V is for Volunteer

“I’m okay.”

“You sure hon?” Jax asked, turning the scratches away from her.

She nodded, rubbing her face, smudging her thick makeup. Jax, pulled his t-shirt over his head, quickly mopping his face to get the blood off, then passed it to her. “But–”

“I got more upstairs.” Jax gently tucked a lock of hair behind Cynthia’s ear.

“You’re half-naked.” She shook her head. “You can’t go out in public like that.”

“Seriously, after what you’ve seen in those halls?” Jax smiled until she smiled back ruefully. The cos-play added color to the halls outside, and a significant portion of it was the shades of humanity’s skin, if blue counted. “Besides, I don’t work out to get this chest just to hide it. What do I say?”

“Sun’s out, guns out. You big goof.” Cynthia laughed, and for the first time truly looked at the third person in the hall. “Hello?”

“Hello.” Basketcase nodded at the woman with purple hair. “I’m Reese.”

“I’m sorry to be a bother.”

He shook his head. “No problem. Keeps me from eating too much in the hospitality suite.”

“You have better things to do.”

“Not really.” Reese cocked a half-smile. “Talking to purple-haired anime fans is my job today. Especially when they are cute. A bonus for a rather boring job.”

“A job you want to be boring.” Jax inserted.

Reese nodded. “Amen to that. We got a good bunch. And it is Friday.”

Her eyes drifted down to his badge with the big yellow ribbon attached to the bottom like a prize at a state fair proclaiming him a volunteer with a second one, even bigger, in blue and black indicating security. “Basketcase?”

“My con name. I may volunteer just a little.” Reese held his two index fingers closely together, maybe an inch between them, then, keeping the fingers in parallel, he spread his arms as wide apart as they could go. A small laugh escaped from Cynthia at his antics. “For some reason my friends call me Basketcase. So what are your names, my purple-haired wonder and hunky shirtless guy?”

Cindy’s froze a second, looking up at Jax, who smiled easily. “I’m Jax. No con name.”

“Cynthia,” came as a whisper that Jax barely heard.

“Jax and his silent partner. Got it.”

“Cynthia. My name is Cynthia.”

“Nice to meet you Cynthia.” Reese waved at both of them from where he sat. “So, are you ready to face the world again?”

“No!” erupted from the woman, holding her boyfriend tighter.

Reese nodded his head slowly. “Okay.” His brown eyes darted, studying the couple. “Are you staying at the hotel? Do you want to go back to your room?”

“Yes, we are the fifth floor.” Jax responded.

“The quiet floor.” Reese stood up in pieces, arms first, then knees, feet, and rose like a titian out of the Earth or an old man from the sea. “I think we can get there without getting into the main halls. Do you want the elevator or stairs?”

Jax and Cindy stood, reflecting Basketcase’s moves without conscious attention. “I think stairs.” Jax said, reaching for Cynthia’s hand.

“Yes, please.”

“Let me think.” Reese moved his pointer finger through the air. Lifting it up one way, down another. Holding a finger at one point and bringing his left hand up to draw another line from it before waving both, erasing the lines only he could see, and starting over. The two watched the invisible mapping, until, at last, the convention volunteer said, “Got it. Least amount of people until the stairwell. Going to go through some dicey areas, just a warning.” He lowered his voice ominously. “We are going to cut through the gaming section with the D&D and Star War RPG enthusiasts. Are you ready to go where only nerds dare to go?”

Sounding equally serious, Jax responded, “I believe we are up to the task. We recently watched a Game of Thrones episode at a friend’s house.”

“If you think that is enough to prepare you for the horrors you are about to witness, you are sadly mistaken my friend. Hold your lady tight as we prepare for this journey.”

Cindy looked back and forth between the two men as Jax squeezed her hand and smiled reassurance. The two followed Basketcase down the cement-floored hallway until cutting out another side door into a main convention thoroughfare. The convention security volunteer quickly drilled them through the horde down a smaller hallway with a switchback, opening up into a larger space filled with dozens of round tables surrounding by five to ten people each, mostly men, rolling dice, scribbling on paper, and hiding behind screens. Several tables had piles of miniatures, everything from dragons surrounded by archers and men on horseback, to armies of mechs on hexagonal graph paper. Not a single person looked up from their games as the group skirted the edge until they exited the room through a set of double doors. Five steps ahead were the elevators with dozens of people waiting for the two lifts, but Reese turned immediately through another door of the maze and suddenly they were in the back hotel areas again with a cement stairwell.

“I think you can get back from here.” Reese waved up the steps. “Remember, it is dangerous to go alone.” He gave them a crazy look, smirking. “Good luck on the rest of your adventure.”

“Thanks, and good luck to you too, old wise man.” Jax shook the hand Reese tentatively offered as he stepped past them to return to the main floor.


A to Z Short Story List Breakdown

Rainbow Spectrum (A to F)
Marathon Party (G to M)
Trigger: Cutting (N to Q)
Bookstore Sort (R to T)

Panic at the Convention (U to Z)
4/24/2019 – U is for Uniform
4/25/2019 – V is for Volunteer
4/26/2019 – W is for Weasels
4/27/2019 – X is for Xander
4/28/2019 – Y is for Yuengling
4/29/2019 – Z is for Zillion


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