2002 draft - chapters 51-60
By Eric Nakao
Eppie made her way to the counselor's building. She thought that the breakfast this morning at the Owl's Nest Café had gone well. Mavis seemed chipper and receptive to her idea about the Anti-Party. Eppie herself felt satisfied. Nothing had really gone wrong. She had even ordered a waffle like Mavis. A waffle like Mavis had ordered, not a waffle that resembled Mavis. It seemed like this was the beginning of something good. They would work together some more on Mavis's campaign, Mavis would put her name on the ballot, she would get a few votes, maybe even win, then she and Mavis could go on with their lives.
Eppie entered the building. Mavis had wanted to meet her in Ms. Frackle's office. She wondered what that was all about. For she remembered her last encounter with Ms. Frackle, how she had come to talk about Mavis, but then the cunning Ms. Frackle had somehow turned the conversation around to Eppie. She wouldn't let her get away with something like that this time. And yet, her last meeting with Mavis had gone well, so maybe this meeting would go well also.
She entered Ms. Frackle's office and there they were. Mavis and the mysterious Ms. Frackle, sitting knee to knee, cackling over some papers on the cunning counselor's shabby wooden desk. Eppie stood in the doorway for a few moments. Should she leave and come back? Leave and never come back? They didn't need her. Look at them, so close, so intimate, so buddy-buddy, so palsy-walsy. Why, they even looked alike. Even more so than Mavis and her mom, the nosy, dessert-skipping Mrs. Googy. Eppie had noted that before, the physical similarity between Mavis and her beloved counselor. Maybe Mavis was her illegitimate daughter. Though that wasn't very nice. Her bastard daughter. That was better. Her demon seed sprung up like witch hazel beneath the rotting carcass of a fat slimy toad. Now there were the two of them, seated together, knee to knee, nose to nose, cackling like chickens over some mysterious documents.
She should just leave? Why stick around for the punishment? The penalty? And those papers? They were probably her private medical file. Now they knew she had a potassium allergy and were plotting ways of slipping bananas into her eating regimen. Banana nut bread, Eppie dear? Have a sandwich. Have a snack. Take a bite, blow up like a balloon and when you've reached a certain circumference, we'll stick you with a hatpin and pop you like a blowfish. Ho ho ho.
"No, thank you," said Eppie to herself and turned to leave. But as she did, she heard someone call her name.
"Eppie," said the voice laughing.
Which one was that, Ms. Frackle or her demon seed? They sounded so alike, Eppie could hardly tell the difference anymore. They were like clones, twins, twins in sin, copy kittens in crime.
"Eppie, wait. Where are you going?" said the voice again. It was Ms. Frackle. The witch elder.
Eppie turned and smiled.
"Oh, I didn't want to disturb you," she said.
"You're not disturbing us, you're not disturbing us," said Mavis in her breathy, encouraging, little girl voice. "Come on, come on."
Mavis waved Eppie over. It was the Owl's Nest Café all over again. Except this time it was Ms. Frackle instead of waffles.
"I could come back," she said with a glancing tilt of the head. "It's not an issue with me."
Mavis sprung up from her chair.
"No no no no no no no," said Mavis pulling Eppie by the arm and depositing her in the chair opposite Ms. Frackle. "We want you here. We want you always."
Eppie thought how nice that sounded. We want you. We want you always. Except for the we part. Who exactly was we? Mavis and Ms. Frackle? But Ms. Frackle didn't like Eppie, did she? For Eppie had come to her office yesterday and Ms. Frackle had sized her up, sized her down, dissed her, dismissed her and now wanted to eat her for breakfast. She wondered if she had already eaten Mavis for breakfast. Chewed her and spit her into the chair that Eppie presently sat in. Funny, she had never noticed what sharp, fang-like teeth Ms. Frackle had. They glistened like scythes, like razor blades. Cold, cruel, colorless, icy, gleaming, white razor blades. As quick as a snow leopard, as unstoppable as a glacier, Ms. Frackle would creep up on you, float down on you like a snowflake, charming you with her delicacy, enticing you with her freshness, landing on the tips of your eyelashes, melting like a lover, flowing passed your sinuses, freezing your brain, breaking your heart, then passing through your fingertips in the form of music as you sat playing the piano.
Who was this woman? Who was Mavis? Why were they so similar? Why were they so different? Why did Eppie want Mavis so much and Ms. Frackle so little? For after all, they were the same person, were they not? They were the same person, the same face, the same figure, the same voice, the same lips, the same music. They were the same, and yet Eppie wanted one and not the other.
"I'm so glad you came back," said Ms. Frackle cruelly grasping Eppie by the hands. Eppie felt the talons sinking deep into her own soft yielding flesh and tried not to blush.
"I, I said I would and…"
Her voice trailed off.
"And here you are!" said Mavis wrapping her arms around Eppie and giving her a warm squeeze.
Ms. Frackle smiled.
"Yes," she said. "And here you are. And here's Mavis, too."
"Yes," said Eppie weakly. She could feel Mavis's hot cheek pressed against her own and felt like she would die.
(Ag 5) They had known she was here. Had made her wait. Had made her watch as the two of them made complicit love to one another. To seduce her, not as one seduces another, but as two seduce a third, to draw her into a way of life, a way of living, of looking, of feeling everything you wanted to feel, but without the intimacy of a one-on-one relation. Eppie wanted Mavis, not Ms. Frackle. Mavis with Ms. Frackle was not Mavis anymore. She was Frackle Jr., Mavis like a Moonbeam, bearing down on you like a headlight, hitting you across the face like a 2 by 4. She was no longer herself, no longer separate, no longer pure. And how could Eppie take something into herself that was no longer pure and still remain pure herself?
"I'd better go," she said, beginning to rise from her chair.
"Don't go," said Mavis with a slightly pleading tone in her voice. "We've come so far, we've worked so hard."
"Let her go if that's what she wants," said Ms. Frackle.
"But she doesn't want," said Mavis with a sigh, slowly releasing her grip and letting Eppie slip away.
"Maybe some other time," said Eppie as she tumbled out of Ms. Frackle's office and back out into the hallway.
"So, I think that went very well, don't you?" said Amelia happily.
"You were just lucky," said Tsu.
"No," said Amelia. "I was engaging. I was engaging to Willie…"
"Whatever. And he's engaging to his sister, Kinney, who will help me plan the foundations of my new party."
"She'll come, but there's no guarantee that she'll help you like you want her to."
"She will," said Amelia with a confident tilt of the head. "I know she will. She's got what it takes. I could feel it in class. I can feel it now."
"In the beginning maybe. But not near the end."
