Nicky Delgado, Chapter 6

Nicky intended to walk to school the next day, but Butch's car waited for him in the driveway when he stepped out the door.

"Good morning, Nicky," Butch waved. "See, the car's okay."

"How did you fix it so fast?" Nicky asked. He slipped into the back seat where he noticed the slashes had been patched with considerable streams of duct tape. He also noticed that Brian wasn't in the car.

"It was no problem wiring the engine back up," said Butch, looking back at Nicky as he backed out of the driveway. "Then I had Dad come with one of his trucks to reinflate the tires."


"Yeh. He runs a trucking firm."

"He and Marshall are partners," said Eugene, leaning against the front passenger door. "What does your dad do?"

"He sells computers," Nicky answered.

"Marshall and Benjamin are visiting Mr. Walton today," said Butch. "They think he had something to do with what happened to my car."

Eugene laughed. "Dad's going to keep Marshall from sticking his fist into Walton's face, and Marshall's going to make sure Dad gets listened to."

They arrived at school and there still wasn't any Brian. Nicky sat in English class wondering where he was.

Mrs. Kesselring wondered too. "Butch, tell me where Mutt is," she demanded.

Butch shrugged. "I don't know."

"Yes you do," she put a hand on her hip and pointed at him with a finger from the other. "I want you to tell me why Brian Mutt isn't here."

"He hates English."

"I know he hates English, but he hasn't missed class before. I want to know where he is."

"What do you care?" Butch crossed his arms. "You don't want him in here anyway."

Kesselring clenched her fists. "Tell me where he is!"


The teacher's face turned redder and she drew a deep breath for more yelling, but she turned her back instead and walked to the front of the room.

"I know what game you're playing, Butch Simpson," she turned to face him again. "You like to see me get mad, don't you?"

Butch shrugged.

"Yes, that's it," she nodded. "I've had snots like you in my class before. Well, you can give it up, because I'm not falling for it anymore."

Butch shrugged again. Kesselring considered herself victorious and taught the class about pronouns for the rest of the hour.

Nicky walked with Butch to Mr. Much's room. He almost asked Butch about Brian, but decided to first see if Muttilege showed up in biology class. They sat in their normal seats near the back, waiting for the teacher, while Brian's chair remained empty.

Nicky leaned over to Butch. "Do you know where Mutt is?"

"With his brother," said Butch.

Rocky Muttilege. The thought of him sent chills down Nicky's spine.

Much strolled into the room with an extra gait in his step. He wordlessly handed some staped sheets of paper to everyone in the class. Nicky looked at his and saw it was a test. He waited for Much to say something, but the teacher sat with feet propped on his desk and hands clasped behind his head, rocking back and forth in his chair and whistling Taps. Nicky exchanged puzzled glances with Butch before deciding he could start the test.

He finished with about fifteen minutes to spare. Much still sat in the same position, whistling renditions of The Star Spangled Banner, 76 Trombones, Alley Cat, and other tunes Nicky had seen the Boston Pops play on television for the Fourth of July. Nicky did the same as the other students who had finished, including Butch, by looking at the others and stifling giggles. Within ten more minutes everyone had finished, but nobody said anything. Much kept whistling and rocking even after the bell rang.

Finally, Norman Stalke walked up and placed his test face down on the teacher's desk. He received a smirk and slight nod of the head from Much, and left the room. One by one the other students handed in their tests, and Mr. Much smirked and nodded to each of them in turn.

Nicky returned to his desk. When all the tests were turned in, Much gathered them and brushed his way past Butch and Wanda Tyler talking together in the doorway. Eugene arrived and, finding his brother engrossed in conversation with the girl, entered the room and sat next to Nicky.

"Look out," Nicky warned him. "We might have a surprise test today."

"Had one in biology?" Eugene reckoned. Nicky nodded. "Mutt picked the wrong day to skip."

He sure did, Nicky concurred to himself. Butch and Wanda parted shortly before the bell. Much returned right at the bell, still holding the stack of biology tests.

"I'm giving you the whole hour to do your homework," Nicky heard him speak for the first time that day. "Page 46. Do all the odd numbered problems."

Much sat behind his desk to grade the tests. After a look at Eugene, Nicky began work on the assignment.

