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by Bud
Rated: E · Short Story · Young Adult · #2239243
Montana Murphy and her friends decide that they will always be together, beyond graduation

In Pinwheel, Pennsylvania, time moved just like a Pinwheel blowing randomly in the wind. It would start, then stop, then start again; with no direction other than that of a circle. Indeed, nothing was missed, as everything eventually came back, in time.

The above also held true for the way that Montana Murphy and her best friend Justina Jacobi conducted their bi-weekly after school poetry group at Pinwheel High. The girls did not believe in a strict, rules based structure, but preferred to allow each individual session to take on a life of its own. Sometimes, there was magic present. At other times, Montana and Justina experienced disappointment. But they would not have it any other way. Their advisers, Montana's and Justina's mothers, who taught English at Pinwheel, often commented that their daughters ran a poetry group like a Quaker meeting. All was silence, until someone felt moved to speak. And at present, that someone was Justina.

"Alright, guys," Montana said, "we found out that Ben Jonson rules and is a poetry god." A wide smile. "Great group, tonight. Let's keep it coming. " The energetic girl pivoted her hips and punched the air out in front of her, as a cheerleader would. She looked out at the faces before her.

"So, who wants to close?"

Justina was anxious to share her newest work with the group. But she politely waited to see if anyone else was interested in reading before she spoke. When there were no other offers to read, Justina raised her hand. This amused Montana, because the poetry group was as much Justina's group as it was her own.

"I will," Justina said. She adjusted her round, wire framed reading glasses. Justina's jet black, silky hair and long, hot pink fingernails glistened in the early Spring afternoon sunlight that filtered in through the classroom windows . Montana always thought that her best friend, when she wore her glasses, looked like a "hot nerd."

"You go, girl," Montana said. She was always excited about any new, strange avant garde work that Justina had to offer. "Bring us home."

Justina, a rather shy and quiet "hot nerd" at most times around those not of her inner circle of friends and family, had no problem exposing herself to others when it came to her two passions, writing and literature. On these two subjects, Mrs. Murphy and her mother Mrs. Jacobi often had a difficult time to getJustina to practice the art of brevity. But, of course, since both women were English teachers, they could not be more pleased.

Justina gave Montana a half smile from her full, glossy lips before she diverted her attention to the old, rather ragged notebook before her. This notebook was Justina's writing notebook, one of her most cherished possessions. One section was filled with scores of poems in various stages of completion, complete with cross-outs, white-outs and lines that succumbed to Justina's pencil eraser. Another section featured Justina's attempts at prose pieces and short stories. A third section was dedicated to a play that Justina had worked on since the beginning of the school year. Her mother and Mrs. Murphy provided advice and assistance when necessary. And, of course, Justina, like any teenage girl, loved to graffiti her notebook with large, bubbly lettering and the occasional hearts, stars and rainbows.

"OK," Justina said. She looked around the room. Nervous. "I've been working on this one for a while now. It will probably have several parts when it's done." A hesitant pause. "I'll read what I have now. A look at her mother, who smiled. This seemed to relax Justina. "It doesn't really have a title yet. But, here it is." And with that, Justina began to read:

The abandoned steel mill glows
in the fading day sun
like a wrecked oil tanker
hull burning out on the beach.

The old call for steel
on a postmodern smart phone
goes unanswered.

And the monolithic ghosts of
a Johnstown past
still dance dwarfed
in eerie shadows cast
by steel and glass maypoles.

Justina looked up from her notebook. As per usual, Justina's poetry engendered several looks, most of them of confusion. But those in the know (i.e., Montana, her mother and Justina's mother), always were proud of Justina's writing gift. These three welcomed Justina with pleasant smiles and hand claps. Like a delayed reaction, the other occupants of the classroom joined in the praise. They figured that if their instructors liked the poem, then it must be good, even if they could
not understand it. Of course, most likely it was good, if Justina Jacobi wrote it. For Justina Jacobi was a straight A student, in honors English, had her own poetry group and was the Editor-in-Chief of the school literary journal. In addition, she had won several writing awards and three certificates of distinction in English in her four years at Pinwheel High.

"Thank you," Justina said.

