO GLAD YOU CHOSE TO HUMOR ME,” Cynthia Neary told Wave on the other
side of the booth at Wendy’s.
“I’m a sucker for a Frosty,” he said, stirring his spoon around. “Say... Exactly what is
it? I mean, you could suck on it with a straw--but it’s hard to do. It’s better to just dig into it
with your spoon. It’s sort of... too thick to be a shake, not hard enough to properly be called
ice cream.”
Cynthia laughed, and Waverly looked up at her.
“I’m babbling.”
“You’ve got a point,” Cynthia said, looking at hers. “I think.... I think it’s best just to
call it Frosty.”
Waverly shrugged.
“This is the only flavor it comes in too, isn’t it?” he said.
“You know, I think so.”
At the same time they both said: “Frosty flavor!” and laughed.
“That wasn’t even very funny,” Cynthia acknowledged. “Did she do things like that?
Tell silly jokes?”
“Your Cindy?”
“Oh,” Wave said, his mood changing.
“I’m totally sorry,” Cynthia shook her head. “I just.... You loved her so much and...”
Waverly said, “I don’t know if I loved her. I mean... I don’t really know what I loved.
I thought I knew her, but.... what I knew was a lie.”
“You know,” Cynthia Neary said, “I heard someone once say that love is never a lie.”
“That,” Wave said, lifting a finger, “is a something I will have to tell myself when I
need to feel better.”
Cynthia shook her head.
“I think it’s something very true,” she said. “People.... they don’t think love counts
for anything.”
“I did....” Waverly said. “I did.”
“Well, I hope you still do. You’re a good man, Waverly. You shouldn’t let one
girlfriend ruin things for you.”
“She’s the only girlfriend I ever had,” Waverly confessed.
“Well... well, then. You definitely shouldn’t let your whole view on love collapse
over... that one chance.”
Waverly stirred the Frosty around, and then dug his spoon into it and took a bite.
“You know,” he said, “I am glad that we went to the concert tonight. I mean... not
just because the music was good. It was. But... I’m glad I got to know you better.”
“Me too,” Cynthia agreed. “Maybe we can get to be good friends.”
“Can never have too many good friends,” was Waverly’s opinion.

“IS SHAWN ASLEEP?” Fred said, looking at the dark haired man in grey slacks and white
shirt, stretched out on the couch.
“No,” he protested through a yawn, and fell into unconsciousness again.
Delorian said to Justin, “All he does is fall asleep here. When he doesn’t fall asleep
here, he gets up in the middle of the night, walks in the house, smokes my cigarettes, and sits
in my backyard, drinking my wine.”
“I thought he gave up smoking?” Fred said.
“Um,” Delorian muttered.
It was late at night, almost morning, and the house that Delorian and Frances shared,
with its minimum of furnitute and Salvation Army bought tables was lit by only a few lamps.
They were all killing a bottle of Jim Beam, and eliminating the surplus population of Camels.
“Did you call Nathan and tell him you wouldn’t be home?” Frances demanded.
“Who says I won’t be home?”
“You shouldn’t go home,” Delorian told him. “Not with all that Beam in you. And
it’s so late.”
“I’m not drunk,” Justin said. “I can drive, and I think he should go home. I don’t
like the idea of Nate all by himself.”
“Firstly,” Fred said, “Nate’s an adult--”
“Doesn’t that make you feel ooold?” Frances teased her brother.
“No. Not really, Franny,” he told her. “But... the more I hear Justin talking about
parental care... the more I’m thinking maybe we should be getting home,” he looked at Justin
“Yeah,” Delorian muttered, taking a sip from the bottle, “because who knows what’ll
happen to Nathan out there in big bad Amish Country.”
For some reason this made Justin splutter while he was drinking from the bottle, and
Delorian said, “I’m sorry, old friend. You know the rule, no backwashing allowed.”
“It’s just like we’re in college all over again,” Fred marveled.
Shawn, the only one of them who had ever lived a life somewhere close to
respectable, sat up now and said, “Actually, it’s just like you’re all thirty again.”
“Ouch,” Frances muttered.
“Watch out, bitter brother,” said Justin.” Hey, tomorrow is Midsummer.”
“So it is,” Frances said. “All the witches and freaks’ll be at Scarborough Fair. And a
weekend too!”
“Do you remember--?” Delorian began.
“Mesa Verde, Midsummer, me in a white dress with a flower crown on my head, and
all those freaks smoking peyote and dancing around me.”
“And the one woman,” Fred chimes in: they all remember it. Justin remembers it.
Shawn was safely married and living in Izmir, but he remembers hearing the memory of it.
In their British accents they imitate her:

“It’s a lovely day to be a goddess!”

