The echo of blades spinning lands in his ear.
“God dammit! Again? We had given them reason to stop–”
“We’ll give them another reason,” interjected the man to his side.
“Don’t be hasty, George.”
“Then why are we here, Tom? To camp?”
“Whatever, man. Are we going to let the others know, or let them keep cutting?”
Walking into camp, the others knew what was going to be said by the way Tom was shaking his head and the way George’s happiness was barely being held back.
George handles confrontation the way a shark handles water; it’s his territory, and everyone else is trespassing until he kicks them out.
Tom, though, knew as much of confrontation as a panda knows how to hunt in a desert; he’ll stand his ground, then wander a bit, and eventually faint from dehydration or fear.
The others bent forward and lifted themselves up from the log.
“I heard saws,” Tom said, nearly not wanting to say so.
“Any scary things left from last time?,” asked George.
“No…,” said the third from the left.
“Shit. How are we going to scare them this time?” Tom didn’t like confrontation, but one-sided scare tactics allowed the group to get what they wanted without risking anything.
“I can…,” George trailed off.
“Do it, and we’ll kick you out,” the second from the right said, straight-faced and with an obvious disdain for George’s thought processes. Depending on others is tantamount to one’s having failed.
George’s eyes hid behind their olds for a second, then widened as though being electrocuted. He was furious, though knew he couldn’t say anything; the incident a few years ago embarrassed him enough, and he didn’t need another.
“Fuck it. We’ve been here and doing this for 7 years. If they don’t know yet that we’re not to be messed with, then it’s their damn fault if they get hurt.” Tom’s panda spirit animal awakened, sounding more like a grizzly.
“Wow, Tom, so will you be going up to them this time?” asked the first from the left.
“No, I’m a lookout. I, …” Tom responded, not even wanting to finish what his responsibilities are. He always knew he was more important than they thought, but only when they needed him did they say so.
“We know, Tom. Everyone has their role,” said the tenth, a grey-haired woman who knew Tom from before all this, and knew what his potential was. She pitied Tom; not because he was a failure, but because he didn’t know his own potential, so never could have lived up to it.
“Let’s try to reason with them, then. They know why we’re in the way, and we know why they don’t care. The last outcome either of us can stomach is to have the other’s wants done in full,” the sixth from the log stated, with a hint of a plea.
“Alright, alright. I’ll go back,” responded George.
As Tom turned to see George leave, he focused on tomorrow. He would spend it with his families, home and work, going after a day he could smile about later. He couldn’t wait for this weekend, “responsibility to the world,” shit to end; he’d rather be responsible every day, and not try to be someone for a few days who acted as though they had anyone else but his own best interests at heart. Hell, he did this for time with the boss, George, not to save anything; shit, other than his family and friends, what did he really want to save?