"Awesome," Montana said. She looked at her mother and Mrs. Jacobi with an open-mouthed look of disbelief. They both returned Montana's look.

Justina saw that all of the attention was still on herself. She looked back down at her notebook and started to scribble.

"Alright, everyone," Montana said. "That does it for this time. Next group is in two weeks." What are we doing next time, Justina?"

Justina looked back up from her scribbling. "Next time? Oh, next time we're going to discuss our favorite poets."

"That's right," Montana said. "So, read up on your favorite poet and bring in some of his or her poetry to read. See you then, guys. Thanks for coming."

Justina waved to everyone. "Thanks, everyone," she said. After everyone had left, she looked at Montana with despair.

"They hated my poem, didn't they?" She asked. "I knew I shouldn't have read it, yet. It needs work."

Montana vigorously shook her head and laid a hand on her best friend's shoulder. "No, sweetie, it was great. I mean it. They just didn't get it, that's all."

"That's a beautiful start, honey," Mrs. Jacobi said. "You have a nice mixture of imagery and premise, there. Keep it up. That's a winner."

"But if no one gets it--"

"Honey," Mrs. Murphy said, "they don't read as much as you do. They're still trying to figure out what part of a ship the hull is, and what the hell a monolith and a maypole are. But they appreciated it. Do you think that everyone understood The Divine Comedy when Dante wrote it?"

Justina looked at Mrs. Murphy thoughtfully. "Yes, actually, I do. They definitely knew all the people that he was putting into hell. That was one of the reasons he wrote it."

Mrs. Murphy smirked. "You know what? Back then, you're probably right. They probably did know. But I guarantee that a lot of people that read the Comedy today, without the same background, don't get a lot of it. Guelphs, Ghibellines, Virgil-- it's a different world than we're used to today. But still. Be proud of yourself, Justina. We are."

"Yeah," Montana said. "We are."

This got another shy smile from Justina. "Good. I'm glad," she said.

"But are you sure you need more?" Montana asked. "I mean, I think its pretty done the way it is now."

In truth, Montana actually expressed the main difference between the two girls' writing styles. Justina, a huge fan of Medieval and Elizabethan poetry, tended to be more "wordy" and "long winded" (Montana's words). Even when she had written a poem the likes of the one just read, that might work better "as is," Justina's inclination was to add to it. However, just because Justina's tastes were from an earlier literary period, her penchant for length was usually all that she borrowed from it. In actuality, Justina's poems sounded very modern. When asked about this, Justina would say that 'Shakespeare and Dante were awesome, but they were from another time. Poetry should sound like the time that its from, or it sounds fake.' Montana, who was a student of the late Victorian period and early Modernist poetry of William Butler Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams and others, was more apt to keep the substance of her poetry at a minimum. It was a rare occurrence for a Montana Murphy work to exceed a page in length, whereas it was equally rare for a Justina Jacobi poem not to.

Montana's comment got a smile from Mrs. Jacobi. "Ah, you better watch out, Dana," she said to Montana's mother. "You have a minimalist on your hands. A regular Deconstructionist Derrida in the making."

The unfamiliar terminology and name brought an exchange of quizzical looks by the girls.

"Who?" Justina asked.

"What?" Montana added.

"You'll find out soon enough," Mrs. Murphy said. She gave Mrs. Jacobi a conspiratorial look. Before either curious girl could pursue the matter further, Justina's mom changed the subject.

"So," Mrs. Jacobi said, "where do you scholars want to go for dinner? You have the call."

The girls looked at each other. "The Dairy Shack," they said.

The "Shack," as it was called by Pinwheel residents, was a combination burger and ice cream joint at Pinwheel Dairy Farms, on the outskirts of town. It was a very popular hang out with the younger Pinwheel set. The farm and The Shack were owned and operated by the Stonehouse family, of which one Vincent Stonehouse was a close friend of both Montana and Justina.

Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Jacobi looked at each other in mock surprise.

"We should've known," Mrs. Murphy said.

Laughter all around.

"We can say 'hi' to Vince," Montana said.

"No, we can't," Justina said.

"Why not?" Montana asked.

"Because," Justina said, "Vince went with Dante and Geoff fishing after school. They're probably still over at Pinwheel Creek."

