A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Wrestle Mania"
One week or three? Does it really matter? Eventually these guys are going to get their masks, and you might as well spare yourself the agony of polishing them up.
At least, that's your reasoning when you agree to supply them with unpolished masks, and set up delivery for later that afternoon.
"Can we help you make 'em? Watch, at least?" Laurent asks.
"Sure. Except we can't do it at my place."
"Mine neither," Brownie says. "My mom'd kill me if she saw me playing around with Satanic rituals."
"We can do it at my place," Chris says. "I got it to myself till five."
"It makes a stink," you warn him. He thinks a moment, then says you can come over anyway.
"I'll give you a ride out," Laurent tells you. "Here." He shoves Maria's mask at your chest. "You can wear it on the drive out again." You blush as the others laugh.
Walberg marks you and Laurent both as tardy when you get to first period, but as Laurent doesn't seem to care, you pretend not to as well.
"Where the fuck were you?" Caleb murmurs in your ear when Walberg's back is turned.
"Hanging out with Delacroix. Oh yeah. We're gettin' to be like that." You twine two fingers together and thrust them into Caleb's frowning face.
* * * * *
Laurent does not make you wear the mask as you drive from the school, but he does want to talk about it. "You got any clothes to go with it? How come not?" he asks when you tell him you don't. "You don't want to go out in your own clothes, looking like that!"
"You mean go out in public? I wasn't going to do that!" You feel yourself pale. "Why, were you?"
"Oh, fuck yeah, man!" he exclaims. "What's the fucking point of—? Isn't that the point, to go out and be seen, lookin' like that? Okay," he adds, "besides, you know, fingering yourself hard in bed." He leans over to leer wickedly in your face. "But God damn, you know? Go out! Be seen! Swagger down the street in little shorty-shorts and no bra! Damn!" He sucks hard on his lower lip and strains in his seat. It's pretty obvious, even without looking, that he's made himself rock-hard with this fantasy.
"What if someone saw you?"
"Fuck!" Laurent almost swerves off the road. "That's the Goddamned point!" He punches you in the shoulder, so hard it almost feels like there's real anger or frustration behind the swing. "Don't you want to have any fucking fun?"
Oh God, you think. What am I in for?
But you don't know if you feel frightened at the thought, or delighted. It's like you feel both, at once.
* * * * *
Laurent talks to your mom in the living room while you run upstairs to gather up the supplies. He seems to have oozed a lot of charm at her, for she's all smiles and laughs (and so is he) when you come back down again. When she asks if you'll be home for supper, Laurent answers by telling her, "Probably not." You fight down a bashful smile and don't gainsay him.
Chris Ratliff lives in an apartment complex a couple of blocks from where your friend Keith lives, and it gives you pause to see that there's no garage or anything to do the work in. There's only a small back yard shared by his family and his neighbors. It's a tiny space, bound on two sides by the back of the apartments, and on the other two by a tall brick wall. There's a grassy patch in one quarter of the yard, but the rest is taken up by concrete patios holding a grill, an overturned tricycle, and a weight bench and weight set. Ratliff tells you to use the latter as a work table, then grins and blushes as his friends tease him for being a pussy when he strains himself by lifting the barbell to the ground. You doubt you could have lifted more than a third of the weight yourself.
You're all coughing and waving away the smoke and stench when, to your shock, another Westsider comes swaggering out to join you—Noah Lepley, another of the school's jocks. "The fuck?" he exclaims. "You barbecuing dog turds again, man?" he teases Chris.
"You're just in time," Ratliff tells him. "I think. Hey, how much longer till you get one of 'em done?" he asks you.
"Uh ...." You gape at Chris and Noah, who is dressed in skimpy black running shorts and a pea-green cable-knit sweater. A dirty-gray ski cap is pulled down over his sandy hair, and his leg muscles are hairy and knotted with muscles.
But no one bats an eye, so you return to your work: the first of a series of masks, now poured out and fired over the mirror.
