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Lagerfeuer

When I learned that Lainie had got the job at Jensen’s Hardware, part of me was happy and part of me was sad. I’d really wanted that job. I left my house that day, and ran into Kate. Well, I didn’t run into to her literally, of course. I knew that she’d be at Mayer’s after lunch. Her shift usually ran either eight o’clock in the morning to four in the afternoon or noon to eight at night. She was there and she siddled up to me and winked. I winked back. We had a good friendship I thought. And she was one of the few kids in school who had never made fun of me. God knows, there were enough of them that did.
“Hey, Martin. What can I get you?”
“How about a cheeseburger and an orange soda?”
“Sure, right away.” She walked towards the back and I watched her. I was half torn between my love for Lainie and a strong attraction to Kate. The girls were so different, I decided I was just weird to find them both attractive. It didn’t occur to me that maybe my thoughts were normal for a guy my age. I was used to finding fault with myself, mostly because of the dyslexia and the teasing I’d got all through school.
Kate brought me my food. I told her that Lainie had got a job at Jensen’s.
“Well, good for her! Give her something for herself, instead of looking after her old man all the time.” As she spoke, Kate lowered her voice and tossed her head towards the back of the restaurant. I saw why as soon as I checked out the room. Lainie’s dad was at a booth with three of his cronies.
The place got busy for a while, and Kate and Mrs. Mayer rushed around, serving customers and cleaning tables.
Then, Mrs. Mayer approached my table. She sat down across from me.
“How are your folks, Martin?”
“They’re doing good, Mrs. Mayer. Mom won at whist the other night.”
Mrs. Mayer smiled at me. She said, “I’m glad to hear that. Her and I have had some bad luck at that game. Too bad I missed that. I was working that night.”
She hesitated, and then spoke again.
“Martin, have you given any thought to what you want to do until college? Are you interested in working?”
“I sure am, Mrs. Mayer. Do you know of some job?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I need someone to work here, cleaning tables and dishwashing. Would you be interested in that?”
“I sure would! When can I start?”
Mrs. Mayer laughed.
“I’m glad to see that you’re enthusiastic. How about tomorrow, from noon to eight?”
“Sure. I’ll be here. Thank you, Mrs. Mayer.”
She took her leave then, and I finished my meal. I was happy. This was just what I needed. Now both Lainie and I had jobs, and maybe the three of us would make it to that party on Friday night.
I sauntered home, and my mom and dad were delighted when I told them my news.

***

I worked, then for a couple of days and then it was Friday. Kate picked up Lainie and I in her new car. It was an older model, but nice to look at. It was red, and as she drove us to the party, Kate said she’d mostly chosen the car because of the color, although her dad had also given her the go ahead when he checked out the mechanics.
Now, we arrived in the parking lot of Stevenson Park, named after the town’s first mayor.
There were a lot of other vehicles there already. Lainie picked up the case of beer we’d brought and I took it from her.
“I’ll be gentlemanly and carry this,” I said.
“Thanks, Martin, but we all know you just want to drink more than us,” said Kate. She grinned so I didn’t feel bad about what she said. Besides, to tell the truth she was right. We were all old enough to drink in our state, and I didn’t mind knocking back a few. I knew that Lainie would have one can at most, while Kate could drink me under the table if she was encouraged.
Joking and chatting, we made our way down the path to the lake. There were about thirty people there already. There were quite a few people gathered around a campfire and some of them were toasting marshmallows or roasting wieners.
Kate excused herself and went off to talk to some of the other girls, while Lainie and I found a seat on a fallen log just out of the way of the fire and its smoke. I opened the case of beer and handed her one, taking one for myself. We each took a sip and smiled at each other. She congratulated me on the new job and I asked her how the work at Jensen’s was going.
Her eyes sparkled, as she said, “Oh, Martin! It’s the best thing to happen to me ever. I love working there. I just wish my dad was pleased. Seems like nothing I do ever makes him proud of me though.”
Kate returned and I had time to hand her a can of beer, before I was grabbed from behind and pulled off the log.
I landed on my butt, and there was laughter. I turned to look as I got up, and saw Jordan, Jeff and Mark. All three were laughing.
As I attempted to stand up, Mark pushed me back down. I spilled my beer.
Jeff said, “Ha, look, Martin can’t hold his beer.” The three of them laughed uproariously at that.
I got to my feet, minus the beer and swung at Jeff. Jeff dodged me, stepping back, and I swung at air. Jordan said, “C’mon guys, let’s go find somebody else to pick on. He’s already lost the beer.”
“No way. I think Martin wants to fight. Do you wanna fight, Martin?” This from Jeff. He loomed over me, a good six inches taller than me.
I swung at his chin. I missed. Jeff swung his arm and it connected with my shoulder. Then he pummeled my chest and then my stomach. I dropped to one knee.
“C’mon guys. Enough.” That was Jordan again. This time the other two listened and they made off towards the fire.
Lainie was crying as she grasped my arm and Kate, taking the other arm helped me stand. “Oh, Martin, I am so sorry,” said Lainie.
“Not your fault,” I said, from behind a fat lip. I wiped at my mouth and my hand came away, bloody.
Kate opened her pocket book and took out a tissue. She handed it to me, and I pressed it against my mouth.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said. “We’ll go back to my place.”
That’s what we did. Lainie and Kate were both shaken up by what had happened, but not me. This was something that had happened to me before, always those three guys, although sometimes there were others. School had been miserable for me because of it.
We had a good time playing video games and finishing the beer.
Kate and Lainie told me that Lainie was going to move in with Kate.
“Say, that’s great. I can see both of you in one shot,” I said somberly.
I don’t know why, but both girls burst into giggles at that. Then I saw the time and I told them I better get going. We said our good byes, and I walked Lainie home and went home myself.
I was depressed for part of the walk, after I saw Lainie to her door. I mulled over the beating I’d got and wondered for the thousandth time just why it was I seemed so likely to attract the bullies in life. Then I started to think about my job at Mayer’s. That was a good thought. It made me smile, and by the time I reached my house I was grinning. Mom and dad were still up, watching a horror movie. I joined them for a while, and then went to bed.
As I fell asleep, I wondered if Lainie’s dad had given her any trouble when she got home. Maybe I should have stayed around for a bit. Little did I know what was brewing at her place.

***

Well, Martin was the main speaker this week. I wonder what’s going on at Lainie’s? I don’t trust that dad of hers at all.

It is a very good thing I read this chapter over before I posted. I had some names all confused and that would have been even more confusing to you, the Reader. All fixed, though – I think.

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