Read High School 2 - Diversity - The Clash Online

Authors: Paul Swearingen

Tags: #relationships, #el dia de los muertos, #corvette, #day of the dead, #mexican american, #car chase, #hispanic, #mustang

High School 2 - Diversity - The Clash (2 page)

“Well, I do have a little punk sister, but
about all she can do is run like the wind, which actually might be
just enough for her.”

“I’m not much of a runner; short legs, you
know.” She waved in the general direction of her knees. “You still
have two parents, right?” She couldn’t remember anything about the
rest of his family, but she had told him once that her mother had
disappeared right about the same time that she was in
kindergarten.

Justin stared at her for a moment before he
answered. “No. My mom’s here, but … well … let’s just say that my
father is where he won’t be going anywhere for quite awhile.”

Carla shot a glance at him. “At least you
know where he is. My father hasn’t heard from my mother since I was
little, and I don’t think even he knows where she is.”

Justin shook his head. “Yeah. I know how it
goes. Sorry. Listen, I gotta go. Sharice will be waiting to be
picked up, and little sisters can get awfully crabby if they have
to wait more that three seconds for a ride.

“All right, Justin. And … thanks.”

Justin turned and looked at her. “No
problem. But you’d better learn when to run your mouth and when
just to run. Ya know?”

Carla sighed. “Well, that certainly narrows
my options, doesn’t it?”

He just chuckled, waved, and disappeared
down the hallway.

She looked into her locker again. There was
nothing that she really wanted from it, either, and she slammed the
door. It didn’t catch. She pulled the door open, adjusted her
backpack so that the strap wasn’t caught between the door and the
locker frame, slammed it again, and jammed the lock shut.

 

Chapter Three

Even though the sun was bright this morning,
the north wind was picking up, and Carla increased her pace to try
to keep warm, rubbing her bare hands against her thighs inside her
pockets while trying to keep her backpack from falling off her left
shoulder. Her house was only about eight blocks away from the
school building, but she was already freezing.

Suddenly, as she was crossing the parking
lot, she saw what had to be the back of Miranda’s head with her
long, dark hair as she walked through the back door, and Carla
kneeled abruptly and stared at a dust-encrusted fender for a few
minutes. The last thing she wanted today was any kind of encounter
with Miranda, or the principal, or anyone else. Time to get out of
here. Maybe she could just take the day off.

“I wish Pop would let me get a cell phone,”
she muttered again to herself. Yeah, that way I wouldn’t be talking
to myself all the time. I could call someone and invite them to
skip with me, maybe catch some breakfast and start the day right.
She mentally reviewed a potential list of breakfasters and rejected
all, ending up with a blank list in her mind. Forget the stupid
cell phone. She’d go it alone. Again.

She was careful to stay low as she made her
way between the cars and then walk along the south edge of the lot
and out onto the street so that the surveillance camera covering
the area would catch only her back. She had better than a 50-50
chance of being identified anyway – how many short girls with
glossy, dark hair, of somewhat obvious Mexican-American heritage,
and wearing a bright red hoodie would be counted absent at Niotaka
High School this period anyway? – but at least she’d make them work
a little for the ID.

Usually she could count on at least one or
two cars moving along the street so she would be able to bum a ride
downtown, but perhaps the chilly weather was responsible for the
lack of traffic. She glanced back at the school parking lot. Oh,
well, at least she’d be warm by the time she made it downtown …

A screech and a horn blasting right next to
her woke her from her reverie, and she almost did a meltdown right
in the middle of the crosswalk. The car had stopped just six inches
from her left hip, and the driver rolled down his window and leaned
out.

“Hey, little girl, you trying to be my hood
ornament or what?”

She took a deep breath, glared at him
through the cracked windshield, and banged her fist on the hood.
“Sure, why not? At least you’d have SOMETHING that looked good on
this piece of crap.”

“Hey, you’re talking about a classic Mustang
here. Show a little respect, midget!”

“Who are you calling a midget, ya jerk?” He
looked like one of the many college students running loose around
Niotaka, and he didn’t look very dangerous, even though he was
revving the engine, which sounded ragged. He’d better not have an
automatic tranny in that thing.