He had several problems to go when the bell signaled the end of the class period, but was happy nevertheless. He was going to have the least amount of algebra homework since the first day of school. As he and Eugene headed for the door, Much motioned them over to his desk.

"Here's your test, Nicky," the teacher handed him his paper. "Good job."

The 'A' on it didn't surprise Nicky. He thought the test had been easy.

"Give this to Butch," Much handed Eugene one marked with a 'B'. "He's not as stupid as he looks." Then he shuffled through the stack of tests.

"While you're at it, you can give Mutt his test too," he gave Eugene a blank test with a thick red 'F' written through Brian's name.

Nicky and Eugene met Butch by the twins' lockers. Eugene gave Butch his test and Brian's too. They ate their lunches quickly because Butch wanted to drive to the Muttilege apartment in hopes of finding Brian. Nicky wasn't sure if he wanted to go, but the Simpsons talked him into it.

Walking through the parking lot, Nicky heard the earsplitting roar of an unmufflered motorcycle approach from behind. It stopped alongside. The front wheel, located at the end of a long chopper, was a smaller size than the back one. The exhaust spewed blue flame as the driver revved the engine for no apparent purpose other than to create noise.

His blue jeans were barely blue anymore and ripped at the knees. He wore a black leather jacket covered with slogans written in white paint. "Hendrix rules." "I hate bureaucrats." "Semper fi." "Beware of mind control." "Kill commies." "Boogers are green." Nicky read them.

Chains. He wore them everywhere; in loops around his belt and hanging from his pockets. He had wristbands of chains, shorter links attached to each jacket button, and a chain necklace.

The jacket was unzipped, revealing a shirt front pocket stuffed with more things than Nicky thought a pocket could hold. It had the distinct rectangular shape of a packet of cigarettes located inside. An arrangement of pens and pencils wedged a lighter and pocket knife above the top of the pocket.

The cyclist turned off his machine but, instead of bringing silence, blaring rock music became audible. The singer let loose a long scream, while the cyclist and his passenger removed their helmets, and finished the song with the words, "Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss." The passenger was Brian Muttilege. Rocky shook a long mane of flaming red hair from under his helmet and switched off the music. Nicky was scared and hid himself behind Eugene.

"Hi guys," Brian said cheerfully in his raspy voice. "Did I miss anything?"

"Nothing much," replied Butch, handing him some sheets of paper. "Just a test."

"Son of a bitch, Rocky," Brian swatted his brother with the test after looking at his 'F'. "I told you I should've gone to school."

Rocky extracted two cigarettes from his pocket without unsettling the contents, and gave one to Brian. "Make up your mind about your priorities, man," Rocky drawled, lighting his brother's cigarette and then his own. "Did you want to get the tickets or go to school?"

Brian puffed on his cigarette rather than answer. He dismounted from the motorcycle, hanging his helmet on the backrest.

"How's the car running, Butch?" Rocky asked.

"Someone screwed with my caps," said Butch. "I'm going to have to tune the sucker back up."

"My offer still stands."

"No way," Butch crossed his arms.

"Man, how can you pass up such a good deal?"

"It's not hard," Butch shrugged.

"Be a dumb shit then," Rocky hit his kickstart, drowning out any further conversation.

"Mutt," said Butch after Rocky peeled away and they could hear again. "Why does your brother want to swap his bike for my car? That thing's worth a bunch more than my Chevy."

"Hell if I know," said Brian. "Maybe he thinks the bike will be a bit cold in the winter."

"Why doesn't he go to Arizona again?" asked Eugene.

"Nowhere to stay. The old man moved back here this year."

They headed for the school. "Look here," said Brian, waving four tickets. "Good thing we got in line last night. The concert's sold out already."

"Why didn't you let Rocky get them for you?" Nicky wondered. "Then you wouldn't have missed the test."

"There was a limit of four tickets per person," Brian smiled. "This way we have more extras to scalp."

Nicky didn't know what "scalp" meant, nor did he want to find out.

"They're here!" Butch exclaimed.

Nicky looked where he was pointing to see Marshall's yellow Jaguar parked by the school. Butch led the way to the car.

"Let's wait here," he suggested.

"Whose car is this?" Brian admired it, looking into the interior.

"Marshall's. Get away from it unless you want him to pound your head in."

