Table of Contents for the "Hole" Story
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3|
|Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
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Keep Me Whole Until Morning
Chapter 33 -- Meetings of Big Men Edit
Thursday at lunch, Ranier collected our menu slips for the now not-so-secret football player dining room. Like a teacher in the front of the room, he read them over carefully. He flipped mine over a couple of times. Ranier was many times more observant than Biscuit Boy. He glanced at me. "Rimona, I want you to come with me when I hand in the slips." He glanced at Shasta. She was coming along too. All this meant I had to rush a pretty good lunch.
The three of us walked into kitchen. The help glared at us and a few student employees smiled at Ranier because he had class with them. A few more recognized Shasta. She grinned back. She wore the diamond bracelet Ranier had bought her last weekend which felt like an eternity ago. We found the dining services office and Ranier handed over the cards. "I hope you can read everything we wrote," he began as a lady in a rust colored suit rifled through the cards and made a small sniffing noise.
She had colorless skin and wshed out hair done in a frizzy updo. She looked Ranier up and down with tired eyes and told all three of us. "There's no weekend dining hall. It's closed when there's an away game."
"Wait a minute," Ranier was a fast one. "You said that the weekend dining hall was for everybody who was here on the weekends and on fourteen meals a week plus and more."
"Excuse me, you never spoke to me." The secretary was also a fast one.
"That's true. I think I spoke to your supervisor. Would you mind getting him."
This was the lunch hour. The dining hall supervisor had to be busy, but the secretary found him which impressed me. He was a plump man with strawberry blond hair combed over a bald spot. He repeated what the secretary had said.
"That's not what you said the last time we met," Ranier drove his point home, though I didn't think he was going to be successful.
"The weekend dining hall only operates when the football team has a home game or when they have practice. The rest of the year, we don't really need it. Most students leave campus on the weekend and those who don't eat in the union or use their meal exchanges. Most students find these adequate."
"Well they're not adequate when you serve decent hot meals to football players. What makes our meal plan dollars worth less than their team's funds?" I wanted to clap. Football players were really overpriveledged when one thought about it.
"You'll need to take this to someone higher up the line than me," strawberry blond told Ranier and that pretty much was it. Ranier said he would speak to the Honors Dean this evening. We'd see him when we went to weekly meeting and lecture. Who knew, Ranier, might convince him to improve the food. Ranier believed he was meant to be a leader. When you thought about it, that went a long way.
After a long afternoon in calculus class and then studying, I arrived for dinner around six pm. Ranier usually ate then, and I was curious whether he had calmed down. I also knew I'd have to bump into him. It was just the way things went. I sauntered into the dining hall along with Nils and a couple of other students from calculus and found Ranier standing by the Sooner Bake Shop cases with all their gooey cakes. Ranier had his back turned to me so all I could see were hunched shoulders and hands in pockets as if someone had thrown a great burden on his back. To Ranier's right stood Shasta who did not care what any one heard of what she said. To Ranier's left stood Moses Wolfe. I saw him leaning on his canes, head turned so one good eye could see. I did not see the letter Moses wrote which Shasta opened and then left on the pastry case counter because it was too hot to handle.
I froze. I could feel the crowd beginning to form. I could not hear Shasta wailing but then slowly her words began to make sense amid the keen my mind blocked out. "I don't ever want to see you again. You're a no good piece of shit! You're the lowest of the low. I really wish Ranier had killed you because now you need to get a life and you're never going to have one! I really feel sorry for you."
"Oh pul-eeeez," I thought. I heard Eben mixed into Shasta's words. Could there be a female Eben, I wondered. I thought about the phone call or email I owed to my guardian ad litem back in Westchester county. I wondered what she would tell me or if she would cooperate.
"Ranier, you have to do something about this," Shasta begged.
"I can't do anything," Ranier answered. "This is not Boisie City, Shas. It's also a public dining hall. If Moses wants to have supper here, he can. Of course I'd prefer he not eat at our table, but I think I just have to tell him that, don't I?" Ranier slowly stood up straight and turned to the man with two canes."You understand. It's over between you and Shasta."
"Yeah, I fucking understand," growled Moses. "You're going to get yourse someday Pret-ty-Boy Chi-ar-ee. You're going to get it so good you won't fucking know what hit you." With that Moses turned and walked toward the dining hall door. I broke from my place in the crowd. My legs hurt as if they were asleep. I remember the ache which felt like hot, red spots before my eyes. I caught up with Moses. He can't move very fast with all those injuries.
"Come, I'll eat dinner with you," I begged him. "You've all ready paid for it."
Moses Wolfe stared past me. "I'm going home, Rimona," he said. "I've had enough," and with that he left. I watched him head back out the entryway and stood on the porch at Couch shaking. I felt sick to my stomach, and now my throat hurt. I realized if Moses had been a woman, he would have been in tears or had a good cry in his Uncle Juval's car. I walked back into the dining hall. I fixed myself a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a dish peppers and cherry tomatoes from the salad bar with Caeasar dressing. I sipped on my Coke after I sat down at the table.
