Table of Contents for the "Hole" Story

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Here is where more text or an image goes.

Keep Me Whole Until Morning

Chapter 17 -- Family of Choice, but Whose Choice?Edit

After lunch, the campus was not so dead. Even the swimming pool had hours, and I needed to think, though whenever I say that, my thoughts just swim. At least they could swim along with my body. I was glad I had a fairly reliable and smart partner for chemistry lab even though this was honors chem so everyone would be hard working and have something on the ball. I considered that an advantage. I did not think about students just passing through. Instead I thought of my mother's college stories and my dad's college stories too. They told lots of them. I think they were happiest during their long romance at Cornell.

I thought about Aaron and was glad he was in Honors College and going to learn Chinese. He had been smart. We had been the only two French 4 and AP French literature students not to use translations or ponies to do our work. I pictured Aaron going off to China to make tons of money.

I thought of Kerry. She was likeable and honest. I could overlook her taste in art and food. She was a leader or maybe an honest small town woman with a sense of responsibility for neighbors. I remembered the way she rounded up all the stray and lonely students Friday night.

Then I thought about Ranier. Why would his family be the least bit afraid of me? Why did they treat Shasta like dirt? Why did Shasta put up with it? I tried to think of what weird things went on behind closed doors in Boisie City at the heart of what had once been the Great Dust Bowl.

Thinking of Ranier of course made me think of Moses. His crippled and scarred image crowded into my brain as I flip turned and swam yet another lap of breast stroke. What had gone on behind closed doors in Boisie City was not one bit strange to me or was it. I climbed out of the pool. The warm air still made my skin prickle with cold.

I dressed as quickly as I could and headed over to Kaufman. If I hid somewhere safe, I could work and maybe get rid of the weird feelings gnawing it me. My imaginary fear remided me of the curses in Deuteronomy or Devarim if you prefer. Your enemy will pursue you one way and you will flee seven ways or you'll flee at nothing. That was me.

Fortunately, I was able to lose myself in my work, and emerged around 5:30pm. This was later than I hoped but I was not used to early dinner. True, the people who would go to evening church, which probably included my roommate, were probably gone, but I would not mind eating alone. I walked back to Couch and made my way to the salad bar. This was my lucky night. There were artichokes, actually quartered chokes either marinated or canned on the salad bar. I got a bowl and began to extract the chokes from their small bucket. I know a delicacy when I see one.

"What are those?" a female voice asked. That voice belonged to Shasta Godwin.

"I think they are artichokes," commented Ranier.

"They're very good," I told Shasta who was fast turning into "poor Shasta" through no fault of her own. Shasta made a face. "Here have some," I offered. Shasta's face became a wince and then a look of disapproval. "You're taking almost the whole thing," she complained. "They'll put out more," Ranier assured her. "I'll stick with the potroast," he told me. "Want to come eat with us?"

I couldn't think of a reason not to so I went along with it. I asked Ranier where we should meet and then headed off to the vegetation station for a hot entree to eat with my artichokes, black olives, and cherry tomatoes with Caesar dressing. I hoped they had something decent, but I could always have a sandwich. You can always fix yourself a sandwich in Couch. There's just no egg salad, but egg salad does not exist in Oklahoma. "Oh you aren't in New York any more," I sing songed mentally to myself.

We sat under the burgundy and white banner with the football players in leather helmets, now long dead, staring down from a fading reproduction of a fading black and white photo. "So what did you do today?" Ranier slipped into interrogation mode. "Shot pool and went swimming," I said. If Ranier could figure out by my body language that I was lying, I did not owe him the whole truth.

"Pool and billards are fun," commented Ranier. "I can't believe I'm in class with so many people I know," he sighed. "I thought this school would be so big and impersonal. To tell the truth, I was just a little afraid, but now I see I'm in calculus with Rimona and psych with Shasta, and economics with Aaron from Tulsa. It feels good. I'm a lot less scaird now."

"I'm still scaird," commented Shasta who toyed with her roast chicken. Ranier took a forkful of gravy covered potato. I had tofu pasta casserole and beets and carrots which were surprisingly good.

"It's got to get better," Ranier purred. Away from his family, Ranier could manage to be almost nice. Maybe he actually could be loving, and face it, my own mother got irritated by Zeke's lack of wayfinding skills. The whole executive ability thing was learned just like wayfinding. It would take Shasta time to catch up.

Shasta gave up on her chicken. "The food here is disgusting," she sighed. Her blue eyes looked either hurt or angry. I don't read faces particularly well. "Why don't you try the Vegetation Station?" I asked. Shasta made a face. "Get a burger," Ranier gave better advice, "or fix yourself a sandwich." Shasta settled on a bowl of Apple Jacks, and later some cheese cake. "You're so good about food," Shasta complained to me.

"Let Rimona alone," Ranier was no longer nice. "She drinks sugared soda every chance she gets. She's also a different ethnic group and spent most of her life in another part of the country. She's eating foods she is probably used to. There's nothing virtuous in what she eats."

"Thanks Ranier," I sputtered. "I'm just trying to set it straight," he sighed. "You'll feel better about Norman after you've been here a week. Just give it some time. It's hard being homesick. Just because I don't feel it as much as you doesn't mean I don't sympathize."

I'd been too angry when I left the house on Wildwood to care about being homesick and when I went to Oklahoma I was...all right I was scaird, but my fear evaporated during the long summer as Mom and I sat in school board office insisting on my visiting status at Midland for the courses I could not get at Eastern. Seeing Mom look out for me without resentment healed a lot of the rift between us. Having my freedom to explore a new place and being valued as a navigator and runner of errands healed the rest.

I had shallow roots these days and no fear of moving around. I liked the University of Oklahoma. I liked most of the people I met. I liked being in a new town. No, I could not sympathize. I also thought: "People complain about the food, when they have much deeper complaints."

I watched Shasta scrape the pie strawberries off her cheesecake. That was sacriledge. People ate cheesecake to get the fruity topping or filling. Shasta scraped expertly. "Why don't you give those strawberries to Rimona," Ranier told Shasta who got up to find a small saucer into which to put them. I glanced at Ranier. "Got any apples left?" he asked. "Three of them?" I answered.

Shasta gave me the berries. They were sweet and good. "I have an idea," Ranier suggested. "Let's stay in touch all through the semester. Let's eat together as much as we can, and let's bring our friends we make from other classes. That way we'll be more like family and this big place will be less lonely." I imagined myself in the back of Harmony and Uncle Chananaiah's SUV and felt my stomach converge around my food. I nodded but Ranier must have read something in my confounded body language.

"No one is going to take away your freedom, Rimona, but you need people too. Everyone does. This is going to be social networking like on Facebook but in the flesh. How about it?"