When Waverly returns to the houseboat, Cassidy and Rush are in their usual sofa positions,
facing each other, feet pressed together, reading. They both look up at him.
“Aren’t you guys usually in bed by now?” Waverly says.
“Well, tonight we felt like staying up.” Cassidy tells him.
“Tonight you’re snooping,” Waverly says.
“Tonight you’re a crabby bitch,” is what Rush tells him. Waverly looks at him with a
raised eyebrow. “And this is the closest thing you’ve had to a date in a while.”
“I’ve been split up with Cindy for three weeks tops now. Three weeks. What do you
Rush sits up a little higher and smirks.
“She’s someone else’s wife. There are no details.”
“Well, then for God’s sake, man, get yourself a woman you can have details with.”
Waverly shakes his head and says, “I gotta take my pills. I got hit the hay.”
“You gotta talk to your brother,” Cassidy reminds him.
“Thank you, Personal Conscience!”
“You’re quite welcome.”
“Good night, Cass. Goodnight, Rush.”
“Goodnight, Grinch,” says Rush, and ducks as Waverly aims a paper wad at him.

Ara Tolliver lived in a house with four roomates; a two story brick done in a
Mediterranean style, and grown over with ivy. She and Waverly sat at the open French doors,
their bare feet touching the cold metal of the little balcony that looked down on the front
“All what?” Waverly took a puff on his cigarette.
“The friendship thing,” she said.
“Oh... you mean as opposed to you be willing to date me.”
“Yes,” Ara said, thoughtfully, taking a sip from her drink. “Yes, that’s exactly what I
mean. You ought to try this. It’s not bad at all.”
Waverly did. “Um, not bad. But,” he crushed out his cigarette. “Back to the whole
reason for not dating me.”
“Because I don’t feel like dating anybody.”
“You said-- and I believe I didn’t make this up-- that it’s cause I’m white.”
“Well, yes, that’s true too.”
“That’s prejudice.”
“No,” Ara, said. “It’s afterjudice.”
When Waverly stared at her, Ara said, “Prejudice is when you don’t give something a
chance. Afterjudice is when you say, “Been there, done that, it sucked. Not going through
that bullshit again.”
“Well, have you dated Black guys?”
“Of course I have,” Ara sounded offended.
“Well, apparently that didn’t turn out so hot, either.”
“No, but it didn’t turn out disastrous. Y’all-- white men-- are disastrous. And before
you tell me I’m wrong... think about it. Think about your priorities.”
Waverly found himself saying, “Cindy told me.... that I was too into work, and too
“That could be a problem,” Ara said. “I don’t think I can settle for being second to
anyone. I don’t think I want to be anybody’s exotic Black girlfriend. That’s old, not
interesting anymore.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be like that.”
“No, Waverly you won’t--”
“Cause you’re not dating me.”
“Exactly,” Ara smiled.
“You’re a cruel woman.”
“I’m a tired woman,” she said frankly. “Besides. What’s the difference between
hanging out with me and dating me. What’s the difference, Waverly?”
Waverly couldn’t answer
“You know what I think?”
“I think you’re the Great White Hunter.”
Waverly shook his head, and took out another cigarette, saying, “I have no idea what
the hell you’re talking about.”
“You’re on the chase. You want to catch me. It’s the pursuit and when it’s over...
you’ll lose interest.”
“You really think I’m like that?”
“Everyone’s been like that.”
“You don’t know me, then.”
“No,” Ara said. “I don’t know you completely. But I do know you’re a good man and
a good friend. And I do think I know that part of you.... that’s on the chase.”
“I’m not on the chase.”
“Yes you are,” Ara insisted.

