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July 12, 2012

I Hraet You (20)

Beat 20: Oh Right, There Are Other Characters

7:42 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $29.50

“So what happens now, pal?”

JP waved a hand through the air as he continued his business, sitting pretzel-style on the laundry room floor.  “Don’t stand over me when I’m working.  It’s irritating.”

Trixie backed up a few steps, though it didn’t help very much; she’d seen cardboard boxes with more breathing room.  She pressed her back into a hanging calendar, arms folded and finger tapping against her elbow to the beat of the bumping dryer.  “Ya said ya had somethin’ planned for me, so --”

“And I do,” said JP, the snipping of his task just barely audible over the nearby machines.  “So be a good little girl and be quiet for a while.  Think you can manage that, Tex?”

“I got two feet on ya, pal.  Who’re ya callin’ little?”

JP glared at her from the corner of his eye.  “Penalty.”

“Huh?”

7:43 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $33.00

“Hey, what the hell?” Trixie shouted. 

“The penalty for crossing me is three dollars minimum,” JP explained, turning back to his work.  He slid the scissors across the floor and took hold of a permanent marker.  “Keep crossing me and you’re bound to be buried in debt.  Pro tip: that’s not a good place for you to be.”

Trixie ground her teeth.  “Ya little…”

7:44 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $35.50

JP slipped a notepad back into his pocket.  “At this rate, you’re going to let me be able to retire before I hit high school.”  

“I thought it was only three dollars!”

“That’s the flat rate.  Continued offenses within a one-hour period garner additional charges based on the formula --”

Trixie threw up her hands in defeat.  “Never mind,” she said with a sigh.  “I’ll…I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”  She glanced aside; he didn’t actually expect her to pay him, did he?

But before she could wonder (or fear) any longer, JP climbed to his feet.  “All done.  Now, put these on.”  He turned around and held up her ensemble: a pair of green shorts with half of the legs trimmed off, leaving a few dangling strings at the edges.  And with that, a white shirt with similarly tattered sleeves -- and the words “Bad Man” tagged onto the fabric, just above a picture of a scowling dog.

Trixie took hold of the clothes.  They looked like just the right size for JP -- which, of course, made them several sizes too small for her.  “Yer serious about this, right?”

“Of course.  This is your new outfit.  Wear it with pride…or don’t wear anything at all.  Not like I care.”

“Of course I’m gonna wear clothes!  Ya think I’m some kinda nudist or somethin’?”

“Not at all.  That’s exactly why you’ll need some new clothes; if you’re staying here, you’ll need more than a covered-up swimsuit.  Which reminds me…”

7:46 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $72.20

“I find it hard to believe that clothes can cost so much these days,” JP muttered, sliding his notepad and calculator back into his front pocket (and ignoring the seething Trixie).  He tossed the cut-off fabric into the trash.  “Oh well.  Can’t be helped.  Anyway, if you want some more clothes, you’ll have to earn them yourself.”

“Any reason why yer makin’ me wear somethin’ so ridiculous?”

“There is.”  JP glanced coolly at her.  “So you can look tough.”  Rather than explain himself, he walked right past her and headed for the rest of the house.  “My dad’s cooking.  Go and eat something; I’ll get you some shoes to wear, and then we can head off to school.”  He turned a corner, and vanished behind a wall.

Oh, so he’s short, cheap, and bratty, Trixie thought, pressing a palm to her forehead.  That kid’s gonna make a girl real happy someday.

*

Patton dropped a buffet’s worth of pork chops onto the table, with said table nearly collapsing under the weight (or just from Patton dropping his elbows onto the table as he sat down).  He clasped his hands and stared at Trixie from across the table, glowering at her without even a hair on his head jostling.

Trixie smiled at him as politely as she could -- though she imagined that if she made that face at a child, he’d probably burst into tears.  Rather fitting, considering that the thought ran through her mind a few times.  “Uh…the food looks real good,” she managed to squeeze through her throat -- anything to try and divert Patton’s murderous glare.

“Eat.”

“Yeah, okay, that sounds like a good idea.”  She looked around the kitchen.  “Uh, ya got a knife and fork anywhere ‘round here?”

“You can use your hands.  I don’t mind.”  Patton demonstrated the technique: he took a pair of pork chops off the plate and prepared to tear through them like a tiger through a stupid tourist.  But just as he came a few inches from chomping down, he stopped himself, and put the meat back on the plate.  “You go.”

“Beg yer pardon?”

“The lady should eat first.  That’s just good manners, you know.”

“O-oh, yeah.  I…uh…thanks.”  Trixie took hold of one of the pork chops, and -- just as Patton had prescribed -- she took a big chomp out of it.  “Whoa, this is pretty good!” she said, eyes twinkling in delight.  “Real good.  What’s yer reci-”

She looked ahead to find Patton making a sandwich made entirely of pork chops -- no less than five layers thick.  He took a massive bite out of it and swallowed with a hearty gulp; his bite had snapped a few bones clean off, but he didn’t even bother spitting them out.  She could only hope that he’d chewed a bit first.  “So, you like meat, too?” he asked, eager to make another sandwich.

“Uh, yeah.  I mean, who doesn’t?  Ya can’t have a meal without it.”

Patton nodded.  “Meat is good.  It makes boys into men.”

“And what about women?”

“…It makes them manly women.”

