2002 draft - chapters 41-50
By Eric Nakao
(bgn sp 20, 22, 02)
Is there anything more intriguing, more frightening, than the vast unknown? The very fact of its being unknown would seem to preclude an affirmative answer. And where exactly does this vast unknown come from? Is it always there, lurking beneath us like demons, waiting for the chance to snatch us down? Or is it something that we ourselves summon up in times of greatest fear and uncertainty, the demonic snatching being a kind of release from the hell that is but our daily lives?
(end sp 20, 02/bgn sp 19, 02)
Eppie entered the Owl's Nest Café. She had promised to meet Mavis for breakfast before school to discuss Mavis's campaign. And there she was, seated at a table near a window. Mavis turned around and waved excitedly. Eppie waved back and went over to her. Mavis always seemed happy to see Eppie. She didn't understand that about her. For she liked Mavis and wanted to be her friend, but she was hardly ever happy to see her.
"Hi," said Eppie sitting down. "I hope I'm not late."
"No, you're not late. I'm early," said Mavis, then leaned forward. "I got us a good table."
"Oh yeah," said Eppie looking around.
Mavis smiled at Eppie.
"I'm gonna have a cup of hot chocolate and a waffle. What are you gonna have?"
Eppie looked over the menu.
"Uh, I think just coffee."
"Yeah. I'm not really hungry."
"I had ice cream last night."
"Oh," said Mavis nodding, growing quiet.
Eppie began to wonder if she should have invited Mavis over for some ice cream. Should she order a waffle? For although Mavis always seemed happy to see Eppie, she had trouble sustaining it. Did Eppie bring her down? Maybe Mavis was a naturally happy person and Eppie brought her down.
"I have an idea for your campaign," said Eppie. "Should I order a waffle?"
"Oh really?" said Mavis suddenly perking up again.
(Jy 16) "Yes. I call it the Anti-Party."
Mavis gave Eppie a quizzical look.
"Yes," said Eppie. "Do you remember Ms. Min's homework assignment?"
Mavis thought for a moment. She hadn't been to class for a few days.
"A little," she said.
"Well, instead of saying this or that, I was thinking of writing an anti-paper."
"What's an anti-paper?"
"You know, it says that a paper can't be written because the question itself is not valid."
"Oh," said Mavis beginning to screw up her mouth, then popping it back into shape. "What was the assignment again?"
"What does living in a civil society mean to you."
"Oh, that's right," said Mavis. "Why is that not valid?"
"It's not valid because it means nothing to me."
"Hm," said Mavis. "So if she had asked, What does living in a civil society mean, instead of, What does living in a civil society mean to you, then the question would have been OK."
"So you've obliterated the self."
"No. I've obliterated living and a civil society."
"So you're saying that everything revolves around you?"
"No. I'm saying that nothing revolves around me."
"So you're saying that living and a civil society exist, but that when you enter the picture, they disappear?"
"Only when they try revolving around me."
"What if you tried revolving around them?"
"I would never do that."
"But what if you did? What would happen?"
"The same thing, I suppose."
"I think so."
"Hm," said Mavis, pensively, but not in a bad way.
"So what's an Anti-Party then?" she said.
"Well, it's kind of the same thing, except instead of me, it would be anybody else and instead of living and a civil society, it would be anything else."
Mavis looked pensive for a little while longer, then threw up her hands and broke into a smile.
"So we're covered."
"I think so," said Eppie nodding, beginning to feel a little more connected to Mavis. "Should I order a waffle?"
(end sp 22, 02)
Tamika rapped softly on her locker door.
"Rise and shine," she said in her sweetest voice. "I've got a surprise for someone."
There was no answer. She turned to Tami.
"Maybe he's not home," she said.
"That's not his home," said Tami. "It's just the place he's staying until we can find him something better. Try again."
"Roland," sang Tamika. "Omelet."
Tamika opened the cover of her plastic container and fanned the tantalizing steam of her special homemade recipe, Eggs Tamika, through the slots of the metal door. She had felt bad about having critical thoughts of Roland yesterday and promised herself to make amends.
"Roland," she continued. "It's Tamika. With breakfast. We love you."
They heard some rustling inside the locker.
"He's just being difficult," said Tami. She banged on the door with her fist. "Hey Roland, open up in there!"
"Maybe something's the matter."
"Nothing's the matter. He's just mad at us because we made him guard Technita's tampon." She banged on the locker again. "Roland! Open up or Tamika's giving your omelet to Mrs. Dooley!"
There was some more rustling and some sniffling sounds.
"He's crying," said Tamika.
"He's not crying," said Tami. She twirled her combination. "OK Roland, you had your chance!"
Tami swung open the door and saw two enormous feet sitting sideways where Roland's two tiny feet were usually planted. Tami stuck her head in her locker and looked to the right.
Technita started to blubber.
"Technita, what are you doing in there? Where's Roland?" Tami looked around Technita's side of the locker some more. "Are you sitting on Roland?"
Technita shook her head, the enormous tears gliding down her cheeks like whales.
"Tamika, open up your side of the locker," said Tami.
Tamika set down her plastic container and twirled open her side of the locker to reveal Technita hunched up sideways in the tiny space, half eaten cans of Cheez Whiz and little weiners and packages of crackers covering her hulking bosom.
"Wow Technita, did you eat all these?"
Technita nodded, ashamed.
"B-b-but I only ate half of them," she stammered. "I-I-I was saving the other half for R-R-Roland."
Technita broke down again. Tamika plucked a little weiner from one of the half eaten cans and held it up to Tami.
"So what," said Tami, then to Technita, "You and Roland had a party last night?"
Technita shook her head.
"You were supposed to have a party and he stood you up," said Tamika sympathetically, gently stroking one of Technita's muscular forearms.
"No," said Technita, choking back the tears and spraying a dollop of Cheez Whiz on Tamika's little weiner. "They took him."
"Who took him?" said Tami.
Tamika looked at her Cheez Whiz-covered weiner and showed it to Tami.
"H-H-Hands," sputtered Technita.
"Hans? Hans who?" said Tami.
"No, no!" cried Technita, taking Tamika's cheesy weenie and sticking it in Tamika's surprised little mouth. "Hands! Hands! Like Hands Across America!"
Tamika chewed the weenie.
"I need a cracker," she said, reaching for one of the half eaten cracker packages.
Technita broke down again, her massive shoulders heaving up and down like hippopotamuses.
"That's what R-R-Roland said just before the hands…the hands…"
Technita began to wail.
Tamika took a little weiner and stuck it in Technita's mouth.
"Hands? Who's this Hands person?" said Tami.
"No, no!" cried Technita. "Not Hands the person! Hands the hands! Real hands! Big hands! Hairy hands!"
"Remember Roland said something about hands when we first found him?" said Tamika.
"That's right," said Tami, then to Technita, "OK, so what did these big hands do next?"
"Th-Th-They grabbed Roland by the lapels," stammered Technita, clutching her own enormous hands in front of her to demonstrate, "and y-y-yanked him through the crackers."
"Crackers? You mean these crackers?" said Tami picking up a half-eaten package of crackers.
"No!" wailed Technita. "In Principal Nolo's office!"
"Principal Nolo," said Tami giving Tamika a significant look, then to Technita, "So do these crackers belong to Principal Nolo?"
Tamika stroked Technita's massive shoulders and Technita appeared to calm down a little.