Cecil Matthews had consented to being grey headed when he turned sixty-two. Until that
time he had been sneaking occasional hints of Grecian formula into his scalp. People told
him he looked distingushed. At first he’d thought he judt looked old. He was not wrinkly. He
would not let himself wrinkle. He was convinced that human beings had more than they
thought to do with their own senescence, and since he had no plans of dying anytime soon,
and certainly no plans of looking like shit for the next thirty years, he kept himself up.
Coming into the house on Mernau Street from his morning walk, he saw Delorian,
Justin, Rush and Cassidy heads, pressed together, cups of coffee half full, working their
hands over a map.
“Looking for a new adventure?” he said, going to the coffee pot, and pouring himself
a cup.
“That’s right, you coming along?” said Justin.
“I would only slow you down.”
“I doubt we could keep up,” Rush grinned at his grandfather like a wolf.
“Rush, is your father going?”
‘He just went on a trip. And he’s gotta work.”
“Work,” Cecil commented. “Justin, when did you get in?”
“I’ve missed you for a whole day?”
“He sped in from Terre Haute,” Delorian told his father.
“I was laying in bed when I was convinced I was going to die.”
‘Well, it was Terre Haute, that’s understandable. Ah... but did you hear about that
motel that got fired up a few days back?”
“That was the hotel,” Rush told him before Justin could.
Cecil’s eyes widened, and he came to touch Justin’s forehead, murmuring, “Hail
Mary conceived without sin, pray for those who turn to you.”
And automatically, all of them, even Cassidy, murmured, “Amen,” as Cecil crossed
“What’s wrong with you, young man,” he said. “It’s more than missing death.”
Justin looked shocked, but only for a second. Since that first day when Cecil had
driven him back home in the blue Corvair, over thirty years ago, his mouth had always
opened immediately to Cecil’s demands.
“I am forty and a failure,” was what he said, simply.
“Oh,” Cecil said. Then he turned around to Justin.
“You’re not my child. Not really. I’m not your father or your mother but.... I only
ever asked one thing of my children.... and thought that this was their value: that they not
settle for being ordinary.”
“Well,” said Justin.
“As a Matthews, you would be a smashing success.”

the counter.
“This is not the greeting I expect to get when I come into Meet and Eat,” Emily
Wehlan said, her green eyes snapping with mock exasperation.
“Well, I guess you’ll have to go somewhere else,” Ara told her with a smile.
“That’s a cute visor,” the girl beside Emily said, “Can I get one?”
Ara looked at her, dumbfounded, and then said, “Are you serious?”
“Well, yeah,” Julia Camden said. “Actually, I was.”
“We didn’t come to get a cap... or to give you grief,” Emily told her friend. “We came
to see when you get off.”
“Hold on,” Ara said, moving to actually take an order.
“She’s got a definite flare for this,” Emily said to Julia.
“Think we should tell her?” Julia raised a dark eyebrow over her peat colored eyes.
“This...” Emily weighed the question, “might not be advisable.”
When Ara returned, she said, “I get off in one half hour. Do you wanna come back,
or can you wait?”
“We’ll just order something,” Emily decided.
“I’m not hungry,” said Julia.
“I’m paying.”
“Well, in that case, what’s good, Ara?”
“Actually, not much. But the raspberry shake isn’t horrible.”
“Well, with such rave reviews, who could refuse?” Emily said.

Less than a half hour later, Ara was sitting at the booth across from them, watching traffic
pass on Tangerine Road.
“Have you ever wondered about what a horrible name Tangerine Road is?”
“You know what?” Ara said. “Only when I say it to people who aren’t from around
here. Any other time, I just forget about it. I think I knew about Tangerine Road before I
knew there was a food called tangerine.”
“So, speaking of tangerines?”
“Yes?” Ara said to Emily.
“What about you and Wave?”
“What does Wave have to do with tangerine?”
Julia swooped in with, “They have waves in Florida. Florida’s where you get oranges
from, oranges are just big tangerines.”
“Nice, save,” Emily nodded at the other girl.
“Thank you.”
“Well,” Ara said, “I’m having a self imposed dry season, and it’s nice to know
Waverly will always be there.”
“But you don’t,” Emily said. “You don’t know he’ll always be there.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Emily waved it off. “I know, the whole no white man thing.”
“Well,” Ara shrugged, “glad you understand.”
“I understand,” Emily said, “that you’re put off by old experiences. But I don’t
understand you thinking Wave will be around when you’re ready.”
“Who says I want him to be?’
“Do you?”
“Julia,” Ara turned from Emily, “how you like that shake?”
Julia raised an eyebrow, and Ara said, “Well, shit!”
“Careful, I’m a child.” said Julia. “Unused to such words.”
“Well, do you feel anything for Waverly?” Emily pressed on.
“I feel....” Ara said, “that I like Waverly Blake a lot. He’s a good guy. But I’m not sure
he’s... my type.”
“Wave’s not anyone’s type,” Emily said. “He’s a little weird. I mean.... I couldn’t
appreciate that before. But now.... I sort of think he’s not that much older than me, and.... if
he was paying me the attention he’s paying you. I don’t know... I might....”
“Do him?” suggested Julia.
Both young women looked at the girl.
“I’m sorry,” Julia told them, “but my time of life is coming, and by the way, I’m
getting a man THIS summer.”
“You’re fourteen,” Ara said.
Julia Camden looked at Ara Tolliver fiercely, and said, “You’re never too young.”


