XXVII: William fricking Mathe

{Disclaimer: The name William Mathe was chosen arbitrarily. I know no person named William Mathe, and any similarities to anyone named William Mathe are purely coincidental. This story William Mathe is a work of fiction.}

Preface: {As I wrote in the preface to part I of this two-part story, Amy May, William “fricking” Mathe was an attempt to flesh out the victims of a campy Kwik Shop robbery scene in the novel Coltrane. One thing missing from the campy Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers scenes is that the audience doesn’t really care what happens to the victims. The victims are shot indiscriminately in those movies, and the perp delivers a catchy line, as victims’ arterial spray decorates their John Lennon glasses. My goal was to produce such a scene, from the victim’s perspective, to leave a statement about such scenes in a version of reality. The problem with doing so, I found, is one of perspective. Prior to the scenes with Amy May and William Mathe, the perspective is closed to Corey Dugan’s perspective on events. I tried a number of ways to include these stories from Corey’s perspective, but none of them worked. I don’t know if other, more talented authors can flawlessly flip perspectives for 9,000 words, but I could not do it seamlessly. So, my whole purpose of creating these stories was essentially defeated.}

William ‘fricking’ Mathe

When Renee cackled as Amy May sprinted away, Mary Heather joined her. It wasn’t like Mary Heather to laugh at a person in such dire straits, but Mary Heather didn’t appear to just be joining Renee. She appeared to enjoy the scene as much as Renee did.

That triggered something in Mathe: “The fuck you laughing at yo?” he asked penetrating Mary Heather’s eyes. “We had sex on our first date.”

Mary Heather backed up two steps after that comment. Her face changed quick, deliciously quick. She looked slapped. Her index went to her lips, pleading with him for more discretion. She cried a little in her eyes, but the sadness was not apparent on the rest of her face. She held out her other hand. Enough, that gesture said. He broke her heart. She had that look that suggested that she didn’t want whatever specialness she thought they had ruined.

Renee enjoyed that too, as she looked from the fleeing Amy May to William to Mary Heather. Renee laughed hard, after locking eyes with Mary Heather. After thoroughly undressing Mary Heather with her eyes, Renee looked back at William Mathe with a look in her eyes that suggested she enjoyed all of this. ‘Burn it down!’ those eyes said, encouraging William onward, ‘burn it all down.’

That triggered something in Mathe again. He despised Renee from a competitive standpoint. She was the leader of that group, the obnoxious, tough girl leader that needed to be brought down a couple pegs.

“I fucked both of you, and I don’t think I even had to smile at you to get some. You’re all fucking sluts. You’re all in need of a spanking from a big, old bad dad. You need something or someone to get your ass in line. We’re supposed to be the fucking cavemen here, and you’re supposed to be the ones that make us act right. You’re throwing the whole equation off.”

Getting to know this William Mathe was not a bowl of cherries. You had to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly. He was a tough man to know. He was complicated. He didn’t put up with anyone’s bullshit that William fricking Mathe. The Amy Lou girl would just have to get over it, he thought with the dashboard lights beaming in his face as he sped down highway 24 to the Kwik Shop and Laverne. Amy Lou was a sweet, little innocent girl. She needed to know the ways of the world.

Wait a second, what was her name again?  It wasn’t Amy Lou. No, she corrected me on that. Amy May. That was it. I’ll flash my pearly whites at Amy May tomorrow, before the game, and I’ll get her name right, and all will be right in her world. I’ll tell her that that whole scene was just a test. I’ll tell her that I needed to know if she could stand up to my test. That’s what I’ll say. All women, hell all people, need to have their constitution tested every once in a while. I’ll add that. That will be good. I think it was Vin Diesel who said that. Maybe it was Jean Claude Van Damme. Someone said it. I just had to make sure you could stand up to the test. He pictured himself saying all this to her. He would have a half smile on his face when he said it. Should I add some insecurity? No, she may see that as a sign of lying. I’ll just give her the half-smile and a statement along the lines of: “And you did it babe with flying colors.” She didn’t actually do anything. She imploded like a house of cards, but I’ll lie about all that to make her feel better about herself.