Would Ranier drive me away, I wondered. Ranier was too busy being the center of conversation tonight as was the absent but now quite real Moses. "What happened to that guy?" Biscuit Boy began. "Yeah, he looks like something out of a horror movie," added Maria, Mason's new girlfriend after he learned Shasta was off limits. "You don't want to know," crowed Kendra. "Or is Ranier going to tell the whole story?" she asked. Ranier glared at Kendra. He was on his feet as if ready to make an announcement.
Ranier never made the announcement. I turned to Biscuit Boy and said: "It was just a car accident. It was a horrible thing. Ranier was driving an old clunker on a back road. It was a car he and his Dad were fixing up so he could learn how cars work. The brakes weren't fixed right and the car spun out of control and hit Moses. He was hurt pretty bad, missed most of senior year and spent it here in Norman in rehab. He had tutors though and got into college anway. Ranier feels guilty but he committed no crime, did you?"
Ranier's face was the color of chalk. Shasta's mouth hung up. I bit my lip to suppress a big, nasty smile. In my heads Eben's words sung: "I'll kill you and say it was self defense." I had stolen Ranier's chance to say it was self defense or anything good or that Moses deserved what he got. No one sympathizes with the victims of violence. Now Moses was no longer a victim of violence unless Ranier wanted to admit to a crime. The crime was gone.
"No," asnwered Ranier. "Rimona pretty much as it right. There's a lot of ugly rumors going around about Moses. They're just lies."
Ranier sunk in his chair. Sitting next to him, Shasta wept softly. Several girls took her to the bathroom and comforted her. It was after all so hard to have a boyfriend who had nearly taken another boy's life due to a tragic, road accident. Also, Shasta had once loved Moses. Now they could also grieve the man he'd once been. It was so horrible, poor Moses condemned to a living death, and the dead of course could be forgotten, but one could not brag about killing them in an accident, nor could one justify it.
We studied in silence after supper. I read Richard III and got through a surprising amount of material. The lecture on functional grammar was surprisingly interesting. I thought about the sentence structure I used in my papers, and my addiction to overly complex forms.
After the question and answer, Ranier cornered the Honors Dean to ask him about weekend food. There had been weekend food for honors program students about ten years ago, he told Ranier, Biscuit Boy, Aaron, and me, but then the demand had dropped or the program had become unprofitable. If there were a twenty meal plan here, they'd have to provide weekend food. The Honors Dean said he was sorry.
"We have no fresh fruit or vegetables on the weekends unless we buy them for cash," I explained.
"If there were expanded offerings would you be satisfied?" asked the Honors Dean.
Ranier glanced at me. I was not sure how to read his look. The meeting broke up and I went to study calcuus and chemistry until late.
Chapter 34 -- The Clown in the Orange Peel Edit
Then I saw Ranier standing outside my door. It was Kerry's and my door, but Kerry was still studying downstairs. The hallway was not all that well lit. Most students were sleeping or in the study lounges. We were alone. There would be no witnesses. I looked around for a weapon, not that it probably wouldn't be used against me. I did not feel brave, but no one ever feels brave when you have to be.
The fire alarm looked like a small, square ruby in the shadows. I walked across the hall and stood next to it. "Try anything Ranier, and the whole building wakes up." I pointed to the alarm.
"I don't want to try anything. I just wanted to talk. Is your roommate back yet?" I tried to gague Ranier's voice and couldn't. I needed to sleep. I was too tired to be rational except in spurts.
I opened the room. I felt the hairs stand up on my neck, beacuse Ranier was behind me, but he did not touch me. I turned on the lights and swung around to face him. He wasn't going to attack me from the back.
I drew a deep breath. If Ranier lunged for me. I would scream. I would scream if he covered my mouth. I would scream before he covered my mouth, and if he covered my mouth, I would sink my teeth into his hand. Human bite wounds usually became infected.
"You attack me Ranier, and they'll throw you out of school," I said. "There will be witnesses. It will be my word against yours."
"I'm not going to attack you," Ranier said, softly closing the bedroom door behind him.
"Wow," sighed Ranier. He glanced around the room. He sniffed at Kerry's larger than life poster of Jesus' face crying over earth and her Jesus with the boy on his knee. He shook his head, and then he glanced at my Campari clown and the cardboard box of apples I kept on my desk. On the box I had written: "Eat one of these if you are really hungry" and I'd signed the message. There were two lonely apples left in the box.
"So this is where you live," Ranier continued. "I never thought it was like this."
"What did you expect?" I felt thrown off guard and out of kilter.
"I don't know...I sure didn't expect that performance at dinner tonight. Why, Rimona?"
I did not reply.
"I don't get it because you know. You had to know. You knew Moses and he told you..."
I continued to remain silent.
"Look, I had reasons for what I did. Moses wouldn't leave Shasta alone, and even when he was strong and good looking, the boy was an animal. Shasta deserved better, and he was such a fool. Damn it, Rimona, there really are people so dumb they don't deserve to live. He was one of them. He just couldn't pick up when it was over and his parents....They deserved what they got too."