They sat on the sidewalk because the grass was damp from a morning shower. The cold concrete chilled Nicky to the bone, although the others didn't seem bothered by it. They waited for over thirty minutes, engaging in small talk from time to time, before Marshall and Benjamin came out of the building.

"Hi gang," Marshall greeted them.

"Hello, Nicky," said Benjamin.

"Hi, Mr. Simpson," Nicky returned. He stood with his friends, grateful to leave the warmth-sapping pavement.

"Did you give it to Mr. Walton?" Butch asked his uncle, throwing some mock jabs.

"Butch, we made a truce," Benjamin took his son aside. "Don't cock off to him anymore."

"I didn't until he gave me the pin test."

"I know. He's agreed not to harass you like that anymore. Just don't give him a reason to start up again."

"He's a jerk," said Marshall, rubbing his knuckles. "My fist was itching to flatten his nose."

"We saw your principal too," said Benjamin. "You're lucky he's got a good sense of humor."

"You amuse him," put in Marshall.

"A little goofing around is okay, Butch, as long as you don't overdo it."

The bell rang. Marshall and Benjamin rode away in the Jaguar. Nicky and Butch spent fourth hour in the library working on their history papers. Nicky thought more than wrote. The encounter with Rocky Muttilege had unnerved him. It reinforced his belief that Brian meant serious trouble. Why were the Simpsons friends with him?

Nicky looked across the table at Butch diligently writing. Sure, he thought, Butch gets into trouble but not into any kind that matters. Mutt's on his way to dropping out of school. Butch at least does enough schoolwork to get by.

He liked Butch, and Eugene was even a better friend. One even his father could like. He wished they weren't such good friends with Brian Muttilege.

Then he recalled that Brian hadn't recognized Marshall's car. I did because I saw it at their house, Nicky thought. Then a realization hit him. There's a good chance Mutt's never been to their house. Come to think of it, Benjamin talked to me but didn't pay attention to Brian at all. Maybe the Simpsons aren't as good friends with him as I thought, Nicky reasoned. They don't do the terrible things Mutt does, so neither do I in order to be their friend.

He stepped out the front door the next morning and went right back inside to switch to a lighter jacket. I can't believe how warm it is, he told himself. The weather changes so fast in Minnesota.

"Tonight we have Spanish Club," Eugene reminded him as they rode to school. Nicky didn't need the reminder; he had been thinking about it all week.

"How long does that last?" Butch asked.

Eugene looked at Nicky for the answer, who shrugged because he didn't know.

"Two hours?" Butch ventured.

It can't last longer than that, Nicky figured. "I suppose," he said tentatively.

"I'll pick you up at five then," said Butch.

Nicky had the familiar tense feeling all morning that came on days he had gym class. With the class standing at attention on their numbers, Walton walked down Butch's row, arms behind his back, and stopped at Simpson's spot. Nicky expected him to yell "Jock check!", "Give me twenty!", or "Pin test!"; but nothing came. He glared at Butch for over a minute. Butch gazed blankly ahead, not daring to move. Finally, Walton broke off the staredown and barked the commands for exercises.

Once physical education was over, Nicky was able to get more excited about Spanish Club. Miss Wainwright spent the Spanish class period giving each of her students pronounciation drills. She made Nicky recite only a couple of sentences before moving on.

"Your pronounciation is great," she complimented.

This would've made him feel good, except Nicky had a growing impression that his classmates resented him for being the teacher's pet. Then, when Pete Warbler trouble rolling his 'r's, Wainwright made Nicky say "perro" a few times to help him. Nicky didn't like getting so much attention.

Although Warbler and Ed Paskei lingered also after class, Nicky didn't think he could talk to them. He sat to wait for Eugene, except when Eugene came he talked to Paskei first.

"I didn't know you were taking Spanish," he said.

"Yeh, Pete wanted to take it so I decided to give it another try."

"Do you like it?" asked Eugene.

"It's all right," Ed shrugged.

"Do you know my friend Nicky?" Eugene motioned towards Nicky.

"Sort of. I've seen him around."

"He lives in your neighborhood," said Eugene. Ed nodded. Eugene turned to Nicky. "Ed and I used to be on a bowling team together."

