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A Weapon of Choice VII
The seventh installment our pen related serial
from the fountain pen of Myra Love
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 Chapter VII

I took my mom out for dinner. I figured it was the least I could do. We went into the restaurant and sat down at a table in the back. I'd already had a hamburger there earlier in the day, which was what I usually ordered, so I was at a little bit of a loss as to what I'd order. I looked up at the wall, where the evening specials were posted. Meat loaf, spaghetti with meat sauce, Swedish meatballs, all variations on hamburger. I scanned the room, as if to pull some inspiration out of the air, only to notice Mr. Willard seated at the counter. I looked over at Mom, who didn't seem to have noticed him. She was staring at the list of specials, looking exactly the way I'd felt when I read them.
"Do you really want to have dinner here, Jason?" she whispered.
I smiled. "No, especially not since Willard is at the counter, but what choice do we have? There's not enough time to go home.."
She wrinkled her nose. "Talk about having your appetite ruined."
At that moment, Mr. Willard stood up, picked up his cup of coffee and came over to our table. He looked down at us, at my mom actually, with a very unhappy expression.
"What do you want, Tom?" Mom asked sharply.
"Can I sit down?" he mumbled.
She shook her head. "Not at our table."
His unhappy expression hardened. "I'm just trying to say I'm sorry, Amanda. I was having a bad day, that's all."
"You're sorry all right," Mom snapped at him, looking disgusted. "You're the sorriest excuse for a human being I've ever met."
She stood up. "Come on, Jason," she said loudly. "The air smells bad."
I followed her out of the restaurant. "Let's go over to Mason's and get a couple of candy bars," she ordered me. "That should get us through the rest of the evening."
Mason's general store, located right across the street from the restaurant, was closed, as Mom knew it would be, but when she knocked on the door, Sam Mason opened and let us in.
"What can I do for you, beautiful?" he asked Mon with a wink. "And why did you bring your chaperone?" He grinned at me.
Sam Mason was in his late seventies and always flirted with my mom. Everyone thought it was cute, even Louise, Mrs. Mason. I thought it was ridiculous, and Mom wasn't too crazy about it, but she put up with it because sometimes we needed to have our credit from the store extended, and it was a good idea to be on Sam's good side. So she smiled at him and told him we just wanted to pick up a quick snack.
"A quick snack?" he repeated, with such a big grin this time that his gums showed. "What did you have in mind?"
I heard footsteps and saw Mrs. Mason enter the store.
"Now you stop tormenting, Amanda, you Don Juan, you," she ordered her husband as she came up and put her arm around him. "They're hungry, poor things. I saw Tom Willard walk into the restaurant a couple of minutes before them. You know they don't want to be eating with him in there. Get them some Twinkies and a carton of milk."
She looked up at Mom. "Or would you rather have fixings for some sandwiches. We have ham and smoked turkey and a couple of rolls left that aren't stale."
We ended up with turkey sandwiches and Twinkies and a quart of milk, all of which we ate downstairs at the town hall. Mom was still fuming about Mr. Willard. I wasn't quite sure why she was so mad when I wasn't really. I mean, I was still really mad about my fountain pen, but I thought he was pathetic, and it's hard to be really mad at someone you think is pathetic. I wasn't sure, but I thought I was starting to feel sorry for him.
"Mom?" I asked, after swallowing the last of my milk. "Why wasn't Mr. Willard's wife with him at the hearing?"
"What?" she asked me, looking blank.
"You were here with me, so why wasn't she with him?"
Mom shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe Kathy has better things to do with her time."
"But he's her husband."
"He's not on trial, Jason," she said, looking a little impatient. "Anyway, who cares?"
I cared, but I didn't say so, since her question wasn't really a question. The way Mr. Willard had come over to our table made me feel funny, as if there was something going on that I didn't understand. He had looked so miserable that I half wished Mom had let him sit down. Besides, maybe then I'd have found out what happened to my pen.