"Yes," said Technita, blinking back the tears. "He kept them in a safe, in his office."
"And these hands, were they in Principal Nolo's office, too?"
"Yes," said Technita, sniffling. "Roland opened the safe to get the crackers and found these blueprints of the school inside. Roland said there were tunnels or something underneath some of the buildings."
Tami and Tamika exchanged significant looks again.
"Then Roland said he saw a book or ledger at the bottom of the safe, he started to get it and then the hands…the hands…"
Technita started trembling.
"Were there arms attached to these hands?" cried Tami.
"I don't know!" wailed Technita. "All I know is that these two enormous hands came bursting through the safe and the last thing I remember are the bottoms of Roland's precious little shoes flying through a wall of cracker packages before he disappeared forever!"
Technita started crying uncontrollably again, tossing handfuls of little weiners into her enormous mouth.
"I might as well eat these now, I might as well eat these now!" she cried, chasing the little weiners down with long streaming bands of Cheez Whiz. "Roland's never gonna getta chance to eat 'em!"
"Don't say that," said Tamika, trying to stop Technita from her self-destructive behavior. "We'll get him back, won't we, Tami."
"That's right," said Tami. "The People First Party will not rest until Roland is back in this locker room, Cheez Whizzing his little weiner like before."
"Next to his good friend, Technita," sniffled Technita.
"And eating omelets," said Tamika patting the top of her now closed plastic container.
(end sp 19, 02)
(bgn sp 22, 02)
Would you like to be rescued? Would you like to be saved? I ask these questions because it seems to me that quite a lot of human activity is devoted to these three endeavors, saving, being saved, and causing someone to be in need of saving. Life and death situations may be the first examples that come to mind, perhaps because they are the most dramatic. And there is also the religious saving which I'm not really going to get into. But there are also other acts of saving, non-religious in nature, and less dramatic, but more pervasive, than the life and death situations. And it is probably these acts that I had in mind when I raised the questions at the beginning of this paragraph.
Amelia stood at the front of Tsu's civics class and prepared to speak. Tsu had agreed to let her talk to her students about the Engagement Party as long as she didn't abuse them or make them cry.
Amelia looked fondly over the sea of brightly shiny faces. She wondered who would be the first among them to join her crusade. Would it be that lad slumped sullenly in the corner? That skinny girl with the pretty face giggling with her pleasant looking boyfriend? Sure, they seemed uninterested at the moment, but give them a purpose in life, fill their bellies with the fire of truth and rightness and there's no telling how far they could go.
"So," said Amelia, "looking out at you I am reminded of my own time spent as a high school student. I would think to myself, "Why am I here? I'm wasting away with a bunch of useless irritating people and if I don't get out soon, I know I'm gonna die." But then I went off to college where there were at least a few interesting people, got my degree and returned to high school as a counselor."
"Why?" said a girl with stringy hair.
"Why did I become a counselor?"
"No. Why did you return to high school if it made you so unhappy before?"
"Well," said Amelia. "First, they were going to pay me, so that was an incentive. Second, I came back in a position of authority, which was also an incentive. And third, I believed that I had a vocation for helping others and I found that rewarding at first."
"What about now?"
"Well, to be honest with you," said Amelia. "Not very."
"It's not rewarding to help people?"
"I think you have to be a certain type of person to achieve continual
satisfaction from helping individual people. Do you know the other counselor, Ms. Frackle? I think she's that type of person. She really gets involved with her students. So it's almost a personal thing with her and she can derive a sense of purpose from her chosen profession, despite its limitations.
"Why don't you switch jobs then?" said the girl with the stringy hair.
"Well, I did, in a way. I tried to get a job at East Nareen as a counselor."
"Why, if being a counselor makes you so unhappy?"
"Well, because at East Nareen, students with problems are aberrations. When you help that person, you are helping that person to continue on their wonderful, fulfilling, East Nareen-produced path in life. A path which I, as an East Nareen counselor, would have been an important part of. But here, students with problems are kind of the norm. I can help individual students, sure, but it's kind of like pulling a person out of a crap-filled pool, cleaning them up and tossing them back into the pool.
"Don't toss them back into the pool."
"I have to. The pool is the school."
"Keep them with you."
"I can't. It's not in my make-up. That's the kind of thing Ms. Frackle would do and even she can only keep so many students at one time."
"So what are you saying, that we're crap?" said a surly girl with ragged teeth.
"No," said Amelia. "I said you're covered with crap."
"Maybe you're the crap."
The skinny girl with the pleasant looking boyfriend giggled.
"No," said Amelia. "I clean off the crap. But I'm getting tired of it. I don't want to be part of the crap factory anymore."
"Then why don't you do something about it?" said the skinny girl in an excited high-pitched squeak.
"I am," said Amelia brightening up.
"You're gonna kill yourself?" said the surly girl.
"No," said Amelia trying to maintain her composure. "I'm going to try and do something constructive, that's why I'm here."
"Take off your clothes," shouted someone in the back.
"Would you shut up?" said the girl with the stringy hair.
"Thank you," said Amelia. "Now, if the problem is not so much the individual students, but rather the crap-filled pool, the solution would be to concentrate on the pool. So to that end, I've come here with the prospect of a new political party for the upcoming student elections."
There was a general groan from the class.
"Student elections are for wimps, losers and ass lickers," shouted someone from the back.
"Maybe, maybe not," said Amelia as she began to pace the room.
"The clothes are about to go! I'm so glad I came today!"
"But if what you say is true," said Amelia, ignoring the heckler, "then the reason it's true is because most students don't feel connected to the candidates or their ideas."
"We got no power!"
"I hate it here!"
"I'm gonna take off all my clothes!" cried the skinny girl.
"No," said Amelia, raising her voice to be heard over the increasing din. "You don't have to take off your clothes, you don't have to hate it here and you can have power, if you know what to do!"
"Then tell us! Tell us!" cried the class.
"Let her speak!" cried the girl with the stringy hair.
"I can't tell you what to do!" cried Amelia. "Join my party and you can do it yourselves!"
"Let me engage you!"
"Let us kill you! We hate you! We despise you! You're the cause of all our problems, not the school!"
"Throw off your petty associations! You don't know hate! You don't know friendship! There's only engagement! You and engagement!"
"Marry us then! Marry us!"
"No! Don't marry me! Engage me! Engage yourselves in whatever you feel the most strongly about and you'll set the world on fire!"
"We love you! We can't live without you!"
"Sign ups are in my office in the counselors' building, room 27B!" cried Amelia making her way to the door. "I'll be waiting! I'll be waiting! I love you all!"
(2004 note: Tiki, Connie and Wendy are the same character. I was trying out different names.)
"Well, that went well," said Amelia as she ate lunch in her office with Tsu.
"Went well!" cried Tsu. "Half the class wanted to tear your clothes off, the other half wanted to kill you!"
"Hey, at least they were interested. When's the last time your class really wanted to kill you?"
"I'm not there to be killed, I'm there to teach."
"You can't teach if they're not engaged."
"My class is engaged."
"Oh sure, they're engaged in a kind of student-teacher, namby-pamby kind of way."
"It's not namby-pamby. I'm the teacher. They're the students. That's why I'm here," said Tsu.