"Um, just about done," you squeak, and set down the bowl of batter so you can peel the new mask off. It comes away as a hemisphere, which you hand to Laurent. "Be careful," you tell him, "they kind of—"
"The fuck?" he says. "This doesn't look like— Yah!" He flings mask away, and it narrowly misses taking Brownie's ear off as it sails past. Everyone cusses, then laughs.
"It likes to surprise you," you tell them, and with a sigh you to retrieve it from the grassy corner where it has fallen. "See?" You hand it to Laurent, showing him it now looks like a face.
"It's the wrong color," he protests.
"Remember, I said you have to polish it."
"The fuck are you guys doing?" Lepley asks Ratliff. "What's this 'tray-cool thing' you wanted me to see?"
"Take him inside and show him Maria," Brownie says. "Hey Prescott, you did bring Maria, didn't you?"
You come this close to face-palming, but catch yourself in time. From your bag you pull out the mask and give it to Chris. He takes it and pulls Noah back inside. Laurent and Brownie don't seem to notice your discomfort, and just ask you to pour out another mask. You're able to make five more before you run out of batter.
Which is just as well. Brownie and Laurent are admiring four of the masks—one in each hand—when the back door of the neighboring unit opens and a fat lady in a sundress comes out. She wrinkles her pear-shaped nose. "What kind of shit are you burning out here?" she snarls. "I'm gonna call the manager—"
"It's okay, we're all done, ma'am," Brownie tells her.
"You clean up whatever shit you're—!
"Yes ma'am, we're on it."
"I'm calling the manager if—!"
She grumbles and swears at you the whole time you're picking up the mess, and she hollers even after you've taken it all inside. Even after you've shut the back door, you think you can hear her yelling.
But you forget all that when Maria Vasquez comes sashaying out of another room. "Oh My. God!" she chants. "Look. At. Me! Wheee!" She spins around on her feet, then swaggers about the room, rocking her hips like a pendulum on a storm-tossed tugboat. She shows plenty of leg, for she's dressed in skimpy black running shorts and is barefoot; but her boobs are lost in the pea-green cable-knit sweater; a dirty-gray ski cap is pulled down over the crown of her head.
But you've just time to figure out what's going on before all your expectations are upended again as a white-faced Noah Lepley follows her into the room. He's changed into canary-yellow knee-length shorts and a red hoodie, and until you rearrange the scene a third time, you're convinced that somehow Chris Ratliff has turned himself into his friend Noah.
Laurent and Brownie howl and clap as "Maria" prances about the room, making duck faces and twerking her ass at them. And Brownie almost passes out laughing when Laurent grabs Maria from behind and starts bumping and grinding in tandem with her. Noah, meanwhile, watches with open-mouthed astonishment, his face passing through various shades of white, pink, violet, green, and back again, even as he grins broadly at the spectacle.
* * * * *
"See, that's what we need to be doing with these things," Laurent announces an hour later, after he and the others are nearly passed out from laughing themselves stupid. Hot salsa music is still pumping from Ratliff's stereo; he and the others have each taken a turn in Maria's mask, to dance and twist and bump and grind and flirt outrageously with his friends. You're the only one who demurred, for you felt too self-conscious to try.
But now the mask is off and everything is cleaned up, for Chris's mom is expected home soon. New masks have been passed out to everyone—even to Lepley—and you've explained how to polish them and how long it will take. Between them, you've collected nearly seventy dollars in down payments on the three-sixty they've collectively agreed to pay you for the six masks you made.
"We should take Maria to a party," Chris says. "Take her out to a dance club, to the Warehouse—"
"Will's worried someone'llsee her," Laurent jeers. He cradles the mask in his lap.
"Oh, fuck," Brownie laughs. "Ain't no one would think it was Maria, not the way we was doing her. Just give her a new name and—" He starts twerking again.
"Shi-i-i-i-i-i-t!" Noah exclaims. His eyes go wide. "You know who's having a party tonight? Dominique!"
The room practically levitates in a collective gasp, then explodes in laughter.
"We gotta do it!" Brownie howls. "Who gets to be Maria?"
"Prescott does!" Laurent punches you in the shoulder. "He's the only one's didn't have a shot at her!"
Next: "The Party Crasher"