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Home > Making Faces(12)

Making Faces(12)
Author: Amy Harmon

“Oh, yeah?” Elliott laughed. “How'd you know that?”

Ambrose shrugged. “Bailey Sheen told me once. He used to have a thing for Hercules.”

Bailey had a book propped on his lap. When Ambrose peered over his shoulder to see what it was, he saw various pictures of a naked warrior fighting what looked to be mythical monsters. A few of those pictures could have been framed and put in the wrestling room. The warrior looked like he was wrestling a lion in one and a boar in another. That was probably why Sheen was reading it; Ambrose didn't know anyone who knew more about wrestling than Bailey Sheen.

Ambrose sat down on the mats beside Bailey's chair and started lacing up his wrestling shoes.

“Whatcha reading, Sheen?”

Bailey looked up, startled. He was so absorbed in his book that he hadn't even noticed Ambrose. He stared at Ambrose for a minute, his eyes lingering on his long hair and the T-shirt that was inside out. Fourteen-year-old boys were notorious for not caring about clothes and hair, but Bailey's mom wouldn't have let him leave the house like that. Then Bailey remembered that Lily Young didn't live with Ambrose anymore, and Bailey realized it was the first time he'd seen Ambrose all summer. But Ambrose had still shown up for Coach Sheen's wrestling camp, just like he did every summer.

“I'm reading a book about Hercules,” Bailey said belatedly.

“I've heard of him.” Ambrose finished tying his shoes and stood as Bailey turned the page.

“Hercules was the son of the Greek God, Zeus,” Bailey said. “But his mother was a human. He was known for his incredible strength. He was sent on a bunch of quests to kill all these different monsters. He defeated the bull of Crete. He killed a golden lion whose fur was impervious to mortal weapons. He slayed a nine-headed hydra, captured flesh-eating horses, and destroyed man-eating birds with bronze beaks, metallic feathers, and toxic poop.” Ambrose chortled and Bailey beamed.

“That's what the story says! Hercules was awesome, man! Half God, half mortal, all hero. His favorite weapon was a club, and he always wore the skin from the lion, the golden lion that he killed on his very first quest.” Bailey narrowed his eyes, studying Ambrose. “You kinda look like him, now that your hair is growing out. You should keep it like that, grow it even longer. Maybe it will make you even stronger, like Hercules. Plus, it makes you look meaner. The guys you wrestle will pee their pants when they see you coming.”

Ambrose tugged on the hair that he'd neglected since last spring. With his mom gone now and two bachelors in the house, he had gone without a lot of things he used to take for granted. His hair was the least of his concerns.

“You know a lot, don't you, Sheen?”

“Yeah. I do. When you can't do much but read and study, you learn a few things, and I like reading about guys who knew a thing or two about wrestling. See this one?” Bailey pointed at the page. “Hercules on his first quest. Looks like he's working his tilt on that lion, doesn't it?”

Ambrose nodded, but his eyes were drawn to another image. It was a picture of another statue, but this one showed just the face and chest of the hero. Hercules looked serious, sad even, and his hand touched his heart, almost as if it hurt him.

“What's that picture about?”

Bailey screwed up his face and contemplated the image as if he wasn't sure.

“It's called 'Face of a Hero,'“ Bailey read the caption. He looked up at Ambrose. “Guess it wasn't all fun and games being a champion.”

Ambrose read aloud over Bailey's shoulder. “Hercules was the most famous of all the ancient heroes, and the most beloved, but many forget that his twelve labors were performed as penance. The goddess Hera caused him to lose his mind, and in his crazed state, he killed his wife and children. Grief-stricken and filled with guilt, Hercules sought out ways to balance the scales and ease his tormented soul.”

Bailey groaned, “That's stupid. If I made a sculpture called 'Face of a Hero' I wouldn't make him sad. I'd give him a face like this.” Bailey bared his teeth and gave Ambrose the crazy eye. With his tufty, light brown curls, blue eyes, and ruddy cheeks, Bailey didn't pull off the mean face very well. Ambrose snorted and with a quick wave to Bailey, hurried to join the other wrestlers already stretching out on the mats. But he couldn't get the bronzed face of the mourning Hercules out of his head.

“Well, It's too late to make a lion skin out of fondant, but I think it'll pass muster.” Elliott smiled. “I've got another cake to finish, and then we'll head out. You need to get home. Don't want you getting burned out.”

“You're the one who has to come back tonight,” Ambrose said amiably. Elliott Young staggered his hours so he could be at home in the evenings, which meant he was back at the bakery at around two in the morning. He would leave at seven when Mrs. Luebke came on shift and be back again around three in the afternoon when her shift ended, working until seven or eight again in the evening. Most days, Ambrose would join him after practice, making the work go a little quicker.

“Yeah. But I'm not trying to keep my grades up and going to wrestling practice before and after school. You don't even have any time for that pretty girlfriend.”

“Pretty girlfriend is gone,” Ambrose muttered.

“Oh yeah?” Elliott Young searched his son's face for signs of distress and found none. “What happened?”

Ambrose shrugged. “Let’s just say she wasn’t the girl I thought I knew.”

“Ahh,” Elliot sighed. “Sorry, Brosey.”

“Beautiful or smart?” Ambrose asked his father after a long pause, never breaking his rhythm with the rolls.

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