"Right," said Amelia. "That's why you are here. Filling their brains with your clear pure water, then tossing them back into a crap-filled pool. Didn't you hear that part of my presentation? That was one of my favorite parts."
"I think that's what set them off."
"Hey, then it is my favorite part."
"So does that mean that Lulu was your favorite student then?"
"Which one was Lulu?"
"The girl who said you were crap."
"Maybe," said Amelia. "And who was the skinny girl who said she wanted to take off all her clothes?"
"That was Tiki. And the guy who kept telling you to take off your clothes was Jeff."
"Ah," said Amelia.
"Ah? Wasn't that insulting? Didn't that bother you?"
"Hey, whatever lights their fuse. I don't discriminate," said Amelia. "And who was that girl with the stringy hair? I kind of liked her."
"That was Kinney. Your only defender."
"Kinney," said Amelia thoughtfully. "Well, I think I liked her best. I hope she signs up. And the skinny one, too."
"There, did you hear that?"
"You say you're into the Engagement Party, then you say you like Kinney best. If you really believed what you said, you'd like Jeff or Lulu the best. They were the most engaged."
"Jeff and Lulu were the most vocally engaged. That was fine. We can use that. But Kinney was the most intellectually engaged and at this point, we can use her the most."
"Then what about Tiki? Outside of wanting to take off her clothes, she was hardly engaged at all. Why would you choose her over Jeff and Lulu?"
"No, she was engaged," said Amelia. "In her own way."
"You just like the pretty ones," said Tsu.
"Not true," said Amelia. "I value all my acolytes."
"But you prize the pretty ones and the ones who aren't…What was the word you used to describe your ex-high school classmates?"
Amelia made a face.
"Irritating," she said.
"That's right," said Tsu. "You prize the pretty ones and the ones who aren't irritating to you. That was my favorite part of your presentation."
"Hey, if non-irritation and prettiness are what engages me, fine. I never claimed to be a saint," said Amelia. "That's the beauty of the Engagement Party. You don't have to be a saint to join. In fact, that's the whole point of the Engagement Party, to be whatever or whoever you are and engage that part of yourself to the fullest. Don't you see that, Tsu Tsu?"
"Don't call me Tsu Tsu."
"But it engages me," said Amelia.
"Then your party is full of crap."
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Oh good," said Amelia. "Maybe it's Kinney."
Amelia jumped up from her desk and went skipping to the door. Her heart was light and filled with a newly sprouted kind of love. It was Kinney, she just knew it. The one who would help her lay the foundation of her new movement. The one with whom Amelia would stay up late with, hashing and rehashing new thoughts, new ideas, analyzing, formulating, mixing, matching, stirring, feeling, doing, being. It would be wonderful. A dream come true.
Amelia took a deep breath, then threw open the door.
"Welcome to the dawning of a new era!" she cried.
"Oh, thanks," said a mumbly nondescript boy with oily hair and bad skin. "I'm here for your party?"
(end sp 22, 02)
If there was ever such a thing as a non-Engagement Party moment for Amelia, this would have been it. Her heart had been so full of hope and happiness that she had practically danced herself to the doorway. And then to open that same doorway and have this, this thing on the other side, mumbling his low octane, low engagement thanks for something that wasn't even supposed to be his. It was almost too much for Amelia to bear.
"What party?" she said calmly. Maybe she could get rid of this oily adolescent with a quick display of incomprehension.
Unfortunately, Tsu was there to make her life more comprehensible to the oily youth.
"Why, the Engagement Party," said Tsu brightly. "Isn't that right, Wally?"
Wally ran his fingers through his oily hair and nodded.
"Wally. Of course it's Wally," thought Amelia grudgily, then to her tormentor, "You know this person?"
Tsu shook her head as if Amelia had not bestowed the proper respect on the slumpy boy before her. "Why, this is not just any person. This is Wally, one of my favorite, most engaging students. Come on in, Wally."
Wally shuffled his way into the Amelia's office. Amelia stuck her too lovely head into the hallway for a quick look.
"Was there anybody else with you?"
Wally shook his head.
"Nope, just me," he said, perhaps attempting to be charming, perhaps not.
"I was hoping there'd be more," she said.
"Why, you don't need more when you have Wally," said Tsu. "Have a seat Wally." Wally sat. "So, what was it that drew you to Ms. Ablodoglio's exciting new party anyway?"
Wally ran his fingers through his oily hair, then started poking at the blemishes that covered his craggy, kind of ugly face.
"Ms. Ablodoglio," he said.
Tsu looked admiringly at Amelia.
"Did you hear that, Ms. Ablodoglio? You, yourself, were what drew Wally to your exciting new party. How flattering for you." Tsu pulled Wally's hand away from his face. "Wally, stop that."
Amelia sighed again and leaned against the wall that faced Wally (no relation).
"So, Wally," she said, emphasizing his name maybe more than she should have. "What was it about me that you liked so much?"
Wally shrugged and looked at the floor.
"Was it my ideas?"
"Was it the way I presented my ideas?"
Wally shrugged again. Amelia looked at Tsu who also shrugged, then back to Wally.
"Well, was it my dress?"
Amelia opened her hands at the sides of her flashy outfit and even intimated the beginnings of a fashion model pose. Wally tapped his knee with an oily finger and looked away.
"So, you felt engaged by Ms. Ablodoglio's dress," said Tsu, always helpful. "Oh, Ms. Ablodoglio is so pleased. Pooh Bah is so pleased, aren't you, Pooh Bah."
Amelia made a face at Tsu, then turned back to Wally.
"Listen Wally," she said, attempting to be earnest. "I truly appreciate your coming down here. But I really don't think that just you and I alone would be able to get that much done, you know what I mean?"
Amelia nodded earnestly. Wally looked down at the floor.
"So, I'll tell you what. Why don't you leave your name and number and when more people start coming, I'll give you a call and we can all start together. How 'bout that?"
Amelia smiled a supportive, though phony, counselor smile. Wally shrugged.
"I can bring other people," he said after awhile.
Amelia furrowed her brow. She didn't know how many more Wallys her party could handle.
"Oh really," she said.
"Sure," said Tsu. "Wally has lots of friends. Tell Pooh Bah who you'd bring."
Amelia forced a small smile and waited for Wally's reply.
"Kinney," he said.
"Kinney?" said Amelia, suddenly perking up. "You know Kinney?"
"Sure," said Tsu. "Wally and Kinney are brother and sister, aren't you Wally."
Amelia regarded Wally skeptically, trying to place him in the same gene pool as the attractive, well-balanced girl from Tsu's class. The only thing that could possibly connect them was Kinney's stringy hair.
"Really," said Amelia, trying to not sound too incredulous. "Are they like twins?"
"No," said Tsu. "Kinney is Wally's baby sister. Kinney skipped a grade or two and Wally, well, let's just say that Wally and I have seen each other before."
"Well Wally," said Amelia, trying to suppress her growing sense of joy, "if you really can bring in Kinney, then maybe we would have enough people to get this party rocking. I mean, then maybe we could get the Engagement Party off to a credible beginning." Amelia had flashes of her and Kinney debating the merits of various Engagement Party theories, putting up posters, polishing the silverware for the victory party. "So," she continued, "do you think she'd come?"
Wally rubbed the side of his puffy face with an oily hand.
"I'm not sure," he said in an approximation of thoughtfulness. "I'd have to ask her."