"Always," said Amelia. "Beginning, middle and end. Kinney and I. The dynamic doohickey."
Suddenly, Tsu jumped up from her chair and went out into the hall.
"Eppie?" she said.
Eppie turned around, thoughts of what just went on in Ms. Frackle's office still burning in her brain.
"Hi," she said smiling.
"I haven't seen you in class the past few days. Is everything OK?"
"Oh, everything's fine," said Eppie.
"Is that Kinney?" came a voice from inside the office. A very attractive woman stuck her head out the door. "Oh, hi."
It was that other counselor, Ms. Ablodoglio. Her shrink. The one Eppie felt closer to. But her shrink didn't seem very happy to see her. She probably didn't like her. They hadn't even met and already she didn't like her. Eppie must be giving off some sort of loser vibe. A Frackle-Googie rejection vibe. Who would want to see her now? She didn't want to see herself. She couldn't see herself. Not clearly anyway.
"Well, why don't you come on in?" said Tsu.
"Oh, I don't want to disturb your lunch, your meeting," said Eppie.
"Oh, you're not disturbing anything," said Tsu. "We were just talking." She grabbed Eppie by the hand and pulled her into Amelia's office. "So how's your paper going?"
"Yes. What does living in a civil society mean to you?"
"Oh right," said Eppie. She shook her head and let out a breath. "Fine. It's going fine."
"Do you need any help?"
Eppie thought for a moment. Did she need any help? She shook her head.
"I don't think so," she said.
"So, what does living in a civil society mean to you?" said Amelia with a playful smirk.
"She said something," thought Eppie. Her shrink wants to know something about her. How should she handle this? What should she say?
"So, you do need help?" said Amelia.
"Now, if Eppie says she's doing fine, she's doing fine," said Tsu. "She's one of my best students."
"Then why did you call her in here?" said Amelia with a shrug.
"Just to see how she's doing," said Tsu. "A teacher interested in one of her best pupils. That's something you can get behind, can't you, Ms.
Amelia made a sarcastic little face at Tsu.
Eppie hated it when adults acted this way around her. It reminded her of her parents before her dad took off. Why couldn't they just act like adults? So it was just an act. So it wasn't real. She didn't mind. Pass the salt, please.
"Well, I'd better be going now," said Eppie planning her escape.
"Wait," said Amelia. "You haven't answered my question."
"Eppie doesn't have to answer your question if she doesn't want to," said Tsu. "Besides it was my question."
"It sounds better when I say it," said Amelia. "So what do you say, kid. What does living in a civil society mean to you?"
(Ag 7) Eppie thought for a moment. Why had she thought that she and Ms. Ablodoglio were so alike? There was little physical resemblance, surely, except around the legs. And personality-wise? Eppie wasn't that mean she hoped. And kid? Nobody had called her that since she was at least a foot shorter. And here was this person, with whom she had no personal or professional relationship, calling her a kid. How should she react?
"It means nothing to me," said Eppie. "And apparently, little to you as well."
Amelia clapped her hands together and let out a whoop.
"She knows you, Amelia," said Tsu. "You'd better watch it."
"She doesn't know me," said Amelia, still smiling from Eppie's answer. "She doesn't even know herself." Then to Eppie. "Hey kid."
"Eppie," said Tsu.
"Eppie? Eppie Touché?"
"Lemieux," said Eppie.
"Well, Ms. Lemieux, how would you like to get in on the ground floor of a brand spanking new movement?"
That sounded like the last thing Eppie wanted to do. She would tell this rude person just that and be done with her.
"What do you mean?" she said.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" said Amelia.
"Why would you want to know that?"
"Oh, Eppie has lots of boyfriends," said Tsu.
Eppie wished Ms. Min would stop making excuses for her.
"No, I don't have any boyfriends as you call them," said Eppie. "In fact, I don't have any friends, boy, girl or otherwise."
"Oh really," said Amelia crossing her arms across her flat stomach and sizing Eppie up like a new hat. "I'll be your friend."
"This woman was too strange," thought Eppie, but responded anyway. "Why would I want to be your friend?" she said.
"Yeah, why would anyone want to be your friend?" said Tsu.
"Oh, but you don't have to," said Amelia. "I said that I would be your friend. If you don't want to be my friend in return, I don't mind."
Amelia smiled like a cat at Eppie. She was very beautful, this Ms. Ablodoglio, with sparkling green eyes and a mischievous mouth with two rows of perfectly white teeth and a moist little tongue the color of cotton candy. How far would she go, this Ms. Ablodoglio? Beautiful women could go far, couldn't they? If you let them. Though Eppie supposed anyone could go far, if you let them.
"Can I call you Amelia?" she said.
"You can call me anything you'd like, my sweet nothing."
"Call her Pooh Bah," said Tsu.
"All right," said Eppie. "You can be my friend if you want. Just don't call me kid."
"All right, my dear, darling Eppie," said Amelia leaning forward with a sweet looking smile on her mischievous lips. "So are we agreed?"
"Well that was easy," said Amelia. "If I was a smoker I'd be puffing away right now."
"But you didn't get anything out of her," said Tsu.
"Sure I did," said Amelia. "She said I could be her friend, that was a big thing for someone like Bippy."
"Whatever. You see, this comes from my years of experience as a counselor. You get so you can figure out what people want pretty quick."
"And what did Eppie want?"
"Why me, of course."
"You think everyone wants you."
"Everyone does want me in one way or another."
"And in what way does Eppie want you?"
"The same way that every young girl wants me," Amelia said with a smile. "She wants to be my friend."
"But she didn't say she wanted to be your friend," said Tsu. "She said that you could be her friend, right?"
"She me, me her. What's the difference? It's all the same. The thing is is that she wants a connection with me. She likes me. She's intrigued by me and everything I stand for."
"But she didn't agree to join your party."
"Later, later," said Amelia.
"As a matter of fact, nobody's agreed to join your party yet."
"Details, technicalities," said Amelia. "As long as they're interested, as long as they're intrigued, they're a part of my party whether they formally declare themselves or not."
"So you don't make them sign a contract in blood anymore?"
"Agh! That's so passé," said Amelia with a wave of her hand. "We scan their brain waves now and store it in our whatevers."
"So you've got two whole people in your party now."
"Plus Kinney," said Amelia brightening up. "When Kinney comes, that's when things really gets started."
"Why not start things with Eppie? She's just as smart as Kinney."
"Agh, that black hole. She'd suck the life out of the brightest light on Broadway. We'll use her to run errands or something."
"And what if Kinney doesn't come."
"How do you know?"
"Because her brother came. And when the brother comes, the sister is soon to follow."