“Take a right here,” Aaron Mays said.

“I know Uwie gawdamnit,” Mathe said. “Keep your fucking pants on.” The backseat got a good laugh over that one. William looked over at Aaron after saying it to see if Aaron gauged the bit of anger that he wanted Aaron to think was borne of a competitive nature. The overtones were sarcastic, but he couldn’t entirely hide the venom. Aaron was taking his shot at Laverne tonight. The two of them had taken turns at turning the woman. She was a tough nugget to crack.

Aaron and William had been friends for as long as either could remember, and William usually wished the best for his friend, but this was different. Laverne was different. William really liked her. He may have even loved her. He hadn’t worked through all that yet.

The few times that William spoke to Laverne, she had a profound effect on him. She made him nervous in a way no girl made William Mathe nervous. She was a woman. He couldn’t think of the right things to say to her. He couldn’t be himself around her. She was different. She was a woman. He couldn’t say any of this. He shouldn’t even be thinking of things like this. Not in front of these fellas. They can smell weakness. He had to play the game. He had to sit back and allow Aaron to try and break her down, and it would kill him to do so.

Mathe wanted to tell Laverne that Uwie was damaged goods. He wanted her to know that because of all the hard drugs Uwie did, he couldn’t eat most food. “It’s true,” he was planning to tell her. “The drugs ripped away the lining of his stomach.” Mathe pictured his demeanor as nothing more than an informative one. “Have you heard the recent reports regarding the effect hard drugs have on the brain?” he pictured himself asking her. “My friend is doing great in rehab and all that, but we’re all worried that he may have caused himself some irreparable harm.” He just thought of that. It was perfect. It made him look like the concerned friend, and it got the message across.

“He doesn’t shower either,” Mathe thought of adding, if the drug revelations didn’t work. If it caused her to go down the compassionate road that all women love, he would throw in the shower thing. That way she could go down the compassionate road with Uwie without wanting to get too close to him. Mathe smiled at the road with that one. “He believes too much showering strips away the natural oils in his skin. I’m not kidding, he thinks these oils keep him shiny and young looking,” Mathe would say to her. “Who does such things? Who thinks such things? I’m not going to say he’s a freak. He’s my best friend, but he does have some odd ways of thinking.” William wondered how her face would change as she listened. He would drop all of that conversationally. He would be friendly. He would be concerned for a friend. If she doubted all that Mathe thought, she could ask Uwie about it. He usually volunteered such information, because he thought Uwie being odd, would gain William some long-term points. Even if Uwie got sympathy points for the stomach thing, sympathy doesn’t mean as much to a fifty-some-odd-year-old lady. They view such traits as odd. At least odd, William figured. Damaged goods might be a bit of a stretch, but definitely odd. Everyone viewed Uwie differently when William told them the truth about the guy. It was a little mean to tell them these things. It was a little sneaky, but this was war. This was Laverne. The first woman he had ever really liked.

Uwie, for his part, said nothing to the ‘keep your pants on’ crack. His eyes remained on William for a second longer than normal, and his smile faltered a tiny degree. That told William all he needed to know about how he sounded.

“That her?” Beaumont asked from the backseat when they pulled into the parking lot of the Kwik Shop. He should’ve said ‘is that her?’ in proper terminology, but Beaumont was one of those who suffered from low self-esteem. Beaumont did not attain his status naturally. He was always on the lookout for a formula. The formula of the day, according to Beaumont’s actions, was to try to sound black. He did this most often when Uwie was in the car to appeal to Uwie. Beaumont also added a stoked voice. That and the smell flowing forward from the backseat informed them all that a joint was ready. Uwie took the first hit.

“You think she’ll smell it?” Uwie asked William before taking the first hit.

“No,” William said. “I don’t think she will.” It was a lie. This was war. He wanted Uwie taking as many hits as possible. He wanted that smell all over Uwie. He wanted the guy’s turn at cracking through to Laverne to be ruined by that smell. Mathe took a small hit and passed it back to the Uwie.