"What else is new?" Mrs. Murphy asked Mrs. Jacobi.

"Well, then," Montana said. "I don't know. We'll just have to wave to them as we go over the Main Street Bridge into town."

"On our way to The Shack?" Justina asked. "We're not stopping, are we?"

"Of course, not," Montana said. She apparently represented the collective minds of the girls' mothers. "We're not gonna not go to The Shack just to stop and watch them fishing. That would be boring. Right, mom?"

"And gross," Justina said. "Fish are gross." She made a face. "Yuk!"

Whereas Montana was considered by many to be somewhat of a tomboy (which she really did not believe herself to be), Justina was the prototypical "girlie girl." She was always concerned about her appearance, and wanted her hair, makeup and nails to be just perfect.

Mrs. Murphy emitted an amused sigh. "C'mon, you two." She said.


When Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. Jacobi, Montana and Justina arrived at The Shack, it was just after five o'clock. As per usual, the small establishment was already quite filled with the fourteen to eighteen year-old Pinwheel High School set. There were other customers present that were not of this age range. But not enough to make Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Jacobi feel entirely comfortable. Of course, a lot of these teens were students of the two women. And, in truth, that was part of the problem.

"Over there is an empty booth," Montana said. She pointed to a vacant corner table. "Quick, Justina, grab it!" But Montana was already there in her sneakers before Justina had moved two steps in her high heeled leather boots.

Montana slid into the round seat as her companions followed suit. Of course, the first few minutes of the visit was dedicated to the girls greeted by school friends, many of which were also in Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Jacobi's classes. Some of the more studious actually sought out the women for help on that evening's English and/or literature assignment. The women felt an obligation to oblige.

"Pretty cool, huh, mom?" Montana said.

"Oh, yeah," Mrs. Murphy said. She had just helped the second student from her honors class. "Just like I never left the classroom." She glanced at Mrs. Jacobi, who assisted another student, with an amused grin.

The one reprieve that the two women had was when Mrs. Stonehouse came over to say "hello." Mrs. Stonehouse was a close friend of the Murphies and Jacobis. When things finally settled down, Mrs. Murphy turned to Montana.

"So, did you finish the assignment yet? I've been helping everyone else. I might as well help you, too."

"Too late, mom," Montana said. "Knocked it off during sixth period study hall."

"What about you, honey?" Mrs. Jacobi asked Justina.

"No, not yet," Justina said. "I'll get to it later."

"Sure you don't want any help?"

Justina smiled confidently. "I got it, mom, don't worry." A sly grin. "But, I have some Calculus problems that I have no idea about, if you want to help me with that."

Mrs. Jacobi threw up her hands. "Who do I look like, Stephen Hawking or Michael Kaku? Maron! I was terrible at advanced math in high school." She looked at Mrs. Murphy. "As a matter of fact, they probably have a plaque on the wall at the high school somewhere, attesting to the fact."

This got a grin out of Justina and Montana.

"Well, I'm right there with ya," Mrs. Murphy said. "As you well remember."
"Oh, I do. A competition to see who was the worst."

Mrs. Jacobi looked at her daughter. "See? There's a reason why the Jacobi and the Mastrogiovanni (Mrs. Jacobi's maiden name) crew excel in literature and languages and not mathematics."

Mrs. Jacobi, who spent the first two years of her high school experience at a school in her native Naples, had moved to Pinwheel with her family during her sophomore summer. Known as Tia, Mrs. Jacobi's older sister Arianna and she spent the last two years at Pinwheel High, during which time Mrs. Murphy (known as Dana Ryan) and herself became best friends.

"So, it's because you sucked," Justina said. She burst into a bevy of giggles with Montana.

"That's right," Mrs. Jacobi said. She sported an amused look at Mrs. Murphy. "You suck at it because I sucked before you. It's in the genes."

Justina shrugged. "Then I guess it's a lost cause. Really, I should write a note to my teacher and tell her to excuse me from Calculus for the rest of the year."

Mrs. Jacobi pursed her lips, nodded in the affirmative and played along. "That's what I would do. And feel free to put the blame on me. It's all my fault. Tell her you suck at Calculus because your mother did, too."