"What if she doesn't like you though?"
"She'll like me," said Amelia with a mischievous curl to her alluring mouth.
"I think I'm beginning to detect a pattern here," said Tsu. "Does this Engagement Party mean that everyone is going to be engaged by you personally?"
"In the beginning maybe," she said.
"And then what?"
"And then they'll be engaged by whatever they're engaged in. Remember, we're the vehicle, not the driver."
"And what makes your vehicle more attractive than all the other vehicles out there?"
"Because my vehicle is just that, a vehicle pure and simple. All the other parties say they're vehicles, but what they really are is a driver pretending to be a vehicle."
"If you will."
"A goal, an idea, a reason for being."
"What's your point, Tsu Tsu?"
"No, what's your point?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what's the point of having a party with no goals, no purpose?"
"Our goal is for everyone to be engaged."
"In anything they want."
"But wouldn't it be better to have them engaged in something positive, like improving the school?"
"If that's what they want, then that's fine."
"I thought that's what you wanted."
"I did. I do. I think. Maybe my goal is changing, I don't know. But the point is for everyone to be engaged."
"So you're like the human potential movement."
"I guess," said Amelia. "If they're motives are as pure as mine, then maybe."
"But what if their potential is to destroy the school?"
"If that's their potential then that's their potential. I don't judge," said Amelia with a shrug.
"And that's your idea of a good thing?"
"Destroying the school is not my idea of a good thing. Having someone who's potential is to destroy the school and then to actually go out and do it is."
Tsu shook her head.
"I think you're insane."
Amelia shook her head also.
"I don't judge."
"Well, maybe you should."
"I don't judge," said Amelia. "Maybe you should be the judge. Maybe that's your potential."
"I'm a teacher, not a judge," said Tsu.
"Well there you have it," said Amelia. "Everybody wants to be a teacher, nobody wants to be a judge. Besides, I'm getting tired of using this word potential. I'm gonna stick with engagement. Maybe a person's potential is not what truly engages a person and if that's the case, then that's fine, too."
"So you're a fantasy party."
"If fantasy truly engages a person then yes, I'm a fantasy party, but only for that particular person."
"You're a liberterian!" cried Tsu.
"Why do you insist on putting these other labels on my party? We may be liberterians, but that misses the point. We're the Engagement Party. We engage."
"You mean you actively engage."
"I'm not sure yet," said Amelia turning away from Tsu. "I wish Kinney would get here. You're no fun to talk to."
Eppie walked towards the park. Her park. Her oasis. Her watering hole. At least in the beginning. It seemed that lately her oasis was causing other camels to dip their fleshy lips into her cooling waters. First Lulu. Then Mavis. And now who was this seated at her favorite bench? It was a girl, (of course), seated alone, (why not?), reading a newspaper and drinking a can of soda. It was her! It was her doppelganger! Should she approach her doppelganger and see what she had to say or just sit back and observe? She decided on the former.
"Hi," said Eppie to her doppelganger.
Her doppelganger looked up from her newspaper. She was pretty, (of course), with an intelligent face and stringy hair, (you can't have everything).
"Hey," said her doppelganger.
"Mind if I sit here?" said Eppie.
Eppie's doppelganger looked around and saw there were other empty benches around. She shrugged. Eppie sat. Her doppelganger looked so much like her that she was surprised she had never noticed her before.
"So, what are you reading?" said Eppie.
"Um, paper," said her doppelganger, not looking up.
Her doppelganger was not much of a talker it seemed. That was OK though. Sometimes Eppie herself didn't feel much like talking, especially if the person trying to talk to her was annoying. She would try to draw her doppelganger out.
"If there's nothing interesting in there, then why are you reading it?" she said, indicating the paper with a slight nod of the head.
Her doppelganger shrugged again and made a little noncommittal noise.
"Is that soda good?" said Eppie smiling and nodding again.
Her doppelganger put down her paper.
"Did you want something?" she said.
"No no," said Eppie smiling affably at her doppelganger. "Just making small talk."
"Hm," said her doppelganger and went back to her paper.
Eppie thought some more. Apparently her doppelganger didn't want to engage her in conversation. That was good though. A sign of intelligence, she supposed. She didn't want her doppelganger to get involved with just anybody. But still, it was her. She meant that if her doppelganger was her doppelganger, then she, Eppie, was her doppelganger's original. And if that were the case then it seemed to Eppie that her doppelganger should be interested in some sort of communication with her. Eppie would try another approach.
"What does living in a civil society mean to you?"
"Nothing," said her doppelganger without a second thought.
"Good answer," thought Eppie. She wondered if her doppelganger wanted to join her and Mavis's Anti-Party, assuming that she and Mavis were still together. Maybe her doppelganger would replace Mavis as her one chosen friend. But would that count? That would be like being friends with yourself, wouldn't it? Where was the fun in that?
Eppie leaned closer to her doppelganger.
"Hey, what's your name?" she said.
"Kinney," said her doppelganger without looking up.
"Good name," thought Eppie. Kinney and Eppie. Eppie and Kinney. Mavis and Kinney. Mavis and Kinney and Eppie and Amelia. Eppie was beginning to accumulate quite a collection of names, it seemed.
"Hey Kinney. You wanna join my party?" said Eppie.
"I don't know. What's your party?" said Kinney without looking up from her paper.
"It's the Anti-Party," she said.
Kinney didn't look up from her paper, but she stopped reading. Eppie could tell.
"What's that?" said Kinney.
"It's a party that says that anything that tries to revolve around you doesn't exist. Sound familiar?"
Eppie sat there smiling at Kinney. This could be the start of something big. Kinney put down her paper and looked at Eppie for the first time. She was pretty. Stringy hair, straight little nose, clear intelligent eyes. Actually, she didn't look at all like Eppie, but Eppie felt close to her nonetheless. She seemed younger than Eppie, too. Eppie would be like her big sister, so Mavis could still count as her one chosen friend. Though there still was the Frackle thing. And Amelia now.
"No," said Kinney and began reading her paper again. "Besides, I'm maybe gonna join another party."
"Oh really?" said Eppie.
"Yeah. Something my brother wanted me to join," said Kinney. "We're supposed to meet that Ms. Ablodoglio about it."
A brother. Eppie didn't know if she wanted a brother.
"You have a brother?"
"Yes," said Kinney.
"What's his name?"
"Wally," thought Eppie. This wasn't working out at all.
"Do you like him?" she asked.
"He's OK, I guess."
"Hm, an OK brother named Wally," thought Eppie. She didn't know if she liked that at all. Eppie got up.
