“It has been almost two years since I married your mother,” began Gary’s stepfather, “and I must say I was rather looking forward to raising a young lad—having no son of my own, you see.” He sighed and shook his head. “But how you have disappointed me, Gary.” The sword fell from Victor’s hand. “You are such a quiet boy, and what does come out of your mouth is utter nonsense. I try to instruct you, and you disobey me. I give you books from which you might learn a thing or two, and then I find your nose buried in those blasted comic books. Pah! I’ve tried everything I could to make a man of you, and you shrink back from every opportunity like a scared little girl. Is that what you are, Gary? I wonder sometimes.” Victor’s head dropped, and before he knew it a tear was rolling down his cheek. “There’s no point in beating around the bush, boy—you’re a bloody fool. Why, I’d like to give you a solid backhander, but I fear I’d break my hand on such a dense head… and no doubt your mother would be displeased. Oh, the things I suffer for her.” He sighed. “Good lord, you’re not crying are you, Gary? What’s wrong this time?”
Victor glanced up and moved his mouth to speak, but found himself rendered mute by some unseen humiliating force.
“Timid as a kitten, and rude to boot. Not even the decency to answer me. This is what I’m talking about, boy. This behaviour of yours doesn’t just affect you, you know. When I go to the club, I’m surrounded by men who have sons they can be proud of. Their boys do well at school, they play sports—and I don’t just mean running around outside by themselves, kicking a football—I mean they play on the school football team. You could use a little of that—the rough and tumble, the comradery—it would do you the world of good. But for some unknown reason you insist on being alone. Too much imagination for your own good, I say. The point is, Gary, what am I supposed to say? I talk to my friends at the club, and they ask me about you. ‘Arthur,’ they say, ‘when is that boy ever going to—’”
“Wait,” said Victor. An invisible weight lifted from him. He raised his head and looked Gary’s stepfather in the eye. “You’re Arthur?”
A stern scowl came over the face of Gary’s stepfather. “Don’t take that tone with me, boy. Now, listen—”
Victor sat upright and smiled. “You’re Arthur! You’re the buttface.”
Arthur’s eyes widened, and a queer look flashed upon his face before he resumed his disdainful glare. “Boy, my patience is wearing thin. You’d best think carefully about your course of action.”
Victor leaned forward, peering seriously up at Arthur, and nodded. “You’re right.” He paused, and then leaned back and smiled. “Buttface.”
Arthur’s eyes grew even wider, and his cheeks sucked in for a moment like he had sucked on a lemon. He slammed his fist on the table, and then pointed his finger at Victor. “How dare you!”
Victor picked up his sword and stood up. He made a mock bow and said in a polite English accent, “You, sir, are a buttface.”
Arthur jumped up from his seat. His eyes popped and his nose twitched, becoming thinner, it seemed; the glasses fell from his face. “You’re in for it now, boy!” he roared. “I have restrained myself, but no longer.” He unfastened his belt and removed it. “I’ll give you the flogging of a lifetime!”
Victor laughed, and then raised his sword like he was about to lead a battle charge, and cried, “BUTTFACE!”
Arthur gasped a squeaky shriek. His eyes bulged from their sockets and his cheeks sucked in; the top of his head seemed to shrink. Belt in hand, and trembling with fury, he walked around the side of the desk, toward Victor. “Come here, boy,” he snarled in high-pitched voice.
Victor backed away around the desk, keeping it (and his raised sword) between him and Arthur. “Arthur is a buttface!” he yelled.
Arthur whipped his belt down across the desk; it made a loud crack but fell well short of hitting Victor. Arthur’s head shrank and his eyes grew like balloons inflating. “Damn it, boy—hold still!” His voice was as though he had inhaled helium.
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