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A Matter of Character
by Bill Tope

"How old are you, young fella?"
asked Rocco, speaking from his
leather recliner in the living room
of his trailer.  Along the walls of the
double-wide were bricks of pot,
stacked ten high.  "Sixteen, sir,"
replied Logan, standing at attention.
"I wanted to meet you," Rocco went on,
"because my daughter has shown an
interest in you." He stared hard at  the
Polo shirt, chinos and Hush Puppies
that Logan sported.  Interviewing
prospective boyfriends for Maddy was
always disconcerting.
Rocco fidgeted with his many piercings,
nervously ran his hand over the dragon
tattoos on his arms and neck. Logan had
no such blemishes on his own skin,
which was pink and scrubbed. "Do you
do drugs?" he asked the young man
bluntly. "No sir," said Logan candidly. 
"I've never tried drugs."
"This put rather a crimp in Rocco's plans.
He was a commodities broker--he
sold pot and fentanyl for a living. He had
for some time been seeking a youthful
assistant, with ties to the community, to
help run his growing empire. And if that
assistant should morph into a son-in-law,
then all the better.  Family was important.
Rocco regretfully snuffed out the joint he
had been smoking. This interview wasn't
going well.
"And what do you drive, a motorcyle?"
asked Rocco hopefully. "A Suburu
Forester," said Logan with pride of
ownership.  Rocco nodded. He knew
it was amongst the safest vehicles on
the road. Not much use to make a fast
getaway, though.  He also knew that it
was among the most popular and
profitable targets of car thieves. He
filed this away for future use.
"What plans do you have for after you
get out of high school?" he asked next. 
"College?" "Yessir, I plan to go to law
school, maybe eventually apply to the
FBI," admitted Logan with a hint of
self-esteem. The older man nodded.
Rocca had rather preferred a year or
two of college chemistry; then he
could competently run a meth lab.
Logan waited expectantly, uncertain
as to his prospects. He really liked
"Okay," said the father. "I've made my
decision." Logan stood up a litthe
straighter.  "I don't want my daughter to
see you any more."  "May I ask why,
sir?" said the boy. "I'm afraid you'd be
a bad influence on her," said Rocco,
touching Logan gently on the shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Son, but I frankly have
different aspirations for my daughter."
He noted Logan's obvious
disappointment. "When you're a
parent, you'll understand," said Rocco
sympathetically. "Trust me. You'll have
expectations, too.  It's a family thing. It's
also a character thing; after all, as a
business-family we have a reputation
to uphold!"