"OK, see ya," she said to the newspaper reading Kinney and exited her park.
(end sp 23, 02)
(bgn sp 24, 02)
"Purity was so hard to find these days," thought Eppie as she walked through the hallways of Schlicter Valley High. Everybody was polluted these days, it seemed. Polluted with people. People pollution. There oughta be a law. A strainer that filtered out the bad people from the people's lives that you wanted to be your friend. Mavis had seemed pure in the beginning. Pure to the point of insanity. Her parents should have been a clue, but you had to come from somewhere. Then came Ms. Frackle. Eppie was unsure about her in the beginning, thought she maybe wanted to hug her, but then when Mavis was with her just now, she seemed different. Maybe Frackle gave her a foundation, a mooring, that made her not quite herself anymore. And that's what Eppie wanted. Mavis herself. And Kinney, her doppelganger, her classmate, whose purity came from her similarity, had a brother problem so huge that all Eppie had to do was hear his name to recognize it. If she hadn't had a brother, if she had been more like Eppie, she would have recognized the Anti-Party for sure. It would have resonated with her inner fibers as surely as Eppie liked waffles.
But enough of that. For here came another problem. A dark hulking figure looming on the horizon. It was one of those Lulu girls and she was fast approaching.
"Hey Barelle," said Eppie with a nonchalant wave of her hand as the looming figure came within striking distance.
"Technita," said the huge girl.
"Oh, that's right," said Eppie. "You're with that skinny girl, right?"
The dark hulking figure stopped cold. Eppie wondered if she should make a run for it.
"No," said the hulking figure.
"No," said the hulking figure, her dark riveting eyes beginning to glisten up with something like tears. "She's with Carlos now."
"Ah, a boyfriend," said Eppie. "Well, see ya."
Eppie began to make her move, but the dark hulking figure grabbed her by the arm.
"Wait," she said. "Can I come with you?"
Now Eppie was the one who stopped cold. Or she was stopped and the blood in her veins turned cold at the touch of the glistening giant.
"You want to come with me?" she said, not looking directly at her captor's horrific face.
Technita nodded, her huge head hung low like a slitted whale.
"I-I saw something," she said, stammering slightly.
"What?" said Eppie, relaxing a little, but still ready to bolt at the first opportunity.
"H-Hands," said the gentle giant. "F-F-Feet." Her lower lip trembling horribly.
"Hands and feet," thought Eppie. "I've got hands and feet. Why does she want to hang out with me?"
"What," she said. "The hands hit you and the feet ran away laughing? Or dancing? Or whatever feet do?"
"N-N-No," said Technita. "They flew."
"Where did they fly?" said Eppie becoming interested. "Wait a minute, were they winged feet?"
"No," said Technita wiping away a whale-sized tear with Eppie's slender arm. "They flew down a hole."
"Oh," said Eppie looking unhappily at her dripping arm. "And you want me to go down this hole?"
Technita slid her massive mitt down to Eppie's soft white hand held it firm. She looked deeply into Eppie's clear skeptical eyes and said, "Would you?" as the blood in Eppie's veins turned to ice and the blood in her cheeks turned to fire.
"I can't eat this," said Roland looking down at the rotting piles of garbage on his plate.
"Just eat what you like," said Annie as she took a bite of Baked Slime.
Roland looked over the contents of his plate.
"I don't think I like any of it," he said making a face.
"Oh really?" said Annie. She took a bite of Roland's Slime. "Well, maybe it is a little dry. Here. Try some of this."
She took a tureen of gray lumpy puke and ladled it onto Roland's meal.
"What's that?" said Roland.
"Ghastly Gravy," said Annie with an encouraging nod. "Very tasty."
She licked a stray drop of gravy from her thumb and smiled at Roland.
"I don't think so," said Roland. "Don't you have any regular food?"
"What do you mean?" said Annie.
"He means," said a sharp angry voice from the other end of the table, "that our food isn't good enough for him, don't you, Ro-Land."
It was Rina. Annie's arch rival and not a very nice person.
"He's just not used to it," said Annie.
"Fine. Then he can starve."
"He can't starve," said Annie sharply, then to Roland. "You've got to eat something, Roland. Here." She took a muffin from off a big plate in the middle of the table and handed it to Roland. "Eat this."
Roland looked skeptically at the muffin. It looked all right, smelled all right. He licked the top. So far, so good. He looked skeptically at Annie who nodded back encouragingly. Roland cleared his throat, then bit off a piece. Not bad. He chewed a few times, still not bad, but then he felt something wet and squishy squirming around inside his mouth. He looked at the rest of the muffin in his hand and quickly spit out the semi-chewed muffin in his mouth.
"What the hell is this?" he cried.
"It's a muffin," said Annie, a little exasperated. "A Maggot Muffin."
Roland quickly attempted to spit out all foreign feeling objects from the inside of his mouth.
"Roland, stop that," whispered Annie.
Rina banged the table with her fist.
"That's it!" she cried. "Get that rhubarb away from my table!"
"He's not a rhubarb," said Annie sharply. "And it's not your table." She patted Roland on the back. "Roland, are you OK?"
Annie handed Roland a glass of water.
"Here, drink this."
"Oh no, I'm not drinking that," said Roland wiping his tongue with a napkin. "I need regular food and regular drink. I'm a person, not a garbage disposal."
"But this is regular food, Roland," said Annie sounding slightly hurt.
"I told you this wouldn't work, Annie," said Rina, twisting her lips into an angry scrawl.
"It will work," said Annie. "He just needs time."
Rina threw up her hands and let an angry hissing sound escape from between her clenched teeth.
"Roland, come on," said Annie softly.
Roland shook his head.
"No," he said. "I can't eat this garbage."
"Garbage!" said Rina loudly to the other people seated around the table. "This coming from a young man who spent his days living in a locker with a bagful of used tampons!"
The others laughed heartily, stuffing their faces with Baked Slime and tossing bits of Maggot Muffin at Roland's head.
"Well, at least I didn't eat the tampon!" shouted back Roland.
The table quieted down.
"Mm, but you would've liked to, wouldn't you," said Rina with a curling smile of her ruby lips. A few titters arose from the assemblage. "Especially if it was attached to one of those tasty cheerleaders you liked hanging out with."
A beefy male seated next to Rina gave her a good natured shove.
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Roland.
"Oh, I'm sure you do, Pillow Boy," said Rina. "But don't worry. You won't be alone for long now that you've got Annie as your tasty new girlfriend."
Rina looked cuttingly at Annie.
"I'm not his girlfriend," said Annie in a low sharp voice.
