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2002 draft - chapters 11-20

By Eric Nakao


(bgn ag 29, 02.c/ag 30, 02)

People First, an interesting idea. Not original, mind you, but interesting nonetheless. But what does it mean exactly? Tami had said that people should come before ideas because if people came second, then anything could happen to them. But a related and equally important point could be that People First assumes that all people deserve to come first, which is an assumption that many people, including Lulu, may not agree with.

Back in the little off-campus park, Lulu stood over Eppie, her not unmassive fist still clenched tightly.

"Why did you have to do that?" said Barelle to her friend.

"Agh, she was asking for it."

Wendy and Technita had since stopped their rolling laughter. Wendy got up and bent down over Eppie for a closer look.

"She wasn't asking for it," said Barelle.

"Yes she was," said Lulu. "She cut you down. She cut us all down. She got what she deserved." Lulu signaled to Wendy and Technita. "Come on. Let's get out of here."

Technita got up from the green, green grass and joined her friend at Lulu's side.

"We can't just leave her here," said Barelle.

(end ag 29, 02.c)

"Why not?" said Lulu. "She cut us down. We cut her down. She's where she deserves to be."

"She didn't deserve this."

"She cut us down," said Lulu beginning to get upset at her friend's stubborness.

"She cut me down and I said it was OK."

"That's right," said Lulu. "She cut you down and I defended you. I defended you and look how you repay me."

Barelle gave out a little disbelieving laugh.

"Don't put this on me, Lulu," she said.

"Don't laugh at me," said Lulu.

"I'm not laughing at you. I'm laughing at what you're saying."

"What I'm saying! She cut you down and I defended you! You should be grateful, you should be happy, you should be standing next to me like Wendy and Technita instead of with that stuck up little East Nareen chick!"

"I go where I'm needed," said Barelle.

"Fine," said Lulu. "You just stay here with your precious little girl, but after you've nursed her back to health and she drops you like the shit that you are, you remember who your real friends are." She turned to Wendy and Technita. "Come on, Barelle doesn't want us here anymore. Let's leave her with her newfound calling in life and go back to where people know how to deal in the real world."

Lulu stormed off with Wendy and Technita in attendance as Barelle knelt beside the fallen Eppie to make sure she was OK.


Friends can be funny people. More than acquaintances, less than family. Friends are there for you, or there with you, in your moments of greatest joy and your hours of darkest need. They can come alone or in groups, bidden or unbidden, wanted or unwanted, because they are your friends, and you, theirs, in the greater scheme of things.

"Hey," said a voice somewhere in the night. "Hey."

"Hey, yourself," thought Eppie. She just wanted to sleep. But she wasn't sleeping. She was like dead. No. Less than dead, more than alive. She was unconscious. And the night was her unconscious mind.

"Hey," said the voice again. "Hey."

(bgn ag 31, 02.a)

Someone wanted her. She felt someone touch her shoulder. This was not good. She could not have someone touching her shoulder like that. She would have to regain her conscious state to protect the sanctity of her shoulder and whatever else this person might be after.

"Hey, don't touch me, OK?" said Eppie as she reconnected her mind to the living world. She would take an aggressive stance with this person who would take advantage of her body as it lay there without the protection of a conscious mind. "Ow," she then said as she tried to get up. She remembered now. Someone or something had hit her as she had turned to leave that rude girl and her strange friends. Maybe that was her now. The rude girl. Touching her shoulder as she lay there in an unprotected state.

"Oh, hey, Barrel. I mean Barelle," said Eppie as she opened her eyes and saw the person she had made fun of when that hulking girl was coming down upon her. "What happened?"

"Barelle was OK," thought Eppie. She was sure it wasn't Barelle who had struck her. Barelle had wanted to leave after Eppie had made fun of her the first time. Though maybe the second time was one time too many.

"Lulu hit you," said Barelle.

"Ah," said Eppie.

"She doesn't like you."

"Mm," said Eppie. "Does she like anybody?"

"Oh, sure," said Barelle. "She likes anybody who likes her back, who does what she tells them to."

"Sounds like," said Eppie, sitting up with no small effort, "she doesn't have many friends then."

"You should probably try and stay out of her way," said Barelle, not wishing to pursue that line of inquiry at this particular time.

"But I came to this park to be by myself," said Eppie.

"Maybe you shouldn't come to this park anymore."

"And in class…"

"Maybe you shouldn't come to class anymore."

"Well, I have to come to class," said Eppie, trying to bring Barelle's way of thinking to a more practical level. "I have to graduate. I'm not spending any more time in this place than I have to."

"Maybe you shouldn't put out any more of those negative vibrations."

"But I thought nobody liked it here," said Eppie.

"They don't. But they belong here and you don't. They don't have a choice and you did. And your coming from East Nareen doesn't help any. That's something we can all agree on."

"But I don't like East Nareen either."

"It doesn't matter."

"That's why I came here."

"It doesn't matter."