"Of course, mom" Justina said. "You should even sign it."

"That's an idea." Mrs. Jacobi looked at Mrs. Murphy.

"Hey, look who's here!" Montana said. She was excited, because Dante, Geoff and Vincent walked through the entrance to The Shack.

Justina waved to her brother and friends as Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Jacobi motioned them over to the table.

"We saw you down there, fishing," Mrs. Jacobi said. She accepted a hug from Dante. "Catch anything?"

This brought a scowl to the face of Vincent and wide smiles to the faces of Dante and Geoff.

"Ask Vince," Dante said. He threw an arm around the large boy's massive shoulders. "He was the star of the afternoon."

"I don't know," Mrs. Murphy said. "Vince doesn't look like it was such a great time."

"That's because it wasn't," Vince said. Without warning, the large boy suddenly trapped Dante in a (fortunately for him) playful headlock.

"Hey!" Dante said. Of course, he did not expect the maneuver. Dante Jacobi, of average height and size, was blessed with good looks, like his sister Justina. Although half German, the half that was Italian dominated Dante's short, black hair and dark eyes. And like Justina, he featured a naturally tanned complexion.

"Don't kill my son, Vincent," Mrs. Jacobi said. "He's the only one I have."

"Thankfully," Justina said. She flashed a conspiratorial glance at Montana.

"Sorry, Mrs. J," Vincent said. He let his friend loose.

Dante was at present more concerned with Justina's remark. "Hey, I heard that, sis."

"Heard what?" Justina said. Montana and she shared mischievous giggles.

"You're both gonna get it," Dante said.

"What, are you gonna send us to hell again, pseudo Dante?" Justina asked.

"Yeah, we're really scared, Alighieri," Montana said.

Dante walked around the booth and threw affectionate arms around both his girl friend and sister. He then pretended to bite their necks. The girls began to laugh uncontrollably.

"That tickles!" Montana squealed.

"Yeah, stop!" Justina said.

"Hey, where's Steph?" Mrs. Murphy asked Geoff. Geoff Chilcoat was a tall, thin lanky boy with brown eyes and longish brown hair.

"Where else?" Geoff said. "At the store, practicing the piano."

"You should invite her over," Mrs. Murphy said.

"He already did," Dante said. "When we walked past the studio on the way over here, we saw Steph and her father through the window, so he went in to tell her."

"Is she coming?" Montana asked.

"What time is it?"

"Six o'clockish," Justina said.

"Probably another ten or fifteen minutes," Geoff said. "She gets done with piano practice at six. She said that she would be over after she was done."

Mrs. Jacobi looked at Geoff slyly. "And Mrs. LaSalle approved?" She asked.

"She wasn't there," Geoff said. "I think she was still upstairs. Mr. LaSalle was fine with it, though."

"Yeah, until his wife finds out," Mrs. Murphy said. "Then he'll probably wish he hadn't."

"Because he'll never hear the end of it," Mrs. Jacobi said.

Geoff just shrugged at this. "Whatever," he said. "She can say what she wants. Doesn't change anything."

"Well, you be careful," Mrs. Jacobi said.

"What can she do?" Geoff asked.

"Don't worry," Mrs. Murphy said. She looked at Mrs. Jacobi, who nodded vigorously with an amused look. "Tristan LaSalle will think of something."

"She always does."

Geoff nodded. "But I don't get it. Mrs. LaSalle was always nice to me. Then she changes after I start dating Stephanie. Why?"

"Because," Mrs. Jacobi said, "you started dating her daughter. It was fine when you were just her friend, because there wasn't the question of money involved."

Geoff studied Mrs. Jacobi with a look of confusion. "Wait. Money? What does money have to do with it?"

"Duh!" Vincent said.

"Everything. Because, Geoff," Mrs. Jacobi said, "that's how people from Mrs. LaSalle's social rank think. You might just be going out and having a good time in each other's company, but in Mrs. LaSalle's mind, she already has you two married. And it's not a question of whether or not you care about Stephanie and would be good to her. She knows you do and you would. It's more about whether or not you can provide for her in the sense of wealth, and even more importantly, social status."

