The little patch of green across the street from the Bounty supermarket had a park bench and table, a bronze statue of a nameless prospector and a boulder more than nine feet high and almost as broad, all shaded by a very old and green pine. Marty bought the sandwiches, with beer for after the meal. Socrates accepted the apology for Jason Fulbright's behavior and relaxed for the first time since three thirty-four that morning.

After some solid eating and drinking Socrates nodded and blinked. Maybe he napped for a minute or three. In the stupor he leaned a little too far forward and had to jerk up quickly to keep from falling.

Marty was grinning at him.

?What time is it?? Socrates made to stand but relaxed when Marty put up his hand.

?It's about a quarter to one.?

?I'm a half hour late. What's Fulbright gonna do wit' that??

?What's wrong, Socco? Why're you so nervous today?? Marty's eyes were so black that they seemed like bullet holes to the ex-con.

?Wrong? Lotsa stuff is wrong. All kinds a shit. I seen in the paper last night where the cops beat up a whole truckload of illegal Mexicans again. Right in broad daylight. Right on TV. But nobody cares. They didn't learn nothin' from them riots.?

?But that's every day, Mr. Fortlow,? Marty said. ?What's wrong today? I mean, they didn't kick your butt.?

?You mean they didn't try. 'Cause you know, man, the next moth-ahfuckah try an' kick my ass gonna be dead. Cop or whatever. I don't play that shit. How about that for wrong??

Marty Gonzalez was lying on his side, propped up on an elbow.

?What?? Socrates asked after a few moments' silence.

?I didn't say anything.?

?You wanna go back??

?Whatever you say, Socco.? Marty shrugged one shoulder but otherwise stayed still.

?You ever worry that you might be goin' crazy, Marty?? Socrates didn't even know what he'd been thinking until the question found words.

Marty nodded. ?Every time my wife's mother comes to dinner until about an hour after she leaves.?

Socrates' laugh sounded like far-off explosions, a battery of cannon laying siege to a defenseless town.

?You always been a fool, Marty??

?I guess so. What about you??

?Yeah, I guess,? Socrates rubbed his rock-breaking left hand over his pate. ?Fool to begin wit' now it looks like I'm comin' back for another shot at it. You know I was gonna break Jason's face for 'im if you didn't show up.?

?And I almost let you do it too.? Marty smiled. ?You'd be doing that brother a favor but I'd surely hate to lose you, Socco. You're the only full-grown man in the whole store. Outside of you, it's just women, kids and kiss asses.?

Socrates laughed again. ?Yeah,? he said. ?I know what you mean. Uh-huh. Sometimes I wonder how some'a these men get dressed in the mornin'. An' here I got to listen to this shit just to make four ninety-five a hour.?

?That's all we're payin' you?? Marty actually seemed shocked.

?Yeah. Don't you know what you pay people??

?Uh-uh. They cut the checks by grade downtown. But I thought you'd at least be a grade four by now. You been here over a year. That boy you look after, Darryl's making four sixty.?

?Shit. I'm lucky to have a job.? Socrates looked left and right then pulled himself up and on to his feet. ?We better be gettin' back.?

Marty stood up too. He put himself face to neck with the big black man. ?Gibbs is leaving the produce department to go downtown. He's going to supervise the southwestern purchasing area.?

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