Still, Ara Tolliver cannot help calling up Waverly that afternoon. He’s so glad to hear from
her, and she knew he would be. The odd thing was that the morning she met him she was
not coming to meet him, but Rush and Cassidy. Waverly was just sort of there.
There must be a word for meeting someone for the real first time? The first time you
really see someone, and you connect with them, and maybe for really close someones, really
old friends, you meet them over and over again.
All of these people had been with her for all of her life, though not connected
necessarily to her or to each other.
Ara thinks back and she remembers Waverly when she would sit in the back of her
mother’s car as Mrs. Tolliver drove to pick her son up from school. Or was she in the car
with Nelson, and they’d had to drive past school? But that was one of the problems with her
memory, it was undeveloped, it had no reason to it. No balance.
There was a time when she would hang on every word that came out of the mouth of
Rush Matthews. He spoke with such an intensity and innocense, and she was in love with
the birghtness of his eyes, and the touch of goatee under his bottom lip. He was the first boy
to ever turn her on, and he had no idea. He would say, “Oh, people don’t know their lives
because they don’t know how to tell a story. When you can make a story out of it, and
connect the threads you start ot see some reason in the chaos. You start to see yourself.”
Now, years later, when Rush was only a friend, when she knew that they would never
get together, Ara acknowledged that Rush was generally right, and full of good sense. That’s
why she was glad he was in her life. It was one of the reasons she couldn’t understand
Wavelry not being contented with them being friends. There was no such thing as “just
friends”. Friends were not a dime a dozen, they were not easy to come by. When you found
one he was usually harder to lose than a lover. She’d had a bunch of those. But all her friends
had been around for a long time, watching men come, watching men go.
There were far too many men who had come, Ara acknowledged.
She called the houseboat again, but this time she needed to talk to Rush. For some
reason she hoped Waverly didn’t answer. She thought it would seem odd to tell him to hand
the phone to Rush.
But it was Cassidy who picked up and he handed the phone to Rush.
“Yes, Ma’am?”
“Remember what you said all those years ago?”
“You might want to be a little more specific?”
“About memory, about...” and she recounted what he had said when he was in high
school, when his eyes were wide and passionate behind his glasses, and she couldn’t get
enough of watching his brown arms in a tee shirt, the patterns the little black hairs grew in up
and down them....
“Yeah,” he said. He had come out of the shower, and was wrapped in a towel, sitting
on his couch. He reached for a cigarette. “I remember that.”
“Well, Rush, my life is a mess.”
“This would seem to be the prevailing anthem for the summer,” Rush Matthews said.
“I’m serious! I don’t know.... anything. Sometimes it seems like I’m only three weeks
old, and nothing started until... until the day I woke up under that sorry ass so and so and
drove to your house---”
“And met Wave?”
“That would be the day you met Wave!”
“James Harris Lionel Matthews! I’m trying to tell you my life is a mess, and you’re
trying to set me up, you bi-sexual son of a bitch!”
“I don’t know what my bisexuality, or son of a bitchiness has to do with anything,”
Rush, took a light drag on his cigarette, “Nor did I know that you actually knew my full
name, but I was merely pointing out something.”
“Maybe if I bone Wave, my life ‘ll be better” said Ara.
“No,” said Rush, ignoring her sarcasm, “I guarantee you it would probably be worse.
But maybe if you start to keep a journal, and just tell yourself about yourself.... you’ll figure
something out. You could do your story.”
“The story of my life? I was born, I--”
“Not necessarily, the story of your life.... and start it.... wherever you find it starting.”
Suddenly Ara screamed.
“You alright, Killer?”
“Rush, you are the only man in the world that I act girly around. You’ve always been
good for letting me fall apart. I appreciate that shit.” She whispered into the phone, “If I
don’t get the hell out of here. Out of all this--”
“We’re going on a trip,” Rush said. “You could quit your job and come with us.”
“I can’t... just do that.”
“Yes, you can,” Rush said. And then he hung up.
Somehow, Ara felt like she’d been dealt an ultimatum.

