Novel (excerpt): Edge


(3)

The school security guard (Sottloy) talks with the son (Jasem).

Mr. Sottloy was the gregarious security guard. He only enjoyed talking about sports in order to talk about something else. Those afternoons, when he found them in the yard, he approached with that in mind, but now, this morning, he manned the entrance ramp to school and coopted the teacher’s eldest son without any need for pretense.
Sottloy: (commandingly) How’s it going? You staying out of trouble?
Son: (shyly) Um huh.
Sottloy: Do you know that guy Allen in your building?
Son: I’ve seen him.
Sottloy: I’ve been trying to help him out. A good guy. But gone a little astray. He doesn’t get any decent advice from the people he’s around.
(Son nods)
Loaned him a few dollars the other day. He promised to pay me back in a week. And he couldn’t do it, but he came and told me straight up. I’ll get the money. I’m not worried about that. It showed me he has character. Didn’t shy away. He waited for me after school and said he’d have it in another week.
(Son is a little baffled by the conversation, but listens as attentively as possible)
You don’t have any problems with money, do you?
Son: No, I get an allowance.
Sottloy: You have good parents. I don’t know your dad, but your mom is great. Do they get along well? Your parents? Do you have a nice time at home?
Son: Oh, yeah. They get along very well. Everything’s great.
Sottloy: Cool. That’s the problem with Allen, he doesn’t have that kind of home, his father’s been gone for years, ever since he can remember, and his mom doesn’t support him at all, just lets him flap in the wind, so I try to be like a father to him, but I can’t, I do the best I can, but I don’t live with him, don’t even see him all that regularly and if he didn’t hang out downstairs, then I’d never see him and probably wouldn’t know him.
(Son fails at wondering what it would be like to have a surrogate father)
He was telling me some crazy story about Halloween, how they went wilding through the park up near Harlem, yeah, those are the kind of kids he hangs out with, not the likes of you and Damien, you and Damien get along well, right?
Son: Yeah, he’s fun.
Sottloy: Those are the kind of friends Allen should have. You probably don’t read the paper, but that wilding is pretty serious stuff. You can go to jail for it, and while he’s a minor, juvenile detention isn’t a cake walk. I don’t know exactly what he’s done, but recently a woman was gangraped, some bicyclist’s head was bashed in. That’s serious stuff, that’s not filching a stick of gum from the bodega.
Son: No
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