“Listen, I have a better idea. Instead of
you blocking my progress so I can’t get to work, why don’t I give
you a ride somewhere so you can get warm. Anywhere you say. Just
get out of the way or get in.”

A gust of cold wind that picked up a piece
of paper and slammed it against her legs made up her mind for her.
“Okay, fine. But you better have a working heater in that rust
bucket.”

“All the finest comforts, milady. Just get
in so we can make some progress here.”

The door creaked and a few crumbling leaves
fell out. She dropped her backpack onto the floor and plopped into
the bucket seat. Big mistake. The padding was non-existent, and her
rear bounced off what felt like a concrete block.

“Careful, now. Ya wanna punch a hole in my
floor pan?”

“What a wonderf- … ” The rest of her words
were lost in the unmuffled roar of the exhaust as she was thrown
against the back of her seat. She reached out to hold on to the
dashboard with one hand and the armrest with the other.

“No time to waste here, midget. I gotta get
me some cigarettes before I head off to work.” She glanced at the
driver. Funny, she didn’t remember his face from those of stock car
drivers she remembered. Or from the post office wanted posters.

“And where might that be?”

“The radio station. KNTK. I’m due on the air
in five minutes. Oh, and the heating system out there works just
fine.” He reached down to the volume knob of the radio and twisted
it. A male voice floated out above the roar, obviously reading the
news. “That’s Bob, and he really hates it when I’m not there to
take over from him, on time.”

“Oh, so you’re … ”

“Sorry, I forgot the introductions. I’m
Marvin, Marvelous Marv to my fans. All seven of them.” He laughed,
almost barking, and he twisted the steering wheel so that the car
lurched a little to the right.

“Dammit, I missed him. Last week I flattened
two squirrels on this road. None so far this week.” And he threw
back his head and uttered his dog-bark laugh again.

The car swerved and screeched to the left
across an intersection, which luckily happened to be empty at the
time, and then to the right and almost into the plate glass window
of a Quick-Shop. Marv slapped the gearshift into neutral and pulled
on the parking brake, rolled down the window, reached outside to
open the door, and jumped out, leaving the door slightly ajar. He
literally ran into the store. In the added light, Carla could see
that both the door panel and inside handle were missing. She looked
around outside to see if anyone was watching, but only some old guy
with his back to her was pumping gas and watching the meter.

The engine rumbled almost loud enough to
drown out Bob, who was now reading something about an Amber Alert.
She reached out to tweak the volume knob, but a crackle interrupted
the delivery, and when the sound settled down, Bob was talking
about grain futures. Maybe she should improve the chances of her
own future by getting out and running like hell? The old guy didn’t
look too dangerous; maybe he wouldn’t mind giving a ride to an
innocent little girl.

Before she could pull open her door handle,
Marv was back, jamming a pack of cigarettes into his inside jacket
pocket. He slammed the door, released the parking brake, jammed the
shift lever into reverse, and almost threw Carla into the dashboard
as he screeched back into the street.

Carla slid as far down into her seat as she
could and gripped both sides of it. Bad idea to get into cars with
weird college guys. If she lived, she’d never accept another ride
from any stranger, again. Never. Maybe with people she knew,
possibly with other girls’ alleged boyfriends, but not with someone
who was a known murderer of small animals. And maybe other living
things?

One more lurch, and she heard gravel
crunching under the tires. She released her grip on the seat and
reached for her backpack. As she straightened up, she looked up
through the pitted windshield and realized that they were in KNTK’s
parking lot, as the antenna reached for the sky right in front of
them.

“You gonna gaze in wonder at our stick or
get out?” Marvelous Marv was already outside of the car, and he
slammed the door. A few flakes of rust fell into Carla’s lap, and
she looked up and saw that the car had no headliner.

“Listen, pal, I’m just offering thanks that
I got here, anywhere, in one piece. You always interrupt people
when they’re praying?”

Marvin cocked his head. “Oh, come on, now. I
give you a ride, and you diss my wheels? Is that any way to thank a
guy?”

