Apr 09 2012

H is for Hank (Existence series character)

            Water
sloshed into the hole on the sole of the worn out sneaker. Hank tried to ignore
the cold wetness as it infiltrated his sock once again. He ran faster toward
his school, only to fall into the mud. He picked himself back up, wiped off
what he could, and trudged onward.

            “That
is no way to look when coming to school, young man.”

            “Yes,
Mrs. Klein,” he replied to the angry vice-principal as he entered the
building. He made his way quickly to the boys’ bathroom to clean up as best he
could.

            “Who
let the fertilizer in?” one of the three boys in varsity basketball
jackets jeered.

            Hank tried
to ignore the taunts as he washed the mud off of himself using paper towels.
The jocks grabbed his backpack. They tore it open and pulled out his belongings
to destroy them. Outnumbered, Hank fought uselessly to stop them. Then the door
shot open, and the tallest boy in school marched in.

            “Give
it back to him.”

            “But
Cap, we were just having fun!”

            “Yeah,
look at the puny dweeb. He’s a wreck.”

            “Are
you three deaf? I said to hand it back! Now!” The tallest boy growled at
his teammates as he hovered over them. The boys did as commanded. “Go to
class,” he said. Once they were gone, he turned his attention to Hank.

            “Thanks,
Irving.”

            “That’s
what I’m here for. Why are you such a mess this morning, anyway? Is that their
fault? I’ll make them run laps until they puke if it is.”

            “Nah,
this is all my doing. I tried to outrun the rain. Guess it didn’t work.”

            Irving shook his head.
“You could have called my house. You know one of us would have given you a
ride.”

            Hank
nodded. He gathered his things and made one more attempt to look presentable. Irving‘s family had
always been good to him. He didn’t want to take advantage by asking for rides
or hand-outs.

            “We
could skip, if you wanna. My uncle could come get us. We could spend the day
with the cows. They won’t care if you’re covered in mud.”

            “Thanks
man, but I can’t. I’ve got that big geometry test today and an oral report in history.
You know how Mrs. Burnstien is.

            “If
you aren’t here the day your report is due, the only excuse is a
deathbed,” the boys quoted in an impersonation of the old teacher who
everyone loathed.

           

            At
lunchtime, Hank and Irving settled into their
usual seats at a table with Irving‘s
twin brothers.

            “Did
you see the new girl?” one of Irving‘s
brothers asked.

            Everyone at
the table replied that they had not. Irving
motioned to a nearby table. Two freshmen boys ran over to him, racing each
other to get their first.

            “Freshmen,
there is a new girl in school. I would like to be introduced. See to it.”

            The boys
actually bowed. “Yes, Captain!” They rushed off.

            Hank
laughed. “Abusing the power today?”

            “It
might impress her,” Irving
replied as he pulled out his roast beef sandwich and handed half of it to Hank.

            “I’m
good.”

            “You
love my Aunt’s roast beef. Just eat it before I make one of the freshmen come
over here and feed it to you.”

            Hank
chuckled, thanked him, and took the sandwich. His mouth welcomed a big bite of
fresh meat that had been slowly basted and roasted for hours over a simmering
fire mingled with the season’s most recent offering of crisp lettuce and
sun-ripened tomato tucked between two slices of homemade wheat bread which was
slathered with mayonnaise. He chewed slowly as he savored the wonderful fresh
flavors.

            “Captain!
Captain!” the freshmen called excitedly as they ran over, towing a large
blonde girl with them. “This is her, sir. Kirstie Smith, this is Irving
McCormick, the captain of the basketball team.”

            The shy
girl offered a small wave with one hand while the other toyed with her necklace
nervously. Hank took another bite of the sandwich. Mayo shot down his chin and
over his mud-stained shirt. Kirstie laughed lightly and smiled at him.

            “My
dad is the same way, always getting things on his shirt. I could help you clean
up, if you want I mean,” she said to Hank with a small stutter.

            “That’s
not the Captain, ma’am. The one in the jacket with the big C on it is the
Captain.”

            “Freshmen,
go back to your table. You’ve done well, thank you,” Irving said as he dismissed them.

            “I’m
fine, thanks,” Hank said as he turned bright red.

            “Oh,
okay,” Kirstie muttered. She stared at her shoe laces as if they were
suddenly very interesting.

            Irving shook his head. He
kicked Hank under the table. Once his friend met his eyes, they exchanged
conversational glances. Frustrated by Hank’s shyness, Irving piped up. “He’s being modest. He
does need your help. Can’t clean a thing, this one. Total wreck.”

 

            And so,
with a push from his friend, Hank went off with Kirstie, not only to get
cleaned up, but to fall in love with the woman he would spend his life with,
and to transform from a messy clumsy boy into devoted responsible man.

 

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