I agreed. I had my place to hide in Kaufman if it came to that and besides, I did not think Biscuit Boy and Kerry would get along and Ghost would sooner or later fight with some of the Christian girls. Ranier's plan for one big, happy family was sure to fail because face it, we all know such things don't exist in reality.

I did not think of Moses until I was on my way to the library after dinner. I went with Kerry to take a last minute promotional tour and to get me in the academic spirit. I was not sure what I wanted to tell Moses Wolfe on Wednesday. There was little I could tell him that would not pour gasoline on the fire of the drama that had followed Moses, Ranier, and Shasta from Boisie City to Norman. I was sure of course that Moses could never be part of Ranier's big, happy, family.

Chapter 18 -- Some are Just Passing ThroughEdit

I found the raisin bowl on the small shelf by the cereals. Some considerate kitchen worker had replaced it with a huge commercial sized bin of raisins. Someone beside me, I thought, must start their mornings with several handfuls of raisins on their cereal. This morning I had Wheat Chex instead of Shredded Wheat. The cereal in boxes collection was fantastic. Couch never disappointed.

I carried my breakfast over to the "training table," where the breakfasting boys gathered. Yes, Ranier, was there. Oddly enough though, I liked a social breakfast. "If you eat all that sugar, why don't you just get a Cinabon like the rest of the girls do?" it was Ghost who made the comments. Oddly enough, this misogynistic upper class boy had found his way to the training table and boys, being hospitable souls, did not tell him to take his rude ass elsewhere.

"Because Rimona likes fruit not cake," Ranier explained. "What kind of cereal do you have?"

"What does it look like?" I imagined Ranier and Ghost in a room tearing into each other. The thought was oddly pleasing.

"Hmmm...some kind of Chex or Crispix?"

"Wheat Chex," I replied. Ranier did not know his cereals.

Ranier had miroeconomics first period. I had English. The course was called Politics in Shakespeare and dealt mainly with his plays about kings, princes, wars. I groped around for a name of plays like that. I had seen the syllabus last night because Kerry and I are in the same course, and she likes to be prepared. I had our first play with us. It was something called King John, who from what I gathered was the bad King John in the Robin Hood story. I'd checked him out on Wikipedia and realized he had lost some land in France for England which is probably why people hated him as a King. Losing wars and conquered territory expletive deleteds. The United States after all never lost any conquered territory unless you count a sphere of influence in Vietnam the generation before I was born.

I mused on this as I took my place in a stuffy classroom with close to thirty students. Somehow the professor had overenrolled the course. That meant a few students perched on window sills or stood against the wall. A football player the size of a Sherman Tank got up and very chivalrously gave his seat to Kerry who blushed as she took it. I snagged a spot on the radiator and then realized I could not see the board. Coying anything from a distance is difficult for me, due to my eye muscles. My solution throughout school has been to get down near the front of the room.

I walked toward the first row. Often seats are not taken there, but every chair desk had a butt in it. I found an area off to the side to sit on the floor. People stared. I stared back. The professor had curly hair and looked disorganized. He talked about Shakespeare's Europe and the Renaissance. It was an interesting speech. Then he asked us each to write down on a piece of paper who we were and what we hoped to get out of the course. The idea of taking an English course that was in part a history course tickled me. That is sort of what I wrote.

I don't know what Kerry or any body else wrote. When class let out, students stood around the hall in clumps. Kerry went to talk to the professor to clarify something. The Sherman Tank looked around. A very tall (and I mean taller than Kerry and probably over six feet in her stocking feet but beautifully statuesque) blond woman walked up to him. They must have known eachother either through first glances or because they came from the same home town.

"I never heard of this King John play!" the tall girl blurted out, her voice thick with the local drawl. "I thought when I signed up for Shakespeare we were going to things like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. We had some of those in high school so I figured I knew all about Shakespeare."

"Well," Sherman Tank. "These professors just like to make a name for themselves by picking out something weird and boring. We'll get through it."

"I'm thinking of dropping this course and taking Personal Writing."

"You can't take Personal Writing."

"How come?"

"My roommate tried to get into it and its full."

"That sucks!"

"Somebody didn't read the course description," Kerry told me softly.

"What'd you say?" asked Tall Girl. Apparently Kerry hadn't said her lashon hara softly enough.

"I said that the description for the course says it deals with Shakespeare's histories. Now Romeo and Juliet is not a history, and Hamlet takes place in a somewhat mythical version of Denmark."

"Why don't you teach this course?" sneered Tall Girl.

"Easy Tessa," Sherman Tank said, trying to make peace. We ducked and emerged into a lovely hot day. I took a walk and then joined Kerry in the library where she had walled herself into a carrel. I was glad when it got near lunch time. Kerry worried about being late and wanted to lunch in the Union. I worried about my meal plan points and returned to Couch.

After lunch, Biscuit Boy (aka Andrew) and I high tailed it to chemistry lecture which started out with pressures and gases and gas laws. This wasn't bad stuff, and I had practiced a bit with a college level chemistry book over the summer to be up to speed. Chemistry had been my favorite high school subject and t the moment was my secret prospective major.

By 2:45pm, my academic day was through. I went for a swim, had dinner, and found a place to hole up in one of the study rooms off the lounge. So far, I was only carrying half a load, I reminded myself. Things were going to get harder.

At the other end of the study lounge table sat Ghost who was reading over something that interested him. He got up to get a soda from the machines and returned staring in the doorway. "Come on Rimona," he coaxed me. "You don't have that much to do."

"What business is it of yours?" I thought.

"You have to see what's going on out on the front lawn."

I followed Ghost out and expected to see a fight. Instead I saw an argument. Ranier and Shasta were having it out in front of an audience that had the good sense to stand against a pillar so as to stay out of the direct line of sight. I too found a pillar.

"It's not that far! Why can't you take me home tonight? I'm worried about my Mom!" Shasta was almost in tears.

"Because I have courses to study and work to do and you have to settle in. They only gave us the weekend and I got stuck entertaining family."

"You selfish pig! Ranier, don't you know how hard it is for Mom having me away! What if the Wolves threaten her?"

"Wolves," I thought and then I remembered Moses.

"Ranier, I'm scaird!"

"Shasta, my family will protect your mother. Now come on, let's get a study room inside."

"Do you think I can study! This is just the first night of classes and homework isn't due until next week."

"This isn't high school, Shas."

Ghost had seen enough, and frankly so had I. Andrew had found a seat at our table and no one booted him out. "I'm glad my roommate is not that guy," Andrew commented about Ranier. "Boy what a ball and chain," he referred to Shasta.

"Any one want to take bets on how long that's going to last?" asked Ghost. Boys as you might imagine have their nasty moments.

"If you make it real money, I'll probably win," I told Ghost and Biscuit Boy. "They've lasted through two yeas of high school."

"Yes, but this is not Boisie City," Andrew observed.

"OK, how much do you bet?" I asked.

"You're serious?" asked Ghost.