When we got back to the hearing room, it was empty except for Mr. DeContreni and Miss Carswell who seemed to be waiting for us.
"Come in, Amanda! Come in, Jason!" Mr. DeContreni said as we stuck our heads into the doorway. "I think you may want to hear what Miss Carswell has suggested.
We walked in a little tentatively. Mom was still vacillating between being nervous about being too close to Miss Carswell and being hopping mad at Mr. Willard. I just felt wary since I wasn't sure what the school board representative was going to say. He seemed too friendly.
"If Miss Carswell is correct," he began, and then he nodded in her direction, saying, "and I've rarely if ever known her to be in error, then we really owe you a new fountain pen."
"You owe him an apology as well, "my mother interjected.
"Amanda, please!" Miss Carswell said sternly. "Let the man finish."
"Miss Carswell recommends that we replace your grandfather's, er, Esterbrook, I believe, with a pen of greater monetary value. She believes that you ought to be allowed to select the pen with the assistance of the local fountain pen club, of course."
"Local fountain pen club?" I repeated. I'd never heard of a local fountain pen club.
"Locally there are only two members," Miss Carswell said quickly, "but we meet with fountain pen users from the surrounding towns and countryside every month. All together there are ten of us right now. What I actually said to Mr. DeContreni," she went on, giving him an exasperated look, "is that you ought to be given recompense not only for the malicious destruction of your pen but also for some of the suffering you've experienced. I advised him to set a limit on how much of the school board's money you can spend on your new fountain pen in consultation with the same two local fountain pen club members." She narrowed her eyes. "That means that you will have to meet with us as well in the next week if this recommendation meets with your approval, Jason."
"Assuming, of course," Mr. DeContreni interjected, "that your pen really was maliciously destroyed by a school employee."
Miss Carswell snorted again. "Oh, it was maliciously destroyed all right. I made a call during our dinner break, and I'm a hundred percent sure of that now. And ninety-nine percent sure who did it."
Mr. DeContreni raised his eyebrows, but Miss Carswell had nothing more to say at the moment. Soon the others filed into the room.
"Hmmph," I heard Mr. Willard say in a stage whisper to his lawyer. "I guess Ed Conley gave up on his clients. Guess he knew it was all over. Or maybe they just couldn't pay him."
Mom blushed and then glowered at him, but he just glowered back at her. His expression didn't change when Miss Carswell addressed him.
"Mr. Willard," she began, "have you brought the pen?"
"No, I haven't," he replied and added quickly. "Unfortunately the pen has been stolen."
"Stolen?" Miss Carswell repeated. "Would you please explain?"
"Jason broke in and stole it some time between the time I locked it away in the faculty storage closet the day I confiscated it from him and today."
"Oh? And did anyone see you lock it in the storage closet?" she asked, her voice dripping sarcasm.
Mr. Willard's smile broadened. "Oh yes indeed. A student, Ben Clausen, one of Jason's fellow track team members. Ben's the one who told me Jason broke in and stole the pen too.
I couldn't believe my ears and looked over at my mom whose eyes were bulging out of her head. I was too scared to make eye contact with Miss Carswell, so I just stared down at my hands.
"Well, that's very interesting, Mr. Willard," Miss Carswell replied.
"Yes, it is," Mr. DeContreni interrupted angrily. "And it certainly invalidates what you and I agreed on before this evening's session, Miss Carswell."
I looked up to find Miss Carswell smiling condescendingly at Mr. DeContreni. "Well," she said, "I think we need to hear from Ben Clausen. Is he here?"
"In the corridor," Mr. Willard's lawyer replied a little nervously. "I'll get him."
Ben came in and walked to the front of the room.
"Do I have to swear to tell the truth or anything?" he asked the lawyer.
"No," the lawyer replied. "You still have to answer Miss Carswell's questions truthfully though," he added.
"Yeah, right," Ben mumbled.
"Sit down, Ben," Miss Carswell said.
"I'd rather stand."
"Sit down!" she repeated emphatically.
Ben sat down and rolled his eyes.
"All right," she went on. "Before you say anything, are your parents present?"
"Dad's outside in the hall," Ben mumbled.
"Speak up, Ben!" she ordered him.
"Dad is outside in the hall," Ben repeated more clearly.
"Have Mr. Clausen come in, please," Miss Carswell ordered the lawyer, who shrugged and, opening the door, beckoned Ben's father into the room.

 


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