"So what do you think I should I do then?"

"Well," said Barelle. She chewed on her inner lip a little as she thought. "Maybe it would help if you weren't so by yourself all the time. Maybe you should try hooking up with somebody."

"I don't do that," said Eppie.

"Join a group. Join a club. You say you came to this park to be by yourself, but that doesn't help you much, especially where Lulu is concerned."

"I'm not much of a joiner," said Eppie.

"Then hook up with somebody."

Eppie thought for a moment. Hooking up with one person seemed not as bad as hooking up with a big glob of people.

"What about you?" said Eppie.

"What about me?"

"What if I hook up with you?" she said. For Eppie could maybe see herself saying that Barelle was her friend for the next year or two even if she really wasn't.

"But I'm friends with Lulu," said Barelle after considering the possibility. "Is that really such a good idea?"

"But if you're friends with Lulu and I'm friends with you then that means that I'm friends with Lulu, too, right?"

Barelle shook her head and had a kind of sour expression on her face.
"Lulu doesn't like you," she said. "It wouldn't matter if you were friends with me or not. And besides, I'm already on the outs with her a little for staying here with you."

"Oh," said Eppie. "Sorry."

"That's OK," said Barelle who had split and reconciled with Lulu on many occasions in the past. "But remember what I said. Try and stay out of Lulu's way as much as possible if you're really gonna stay here. And try to hook up with somebody if you can and maybe you'll be OK, too."


(bgn sp 13, 14, 21, 02)

Mavis stood in front of the food machine by the counselors' building. She was still upset at how Ms. Frackle had treated her the other day. She had gotten Mavis to talk about personal things, but then when Mavis came to see her again, Ms. Frackle had acted like she barely remembered her. And who was that woman she was with? The one who had acted so familiar with Mavis, who had called her by her name and then honey. But why would she do that. Mavis wasn't her honey. Mavis had come to see Ms. Frackle, not her. But there she was again, walking briskly down the hall in a short skirt towards the counselors' building. No, passed it. That would mean Ms. Frackle would be alone. Mavis wondered if she should go see her again. Give her another chance. For she had made Mavis feel so good at their first meeting, had told her how much she liked her. And even at their second meeting, after having been so unthoughtful, she had told Mavis that she was always there for her, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just sitting and waiting for Mavis to come.


Mavis stood outside of Ms. Frackle's office and listened. All was quiet. All was peaceful. But maybe she wasn't even there. Mavis opened the door and there she was, Ms. Frackle, alone. So far, so good. But she was eating a sandwich. Not so good. Mavis wondered if she had been sitting there all night waiting for her to return. That would have been strange. That would have been eerie.

Ms. Frackle looked up.

"Oh, Mavis," she said laughing. "I didn't see you there. Come in."

"What was so funny?" thought Mavis as she entered Ms. Frackle's office. Why was it so funny that she had come to see her again? Maybe it was because she had been caught eating again. Maybe it was an embarrassed laugh, not an unthoughtful one.

"Have a seat," said Ms. Frackle.

Mavis studied the chair. It still looked warm. Like someone with a short skirt had just been sitting there.

"Uh, no thanks. I'll stand," she said.

"Oh," said Ms. Frackle.

"And would you mind not eating for awhile?" said Mavis.

Juney wasn't sure what to make of all this. She had been thinking of Mavis's last visit. How strangely she had behaved. She was hoping Mavis would come back, was even thinking of calling for her. And now here she was, on her own, so soon, but making strange requests and declinations, even before they had begun talking about anything of importance. But Juney decided to honor Mavis's no-eating request, even though she was hungry.

"So, how have you been, Mavis?" she said. She wanted to be careful about what she said and how she said it to avoid yesterday's reaction.

"All right," said Mavis in a noncommittal tone.

Juney wasn't sure how to proceed. Maybe a question of concern would be appropriate.

"I heard there was something that happened in Ms. Min's class yesterday?" she said.

Mavis started swaying her body slightly from side to side, but said nothing.

"You said my name or thought Ms. Min was me?"

"Really," said Mavis dreamily.

"And a girl made fun of you or made a joke about it?"

Mavis kept swaying back and forth, but didn't say anything. She thought about the girl who had made the remark. Eppie was her name, she thought. From East Nareen. "But why would a girl from East Nareen want to come here?" she thought to herself.

"Oh, she's from East Nareen," said Mavis at last.

"Yes," said Juney, remembering that Tsu had said something about that. "And you wanted to go there before, too, right?"

"But why would a girl leave East Nareen to come here?" said Mavis ignoring Juney's question.

(bgn sp 17, 02)

"Oh. Well, I'm not sure," said Juney. "East Nareen's a fine school, but Schlicter Valley has its fine points as well."

"But I don't like it here," said Mavis.