"And, can you do the same for your children," Mrs. Murphy said.

At this, Geoff smiled wickedly. "Well, that could be a problem, Mrs. M."


"I know why," Justina said. "Because Stephanie doesn't like babies. They get on her nerves."

"That's why she never babysat anyone," Montana said.

"That's interesting," Mrs. Murphy said. "Does her mother know?"

"Know what?"

It was Stephanie. She was wearing a pair of black leotards underneath a short, frilly white tennis skirt and matching polo top. A black pair of shoes with silver buckles and a small, block heel graced her tiny feet. Her long, chestnut brown hair, as usual, was in a ponytail. More so than her girlfriends Montana and Justina, Stephanie LaSalle always had the clean, pretty look of a preppy rich girl. When one considered her mother's Swickely Heights1 background, this impression really could not be helped. But, those that knew Stephanie best knew that often times, looks deceived.

"We were discussing the fact that you are not particularly fond of babies," Mrs. Jacobi said.

Stephanie rolled her eyes and groaned. "Horrid little things. If I had my way, children would come into the world at no earlier than age three."

"That could be painful," Mrs. Murphy said.

"Well, if that whole affair could be dispensed with as well," Stephanie said, "I for one wouldn't miss it."

"Does your mother know about how you feel?" Mrs. Jacobi asked.

"Yeah, she knows," Stephanie said. "But she's too busy worrying about how she feels."

Stephanie raised an index finger and smiled. "But, I do like little kids. Especially little girls. Just not babies, and just so the children are not mine."

Mrs. Murphy looked at Montana and Justina. "This girl could easily be with you guys in honors English, but she produces average to slightly above average work." Now the focus was on

Stephanie. "Why is that?"

Stephanie shrugged indifferently. "I don't know. I guess I'm just trying to get my priorities straight. Find out what's right for me."

"She's a genius," Vince said.

"Thanks," Stephanie said.

"Come on, mom," Justina said. She looked open mouthed at her mother with a 'duh!' expression. "Don't you get it? Emerson."


"Eew, I know!" Montana said. "'To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men,--'"

"'That is genius,'" Mrs. Jacobi said. A nod and a sly look at Vincent. "Very good, Vince." Vincent pretended to bow. "So, Steph, how does it feel to be a genius?"

"Misunderstood," Stephanie said. Her comment was met with laughter, as everyone at the table realized the allusion the young girl made to yet another quote from Self Reliance: 'To be great is to be misunderstood.'

"Alright," Mrs. Jacobi said. "I give up." A look at Mrs. Murphy. "These kids are too quick."

Mrs. Murphy smiled. "Well, Little Miss Awareness, I seem to remember that you could more than hold your own in wit when you were Justina's age."

Mrs. Jacobi shrugged. "Yeah, true, but-- then you introduced me to their father, and all our wit got transferred to them." She looked at her friend. "So, actually, this is all your fault, Little Miss Sweetness."

"We thank you, Mrs. Murphy," Dante said. His sister nodded in agreement.

"You're welcome, guys," Mrs Murphy said. She looked at Stephanie's beau. "And how do you feel about Stephanie's views, Geoff?" She asked.

Geoff looked at Stephanie affectionately. "As long as we're together, it's all good to me."

At this, Montana and Justina swooned, to the laughter of the group.

Mrs. Jacobi laughed. "OK, we're outta here. You guys have Mrs. Stonehouse make you something good to eat." She looked at Mrs. Murphy. Sly. "So we have less to cook."

"And what about you guys?" Montana asked. "Aren't you hungry?"

"We'll be fine," Mrs. Murphy said. "Don't worry about us. Besides, your father will be home soon. He'll be hungry."

Mrs. Jacobi looked at her own progeny. "And so will yours. And you two, spare some time for homework, OK?"

Justina nodded. Dante couldn't resist. "Mom, don't say that word in front of the innocent!"

"Hardly," Mrs. Jacobi said.


When Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Jacobi had left, the group of friends ordered something to eat. The majority rule in this sense was The Shack's famous Shack Burger, fries and a milkshake. For dessert, Montana and company mostly had varying shades of ice cream or slices of pie or, in the case of Vincent, both.