Trixie frowned.  “I ain’t so sure that’s a good thing…er, sir.”

Patton wolfed down another sandwich.  “Sorry.  I’m…”  He cocked his head and started stroking his neck.  “I’m out of practice when it comes to talking to women.  Been too long since I’ve had breakfast with one like this.”

“Really?  I never woulda guessed, pal,” said Trixie.  A part of her started to imagine what sort of saint (or demon) could not only marry a beast like Patton, but also give birth to Lloyd and JP.  “Ya got a lot of charisma.”

“That’s because I was a real lady-killer back in the day.  You don’t get a nickname like ‘The Butcher’ and lose all your mojo when you get older.”

Trixie decided not to press him too heavily on why he had a nickname like “The Butcher.”  She shook her head, eager to get the image out of her mind.  “So anyway, whaddya do now for a livin’?”

“Well, ma’am, I’m a doll maker.”  He gestured toward his paint-speckled clothes.  “I make and paint dolls, and doll houses, and doll accessories -- oh, and I also paint other little knickknacks around the house.  You know, tea cups and pots and all that good stuff.  It’s nothin’ too special, but it’s good, honest work.”

“Oh…ha ha…that’s real nice,” said Trixie, wearing that eerie smile of hers again.  It was the only way she could keep from asking why the Hoigleheimer family didn’t make any sense.

Patton waved a handful of pork chops at her.  “Well, you’ll be seeing me in action pretty soon.  My boy JP’s got you all lined up to help with the family business.  Says that’s how you’ll be earning your keep.”

“Oh, really?  I’ll hafta thank him later,” said Trixie, taking a carnivorous bite out of her pork chop. 

And right on cue, JP trotted into the kitchen -- with the same surly look as always, of course.  “Time for us to head out,” he announced, throwing a pair of heavy boots at her feet.  “Dad, Tex is gonna use your old shoes.  I figured she could put them to good use.”

“It’s all right with me,” said Patton, wiping his mouth with a forearm.

“It ain’t with me!” Trixie yelled.  “What makes ya think that these waffle-stompers are gonna fit me?  And on top o’ that, ya couldn’t have gotten me some ladies’ shoes -- or even my old shoes?”

JP didn’t bother answering.  He just pointed at her feet.  Trixie followed his finger to the boots, particularly the one that had landed closest to her foot.  It looked like just the right size.

“Let’s get going, Bigfoot,” said JP, turning his back on her.  “I’m not about to be late on the first day of school.” 

“My name ain’t Bigfoot!”

“Whatever you say, Tex.”  But before he could head any further, he looked back at her place at the table.  “What’s this?  You ate four pork chops?  For a lady, you can sure put it away.  Oh, and while we’re on the subject...”

7:54 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $96.10

“Your mother was the same way, you know,” said Patton, oblivious to the blushing (and fuming) Trixie.  “She ate my steaks without a word, and always had a smile on her face when she finished.”  He folded his arms and nodded sagely.  “That’s how you know when you got a keeper…and come to think of it, she never put on any weight either.  That was nice of her.”

JP snorted.  “I doubt Tex here will be so lucky.  It’s only a matter of time before she starts getting flabby.”  And with that, he headed out.

Trixie started grinding her teeth again.  “That rotten little…I don’t hafta take this kinda abuse!” she growled, even while putting on Patton’s boots.  “I could bail outta here at any second and be done with these damn crazy kids!”  She slapped a hand over her mouth, and jerked her head toward Patton.  “U-uh, no offense to yer boys, sir.”

But Patton, as stone-faced as before, merely shook his head.  “I know my boys can be a handful,” he said, closing his eyes for a moment.  “But they’re both good boys underneath all that sass and sugar.  There’s real mean inside of ‘em; it’s only a matter of time before they make the jump.”

“Ya think so?”  But rather than wait for an answer, Trixie nodded rapidly.  “I mean, yeah, of course.”

Patton rested his chin atop clasped hands and stared at Trixie, his gaze somehow becoming more focused than before.  “Listen.  Can you do me a favor?”

“What is it?”

“I need you to watch over JP for me.  Make sure he doesn’t get into too much trouble.”  His brow twitched.  “Both of my boys have their problems, but right now I’m more worried about JP.  He’s got a nasty outlook on life right now…and if he’s gonna grow up, he’ll need someone to give him the chance.”  He shook his head.  “No.  Actually, he needs someone to help him out.  But that kid can get pretty stubborn.”

Before she could stop herself, Trixie nodded in agreement.  It would have been too easy for her to write JP off (and she had very nearly done so) -- but to her his father’s plea, and a plea from someone who looked like he could strangle a rhino…somehow, she couldn’t find it in her to turn him down.  “I’ll do what I can, sir.”

Patton nodded.  “Don’t worry.  I’m the kid’s dad, so I’ll help out however I can.  But just for today, I need you to stick close to JP.  Can you do that?”

“Ya can count on me.” 

“Atta girl.”

Trixie got out of her chair and started for the door.  “You two have a good one,” said Patton, giving her a quick nod before their departure.

“Don’t ya worry about a thing, sir.”  Trixie took a deep, calming breath, and stood before the cross-armed JP.  Just gotta watch over this kid, huh?  Well, that shouldn’t be too hard.  What’s the worst that could happen?

7:56 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 2 Hours 14 Minutes

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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