Juney was a little surprised. She thought Mavis had changed her mind about that. But then, Mavis had only said that after Juney had told her that she liked her. Maybe she hadn't changed her mind, but had just found a reason for staying. But staying at a particular school just because your counselor said she liked you didn't seem like the best of reasons. She would have to find another, better, reason for Mavis.

"Yes. We spoke of that yesterday," said Juney, choosing not to bring up the liking thing again. "But the thing is, East Nareen is very difficult to get into and I don't think I can get you in, at least not this year."

"Oh," said Mavis.

"And, well, I was thinking that if we could come up with some way for you to like being at Schlicter Valley a little better, then maybe it wouldn't be so bad for you."

"Like what?" said Mavis seeming at least a little interested now.

"Oh, I don't know," said Juney. "Something that you like doing or something that you've always wanted to do. Think of this as an opportunity for you to turn something you feel is negative into something more positive."

She waited for a response.

"Mm…maybe," said Mavis after awhile. And she seemed sincere.

(end sp 13, 14, 17, 02)


(end sp 21, 02/bgn ag 28, 02)

Tamika walked through the hallways of Schlicter High. It was her study period and things were usually pretty quiet outside the classrooms now, especially in this corner of the school. It was a nice time of the day for her. She could use the time to catch up on her studies or wander the hallways thinking about things that needed to be thought about. On this particular morning, she was thinking about what Tami had said to her yesterday about running for office. Was she really going to do it? It would be so much extra work. And those things Tami said about their party, the People First Party. Were she really going to do that, too? Did she even agree with the ideas behind it? She wondered if she could use any of it in her paper. What does it mean to live in a civil society? Does it mean people first? Because civil meant nice to Tamika. And if you were civil to someone then you were nice to them, right? Why not the Nice Party? It had a nice ring to it. The Nice Party. The NP. But if it was going to be the Nice Party, then what did being nice, itself, mean? Making people feel good? Making them not feel bad? Isn't that nice? Or is it People First?

(end ag 30, 02/ag 31, 02.a)

(Je 10)

Tamika saw a guy sitting alone on a bench. She would test out her ideas on him.

"Hi," said Tamika. "Mind if I sit here?"

The guy shrugged. At least it appeared he shrugged because he didn't really look up or acknowledge her presence in any clear way. He wore dark-rimmed glasses, a bit on the thick side. His hair…well, his hair was arranged in a very creative manner. But his shirt, though slightly rumpled, appeared to be clean with an attractive plaid design. He appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a geek. But that wasn't nice. "He was a, a…mathematics enthusiast," thought Tamika. "A thinker of deep thoughts, living in his own world, sitting on his own bench."

(end ag 27, 02)

"My name's Tamika," said Tamika. "What's yours?" She sat next to him, knees together, with one hand on her lap, the other on the bench between her and him. It would show him that she was open to him, a hand across the divide, held out in the spirit of friendship and understanding. She nodded encouragingly when her fellow bench sitter seemed reluctant to open up to her.

"Roland," he said at last.

"Ahhhh," said Tamika. "Roland. Ro-o-o-o-land." She liked it. It rolled off the tongue. It r-o-o-o-o-o-o-lled off the ton-n-n-n-n-n-n-gueeeeeeeee. R-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-l-a-n-n-n-n-n-n-d. Tamika smiled at Roland, then leaned forward. "I'm a cheerleader," she said.

(bgn ag 29, 02.a)

"I know," said Roland. "The pom-poms."

"Of course," thought Tamika. She had forgotten that she had brought her pom-poms with her. "The thing is," she said, "is that my friend and I, Tami, are forming a political party, People First, I mean the Nice Party, the Nice People Party and we, I, was wondering if you'd like to join?"

(end ag 29, 02.a)

Tamika nodded encouragingly.

"The Nice People Party?"


Roland appeared to be thinking.

"It was an honor to be in his presence," thought Tamika. Those glasses, those books. Those books were like his pom-poms. Go, Einstein. Go, Sophocles. Rah, rah, rah, rah…

"I don't think so," said Roland.

"Oh?" said Tamika surprised.

"The thing is," said Roland, "is that I'm not really into politics, people, or being nice, so if you would be so kind…"

"Oh," said Tamika. She gathered up her pom-poms and continued on her way. "Not really into politics, people, or being nice," she thought. Where would someone like Roland fit into her newly acquired world view? Could a person who didn't like people or being nice be included in the Nice People Party? Would he be their enemy? Should people like Roland be stamped out? Or would stamping people out be something that the Nice People Party just wouldn't do?

Tamika continued down the hallway until she heard some scuffling noises behind her. She turned around and saw two big guys and a little guy descending on Roland. One big guy yanked Roland's shirt up, exposing Roland's pale hairless torso, but was having trouble pulling it over his head because the top button was fastened so securely. He pulled and tugged and swung Roland around by his inside-out shirttails, but the seemingly headless Roland somehow managed to keep his balance until the other big guy hoisted Roland by his legs and popped off his shoes like bottle caps. Then the little guy unfastened poor Roland's too-short black trousers and yanked them off with a gleeful hoot as the first big guy succeeded in taking possession of Roland's shirt by ripping through the top button and the second big guy plucked off Roland's socks from his pale hairless feet.

