That Story, or Ten Reasons Why Priestly Doesn't Like Chicago
1. The Little Old Lady | 2. The Weather | 3. The Computer Genius | 4. The Bars | 5. The Crazed Psycho | 6. The Women | 7. The Tripper | 8. The Lost Boy | 9. The Skateboard | 10. The Little Old Lady (Again) | 11. Epilogue
Boaz decided he liked his new hairstyle. A lot. Rather than being shorn, the sides were dyed black and combed up to the red mohawk in the centre. Pierre had suggested that he put a little black around his eyes, to offset the glaring conspicuousness that having recently dyed hair gave. Also, he said it just seemed to fit with his new look. Boaz didn't care, truth be told. He wasn't paying extra, and if he didn't like it, he could just wash it off. In the end he decided he did, and when he'd left the shop he'd been filled with a newfound devil-may-care attitude, spurred on by the fact that he managed to bump into Tina as she left the bank. She'd dropped her handbag and its contents spilled out onto the street. Against the voice in his head, Boaz bent down to help her pick up her belongings.
"Thanks," she muttered, grasping her lipstick. "I totally didn't see where I was going.... which is a bit of a surprise, considering."
She was staring at the flaming red mohawk atop his head as though she was trying to figure out exactly what it was.
"That's alright," he replied, and her eyes shot to his.
But as the seconds drew on she looked more confused than angry. Her eyebrows knitted together. "Do I know you? You sound familiar."
"Just got one of those voices, I guess." He held out her eyeliner and keys. "I'm Bo."
"I'm Tina," she smiled and accepted her things. "It's an interesting choice you have there."
"Yeah, I asked for a buzz cut but I don't think he heard me."
She laughed. It was an abrupt sort of giggle as though she shouldn't have done so. "Well, it was nice to meet you Bo. Thanks for the help." She stood, and without so much as a comment about where he could shove any random object, turned and left.
Boaz headed home with a slight spring in his step. Firstly because she didn't mistake him for someone else and consequently, because she actually listened to what he said. He found now that it tended to occur with the people he interacted with. They all seemed to regard him with a subtle amount of anticipation when he was about to speak, as though they weren't sure what he was going to say, but it was likely to be interesting, just like his hair. It was a strange expectation, one he'd never really experienced. And he found that the more and more he tried to live up to their expectations, the more fun he was having. It was like he'd been given a freedom to just be, and he went to sleep that night feeling more at peace than he had in a long while.
It wasn't until the next morning he wondered what his friends would think, and the panic started to set in. Still riding the high from yesterday, he decided that it didn't matter; he'd be leaving at the end of the week, and most likely wouldn't see them again. Besides, he doubted they were superficial enough to really care anyway.
His happy resolve lasted until he stepped outside. Leaning against the lamppost waiting for him was his stalker. When he first spotted Boaz his eyes bugged out, leaving Boaz with a smug feeling of satisfaction. It didn't last, as the man then opened his mouth to speak.
"Well, if there was any doubt, I guess that cinches it."
Boaz figured that would be as close to an apology as he'd get, and with the new-found high ground, Boaz folded his arms and glared. "You want something?"
"I hear you found my son's skateboard."
Boaz seriously doubted that he was the father of the crazy boy he'd tried to shoot not two days ago. But then, it would run in the family...
No, Boaz decided he was not buying it. And he conveyed as much with one dubiously raised eyebrow.
The man called John - or Jack (Boaz had to rack his brain) - dropped his head in defeat. "Look, do you want me gone?"
"Can I get a 'Hell yeah'?"
"Then just tell me where the skateboard is."
Boaz had missed something, he knew it. "So, you're saying that you will leave me alone, never to darken my door, arrive unannounced, crash my party, raid my fridge..."
Two fingers pinched the bridge of John's nose. "Dean..." he sighed.
"...or call me Dean again, and all I have to do is tell you where some skateboard is?"
Boaz thought on it a moment. Sure, he would like to see the man Jack gone from his life, and while he knew that the boy wasn't his, he didn't feel guilty from letting the man in front of him take it because, hey - the kid had tried to kill him, after all.
...Wait, what was the bad side again? When he realised he didn't have one, he agreed. "Fine." Tilting his head to the right, he said. "It's over there." When he saw that John had looked over to see the skateboard lying against the wall, he added, "You're crazy, you know that?"
