The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Twenty-seven part one
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Monday January 9, 1995
All the decorations had been removed from the cafeteria walls; it was too late for Christmas garlands but too early for Valentine hearts. The empty blue walls and bulletin boards made the room’s atmosphere even bleaker. Adelphos had been expelled at the insistence of some ‘concerned parents’ and Drew wasn’t coming back either. Rich had hoped the holiday vacation would allow things to cool off but instead it had just set them simmering. Something big had gone down the day before the holiday break started, some kind of fracas between the Pretty Boys and Warren and Tristam.
Yusuf said, “All my father can do lately is complain about the government, especially Newt Gingrich.”
“That's funny.” Warren said, “All my Dad can do is complain about Clinton.”
“My Dad is a Republican but he voted for Clinton. Mostly because he gets ticked off when politicians start talking about Jesus.” Greg said.
“But your Dad's job is to talk about Jesus.”
Yusuf said, “Is this a competition thing?”
Greg explained, “Nah, he just thinks that the government and religion should stay far away from each other.”
Whatever had happened that afternoon in December had left the Pretty Boys freaked out and a little less prone to physical violence. Of course the Pretty Boys had insisted all that happened that day was they had caught Tristam and Warren having butt sex in the woods. They were having a lot of fun with that particular rumor too but Rich couldn’t help but notice they weren't saying much when Warren and Tristam were actually in earshot. They weren't even hurling food or insults anymore.
“Guys.” Tristam spoke suddenly. He'd been pretty quiet all week, making a quip here and a remark there but mostly keeping to himself and smirking. “I have a question.”
Over the last few months Rich had noticed that Tristam had two smirks; Level One and Level Two. His Level One smirk usually showed up right before or right after he'd said something particularly unkind to Warren. His level two smirk was reserved for when he was girl watching and it always made Rich start to hear the song Aqualung in his head.
Greg said, “Shoot.”
“Now this is gonna sound crazy…” Warren started to speak.
Tristam cut him off, “No. No. Let me explain like this.”
This smirk was an all new model and Rich didn’t like it one bit. It was the kind of smile he imagined Elric's nasty cousin Yyrkoon wore at his most depraved.
“Does this mean you are finally going to tell us what happened to you guys in the woods last year?” Yusuf asked.
Rich said, “Has it been a year already?”
“Does this mean you don't believe the tales of our illicit love?” Tristam waggled his eyebrows.
“As a rule,” Greg said, “if thoughts of you and Warren sharing illicit love enter my mind I smash my forehead into something hard.”
“Again and again our conversations return to this disturbing subject.” Yusuf said.
“You want disturbing? Jason, that janitor guy? He tried to read me some of his poetry. He’s all excited about open mike night at one of the bars.”
“We're getting off the subject here. Listen, I can't explain what happened yet.” Tristam lowered his voice conspiratorially, “You wouldn't believe me.”
“Or me.” Warren added.
“Just let me ask you guys this. Which of those scumbags over there would you most like to see taken down a peg?”
Rich leaned back a little, “This is heading into very creepy territory.”
“It's not very Christian either.” Greg frowned.
“Guys,” Tristam tried to smile reassuringly but the best he could manage was a momentary shift from his new smirk to Smirk Level One. “I'm not talking about anything illegal or fatal here. But come on, pick one.”
“Come on. Name a target.”
“How about Dantoine?” Greg adjusted his glasses.
“Well played sir.” Yusuf laughed.
“What about Fred?” Rich asked.
“Rich!” Greg's tone was scolding.
“The prick mocks me every day in gym class.” Rich was surprised by the bitterness in his voice, “Ever since he got that damn car he's thinks he's hot shit.”
“Well, then,” Tristam crossed his arms over his chest, “we'll have to do something about that won't we?”