Tamika couldn't believe her eyes. She watched in horror as the little guy gleefully gripped the sides of Roland's underwear and was about to commit the penultimate of boy-on-boy desecrations.

"Hey, stop that!" yelled Tamika as she threw down her pom-poms and rushed to Roland's aid. "Shoo! Shoo! Go away!" she yelled, waving her hands and making as angry a face as she could. The two big guys and the one little guy looked up at Tamika, their faces still red, their eyes still glowing, and gave her a little smirk. Then one of the big guys gave a signal to his big and small companions and they scooped up Roland's clothing and ran down the hallway, screeching and hooting with their latest acquisitions.


How does one take back a thought, a feeling? Tamika was faced with that question as she knelt next to pale, broken, shell of a boy. It was her thoughts of stamping Roland out, her feelings that he was not quite right, not quite good enough to be included in her world that caused the horrible events that followed. So he didn't like people, didn't like being nice, so what? She liked people, she liked being nice. She would be nice enough for the both of them. That's what the Nice People Party meant, should mean. She understood that now. But was it too late? She reached out and touched Roland's creatively arranged hair.

"Oh, Roland," she said.

(Je 11) "Hey, what's up?" said a voice from behind. It was Tami.

"Not Roland," said Tamika as she continued to stroke his creatively arranged hair.

Tami looked over the situation and frowned.

"This school is falling apart," she said at last. "I feel the need to run for office now more than ever."

"But what about Roland?" said Tamika.

"Yes. People First. Roland first. Pardon me, Tamika." Tamika reluctantly backed away as Tami bent her body forward so that her face hovered about a foot and a half over Roland's, but in the opposite direction. "Roland. Roland," she said firmly. "Can you hear me?"

Roland groaned.

"Maybe you should give him mouth-to-mouth," said Tamika.

Tami made a face at Tamika. She knelt down next to Roland, took up his hand and began rubbing.

"Roland. Roland. Can you hear me? It's Tami. Tami the cheerleader."
Roland groaned again.

He seemed to be gaining a little. Tami began rubbing his arms.

"Roland. If you can hear me, please respond," said Tami. She looked at her friend. "Tamika, start rubbing his legs."

Tamika nodded, feeling grateful to be included in Roland's resusitation. She knelt down and began to run her hands up and down Roland's soft, noodle-like legs. Up and down she went, kneeding, stroking, feeling his pain, his anguish.

"Roland. Roland. This is Tami again. If you can hear me, do not be alarmed." Tami slid her limber body to the top of Roland's head and leaned forward to work on Roland's pale hairless torso. "I'm concentrating on your upper body and arms. The hands you feel working on your lower portions belong to Tamika, a fellow cheerleader and Presidential hopeful for the People First party. If you can hear me, please respond."

"Please Roland. Please respond," whispered Tamika, warm salty tears beginning to fill the petal-soft crevices of her lower lids.

Suddenly, Roland's eyelids began to flutter. Tami bent forward and put her face close to his, her years of cheerleading experience having given her an amazing suppleness.

"Wait a minute. I think I'm getting something up here."

Tamika's hands came to a halt, resting lightly on the soft, inner planes of Roland's pale quivering thighs.

"Roland. This is Tami again. Can you hear me? Please respond. Would you like mouth-to-mouth?"

Roland's eyelashes continued to flutter. His breath became heavier, deeper, then settled down to a more regular depth. He shook his head.

Tami gave Tamika a quick glance.

"I think he's gonna be OK."

Tamika breathed a sigh of relief. Roland rubbed his face with his left hand.

"Ugh," he groaned. "What happened to my clothes?"

Tami smiled at Tamika.

"Those guys took them. Remember?" said Tamika gently.

Tami leaned down and put her face close to Roland's.

"Those guys. Those guys took your clothes. Do you remember guys taking your clothes, Roland?" She looked at Tamika. "What were their names?"

Tamika shrugged. Tami returned her attentions to Roland.

"We don't know their names, Roland, but we have an eyewitness, a cheerleader, who can back up your story. Do you remember anything?"

Roland let out a deep breath.

"Uh, I remember something about hands."

"Good. Good," said Tami nodding supportively. "Now that could have been me and Tamika. We rubbed you back to life with our hands. Or it could have been the guys' hands beating you to the ground. Do you remember anything else? Arms? Feet? Were the hands big and hairy or soft and delicate with finely manicured nails?"

Roland shook his head.

"He doesn't remember," said Tami to her fellow life giver.

"What should we do now?" said Tamika. "Should we report it?"

(bgn ag 29, 02.b)

Tami thought for a moment.

"Well, first we should get Roland something to wear. Remember, People First."

"That's right," thought Tamika. "The Nice People Party should have thought of that first."