Amelia nodded, then nodded some more. It seemed that Wally would need a little push about now.
"Would you?" she said, a note of exasperation sneaking its way passed her forced counselor smile.
"I don't know," said Wally, shaking his head in a dull nondescript manner.
Tsu walked behind Wally and put her hands on his grease stained shoulders.
"Wally doesn't like putting pressure on other people, do you Wally," she said.
Wally pursed his lips and shrugged.
"Well, asking your own sister if she wants to join a party, not even join, but just come to a meeting, isn't pressure, is it, Wally?" said Amelia with a slight air of desperation. "I mean, come on. You ask her and she either comes or she doesn't come, right?"
Amelia looked into Wally's puffy blotchy face for an answer, but was not rewarded for her effort.
"You know, Wally, I've got another dress," said Amelia trying another approach. "It's really nice."
She smiled winsomely at Wally.
"Amelia," said Tsu with mild disapproval.
"The Engagement Party," said Amelia.
"All right," said Wally.
Amelia turned away from Wally and pumped her fist in the air.
"Yes!" she said to herself in a victorious whisper.
"Are you sure that's what you want, Wally?" said Tsu. "Because you can see Ms. Ablodoglio in her nice dress whether you ask Kinney or not."
Amelia looked at Wally again, then at Tsu for the final verdict.
"She'll be here," said Tsu.
(2004 note: Carlos and Miguel are the same character.)
(bgn sp 22, 23, 02)
Isn't it funny how things work out sometimes? You do something and think you've done it well, but then comes the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and, woe betides, you find that this year's harvest is somewhat less than hoped for. But then, like a rainbow after the storm, something wonderful begins to gently assert itself and you are sent hurtling back to your former state of glory, celebrating the sheer joy of hoped for promise, a baneful vexation to all those who would wish you harm.
"She wants to die," said Lulu, sitting in the bad part of school with Barelle, Tiki and Carlos.
"Who wants to die?" said Barelle.
"That counselor, Doggy-O or whatever her name is."
"She doesn't want to die," said Barelle. "And I think her name's Ablodoglio."
"I wanna take off all my clothes!" cried Tiki in her high-pitched squeak.
"Look. She got Tiki all excited. Carlos, calm your girlfriend down."
Carlos whispered something into Tiki's ear. Tiki smiled and suppressed a giggle.
"Why does she want to die?" said Barelle.
Lulu grumbled darkly for a few moments.
"I don't like it," she said.
"That new party of hers. That Engagement Party. She called us crap and people wanted to marry her. I don't like it."
"She called the school crap and said she loved us."
"And people believed her."
"She did get them excited," said Barelle.
"She's a threat."
"To us. To the Pie Theory Party."
"But we haven't told anybody about the Pie Theory Party yet," said Barelle.
"And why should we? What chance do we have when Miss Engagement Party is promising them the moon and the stars and…"
"I wanna take off all my clothes!" cried Tiki.
"And that," said Lulu shaking her head. "Do you think people are gonna want that from you and me?"
"Is that what you want?" said Barelle.
Lulu let out a heavy sigh.
"Where's Technita," she said.
"You alienated her," said Barelle.
"Technita's got the curse," croaked Tiki.
"She'll be back," said Lulu. "Unless Ablodoglio lures her in."
"I heard she's hangin' with the cheerleaders," said Barelle.
"Wonderful," said Lulu. "Carlos, how's the Pie Theory Party coming?"
Carlos shifted his weight slightly.
"Why's that my responsibility?" he said.
Lulu took a dollar bill out of her pocket and held it in front of Carlos's face.
"Because this is you," she said. "Remember?"
"Carlos's the president," croaked Tiki, eyeing the bill as she wrapped her arms around her excellent new boyfriend.
"I thought you were going to handle that?" said Carlos.
"I am handling it," said Lulu. "We have a new threat from Abo-dog, so we need some new ideas. Whadaya say?"
"Uh uh," said Carlos. "You said you were gonna handle it, so you handle it." He slipped the dollar bill from between Lulu's stubby fingers and handed it to Tiki. "Me and Tiki are gonna take a break. You and Barelle figure something out and let us know what you come up with when we get back."
Tiki suppressed a giggle as she and Carlos began strolling down the hallway to the candy machine.
Lulu ground her ragged teeth and tightened her fingers into hammy fist.
"He wants to die," she muttered.
"So what's wrong with planning the Pie Theory strategy on your own," said Barelle. "I thought that's what you wanted."
"I wanted it in terms of creating my own vision," said Lulu. "Of creating my own pie, a pie to which everyone could hope and aspire, if not today, then tomorrow, if not tomorrow, then sometime in the future."
"But aren't you doing that by planning the strategy?"
"It's more than planning the strategy. It's having your strategy carried out by your worthy minions. It's being in charge."
"But Carlos said…"
"Carlos said, Carlos said," said Lulu in a mocking tone. "Carlos shouldn't be the one saying. I should be the one saying. What good is the Pie Theory Party if I have to bake the entire pie by myself! Lulu think up the idea! Lulu go get all the ingredients! Lulu wear a funny hat and apron and mix and roll and stir and stand next to a hot oven till it's fucking finished! That ain't no Pie Theory Party! It's the Shit On Lulu Party!"
"But if you're planning the strategy, it's still your party, right?"
Lulu shook her head.
"It's not just the strategy, Barelle," she said. "It's having your strategy carried out. It's getting help when you need it. You can't have a party with just one person. It doesn't work like that. Just like a pie for just one person won't work either."
"Why not? Can't a pie be sliced for one person? One slice for Monday's dessert, one slice for a Tuesday afternoon snack…"
"If it was just one person, that would be fine, but we want to expand the Individual Pie Theory into a Societal Pie Theory. That's why we're here. That's why we're throwing this party."
"So everyone's invited."
"Everyone's invited, but not everyone can take a bite."
"Because," said Lulu, "there's only one pie and there are numerous pie eaters. The pie establishes boundaries in order to distinguish the deserving pie eaters from the undeserving pie eaters. We'll call them the pie biters. That's basic pie theory."
"So why not bake a bigger pie so everyone can have a slice?"
"The pie is already as big as it can get. There are only bigger or smaller slices, not bigger or smaller pies."
"Why not bake more pies?"
"There's only one pie. There may be innumerable parties, but there's only one pie. Each party gets a slice and each slice gets sliced again for the pie eaters within each party."
"So you're saying there's nothing new."
"No," said Lulu. "New areas of the pie may arise, but they push out the old. Remember, the Pie Theory is a theory of boundaries."
"But what if somebody could bake a pie big enough to give everyone a
"Hey, if somebody could do that, then they can take my Pie Theory, shove it up my ass and I'd say thank you very much. But that ain't gonna happen and I ain't gonna waste my time worrying about it."
"So why are you worried," said Barelle.
"I'm worried," said Lulu heaving a heavy sigh, "because Carlos, and Tiki to a lesser extent, aren't being very good pie eaters. I say, "Carlos, how's the Pie Theory Party coming along?" and he says, "Hey, fuck you, Lulu. You figure it out." Very bad manners."
Lulu began to shake her heavy head once again when Carlos and Tiki strolled their way back into the scene.
"Hey, how's it goin'?" said Carlos.
"How's what goin"?" said Lulu narrowing her eyes.
Carlos shrugged as Tiki chewed on a licorice whip.