Jacks' eyes twinkled a little, the corner of his mouth twitching. "Yeah, crazy." He looked at Boaz' hair. "That's me." And then he walked past Boaz to pick up the skateboard and left, not once looking back.
Without the skateboard, it took Boaz a little longer to get to work than usual, but he didn't mind as it gave him time to think. Most of the time was spent on the man Jack/John and what exactly could be wrong with him. But as he grew closer and closer to the warehouse, his thoughts turned to his friends, and how they might react to his new look. He decided to play it casual, just to screw with their minds. It did not disappoint.
As he approached the building, he spotted Jake outside having a cigarette. He walked right past him into the building, dropping a, "Hey Jake," as he passed.
It took a good five seconds before Jake's mind - and then body - caught up. "Oh me word... Bo?"
Boaz cocked his head to the side, which looked not unlike a rooster with his current hairstyle. "Something wrong, Jake?"
"Hate t'be the one te tell ya, but someone's gone and shat paint on yer head there Bo."
The commotion drew the attention of the others, all of them drawing up short when they saw him.
"Hey, what's going... woah." Buzzer trailed off, his face the epitome of 'WTF?'
Tom however took it in with twinkling eyes and the hint of a smirk. "You lose a bet or something Bo?"
"Nah, my wig. You haven't seen it around have you?"
"Try the nuthouse just out of town. You might have left something else there, too."
"I think it looks good." Delia spoke up. "It suits you."
"Well, it may suit who y'are, but it dun't suit yer name." Jake's hand was on his chin in thought.
"Oh God, here it goes..." Tom rolled his eyes.
"Whatever comes out of his mouth is the name you're going to be stuck with for the rest of your days." Buzzer agreed.
They turned to Jake in anticipation - and Delia in disinterest - as he opened his mouth to say...
"Priestly, get over here!"
Jakes' words were left hanging by Phil, who was standing at the far end of the warehouse.
Boaz jogged inside to Phil, inconspicuously followed by the others who were all waiting to see his reaction to Boaz' new appearance. He also did not disappoint.
As he took in the red mohawk, tattoo, earrings and eyeliner, his frown deepened and mouth fell open enough that his cigar teetered out. When it landed on his foot he was quickly brought back to the present and snapped his mouth shut. "Jas' says you're leaving at the end of the week, going home."
Boaz nodded his head. "Yup."
"Right. Well then..." He finally took his eyes off Boaz' hair. "Back to work. And don't go in the storefront. If the old lady out there sees you, she'll probably have a heart attack."
Boaz suddenly thought of the purple-haired grouch that he'd ran into when he first arrived in Chicago and smiled.
"Speaking of - DELIA! CUSTOMERS!" He barked, and after she strolled past him at a leisurely pace back into the front of the store, he turned back to find Boaz was still standing there. "You owe me a cigar," he said and then left.
Jake, Tom and Buzzer pounced the moment the coast was clear.
"That. Was. Priceless." Buzzer exclaimed.
"Never seen the Bossman lose a cigar before, not even the day Buzzer drove the forklift through the wall." Tom added.
"You drove a forklift through a wall?"
"Just once," Buzzer replied as though it were no big deal.
Boaz turned to Jake, who was never without words. "Well?"
"It didn't disappoint, Priestly, I'll tell ya that much."
"Priestly?" He echoed. "What happened to my new name?"
"That's it. Can't go against the Bossman, now can I?"
"Emphasis on new," he repeated.
Jake shrugged. "It's new to me, I ain't ever called you Priestly a'fore." When the other two conceded the point, he added. "'Sides, ya can't go leaving yer roots behind. Where ya came from is who y'are and all that."
Boaz jerked a thumb to the short man on his left. "Then explain Buzzer."
But Jake, having made up his mind, was not open to discussion and had already turned around. "Come on, back to work then, innit?"
"Come on Priestly," Tom clapped his shoulder. "We got some deliveries to make."
As he helped Tom load up the van he thought about his not-so new name. It wasn't until Delia re-appeared with another delivery that he decided he liked it.
"So Priestly..." She had said, something her eyes. "It suits you." And then she leaned up and kissed him, much to his and Tom's shock.
