Fred is a geek. A skinny programmer, science buff, Trekkie. He really wears a pocket protector from time to time. Even I wouldn’t dare to do that.
Fred loves his watch. It’s large and complicated, with a half-dozen knobs and minute, strange inscriptions adorning multiple dials visible through the glass. A simple glance reveals a quiet seriousness, a grim devotion to the holy task of timekeeping. This was a serious watch. It looks as if it does far more than keep time, although Fred never explained what its mystery functions may be.
School has let out, and Fred and I walk to the bus stop. A group of ogres, neighborhood thugs, notices us.
“Hey, what do we have here? A couple of nerds!”
“Hey, nerd, where are you going? Can I borrow your calculator?” The ogres grunt with what I interpret to be laughter.
They block our path. Fred stops, and calmly looks Alpha Ogre in the eye.
“Please move out of our way.”
Fred sticks his arm out toward me. “Hold my watch.”
I remove the precious artifact. The ogres guffaw with laughter at this scene.
“Ooooh, ‘hold my watch’! Look, we pissed off the nerd! Lemme see that watch.”
The ogre steps forward, and ends up flat on his back. Fred did something, but I happened to blink when he did it, so I can’t quite say what. The other two ogres look unsure as Alpha Ogre gets back up, his face bulging with rage.
He charges, and Fred casually grabs his wrist, pulling the ogre toward him. Fred’s knee connects with the ogre’s stomach, pushing him further into the air. The ogre lands on the pavement, face down, behind Fred.
Scrambling to his feet, the ogre’s face is disfigured with hatred. “We’re going to kill you, motherfucker!”
“Who’s ‘we’?” Fred asks, and Alpha Ogre looks around, suddenly aware that his friends are running, already halfway down the block.
Alpha Ogre’s face is cut, and the blood has run down it into the corner of his mouth, foaming there and flinging droplets off with each one of his shaky words. “You just watch your back, asshole. You’re gonna pay for this.” He then runs after his friends.
Fred is upset, shaking. I tell him “Don’t worry, they’re not coming back.”
He says “It’s not that. I just hate hurting people.”
I give his watch back to him.