"Hey Carlos, what does the Pie Theory Party say about that package of licorice whips?" said Lulu.
Carlos looked at Tiki chewing happily on the licorice whip, then at Lulu.
"The Pie Theory Party says it tastes good," he said.
He smiled at Tiki as she happily chewed away.
"Hey Tiki," said Lulu. "What are you, a pie eater or a pie biter?"
Tiki thought a moment, looked at Carlos, looked at her licorice whip, then looked at Lulu.
"Both," she croaked, then suppressed a giggle.
Lulu shook her head.
"You can't be both, Tiks. You gotta choose. Which one?"
Tiki stopped chewing and tried to think.
"Sure she can," said Carlos. "She bites off a piece of licorice, then she eats it. We're all biters and eaters, right?"
"Wrong!" said Lulu. "The Pie Theory Party says the biters are shit and get tossed out and the eaters get to stay. So which one are you, Tiki?"
"Hey hey," said Carlos. "Don't yell at Tiki. As President of the Pie Theory Party, I say she's both and can stay."
Tiki smiled a snaky cartoon smile and leaned her head against Carlos's shoulder.
"Why?" said Lulu.
"Why is she both and why can she stay?"
"I already said why she's both and why she can stay. What do you say?"
"I say there are the deserving and the undeserving, the deserving stay and the undeserving get tossed."
"Well, I say everybody stays, especially Tiki," said Carlos.
"Everybody can't stay," said Lulu becoming increasingly agitated.
"Because," she said, "there's only so much pie. If the undeserving stay, that leaves less for the deserving."
"Everybody stays. Everybody's deserving. Everybody gets an equal share," said Carlos.
"No no no no," said Lulu. "Everybody can not stay. Everybody is not deserving. Everybody gets a fair share, not an equal share. And for some, that means no share. That's basic pie theory."
"No, it's not," said Carlos.
"Yes it is!" cried Lulu. "You said yourself that people are always fighting because there's only so much of the pie to go around."
"Did I?" Carlos looked at Tiki. Tiki shrugged. "Well, I don't think that anymore."
"Since I met Tiki."
Tiki held out a licorice whip to Lulu.
"So what you're saying is that you and Tiki never fight."
"Never," said Carlos.
"But you and I are fighting."
Lulu couldn't believe that this was the same person who had inspired her in the beginning. Or maybe he was just playing with her.
"Listen, Carlos," she said, trying to retain her composure. You just said right now that people don't fight over the limited amount of pie, right?"
"But that's what we're doing right now, isn't it? If what you just said was true, then we wouldn't be fighting. We'd be happy. We'd be hugging. We'd be congratulating each other on what a fine party we have and how we're gonna give everybody whatever they want."
"Oh," said Carlos. He took the licorice whip from Tiki and held it out to Lulu. "Here."
"I'm not talking licorice whips!" cried Lulu, knocking the whip out of Carlos's hand. "I'm talking ideas! You say everybody's included, I say everybody's not! Who's right? If you choose one, then the other gets tossed! You can't have it both ways and if you can't have it both ways then I'm right, right?"
Carlos looked into Tiki's pretty chewing face for a moment.
"No," he said.
"Yes!" cried Lulu.
"No," said Carlos.
"Choose one! You have to pick one, damn it!"
Carlos looked into Tiki's pretty chewing face again.
"You choose one," he said. "I've already made my choice."
(end sp 22, 02)
"Hey Roland," said a voice through the haze.
Roland couldn't see anything. The last thing he remembered was reaching for some sort of book at the bottom of Principal Nolo's safe, then being yanked through some sort of tunnel. He must have been unconscious till now, asleep or drugged maybe. But was wakefulness any better? For now all was darkness. All was mystery. Except that voice overhead which provided the only light in his now hazy world.
"Hey Roland, open your eyes," it said.
"I must be dreaming," said Roland.
"You're not dreaming," said the voice.
"I'm blind. It's a nightmare," said Roland becoming agitated.
"You're not blind."
"I'm blind. I can't see."
"Open your eyes, Roland," said the voice, soothing and supportive.
Roland slowly opened his eyes. A cold light filled his head, then the face of a beautiful girl filled his vision.
"Hi Roland," she said.
"Hi," said Roland, rubbing his face with his hand. "Who are you?"
"I'm Annie, a friend."
"I have no friends," said Roland, feeling miserable.
"Yes you do," said Annie. "Now you do."
A large male came into view. It was one of the thuggies who had attacked Roland a few days ago. Roland became agitated again, but Annie put a soft hand on his arm.
"Shh shh shh," she whispered. "It's OK. He's with us."
"Yes, I know," Annie whispered. "He won't hurt you now." She turned to the large thuggish male. "Yes Byron. What do you want?"
"Uh, Rina wants to see you," Byron grunted.
"OK," said Annie. "Tell Rina I'm with Roland now, OK?"
Byron shuffled his big feet against the floor.
"She said now."
"I know," said Annie. "But tell her I'm with Roland now. I'll see her as soon as I can, OK?"
Byron chewed his fleshy lower lip for a few moments, working his beefy hands together like a serial killer.
"OK," he said finally. He regarded Roland coldly for a little while, then exited.
"Is that your boyfriend?" said Roland nervously.
"Oh, no no," said Annie, laughing softly. "He works here. For Rina."
"Hm," said Roland, falling back into his pillow and relaxing a little for the first time. Maybe this wasn't such a bad place, after all. Physically, at least. The bed was nice, clean sheets, warm blankets, soft mattress. The lighting was a little harsh, but that could be fixed. Maybe he was in a hospital or something. Maybe Annie was his nurse.
"Where am I?" he said.
"With friends. With me," said Annie putting her hand on his.
"And where are you?" said Roland.
Annie laughed softly.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"Well," said Roland. "Me and Technita were in Principal Nolo's office getting Cheez Whiz and little weiners, but we needed some crackers. So I cracked the safe, got the crackers, saw some blueprints and now I'm here."
"But I don't know where here is."
"Yes," she said. "It takes a little getting used to, doesn't it. Do you like it here?"
Roland looked around and shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not…dead, am I?"
Annie squeezed Roland's hand slightly.
"No," she said in a low voice. "You're with friends."
She nodded slightly, as much to herself as to Roland.
"So I'm under the school," said Roland. "I'm somewhere under the toilet."
Annie came back to life.
"Right!" she said with a bright laugh, clapping her hands together. "Though more under the chemistry lab."
"But why. Why am I here? Who are you?"
"Hm," said Annie, her brow slightly furrowed. "You're safe."
"I went through the safe, but I don't know that I, myself, am safe," said Roland. "I mean I went through the crackers, too. Does that mean I'm crackers also?"
Annie laughed sympathetically.
"No," she said. "You're not crackers. Maybe safe wasn't the best word."
Roland began feeling a little tense again. Annie put Roland's hand in hers again and held it lightly, but securely.
"You're safe with me," she said with a little nod of her head.
"Was I in danger before?"
"Well," said Annie. "Some people, you know, aren't very understanding, you know what I mean?"
Annie looked deeply into Roland's pale face, but Roland wasn't quite sure what she meant.
"Let me put it this way," she continued. "There are some people in this world, everywhere, who want to help you."
"Like Tami and Tamika."
"Yes," said Annie. "And there are others who see you as something of
"No. Not quite a threat. An obstacle. A resistance." Annie thought of how she could explain this better. "You know how a stream flows down a mountain?"
