whisper soft the anime

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
a bullied teen confronts his assailant, which brings surprising results.

Submitted: May 12, 2019

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Submitted: May 12, 2019

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Whisper Soft the Anime

By AJ Alexander

 

Thornton lay tight underneath the covers, listening to the sounds of footsteps coming down the hallway. The sun shined from behind the curtains.

The year was 1981. May 4th – a Thursday, to be exact. Thornton never forgot it. His mother threw open the door and began tapping the back of his head, telling him to get up. “Time for school,” she said before leaving.

He heard Father getting ready for work in the master bedroom. The big shot. The bulging briefcase man. He asked Mother if Thornton was awake. She told him he was, but he just lay there under the covers like a scared little rabbit. Remarked how ashamed she was to have a boy like that. His statement of - “Maybe if I take the belt to him a few times, he’ll become a man,” – echoed down the hallway.  Thornton felt Mother smile and nod accordingly.

There was no escape. As his brother bounded down the hall to hugs and high fives, Thornton climbed slowly out of the bed, closed the door to his room and locked it tight. He put a Cars album on the turntable and cranked the volume as Father screamed amidst the racket. Then he slid his tight white underwear down and masturbated, which drove the tension from his body.

He put on a blue t-shirt and pair of dungarees, slipped black Converse over his feet, and walked down the stairs. Mother was in the kitchen making breakfast, conversing with happy brother. Thornton said hello, but no one acknowledged him. Sighing, he snatched a banana and apple from the wicker basket on the counter and walked out of the house.

May as well get it over with, he thought.  

Thick black hair covered the length of his forehead as the wind picked up. Three houses down, Carl stood in the driveway. Thornton waved as he went by, and Carl nodded before climbing into his Nissan 280Z. Usually, Carl gave Thornton a ride to school, at least to the bus stop. But not today; Carl knew better. He didn’t wanna see his friend get his head bashed in.

The football players had been eager to put a beating on Thornton ever since he defended himself from a blindsided attack, when one of the boys pushed him down, and dragged him the length of the gymnasium amid howls of laughter from onlookers. That’s when Thornton – sinewy, scared of his shadow, mood stabilized Thornton – escaped that boy’s grasp and stood up for himself. Thornton beat him so bad, he put that kid in the hospital. His parents were livid, of course, and wouldn’t listen to explanation. “This is a nice neighborhood,” Mother told him. “Your father worked hard to get us here. It’s not the city – people expect you to act a certain way. We’ll not be embarrassed, young man!” Then she walked out of the room as Dad locked the door and beat him with the strap. It wasn’t nearly as bad as listening quietly at the kitchen table hearing them bemoan what a loser he was to each other over dinner.

The football players knew this, of course, so retribution was nil. There was nothing to fear.  

The wind blew harder as storm clouds gathered overhead. Thornton’s heart beat wildly as he passed the first boy’s home, where six foot four and two hundred fifty pounds of muscle awaited him on the curb. He winced noticeably as the boy approached him.  

Fear capitulated an inept response as he retrieved the banana from his backpack. Thornton flinched as the pigskin god snatched it away. He then reached for a cigarette, but the boy took that, too. As they approached the second house his tormentor waved to the next fella – a six foot, two hundred pound bemouth who slapped the back of Thornton’s head as they sandwiched him. They laughed as Thornton began hyperventilating.

Moose and Barry were waiting with the crowd at the bus stop when the third player approached from behind and - as he’d done in the gym - shoved Thornton to the ground. Getting up without saying a word, he assumed his place among the trio. Barry whispered something to Moose that made Thornton smile. He felt better after that. And as they approached, the players backed off. “You can do this,” Barry told him. “Remember - you’re like a wild man when backed into a corner. Put one down, and the rest will take off.”

But Moose wasn’t so sure. “They’re gonna beat you senseless,” he told his friend. “Go down on the first punch, then cover up ‘til it’s over.”  Thornton bit his nails furiously as he listened.

The crowd grew restless as a torrent of rain began falling. The players began circling, taking turns hitting and pushing him. It was a slow, methodical dance; with nothing to fear, with no one standing in their way – and with Thornton’s Dad accelerating out of sight as he passed the crowd of teenagers – they wanted to savor the moment. They wanted to show Thornton, and anyone who was watching, what happens when their autonomy is challenged.