“Okay, okay, thanks for nothing, or maybe
for driving me out here in the middle of nowhere.” She remembered
his offer to take her anywhere when she was still in the
intersection. Too late. She should have taken off running while she
still had the chance.

He jerked his thumb towards the low,
whitewashed, cinder block building at the edge of the parking lot.
“Listen, I’d love to stand here in the cold and continue this
fascinating conversation with you all morning, but I’m supposed to
be on the air in less than sixty seconds. Bob’s car is right over
there, and I’m sure he won’t mind giving you a ride back into town.
He probably has to cut a commercial or two, but it shouldn’t be
more than a half-hour before he’s ready. Okay?”

She hauled her backpack out of the car,
brushed a couple of flakes of rust off it, and gingerly closed the
door. “Fine. Thanks for the ride. Okay?”

But Marv was already ten steps away, headed
toward the building. He waved his hand and disappeared into the
building.

“No charge!” floated back at her. She looked
around. Three cars in the parking lot and no human being in sight.
She was a half-mile from school and eight blocks more to her house,
too far to walk in the biting cold, and she had no other choice but
to follow Marvelous Marv, the weird barking kidnapper, into the
building. What a choice – either freezing her ass off outside or
maybe being molested by a radio personality inside.

 

Chapter Four

Carla hoisted her backpack over her shoulder
and pulled open the heavy front door to the station. When her eyes
adjusted from bright sunlight to the dimmer light inside, she could
see that she was standing in front of a divider with a planter on
top of it. She peered through a large plant that seemed to have
tentacles instead of vines and realized that she was looking at a
woman at a keyboard, who in turn was looking over the tops of her
glasses at Carla. No sign of Marvelous Marv.

“I’m … er … with Marv.”

“Sure. Go down that hallway. And don’t make
any noise. Bob’s still in the news.” She turned back to her
keyboard and resumed typing.

Carla nodded and walked slowly in the
direction of the woman’s outstretched arm. She pushed an unmarked
swinging door open, stepped up two steps to a heavily-carpeted
landing, and slowly walked down another hallway lined with records,
CD’s, tape cartridges, notebooks, and papers piled on shelves that
badly needed a new coat of paint. On her right was an open door,
and she stopped and looked inside. Another guy, who also looked
like a college student and who was wearing an enormous pair of
headphones, looked up at her from a console and held his finger to
his lips while he manipulated something on the console in front of
him.

“And that’s the news at eight, brought to
you by Herbert West Chevrolet in north town. I’m Bob Benson for
KNTK news.” He punched a button and flipped a lever, and suddenly
the news theme blared from a speaker above his head. Carla jumped,
and Bob grinned and pulled a slide volume control down toward him.
“Sorry about that. We always listen to our country music at full
volume here.” He punched another button and the sound of guitars,
fiddles, and a snare drum came out of the speaker.

Carla wrinkled her nose.

“I know, I know; no one under 30 in this
town likes country music. But you’d better believe the sponsors
like it, and they’re the ones who pay the bills and help me stay in
college by keeping me employed.” He pulled the headphone plug out
of the jack and wound the cord around the headphones.

“I suppose Marv dragged you in here? He’s
got about two-and-a-half minutes to get his butt into this chair
and take over. I’ve only programmed this one song into the
computer, and after that, it’s dead air time.”

His friendliness caught her by surprise. “I
sort of caught a ride with him out here, or maybe he kidnapped me,
or I was so amazed that that rust bucket ran that I fell into the
front seat of it by mistake. He’s around here somewhere.” Carla
glanced at the computer screen next to the console. It contained
nothing but the title of one song and dashes next to numbers.

“I certainly hope so.” Bob gathered up a
pile of papers that had been next to him and leafed through them.
He stopped and looked at Carla. “And now I suppose you need a ride
back into town now?”

She cleared her throat and pretended to look
at her fingernails. “Well, now. If you’re offering … ”

“I am. But there’s a catch.”

She stiffened and looked at him.

“Now, relax, kid. I just need to cut a
commercial, and I need a female voice for a couple of lines. I’d
ask Monica, out front, but I’m tired of her monotone. You up for
it?”

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