When she left, Jake appeared. "Told ya she liked ya." He winked and disappeared back into the shelves.
So yeah, Boaz thought that Priestly might not be such a bad name after all.
A new name and face didn't do much to Tom and Boaz' delivery pattern... Except that now Boaz was always the one knocking on the door (just for look on the other person's face), alternating between being overly cheerful and deadly serious (sometimes to the same person).
They finished unloading a lounge set (“No over there, there... actually, it did look better where it was before... I don’t know, what do you think?”) and had one last run to make before the day's end. It was a rustic-styled settee, to be delivered to the house of the little old lady that wasn't home the first time they tried to drop it off.
When the front door opened he realised that it may not have been such a bad thing she wasn't home before because, yes, it was that same bird from the bus station. Boaz remembered her. Oh yes, he did. The world could come crashing down in a ball of fire and Boaz was sure that lady would be swatting minions of Hell away with her handbag and a stern glare.
Time for fun...
Boaz watched through the window as the woman crossed the room and made her way to the door. A spark of idea came to him, and he leaned back to Tom, whispered a rushed, “You don’t know me,” and shoved him into the bushes out of sight before the old lady managed to inch the door open as far as the chain would allow.
“Who is it?”
"Benson's Furniture, ma'am. Here to deliver a settee."
Her eyes narrowed at his voice, and then flicked from his face, to his hair and back. Apparently she remembered him, but didn't recognise him with his new appearance. Dubious, she spoke. "Where's the settee?"
Boaz stepped to the side so she could see it on the porch in all its glory. After a few seconds inspection she shut the door, removed the chain and then opened it again.
"Pick it up." She said, "I don't want all the dirt and grime from outside ruining my carpets."
Boaz gave a salute (which she was not impressed with), and then grabbed the settee. It was difficult without Tom's help, but he managed to swing it over his shoulder and manoeuvre it inside the doorway (he had to crouch a little so it didn't bang on the doorframe) and into the living room.
Before he could ask where she wanted it, she ordered him to stay right there and disappeared down the hall. As the time drew on he started to feel the weight and was tempted to drop it when she reappeared with a cloth and rag. Scrutinising each leg, she proceeded to wipe imaginary flecks of dirt off each ("Stop moving about, boy!") with meticulous effort.
With each superfluous movement of the rag, Boaz felt his patience shine away. When she was halfway through the third leg he couldn't take it anymore. He coughed in a rather noticeable fashion, causing her pinprick eyes to shoot over to him. "Cover your mouth, young man!"
Thankfully any retort he was about to give was interrupted by Tom, who stumbled into the house with mussed hair, tussled clothes and the beginnings of a shiner on his jaw.
"What do you think you are doing? Out of this house at once, young man!"
Tom's face was a picture of concern when the woman approached. "I'm so sorry to inconvenience you, ma'am, but I work for Benson's Furniture. Some vagrant jumped me and stole my truck. I noticed it parked outside and was worried about your safety."
Two thoughts flittered through Boaz' mind in the four seconds it took the old lady to buy Tom's sincere eyes and outlandish story. First, who the hell says vagrant anymore, anyway? And secondly he cursed himself for letting Tom come up with the burglar angle, realising that now he would have to go through with it.
When Tom locked eyes with him and gasped out a knowing "You!”, Boaz realised that he'd have to do something or their ruse would be up pretty fast.
He raised an eyebrow and let the couch slide off his shoulder. Its feet hit the floor with uneven thuds, and he tilted his head in the stereotypical 'Yes, I'm the villain' way. "Back for round two, are we?" He cracked his knuckles with a cold smirk.
Tom took a step forward and cast out a protective arm in front of the old lady. "Look, I don't know what your deal is, but let's just leave the old lady out of this, alright?"
Boaz pretended to consider, casting a glance in her direction. She was buying into it hook, line and sinker; her panic barely hidden under her surprise. He almost felt guilty for her.
...Then he remembered the bus station. "Nah," he shook his head. "I don't think so." He leaned one of his boots on the cushion of the settee behind him and shoved. It slid backwards three feet until it hit another couch, a dirt-ridden footprint clearly visible on its pristine fabric.