They picked up the pace with a forceful shove that had Thornton land on his back against a large rock. He wailed loudly as he flipped over, cupping it in his hand. They pulled him up and turned him, ready to end it. That’s when Thornton smashed the rock against the biggest one’s head. As he fell, the two remaining boys froze, unable to contemplate what happened. Thornton seized the opportunity and dug a left hook into the second boy’s ribcage. As he doubled over, Thornton hit him over the head with the rock, too. The third one ran away. And the crowd was eerily silent as the bus drew near. Barry was beside himself with joy; Moose was stunned, like everyone else, but grateful his friend survived.

Word of the fight spread through the school like wildfire. Some folks were calling Thornton a hero for standing up for himself. Others called him a coward for fighting with a weapon. Thornton didn’t care for the attention; all he wanted to do was get back to his room, where he’d be safe until his parents came home. But when New Jersey State Troopers entered the cafeteria, Thornton knew he wouldn’t be going home that night.

They kept him in a cell full of bad men. Thornton stymied in a far corner, biting his nails and trying not to make eye contact with anyone. His parents were in the courtroom when they took him in shackles to stand before the judge. He made bail, and an hour later was on his way home. No one spoke a word on the ride back. Father’s eyes told him all he needed to know.

When Thornton saw Grand Pop’s Chevy Nova in the driveway, a large smile came across his face, which angered Father to no end. They entered the house and joined the rest of the family - which included his younger brother, grandmother, two uncles and an aunt - around the kitchen table. And everyone talked about Thornton in the third person, as if he wasn’t even there.

Grand Pop, however, was quick to defend him. “What was he supposed to do, with three against one?” he asked them. But nobody paid attention. Grand Pop, like Thornton, they felt was a bit off. Mother wondered aloud whether or not they’d have to sell the house, while the aunt and uncles spoke with dread about their dealings with the courts of New Jersey. Younger brother ate a bowl of cereal while cheerfully completing his algebra - and all the while, Father put on a sympathetic, smiling face, only to glare at his oldest son whenever no one was watching.

Thornton, of course, never said a word.  

He went home with Grand Pop and stayed there until the trial. Barry called a few times. Said he was sorry his parents wouldn’t let him come. What can he do, right? Thornton said he understood. He was happy staying at Grand Pop’s. It was almost like camp, he told him.

And it was; the next two months were the most pleasant of Thornton’s life. He was taught how to use tools, woodwork, paint - all the things he wanted to learn, but Father said was useless. Just get good grades, go to college, graduate and get a job making lots of money – for money, Father said, makes every other problem disappear. Thornton may have complied, too, even if he didn’t believe it – which he didn’t, of course. But it’s very hard to do when each day’s spent trying to stay alive. Thornton loved what he learned, though, and was as skilled with tools as anyone by the time the trial arrived.

It took less than two weeks to find the seventeen year old guilty of aggravated assault, for the testimony was extremely damaging. Very hard to control at home, Father said. Brooding and a loner, the schoolteacher said. Mother whined incessantly how she couldn’t believe this was happening, and was very, very sorry for what the other boy and his family were going through. And the tormentors, in their turn, lied about how Thornton, like a wild man, came at them while they waited for the school bus. The jury flinched noticeably when they wheeled the biggest boy into the courtroom.

As the young man stood before the judge awaiting his sentence, he turned and smiled at his grandfather, who sat in tears behind him - and screamed bloody murder when Thornton was sentenced to fifteen years in the state penitentiary like it was a trip to Six Flags. “The world will not tolerate men like you,” the judge said sternly, “and neither will this court.”  The officers led Thornton out of the courtroom as the judge adjourned them for the day.

Thornton was beaten severely on the bus to prison. He spent his first two weeks in the infirmary before being taken to his cell.

James Thornton Winslow III - the sinewy, thick haired, nail bitten young boy once afraid of his own shadow - was released from Rahway State Prison on January 17th, 2000, almost nineteen years after they put him behind bars. The young man they put away, however, no longer existed. He’d been replaced by a five eleven, one-hundred ninety pound, tattooed wildebeest by the name of Jimmy T-Bone. Stories of Jimmy T-Bone abounded through the hallowed halls of the Rahway prison system – everything from being raised by jungle men of the Amazon to having killed six people with his bare hands before he was fifteen. Even some guards were loath to have to deal with him; they remarked how they thought Jimmy fileted a fella who was raping his asshole ‘like a T-bone on a meat wagon,’ hence his nickname. Out of all the stories about Jimmy, however, that one was true; he was beaten and sodomized several times over the years, before shanking one of his assailants trying to defend himself. They added years to his sentence for that one.