Tami began to rise and Tamika followed.

"That sounds like a good idea," said Roland as he, too, began to rise. "And maybe something to eat."

(end ag 28, 02)


(Je 13) Tami, Tamika and Roland made their way down the corridor. Roland's bare feet slapped loudly against the slick pavement.

"Do you have to walk like that?" said Tami.

"Sorry," said Roland and began to tread more lightly.

"Where are we going?" said Tamika.

"The girls' locker room, to find Roland something to wear."

"Wouldn't the boys' locker room be better?"

Tami shook her head.

"I'm not that familiar with the boys' locker room. Besides, I have a plan."

A plan. Tami always had a plan. "That's why she should be President, not me," thought Tamika. She was feeling a little shaky after her series of recent missteps. "But then what about the Nice People Party?" she thought. If she were President, she would have more influence in that area, wouldn't she? And she was sure that she could bring Tami around to her way of thinking over time. She would tell her about the revelation she had after the shooing away Roland's antagonizers. She would make her friend understand, she would make her friend see the reason, the rightness in her position. But not now. For as Tami had so rightly pointed out, they had more immediate concerns to attend to.

"Wait here," said Tami as the three arrived at their destination. She entered the locker room as Tamika and Roland stood outside. Tamika glanced at the pale hairless figure standing beside her and felt a sudden wave of concern wash over her again.

"Are you in pain, Roland?"

Roland thought for a moment, then began to undulate his scrawny hairless frame.

"I feel OK," said Roland after completing his undulations. "Maybe a little stiff."

"Oh," said Tamika. "Would you like me to rub your legs again?"

Roland thought it over.

"No, that's all right," he said. "Maybe later."

Tamika nodded. At least he was starting to feel more comfortable with her. Not like in the beginning. They would become close. She could feel it. She was about to ask Roland another question when Tami emerged from the locker room. She had her cheerleader costume on now.

"OK, the coast is clear. Come on."

Tami waved Tamika and Roland in and led them to the cheerleader section of the locker room. "Tami really looked good in her costume," thought Tamika. Her long sleek legs flashed confidently beneath the skimpy powder blue skirt, her lustrous crown of jet black hair cascaded invitingly around her winsome shoulders. Other girls had trouble pulling it off. They needed to be actively engaging their pom-poms or standing beside other cheerleaders to look the part. But Tami looked natural. She looked like a cheerleader.

A grey feathered outfit lay on the bench next to Tami and Tamika's lockers. Tami picked it up and held it out to Roland.
"Here. Put this on," she said.

"What is it?" said Roland.

"It's our school mascot costume," said Tami. "You can wear it till we get you home."

"Mascot," said Roland taking the costume. "I don't think so."

"Oh, come on, Roland," said Tami impatiently. "It's only temporary until we get you home. Besides, what other choice do you have?"

"The Schlicter Valley Emu," thought Tamika. It had been awhile since anyone had donned the beak and feathers, not since the last mascot had to leave town after the merciless tauntings of the Schlicter Valley faithful. She felt concerned again for Roland, but she could see the logic in Tami's position and kept silent.

"Put on your cheerleader costume," said Tami to Tamika. "Roland won't stand out as much if he's surrounded by cheerleaders."

Tamika nodded.

"And Roland…" said Tami sharply.

"I'll get dressed back here," said Roland glumly and went behind a row of lockers.

"Oh, thanks Roland," said Tamika as she began to undress. Not that it would have been so bad if Roland had seen her undress after everything she'd seen of his. And she had rubbed his legs, too. That must count for something. She and Roland wouldn't become close sometime in the future. They were close. At least that's the way she felt. She wondered if Roland felt the same.
"How do I look?" said Roland as he emerged from behind the lockers. Roland seemed transformed. No longer the pale spindly-limbed outcast lying helplessly on pavement, but a proud bird, flightless, mind you, but proud, strong and courageous. Almost meaty. Tamika wondered if Roland felt meaty. She hoped so. It was something that she couldn't help but notice about Roland, his lack of meat, as he had laid before her on the ground.

"Like an emu," said Tami approvingly.

"How do you feel?" said Tamika.

"I feel OK. I feel…"


Roland felt the sides of his shapely emu body with his feathered wings.

"Yeah, I guess meaty. At least on the outside."

Tamika nodded. Maybe Roland could keep the costume for awhile. No one would miss it. He could wear it around the house to build his self-esteem.

"OK, now here's the plan," said Tami. "Roland is Suni, a female exchange student from Pakistan that we're letting wear the emu costume to get a feeling for American culture."

"Why female?" said Tamika.

"Well, just in case someone catches him in the girls' locker room, he won't arouse suspicion if he's a girl, right?"

"I guess."

"OK. So we'll take him with us to our classes this morning, then take him home during lunch. Is that OK with you, Roland?"

"I can make it home alone," said Roland.

"No," said Tami. "The Schlicter Valley Emu has a troubled history. You need the protection of cheerleaders to make it through the day."

