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Union Candy (part 3)

Joe Spivey's picture
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Casper had known about those he called ‘the watchers’ since a couple of days after Finny’s birthday. The watchers were four boys in their mid-teens who took turns sneakily watching Finny and whoever was with her. Casper had noticed them because, well, he was Casper and he was hard wired to look out for danger.

He even automatically graded everyone he met, or saw, or just heard about, on an incredibly complex ‘Threat Scale’ of his own devising which ranked people from 0 to 10. Therefore, because the watchers were, well, watching them, the four strange boys immediately went up from a 5 to a 6 and then to a 7 when it became clear they were watching every day.

Just for comparison, even Finny ranked a 2, or a 3 if she was in a bad mood. Anyone with a weapon was an immediate 10. Joe Spivey slid up and down the scale on a daily basis because of Finny’s weird relationship with him. Without the Finny modifier, Joe was always a 10, and bending the needle upwards.

Casper wasn’t sure if he should tell Finny about the watchers. On the one hand, she would want to know. But on the other hand, Finny was happy again after their incident with the Devil’s Own, and Casper liked it when Finny was happy. She would stop being happy though, and start worrying if she knew about the watchers. But then on the other hand again Finny would definately do something Finnyish which would probably be scary and might get him killed. What finally decided him on not telling Finny was that there was more chance of Finny doing something Finnyish if he did tell her which she couldn’t do if she didn’t know. So, Casper kept quiet and watched the watchers watching them.

If none of that explanation made sense it is because you are not nine-years-old and worried about what your own shadow is up to behind your back.

So, Casper’s reasoning worked out well enough right up to the point when another boy, well a man really because he must have been eighteen or nineteen at least, came right up to today’s watcher and talked to him. Now, Casper knew this older boy. Not directly of course because that would mean him going somewhere unsafe. Casper knew him because Finny had described him one day when they were all laying in the sun on the orphanage roof and swapping stories.

Finny had told him about the time she had first met Joe Spivey and thought she was going to be drowned in a sack and then fed to the hermit crabs. This boy talking to the watchers was none other than one of those boys who had held Finny captive until Joe had come. And they had hurt her.

So now Casper had another dilemma on his hands and both options gave him the willies. He could tell Finny, and face the hot temper, which Finny’s red hair openly warned the world about. Or, and his mind really tried to skitter away from this option, he could go and see Joe and… But that’s as far as he had gotten with that line of thinking.

Telling Finny would definitely make her mad at him for not telling her sooner. Having Finny mad at him was bad enough, it usually left bruises on his arms because of their leader’s penchant for dishing out dead-arms. But having her possibly not liking him for not telling her was worse, and that would leave bruises on his heart.

But talking to Joe about it? And that was what he would have to do because Casper knew for certain that the older boy was one of Joe’s ‘eyes’ and it was pretty likely the four watchers were too.

With a heavy weight on his bladder then, Casper knew there was really only the one right decision. Of the two options, Casper would face Joe a thousand times rather than risk Finny thinking bad things about him. So, Casper sat and watched the minute hand of the clock above Joe’s office door make its final circle towards the twelve and prepared to do, what to him, was probably the bravest thing he would ever do. And he still didn’t have a clue as to what he was actually going to say.

Joe breathed a little sigh of relief when the ancient kitchen timer rattle across his desktop at three o’clock, which was perhaps unfair because the kids were coming along fine. Even Onetooth, the youngest at only just eight, could add and subtract fractions like a pro. As to multiplying them, well, maybe next week.

Then Joe sensed that the running footsteps down the wooden balcony were perhaps light by one pair of felt-booted feet. Without moving his head, he glanced up towards the door. Casper stood in the doorway, holding the door open and doing that little foot to foot dance that kids do that meant either they need to pee, aren’t sure where to go, or are just plain nervous. In Casper’s case, Joe would lay sizeable odds on the latter.


The foot to foot wobble became more pronounced and Joe knew from experience that the forever fearful youngster was close to turning tail and running after his classmates. So, using the ‘friendly’ tone of voice Kirsten had gotten him working on improving, Joe tried again.

“Is there something…?” He let the question trail off because conversations with Annie had taught him that being more specific often led to a long series of “nuhuh” until you luckily managed to land on the right question before your patience ran out.

Casper, clutching the doorknob on both sides of the door like it was a security blanket, managed to take a breath.

“It’s about Finny.”