However, once people got off his back, and he was no longer afraid of things, Jimmy made good use of his time. He lifted weights - he worked with tools, of course - and he earned his Doctorate in Psychology, with an affinity for Jungian Analysis with respect to dream interpretation. He left the system as one its ‘model’ citizens.

Upon his release, Jimmy was taken to a halfway house in Hoboken. And after a few weeks, he landed a job as a short order cook at a diner within walking distance. His specialty, of course, was T-Bones. To the chagrin of the owner, other released inmates lined the counter, watching as Jimmy cooked.

Jimmy met Darla Darlymple, his future wife, at that diner. She worked as a waitress while her son bussed tables after school. And after losing his heterosexual virginity at the age of thirty-three, T-Bone fell in love. Darla was quite content and supportive of her gentle giant, and John, her son, took a liking to him immediately.

But life wasn’t easy. First, they had to contend with Jimmy serving out his parole in the halfway house, which took nearly three years to complete. Jimmy was plagued with nightmares from prison and his youth, which made his sleep almost nonexistent. And money was an issue, too; all of them worked overtime to keep a roof over Darla and John’s heads until Jimmy’s parole was up, and he was allowed to finally join them. And though Jimmy was now father to young John, he had many ordinary things to learn, like driving a car and handling money and balancing a checkbook, which at times made him feel like Darla’s illegitimate kid and not her soon to be husband.

But things changed quickly once Jimmy grasped the concept of life on life’s terms. He took a job as a fitness instructor and, with his family’s encouragement, moonlighted weekends as a psychiatric intern at a local hospital. Darla found a job as a receptionist after John went to college. And two years later, Jimmy was given an opportunity to work as a psychologist at Kennedy Hospital in Cherry Hill – the last place James Thornton Winslow III was seen alive. He was thrilled at the opportunity.

Even still, he continued having those nightmares.

The family purchased a house and relocated, happy to leave the slums of Hoboken behind them. It was a large, older home which highlighted Jimmy’s skills with tools. It was perfect when finished, she told her husband, and soon, they settled into the nest of idyllic, middle class tranquility; Jimmy walked the dog and waved hello to his neighbors, while Darla watched tv as she made their dinner. John would visit on breaks from school, and the three would enjoy movies, or dining on the local fare. And on May 4th, 2011 – thirty years to the day Jimmy’s life changed forever, he partnered with Dr. Mayer Sloan, a psychiatrist in private practice in need of a psychologist with Jimmy’s qualifications. Together, they built one of the largest practices in the state. Sometime after that John married, and he and his wife gave Jimmy a grandson.  The newlyweds purchased a house a short distance away. Arm in arm, he and Darla smiled as they hovered over the crib of this latest addition to the family.

Somehow, it call came together, he thought to himself. Somehow, he found the people he needed, and discovered the true meaning of selflessness, tolerance, patience and love. And he was very, very happy.

Dr. James Winslow died in his sleep of a heart attack on June 8, 2018. He was fifty-five years old. And not a sliver of the boy, nor the man the system produced, was visible from the well-dressed corpse lying peacefully in the casket. It was almost as if Thornton and Jimmy T-Bone never existed.

Pastor Gregory McClure gave Winslow’s eulogy. McClure was the football player who’s head Jimmy bashed with a rock. He’d been in a wheelchair ever since that fateful day in 1981.

For years, he told the crowd of shocked mourners, he blamed ‘the bug eyed little faggot’ for beating him half to death. And he blamed his parents, who were too busy fighting with their careers to be concerned with him, which led to all those outbursts he leveled on Thornton and others like him. Even bullies have their background stories, he told them with a smile. And his was one of rage and neglect.

Greg was the epitome of everything his father wanted him to be – something Thornton, he said, went to great lengths to avoid. McClure never wanted to play football, but his father insisted; his dad played ball in college, just as his father before him. But Greg, though very tall, was a naturally scrawny kid, unlikely to follow in dear old Dad’s footsteps. Until one day Dad brought home those weights and stuck ‘em in the basement. He insisted Greg work out repeatedly - until the tall, lanky kid was replaced by the young man Dad could be proud of.

