Mike's interest in the two visitors pushed his curiosity concerning the Wilbur's into second place. 'So, what tribe are you?' asked Mike diffidently, fearing he may break some taboo or other simply in the asking.
'Me, I'm Blackfoot,' said Johnny. 'My folks came over from the buffalo country at the turn of the century. Now Jay, he's...'
'Don't even think about it Johnny!' warned Jay.
Johnny went ahead anyway, his grin widening: 'He's Nez-shoni.' He laughed and raised an arm to deflect a swat from Jay.
'Hardi-har-har! Hey man, you're so original! Excuse me while I have a heart attack laughing. Not!' Then to Mike: 'What he means is my old man's Nezperce and my mother's Shoshoni. Dad came down from Lewis County when he was a kid. My mother's people have been here generations.'
'On his mother's side he's descended from a famous chief,' said Johnny, still fishing for a rise.
'Johnny, cut it out!' said Jay, providing one.
'This chief, he made a real famous speech.'
'Okay! That does it!' said Jay picking up a stone and making as if to throw it at Johnny's car.
'Whoa!' cried Johnny jumping to his feet and putting himself between Jay and his beloved wheels. 'Jay! My mouth's shut!'
Jay dropped the stone. 'Good. How about keeping it like that?' Johnny shrugged and Jay went on. 'I can't be doing with all that stuff. The past is gone - nothing to do with me, and I don't know why the hell you can't see that. If I was an Italian would you want me to go around dressed like a Roman centurion?'
'Forget it Jay. You do what you have to do. Just quit ramming it down your old man's throat. Different strokes for different folks.'
'That's what I say too. Try telling Dad!'
Johnny returned to his place on the step between Mike and Jay, and they sat quietly for a few moments. Mike tried to think of something to say, but the semi-angry exchange between the other two had put him at a loss. He feared that if the silence lasted much longer, Johnny and Jay would call it a day and move on. Mike needed their company.
For the first time in an age he was with some regular guys. What did regular guys talk about? When you lived your whole life on the seamy side, your conversation was shot through with seaminess. You ate, drank, breathed and slept it - seeped out through your pores. You only felt truly at ease flying with your own flock - you wanted out, but you felt at home. He wanted to fly with another flock but feared his feathers would show him up for what he believed himself to be.
'There was something else we came for, wasn't there Jay?'
Jay looked at his feet. 'Well, yeah. But it's kind of embarrassing.'
'Spit it out Jay. Mike's an okay kind of guy. He ain't going to rip your heart out.'
'What is it Jay?' asked Mike, lifted at Johnny's opinion of him.
'It's on account of Pop screwing up again. See, he said you had no shoes. I'd just bought a couple of pairs of trainers and said he could take the white ones and maybe buy me a replacement pair next weekend. But he...'
'He took the black ones, right?' guessed Mike. 'No sweat man. Well maybe a little foot-sweat, but I've only had them on an hour or so,' said Mike as he leaned forward to undo the laces. 'I guess this will make us Sweat-Brothers.'
Jay chuckled. 'Thanks man! I'd have let it ride, but I've got a hot date and... well look at me!'
'See what you mean. White don't go so well, huh?'
As the two younger men exchanged footwear, Johnny stood and stretched. It seemed to him Mike might get the impression they had only come to swap the trainers. He needed to counter that, not wanting to leave Mike feeling let down. Somehow he felt responsible for Mike, who until a few short hours ago, had been a total stranger.
'After we've eaten Mike, how about taking a drive. I'm meeting some of the guys later - split a couple of six-packs, take a dip in the creek - that kinda thing. You'd be welcome to come along.'
Mike tried to hide his enthusiasm. 'Sure, Johnny. Sounds good. I don't swim though. Could be dangerous see. Sleeping men sink!'
'Oh right. No big deal. We'll put you in charge of the barbecue. Seriously though, what do we do if one of your attacks comes on?'
Mike shrugged. 'Lay me somewhere's a scorpion won't sting my ass.'