As Boaz took a step forward, Tom matched him with two quick ones, running into him with a tackle that knocked him to the ground in a painless display of violence. Boaz snuck up his legs and lightly shoved Tom backwards. He flew backwards to his feet, sliding across the tiled foyer to stop between the old lady and another who had been drawn by the sounds of commotion. Boaz recognised her from the station as well - Hilda, he thought her name was - and that pang of guilt came back in earnest. Unlike her companion, Hilda was the kind grandmotherly type, and he found he didn't want to disappoint her.
Pushing himself to his feet, he crossed into the foyer, and fell with Tom's next swing. He overcompensated and his head hit the tile with a painful crack, causing things to blur for a second. While he was stunned, the old lady had apparently snuck into the living room, where a crunch of glass breaking could be heard. When his eyes refocused, he caught sight of the woman lifting an antique rifle in his direction. He seriously doubted it was in fact loaded, but he it wasn't a risk he was willing to take, especially when he had no doubts on whether she would pull the trigger.
"Shit," he cursed, and scrambled out the front door. He didn't stop to gather his breath until he passed the corner, out of sight.
It was about five minutes later when the truck pulled to a stop next to him. Boaz hopped in and Tom took off. The silence lasted for all of two seconds before they glanced at each other and erupted into laughter.
"Dude, you're gonna have to change your hair, she called the police." Tom informed him.
"She didn't have a go at you, did she?"
"Nah, commended 'my bravery'." Tom placed a hand over his heart with a mock-proud expression on his face.
"What did she say about the footprint on the couch?"
Tom laughed. "She's pressing charges."
"She pressing charges because of a footprint on her couch?"
"Yeah, vandalism of property or some shit."
Boaz blinked noticeably, trying to make sense of that one. When he couldn't he looked over to Tom and they both cracked up again.
When it ebbed, Tom was shaking his head with a smile. "Oh man, I am so gonna miss this."
Boaz feigned innocence. "You going somewhere Tom?"
"Yeah. I finished my degree at UI - gotta look for a job now."
Boaz wasn't expecting the turn in conversation, and hurried to catch up. "As opposed to what you have now?"
"Look at us, Priestly. Sure, it's alright and it pays the bills, but do you really want to be doing this forever, like Buzzer and Jake?"
To be honest, Boaz didn't really care. It paid the bills, and the people he worked with were alright. His boss wasn't an ass and he wasn't about to be driven off on stress leave. It didn't take up all his time, so he was free to do other things should he choose to - really, what was wrong with the job?
Tom had found something though, and took Boaz silence as an agreement. "Exactly. I mean, don't you just want to be something, I dunno... more?"
No, not really. "Yeah."
"See, you get it. The other guys, they're older; they had their chance, but not us."
Boaz thought that it wasn't that they missed their chance, but more likely they had already used it and simply realised that it didn't matter in the end. All the same, he offered Tom a smile and made small talk about where he was going to go and what he was hoping to do.
While Tom was describing some of his dreams, a thought occurred to Boaz.
"Hey Tom? What name are you going to write under, when you get published?"
Tom tilted his head to the side, thinking it over. "Tom Masters."
Tom shrugged. "Yeah, why not?"
"But you're still keeping Tom? Not going back to Alejandro?"
"Yeah. I've been Tom for so long, I've kinda gotten used to it. 'Sides, not even my friends at UI called me Alejandro. It kind of just... fell away, like an old shirt you used to wear all the time, y'know? One day you decide not to put it on, and you just forget about it."
Boaz thought of his names in the same fashion. He imagined Boaz as a bland tee; two sizes too small and faded in the sun. Priestly was brand new; plain yet loud with something possibly snarkastic written on the front. Despite the initial fad impression, he could see himself wearing the latter over and over, never getting tired of it.
Yeah, he could see what Tom meant.
Tom dropped Boaz off at his place, giving him time to change his hair before he returned to work. "I can handle the rest of the deliveries myself. 'Sides, you don't want old Granny to finger you in a line-up, do you?"
Boaz raised a hand to fend him off. "Tom, that is so wrong on so many levels I... I think I'm gonna barf."
Tom snickered and agreed to stop back before the end of shift to pick him up. Boaz went inside and spent the next three hours trying to bleach the darker colours from his hair.
[ cont>> ]