H3. Leo in the Library

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

“Sorry Dainty.” They walked through the halls of their high school. “Can you believe we have a final project in homeroom? And it’s a presentation, too! Homeroom should be for finishing homework at the last minute and sleeping.”

“I’m alright with it. We get to talk about anything we want.”

“I’ll probably talk about foxes,” said Faith. “Or painting. Or painting foxes! You’ll be talking about religion, right?”

“Right.” Dan stopped at the door to the library. “What’s Beatrice presenting?”

“BeatBax wants to teach us about nursing schools.” Faith lingered by the library doors with Dan, but leaned on the wall to show she wouldn’t join him inside. “Hey, you know that guy in our homeroom who always wears the sunglasses?”

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

“What an ass. He hit on BeatBax yesterday, it was totally awkward.” She giggled behind her hand. “He did push-ups on our lunch table, and we both 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 to me and licked her ear, and we made out. He was so mad!”

“Wow.” Dan blushed at the thought of Faith and Beatrice kissing. “Yeah, I’ll bet.”

“Anyway, I’m looking forward to your presentation. I’m sure BeatBax is, too!”


Dan enjoyed having the library to himself. With the librarian busy behind the front desk and the rest of his high school out to lunch, Dan could meander down each aisle of books and inspect all the spines without worrying if someone was watching him. He pulled five books off the shelves and claimed a table in the back, where he could be alone.

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

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

“What? It didn’t hurt.” Leo sat next to him. He wore black sunglasses and a buttoned shirt which hugged his corpulent curves. “What’re you reading, Danny?”

“Nothing. Don’t touch me.”

“I’m just trying to be your friend,” said Leo. “I can’t change who I am.”

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

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

“…Beatrice?”

“Yeah, yeah! What’s her phone number? I totally impressed her the other day, she was all over me. I gotta send her a dick pic to seal the deal.” Dan pretended he didn’t hear that. “C’mon, man, 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 didn’t seem to get it, Leo grunted. “You know. It’s when someone keeps you from getting what you want.”

“Really? Are you sure that’s what it means?”

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

“So bother someone else.”

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

“Hey, quit it!”

Leo lifted the corner of Dan’s book. He grinned at the swastikas. “Better not let anyone catch you reading this, Danny. Those liberals will eat you alive.”

Dan pressed the cover of his book against the table. “Swastikas have a lot of meanings in a lot of cultures.”

“Hey, you don’t have to tell me. 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 into 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.”

“Leo, why would you say something like that?”

“I said whatever,” said Leo. “Hey, you 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 running out of ink. It looked like it was supposed to be a swastika, but he’d reversed two of the four spokes; he must have had trouble with the orientation inking upside down on his own chest. He’d tried to correct one of the backward spokes by adding a second arm, but it just looked like a capital T. Leo seemed proud of the fragile snowflake, but Dan thought it looked like a crude firearm with a hair-trigger.

“What do you think?”

Dan hesitated. “Anyone who admires Hitler should suck a bullet from a barrel in a bunker.”

“C’mon, everyone knows he killed himself ’cause his bitchy wife made him.”

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

“Hey, neither have you.” Leo folded his arms, but couldn’t cover the swastika on his chest. “Hitler had some great ideas about economics.”

“Get away from me,” said Dan.

“Huh?”

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

“Look, man.” Leo stood with Dan and followed him through an aisle of books. “Don’t you know stuff likes this pushes people to the alt-right?”

“No one can be pushed to the alt-right.” 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 because you choose to, 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 the collar to hide his swastika tattoo. “My only political belief is freedom!”

“Freedom from what?”

“Stop looking at me like that!” said Leo. “Freedom from taxes, obviously!”

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

“Yes!”

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

Leo said nothing.

“The government is stealing from you. Why is your family too cowardly to defend itself?”

Leo stomped. “Shut up!”

“I’m just saying, if you really believed what you say you believe, you’d never pay any taxes at all. You choose to pay your taxes rather than refuse, and you should take responsibility for the consequences of that decision. Why would anyone believe your rhetoric when you obviously don’t believe it yourself?”

“So you want me to shoot the taxman?”

“Patrick Henry said ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ Not ‘give me liberty, my daddy is loaded.’ It’s not my fault you’ve chosen a political position in which you can only be a 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 clobbered Dan in the jaw. Dan’s head hit two bookshelves as he fell. Leo turned away and made sure his swastika tattoo was covered under his collar.

“Hey.” Dan, still crumpled on the floor, took out his wallet. He showed Leo a crisp twenty dollar bill. “Get another swastika, on your forehead. And this time go to a professional or you’re gonna get an infection.”

Leo didn’t take the money. “Why?”

“So whenever someone sees you, they’ll know to look at you the same way I do. ”

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

I4 pictb

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