H3. Leo in the Library

…Faith surprised Dan from behind. He jumped, and books bounced in his backpack. “Faith, don’t scare me like that!”

“Sorry Dainty.” They walked the halls of their high school. “Wanna eat lunch with me and BeatBax and Jilli?”

“I’m eating in the library.”

“Aw. When you’re near, boys quit trying to pick us up. You know that guy in our homeroom who always wears sunglasses?”

Dan blanched and scratched his nose. “Yeah, I know him. Leo.”

“What an ass. He hit on BeatBax yesterday, and it was totally awkward.” She giggled behind her hand. “He did push-ups on our lunch table and we all ignored him. He offered BeatBax a cricket, and she flipped to random pages of the Bible and pretended passages prohibited smoking. When he wouldn’t take the hint I pulled BeatBax close and we made out. He was so mad!”

“Wow.” Dan blushed imagining Faith and Beatrice kissing. “Yeah, I’ll bet.”

“Anyway, have fun hitting those books!”

Dan enjoyed having the library to himself. With the librarian busy at the front desk and the rest of school out to lunch, Dan could walk each aisle inspecting spines without worrying someone was watching him. He pulled five books off the shelves and claimed a table in the back.

His first book’s cover showed a temple from Thailand. Its front wall bore two swastikas; one faced clockwise and the other counterclockwise. Dan hid the swastikas by opening the book so the cover laid flat on the table. He admired a two-page photo of a forty-foot Buddha carved in a cliff-side. A hundred alcoves hid smaller statues of aspects and avatars.

Someone slapped him on the back. Dan released an embarrassing yelp. “Don’t do that!”

“What? It didn’t hurt.” Leo sat beside him. He wore sunglasses and a buttoned shirt hugging his corpulent curves. “What’re you reading, Danny-boy?”

“Nothing. Don’t touch me.”

“I’m just being your bro,” said Leo. “I can’t change who I am.”

“If you can’t be yourself without hitting me, be yourself at a different table.”

“Whatever, man.” Leo leaned in his chair. “Hey, you know that chick with the tits, right? Name starts with a B.”


“Yeah, yeah! What’s her phone number? She was all over me yesterday. I gotta seal the deal with a dick pic.” Dan pretended not to hear. “C’mon, don’t cuck me!”

“What does that even mean?”

“You know. Cuck. Cucking. You’re cucking me, you cuck.” Leo croaked the word like a toad. When Dan shook his head, Leo grunted. “You know. It’s when someone keeps you from getting what you want.”

“Really? Is that what it means?”

“Forget it,” said Leo. “I’ll get B’s number from someone else. I’ll bet she puts out all the time, half the guys here must have her cell.”

“So bother one of them.”

Leo wouldn’t leave. “C’mon, what’re you reading?”

“Hey, quit it!”

Leo lifted the cover of Dan’s book. He grinned at the swastikas. “Better not get caught reading this, Danny-boy. Liberals will eat you alive.”

Dan pressed the cover flat against the table. “Swastikas have different meanings in different cultures.”

“Hey, I get ya, Danny-Boy.” Leo looked both ways, peering over his sunglasses. “Do you ever feel like…” He pushed his sunglasses back up his nose. “Like we should get all the gays in one place, and just…” He mimed firing a gun. Dan had no words. “You know, shoot ‘em.” Leo raised his eyebrows like he’d told a joke and expected Dan to laugh. When he didn’t, Leo shook his head. “Whatever.”

“Why would you say something like that?”

“I said whatever,” said Leo. “Hey, wanna see something cool? I did this myself.” Before Dan could answer, Leo unbuttoned his shirt to his sternum. He had a tattoo in the center of his chest the size of a man’s palm, but with lines thinner than a pen. It was supposed to be a swastika, but he’d reversed two spokes; he must have had trouble inking his own chest in the mirror. He’d tried correcting a backward spoke, but it just looked like a capital T. Leo seemed proud of his fragile snowflake, but Dan thought it resembled a crude firearm with a hair-trigger. “What do you think?”

Dan hesitated. “Anyone admiring Hitler should bite a bullet in a bunker.”

“C’mon, can’t you take a joke? Besides, everyone knows Hitler killed himself ’cause his bitchy wife made him.”

“He was only married forty hours. Still, that’s better than you, right? You’ve never had a girlfriend, have you Leo?”

“Hey, neither have you.” Leo folded his arms, but couldn’t cover the swastika. “And Hitler was awesome when he wasn’t a lefty. You’d know that, if you did any research.”

“Get away from me,” said Dan.


“I said fuck off. But I’ve thought better. I’m leaving.”

“Look, Danny-boy.” Leo stood with Dan and followed him between bookshelves. “Don’t you know stuff likes this pushes people to the alt-right?”

“That’s literally impossible.” Dan reshelved a book. “The fundamental conceit of the alt-right is personal responsibility. If you move to the alt-right it can only be your own choice, by definition. Blaming me for your political affiliation just shows what a hypocrite you are, and how humiliated you are.”

“I’m not humiliated!” Leo buttoned his shirt to hide his tattoo. “My only political belief is freedom!”

“Freedom from what?”

“Stop looking at me like that!” said Leo. “Freedom from whiny bitches like you, and taxes! Obviously!”

Dan reshelved the rest of his books. “Is taxation theft?”

“Yes! Duh!”

“Aren’t you supposed to protect your property from theft using firearms?”

Leo said nothing.

“Why is your family too cowardly to defend itself?”

Leo stomped. “Shut up!”

“Why would anyone believe your overblown rhetoric when you don’t believe it yourself?”

“You’re telling me to shoot the taxman?”

“Patrick Henry said give me liberty or give me death, not give me liberty or I’ll whine until people pity me. It’s not my fault you’ve chosen a political position in which you can only be a cowardly hypocrite or a terrorist.”

“What, you want me to go full Waco?”

“You mean kill your family in a fire? Yes, please. Do the world a favor.”

Leo clocked Dan in the jaw. Dan’s head hit two bookshelves as he fell. Leo turned and made sure his collar concealed his tattoo.

“Hey.” Dan, crumpled on the floor, produced a crisp twenty dollar bill from his wallet. “Get another swastika, on your forehead. And go to a professional or you’ll get infected.”

Leo refused the money. “Why?”

“So everyone knows to look at you the way I do. ”

Leo looked over his shoulder to see if the librarian was near. “This summer, Danny-boy? I’m gonna beat the shit out of you.”

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