"The victim always deserves it," I answered. "Most people agree with you though they don't say it in polite society," I told Ranier.
"So you know....Look Rimona I had to do it."
"Of course, it's always self defense."
"You don't believe me?"
"I believe you and I knew tonight that you'd try to justify nearly killing Moses. You wanted to kill him didn't you."
Now it was Ranier's turn to be silent.
"Well I wasn't going to give you that pleasure. You can't really be forgiven for an accident or justify not being careful to fix a car. Sorry, Ranier. You got away with it once but you don't get to kill Moses a second time with words."
"Fuck," answered Ranier.
"When I went to support group," I continued. "I learned about how people react to victims of violence. I had a pretty good idea people would take your side and not Moses'. People like winners and not losers."
"But you're no loser," Ranier put his balled fists on his hips. "You can't be. This doesn't make sense."
"I'm on the minority side when it comes to victims, Ranier. I've been that way since I was in my teens and maybe even before. You'll just have to live with it."
"You really want to know?" I asked.
"OK, when I was a kid, my brother beat on me. He was my younger brother. He was bigger than I was though by the time we were in middle school. After my mom ran off, my Dad left us home a lot and Eben -- he's my brother -- had a lot of anger in him probably at both parents and at me for not being upset by Mom's leaving. Well, he took it out on me. We fought over all kinds of small shit. Mostly we wrestled so it left no marks. I didn't know how to stop the fighting and I couldn't back down or give in. I couldn't win either.
"Finally one night, Eben pushed me into the coffee table, and I got a big shiner and a fat lip. I went to school the next day and my home room teacher marched me down to the nurse and they both called social services."
"Oh shit," Ranier sighed. "You should have told them it was an accident."
"I think part of me was crying for help."
"Oh shit, what happened next..."
"Well I realized that my parents weren't there to protect me. I couldn't protect myself, and the next time and there would be a next time, I could end up with a concussion or dead. I told social services everything and I even testified against my brother in court. My parents threatened to disown me, and they almost did. For five months neither of them spoke to me. I lived with my homeroom teacher. He got temporary custody of me. Then Mom decided she'd take me down here in Tulsa."
"I need to think about all this," Ranier told me. "I didn't know."
"You know now," I told him.
"I'm going to need to think about this," Ranier repeated. Then he said, "Good night Rimona," and he let himself out my bedroom door.
Chapter 35 -- The Walnut Tree in Boisie City Edit
I saw neither Ranier nor Shasta at either breakfast or lunch on Friday. This did not surprise me. I did not know if they went to class since I see Ranier only in calculus, and psychology where I run into Shasta is a huge lecture. I went to Dale for services at Hilel, and then walked back toward Cate with the Friday night crowd. It is amazing how quickly one falls into a habit. I thought about my first trip to Pizza Shuttle. I thought about checking my email later that evening, hoping to hear from the Grazielles back in Ardsley, and from my Guardian ad Litem and from the judge back in White Plains, New York. Mom hadn't called in nearly a week, and I suspected the wheels of justice turned as slowly for her as they did for me. Were they really wheels of justice? I tried not to think of that.
There was no sign of Ranier (or Shasta) in front of Cate. Kerry, Kendra, Minah, and four or five others were straggling back from Navigators and Campus Crusade for Christ, both of which had Friday night Bible studies and/or praise meetings to keep their members from perdition. I suggested we wait all of ten minutes for Ranier and Shasta. Biscuit Boy who along with Ghost had come to join the Friday crew shook his head. Minah stared at the floor trying to make herself invisible. I felt relieved when Ranier and Shasta did not show and we could start walking up Lindsey Avenue.
The help at Pizza Shuttle did not care that there were two fewer in our party. We got our table in the corner and squeezed in. Kerry looked over the menu with disgust. Pizza every week left her cold even curried pizza or white pizza, neither of which were her things. Kendra mentioned several varieties of chicken sandwich. Minah decided she wanted a cheese steak. Biscuit Boy talked about getting a sub. I decided to go back to the my old standby persoonal size, Sicilian pizza with red sauce, mozzerella and
Once the waitress collected the menus, Kendra whom Kerry knew from Navigators made her way to the head of the table. A boy from Navs who was sitting there, gave up his seat. I wonered if this was somehow prearranged. "We need to talk about Ranier Ciari," Kendra began. Minah made a small, unhappy noise.
"My name is Kendra Wolfe-King," Kendra began. "I grew up in Boise City. Both the Wolfes and Kings are among the first familes to stay there. Both our families survived the Dust Bowl years in the Great Depression. Nothing is going to make us leave. The Ciaris are also old people. Some say they were among the first settlers. Some say they were traders who lived there before the government declared Oklahoma Indian Territory and that was long before we became a state.
"You all so Moses Wolfe last night. You all saw what was done to him. It wasn't any car accident. Everyone in Simarron Union High knew that Ranier Ciari and Moses Wolfe both liked Shasta Godwin though who knows why. Shasta was not quite trash, but that was only because she was young and pretty. Given a few more years and the world would corrupt her. I'm sorry. That's the way it is.