"Oh really," said Rina, then turning to the beefy male and speaking in a simpering ultra feminine voice, "Oh, Rollie, Rollie, won't you please eat my muffin?"
"All right," said the beefy male (Byron). He took the muffin from Rina's plate, took a bite, then spit it out. "Plagh! Plagh!" he sputtered. "Is this a muffin or a piece of shit?"
"It's my pussy, Rollie. Don't you like it?"
"Plagh! Plagh! I've tasted better pussy on the back end of a deranged wharf rat!"
Rina and Byron howled with delight.
"Shut up, Rina," spat out Annie. "You, too, Byron."
Rina and Byron let out a whoop and continued their mirthful convulsions.
"I'm not Roland's girlfriend. I'm his sponsor and you know that."
"Sponsor!" cried Rina. "This pussy has been brought to you by Annie…"
"That's right," said Annie. "Like you and practically everyone else here has sponsored new people from above."
"Well, sure," said Rina, her eyes flashing. "But we all followed the rules when we brought down our choices, didn't we."
There was a general murmur of assent from the table.
"There wasn't time," said Annie in a low voice.
"There wasn't time," said Rina in a mocking cadence. "And now he needs more time. When is there ever going to be enough time for someone like him, Annie? Or do you want to control that, too."
"I don't want to control time," said Annie darkly. "I don't want to control anything. I had to bring Roland down early because he was going to get hurt." Annie turned to the others at the table. "You all saw that. What could I have done? Let one of our candidates become physically injured by Byron and his gang? If it was your candidate you would have done the same." The others looked on silently, seemingly open to the possibility of Annie's defense. "And what exactly was Byron doing up there to begin with? Was there any discussion about that? Was anyone consulted, even informed? I know I wasn't." Some of the others continued to look openly at Annie, while others looked down at their plates.
"They were there to protect us," said Rina from her end of the table. "You all know what's happening up there. It's getting crazy, dangerous. We have to protect ourselves."
"From what? For what?" said Annie. "I thought our job was to watch. Pure and simple. And whatever happens up there happens. We're not supposed to interfere, right?"
The people seated around the table begin to fidget slightly in their seats.
Rina appeared to calm down, the muscles in her finely-toned limbs seemed to relax, the glint in her bewitching eyes seemed to soften.
"That's right," she said, the slightest of tremors shooting through an otherwise calm and business-like tone. "Annie's right. We're here to watch. Pure and simple. That's our purpose. That's our directive. Maybe Byron and the others shouldn't have gone up. If so, we apologize. Annie, your candidate was brought here under unusual circumstances, we understand that now and welcome him here as all the others. Roland, welcome to your new home. We hope you enjoy your time with us. And now if you'll excuse me."
Rina rose and swept out of the room with Byron in close attendance, the others murmuring seeming words of assent.
"Well, that went well," said Roland to Annie as she watched Rina and Byron exit the dining hall. "She seems like a nice person, don't you think?"
Roland lie in his bed, a gnawing feeling in the pit of his tiny stomach. Things seemed to be going his way now, that Rina and Byron seemed to be warming to him, he had a comfortable bed that he could just lie in if he chose, they didn't make him eat that putrid glop stuff. He would soon die of starvation, of course, but otherwise, things were going well.
There was a knock at his door.
"Enter, if you dare," he said in a mock heroic voice.
It was Annie.
"Hi Roland," she said. "How're you feeling?"
Annie was so nice. She always seemed so concerned about him, had defended him when that Rina girl had seemed so angry. And she had said that she was his sponsor. That must mean something, that she wanted him.Not sexually, but as a person. She had chosen him, above all others, and now she was here.
"OK, I guess," said Roland. "Maybe a little hungry." He patted his stomach. Annie smiled and sat on the edge of his bed.
"Look," she said, "I have a surprise." She held out a package of crackers.
"Wow, Principal Nolo brand crackers," said Roland, taking the package and opening it up.
"Yeah," said Annie laughing. "Some of them fell through when Ilgo pulled you in."
"Great," said Roland stuffing one in his mouth. He held the package out to Annie. "Want one?"
"Oh, OK," said Annie taking one, snapping off a corner and popping it into her mouth.
"How is it?" said Roland, hoping for a positive response.
Annie chewed for awhile.
"Mm, it's OK," she said. "A little dry perhaps. Maybe a little Ghastly Gravy would help."
Roland made a face.
"You know, you'd think that the name alone would clue you in about the culinary merits of that stuff."
Annie shrugged and let out a little laugh.
"You wouldn't have any Cheez Whiz, would you?" said Roland.
Annie shook her head.
"You know, Roland, you put down Ghastly Gravy and then want to spray that orange stuff on your cracker. Maybe if we called it Gravy Whiz and sprayed it out of a can you'd like it better."
"No no, it's more than packaging," said Roland, taking another cracker. "It's the product itself. Cheese in, cheese out. Ghastly in, ghastly out."
"Well, you may have a point there, Roland. But don't worry, I sent Ilgo up above to get some more food for you, so you won't have to worry about that."
"Oh good," said Roland. "And something to drink. My throat's getting a little chalky here."
"Oh," said Annie. She exited the room briefly and returned with a glass of water. "Here."
"Oh no, not this again," said Roland.
"It's just water, Roland."
"Ghastly water," said Roland with a shudder.
Annie shook her head.
"It's the same water you drank up there, Roland. It's good. Look." She took a sip. "See?"
Roland took the glass reluctantly.
"This isn't toilet water, is it? I'm not a cat, you know."
"It's not toilet water, Roland. My God, are you always this picky?"
"Do you have a filtration system?"
"Did you have a filtration system up there?"
"Well, no," said Roland. "But we could've. And we don't use our toilets as a transportation device either."
"Well, neither do we, Roland."
"Oh really? Then why did I see hunka-hunka boy go down the toilet the other night?"
"Really?" said Annie. "That's strange. You actually saw him?"
"Well, not technically. But I saw him with my ears. He went in, flush, then zippo," said Roland. "Do you have bathrooms, by the way? I got the hot tamale down here."
"Yes, I'll show you," said Annie. "But you say that Byron went into a stall, then disappeared?"
"Like a big muscle-bound load of crap," said Roland.
"How do you know he ended up down here?"
"I don't," said Roland. "Maybe he went to the sewer to get your next meal."
"Roland," said Annie, mildly chastizing. "But I'll ask around about the Byron thing."
"Yeah, you do that," said Roland. "But in the meantime, bathroom?"
"Oh right, sorry. Come on. It's down the hall," said Annie, getting up from the bed and exiting the room with Roland in attendance.
"So you say Roland went down here?"
"Yeah. In there. Over there."