Football came easy despite his resistance, and soon he had a bright collegiate future ahead of him. With a little more work, coach told him, he might even have a shot at the pros. But he hated the man staring back at him through the mirror. Even worse, whenever Thornton wandered by, whatever frustrations he couldn’t take out on the field he took out on him. For years, he terrified that poor boy. He punched him, hit him, and kicked him. He took his food at lunch. He spit at him, tripped him, tore up his homework. And he pestered him mercilessly whenever in class or on the bus.

McClure never spoke up at the trial, he said, because Dad insisted, viewing his son as nothing more than ‘a wimp and a loser’ for letting such a ‘fucked up, bug eyed little faggot’ destroy the wonderful life Dad worked so diligently for him to achieve.

And this was how Thornton was placed on the path, which eventually led him to the life he was granted.

McClure remained bitter for years; he took to drinking, drugs, and gambling mercilessly, rolling through life like shit through a tin horn. He wandered aimlessly about the country in that patchwork of a wheelchair, finding himself on the low end of the spectrum everywhere he went. Grateful disability took care of rent, food, and medical expenses, he nevertheless wasted years of his life in a kind of morbid, putrid state, until one day he awoke in a dumpster behind a truck stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico, with little recollection of what happened or how he even got there. That’s when he phoned his mother, who begged him to return to Jersey.

Greg got sober upon his return. He took a job as an office manager for a cell phone company and, though not very happy about it, got his head above water. He got an apartment, and purchased a car especially outfitted for handicapped people to drive. Yet despite his successes, he continued to struggle. Periodic relapses became all too common. So, at his boss’s insistence, upon his return to AA meetings, McClure went to see a shrink – and that shrink turned out to be none other than James Winslow, the very man responsible for his condition.

From there, a dialogue between the two began. McClure laid out his life as it been until that moment, all the while Winslow listening intently, and offering condolences whenever he felt it right to do so. It was obvious McClure swam neck deep in a sea of self-pity, the likes of which would kill him should he not learn to tread his way steadily back to shore. Winslow was sure he could help him, however, and was committed to doing just that.

That’s when McClure - who purchased a gun intent on killing the good doctor - finally heard Thornton’s stories of rape, murder, and the loss of family and friends while incarcerated, evolving over several sessions and culminating in the good life he’d been blessed with in the years after his release. He was certain he could help McClure achieve the same, he said. The doctor was particularly adept at identifying certain feminine aspects of the male psyche and its subconscious, something he said most patients struggle with when believing their masculinity’s threatened or in decline. However, such identification was instrumental in bringing those people to harmony, and a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

And so the man who was sent away, in part, by the false testimony of the other man, was now tasked with getting the life of that same man back on track. “Whisper soft the anime,” he told McClure as they shook hands at the end of one of their sessions.

Something about that resonated with the pastor. “What was that?” McClure asked him.

“Oh, nothing…just something I’d say to myself during all those years locked away. They used to call me Jimmy T-Bone,” he told him with a laugh, “and everybody – including myself - thought I’d get out and lead a life of crime before winding up back in the joint.”

“Why didn’t you?” McClure asked him curiously.

Winslow smiled. “I felt the touch of the anime,” he told him matter-of-factly. “That aspect of a man which is feminine, soft, and very nurturing. It was the mother I never had, the one which couldn’t protect me from the whims of a devilish father. It told me not to give up. And I didn’t.”

McClure found God that moment, he told the mourners. And in a flash, though nothing had changed, everything had changed. And over the next few months the men met regularly. McClure studied theology online and earned his degree while working at the phone store, which he accomplished with bubbling enthusiasm. He met a woman and married. Though at times he wanted to quit, as feelings of deep resentment consumed him, he’d listen to the whispers of the anime and forge on, confident the Unseen Hand was his guide. And it worked.

Pastor Greg knew what he did to Winslow he could never repair. Often, he wanted to turn himself into the authorities – and he almost did, until his wife convinced him otherwise. He said he was going to tell Winslow who he really was the week he died.  

“So tonight,” he said as the parishioners bowed their heads, ‘we’ll listen for the soft whisper of the anime, knowing the voice of our Lord stirs within its soulful cry, and thank Him for giving us the time to know one of His truly great servants.” And with that, the eulogy concluded, and the crowd slowly dispersed – amazed, to say the least, but grateful for what they’d heard.