“Tell him no.”
“But I think you should.”
“What?” Rush Matthews looked up from the magazine he was pretending to read. On
one side of the couch stood Cassidy Smith in shorts and a too large tee shirt, his blond hair
tousled. On the other, in an olive colored business suit, was Nelson Tolliver.
“I hate bars. I hate clubs. You know that Nelson.”
“Go,” Cassidy said.
“Are you coming?”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Yes,” said Cassidy, and then at the look on Rush’s face, which was the same look his
grandfather had dealt Fred, Delorian and Monterey over thirty years ago when they’d stolen
the Corvair, he said, “No.”
Rush heaved himself up with a low groan, and Nelson chuckled, putting his hand on
Rush’s back, steering him toward the bedroom.
“Now-- some clothes for you.”
“I’m not wearing a suit to the bar.”
“I doubt you even have a suit.” Nelson opened up his friend’s closet, and said, “My
God! This is a mess. Where are your clothes? What is all this...? I know you’re into being
humble and simple, but fashion and organization do have a place.”
“Maybe you should go out with Waverly.”
Nelson ignored that, and pulled a pair of faded jeans and a cream colored sweater out.
“There! For you that’s good.”
“It’s too hot for a sweater.”
Nelson mimicked him in a nasal voice, “It’s too hot for a sweater.”
“I didn’t even say it like that.”
“Besides. The car is air conditioned, and the bar will be too. You’ll want a sweater.
Here,” Nelson threw some sandals onto the bed. “You can even wear those. They look nice
enough for the public.”
“They should. The damn things cost over a hundred dollars.”
“What?” Nelosn said. And then--”Well, then we know you didn’t buy them.”
“No, my mother did. Birthday present.”
“They look new.”
“I never wear them,” Rush said, “You’re supposed to bum around in sandals, and I
have a hard time bumming around when I have two Benjamins strappped to my feet.”
Rush began to undress saying, “Now, I’m only going to buy one drink--”
“Drinks are on me,” Nelson said airily.
“My God, Nelson Tolliver,” Rush’s head popped out of the sweater. “You must need
to talk real bad.”
“Sometimes you are so perceptive,” said Nelson. “And the rest of the time you are so

At the bar, Rush said, “Now if this is one of those ‘Nobody understands me things...’ ”
“It’s not,” said Nelson.
Nelson chuckled and shrugged.
“Your uncle said I should come over and visit.”
“Well, thank you so much,” Rush said. “I’m glad my uncle can arrange my social life
for me. Did my uncle also say to buy me drinks and make me wear this sweater--which I
“Firstly. I didn’t mean it like that. Secondly, you only hate it because for some
reason... I don’t know why... you hate to look decent. And thirdly--”
Rush stared at Nelson, who looked at him seriously, and then, out of nowhere, shot
out an index finger, grabbed his nose, and said, “Warnk!”
“And that is exactly why you have so few friends,” Rush went back to drinking.
“I mean,” Nelson said, “I realized that I had made myself scarce lately. I haven’t been
around my friends as much as I should.”
“And now that you got an attack of loneliness you pulled your head out of your ass
and came back to the fold?”
“So to speak. Does that offend you?”
“Not really,” Rush said. “I think a few years ago I would have pretended it did. But
now...? No. So... the women in your life?”
“What women?” Nelson said, too innocently, hunched over his drink.
“The women who have rolled in and out of your bed since you had Batman sheets
and lived upstairs in your parent’s house?”
“Man, you crazy.”
“You went to the ghetto today, didn’t you?”
Nelson grinned at him.
“I’m surprised you didn’t say, ‘F’get you, niggah.’ “
“Keep that shit up, and I might,” Nelson told him. “Hey... did you know about Ara?”
“Your sister? What about her?”
“I think.... I think she and Wave have something going on.” And then Nelson said,
“You did know!”
“Nelson Tolliver, you know my policy. Or maybe you don’t. When I’m friends with a
girl I always make it a point to tell her big brother absolutely nothing.”
“Even if you knew the big brother first?”
“Especially if.”
“Even if you almost slept with the sister?” a crafty look came over Nelson’s face.
“What?” Rush looked at him, taken aback and Nelson said, “My God! To catch you
up short at last!”