"Moses Wolfe is my second cousin. He remembers what happened to him that night. He can talk so he told any of us who would listen when we came up to Norman to visit. Yeah he was in Norman because he needed rehab. Last fall he couldn't walk and he couldn't use one of his hands either. He's gotten a lot better. I'm glad he got into college, but he could talk even before he could walk and he remembered.
"The Ciaris drove the Wolfe part of my family out of business. They declared bankruptcy and lost their ranch. The Ciari's bought their land on the courthouse steps and that was after Mr. Cirai fooled around with Moses' ma and threw her away like a used Kleenex. That's the Ciaris.
"The Wolfes lost their house and had to move into Stillwater Court, a complex which they hated. Even there, they had trouble paying the rent. One month the summer before our senior year of high school, they couldn't make the rent, so Moses sold his car. He walked three miles each way to football practice that summer. He also walked three miles home, often after dark.
"One night, Ranier offered Moses a ride home, and my fool cousin took the ride. Ranier took Moses out on to a lonely stretch of back road near the Feldman Place where we were having a healing service for Ma Feldman who was dying of cancer. Well, we raised the roof with prayer and that was how I knew something was wrong.
"I guess Moses didn't notice the big length of pipe on the floor of the backseat of Ranier's car. Moses says he sat up front. Then Ranier stops the car and says: 'Get out.' Moses asks why. Ranier opens his door, grabs Moses, and pulls him out. Moses asks Ranier why and then Ranier slugs Moses. Moses fights back. If it had just been a fair fight...
"You know it wasn't a fair fight. Ranier got out the pipe and told Moses he was going to either kill him or make him wish he was dead. Ranier beat Moses. Ranier stamped on Moses. My sister at the healing prayer meeting felt the spirit come upon her and learned something was wrong. She said there was a man dying by the side of the road. She made me take the truck and drive out and we found Moses. There was blood everywhere. It had soaked his clothes. He had so many broken bones we were afraid to move him. I called for an ambulance and the medics had to put him on a board. His face was so messed up we could hardly recognize him. Well, we saved Moses' life. The good Lord works in unusual ways.
"The Ciaris are still there of course. They will always be there and they will always be hurting other people. They made sure Ranier never saw the inside of a courtroom, not even when he bragged about killing Moses. The Raniers are just like that. They take the good out of everything and don't care how the rest of us suffer. Some people don't think they're even human.
"Back in Dust Bowl times, when people were starving to death and had no money because there was no water, the Ciaris had a black walnut tree on their land. It was a huge tree that was two hundred years old. That's how people know the Ciaris have been on their land from before Oklahoma was in the Louisiana Purchase. I'm not sure which. Well during the Dust Bowl, that tree always got plenty of water. Sometimes people would steal the nuts, but a lot of folks were afraid. If a Ciari shot you, you'd just be dead and the Ciari would find a way to get away with it or maybe you'd end up in the river drowned or your car would crash or who knew... People were afraid to eat those nuts. I don't believe in curses, not the kind man can bring, but the Ciaris aren't good people."
Kendra ended her speech. She sat down, glass eyed and exhausted. I could see the help loading trays with our meals. "We need to do something about Ranier," Kerry took up the ball from Kendra.
"How can we do anything?" I asked. "You can't change the past, and this is not Boisie City!"
"The Bible says to shun evil," Kerry quoted the appropriate chapter and verse.
"Saying someone can't eat at your table is so highschool!" I argued back. It also was not punishment enough for Ranier's crime. "Also we all have to associate with Ranier in our classes so we can't shun him and if we do, it's just petty."
"Then what do you suggest?" asked Kendra.
"I don't suggest anything. Ranier and Shasta may be gone for good."
"Wishful thinking," Kendra snarled.
"I have an idea," suggested Aaron. I winced. Any idea had to be no good. "Rimona's right. We can't shun Ranier and none of this is Shasta's fault, so we certainly can't shun her. We can't kick someone out of our table or classes, but we can choose to eat elsewhere. We can say we're eating somewhere else when Ranier invites us. We can eat in the union." I made a face. "We can use our meal exchanges or Sooner bucks at lunch. We can find other study rooms or study in the library. It's voluntary. Nobody has to do it all the time. Sound good?"
By now the waistresses had brought our dinner. We did not vote on Aaron's idea. It required no consensus, just individual action. This was not a court of law. It also was not karma. If all of us found somewhere else to eat, even if we sometimes ate by ourselves (Wanting to read was a great excuse!) Ranier would never eat alone because he had Shasta. That's not much of a punishment. Karma when one really thought about it demanded something worse, and that sort of divine revenge was for God to exact in His own time and with ways that were always too mysterious for mortals to understand.
Chapter 36 -- Burnt and Peace Offerings Edit
My fourth weekend in Norman followed a different rhythm then all the rest due to Shasta and Ranier's absence. I was not sure I missed them. I had my invite from the Grazielles and that made me feel better. I also enjoyed our "date" with Ben Fry, Biscuit Boy's and my TA. The saddest part of the date was when Biscuit Boy reluctantly gave Mr. Fry his broken cue ball. He may have believed it a good luck omen of sorts. He had it carefully wrapped in an old shirt and unwrapped it with the same care.