For a time, the discussion was on varying topics, split between two groups. The girls discussed school, books, music and boys, not necessarily in that order. The boys fell back on their old standbys; baseball and fishing. And, of course, girls. At some point, the two groups came back together again.

"Hey, guys," Montana said, "don't forget that the college fair is tomorrow, during seventh and eighth periods."

"Do we have to go to that?" Dante asked.

"Yes, slacker," Justina said. "It's mandatory."

"I don't know what that means," Vincent said. Of course, it was said in jest.

"It means you have to go," Justina said. She giggled.


"Yeah, really."

"Except for those who have already gotten accepted to a school," Montana said. "Like Stephanie, Justina and me."

Of course, Montana referred to Stephanie's double scholarships in ballet and music at Carnegie Mellon. She also alluded to the fact that Justina and she would attend a small liberal arts school in Johnstown-- Cambria College-- that would allow them to commute, if they so desired.

"Well, aren't you three special?" Vince said. "Getting accepted your junior year, no less."

The girls, labeled as either "accelerated" (Montana and Justina) or "gifted and talented" (Stephanie) were given the opportunity for early admission by the guidance office. The boys, not as academically or artistically motivated, were not.

One less thing to worry about senior year," Montana said.

"Stephanie just wants to get away from her mother," Dante said.

"True," Stephanie said. "But it's really not that far. Pittsburgh is only about forty miles from here."

"But you're living on campus, though, right?"

"Most likely," Stephanie said. "Or getting an apartment."

"Rich girl, huh?" Vince asked.

Look who's talking, Mr. Dairy Farm."

"I'm gonna miss you, hon," Montana said.

"Me, too," Justina said.

"I'll be home on weekends," Stephanie said. She put an arm around each one of her girlfriend's shoulders. "We can hang out then."

"And maybe we can come visit," Montana said. "You can take us around Pittsburgh and stuff. We can go shopping or to the Warhol museum, and go see the Pirates play."

"The first two sound good," Stephanie said. "But I'll pass on the third. You're the baseball fan." She looked at Geoff with a grin. "I'm just dating one."

"Alright, then," Montana said. "Dante and I will go to the game."

"You know it," Dante said. He slapped his girlfriend a high five.

"So, what if you're not going to college?" Geoff asked. "Is this thing still mandatory?"

"Yeah, I think so," Montana said.

Geoff shrugged. "Why?"

"Because they want you to go to college, I guess," Montana said.

"Higher learning is vastly overrated," Geoff said. "And vastly over priced. Everyone starts the American Dream out in enormous debt. That's your reward at the end of four years."

"That and a degree," Justina said.

"Yes, and a very expensive one, too" Geoff said. "Basically, a fifty to one-hundred thousand dollar plus, 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper. No offense, but I'll pass."

Justina, not one to start an argument (unless it had to do with English literature, and most knew not to go there with her) just smiled. But there was another reason besides demeanor that prohibited her from challenging Geoff's statement. The fact that Justina, deep down inside, knew that he was right.

As could be deduced, the group of friends were not all going to college. As noted, the girls were. But with the exception of Dante, who was going to community college with a major undecided, the male friends were not attending. Vincent would be helping his father out on the farm and learning the business so that he, as the eldest son, could take over upon Mr. Stonehouse's retirement in a few years. This action by Vincent would continue a tradition of seven generations of Stonehouses running the farm. And Geoff would be working with his father at the glass works factory in town. Geoff was also invited to try out for the Johnstown minor league baseball A affiliate next March, based on his success as a high school star pitcher for the Pinwheel Pirates. So, there was the potential for Geoff to have a career in professional baseball on some level, and a possible very lucrative future. This, of course, was a point well noted by Mrs. LaSalle, and one of the main reasons that the young boy was still tolerated by her in reference to Stephanie.

"So, I have a chance at minor league ball next spring," a riled up Geoff said. "I'm supposed to give that up just so they can send me to college?"

"Geoff, calm down. I'm not saying anything," Montana said. "I'm just telling you what they're probably thinking, that's all." She held up her hands, helplessly. "Don't shoot! I hope that you do make the minors. You know that, I hope."