"But emus can run fast, can't they?" said Roland.

"Roland, now listen to me," said Tami. "If you were a real emu we'd let you run home on your own. But your not, so you need us for protection, right?"

Roland shrugged.

"Fine," he said.

"You really look good," said Tamika trying to nod some encouragement into her feathered friend.

Roland shrugged.

"OK," said Tami. "Now give me your books."


"Well, you're not going to be able to carry them around with all those feathers. I'll put them in my locker and we'll come back for them later."

"All right," said Roland.

Tami opened her locker and put Roland's books inside.

"And let me give you my locker combination just in case you have to come back here on your own to get something. It's 36-24-36. Can you remember that?"


"No, no," said Tami impatiently. "Oh, never mind. Just put on your head and let's get out of here. I don't want to be late for class."

(end ag 29, 02.b)


(Je 14)

Tami, Tamika and Roland approached Ms. Min's class. They could hear Ms. Min's voice from outside talking about their paper.

"Wait," said Tami and stuck her head inside the classroom. She saw three desks near back, then turned back to Tamika and Roland. "OK, there are three desks near the back. We go in, straight to the desks, don't look up, nice and natural. Ready?" Tamika and Roland nodded. "OK, let's go."

(bgn ag 31, 02.b)

The three costumed students made a beeline to the desks, heads down. Tami and Tamika smiled quickly to each other. Mission accomplished.

"Tami? Tamika?" said Ms. Min, "and…"

"Uh, she's an exchange student from Pakistan," said Tami.

"The Schlicter Valley Emu is from Pakistan?"

The class tittered.

"No. Suni is an exchange student from Pakistan. We're letting her be the Emu for today so she can get a taste of American culture."

"Oh. Well, welcome to America, Suni. We hope you'll enjoy your visit."

Roland waved a feathered hand.

"Well," said Ms. Min "to continue. Miguel. You were saying something about something you were calling the Pie Theory?"

"Yeah," said Miguel. "I was just saying that to live in a civil society, you had to think about things like how much is there to go around. If there was a lot of stuff to go around that would be great, but there's not, so people fight over whatever's there."

"Oh, so you're saying that given the limited resources on this planet, a civil society is impossible."

"No, no," said Miguel. "Well, yeah."

"Hm. Interesting," said Ms. Min. "And what does the rest of the class think."
A silence hovered over the classroom.

"I subscribe to the Pie Theory," said Lulu.

"So do I," said Wendy with a giggle.

"Oh really? And why's that?" said the teacher.

"Well, because it makes sense," said Lulu. "It's all around us."

"The Pie Theory is all around us?"

"Yeah. There's only so much licorice in the candy machine. There are only so many desks in this class that aren't broken. There are only so many people on this planet who aren't assholes."

"And people fight over the good ones."

"They fight or they feel like fighting. Or they're defeated or they feel like they're defeated. That's society. That's the Pie Theory."

Other students muttered in agreement.

"So we're all agreed then. There's no hope for a civil society because of the Pie Theory," said Ms. Min. "Eppie, do you agree with that?"

"Uh, no," said Eppie.

Lulu screwed up her face in an unpleasant manner.

"I think that the Pie Theory exists, but that it's not absolute. There may be a limited amount of resources, but the possible combinations and allocations are much larger than the number of people on this planet."

"So you're saying that if everyone cooperated then everyone could get what they wanted."

Eppie shrugged.

"But it ain't gonna happen because there are so many assholes showing their ugly faces where they don't belong," said Lulu shooting a threatening look in Eppie's direction.

"So what Lulu is saying is that while cooperation is possible, it isn't probable because of conflicts in temperament and thinking." Ms. Min turned to Roland. "Suni, what do you think about all this?"

Roland looked at Tami who shook her head slightly.

Roland looked at Ms. Min and shrugged.

"Suni doesn't speak any English," said Tami.

"Doesn't speak any English? I've never heard of an exchange student who didn't speak any English."

"She's shy," said Tamika patting Roland on the shoulder. Roland bent his feathered head downward in a show of humility.

"Oh, she doesn't seem so shy to me," said Ms. Min as she walked over to Roland. "In fact…" She grabbed hold of the top of Roland's emu head, gathered the feathers in her hand and yanked off his mask like the KGB in the 1950's. "Roland!" she said sharply.

The class went wild with laughter.

"Ms. Min," said Roland nodding. "We meet at last."

"Ms. Min, I can explain," said Tami.

"Asshole, assholes," said Lulu under her breath.

"Go ahead," said Ms. Min.


(Je 15) Tami, Tamika and Roland walked down the street, still in their respective costumes. They had been sent to Principal Nolo's office where they were lectured, reprimanded and given appointments to speak with the school's counselors.

"Well, this isn't going to look good on my resume," said Tami.

"At least we weren't suspended," said Tamika.

"Why should we be? We did nothing wrong."