Mr. Fry smiled. "I don't need all that," he drawled. "I'm just going to shave a bit off for a sample," he declared.
"How do you shave a cue ball?" I asked.
Mr. fry showed Biscuit Boy, Glenn (another boy from our chemistry class), and Seth who took calculus with Biscuit Boy and me, the microtome. The NMR spectra of the cue ball was somewhat anticlimactic though Mr. Fry did give Biscuit Boy a print out. It was a bunch of wavy lines that looked like teeth on a badly made comb that would have caused more tangles in hair than it cleared. Ben Fry explained how to read the spectra and even drew parts of the cue ball's structure on the board. The structure was pretty. It had carbons, hydrogens, and some sulfur and nitrogen atoms tucked inside it. That last surprised me, but Mr. Fry said that proteins sometimes had those things and organic chemistry is often organic in name only. "Think about petroleum. It's been millenia since it was alive," Mr. Fry concluded.
"That's why they call it fossil fuel," I said. I heard Biscuit Boy make a small "yeah."
I was hungry and it was not yet 10pm, so I suggested we head for Pizza Shuttle. Glenn groaned and said he didn't have a car. "We walk everywhere, or Ree-mon-a does," Biscuit Boy countered. "I have studying to do," Seth protested. "So do we all," I argued. I invited the boys to the study rooms in Cate, and we all went out to a very pleasant dinner.
I slept in a bit on Sunday morning, went out to study, buy apples, and work for Dr. DaSilva in Kaufman. On the way back from buying apples, I stopped for a swim. It was a lovely sunny day, but by the time I got out of the pool, an ugly storm was edging over the western horizon. "That's probably the last summer storm of the season," I thought sadly. I sat on the gym steps eating an apple. I did not want to think of Ranier, but it had been strange walking out of Native Roots into an empty parking lot. I tried to imagine Boisie City and shuddered. Tulsa had in some ways been bad enough.
I realized it was more or less dinner time. I drifted back toward Couch. I ate by myself for the first time in a month. I finished Richard III, and went in to study at Cate. Late Sunday night I came upstairs to have a shower and sleep. My roommate was busting her tail in the library. The hall was full of sleepers and... Ranier was nothing but a black shadow in the hall near my door. I tried to summon courage. "Remember the fire alarm," I told myself.
"Hello Rimona," Ranier greeted me.
"Where's Shasta?" I asked.
"Back in Walker. She went to sleep. She has a smashing headache. I brought you something. Want to see?"
There had to be a trick in this somewhere. I slipped past Ranier and turned to face him. He looked relaxed, but he may have looked relaxed on that lonely road in Boisie City with Moss Wolfe riding next to him. Did he make smalltalk with Moses that night or did he shower him with threats? Threats are more fun. I found my key and opened the door. I wanted light. I did not like Ranier in the shadows.
Ranier stepped unbidden into Kerry's and my room. "This is for you," he said and handed me a heavy shoe box in the bottom of a fancy gift bag covered with images of an Italian street scene. I set the bag on the bed and extracted the box. What was inside felt too heavy to be shoes. I opened the box. Inside was a jar of shriveled olives in oil, kalamata olives, olives stuffed with bleu cheese, and a can of grape leaves stuffed with rice. "Wow," was all I could say. "Where did you get this stuff?"
"Oklahoma City. I asked one of my relatives where to find an ethnic grocery. I knew you'd like this stuff. Aunt Yiscah suggested the grape leaves."
I tried not to lick my chops. Something inside me felt baffled. "Why?" I finally asked.
"We're still friends. I want you to know that, Rimona."
I guessed we were still friends at that. I had never said I was breaking off my friendship with Ranier. He had left too suddenly for me to form the rash words. Now I was oddly glad I hadn't said them. There were other words I did need to say though.
"You know I see Moses Wolfe once a week," I told Ranier.
"I try not to think about that," Ranier sighed. "What do you two discuss anyway?"
"Not much. A bit of gossip. Maybe Moses got Shasta out of his system. That would be the best thing for everybody."
"You're right about that," Ranier smiled. He did not ask about Kendra's presentation in Pizza Shuttle, and I was not going to tell him. Ranier was back at school. Ranier still had Shasta. Ranier was NOT in trouble with the law, but I did not think there would be any more big table in Couch.
Chapter 37 -- Ride at Night Edit
There was a training table Monday morning in Couch, but I expected that. No one wanted to eat breakfast alone. I wondered if any one had yet told Ranier the news. I wondered how soon he would learn. I also knew by Monday that just not eating with Ranier and Shasta was both too nasty and doing too little. Yes, you heard it before, but I had a better understanding of my reasoning. Ranier and those who neglected to prosecute him needed to see the inside of a court of law. They weren't going to see it, not in an eternity. This is exactly what injustice looked like. Justice as my own experience had shown me, also could look cruel and ugly, but injustice was worse. If I had lied to protect my brother, Eben, I would have seen injustice.