"I've seen pictures."
"Well, at the top of the mountain, the rain falls from the sky and it's pure. The snow melts with the coming of spring and it's pure, also. But as the waters run down the side of the mountain, they begin to pick up various
"I'm an impurity?"
"No," she said. "Not exactly."
"I try to keep clean. When I was living in the girls' locker room, I would take three or four showers a day. I was clean. I was very clean."
"I'm sure you were," said Annie. "That's one of the things we noticed about you, you're desire for cleanliness."
"Yes," said Annie. "The, uh, people down here."
"Oh, me and Byron and Rina and you and…"
"But why are you down here?" said Roland. "What are you doing down here?"
"Oh, good question," said Annie, a little evasive. "We're, uh, monitoring the situation."
"Up there," said Annie pointing towards the ceiling. "The school."
Roland looked at Annie suspiciously.
"You're not with the Board of Ed, are you?"
"No," she said. "We're not the Board of Ed."
"But you are with Principal Nolo," said Roland.
"Well," said Annie, considering the prospect. "A little, I suppose."
"You're in his safe."
"We have a passageway there, yes."
"You have access to his crackers."
Annie smiled at Roland.
"That's true," she said.
"So what does that mean?"
"It means," said Annie. "that when we need him, we can get to him."
"Does that mean he get to you, too?"
"Uh, he can contact us, but he can't come down here unless we bring him down."
"Hm," said Roland. The thought of Principal Nolo down here left him feeling a little queasy. If he was going to be cut off from the world, one of the last people he'd want to be with was Principal Nolo.
"So does he know I'm down here?"
"Oh, yes," said Annie. "The crackers and everything you left in his office. It'd be hard not to tell him."
"And it's OK with him?"
"Well, he said that, uh, you were kind of alone and that maybe it wouldn't be so bad, you being down here and all."
"Hm," said Roland who supposed that was true in a way. Though Tami and Tamika knew him. And Technita, too.
"So you talk to him?"
"Principal Nolo?" said Annie turning away slightly. "We've met. Rina usually talks to him. They seem to get along."
Annie nodded to herself.
"Do you like him?"
"Well, I don't really know him that well. Like I said, Rina's the one who usually talks to him. But he's OK, I guess."
"Hm," said Roland. "Nolo sent me down here, didn't he."
"No no," said Annie. "Principal Nolo didn't have anything to do with this. At least the first part."
"So why am I down here then?"
"Well, you're probably not going to like me very much after I tell you this," said Annie getting up from the bed and wandering the room a little. "But I brought you down here."
"You?" said Roland.
Roland thought of the big hairy hands that pulled him through the wall of crackers, then looked at Annie's soft smallish hands and had his doubts.
"You pulled me down here?"
"No," said Annie. "I didn't physically pull you down here. That was Ilgo."
"Ilgo," said Roland remembering the big thuggie that just left the room. "Ilgo Byron?"
"No no," said Annie with a laugh. "Byron and Ilgo are two different people. Byron would never do that for me."
"And Ilgo would."
Annie smiled and nodded.
"Yes," she said. "You can trust Ilgo. I'll introduce you to him later."
Roland wasn't sure he wanted that. Grab you by the lapels and yank you through a wall of crackers. There's no telling what a person like that would do to you if he got another chance.
"So you and Ilgo wanted me down here?"
"Eventually," said Annie sitting back down on the bed. "You see, every four years or so, we bring a new person down here to be with us."
"Well, you know, fresh blood and all."
"Fresh blood," thought Roland becoming agitated again. It was all starting to make sense now. Byron, fresh blood, the late night attacks.
"Well, maybe fresh blood isn't the best way of putting it," said Annie seeing Roland's agitation. "We're not vampires."
Roland relaxed again.
"So you're not vampires, you're not with the Board of Ed. What are you then?"
Annie began looking a little evasive again, but tried to answer Roland's question.
"We're, uh, former students, like you," she said.
"Former students," said Roland suspiciously to the youthful-looking girl. "How old are you anyway?"
"Oh. Sixteen. Sweet sixteen. Like you, Roland," said Annie putting her hand on his.
"Sixteen," said Roland. "How long have you been down here?"
"Oh, we don't age," said Annie. "That's one of the benefits of living down here. You won't age either. You'll always be as you are now, physically at least. In all other ways you can grow and change in as many ways as you'd like."
"What if I just wanna lie here," said Roland.
"You're just gonna lie there?" said Annie bemused.
"What if I did? What then?"
"Well, then you'd just lie there, I guess. If that's what you really wanted."
"And what if I wanted to go back to school. Up there." Roland pointed to the ceiling.
"Oh," said Annie. "I thought you didn't like it up there. I thought you were unhappy."
"Well, I was," said Roland. "At least before I met Tami and Tamika. I kind of liked living in their locker."
"Roland," said Annie. "You liked living in a locker?"
"Yeah," said Roland. "It was safe and warm and you know, until Tami took away my pillow, very comfortable. And then they wanted me to guard Technita's womanly discharge, of course. But on the whole, it was OK. It was nice."
Roland nodded to himself, pretty sure that what he had just said was true.
"But it's safe and warm down here, too," said Annie. "And you don't have to guard anything. And you've got this nice big pillow, too." She patted the fluffy pillow beneath Roland's head. "Don't you think you could like it here as
"Well, maybe I could," said Roland settling his head into the big soft pillow. "But why am I here again?"
"Well, like I said, every four years or so, we bring another person down here, you know, for a fresh perspective, new ideas, a new face even."
"So why me?"
"Well, it wasn't just you. You were one of several candidates that we were considering."
"You and Ilgo."
"Me and Ilgo and Rina and everyone else."
"And I was in the lead."
"Mm, you were in the running," said Annie.
"What was my platform?" said Roland starting to get into this.
"Well," said Annie feeling her way along. "Your platform was that you were selected. By me."
"And why did you select me?"
"Well, like I said before, you seemed kind of unhappy up there."
Roland thought this over for a few moments. He supposed he was kind of unhappy up there sometimes. And he also supposed that it was kind of nice of Annie to be concerned for his welfare and all.
"So everyone else thought the same thing?"
"Well, some people did. Ilgo did."
"Ilgo. Is he your boyfriend?"
"We're just friends. It's not important."
"So you and Ilgo thought I was unhappy. And what about the others."
"Well, they were concentrating on their own candidates."
"Were they unhappy, too?"
"Maybe. They were unhappy, I suppose, in their own way. But that wasn't their main feature. Some were, you know, very smart or talented or beautiful. Just, you know, different things to make them attractive candidates."
"But I won."
"Not exactly winning…" said Annie in a noncommittal voice.
"So I was losing," said Roland. "It was the bag of used tampons, wasn't it."
"You weren't losing either. Just being nominated is, well, never mind."
"So if I was under consideration, then why did those guys attack me? Was that some sort of initiation ritual? To see if I measured up, so to speak?"
"Well," said Annie. "You know how when you have elections up there, it can get very competitive? Like certain candidates may do things that aren't quite nice to make the other candidates look bad?"
"I'm familiar with that concept," said Roland.
"Well, it's the same thing down here, sort of," said Annie. "Especially with some of the nominators."
"So everyone plays dirty tricks on everyone else."