"Fuck, yes."

"OK, we'll have a pool. Five dollars each and winner take all. I say three weeks and Shasta will be gone. I know the type," Ghost started it.

"I say two weeks. She's definitely just passing through," answered Biscuit Boy.

"I say the whole semester. She's not as passive as she looks." At least I hoped this was the case. Drama queens were usually pretty good manipulators, and somehow I hoped and prayed that Shasta was getting a lot out of the relationship. Either that, or at some point she would wake up and find someone better after she settled in.

Chapter 19 -- Flattery Gets You EverywhereEdit

Tuesday began as usual, or at least it felt as usual, at the "training table," except I was NOT the only female there. Shasta looked a bit peeved because the breakfast pastries did not appeal. "She's missing her Cinabon," Ghost said when Shata set off for the lines and bars to get some kind of breakfast that was to her liking. "Cinabons are just sugar and grease," I informed Ghost. "My parents wouldn't want to pay my board bill if all I ate was cereal for breakfast," Biscut Boy quipped. "It's breakfast on a weekday," I informed my chemistry lab partner. "Besides I also have fruit."

Shasta who only liked cereal at supper, returned with some kind of coffee drink with whipped cream in a tall cup. Just the thought of this confection on her tray seemed to lift her spirits. She glanced at the table of tired male faces tucking into big plates of food. Then she stared down at her food. Boys take some getting used to. They are in some ways large, frank, brutal beings. In the mornings they were interested in sustenance, the day's work ahead, and any obstacles that they could easily clear. "Want to go over tomorrow's chem lab?" Biscuit Boy asked me. He had biscuits with gravy and scrambled eggs his favorite breakfast. Gravy in this part of Oklahoma is made with both milk and bacon grease. Yes, I've tried it. I can try anything once. Zeke likes it. I think it tastes not that different from brown gravy from a jar, definitely not worth the bother if not affirmatively gross.

"Sure, I get out of calculus around three."

"Same here. Let's take a study room off the lounge."

I agreed and the conversation moved on to making calculators do tricks. Shasta squirmed. She found boy talk desperately dull. If she wanted to hear about relationships and gossip, but she did not realize that boys did not discuss these things unless there was a huge argument or fight or unless perhaps they were in love with the girl or a good friend of theirs was. Otherwise, relationships were off the male radar and that was fine with me. </p>

The first class of the day was psychology at 9am. I read King John in the lobby outside the big lecture hall on the first floor of Dale until it was time to go in and then slipped away from both Ranier and Shasta because I really needed to sit down in front. The lecture was interesting because I did not know that psychology had its roots in philosophy and that our first article summary had to be something on professional issues in the field. That sounded dull, but I somewhat dreaded reading about mental illness.

My family liked to throw around mental illness names as epithets. Yes, they were all amateur diagnosticians. You can imagine how I dreaded my first meeting with a therapist. It was a therapist paid for by Dad's lawyer during the custody hearings, my brother's juvenile justice hearings, and my parents' divorce which ended up in court due to my brother beating on me and my reporting it.

"Ms. Hektor," the therapist began. "It is not my job to diagnose you for treatment. You may well have some underlying problems, but none of them are severe enough or of the type that would make you fabricate wounds and tell a lie about them to gain attention. It's my job to find out if your testimony is unreliable and I think you are honest about what happened."

I know now that a therapist can be a hired gun, but like Balam, in the Biblical Book of Numbers, a therapist if he or she is decent, and the lady my Dad hired was, he or she still has to testify truthfully. I mused on this and wondered if Moses Wolf had seen a therapist to prove his wounds weren't self inflicted and his story a ruse. Somehow I think Moses' wounds were too severe. Tomorrow night, I was going to meet with Moses. I tried not to think about that.

I was glad when class was over. Shasta wanted to get started on her article summary right away. I was sick of English and math so I trotted over with her to the library. Ranier had economics class right away so we lost him. Shasta of course did not know how to find anything in a library and did not want any of the articles she found because none of them said "professional issues" in the title. I had to explain to her that there were different professional issues and the articles talked about them. I found something about the proper way to handle rats and what do do with them after their maze running days were through. I figured that was an interesting professional issue. In the end, Shasta found an article about therapists who sleep with patients, and we both were satisfied.

It was close to lunch time by then, and I was able to catch up with Kerry, Minah, Hanna and a few other girls from my dorm at Couch. We made a big table. Ranier found Shasta and muscled in. Biscuit Boy found me in the salad bar. I had our table picked out. He had Nils with him. Nils was Ranier's roommate, a boy who looked as glum as an approaching storm. Storm Cloud waited for a hamburger. Biscuit Boy acted as group cheerleader. Our table was crowded. No one noticed my food.

Hanna instead asked why any one would study the sociology of illegal immigrants. I said: "why not." Biscuit Boy shook his head and threw a look to Nils. "Professors are just out there to make a name for themselves, don't do anything useless, and then are lousy teachers," commented Ranier.

"Why, just because you don't know or don't care about something makes it useless?" Kerry rose to battle. "This isn't high school any more. We're here to broaden our minds."

Biscuit Boy smiled. "I don't know about you," Ranier quipped, "but I'm here to get my bachelors degree so I can get my MBA and go into business. People don't study for fun."

"They study to improve themselves," Kerry was totally honest.

"They study to learn," Minah backed up Kerry.

I was glad when Ranier, Biscuit Boy, Nils, one or two of the girls, and I made it to calculus and crowded a small lecture hall to the rafters. I was down in front again. It was differential calculus and it started off easy wtih basic derivatives.

Out in the hallway after class, Ranier despaired. "That was a total waste of time. This stuff is all Greek to me. Talk about useless, what do I need all this math for?"

I smiled. "Economics," I guessed. It was a wild guess but the economists always made forecasts and stock markets always reported their earnings in numbers. "Let me see your econ book." Ranier rummaged through his backpack which he propped on a desk in the hall. I figured there would be lots of charts in an economics book and stuff about the stock market. Instead there were supply and demand graphs. "A derivative is the slope of a graph," I triumphantly told Ranier Ciari.

"And why won't y=mx + b work?" asked Ranier.

"Because this is a textbook. In real life do you think those slopes are straight lines or even constant, smooth, curves?" I asked.

I got Ranier. He gasped a little and flinched. "You ought to think of becoming a teacher, Rimona." As always he pronounced my name correctly. Then he asked what I was doing the rest of the afternoon. I told him I had to go over tomorrow's chemistry lab with Biscuit Boy.

"Well you're not a tool like my roommate," sighed Ranier. "You know that kid's helicopter parents took him to and from Tulsa and now he's homesick. I don't think that kid will last."

"I don't take bets on anybody lasting," I answered. Sometimes it pays not to completely be honest.