So what does one do in the face of injustice? High school remedies really don't work. They tell Ranier we don't like him, but the trouble is we could use the same remedy if Ranier ate his snot, breathed through his mouth, etc... It was a message that looked way too personal. Still we needed to let Ranier know that what he had done was wrong and unacceptible, not just because we said it was wrong and then went on with life as usual. That was the usual hypocrisy, but we needed a bigger way to make a statement or at least I did.
Fortunately, there was a way to do this that was really not all that difficult, at least for me. Moses Wolfe's location and presence were open secrets. He probably could use some friends. Letting Ranier see that we did not treat Moses as a nonperson and in fact befriended him would send him the message that he had nearly killed a real human being and not a low life or an animal or someone who "deserved what he got."
Of course, Moses and I usually did not cross paths, but that could change. It did not change at lunch time on Monday. Ranier and I crossed paths in Couch and Shasta, he, and I ate together along with Ranier's roommate, Greg, and one or two kids from Ranier's business history class, and a kid from Shasta's English class.
Monday afternoon, I began to put my plan into action. I studied in the Physical Sciences Computer lab. I did not see Moses, and around 6pm I had to go services for the start of Rosh HaShannah. I all ready had my religious excuse and religious holidays were important to me. The service was small and sometimes boring. I fell asleep during part of it and dreamed of Moses and Ranier fighting it out with big lengths of PVC pipes. The white pipes got bloody, and both boys had to worry about hiding them after the fight. I woke up feeling dizzy and dislocated.
I was glad when sundown came on Tuesday. For some reason, I did not feel like meeting with Ranier for supper or like eating with those who were ostentatiously avoiding Ranier to punish him. Instead, I walked west down West Lindsey toward Pizza Shuttle. I kept thinking Ranier followed me in his red sports car, but he was nowhere to be seen. He was gone, vanished like a nightmare. I reached Pizza Shuttle and ate curry vegetable pizza by myself with a psychology reading for comapny.
I worked on calculus problems on a table in the hall outside the physical science building computer lab until nearly midnight, and then made my way across the silent campus. Tomorrow I'd meet Moses but have no news or rather the weekend's crazy news about Ranier. I realized I was kind of glad I had not yet met Moses. I was thinking that when I saw the way too familiar red, two seater sports car, cruising up Asp Ave. I thought a curse word. I was not ready for Ranier.
He asked me to get in. He asked how my holiday was. I looked in the back not sure what I would do if I saw a length of metal or PVC pipe. There was no pipe, but Ranier stopped the car anyway. "What do you think I'm going to do to you?" he asked.
"That's a rhetorical question," I responded.
Ranier laughed, and then he was silent. "No," Ranier responded. "Use your intelligence, Rimona. Rimona, where are we?"
"Asp Avenue at 12:10am Central Daylight Time right after Rosh HaShannah."
"OK, where is Asp Avenue?"
"Yes, and Norman is a big city and this is the University of Oklahoma."
"Oh so you need a lonely road in the country."
"As a matter of fact, yes. I'm not going to commit a crime where there are loads of witnesses. Even your brother didn't do that, though beating on a smaller, female sibling is very dumb."
Ranier restarted the car. We said nothing the rest of the trip back to Cate. "Have you eaten those grape leaves yet?" he asked. I told him I was saving them for a special occasion. He asked if I would like to study calculus with him. I asked about Shasta and he said she was sleeping. I sat up for an hour studying with Ranier, and actually got some work done.
"The kids from Navs and Campus Crusade, probably won't be eating with us any more on Friday," I told Ranier.
"You're probably right," he responded. "You'll eat with Shasta and me though?"
"Why not?" I responded.
"You don't believe in turn the other cheek do you? They don't, but Christians can be hypocrites."
"No, I believe in justice," I told Ranier.
"So it's unjust not to eat with me," Ranier half laughed.
"No," I answered. "It doesn't serve justice to cut you off and I'm not sure how to serve justice."
"I don't believe in justice," Ranier told me. "The strong take the weak. The predator takes the prey. That is the way of the world. You can't change that Rimona."
I did not answer Ranier. I thought about Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. "I need to get some sleep," I told Ranier and headed upstairs. I did not worry about him following to my bedroom. I might scream and the walls upstairs were thin. A fight could easily wake sleepers who would turn into witnesses. Ranier was somewhat of a pro and he needed a quiet place to kill someone.
Chapter 38 -- Do the Right Thing Edit
I met Moses at Belk's Wednesday night which meant no supper until I returned to campus which meant I'd probably use a meal exchange to eat at Subway. All this worked perfectly. I sat by the trees under a lavender sky that was still silky from clearing rain. Moses needed some serious deoderant. I did wish my friend smelled better. I guess there is something poetic about wanting to take the side of a true stinker. I told about Kendra's tale.
"She got it right," answered Moses. "So what did people do?" he did not skip a beat.