Technita pushed Eppie forward towards Principal Nolo's safe. Eppie turned around to face the hulking girl.
"Don't push me, Technita."
Eppie knelt down in front of the safe.
"Do you remember the combination?"
Technita shook her head.
"How did Roland open it?"
"With his fingers. You use your fingers, too."
"I'm not a safecracker, Technita."
"Yes you are. I can tell," said Technita gently pushing Eppie against the safe.
"Don't push me," said Eppie.
"Sorry," said Technita, then gently navigated Eppie's head so her ear lay against the door of the safe and just as gently positioned Eppie's hand on the big twirling knob.
"Do it," she said.
"But I'm not a safecracker," said Eppie.
"Yes you are. Do you want Technita to blow on your fingers?"
"That's OK," said Eppie coming to the realization that the enormous girl wouldn't be changing her mind anytime soon. So she shifted her body a little to get comfortable and slowly began twirling the big metal knob. "What am I doing here?" she thought. "Kneeling on the floor next to an enormous girl, trying to break into the principal's safe?" She would have shook her head right now if it wasn't pressed up against the safe's cold hard door. Was that a click? Eppie stopped and tried to concentrate over the beating of her own heart.
"Blow on your fingers," whispered Technita.
"Shh, shh," whispered Eppie back. She twirled the knob back and forth a few times, wiped the perspiration off her fingertips, then started again. Eppie wasn't exactly sure why she was doing this though. She didn't really have anything against Principal Nolo. She'd heard that he was a scary guy, sure. But what principal wasn't the victim of bad publicity? And those large unblinking eyes and the tiny rabbit-like hands? Eppie didn't want to judge. Maybe he was in a boating accident, his hands got caught in the propeller and his eyes, well, he had been so badly shocked by what was happening to his hands, that they remained stuck in a permanent state of wide-open unblinkingness. It could happen.
Eppie reached her third number, but wasn't sure if she had it.
"Try it," whispered Technita, breathing down Eppie's neck.
"You try it," whispered Eppie.
"No, you try it."
Technita placed Eppie's hand on the safe's cool metal handle and gently tried pushing it down, but it wouldn't go.
Eppie shook her head.
"I can't do this," she said.
"Yes you can. Yes you can," said Technita. "Blow on your fingers like Roland. Like this."
Technita proceeded to blow on her own massive, yet stubby fingers, looking over encouragingly at Eppie.
"Do you want Technita to do it for you?"
Technita began to reach for Eppie's slender fingers, but Eppie pulled them back.
"Uh, that's OK," she said. "I'll do it."
Eppie wiped the perspiration from her fingertips, then looking up at Technita, blew softly. Technita nodded excitedly.
"Yes, that's it," she said. "Now blow on my fingers."
Technita held out her hand for Eppie to blow on, but Eppie declined and lay her head back against the cold steel door. Technita withdrew her hand and blew on her fingers herself.
Eppie thought back to her first attempt. She thought she had a couple of the numbers right, but wasn't sure. She felt it though. Not just in her head, but in the tips of her fingers, too. They buzzed with anticipation as she had slowly spun the large numbered wheel and then a slow cessation of feeling followed by a solid feeling of locking into place. She would listen to her fingers more closely this time. They would tell her what to do. Nothing against her ears, of course, which were helpful as well. They would work together, in fact.
Eppie slowly twirled the dial. What was that that Mavis had said in Ms. Frackle's office? We want you? We want you always? How could that be? How could you want someone always, in all ways, at all times, always and forever? The notion made her head spin. Why would Mavis speak in such terms? Unless she was speaking in hyperbole which Eppie had the feeling she wasn't.
Eppie neared the third number on the dial. She felt she had gotten the first two numbers because her fingers had told her so and her ears had agreed. Now all she needed was the last one and she'd be in. The safe would no longer be safe. At least not from her. But Eppie had to keep her concentration up, the last number was always the hardest. Or at least it was the most dramatic. Eppie slowed her twirling. For if you went all the way round the dial on your last go round, it meant that you blew it and would never know for sure if you had gotten the first two numbers right. You'd never know if you were a safe cracker or not. So slow she went. Slow like the ocean at its deepest regions, light as a feather, clear as a bell, her fingers, her ears, her very breath slowly seeped their way into the deepest secrets of the cold metal box. Slower she went, she felt she was near, then click went her fingers, click went her heart. She had either discovered the combination or she was having a heart attack.
(Ag17) Eppie put her warm moistened hand on the cool metal handle and slowly pressed down. And down it went, smooth and easy. She had done it. Now all she had to do was open it up and she was in. Eppie slowly backed away from the once cool metal door and began to pull.
But then: "You did it!" came a booming voice from above and soon after, two muscular arms came swooping around her thin shoulders, pushing her body back towards the temporarily compliant safe. Eppie saw the door beginning to close again as she continued her Technita-assisted descent, but quick as a flash she stuck her hand into the open crack. Not a smart move in many respects.
"Aghh!" she screamed as the pain from the heavy metal door squeezed the life out of her precious fingertips.
"Get off!" she cried and bracing herself against the bottom frame of the heavy safe, pushed the hulking giant from off her with a deftly leveraged full-body power shove.
"What are you doing? Are you insane?" she whispered sharply to the heavily breathing Technita who lay flat on her back several yards away.
Technita shook the mothballs out of her massive head and propped herself up on her sturdily built elbows.
"Whew! Nice move," she said. "I haven't flown that far since I took a plane to visit my great aunt Myrtle in Baton Rouge."
"Forget it," said Eppie, still a little annoyed and feeling the pain on her poor little fingers. "Let's take a look and get out of here."
Eppie opened the door and looked inside.
"Is this it?" she said.
Technita gamboled up to Eppie's side and peered in.
"Yep, that's the one. Little Rollie's feet went flying through those crackers like a fat man through a candy store."
"Hm," said Eppie. "And you say a pair of hands came through here and got him?"
"Yep. Big hairy hands. Like this."
Technita held up her own two massive hands in a grappling position.
"Hm," said Eppie, clearing away the stacks of crackers and pushing against the inner walls of the safe. "Seems pretty solid."
"Yeah," said Technita. "We must be on the wrong side of the tracks."
Eppie rapped on the metal walls and they still felt solid.
"You said there was some sort of book in here, too?"
"Yeah," said Technita ruffling through the pile of cracker packages. "Here it is." She held up a thin, plain-looking blue bound book. "And look." She pulled out one of the cracker packages and popped open one of the ends. "Blueprints. It's a tube, not a cracker pack. See?" Technita playfully bounced one end of the tube against the top of Eppie's head.