Chapter 19A -- Meanwhile in Edna Edit

I am at McDonald's in Edna, Texas eating my food and drinking my four to five drinks of sweet tea. Arlisa Mathis asks me a question, "Eric, why are you drinking so many drinks, your are going to be sick-as-a-dog someday." I answered like Michael Westen from Burn Notice, "Well, you know, I sure do know that I love restaurants and their food." "This place is my home away from home if you know what I mean, Arlisa." She says to me, "Flattery gets you everywhere, Eric." I said, "That is too true, Arlisa, that is too true."

===Chapter 20 -- Snakes===

"You know I'll probably screw this up," I told Biscuit Boy as we headed for chemistry lab Wednesday afternoon. "I'm a real klutz in the lab. Promise you won't be pissed at me?" I asked my partner who had clearly picked the wrong partner.

"Why is it girls are always scaird they'll break something?" Biscuit asked.

"I'm not scaird of breaking anything. It's just I can't ever get these experiments to come out they way the book says they should. Of course I understand why we're boiling water under pressure and melting ice with different kinds of salts."

"Ramona," (Biscuit boy garbled my name!). "Can you relax?"

"No," I confessed. I was also a nervous klutz. We were early for lab so we sat on the tiled floor of the windowless basement hallway that housed lab after chemistry lab. When we got let in, the lab TA and the lab tech greeted us. They were plump country boys, typical for this part of the world. They read over the experiment and nearly put half the class to sleep. I was glad when I could walk around and start setting up. Biscuit Boy was fast an accurate when it came to putting things together. He was also a born executive. I had to ask what things were, where they were. Several times he redid my work. Oddly enough, our experiment worked enough to get useable data though Biscuit Boy griped that our readings weren't accurate.

"See what I told you?" I said as we dismantled everything and cleaned up.

"Ever hear of self fulfilling prophesy," Biscuit Boy (aka Andrew) asked.

I shrugged. "You just need more confidence," he advised me. "Jesus, I'm starved."

"I know," commented one of the boys at the bench across from us. He was the Sherman Tank of a football player. His partner was a shrimp of a boy with wire rimmed glasses. "It's like being in jail here. They give us hardly anything to eat."

"You can go always back and get seconds," commented Biscuit Boy, "and they always have ice cream for dessert."

"Yeah, but I'm in training," Sherman Tank told us. "That makes it hard, even when I been sitting all afternoon on my ass in this stupid lab. Did you understand what it was we were doing?"

"We were boiling water under pressure so it boils at lower temperatures than one hundred celsius. That's what's supposed to happen," I added. Knowing what's supposed to happen is very important. "Then we melted ice with salts in it which makes ice melt at temperatures colder than zero celsius, OK?"

Sherman Tank shook his head. "You're good at everything aren't you?" he asked me.

"Not at setting up labs," I laughed.

"You should have seen this girl in English this morning. We're doing this play called King John by Shakespeare. We went into groups to discuss it and Ree-mona here explained about England and France and she even had maps. I wouldn't have known all that stuff." I felt my face grow hot with embarassment. Sherman Tank came inches away from patronizing me. Part of me wanted to slap him and part of me wanted to bathe in the warm glow.

"I looked that stuff up in the library last night," I answered. I'd looked it up because I hadn't known it and knowing it made the play more interesting. I like history. There just aren't all the hours in the day to study everything out there.

We walked back toward Couch. Sherman Tank came with us. He had a name just like Biscuit Boy had. Sherman Tank's name was Mason Brody. He was a fullback on the varsity football squad. He had a face and body like a pair of bricks, except the brick that was his face often smiled and had chubby baby cheeks. He was fanatically clean shaven and had soft chestnut clored hair parted on the side and kept cut short, but not as short as Biscuit Boy's crew cut. Why boys like to cut off all their hair is beyond me. Long hair is fun to comb, brush, play with and it's just a part of you. Perhaps radical bobs are a form of male pennance.

I mused on this as we got on the dinner line at Couch. There was a line, because we were early. I volunteered to find a table and then made my usual rounds of the fuit bowl, salad bar, and vegetation station. I had to show Sherman Tank how to find our table. He was used to eating at the real training table where they had unlimited plates of food each time you went through the line, but the star athlete confessed that he wanted a break.

Ranier and Shasta had also come to join us. Shasta looked ready to pout. She had Apple Jacks and Cocanut Cream Pie and one of those coffee drinks. She explained she'd had no lunch.

Biscuit Boy glanced at my tray. "What's that?" he pointed to my entree and not my salad which was bell pepper strips, black olives, and cucumbers with ranch dressing.

"Black beans on rice," I answered. "Doesn't your mom make you black bean soup?" Actually, my mom doesn't make me black bean soup. I make black bean soup for her and now she makes is. Zeke will tolerate it on good days, but Mom likes the vegetarian chicken soup with the hearty brown broth and those fascinating, seal brown beans.

"My mom wouldn't be caught dead cooking beans that color. We wouldn't feed 'em to the dogs. I'm sorry. You want to write up the lab report tonight?"

"They eat a lot of black beans in Mexico and South America," explained Ranier.

"I'm not Mexican," Biscuit Boy remarked.

"People eat all sorts of shit," commented Mason (aka Sherman Tank).

"Please..." sighed an unhappy Shasta.

"Are you OK?" I asked the dumb, rhetorical question.

"Fine," she asnwered. "Just didn't get much sleep last night. My room has real flimsy curtains. I want to go up to Penny's and order some nice Roman shades, opaque ones to keep out the street lights. Maybe we can go tonight..." Shasta looked at Ranier.

"Penny's is all the way in Oklahoma City," Ranier reminded his girlfriend.

Shasta, I realized could always order the shades online if she had the measurements. I pointed this out, but Shasta shook her head. "I'm afraid to do that..."

"Why?" I asked.

"It's not something I want to discuss," Shasta sniffed. "Ranier, can you take me to get shades at Penny's tonight?"

I stared down at my food. The black beans were not my mom's or my own recipe but they were decent enough.

"I have work to do, Shas."

"But Ranier...I need a quiet, dark place to sleep. I can't get any sleep in that dorm-it-ory room."

"I have a truck," Mason offered. "I can take you up to Oklahoma City, and I'll take any one else here who needs a ride."

I had studying to do and besides, let's just say I had another appointment. I said I had to study. Then I noticed Ranier glaring at Mason (aka Sherman Tank).

"Do you have a problem?" Mason glared backat Ranier.

"Back where I come from," Ranier told Mason. "We kill snakes, and I think there's one at this table now."

I glanced quickly at Shasta. Her face was impassive. I guess you learn to develop a poker face if guys fight over you.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Mason told Ranier. "I was just offering to help out. Now you can take it as I intended or do you have a problem with that?"

"You're the problem," sighed Ranier. "Don't make me solve it."

I felt my beans choke in my throat. I made up my mind to find a new place to eat dinner or a new set of meal time companions. I did not need to see this show. I had lived it once four years ago.