"Not everyone. Just some. Sometimes."
"And this nominator played a dirty trick on me because this nominator didn't like me."
"Mm, more didn't like me."
"Ah," said Roland.
"Yes. Rina and I don't really get along. So when I nominated you, she decided to give you a hard time."
"To make you look bad."
"Look bad, feel bad, retaliate. I don't know. That's just how she is sometimes."
"But you wouldn't let her get away with it."
"The thing is, we're not really allowed to interfere with an action that one of us initiates above ground. At least not directly."
"So, they attacked me, Tami and Tamika saved me. But I still don't understand why I'm down here."
"Well, I'm getting to that," said Annie. "You see, when you were living in the girls' locker room and saw Byron go into stall #3, you became something of a concern."
"So he did go down the toilet! I knew it!" cried Roland. "How did he do that anyway? He took off his shoes, didn't he."
"That's not important," said Annie. "The important thing is when you kept making an issue of it with the cheerleaders."
"Tami and Tamika."
"Yes. And then when you tried to investigate, you became even more of a concern."
"But we didn't find anything. The first time, I couldn't go down. And the second time, it was Technita flushing a tampon, remember?"
"Yes," said Annie. "That's another concern of ours."
"But you knew I was living in the girls' locker room. And you also knew I knew what Byron looked like since he attacked me before. So if this was the case, why did Byron use that entrance? Why not the Principal Nolo entrance or one of the others I saw on that blueprint?"
"Well, that's a good question," said Annie.
"Uh, I'd rather not say that until I have a chance to look into it some more."
"Well, what did Byron say. You asked him didn't you?"
"Uh, he was questioned about that, yes."
"Well, what did he say?"
"He, uh, said he forgot about you."
"Forgot about me! Lies! Lies!" cried Roland. "I know it's a lie because I use that excuse all the time!"
"Well, whatever the reason, the issue remained that you were aware of a possible passageway into our world and seemed obstinate in your beliefs."
"Ya gotta have faith."
"Yes. Well, anyway, on the night of your descent, when you had found the blueprints in Principal Nolo's safe…"
"Pretty good, huh?" said Roland. "I'll bet none of the other candidates were able to get that far."
"Yes," said Annie. "But that wasn't your criteria."
"What was my criteria again?"
"That you were unhappy."
"Oh, that's right. So when I found the blueprints and that book or whatever that was, my standing fell because my discovery made me less happy?"
"No no," said Annie. "Your standing fell because you were zeroing in on us without our consent."
"So you yanked me down here and now you're holding me prisoner."
"No, not a prisoner. Not now," said Annie becoming a little agitated. "It's just that when you were looking around in the safe, Rina sent Byron and his friends up to your world to find you."
"To bring me down."
"In a way."
"In what way?"
"Uh, in the way you said before."
"Mm," said Roland. "But you got to me first. Or Ilgo did. So now I'm not a prisoner. Or worse."
"In a way."
"In what way?"
"In the way you're not really a prisoner, but you're not really a full member either."
"What am I then?"
"Well, you're somewhere between a student and an invalid."
"So I can just lie here if I want."
"Sure," said Annie. "If you want to be an invalid."
"What happens to invalids?"
"I'm not sure," said Annie. "We've never had one before."
"So I'm the first."
"If that's what you really want," said Annie with a shrug.
Roland considered this over for awhile, then had a new thought.
"Hey! What happened to Technita?" he said. "Is she down here, too?"
"Oh no," said Annie. "She ran out after you got yanked and before Byron and his friends came."
"So she's OK."
"Uh, for now," said Annie.
"So what, she might be in danger later? I mean she knows about the safe entrance too, right?"
"Yes yes," said Annie. "We're discussing that now."
"Well, why don't we bring her down here, too?"
"Uh, it's not that simple."
"Well, shouldn't we at least warn her? Send me back up. I'll tell her."
"I don't know if that's such a good idea. I mean you're kind of safe here with me. If you go up there, Rina's gonna try something."
"You come with me then."
"Mm," said Annie. "I don't really like going up there."
"Send Ilgo then."
"Uh, we're kind of in a complicated situation now. I mean, you're not supposed to really be down here, you know? And if we start doing other things now, it's just gonna get more complicated." Annie shook her head. "Besides, I'm sure she'll be all right for now. She saw what happened to you, so she knows she's in a situation where vigilance is required. And she seems pretty capable of taking care of herself."
"But that's not certain," said Roland.
"No," said Annie. "I can't guarantee that…"
"And what about Tami and Tamika. I'm sure Technita's gonna tell them what happened."
"Yes yes," said Annie. "That's another complication that we're monitoring."
"I don't like the sound of this."
"Oh, try not to worry too much," said Annie. "This should be a new beginning for you. Your new life as an, uh, invalid."
"It just seems like we should be able to send them a message or something."
"I'll watch out for your friends, don't worry," said Annie patting Roland on the arm. "You just try and get better for now and we'll see what happens."
Tami and Tamika walked down the hallways of the administration building.
(Ag 1) "Do you think this is such a good idea?" said Tamika. "I mean you know what happened to us the last time we were here."
"We have no choice," said Tami. "I mean, we couldn't get the toilet thing to work. We don’t know the combination to the safe. The best way is the direct approach. We'll confront Principal Nolo with what we know and threaten to turn him in or go to the media if he doesn't help us get Roland back."
"I don't know," said Tamika. "He seems like kind of a mean guy. Maybe we should go to the cops or the Board of Ed or something."
"And tell them what? That a guy who was living in our locker was yanked through a safe by a pair of big hairy hands? No way. Don't worry. We have truth on our side. We'll wear him down with our sincerity."
"I should have brought cookies."
They approached Principal Nolo's office and stopped in front of his door.
"Cookies won't solve this," said Tami. "Think sincerity. Think conviction. Think…"
"Right," said Tami giving Tamika's hand a quick squeeze. "Ready?"
Tamika nodded and the two cheerleaders marched into the principal's office.
Principal Nolo sat hunched over his desk, an arrangement of papers and documents spread out before him. A ghastly looking man. Thin colorless lips the size of rubber bands lined a cruel dark mouth. Two huge soulless eyes peered out vacantly from behind a pair of pale hairless lids. And they appeared to be not round or convex, but flat, like sheets of milky plastic, with large saucers of pale gray pupilless irises peering out from their opaque centers. And stranger still, they never seemed to blink, as if they were always open, always watching, vacantly taking in all that came before it. A scary guy. A monster.
"Come in," he intoned, slowly lifting his large misshapen head from its downward sloping position. "I've been expecting you."
"I don't like this," whispered Tamika to Tami, taking her friend's hand in hers.
"Remember Roland," whispered Tami.
Tamika swallowed hard and nodded.
Tami and Tamika stood in front of Principal Nolo's desk.
"Have you?" said Tami, summoning up an even, business-like demeanor.
"Yes," hissed the Principal. "You're here to clear your consciences, aren't you."
"What do you mean?" said Tami.
Principal Nolo let out a deep gravely laugh.
"For that little friend of yours…"
"Roland," whispered Tamika to Tami.
"Yes," intoned Principal Nolo. "Roland. The small one."
A picture of Roland lying on the ground in his meatless underwear flashed through Tamika's trembling mind.
"What about Roland," said Tami.
"You're here for your transgressions," intoned the Principal, ignoring Tami's question.