Miss Wainwright called for their attention. She welcomed everyone to Spanish Club and told them how happy she was to have them come. After she had everyone introduce themselves, she showed them various things she had acquired on a trip she had taken to Mexico. She had one of the wide-brimmed Mexican hats; it was black and decorated with shiny studs and colorful feathers. She let the students pass it around along with other objects such as embroidered cloth, some ceramic glasses, a handworked leather pouch, and a pair of shakers. Nicky took additional interest in a deck of playing cards which had suits of coins, wooden clubs, swords, and vases rather than the ones he had played poker with.

The teacher also showed slides of her trip. Many of them had mountains in the background. She had pictures of everyday life in Mexico; the market, children playing soccer in a muddy street, an old woman making tortillas, and a bus with chickens in crates on top. She also had some magnificent shots of Aztec ruins.

"I hope I've been able to give you a taste of the Latin American culture," she said at the end of the presentation. Everyone squinted their eyes as she turned the lights back on. "And for those of you not in my sixth hour class, Nicky here comes from Puerto Rico."

Nicky slouched in his seat, wishing he could hide under his desk.

"Nicky's family came to America when he was too young to remember anything about his homeland, but maybe he can show us on the map where he came from." She pointed to a map of Puerto Rico on the wall. "Will you show us, Nicky?"

"I don't know for sure," Nicky could feel his face pulsing red.

"Don't your parents ever talk about before they came here?"

"Not much. They'd rather forget."

Miss Wainwright paused, looking embarrassed. "Oh, look," she said. "We're out of time."

She encouraged everyone to come back the next week because they were going to stay an hour longer and make tomales for dinner. Nicky and Eugene were slow to leave, and Wainwright took advantage of the opportunity to apologize.

"I'm sorry if I put you on the spot, Nicky. I just thought you'd have something interesting to say."

"It's okay," Nicky didn't want her to feel bad.

"I hope it doesn't keep you from coming back next week?"

"Oh, no!" Nicky's face brightened. "I enjoyed it very much."

"Muy bien!" she smiled. "And thanks for coming too, Eugene."

"I'm looking forward to the tomales," said Eugene.

Since the time was only twenty to five, Nicky and Eugene sat outside the south door. The warm weather made the wait for Butch considerably more comfortable than the previous day's wait for Marshal and Benjamin.

"You don't like talking about Puerto Rico," Eugene observed.

Nicky didn't answer right away. He looked at his feet as he gathered his thoughts. I don't want to seem like I'm keeping some big secret, he pondered. I just don't want people to know where I'm really from.

He looked up at Eugene. Although Eugene waited silently, Nicky didn't sense he had to reply. He only had to talk if he wanted to. I can tell him, he decided. Eugene's going to be my friend no matter what.

"We're not from Puerto Rico."

"Oh," Eugene frowned. "Where then?"


"That makes sense," Eugene's puzzled look disappeared. "You guys left because of Castro."

"Basically," Nicky nodded.

He went on to tell Eugene the few facts he had been able to learn from his parents. His father came from a landowning family and, like other educated people, had supported Castro's revolution against the corrupt and oppressive Batista government. However, when Castro turned ever more radical after taking power, Nicky's family was forced to flee the country.

"I rarely hear my father speak Spanish," Nicky finished. "A few years ago the whole family became American citizens."

"You're no less American than me," said Eugene. "My ancestors were chased from their native country too. It was just a few more generations back."

A roaring engine forewarned Butch's arrival. Eugene rolled his eyes at Nicky when he saw Wanda Tyler sitting in the front seat close to Butch. Nicky followed him into the back of the car.

Butch kept talking with Wanda during the ride. Nicky and Eugene, having talked themselves out, didn't say much. Nicky was let out at his front door.

Emily came to his room during a break from making supper, obviously troubled. Nicky asked her what was wrong.

"Harvey asked me to the game this week too, but of course I had to tell him I can't go," she told him. "I'm afraid he thinks I don't like him."

"Are you nice to him at school?"

"Sure. I told him I like him, but he gets bummed when I won't go to a game with him."

"Can you tell him why?"

She stamped her foot in frustration. Nicky understood. He didn't like talking about his father with his friends either. Then he thought of the conversation he had just had with Eugene.

"I learned something today, Emily," he said. "If someone's really your friend, you can tell them things you don't want to and they'll still be your friend."

Read Chapter 7.

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