Tamika nodded.

"In fact, we were the victims," said Tami. "At least Roland was the victim. We were the saviors, the Good Samaritans."

"At least they know about it now," said Tamika.

Tami shook her raven-tressed head. "They're not gonna do anything," she said.

"Why not?"

"Because they never do anything. They're in it for themselves. We help Roland. We report the perpetrators and what happens? They make us appointments to talk to counselors. We don't need to talk to counselors. I don't need to talk to counselors, do you?"

Tamika shook her head.

"That Ms. Ablodoglio's pretty hot, though" said Roland.

Tami looked over at Roland. Maybe they had rubbed his body a little too long. "Shut up, Roland," she said.

"Do you think this'll hurt our campaign?" said Tamika.

"I don't know," said Tami. "The class was laughing at us when Roland got unmasked. We might have trouble regaining our credibility."

"What campaign?" said Roland.

"Remember the Nice People Party I asked you if you wanted to join?" said Tamika.

"The Nice People Party. What's the Nice People Party?" said Tami.

"I mean the People First Party."

"Oh, so you're running for office?" said Roland.

"Yes," said Tami curtly.

"Well, I could explain to everyone how it was my fault and how you were just trying to help."

"We don't blame you, Roland," said Tami with a sigh. "It wasn't your fault."

"It was those three guys who took your clothes. Remember?" said Tamika.
Roland thought for a bit.

"Well, what if we make them return my clothes and issue a signed confession."

Tami shook her head.

"That's not gonna happen either."

"Why not?"

"Well, we don't even know who they were. Tamika, did you recognize

Tamika shook her head.

"What about Principal Nolo? He knows about it now."

Tami let out a little sarcastic breath of air.

"We tell the guy and we're the ones getting punished, y'know?"

"What would the People First Party do?" said Tamika.

Tami chewed her lower lip in thought, then spoke.

"The People First Party realizes that life is not without its disappointments. We put people first, we paid the price and now we move on," she said surveying the road ahead. "Are you sure you live around here, Roland? We've been walking an awfully long time."

"My feet are starting to hurt," said Tamika.

"Uh, yeah," said Roland waving his hand towards a couple of houses. "Over there."

"Which one?" said Tami. "The brown or the purple?"

Roland looked them both over.

"The brown," he said, not very convincingly.

"You're sure," said Tami.

"Yes," said Roland nodding.

"So why don't you go in?"

Roland shrugged.

"I thought we'd, you know, like walk around some more."

"Oh, Roland," said Tamika with a groan.

"Well, maybe some other time," said Roland grimly as he turned and made his way towards the brown house.


(bgn sp 1, 02/sp 2, 02/sp 3, 02)

(Je 16)

Eppie sat at what was becoming her favorite bench in her little sanctuary of a park. But maybe not so much a sanctuary since yesterday's violation. And why had she let herself get dragged into that discussion about the Pie Theory in her civics class, especially after what Barelle had told her? Not that Eppie planned to avoid speaking her mind in order to avoid a confrontation with Lulu. After all, she had hit Eppie when her back was turned. Eppie's freedom of speech clearly held the upper hand in that debate. Ms. Min had asked Eppie a topic-related question and Eppie had answered it. There was no controversy in that. And what had she said again? Something about allocation and cooperation? No. Cooperation was Ms. Min's word. Then Eppie had shrugged, so it became her word. But cooperation was such a personal thing. It meant you had to spend your time with people you might not want to. And Eppie wasn't sure, sitting on this bench, in this park, if she was in favor of that. So did this mean that Eppie agreed with Lulu since Lulu, the hitter of heads, had said that she was not in favor of cooperation either? But their respective reactions to cooperation's drawbacks were different. While Lulu's reaction was to seek out and destroy the unwanted participant, Eppie's was to try and keep her's and the unwanted's interactions at a minimal, professional level. Eppie and Lulu agreed on the problem, but not the solution. At least that's how Eppie saw it.

(end sp 1, 02)

Eppie looked up and noticed someone entering her domain. Was it Lulu again? No. This person was alone and Eppie had never seen Lulu alone. Who was it then? Barelle maybe? Wendy? Technita? Who else did she know and wasn't it pathetic that the only people she knew were people who had wanted to beat her into the ground? It looked like a girl. Not Technita. Not Barelle. Maybe Wendy, but without the red hair and flashing green eyes.
The girl sat on a nearby bench with an apple. It looked like Mavis. Was it Mavis? Eppie looked more closely. It was Mavis.

"Mavis, Mavis," thought Eppie. "You're late. Where were you yesterday when I needed you?"

But that wasn't fair. If Mavis didn't want to respond to her in her hour of greatest need, that was her affair. She would still leave things for her in her will, for damages incurred. But wasn't there something Eppie had wanted to say to her? She thought for a moment, then got up and made her way over to Mavis's bench.