“That’s the woman you two been fawning for, for weeks?” Beaumont furthered. No one answered. Uwie and William were fixated on her. William was more fixated on how he could ruin this for Uwie. He thought if he gave a honk, Laverne would look over at them and see all of them in the car. That would break the scam wide open, William thought, until the next time they drove up here, and it’s my turn. She might recognize the car on my turn and implicate me in this. “The lady look like the principle on Grease.” Beaumont was laughing in a condescending manner when he said that.

“She doesn’t look like the principle from Grease,” Uwie said. He took a third hit from the clip and passed it back to Beaumont. “She looks like Carol Brady,” he said with a stoked voice.

“No way she look like Carol Brady,” Beaumont returned. “She sagging all over the place. She look like she been living hard.”

“Living hard?” Uwie asked. “What you know about living hard? You’re from Kingswood.”

“She look like she been hanging out in bars for too many years, smoking two packs a day,” he said passing the clip to Tange. “No way she look like Carol Brady.”

“Shut the fuck up Beaumont,” William finally said. The car went silent for about a minute after that. Very rarely did William lose his cool, but when he did it had a dramatic effect. It was the power of silence on display.

“How do I look?” Uwie asked obsessively manicuring his hair in the passenger side’s visor mirror. He squirted a couple shots of what he called his killer cologne on. “Mathe?” he asked, “How do I fucking look?”

“Good! I don’t know?” William said to suggest that he was beyond hiding it. He was fucked, and he knew it. Uwie was on the verge last time. He broke Laverne down, and had her laughing herself silly on two different occasions last time. He had his vocab down and everything. Uwie wasn’t book smart, but he could break a person down. There was a rhythm to the way the guy told a joke, and he was charming. He could make you think he was the smartest guy in the room, and he could make you feel like you were the most interesting person he had ever met. He had it all down.

William’s opportunities hadn’t gone as well. He couldn’t figure out what to say to her the last few times. He was too nervous. He and Laverne didn’t have that much in common. Laverne appeared to feel sorry for him at times, and he tried to think of things that would break that. He asked Uwie for advice once. Uwie didn’t give him shit. I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell him he looks good now, Mathe thought. If he don’t know, he won’t show.

He knew he was losing badly though, and he thought this might be the night for Uwie. But he’s a black guy, William thought. Women her age don’t usually go for black guys. It was a generational thing. He sorted through it, and he wondered if that would bear out.

“I thought you two were supposed to be the studs of the school,” Matt Tange said after the tension from Mathe’s outburst died down. Mathe eyed him in his rearview. The guy was moving up on the seat. He was in full challenge mode. He had the forty-something chick smiling and egging him on. She pushed on his shoulder. She looked like a mother encouraging her son to speak out against the bullies. Except they weren’t bullies, they were all friends. Why would she be doing this? She wanted Tange under William’s skin for her own amusement. William locked eyes on her for a second. She looked away sheepishly, maintaining a half smile for her own ego. “You guys could get any girl in the school, and you’re trying to climb on Granny Jones? I don’t get it?” The laughter took hold this time. Tange’s lady laughed a spitting laugh, like a spurt that came from a pressurized two-liter bottle of pop that had been shaken. Beaumont coughed up whatever toke he hit.

“Granny Jones,” Beaumont repeated in a stoked, laughing voice. “That’s funny, and I know funny.”

William positioned his rearview mirror on Tange. He peered right through him. His Aunt Karen once told him that he had eyes that could look right through a person. “Something about his eyes just puts you on edge Mattie,” his Aunt Karen said to William’s mother while holding his young face. He never forgot that. He knew what his eyes could do to people, and he saved and harnessed their power for moments like these.

“I’m onto you Tange,” William said with those eyes peering right through Tange. It’s the natural inclination of those less skilled in restraint to add a specific incident that would back up such a statement, but William didn’t. After using this tactic a couple of times before, William knew how powerful silence was. He knew how pointed comments laid flat could play in another person’s imagination. Say such things and give them a pool of silence to dip their imagination in, and you can manipulate their thoughts. “I know what you’re about,” he added, and he studied Tange’s face. He watched the kid’s confident, teasing smile break down. Mathe then turned forward and adjusted his rearview away from Matt.