James Matthews-- called Rush-- sat beside beside Waverly Austin Blake. Both young men were
in blue blazers and trousers with white shirt and red tie. Rush had a busted lip that he was
holding a damp cloth to, and Waverly had a dark bruise under his left eye. A foot or so to
Waverly’s right sat Greg Ross, also in the uniform of Assisi High School, also the worse for
“Is that all you have to say for youselves?” Mr. Handland asked Waverly and Rush.
“I think we’ve said everything,” Rush told him.
“Well, then prepare for your punishment. All of you--detention for three weeks, and
suspension for fighting-- three days.”
“What?” Rush snapped, while Waverly tried to look stoical. “But that moron over
there started it. When someone hits you, what are you supposed to do.”
“Call the authorities.”
“Oh, my ass! There was no time--” Rush began, but just then they all looked up to see
an earnest, dark skinned young man walk into the room with perfect poise and say, ‘Sir, I am
the attorney for the defense of James H. Matthews--called Rush--and his associate, Waverly
Autsin Blake.”
“Cool!” Wave said, grnning broadly and looking up at Nelson.
“Tolliver, what is this?” Mr. Handland demanded.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of my work, Nelson continued, “starting with Plessy versus
Ferguson and most recently, Roe V. Wade--”
“What?” Rush, looked up the other boy.
“Mock trials,” Nelson said. “But still...”
“Good God,” Rush muttered, and sank into his seat.
“I have yet to loose a case sir, “Nelson was saying to Mr. Handland. “And I would
like right now to point out that my clients, James H. Matthews, and Waverly A. Blake simply
did not have the time to notify the proper authorities.”
“Man, you’re crazy,” Ross interrupted.
But Mr Handland, for some reason suddenly paying attention to Nelson, said, as if
the boy were a real attorney, “We run a Christian school here, and I believe the Christian
mandate is to turn the other cheek.”
“I beleive the Christian mandate,” Rush said, “is not to hit someone in the first
But Nelson said, “Sir, the Christian mandate would be--and this is implied--to defend
your friends when they are attacked, which is what Waverly did.”
Waverly looked as if this were exciting news to him, and said, “Yeah!”
“So, sir,” Nelson smiled brightly, “Whaddo you think?”
Mr. Handland looked at Rush, and said, “Is this one of your Dragonfly stunts?
You’re as bad as your father and his brother.”
“Thank you,” Rush said, smiling smugly. “And yes... It is.”
“Well, Mr Handland said, “It won’t work and-- you’re suspended.”
Rush raised an eyebrow, and then turned non-chalantly to Waverly.
Waverly had gone three shades paler and said, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Outside of the Dean’s office, Nelson Tolliver said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t get you guys off the
Waverly shrugged but Rush said, “It was an admirable attempt. Worthy of a
“A wha--? Oh yeah, your club.”
“The Dragonflies are more than a club,”Rush informed him. “What the Dragonflies
are... this is not to be spoken of lightly. It is a high honor to be Dragonflied. Only a very few
ever enter the elite cricle.”
Waverly looked at Rush with a sober smile and said, “This man ought to be
“Any fifteen year old attorney ought to be Dragonflied,” Rush agreed, and both boys
laid a hand on either of Nelson Tolliver’s shoulders, and that’s how the whole mess of that
friendship began.