Tami looked bravely into Principal Nolo's gray pupilless eyes for a sign of what he was getting at, but could not get a reading.
"You have no pupils," said Tami.
Principal Nolo laughed.
"How can you be a principal and have no pupils?"
Principal Nolo stretched his thin lips into a ghastly grin.
"I have no pupils. You have no principles. We're even."
"I have principles," said Tami, gaining in her confidence.
"Oh? Then tell me, what are these principles of yours?"
Tami regarded Principal Nolo again. She wasn't as afraid of him as she thought she'd be. He was gaunt and ghastly, but she had right on her side and felt she could hold her ground.
Tamika nudged her with her elbow.
"Tell him," she whispered.
"We feel that people, all people, have supreme value and when a choice has to be made between the welfare of a person and the perpetuation of an idea or goal, then the person's welfare should prevail."
Tamika squeezed Tami's arm in support.
"People First," Principal Nolo hissed.
"Nice People First," said Tamika who then took a step back as Principal Nolo fixed her with a ghastly grin.
"All People First," said Tami.
"And if you had to choose between a nice person like Roland and a mean person like me, who would you choose?"
Tami thought for a moment. Tamika leaned in.
"Pick Roland," she whispered behind an outstretched hand.
"All People First," she repeated.
Principal Nolo smiled.
"So you're saying that I'm not a person?" he said in a disconcertingly even tone.
"No, I'm not saying that," said Tami holding her ground.
Principal Nolo leaned forward.
"Come on," he said. "You'd choose Roland first, wouldn't you. He's your friend. He's a nice guy. Why, only a monster would choose otherwise, right?"
"Pick Roland and let's get out of here," whispered Tamika.
"No," whispered Tami. She turned back to Principal Nolo. "It's not my decision to make. All people deserve to be chosen first, equally, without forethought. I do what I can, when I can. And right now, Roland is the one who needs our help, not you."
Principal Nolo smiled a ghastly smile.
(Ag 3) "So you do choose Roland," he hissed.
"No," said Tami. "I'd do what's needed to be done. It's not a matter of choosing one over the other."
"I see," said Principal Nolo, his large pale eyes going even more vacant. Then he just sat there looking straight ahead at the two girls before him, but seeming not to notice them.
Tamika nudged Tami. Tami shook her head.
"So," said Tami finally, "are you going to tell us where Roland is?"
"Our friend," said Tamika.
"Ah, your friend. The one you choose," said Principal Nolo tapping the tips of his tiny fingers together. "And what would you do to find out where your friend is?"
Tami and Tamika looked at one another.
"Anything," said Tamika.
"What did you have in mind?" said Tami.
Principal Nolo stretched his thin lips into a ghastly smile and peered intently at the two winsome cheerleaders.
"Community service," he said slowly, then smiled gruesomely.
"We don't do community service," said Tami. "At least not under compulsion."
"It's not compulsion," said Principal Nolo. "It's a trade off. You do something for me and I do something for you."
"That seems fair," whispered Tamika to her friend.
"All right," said Tami, feeling her way along. "So what kind of community service did you have in mind?"
"You'll come work for me," said Principal Nolo with a smile.
Tami couldn't believe what she just heard.
"No way," she said.
"But if it'll help get Roland out," whispered Tamika.
"By helping the guy who took him in the first place?" whisperedTami. "There must be another way."
Principal Nolo chuckled softly.
"And why do you say that I took Roland?" he said.
"But you just said…" said Tamika.
"Say, said," said Principal Nolo. "They're just words, young lady. I mean look at these hands. Could these hands be responsible for taking anything that didn't want to be taken in the first place?"
Principal Nolo held out his rabbit-paw-sized hands for the inspection of the cheerleaders.
"Roland would never go without saying good-bye," said Tamika, almost in tears.
"We heard he disappeared through your safe," said Tami. "That he was grabbed by a pair of giant hands and yanked through a wall of cracker packages."
"Really, Miss Tanaka," said Principal Nolo holding out his tiny hands again. "Doesn't your description of giant hands seem at odds with the reality set here before you?"
"Hm," said Tami. "But they are big enough to hold a cracker, aren't they?"
Principal Nolo shrugged.
"I suppose," he said. "But even a rabbit can hold a carrot between its paws. What's your point?"
Tamika whispered something to her friend. Tami nodded, then went over to Principal Nolo's refrigerator and took out a canister of Cheez Whiz and little weiners. "Then how do you explain these?"
"What's to explain?" said Principal Nolo. "I happen to enjoy a little weiner now and then."
"Really," said Tami. She opened the can of little weiners and held it out to Principal Nolo. "Eat one now then."
"I really don't see the point," said Principal Nolo.
"No, really," said Tami. "Show us how much you like them and we'll talk some more about community service. Here."
Tami took a little weiner out of its can, sprayed on some Cheez Whiz and stuck it in Principal Nolo's round little mouth. Principal Nolo let it sit there for a few tense moments, then reluctantly began to chew. Slowly, methodically, his tiny jaws worked up and down, grinding the little tube of meat between his teeth, pulling it slowly into his tiny mouth with each reluctant chew. But then something curious happened. Principal Nolo blinked. His large, pupilless, all-seeing eyes were covered for the briefest of moments causing them to glisten slimily from the blink applied moisture. And then he blinked again. And then again as he continued to chew until something akin to tears began to form along the crevices of his lower lids. Then suddenly, he stopped chewing. His tiny shoulders hunched up, his head jerked forward, his pale eyes opened even wider and he began to convulse.
"There! There! You don't like little weiners at all, do you!" cried Tami. "Or should I say, you do like little weiners, but not the kind that come out of cans!"
"Oh my God!" cried Tamika, covering her own sweet mouth with her soft virgin-like hands.
"No, no," sputtered Principal Nolo, chunks of Cheez Whiz covered little weiners flying out of his round little mouth. "I love little weiners. Cans only. Only out of cans."
"Oh really?" cried Tami. "Then here, have another!"
She plucked another weiner from its metal container and shoved it into Principal Nolo's hacking weiner hole.
"Please! Please!" cried Principal Nolo, grabbing on to the sides of his desk with his tiny hands, his weiner-induced hacks echoing loudly and horribly through the office. "I have a narrow windpipe. This isn't healthy."
"Oh really, really," said Tami, chucking little weiners at the top of Principal Nolo's convulsing head and shoulders. "Well, you should have thought of that before you took Roland away, shouldn't you!"
Tami signaled for Tamika to grab more cans of Cheez Whiz and weiners from the refrigerator.
"I didn't take Roland. I swear. My hands! My hands! You can see for yourselves!"
Principal Nolo tried to hold out his tiny hands for inspection again, but he was overtaken with another coughing fit and needed them to steady himself once again. Tamika quickly ran up to him and began spraying long orange plumes of Cheez Whiz up and down his arms and between his tiny fingers.
"Please, please young lady! Take pity on an old man!"
"Take pity on Roland!" cried Tamika and sprayed the convulsing Principal with even more force than before.
"Come on, Tamika," said Tami. "He's not changing his story. Let's give him some time to think over what just happened here. And what's gonna happen in the future if he doesn't learn to cooperate."
And the two cheerleaders slowly backed out of the Principal Nolo's office, shaking their cans of Cheez Whiz and weiners like lethal pom poms at the convulsing figure within.
previous | next
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