Chapter 21 -- "You really want my opinion?"Edit

By Wednesday night of the first week of classes, I had the drill down pat: Stick to the grass. Avoid the roads. Enter the union through the back door by the bookstore. Yes, it was still open at 8:56pm. I scooted into the Cross Roads, secured a banquette with a good view of the entrance, bought a Cherry Coke and settled down with my tall drink and copy of King John to wait. I hoped and prayed that Moses Wolfe would never show up.

Needless to say, God did not answer my prayers. At 9:05pm, in walked stinky, crippled Moses. He looked like he was dragging himself instead of limping. I tried not to look at his missing eye which he did not even bother to patch and to avoid his arm in a sling. There was a scar on his face which I had not seen at our last meeting.

"You all ready got a drink," Moses drawled by way of a greeting.

"I was thirsty," I lied. I wanted something to play with just like the book. Somehow a meeting like this needed props or so I thought.

"Well what did you learn?" asked Moses.

"So I'm just a spy to you," I thought. "Well fuck that," and then I thought better.

"It's sad," I anaswered.

"You're right it's sad. What's sad?"

"Shasta Godwin deserves better than Ranier Ciari," I told Moses, and it was true. That Shasta needed to stand on her own two feet, develop some executive ability, and be less dependent and manipulative was also true. "Had she been that way for Moses?" I wondered. "I ate dinner with some of the Ciaris and Shasta on Saturday night, and they treated Shasta as if she didn't exist."

"Sounds like the Ciaris," sighed Moses. "Through and through. They're no damn good, you know that?"

"Why?" I asked.

"Well it's what I told you last week, plus they're born takers. The world exists for them to take. They use people like it's their right to use them. Shasta is Ranier's pretty girlfriend because he wants a pretty girlfriend, and no he couldn't have the head cherrleader or head of the class, because people sense something is different about the Ciari's...odd.

"It's like the rest of the world is there for them to use and they aren't part of it, like the way Earla Ciari messed with my Pa. It broke my Ma's heart and then it messed him up in the head. It's not against the law but it's using people. And then there's the Ciari's driving us out of business. Well, they can say you can't ranch cattle profitably any more, and that it's the free market and international trade. It's all legal, but something about it stinks, and do you think they really make enough money from that art-iss-in-al cheese ranch thing they have going to support all those kids. There are seven of, most of them living all over the country. Ranier is the baby of the family.

"I'll tell you how they make their money, two ways, sweat shops. You can't have 'em in the United States but in Thailand and the Makia Doras in Mexico, the Ciari's got 'em, and then there's labor contracting. That's what they call it. It's probably legal. Ciaris don't like to get in trouble with the law. That's why they seduce instead of rape and kill in the market instead of kill for real. They take what is good and what is live and interesting and leave the rest like so much road kill. Where the money and the life is, you'll find the Ciaris taking it all."

I don't answer. I don't know what to believe. I know Moses is not telling the whole truth. One look at his face, the missing eye, the scars, the ruined features and I know he is lying. At least one Ciari resorted to violence when he could not get his way.

"People in a small town can sense what the Ciaris do even if they can't put a finger on it. It took the journalist and the lawyer Pa hired to figure it all out, but people sense it anyway. That's why the girls with something on the ball keep their distance. Shasta was just a kid from somewhere else. She was good looking but shy. I knew what it was to struggle in class. I got a soft spot in me. I fell in love with her and then Ranier noticed her and....He's got money. He can buy some of what he wants that way. Shasta's just got a single mother and they lived in the trailer park. You can figure out the rest yourself.

"I'm the one who really loves Shasta. I'm the one who'll always love Shasta." I thought Moses Wolfe was going to cry but he didn't. He just sat there. I wanted to put my arms around him, but I remembered that he needed to learn to use deoderant. Poor stinky Moses.

"So what are you going to do?" I asked.

"Watch and wait it out," Moses explained. "There's not much else I can do. The last time I rushed in and it almost got me killed. This time, it might get me killed and even if they lock up Ranier, I'm still dead.

"I know there's going to come a time when that Ciari bastard throws Shasta away like so much used toilet paper. There's other prettier girls here. He'll see that. Then it will be my turn, and I know I'm not good looking any more and I can't play football, but I'm a student here and I'll have a college degree someday and Shasta and I can go back to Boisie or anywhere else and we'll both have jobs and make a go of it."

I did't answer. I can't envision marriage at age eighteen, and Moses' plan if that really is his plan, is a sound one. I hope that Shasta dumps Ranier soon, but what you hope for and what happens aren't one and the same. As for Moses, he had all ready learned one very ugly lesson. People neither like nor trust victims of physical violence after the first day or two. All that talk about the Ciari's immorality and white collar crimes was to build a scaffold to bolster the fact that people do not really sympathize with the boy who lost a fight. True, there are mandatory reporters in this world, and my guardian-ad-litem back in New York State was a breed apart, but these people are exceptions. It is hard to learn to become friends with such people. It requires a big switch in mind set. Maybe Moses never made that switch.

I agreed to meet Moses next week. I'd be meeting him a lot of weeks. He needed a friend, and I was happy to be his friend even if I couldn't envision myself as a girlfriend. I told myself all of this as I walked back to Cate. I still had my write up for psychology to do in the computer room and a preliminary draft of my chemistry lab report and I wanted to bone up a bit before chemistry lecture tomorrow. It can't hurt to run scaird.

It hit like a blow as I swiped my way into the Main Lounge. Ghost and Aaron from Midlands were plyaing pool while Hannah watched. I greeted them but I wanted to be alone. I remembered going to a group for battered teens or teen victims of domestic violence over at Rochambeau on the White Plains Scarsdale border when I was in ninth grade. There were support services for victims, but there were no support services for Moses, and don't tell me: "This is Oklahoma and not New York." Norman was not a tiny town by Oklahoma standards and... Ranier Ciari had never seen the inside of a courtroom for nearly killing Moses Wolfe. Someone back in Cimmaron county had bought off not only the judge but probably also the county prosecutor.

I slumped down in a chair in front of a computer. I needed to think about my psychology write up, NOT Moses and Ranier, but it was hard to put out of my mind the fact that no law protected Moses and Ranier was still out there, walking around scott free. "Someone has to protect Moses," I thought to myself and then I reminded myself that the damage was all ready done. I let my head fall into my hands. I wanted very badly to cry.

Chapter 22 -- InitiationsEdit

Thursday afternoon, we studied math. The "we" included: Ranier, Ranier's roommate Nils who is an engineer and whose parents won't leave him alone, Kerry my roommate, Kerry's friend Eliza from Campus Crusade, Shasta, Biscuit Boy, and me. We took over the big study room at Cate, the one with two tables and split up. Kerry, Eliza, and Shasta had one table since they take college algebra. Nils, Ranier, Biscuit Boy (I know his name is Andrew), and I had the other table.