Eppie wished she wouldn't do things like that. Technita seemed to be getting a little too familiar with her for the short time they'd known each other.
"OK," she said. "Let's clean up this mess and get out of here."
"Why?" said Technita holding the book and blueprint tube in one hand and a couple of packs of crackers in the other. "Roland and I left a mess here last night and they seemed to clean it up themselves."
"That was strange," thought Eppie. Why would Principal Nolo leave the book and blueprints in the safe if he had known someone had just been there?
"Well, that was before," said Eppie. "When you're with me we clean up our messes, OK?"
Technita shrugged and began to help Eppie put the pile of cracker packages back when a voice was heard from behind.
(Ag23) "Well, what have we here," it said.
Eppie looked up. It was Principal Nolo with two beefy security guards wearing badges that read No. 1 and No. 2.
"Oh no, it's The Man!" cried Technita and pushed Eppie into the safe where she fell and fell like there was no tomorrow.
"So what do you think?" said Amelia.
"I don't know."
Amelia got up and walked over to where the stringy haired girl sat.
"Oh, you must know," said Amelia. "Are you happy to be here? Are you glad you came?"
"I came because my brother asked me to come," said Kinney.
Amelia felt a little disappointed, but tried not to show it.
"Your brother seems like a nice person," she said. "I've always liked Willy."
"Wally," said Tsu.
"Willy, Wally. He likes me to call him Willy sometimes."
"And she likes him to call her Pooh Bah," said Tsu.
"What do you need me for then?" said Kinney.
"Well first, I do not like him calling me Pooh Bah. And second, we need you because we want you. Do you understand?"
Kinney shook her head.
This wasn't going at all like Amelia had hoped. She wanted Kinney happy, excited, eager to start their new party together. But it seemed that wasn't to be, at least not in the beginning, so Amelia tried another approach.
"Remember what we were talking about in Ms. Min's class the other day?" she said.
"About the Engagement Party?"
"Yes," said Amelia. "About how engagement is everything?"
Kinney shook her head again.
Amelia was becoming increasingly disappointed. If she could only combine Kinney's brain with Willy's tractability. She considered flashing a little thigh, but Kinney didn't seem up for it.
"Remember how you defended me?" she said instead.
"You looked like you were getting beat up pretty bad."
"Oh, I was, I was," said Amelia. "Speaking in front of large groups of people isn't really my thing. As a counselor, I'm used to more of a one on one, you know?"
"But then you came along and helped me out. You gave me the time, no, you gave me the confidence to keep going. Do you understand what I'm saying here?"
Amelia looked expectantly at the stringy haired girl. She didn't know why she liked her so much or why she wanted her to like her in return so much, but she did.
"I helped you like I'm helping my brother now," said Kinney.
"Yes! Yes!" cried Amelia.
"Careful, Pooh Bah," said Tsu.
"You help people. You're a helper. You help me. You help your brother."
"Wally said he'd like the purple dress next time."
"But wouldn't you like to help yourself, too?"
"I don't need any help."
Amelia put her hands together and leaned in closer.
"None?" she said.
"Not that I know of."
"Kinney's a very self contained person," said Tsu.
Amelia thought for a moment, then she had an idea.
"You need help to help your brother, don't you?"
"Well, what do you want me to do then?"
"I want you to join my party."
"The Engagement Party."
"Even though my engagement is for my brother and not for the party."
"Right," said Amelia, though not as confidently this time.
"All right," said Kinney. "I'm in."
"Great!" said Amelia giving Kinney a squeeze. "I know you'll be very happy here."
"Oh, Pooh Bah. Can I let Wally in now?" said Tsu.
"Oh sure," said Amelia. "Let him in. Let 'em all in."
Tsu opened the door and stuck her head into the hallway.
"OK, you can come in now, Wally."
"Oh," said Wally. "How did it go?"
"Oh fine," said Tsu.
"Oh good," said Wally. "Can they come in, too?"
Wally motioned behind him with his bulb-shaped head. Juney and Mavis were standing there.
"I suppose. Let me check," said Tsu. She stuck her head back inside Amelia's office. "You want Juney and Mavis, too?"
"Sure," said Amelia. "What's a Mavis?"
Wally, Juney and Mavis entered.
"Wait a minute. I know you, don't I?"
Amelia eyeballed Mavis up and down her slender frame.
"Sure you do," said Juney. "Mavis came into my office the other day while we were eating lunch, remember?"
"Oh yeah, I remember," said Amelia. "You're the strange one, right?"
"Mavis is not strange," said Juney sharply.
"Whatever," said Amelia. "So are you here to join my party or what? I mean we've been getting so many people lately I don't know if we have the space."
"Oh, I don't join parties," said Juney. "And I think Mavis already has a party, don't you, Mavis."
Mavis stood, her dark eyes wide on the people before her, seeming to waver, but having no place to go.
"Doesn't she talk?" said Amelia. "Or is she one of those people you have to scare to get a peep out of?"
Amelia slowly rose and began to make a move towards Mavis. Mavis took a step back.
"Of course she can talk," said Juney.
"Leave her alone," said Kinney.
Amelia stopped. She went over and leaned against her desk, her arms folded loosely over her flat stomach.
"So what's the name of this party of yours, honey?"
Mavis stood half frozen, wavering back and forth slightly.
"Go ahead, Mavis," said Juney.
"It's the, uh…"
"The what?" said Amelia loudly. "I can't understand her. Can anybody else hear her?"
"It's called the Anti-Party, isn't it, Mavis," said Juney.
Mavis looked down at the floor.
"The Anti-Party!" cried Amelia. "Anti to what? This girl doesn't look like she could stand up to a snowman in July!"
"It was Eppie's idea," mumbled Mavis.
"Who? Eppie? Do I know that name?" said Amelia.
"She was here earlier," said Tsu. "You said you wanted to be her friend."
"That's right, that's right," said Amelia nodding, then zeroed back in on Mavis. "I know her. I know Eppie. What do you think about that?"
She smiled knowingly at Mavis who continued looking down at the floor. When it appeared she wasn't going to get anything more out of her, Amelia turned back to Juney.
"So what are you doing here? You and the Anti-Party here?"
"Oh, we got your flier," said Juney. "Since Mavis is thinking of starting her own party, we thought we'd come here and see how some of the other people were doing it. We thought your flier was funny, didn't we, Mavis."
Mavis continued looking at the floor.
"No," she said, barely audible.
Amelia looked Mavis over again. She had potential. A little quiet, but a lot of them were quiet at this age and there seemed to be something worth pursuing about this one. She went over and stood next to the silent girl.