The rain came by late afternoon, the torrent of thunder and lightning early in the evening. Gone was the sympathetic setting of the funeral, the bright sun and the twinkling of roses within its yellow bosom. Later that night, as the storm tore through darkened skies, as he jotted down notes for an upcoming sermon in the small church office, a knock on the door interrupted him. It was Darla Winslow. McClure stopped what he was doing and ushered her in. “What can I do for you, Darla?” he asked the grieving widow.

The diminutive woman sat in a chair, grasping at her purse as she spoke. “I just wanted to tell you my husband knew who you were,” she said to him. “After the eulogy, I thought I should tell you that much.”

The pastor frowned as he leaned in his chair. “Do you know why he didn’t tell me?” he asked.

“He didn’t want you to know, Pastor,” she replied. “He thought it would hurt our chances for doing what had to be done.”

A confused look overcame him.  “I’m not sure I understand.”

Her voice was a bit louder now. “Jimmy never got over what happened to him in that prison,” she said.

“But I thought…”

“I know what he told you,” she said emphatically. “But I’m here to tell you my husband suffered horrible, terrible nightmares - even in death, they haunt him now, I’m sure of it. He was just a boy when they sent him away – when YOU sent him away, Pastor. I wanted you to know that, too.”

“But why didn’t he tell me…confront me about it?” he demanded to know. “I’d have been happy to offer any act of contrition he felt he deserved.”

“What would you have told him, Pastor?” she asked empathetically. “I ask you – what could you have said or done?” She drew a heavy sigh as she continued. “No, he wanted to help you, just not for the reasons you thought…You see, Pastor, you took away everything that ever meant anything to Jimmy; in fact, the only reason he got a degree in psychology was so that maybe, one day, he’d find a way to stop these terrible, horrific dreams that kept him lying in pools of sweat whenever they came to visit him. Oh, how Jimmy whimpered and sobbed like a little girl sometimes, even as big as he was. There was no calling for him, Pastor. It was despair that drove my Jimmy. Nothing but a desperate, vain attempt to find a way out of the hell he spent his life trying to escape from. He was such a gentle, sweet soul. Still the little boy you and your friends beat on whenever you had the chance. Jimmy never grew up, Pastor - and he never got over what you and those other boys did to him.”

His mouth opened about to respond when John entered the room, and locked the door behind him. That’s when Pastor McClure saw the gun in Darla’s hand. He was sweating now, his hands shaking, as he spoke, which made Darla and John smile. “Remember him as a gentle man,” he begged her, “and please don’t do this to me. I have a wife and family now. I have a real life.”

“That’s what my father wanted you to have,” John told him. “We certainly couldn’t kill you the way he found you, could he? There’d be no justice in that.”

“But now you have something to lose,” Darla said as she held the gun steady. “An eye for an eye – isn’t that right, Pastor?”

“Whisper soft the anime,” McClure muttered as he lowered his head.

It made Darla laugh. “Come again?” she asked him, grinning.

He took his head out from his knees. “Yes. The anime. The feminine side of masculine subconscious. It was the basis for most of James’s…um, Jimmy’s… practice in treating his male patients.”

“It’s also my middle name,” she told him, still grinning, still pointing the gun.

“What?”

“Annamae – it’s my middle name. Darla Annamae Winslow. I used to talk in my sleep, Pastor… Whisper soft the Annamae? That was just Jimmy’s way of saying be quiet when you sleep, Darla. He couldn’t bear to think I was suffering the same way he did.”  

And she and John laughed and laughed, maniacally, fiendishly, while McClure slumped in shame and awaited his fate.  He screamed when they fired a warning shot, which brought them to hysterics. Then Darla steadied the gun and pointed it straight at McClure’s head. There’d be no missing him.

And a tepid whisper escaped his lips, as the sound of the blast, mixed with their fiendish cries, rung loudly in his ears…

McClure shot out of bed just as Mother came into the room. “Time for school,” she said as her head poked out from the entrance.

He looked about as if seeing the place for the first time. Mother noticed, but was late for work, and left him to get ready. He could hear his parents arguing in their bedroom as she put on her makeup. It wasn’t unusual; they argued all the time. It bothered McClure to no end. Divorce, he and his siblings knew, was imminent. They almost welcomed the idea.