Biscuit Boy and Nils cut through calculus like a hot knife through butter. They even held secret conferences over their math while we lesser mortals slogged away. Actually, I slogged while Ranier watched. Ranier only gave up watching, when Shasta came over to our table. She looked ready to pout. I glared at her.

Ranier pretended not to notice. He all but purred at her: "Look Shas, I know math sucks and it's pointless. Rimona likes it though."

"Nearly everyone at this table likes math," commented Nils with a smile. Biscuit Boy concurred. "Math makes more sense than most hum-an-it-ies, and it is real not like artsie farts," Buiscuit Boy explained.

Shasta looked trapped. "Yeah, but normal people hate math," answered Ranier. "It's hard and logical and most of us aren't wired that way. Now, Rimona here, she's normal but she's good in math. She just sits there like she could do it every day and she does."

"It gets easier with practice," I explained. "Some people don't mind working," Ranier said half to himself.

"Practicing math problems is better than an awful lot of things you could do," I explained to both Shasta and Ranier.

"Like what?" asked Shasta.

Wasn't the answer painfully obvious? "Like clearing dirty dishes from restaurant tables or cleaning toilet bowls or taking out the garbage or cleaning litter pans. Menial work is awful, but doing math uses your mind so it's a big step up right there. Also, math is the hardest thing so when you look back and find you can do what you could't before, there's a real reward there, you know?"

I tried not to look at the strange look on Ranier's face. It would have been better some how if his eyes were glazed over like Shasta's, but they weren't. I thought of a cat with his or her ears tucked back, listening attentively. Ranier sucked his bottom lip and his eyes were bright yet downcast as if I had struck him with something.

Then Shasta returned to her table and struggled to study. "Eyes on the prize," Ranier said to himself. "I think I can understand that."

Still around 5:30pm Ranier was one of the first up from the table to go to dinner. I had a good handle on my calculus and walked with Biscuit Boy who teased me gently. "Math means power," he echoed a cruddy public service announcement. "Did you really grow up believing it."

"Blue collar work sucks," I told Biscuit Boy.

"You telling me," he laughed. "I spent this summer on road crew." Biscuit Boy made a Bronx cheer which I think they call something else in Oklahoma.

Dinner for me was usually beans and rice unless the Vegetation Station served tofu, and something from the salad bar as well. Of course I also had fresh fruit and soda. Biscuit Boy shook his head at my white bean and black olive stew over brown rice. I am the first near vegetarian he has ever met. Shasta tried to eat oven fried chicken but gave up after the first few bites. "This stuff is disgusting," she moaned. "Get a chicken patty," suggested Ranier. "It's not Chick Fil-a," she responded and went looking for sweet cereal and returned instead with French silk pie. "I hate the food here," she told all of us.

"Next year we'll get an apartment off campus," Ranier told his girlfriend. Nils gave Biscuit Boy a look. I was glad there was time after dinner to take a walk and leave a note for Dr. DaSilva about my work schedule which I would finish on Friday, and start again on Saturday. No, I don't keep Shabbos. I thought about Chabad back in Tulsa and for the first time felt just a bit homesick. I wondered when Shasta would get sick for malnourishment or when her clothes wouldn't fit and she'd hide in her room. I remembered that I had refused to bet money on how long she would last. Now I thought that was a mistake.

We had College Conference on Thursday nights and this Thursday was the math faculty talking about what lay beyond calculus and what other options there were. I thought it was an interesting lecture. After the short program, the faculty took questions. "Why didn't you go into industry and make a lot of money instead of learning arcana and teaching college?" asked Ranier. I blinked. Ranier sucked his lower lip and tried to hide his shining eyes by looking down.

When the meeting broke up, Ranier said he had to meet Shasta at the library to study. Since I wanted to work more on psychology, I went with Ranier. I expected we would say nothing. Ranier crossed the campus on known paths and roads. He had none of my need for stealth.

"This is going to sound crazy," Ranier began as we walked up Asp Avenue. "But I've never seen any one who liked working before, but you're right, school work is more rewarding than most things. I thought you were crazy tonight, but the professors...they're not working stiffs. They believe in what they do and what they do is hard. It's kind of a professional pride thing. Maybe doctors and lawyers have it too."

"They do," I told Ranier. "My father worked his tail off to be law review at Cornell, and my mom went back into teaching when I was fifteen. That took a different kind of work, but I used to see what she and Zeke did with the students trying to get them to learn. Sometimes Mom tested stuff on me, not that I'm a good subject because I'm not a particularly typical student."

"So you're Mom knows..." Ranier added.

"Knows what..." I asked.

"Never mind. She probably has some of it herself. Intellect is inherited and your parents definitely taught you the eyes on the prize work attitude. I have to learn it now that I'm eighteen. I wasn't raised like you."

"Sometimes it's harder when everything comes easy," I informed Ranier.

"'re right," Ranier answered, and he let the conversation die.

We were at the library and we split up. I needed to read psychology and decide what sort of article I wanted for the weekly write up. Too bad we can't write about the psychology of work, I t thought.

Chapter 23 -- Blocking Traffic Edit

Friday after calculus I let myself drift over to Dr. DaSilva's office to study in the department work room and then work on data entry for several hours until it was time to go to Dale for services. Dr. Da Silva met with me. He looked older than most doctoral students. He had a salt and pepper beard and dark olive skin. His nose was turned up in a cute little hook. He said I was doing a fine job, but was worried about my keeping late hours and walking home alone.

I felt touched at all this, not angry or defensive the way I felt when Zeke worried over me for getting home an hour or two after sunset even if I came in at or before my ETA. I told Dr. DaSilva that I was from New York. Norman was a small town and I felt perfectly safe especially since I was alone behind two locked doors. Dr. DaSilva signed my time sheets and I sat down to work my shift after I took another whack at calculus. Calculus in case you don't know it never sleeps.

I made it out of the sociology building and cut across the grassy part of campus toward Dale and made it just in time for services. My mind felt to blank and tired to pray. I was used to early dinners after a week and my slothful stomach groaned with lack of discipline. "Self control," I told my stomach. "Think of something to pray for." I prayed to keep up with my courses. Students can always pray over their studies. I prayed also prayed for Moses Wolf, poor Moses and there is nothing wrong with pity when bad things genuinely happen. There wasn't going to be any justice, so pity was all I could give.

I emerged from Dale in time to see Ranier and Shasta waiting for me. He was waiting for me and possibly for Aaron as well because Ranier greeted both of us. "Ranier said you'd be here," Shasta explained to me. "He wants to go to dinner where you take everybody."

"It's Kerry who does the taking. Let's go back to Cate and see if the bornagains are back from Campus Crusade and Navigators."