“What?” Tange asked. “What’s that mean?” There was weakness all over that, delicious weakness. Mathe kept his eyes forward, but he heard Tange sink back into the corner. Mathe kept his composure. Tange had no idea that Mathe had been sitting on that line, waiting for the right time to use it. Mathe did know Tange, to a degree, but he wanted to hold onto that line until the right moment, until it crippled him. Silence, and the reliance on Tange’s imagination, was the way to go Mathe decided.

William Mathe had been working on this silent character since he first saw The Fonz do it in the early years of the Happy Days show. As a young kid, Mathe didn’t understand how show creators, show runners and script writers created a character. He thought Henry Winkler created the character and decided he would be cool and quiet in the early years of the show. Mathe was mesmerized by how the other characters defined The Fonz. When his dad introduced William Mathe to Marlon Brando. Brando took it to another level. He built a foundation of silence for the fiery and explosive moments that would follow. Those explosive moments were made all the more interesting when they were built on a foundation of calm, cool silence. Mathe thought Brando defined the formula, and for much of his life Mathe followed Brando’s formula, until his dad introduced him to Gary Cooper. Cooper’s characters defined cool through silence. William’s dad had most of Cooper’s movies, and William memorized nearly every line of them. The thing that separated Cooper from Brando, and The Fonz, was his ability to consistently hold that silence. The Fonz and Brando usually added a catchy comment at the conclusion of the silence, which focused the concentration on the comment, and lessened the power of the silence the preceded it. The Fonz and Brando would also have cool expressions on their face that focused the attention on the expression, not the silence. Cooper focused on the silence to such a degree that it dominated the screen. The man could get fiery mad at someone without saying a word, or changing his expression, and he didn’t conclude that silence by punching a mirror, or sweeping everything off his desk in the manner the silence of the modern day is concluded. He would simply wait for the recipient of his silence to eventually find their way, his way, of doing things. When Mathe first witnessed it, he thought it was boring, the second time he watched the pertinent scenes, he didn’t know how Cooper could get away with it. No one was that powerful, he surmised. The third time, and in every time he watched those scenes, he realized how beautiful and influential they were, and he tried to affect such silence in all of the pertinent scenes of his life.

Long term dividends could be found in silence, when you do it right. When you hit the sweet spot, however, you can see short-term capital gains. William could see that Tange would be putty in his hands for the rest of this night, and he figured that if he played it right, he might be able to get a week, or even a month out of it. Those delicious words ‘I’m onto you!’ put Tange in an uncomfortable position he couldn’t get out of without asking for further clarification, something William would not provide him.

“All right,” Uwie said examining himself one last time in the mirror. He checked the collar on his shirt. He checked all the buttons. He smoothed the sides of his head in the mirror one more time. He inhaled deeply. “Wish me luck.”

“Fuck you,” Mathe said. That slipped out. He was ticked. He knew it was over.

Uwie laughed his way out of the car.

William Mathe didn’t have any cigarettes. There was no alcohol, chew, snuff, or even a piece of gum to chew on, and he was burned out on pot. He just had to sit there and watch. He chewed a nail when he saw Laverne greet Uwie. She looked relieved to see him enter the store. She looked happy, even excited. She laughed a little when Uwie strode straight to the counter and began talking to her. Did she laugh at a joke he told, or the fact that he was being too obvious. Uwie didn’t buy anything. He didn’t say anything. He just went straight to the counter. His obviousness had to be the reason she laughed, Mathe thought watching them. William destroyed the nail on his throwing hand. He went way too short on it. It hurt, it was bleeding. He thought of the way his coach preached how the little things might become big things come game time.

Beaumont and Tange were talking about things with Tange’s woman. Mathe heard them speak, but he didn’t hear a word they said. They were background noise.

***

“Holy Shit!” Mathe said exiting the car. There would be some debate, in the days that followed, as to the source of that exclamation. Was it issued, because Mathe couldn’t take watching Laverne and Uwie flirt, and he saw a progression occur between the two that stoked his sense of competition, or did he see something that clued him into all the events that followed? Whatever the case was, William fricking Mathe was in the Kwik Shop before the robbery went down.

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