"Yeah, me, too," Dante said. "And if you make the majors, you most likely will be signed by the Pirates. Which means season tickets for Montana and me, as well as locker room passes."

"Yes!" Montana said. She slapped her boyfriend five.

"Hey, and me, too," Vince said. "Don't forget your friends, bro. "And while you're at it, you might want to mention a certain battery partner to the Johnstown affiliate? Explain how you can't be at the top of your game without him behind the plate?"

"Why, sure, Vince. Anything for you, bro." Geoff said. "You guys got it all figured out, don't ya?" The usually easy going boy was now more-or-less back to his jovial, carefree self.

"Hey, Vince is right," Dante said. "You don't forget your friends, bro."

Geoff looked at Stephanie. "You're awful quiet, over there" he said. "What do you want from me?"

"I want you. And me, together. Without anyone telling us that we can't, or how they want us to be, if we are."

Geoff nodded. "Then we're on the same wavelength. Good."

There were a few seconds of amused silence before Geoff let out a large sigh. "OK. I'll go to this thing tomorrow, but I'm not signing up for any colleges. They're not talking me into anything."

"I have a question," Justina said. She raised her hand and displayed her most timid grin. When she had Geoff's attention, Justina scrunched herself up, as if expecting a blow. "As long as you don't yell at me."

Geoff sighed, shook his head and gave Justina, as well as Montana, a look of heartfelt remorse. "I'm sorry, guys. I'm not mad at you. I guess I got carried away." He focused his attention now solely on Justina. "Of course, you can ask me a question, sweetie. I won't yell. So, shoot."

"You can borrow my Remington, Just, if you want," Vincent said to Justina. "Hold that thought, and I'll walk over to the house and get it. If it's good enough for sick cattle, it should be good enough for him, too."

This joke got the desired chuckle from the young girl, not to mention that it also got Vincent a dirty look from Geoff. Justina proceeded.

"Well, I'm not trying to change your mind or anything like that, but-- I mean-- what if it doesn't work out? What if you don't make the baseball team?"

Geoff looked at Justina with confidence. "No, Just, you're right. I have thought about that and I say this. If the factory was good enough for my father, then it's good enough for me."

"Are you sure, though?" Justina asked.

Geoff nodded a confident, thoughtful nod. "Yeah, I'm sure. I grew up around that factory. My father always loved working there, and he always used to take me on visits, or I would go with my mother there to pick him up, to go out for dinner after he got off work. And you know, it's a glass factory, so there's an art involved. You get to create and mold and shape things and stuff, so I think it's pretty cool."

"And you can also work in the design department at some point, if you want," Montana said. "That's where my father worked for a couple of years after he left the floor and before he became a manager. You'll get to learn how to take orders for accounts and draw up blueprints for the workers on the floor to make the stuff you design."

Although Montana's father was a Murphy, related to the founder of Pinwheel and rightfully owned the glass works, he insisted on not being given special treatment, as his fathers before him had also done. Mr. Murphy had worked himself up through the ranks ever since he had taken over the reigns of the establishment from his father, some ten years before. Why? Because one of the principles that the founding Mr. Murphy had stressed was a close relationship between management and staff, which he believed was both humane and good for business in the long run. And, therefore, good for Pinwheel. And when one considered the one-hundred and fifty year anniversary of both the town and the factory, that one was led to believe that the founder of both was possibly right.

"That sounds cool," Justina said.

"Yeah," Geoff said. "It is. It will be alright." He smiled. "I got to do something artistic to keep up with you girls. I might not be a writer or a dancer or a musician, but I can still be an artist with my work."

"Well, personally," Vince said, "I'm hoping that your art involves painting the corners of home plates with strikes. That's your real art form."

"Thanks, bro. So do I. But, if it doesn't work out, the factory will be there for me. So, I have something else, at least."

"Well, I could always use your scrawny ass on the farm, too," Vince said.

"See? I'm just bursting with options. The future looks bright."

"Yes, it does," Montana said. There was a gleam in her eye, as she looked from friend to friend. She held up her milkshake for a toast. The others followed suit. "For all of us. No matter what, we'll still be together. It will be great."

Drinks were contacted as each friend joyously expressed their consent.
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