Joe froze. He, as well as every female in his house, was well aware of the awkwardly growing relationship between his star pupil and her timid admirer. It was something Kirsten and Silja found ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’, but which Joe found just led to inattention when he was trying to drill something into their little heads.

If Casper was about to ask him anything about that, then the boy would get very short shrift. Joe was the last person to give interpersonal advice and he knew it. So, there was a note of caution in his voice when he asked.

“What about Finny?”

What Joe saw as caution. Casper picked up on as threat. Instinct fought to overcome stubborn protectiveness, and, for the first time ever, instinct lost.

“He… There’s these four boys. They’ve bin follerin’ us around for ages and watchin’ Finny.”

Was it relief that washed through Joe? Or rancour that his ‘eyes’ had been rumbled. The four he had chosen were good at their job, very good in fact. But Casper had spotted all four of them. Bugger.

Joe lifted his head, sat up straight and interlaced his fingers on the desktop. He wanted to try a smile but Kirsten had told him that his smiles tended to make things worse. So, he fought the urge and was rewarded by Casper not running away.

“That’s er… That’s very clever to have spotted those boys, Casper. Very clever.”

“Did you send them? I know them. They work for you.”

Joe nodded to the chair on the other side of the desk.

“Come and sit down.”

The look on Casper’s face immediately told Joe he had made a mistake.

“Never mind, no, just stay there. It doesn’t matter.”

If this had been any other kid then Joe would have simply reverted to threats about what would happen if he didn’t keep his mouth shut. But that wasn’t going to work with Casper because Joe, actually everyone, knew that, to this little weirdo, everything was a threat and likely to kill him any second anyway. Instead, Joe focused on Casper’s fondness for Finny.

“You see, Casper. It’s like this.” As he spoke, Joe watched the boy’s face intently for any sign of him being about to run. “You know that Finny, well, she’s been doing little jobs for me and things like that right?”

Casper frowned. Joe’s interest in Finny and the little ‘jobs’ she did, and that she wouldn’t talk about, wasn’t something he particularly liked. And he had told her, more than once. But Finny had found his concern funny, so he had stopped talking to her about it. He still didn’t like it though.

“Yeah, I know.”

Joe tried to inject some casual humour into his voice.

“Well, because she does that and plays with Annie, and comes round my gaff sometimes, well…” Here we go, Joe thought. “…Well, some people might try and ‘get’ me by going after Finny.”

Joe had deliberately used the kid-friendly definition of ‘get’ so that Casper would understand better. The look on Casper’s face told him that the boy had understood perfectly. Joe hurried on.

“So, those boys are just there to keep an eye on her. To keep Finny safe, see?”

Casper had kind of figured that out for himself early on, it made sense. It was also one of the other reasons he hadn’t told Finny. But then, the older boy had come. Casper told Joe what he had seen and what Finny had told him about what happened two years ago. Then, sticking his chin out, he told Joe about his worry for Finny’s safety if this boy was involved.

Joe could see the change creep over the nine-year-old as Casper told him all this. He had stopped shuffling his feet. He had turned to face Joe’s desk full on, rather than half turned towards the exit. His head was held high. Joe smiled.

He had his plans for Finny, sure. But he also had plans for the boy standing untypically defiant before him. In fact, the whole reading group was involved in Joe’s strategy in one way or another. What he hadn’t counted on, was Casper finding some balls quite this early on.

“So, what do you want me to do about it?  I’m sure as hell not calling those boys off.”

Casper’s face tightened into a screwed-up ball of loathing.

“No. Just him.”

“The one that hurt Finny?”

Casper nodded once, slowly.

“Just him.”

This was better than Joe had expected, or even hoped for. He’d found what he needed from this normally timid little street urchin.

“Okay, Casper. Here’s the deal. I can’t always be around to take care of Finny, but those guys watching her can, and they’ll be there if something happens. But they can’t go into the orphanage, see. So, I need you to make sure they know about it if Finny gets into trouble in there. You do that for me and I’ll take Jeremy out of the setup for you.”

That more than hit Casper’s expectations. Not only would… Jeremy? Seriously? Be gone, but now he could actually really protect Finny.


Joe sat back.

“Okay, good man. Now, off you fuck. Oh, and let’s keep this our little secret, okay?”

Casper nodded once again and then was gone.

Joe sat back and finally let the smile come.


This is my favorite entry so far, good stuff lol. Made me laugh with the whole paragraph regarding,  Finny would definately do something Finnyish


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