I glanced around for the red sports car. Ranier hadn't caught on to how widely I ranged or maybe spending time with Shasta took priority, or maybe he did not worry about me. I was too brave that Wednesday after Rosh HaShannah to be scaird. I just thought he might be out there. I tried to imagine the three of us sitting in a bar. I realized I did not have a decent fake ID or even an indecent one. I did not like beer because I had not yet acquired the taste for it and I was afraid that hard liquor would make me way too drunk.
"Kerry wanted everyone to stop eating at the same table with Ranier and Shasta," I responded.
"And did people agree..."
"I disagreed," I said.
"You still eat with Ranier?"
"Because not eating with people is so high school!" I explained. "Also, being your friend sends a much stronger message about how I feel than saying 'I don't want to eat with you.' Don't you think?"
"I'm not sure..." Moses pinched his lip. His face was criss crossed with scars.
"He used a horse comb on my face," Moses told me. "After he got done beating me. He took a break to work on my face with a horse comb. You know what a horse comb is."
I could imagine a big comb with iron tines. "Shit," I murmured.
"No shit," Moses responded.
"I can't put Ranier in jail," I told Moses. "I can't even protect you from him," I confessed.
"I'm not asking you for that."
"What do you want?"
"Just don't be his fucking friend. He charms people. He's beautiful, athletic, smart, rich. That seduces a lot of people. I watched him take my Shasta away from me."
"I can't be seduced," I said.
"That's what you think," Moses replied. "Are you going to see me again?" he asked.
"Of course," I told him. A few minutes later Aunt Kaye picked up both Moses and me and took us back to campus. I walked toward the Subway hoping that Ranier had seen where I had been. It was important for Ranier to see. I was hungry. I had work to do. I no longer felt scaird.
Late Wednesday night, I checked my email. The judge from White Plains had written me and said that due to Eben's "absolute and flagrant nonfullfilment of his court-mandated anger management training," she was NOT rescinding my order of protection against my brother. I guess these sorts of things follow you. My guardian ad litem asked how I was doing and told me I was better off keeping the order of protection any way.
I made a copy of the Grazielle's letter inviting me to their house for winter break and sent it to the judge asking her to put it in the court records. Eben was still in juvenile jail and he was there for a nonviolent offense and Dad's convenience. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.
Friday night I met Ranier after services along with Aaron and the other Friday night kids. We circled back toward Cate but found only Biscuit Boy waiting. He wanted to eat with his lab partner. He was not all that fond of the "Navs" as he called them, and was quietly glad they were eating somewhere else. Our much reduced group trotted up the sidewalk to our usual night rendez vous.
We did not exactly pretend that nothing had happened. Biscuit Boy and I talked chemistry. Shasta chatted about seeing a counselor to help her and Ranier survive an engagement of which none of the parents approved. She also chatted about a trip to Oklahoma City to obtain a ring. I hoped that such trips were private two person affairs. I could not help thinking about a few lonely stretches of state highway between Norman and Oklahoma City.
"What happened to everybody?" a chatty waitress at Pizza Shuttle asked. "Most kids went home for the weekend," Ranier had a ready response. I stared at the floor. "Next weekend," Ranier told us once we had ordered our food. "I'm going to formally propose to Shasta."
"Congratulations," offered Biscuit Boy.
"She pushed you into it," I thought but did not say. I was not jealous of Shasta. "Are you going to have some sort of party?" I inquired.
"What do you think?" Ranier smiled. "What kind of a party do you think we should have?"
"A big bridal and groomal shower," I suggested.
Biscuit Boy and Ranier's roommate snorted in unison.
"Maybe we could rent a room and hire a DJ," Shasta suggested.
"Could we get enough people to come?" Ranier asked. "I think it's going to have to be a smaller event."
Shasta sighed. "I have friends from high school," she spoke up.
"My family won't come to an engagement party," Ranier answered bluntly.
"Your family has their noses in the air, and we've waited as long as we could."
I glanced back toward the kitchen. I wanted everyone to start eating and stop talking. I wondered what Ranier or Shasta would say if I suggested they invite Moses to their engagement party. I kept my mouth shut and realize that I did not want to make Ranier angry by telling a gratuitously sick joke.
Chapter 39 -- "Aren't All Girls Princesses?"Edit
"Rimona! Reeee-moooo-naaaaa!" Ranier called out. He had just edged his red sports car into the parking lot at Native Roots. It was a bit after noon on my fifth Saturday in Norman, and there was Ranier blocking traffic and sitting on the horn. I knew what he wanted. I knew that I DID NOT want to go to OK City with him.
I approached the car. I wondered how to talk my way out of this. "OK now get in," Raniergave the order when I was within earshot.
"Ranier, I can't," I whinged as best I could.
"I'm way behind."
"You..." Ranier had me caught in my lie. Yes, I had time to go to Oklahoma City. No, I did not want to go with Ranier. I probably would never go to OK City with Ranier ever again. I couldn't. I felt my guts knot up in fear. "Run!" something in my brain screamed. I held my ground. I don't give up that easily.
"Yes me," I told my former friend. Ranier could trully never be my lover or my friend. I knew that much.