Ranier had no problem with this. We headed half a block north and cut through the back door into the lobby where Kerry was organizing things or trying to. She had a big crowd of lonely fresh people with a meal exchange and no dining hall because it was Friday evening. There were the shy and sad ones who spent Friday nights at loose ends, Kerry's friends from Campus Crusade, as well as everyone for Hilel who did not have other plans. This meant there about twenty-five of us, and I hoped that maybe Pizza Shuttle would give us a private room.

I tried not to think how my dad and mom would be appalled by this state of affairs, a college that nearly lets students nearly starve on the weekend or at least leaves them vulnerable to malnourishment. Really, Pizza Shuttle was very good food and so too was Subway and I did have to spend my own money for apples, but apples did not break the bank.

"Rain, I don't want to go out to eat with this huge group," grumbled Shasta.

"Shas, we need to get dinner, and Pizza Shuttle is as good a place as any. You need to eat something decent anyway," Ranier explained.

"I hate Norman. Why can't we go back home for the weekend?"

"I have studying to do and so do you. It's nearly seven hundred miles round trip."

"Yes, but I miss Mom and... This school is awful. It's just like high school. It's the same kind of people." Shasta turned around to look at the crowd in whose midst she walked up the mile and a fraction of sidewalk along Lindsey.

"This is not Boisie City," Ranier tried talking sense, but I did not think Shasta was rational. "It's a fresh start."

"It's a fresh start with the same characters. We've got the goodie two shoes Christians, and the rich kids who've never had it hard one day in their lives, and the kids who act like they've been here forever. Me, I'm just the kid from the tailer park so it's OK to treat me like dirt. Sorry, I lived somewhere else before Boisie City and my parents got divorced. Yes, people get dee-vorced, you know that?" Shasta's face flushed with anger at imaginary enemies and with the memory of real slights.

"I had to move to Tulsa to live with my mother after my parents' divorce," I told Shasta.

"Where did you move from?" Shast challenged me.

"Ardsley, New York, just outside of New York City," I responded.

"No shit," sighed Shasta. "So you're the big time sophisticate. How did you like the kids in Tulsa?"

"Most of them were academically backward and very provincial, but then again they say New Yorkers are provincial. I did get to keep up the same classes I'd had at Ardsley High School." I smiled. I hoped this would shut Shasta up.

"That was important?" she asked instead.

"I was in third year French and Eastern didn't offer it. They made arrangements to bus me to Midlands Prep so I could do years three and four and a language, plus AP French Lit, and also physics my senior year and AP biology my junior year."

Shasta sniffed. "Rimona has always worked hard," Ranier explained and I wanted to slap him. Fortunately, Shasta ignored him.

"What about life outside school?" asked Shasta.

"Too much football," I commented, "but I found stuff to do. I mean yes, it hurt, but..." I stopped. Shasta's and my life diverged on one crucial point. Once, when I was fourteen, my family had wanted me to lie in court but I'd refused. Shasta's boyfriend had wanted her to lie in court but... Had she lied in court? Was Moses Wolfe the liar? There was no way to find out.

"You think I should get a life," Shasta confronted me.

"Hey we'll never make it to the restaurant if you keep blocking traffic," complained Biscuit Boy.

"No, I think 'get a life' is a disgusting insult. It means what you do and feel is worthless," I responded.

"What would you like to do Shasta?" I asked instead.

"Just go away with Ranier, maybe to another country and take Mom with me so she wouldn't get lonely. It would just be us then having a good time and..." Shasta stopped. "I know that's not practical. I'm sorry..."

"It's OK," Ranier took Shasta's hand. "Sometimes you just have to talk about these things, but you're not the only one who comes from somewhere else, are you?"

Shasta glanced at me and then back at Ranier. Then she hugged Ranier and kissed him. They got moving after that, and we made it to Pizza Shuttle about nine thirty Friday night.

Chapter 24 -- Quid Pro Quo Edit

Saturday morning, I realized I was down to my last apple. I took it with me to the Sociology Tower and stopped on the way to pick up a soda at the union. The campus on Saturday mornings was a place that was always new and pleasantly deserted since I was its first inhabitant. The sun shown brightly on grass still cold with last night's dew. I had a windbreaker over my sweater which was over my t-shirt and shorts. The morning air was cold on my bare legs as I cut across cold, wet lawns and swiped my way inside.

I studied for two hours and ate my apple and slowly nursed my soda. Then it was time for some data entry. About noon, I realized I probably wouldn't have time for a swim. If I wanted apples, it would mean another trip to Natiave Roots to buy my weekly supply. I decided to forget Subway and just walk over the grass and between the hedges, on toward Jenkins, Alameda, and eventually Main Street. I was surprised to find downtown Norman busy with Saturday shoppers, but I returned to the world of people and found my apples in the crowded store. I rung up my order and debated where I could find a cold soda so I could have another drink and a fresh apple.

I was musing on my stomach and the possiblity of drifting back to campus over a different route, so I did not notice the red sports car until it honked its horn several times. Shasta somewhat gracefully gave up her seat as I settled in the nest in the back with my big bag of fruit. The car smelled of something greasey and heavy. I noticed that Shasta clutched a Chik Fil-A wrapped sandwich and that Ranier also ate something wrapped in paper.

"Where are you going?" I greeted Ranier who offered the ride that I couldn't refuse.

"I was going to ask you the same thing," Ranier bounced the conversational ball back to me.

"If I get back to Cate quickly, I can grab my suit and take a swim," I said.

"Do you really want to go swimming?" Ranier asked.

"Do you have something else planned?"

"I thought we'd go for a ride, maybe up to OK City."

I smiled. "Can we stop so I can get something to drink first?" I inquired. Ranier said he did not mind. We drove toward the freeway and stopped at a convenience store where I got a Cherry Coke and I ate my apple and drank my soda as we made the twenty mile journey to the nearest big city. Oklahoma City, or at least the version that Ranier and Shasta visited was a collection of malls and shopping centers. I was not broke, but had no desire to look for clothes. I window shopped at a pet store and admired the plantings at one of the newer malls. I ended up sitting on some test furniture put out for tired shoppers and reading King John which was good because I caught up.

I became so engrossed in my reading that I did not notice Shasta and Ranier had snuck up on me. Ranier stood behind me while Shasta crouched at my feet. I stared down at her lovely, natural chestnut hair. She had been a beauty and maybe nasty kids in a small town had ignored her for much of high school.

"I told you," said Ranier softly.

Shasta did not reply. I did not look up. I wondered if I should pretend that I did not see these two who wanted to be my friends at least for now.


"Hey Rimona, we're back!" Shasta all but shouted.

I glanced up. "You finished?" I asked. Shasta had four shopping bags. "Pretty much," Shasta replied, "but you didn't get anything." I wondered if I could explain to Shasta that I didn't want anything. Actually I was light-headedly hungry and I did wish I had an extra blanket for my bed, but I did not know the shopping mall, had work to do, and stores often did not have a great selection of blankets for twin beds.