Greg’s anger reached a boiling point as he dressed. Then the phone rang. It was his buddies. They called to remind him what they were gonna do to Thornton. He hung up the phone and made his way to the breakfast table. Father walked into the kitchen without saying a word. By now, Greg was consumed with rage. But he was frightened, too.

And maybe, for the first time in his life, reality had come to pay him a visit.  

Father stormed out of the house as Mother made her way down the stairs. Greg was just about to follow suit when he heard her voice commanding him to stop in his tracks. He turned to face her as an angry scowl slowly covered his face. But she was insistent as she pulled the wooden chair away from the kitchen table. “Get your butt in this chair now, young man!” she told him firmly.

Greg did as he was told, and Mother sat down beside him, smiling as she wiped the wisps of blonde hair away from his brow, which took him by surprise. “You know, Greg,” she said in a soothing, deliberate tone, “I know what’s been going on. And I know what you and the other boys are planning to do at the bus stop this morning.”

“But mom…” he started, trying to manufacture a lie.

But she held her hand to his lips, a ‘ssshhh’ emulating from her own. “Now, don’t try and tell me different, Greg. I spoke to Mrs. Harlow, and her son told her all about it. Then she told me.” She took her fingers away from Greg’s lips, and put her hands politely in her lap. “Now listen…I know how you’ve been feeling lately, what with your father and I fighting and yelling at each other all the time. And I’m sorry about that; we shouldn’t let our differences interfere with the task of raising and loving our kids the best way we know how. And we have. And I feel awful about it, Greg, I really do.” She took a deep breath as she continued. “But you can’t take your frustrations out on other kids by pounding them to a pulp just because you’re able to. You have to find other ways to deal with your emotions.”

Tears formed in Greg’s eyes as he struggled to find his thoughts, at which point Mother pulled him close and held him tight, whispering softly it was okay while gently rubbing his back. And after a while he pulled away, drying his eyes so he could look at her. “I thought you and dad forgot about us,” he told her. “I didn’t think we mattered…”

“Of course you matter, darling!” she exclaimed. Then she looked at her watch and sighed once more. “Now look it – I’m late for work. We’ll talk about this later when I get home…but I promise you, Greg,” she said as she stood, “things are going to be different from here on out. Understand, son?”

Greg nodded as he managed a smile. He hugged her again before standing up – all six foot four, two hundred fifty pounds of him - then headed for the door. He had a sudden thought as he grasped the brass knob. “Mom?” he said over his shoulder.

“Yes, honey,” she called from the kitchen, pausing her application of lipstick. “What do you need?”

“Um…if it’s okay by you…can you give a friend of mine a ride to school on your way to work?”

Mrs. McClure looked down at her purse and smiled, understanding her son’s request immediately. “Have him meet me in the driveway!” she shouted as he closed the front door behind him.

He stood at the edge of the lawn as Thornton came walking nervously down the street. As Greg approached, the kid nearly jumped out of his skin. Greg took him by the arm and stopped him. And, as thunder ripped overhead, as the wind blew harder, as the sky darkened like night, the football player stared into the eyes of the sinewy, frightened teenager and smiled, quickly releasing his grip. “Stay put,” he told him, “and wait for my mom to come out of the house.” Thornton’s eyes grew wide with fright as Greg shook his head and frowned. “She’s gonna give you a ride to school, Thornton…don’t worry, it’s not a trick,” he assured him.

Thornton stood silent as a shaking feeling enveloped. Overcome with a combination of relief and uncertainty, as the rain beat upon them, he finally mustered the courage and asked his tormentor, “Why have you been doing this, Greg? I never did anything to you…”

“I know,” he told him sympathetically. “It’s hard to explain…but I used to think no one gave a shit, Thornton – just like you, buddy. And I was wrong. We both were. And now, I’m gonna prove it.”

Though he was still skeptic, Thornton did as he was told; and sure enough, McClure’s mother came out of the house, motioning for him to join her as Greg rounded the corner and disappeared from sight. He climbed into the car, shut the door, then pulled the seat belt across his chest. She quickly checked her features in the mirror, then turned the key as she flipped on the wipers and smiled. “Must be nice not having to stand out in all this rain, waiting for the bus, huh?” she remarked.

Thornton smiled sheepishly as he stared straight ahead. “Yes, yes it is…Um, thank you for the ride, Mrs. McClure,” he said.

“Call me Annamae,” she answered, as she pulled out of the driveway.


© Copyright 2020 AJ Alexander. All rights reserved.

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