Human Man
Chapter 35

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Sunlight streamed into the bedroom. Scott woke from a warm, foggy dream. He stiffened at the presence of another body in the bed, but memories of the night came flooding back and he relaxed.

Janie was on her stomach, sleeping. He pressed his lips to her shoulder and rolled out of bed.

She groaned, "No ... come back."

"Sun's up and so am I."

Janie covered her head with a pillow.

"I'm going to work out, you can sleep in."

The only response was a muffled, "Barbarian."

Scott stopped in the kitchen and started a fresh pot of coffee. The packaging for the wineglasses went into the trash.

In the gym, he was on a leg schedule so he stretched and started with squats. The routine was familiar and didn't require much thought. His brain was surprisingly quiet, and he chalked it up to contentment. After a forty-five-minute weight session, he put in thirty minutes on the running treadmill.

Normally he listened to music, but he was satisfied with his own thoughts. The sweat poured off him as he checked his heart rate, right in the zone, for him. For another human, they'd have been lucky to have the number as a resting heart rate.

"You could sell memberships to this place," Janie said.

He looked.

She was counting the plates on the leg press machine.

"Five more minutes and I'm done."

"This place is huge."

"Too big?" he asked, increasing his stride for the final section of his run.

"I don't see how you can stand it by yourself."

"I like the space," he said. "And there's an easy solution."

Janie moved to another machine and gave it an experimental push with her hands.

"We are not shacking up together."

"How long are you staying?"

"I told Mom that I'd stay for a week, till Friday."

"I may not want you to leave after a week."

"You need a week to figure that out?"

What could he say to that? He ran until the timer sounded. He stepped off the treadmill. Sweat ran from his face. His shirt and shorts were soaked. He held his arms open. "How about a hug?"

She shrieked and ran from him.

He toweled his face dry. "I'm headed for the shower."

"What are we doing today?" Janie asked. "Can we go shopping?"

"I'm going to drop your truck off for some repairs. After that, the day is wide open."

"What's wrong with the truck?"

"Other than breaking down all the time?" he asked.

She scrunched her nose at him.

He threw the towel at her, but she evaded it.

"The brakes are shot," he said, "and I'm afraid the transmission is going to start leaving pieces of itself on the road. Okay?"

Janie grumbled, but offered to make a grocery list and start on a shopping list while he showered.

He agreed and he had the shower to himself for the first few minutes until the door snicked open. He touched the controls and more jets turned on.

"This shower is ridiculous," Janie said.

"You don't like it?"

"I could get lost in here."

"We could always invite Taylor and Andi over."

"Don't forget Dorian."

"And Dorian," he agreed.

"You'd like that wouldn't you?"

"I'll wash yours if you'll wash mine," he offered.

Janie's hand-me-down pickup truck from her brother, started on the second try. The F-150 was eleven years old, and they had been hard years. The paint was faded from the West Texas sun and the odometer showed 140 thousand miles. Scott had suspicions about that number. Ed had purchased the truck second hand. Miles added up on the long stretches between Fort Stockton and civilization. The odometer had probably been rolled back.

He fought the temptation to touch the ignition and let his abilities tell him what was wrong with the truck. He could do most of that with his mundane human senses.

Janie tapped on the driver's window. "What are you doing?"

He rolled the window down. "Listening to the engine."

"Is it telling you anything?"

"Lots. I'm going to call a garage and see if they can take it. Why don't you put on some comfortable shoes, I'll show you the finer points of downtown Levall after we drop it off."

"Does that include shopping?"


Janie headed back inside.

Scott left the engine running and popped the truck's hood. He pulled the transmission dipstick and cleaned it with a rag. The truck needed a major tune-up and significant work. He checked local information on his phone and dialed a number. He stuck the dipstick back in the tube.

"Newberg Auto Repair, this is Al, how can I help you?"

"Al, my name is Scott MacIntyre. I heard Walton Anders at NTSU say you were the man to see for auto repair."

"Walton's a good man for helping veterans," Al said. "You a vet?"


"What can I do for you?"

"My girlfriend's 2002 F-150 needs work. What's your schedule look like for the week?"

Scott pulled the dipstick again and rubbed the transmission fluid between his fingers. The level was okay, but the fluid was gritty and black.

"Spring Break is slow for us and Ford parts are easy to come by. What's it need?"

"How 'bout I bring it by and talk about it?"

"We're at Fifth and Walnut, I'm here all day."

"I'm on Twelfth, look for me shortly."

Scott disconnected the call. He made a complete circuit of the truck and was washing his hands in the garage by the time Janie finally remerged.

"That long to find comfortable shoes?" he asked.

"Had to change outfits," she replied.

Scott dried his hands and decided not to comment on that.

He got the truck turned around in the courtyard, and made a note to clean the oil the truck had leaked while parked. He took Twelfth street north past Saint Bart's to Walnut. The garage on fifth was a short seven blocks over. Janie was quiet.

"Something on your mind," he asked.

"Do you own the garage?"


"Then why are you doing this?" Janie asked.

He looked at her. He wasn't sure if they were talking about the same thing. "Because I'm afraid your truck won't make it to the garage, let alone back to Fort Stockton."

"It would have been nice if you had involved me in a decision about my truck."

Scott checked his mirrors at the next stop sign. There wasn't any traffic behind him. The brakes squealed and the pedal travelled to the floor as the truck slowed to a stop.



"I apologize," he said. He tried to figure a way out of the predicament. "Honey, I think there's something wrong with your truck."

"Oh dear," Janie exaggerated, "what should I do?"

"If you'd like, we can take it to a garage and have it looked at."

"That sounds like a good idea," she replied, giving him a pointed stare.

"Better?" he asked.

"Yes, that wasn't so hard was it?"

"Will you let me pay for the repairs?"

"Are you still going to take me shopping?"


"If it will make you feel better," she said. "Then you can pay."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

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