"I can fix that," Ranier answered. "What would you like Rimona?"

I hadn't expected this. "Ranier is very generous. He treats a girl like a princess," Shasta tried to explain. "A lot of guys, they just want sex, not Ranier."

"You've known a lot of guys?" I wanted to ask but I didn't. I did not like where this conversation was going. I wondered if I could short circuit the drama by asking for a blanket. I decided to try something different. "Shasta, did you ever buy those Roman blinds for your window?"

Shasta shook her head. Ranier confessed, "I don't know how to buy those kinds of things."

"You were going to order them at Penny's. Penny's has a catalog room and Shasta didn't you have measurements?"

Shasta nodded. She had the measurements with her. "You know about the catalog thing?" Ranier asked.

It was my turn to nod. Suddenly, I was in charge. We were back in the car heading to yet another mall, one that had a Penny's. I'd been there earlier in the afternoon which was now evening. It was dark outside, the night a very pretty shade of blue turned purple by light pollution. Inside this mall were lots of red and green crotons. There was no time to look at the plants though. I found the catalog bunk near the beauty parlor and found a nontattered catalog for Raneir and Shasta. Shasta found her window treatments and wrote down the numbers and called them in. Ranier supplied the credit card.

Meanwhile, I shopped for my blanket. Then I ordered it. Ranier watched. "I don't have a credit card," I explained to the woman over thhe phone. "This will have to be a cash pick up order." We settled matters and Ranier sighed. "I should have got you that blanket," he told me. I told him it was fine. I'd either take the bus or get a ride up here next Saturday and bring the blanket home. Winters even in Oklahoma were not exactly warm.

"I'll see you get a ride up here next weekend," Ranier told Shasta and me. He said it with a tone of command as if all of Oklahoma City belonged to him. "You're hard to take care of because you're so self sufficient, but I need to do something for you."

"You took me up here and you're offering to do it again next week. Isn't that enough?"

"Not really. I think people show they care by doing more than just little favors. What can I do for Rimona Hektor?"

"If only you knew," I thought but I pushed it out of my mind. There are questions one can't just ask. "I know...Are there restaurants here in Oklahoma City that serve the kind of food you really enjoy eating?"

Shasta groaned. Ranier glared at her. "We need Rimona," he said. "She can teach you how to study and work hard. Besides, she likes the campus and it agrees with her. We can learn from all of that, don't you think?"

Shasta folded her arms. "You've got a secret," I thought back staring at her, "and you share it with your boyfriend. He will never be my boyfriend due to what he did. You are safe, and you can spend all day figuring out why because I'm not going to open my mouth and let out what I know."

"Learning to live in the world is very important," Ranier continued his lecture.

"You sound like your mother," Shasta nearly laughed. I went up to the catalog pick up counter and got a phone book. I knew what I wanted. If Ranier wanted to buy my positive example, then I would not come cheap. I also wouldn't take payment for services all at once. "There's a Whole Foods over on 21st Street," I told Ranier. I did not know Oklahoma City well, but I knew we were probably not that far from the street grid and a high number on the street grid either meant the store was close by or very far away. Fortunately, I had asked and the store was close by. "Whole Foods closes at ten," I said. "They usually have nice buffets."

"Whole Foods it is then," Ranier replied without hesitation.

We ate off the buffet which had a dessert bar for Shasta who was "not hungry." Ranier ordered a farm raised French dip sandwich for himself and I had cold macaroni salad, edammame, roast vegetables, and Greek leaves. Ranier also let me buy two small containers of fancy olives and a slightly larger container of roast eggplant. I offered some to him and he ate one of the green olives but avoided the eggplant and the black olives, especially the shriveled ones. We went to see a first run movie called District 9 and talked about racism and history all the way back to Norman.

I returned upstairs with my apples and my olives, my head dizzy with a kind of memory overload. I found Kerry, seated on her bed reading her zippered, white Bible which of course was unzipped.

"Where have you been?" she asked. She could have been my mother, but my mother does not ask this because I have to tell my mom where I am going before I go out. My mom and Zeke have to do the same thing for me. It's a house rule. It has always been a house rule. It was even a house rule back in Ardsley. I don't want to think about Ardsley. I don't want to think about my mother though she would be proud of the way I'm playing Ranier.

"Out with Ranier and Shasta. We went to Oklahoma City and I got these," I pointed to the olives and refilled my fruit bowl which is a box I found outside the book store in the union.

"I wouldn't get too close to them," Kerry told me. "Satan hath the power to assume a pleasing form."

I wanted to laugh but Kerry was not stupid. I'd learned that much. "Why do you say that about Ranier? I don't think you're talking about Shasta."

"Shasta Godwin is just the next victim," sighed Kerry.

"What makes you say that?"

"Ranier's whole family back in Boisie City. They destroy people in business and the mother Earla sleeps around and wreacks marriages. The family is rich. Something is not right with them. It's not natural. Just look at Ranier. Every girl wants him. Why? When people have everything just use it for their own selfish ends, something is wrong."

"That just sounds like they are successful," I commented. "Here have an olive. I've got green ones cured with citrus, black ones with hot peppers, and oil cured. They're the shriveled ones."

Kerry made a face. "You don't understand. Out here in small towns, people aren't usually selfish. They're just not..."

"And Kerry knows even less than I do," I thought. "Did you hear anything else about the Ciari's other than that they are ruthless in business and the mother had an affair?"

"Yeah... Ranier Ciari killed a man. He committed murder and then his parents bribed the judge so it never went to court."

"His parents would have had to bribe the county attorney. Who did he kill?"

"Mo-ses Wolf."

"He didn't," I answered.

"Are you saying Tia Wolfe-King is a liar."

"Yes and with good reason. Moses Wolfe is alive and here and a student."

"How do you know?"

"I've met him twice. I've sat in the Union and talked to him."

"Sheee-ut," sighed Kerry. "I shouldn't have trusted that cheerleader."

"No, she's partly right," I told my roommate. "Moses Wolfe was nearly beaten to death. He walks with a limp, has a useless arm, and lost most of his vision. He can't drive any more and he's covered with scars."

Kerry sighed. "It's a shame he's so good looking," she spoke of Ranier. "What was it like going out with him?"

I told of the trip to Oklahoma City. "At least you get a double date," sighed Kerry. "Ranier is soooo beautiful but he treats every girl but you and Shasta as if they don't exist. I knew there was something up with him."

"Kerry," I told her. "Beauty is as beauty does. Just remember that. You don't want to be involved with Ranier. It's just too weird."

Kerry went back to her Bible Study. I continued reading King John. It wasn't that late by my standards, but somewhere around two am, Central Daylight Time, I fell asleep with the book in my hands.


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