"Rimona, cut the shit," Ranier all but laughed and his laughter made me angry.
"Look in the back of the car," Ranier teased. The back of the car had a few food wrappers. I couldn't see any large, blunt instruments. That still didn't prove anything.
"This is really sick," I told Ranier.
"You're right Rimona. Fear is sickening. Come on. We'll find a really good store to buy you the best apples you ever ate. How about it?"
Suddenly, for what felt like no reason, I wanted to laugh.
"Look Rimona, you're worth way too much to me alive for me to want to hurt or kill you, OK? You help me with study skills and you help Shasta with math and being organized. Besides people who are systematic like you are, are pretty rare. I need you for a friend. Why would I want to kill you?"
"Because of the way I feel about what you did to Moses," I spelled it out.
"I can live with that. You didn't say you were cutting me off and I'm not cutting you off either. People say agree to disagree. Well why can't that be us?" I looked for Shasta in the car. I wondered what she made of all this very, weird conversation.
"How do I know that I can trust you?" I asked back.
"Rimona, I don't want to go to jail over you."
"You could get away with it."
"Not in Cleaveland County. My family doesn't know the judge and county prosecutor like they do back in Cimarron. Besides, they'd ask why I bothered. They'd ask what you did to me. It takes a lot of effort to keep things out of the courts. Now will you come with me to Oklahoma City?"
I don't have to tell you that I believed Ranier. If he was going to lie, he would have been a lot less feckless. He would have attested to his own moral purity. He would not have confessed to using me to prove he had no ill intentions. That was what I told myself as I sat hunched over and hungry in the back of the red sports car. We headed straight for the highway and did not stop for soda or snacks. I still had no apples.
We ended up in a large mall with baking hot pavement surrounding it on the edge of OK City. We went to jewelry stores. I watched eager sales clerks hustle Ranier and Shasta. More than once, I saw Ranier and Shasta fight.
"You don't buy an engagement ring like you buy a car!" Shasta all but wailed. I huddled on a little, tan, upholstered bench in the jewelry store trying not to watch an eighteen year old woman have a melt down. Why was I here? How had I let Ranier talk me into this?
"A diamond ring is a major purchase," Ranier argued back. "You have to do some shopping around. You have to be informed. Ask Rimona. She's another girl. She'd tell you how she'd shop for a ring, and please don't tell me you want on-nyx."
"I'd make sure I wasn't buying a conflict diamond," I spoke up.
"A what?" stammered Ranier.
"A conflict diamond. Paramilitaries in Africa use the money from diamonds to fund war where they butcher civliians and draft child soldiers, really ugly stuff."
"No shit!" snapped Ranier whose face was rapidly flushing red. "Rimona, go find the Harris Teeter so we can get you your apples."
"I said go! Scram! Get out of here!"
I wanted to laugh. Then suddenly I felt sick. I remembered Eben ordering me to clean up the kitchen, do the dishes, take my books out of the living room. Who was Eben to give orders then and who was Ranier to give orders now?
"Where do we meet?" I found my tongue. I did not have to do anything Ranier told me.
"At the catalog place in Penny's," Ranier was a quicker study than Eben and I left. I was safer leaving, I told myself as I ambled off toward the information counter where I could borrow a phone book. They had no phone book, so I found the mall office. They had a yellow pages. I found a road atlas in a book store and got the location for the Harris Teeter. I even wrote it down, adn then I went to the catalog counter.
I realized they closed the mall at nine pm. It was six o'clock by the big clock in the wall where the catalog ladies looked a bit bored. I wondered if Ranier would just abandon me. It would be better for both of us if he did, I realized. I could find my way downtown, sit up all night in the Greyhound station and take the bus back in the morning, more or less none the worse for wear. I wouldn't have apples on Sunday, and I'd fall a bit behind in my studies, but so what.
I went over the plan B in my head five or six times. On the seventh time, Ranier and Shasta appeared. Shasta looked tired. I did not ask if they had bought the ring. "I'm glad you're still here," Ranier greeted me. "I'm sorry I blew up at you, Rimona. It's just sometimes, I forget... Let's go get your apples."
Shasta said nothing as we piled back into Ranier's red sports car. Just outside the parking lot, Ranier pulled over. I glanced around me. We were on a commercial street. There was a car dealership in one direction and a Hobby Lobby in another. "Rimona, I want you sitting up front," Ranier told me. I blinked. I looked to see if my former friend whom I could no longer trust was armed. He lifted his hands to show me they were empty. I switched seats though I still felt my hairs prickle on the back of my neck. If Ranier wanted to talk, I realized I was in no mood for conversation.
"I want to make an appointment to talk with you," Ranier began. I had not expected this. "When are you free next week?"
"Thursday is Yom Kippur," I told my not quite friend.
"So Thursday is out."
"All day and it makes everything else tight too."
"OK, what about Friday."
"Classes and services," I reminded him.
"After we all go to Pizza Shuttle," Ranier told me. "When we get back."
"It can wait that long?" I felt surprised.
"Yes...We need to work together better," was all Ranier said.