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 gonna spend lunch in the library.”

“Aw, too bad. 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.” Faith 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. “I’ll bet.”

“Anyway, have fun hitting the 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 about being watched. 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 wore two swastikas, one facing clockwise and the other facing 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 corpulence. “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 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 and grinned at the swastikas. “Don’t get caught with 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 peered left and right 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. Am I right?” 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 ‘no,’ Leo unbuttoned his shirt to his sternum. He had a tattoo in the center of his chest the size of a man’s palm, with lines thinner and weaker than pencil-lead. It was supposed to be a swastika, but Leo had reversed two spokes—he must’ve 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? I can’t be a Nazi, I ain’t German! I was born and raised in So-Cal! I don’t even like swastikas, it’s just funny to see people so upset. Besides, everyone knows Hitler only killed himself ’cause his bitchy wife made him.”

“He was married just 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 being 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 like this pushes me to the alt-right? People like you make me who I am.”

“That’s literally impossible.” Dan reshelved a book. “The 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 views just shows 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!”

“Who’s responsible for protecting your property from theft, and what pathetic excuse did they give you for their failure?”

Leo said nothing.

“You’re too lazy to live free. You talk a big talk, but your power-level’s not worth hiding.”

Leo stomped. “Shut up! My dad is rich, I know what I’m talking about.”

“Your dad’s taxed, too. My dad’s not taxed. Why would anyone believe your overblown rhetoric when you obviously don’t believe it yourself?”

“So 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 and scrounge for pity-points.’ A coward’s a Communist no matter what their government allows or requires them to pretend to be instead.

“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 a 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 same way I do.”

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

I4 pictb

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