Eppie had wanted to be her friend, she remembered that now. But was that really it? For if Eppie had truly wanted to be Mavis's friend, then why, when Barelle had suggested she hook up with somebody, had Eppie not thought of Mavis? In fact, Eppie had not thought of Mavis since Lulu and her band of stranglings had come upon her the other day. Was it because Eppie was preoccupied with the Lulu problem that she had not thought of Mavis or was it something else? Eppie arrived at Mavis's bench and stood over the girl with the apple and waited for the proper moment to begin.

(end ag 31, 02)

"I'm sorry," she said.

Eppie had wanted to apologize. That was it. To tell Mavis she was sorry for what she had said about her in class the other day. Eppie had distinguished herself from Lulu's seek and destroy attitude, but she had done the same thing to Mavis in a way.

She waited for Mavis to respond, but she did not. She sat like a statue. Or a painting. Girl with Apple. Eppie would need something more to engage the silent girl that she had wronged.

"I got beat up yesterday," said Eppie.

Mavis lowered her eyes.
"I came here yesterday by myself, then some other girls came. One of them didn't like me very much. She wanted one of her friends to hurt me. I said something stupid and instead of hurting me, her friend fell to the grass laughing with one of the other girls."

Mavis ran a finger lightly around the rim of the apple, then up the stem and gently rubbed the tip with her thumb and index finger.

"I thought it was over. But when I turned to leave, the girl who didn't like me, hit me in the back of the head and I fell to the ground."

Mavis looked up and held the apple out to Eppie.

"Oh, no," said Eppie. "I just wanted to say that I was sorry for what I said in class. That was…"

Eppie's voice trailed off. She wasn't sure if she should continue or leave Mavis alone? Would Eppie have wanted Lulu to continue or leave her alone?
(Je 17) "I'm not mad at you," said Mavis.

Mavis placed the apple in her lap and held out her hand to Eppie.

Eppie wasn't sure if she should, but she took Mavis's hand and let herself be drawn down. She had never noticed how beautiful Mavis was. In class, distant and distracted, Mavis had seemed ordinary, at least in her physical appearance. But now, in this park, on this bench, she seemed beautiful. Mavis drew her hand away and Eppie felt a softness slipping away from her. But a good kind of softness. A feeling of warmth. Of safeness.

"I don't like it here," said Mavis dreamily. "This school. These people. They're so…"

"Schlicter Valley?" said Eppie.

Mavis smiled.

"Nobody likes it here," said Eppie. "Except Lulu."

Mavis smiled again, then turned her face towards Eppie.

"Then why did you come here?"

Eppie thought for a moment. Why had she come here? Why had she really come here?

"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "It was a place."

"Mm," said Mavis beginning to trace rings around the apple again.

Why had Eppie come here? Her initial reason was to get away from East Nareen. But after a few weeks, this new school wasn't quite what she had hoped it would be either. It was like this park. She had come to this park to get away from school, but then Lulu and the others had come, bringing the problems of school with them in a concentrated form. And now Mavis was here, the girl Eppie had felt bad about for another school-related problem. But this time Eppie had been forgiven, as though it were never even really a problem in the first place. What did that mean?

Eppie looked at Mavis again who was looking back at her. How long had Eppie been lost in thought? It was kind of like what Mavis had been doing when Eppie had made fun of her. But Mavis wasn't making fun of Eppie. She was better than her, Eppie was sure of that. The kind of person you'd want to have in your life. And yet if that were the case, then why did Mavis always seem to be alone? Why had no one stuck up for Mavis when Eppie had made fun of her? But then again, Lulu had stuck up for Mavis, in a way. But Lulu and Mavis didn't seem to be friends. And Mavis's name never came up during the altercation or after. And yet, in a way, Lulu had stuck up for Mavis, even if that had not been her intent.

"Do you like me?" said Mavis.

Eppie was a little surprised at the question. Even though Eppie herself had just thought that Mavis might be the type of person she'd want in her life, the question, spoken out loud, struck Eppie as a little too direct. Maybe that was why Mavis was always alone.

"Sure, I like you," said Eppie. She would see where this was going.

"Good," said Mavis. "Because I like you, too."

"Good," said Eppie.

The two girls sat silently and smiled at each other. "Where was this going?" thought Eppie. "Should we embrace?"

(bgn sp 21, 02)

"Will you meet me here at the park tomorrow morning?" said Mavis.
Eppie didn't really want to. Her little park had gone from sanctuary to boxing ring to clubhouse in a matter of 24 hours. But she didn't want to hurt Mavis's feelings again. She had hurt her out of thoughtlessness before, but if she hurt her now, it would be more of a planned thing. And they liked each other, too, her and Mavis. That must mean something.

"Sure," said Eppie. "I'll meet you here tomorrow."

(end sp 2, 21, 02)

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WTH copyright (c) 2004 eric nakao (part of the collection "WTH and Doctor, My Boy Is Cracking Up") - pending

posted: december 17, 2004
web page update: december 21, 2004


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