The night Monterey learned about his son’s suspension, he and the senior Dragonflies were
sitting around chain smoking, and strategizing while Rush and Waverly looked on.
“I think that son of a bitch Handland did it just because Rush and Wave are
“You think?” said Delorian. “You think! Well, hell, of course he did. That bastard!”
“We better get him back,” Fred said. “Show him the Dragonflies are alive and active.”
He looked to Wave and Rush. “Not just the juniors. I mean the whole operation!”
“And do what?” Monterey said, as ready as anyone for an answer. But realistic.
And then it was Shawn Camden of all people, who said, “We can break into the
They all looked at Shawn, and Shawn, not used to being the ringleader or the
lawbreaker, cleared his throat and said, “Well, if I’m not wrong, back when we were at Assisi,
Handland kept a list of all the students who were on detention. Now we can’t do much about
“I don’t mind,” Rush said.
“Somehow I didn’t think you would,” Monterey told him.
“But,” Shawn continued. “We can steal the detention slips.”
“The slips?” started Wave, but--”
“I’m sure they haven’t changed anything,” Delorian said, “when I was a boy at Assisi,
if you had to serve detention for.... an extended time, then on the detention slip they would
write the number of times it was good for. And then, when the notices for detention were
typed out, your name would be there. A student aid would cross off the number on the slip,
lower it by one, and stick it back in the pile for next week’s detention.”
“We’ve got detention for two months. Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Waverly.
“That’s a pink slip with a thirty. It would get recycled twenty-nine times.”
“You’d think they would computerize it or something,” Fred said.
“I wouldn’t,” Delorian said. “It’s Assisi. And they better not, or else our plan is
“What’s the plan?” said Waverly. Rush was only listening.
“Oh, we break into Dean Handland’s office, and steal you and Wave’s detention
sheets.” Monterey shrugged, and crushed out his cigarette.
“Brilliant!” Wave hooted. “But... but what will Handland do when... we’re not in
“Have you ever been to detention?” Rush demanded. Like every Matthews worth his
salt for three generations, he had served a fair amount of time in detention at Assisi high
“No,” Waverly said.
“Handland isn’t there. Some random teacher is there. Handland makes out those
slips, and then doesn’t even think about it. He’s not thinking about it now.”
“He might check--”
“We’ll steal them again,” Monterey said, and that was the end of that. “How do we
get in?”
“They have some sophisticated alarm system on all the doors,” Rush informed them.
“Who the hell would rob Assisi?” Delorian muttered, and then added, “Besides us?”
“We can climb over the gymnasium, make our way over the asphalt top, and break
into the school through the second floor boy’s bathroom,” Monterey said.
“You scare me sometimes,” Delorian told his brother. “But in that good way.”
“How do we get into Handland’s office?” Shawn asked.
Fred raised a red eyebrow and said, “Leave that to me.”

Two nights later, Nelson Tolliver found himself in the attic of the house on Mernau Street.
There were five adult men in shorts and tee shirts with plastic leis around their necks, though
one--Waverly Blake’s older brother, had it cocked rakishly on his black hair. Rush and
Waverly were solemnly wearing plastic leis, and both were holding their pink detention slips
with the number thirty, written in red and circled, crumpled and wet in their hands.
“Tonight we have come together to add another member to our ancient order,” began
“It’s not exactly ancient,” Fred said, shuffling from foot to foot.
“I just try to give this thing a little dignity, and you have to muck it all up,” Delorian
turned on him.
“Sorry, Dory.”
Delorian cleared his throat again.
“Tonight we have come to--- assembled.... to join to our ancient order a new
Dragonfly who, through wisdom and bravery, rescued our two youngest Dragonflies from
incarceration, unfair persecution, and cruel and unusual punishment.”
“I didn’t really--” Nelson began, but at the look on Delorian’s face, he shut up.
“Nelson Orenthal Tolliver-- is that really your name?”
“Yes, sir,” Nelson nodded.
“I don’t know what your mother was thinking....”
“Now who’s ruing the ceremony?” Monterey said to his brother, who shrugged.
“Nelson Orenthal Tolliver, I hearby do declare you a Dragonfly, and add you to the
elite society by the sign of the Plastic Lei.”
“Here! Here!” they all cried, and Nelson blinked twice, and then Delorian slipped the
plastic flowers over his neck.
“Am I supposed to wear this in public?” Nelson said.
With utter solemnity, Delorian answered, “Only if you never want to make another

IT WAS NOT THAT RUSH CRAMPED HIS STYLE. Nelson had needed to talk to him
anyway. But there was just no way he could play the field when his friend was around. He
was driving home on Angelina when he thought he would have been home a long time ago,
and laid, if not for Rush. Tonight for some reason, there were about a hundred women in
Izmir all easy, all loose, and all in love with RUSH.
And it wasn’t that Rush wasn’t attractive and everything you would want in a man.
Just, Rush wasn’t like Nelson. Rush had never been close to being promiscuous. Rush could
have walked into a free whorehouse, and never been tempted, and women always flocked to
him. Like tonight. And he never seemed to notice.
Except with Ara he noticed.
And Nelson knew that he hadn’t turned Ara down because of her being his sister. It
had been some noble ass Rush Matthews reason, and now--irony of ironies-- Rush would not
be sleeping alone.
In his apartment Nelson Tolliver turned on the stereo, but it wasn’t the jazz he played
for seduciton. And he poured a drink, but it was milk, and he rummaged around in his closet
until he found an old, tattered, plastic lei.
And then he put it on and laughed.

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