(Ag25) "You thought my flier was funny?" she whispered in Mavis's ear.
She could almost feel Mavis shrinking into herself. If Amelia would just bend forward the tiniest bit and touch the rim of Mavis's ear with the edge of her ruby lips, she was sure Mavis would die on the spot.
"No," whispered Mavis.
She liked this girl though, liked her next to her like this, liked the quiver of her slender frame, the softness of her dark silky hair. She could do something with this girl all right, not like Kinney, of course, but something that anybody, everybody, would enjoy doing if they only had the chance.
"No?" she cooed wispily. Just a little closer, the slightest touch and the girl would die, she was sure of it. "Well, what if I told you that I wanted it to be funny. That I consider myself to be an amusing person who delights in her ability to tickle the funny bone of the most recalcitrant of persons, what would you say then?"
"Say yes," thought Amelia. "Say yes and I'll make you my servant, I'll make you my slave, my queen, my love, my angel, my pet."
"Leave her alone," said Kinney.
Kinney was talking to her. Should she heed her or not? For what was she, after all, but another student, another irritation. But no, Kinney was special. Amelia had felt it, had wanted her, had gone to great lengths to insure her participation. She could not afford to alienate her at this time. Amelia would bend. After all, there is no shame in compromise if it is in the service of something you really want.
Amelia backed away from Mavis and returned to Kinney's side. "Well, you've come to the right place, my dear Mavis. Have a seat, have a seat and watch how the big girls do it."
Mavis didn't move, but Juney came over, gently guided her over to a chair in the corner and the two of them sat down to watch as Amelia tried creating the beginnings of her party, of how she thought the world ought to be.
"So what's our next move?"
"Well, we've got to get into that safe somehow," said Tami as the two girls walked down the empty hallway.
"After what we did to Principal Nolo should we really go back there?" said Tamika regretting her overly aggressive behavior towards their titular, yet spooky leader.
"We have to go somewhere," said Tami. "I think we softened him up a little. And we said we'd be back, right?"
"Right," said Tamika softly. She didn't really want to go back, but she couldn't let Tami go there alone either. They were friends, after all. They had to support one another. "But what about stall #3?" she added, hoping to dissuade Tami with an alternative plan. "Couldn't we get to Roland through there?"
"I'm not standing in a toilet," said Tami.
"I'll do it."
"No no," said Tami. "We go back to Nolo. We promised."
The plan seemed good to Tami. They had begun a relationship with a key player for the opposing team, the right thing to do would be to follow through. And he seemed like a weak link, too. They could take him. They knew his weakness now. They could exploit it and make him talk.
There was Principal Nolo's office. The two cheerleaders approached.
"We remain firm," said Tami.
"Like little weiners," said Tamika.
"Forget it," said Tami. "Here it is. Let's see what Prince Nolo has to say."
Tami rapped firmly on the solid oak door. Principal Nolo had the only oak door at the school. It used to be made of maple like all the other doors, but Principal Nolo had insisted that it be changed because it projected an image of strength. And not just one of general strength, but of specific, personal, heritage-inducing strength. For "The Oak" was Principal Nolo's nickname in high school. He had told this to the assembled masses at the annual Student-Principal rally at the beginning of the year. Joe "The Oak" Nolo: star quarterback, student body president, male model, returned to the site of his former glory to bestow upon his little acorns that self-same glory. They would all be like him someday, bursting through their little shells, sinking their roots into the rich dark earth, pushing their heads through the fertile soil, up up into the brisk morning air, rising tall, strong, muscular, above all the rest. Oaks. Nolo's Oaks. Joe's Oaks. In fact, he wanted to change the name of their sports teams from the Emus to the Oaks. Emus were funny-looking birds, he had said. No wonder Schlicter Valley was looked down on. But oaks were mighty. Mighty Oaks. If they would change their name and their attitudes from the Schlicter Valley Emus to the Schlicter Valley Oaks, he was sure they could turn things around.
Tami and Tamika could hear the rustling of papers inside Principal Nolo's office.
"He's not in. Let's go," said Tamika.
"He's there," said Tami, knocking again, but there was still no answer.
"I'm going in," said Tami.
"Are you sure?" said Tamika. "Maybe he's busy. Maybe we should come back later."
"No," said Tami. "Our time is valuable, too. We come all the way out here like we said we would, just to get stiffed by the warrantless neglect of an uncaring potentate. I don't think so."
Tami opened the big oak door a little and stuck her head inside.
"What do you see?" whispered Tamika. "Is he busy?"
"No," whispered the back of Tami's head.
"What's that noise then?"
"Technita's making that noise?"
"Is Principal Nolo in there?"
"I don't see him. Let's go inside."
Tamika stuck her head through the opening crack just below Tami.
"I don't know," she whispered. "She looks busy. Maybe we should come back."
Tami gave her friend an I-don't-think-so look, then she, then Tamika, withdrew their respective heads from the office and Tami pushed open the big oak door and the two of them entered.
"Technita, what are you doing?" said Tami.
Technita was sitting at Principal Nolo's desk, hunched over piles of paperwork. She would take a piece of paper from one pile, look it over, shake her head, write something down in some ledger-type book, put the piece of paper in another pile, then repeat the process.
"She looks busy," whispered Tamika. "We'd better come back."
"No. We're not coming back," said Tami. "We're already here. Why come back when we're already here?" She pushed Technita's shoulder. "Technita. Technita, snap out of it!"
Technita shook her massive head without looking up and waved Tami away. She took another piece of paper from the first pile, looked it over, looked it over again, then leaned back in her big oak chair and sighed.
"She really, really looks busy," said Tamika in a low voice. "We'd better come back."
"We are not coming back," said Tami sharply. She grabbed Technita by a massive shoulder and began shaking vigorously.
"Technita! Technita! Snap out of it, damn it! What the hell are you doing? Stop it! Stop it, I say!"
Technita looked up at Tami and frowned.
"I'm really quite busy here, girls. Why don't you run along and comb out your pom-poms or something."
"Busy!" cried Tami with disgust. "Give me one of those." She grabbed the paper from Technita's hand and began reading.
"Your really not supposed to look at those," said Technita.
"What is it?" said Tamika, coming to look over Tami's shoulder.
"I could report you, you know," said Technita.
"They look like attendance records," said Tami.
"What's Technita doing with attendance records?" said Tamika.
"Technita, as you so blithely call her, is recording the records in the ledger and then she will enter them into the computer," said Technita.
"Why doesn't she just enter them straight into the computer?" said Tamika.
"She doesn't do that because that's not the way it's done," said Technita. "Now if you'll excuse me." Technita snatched back the paper and began entering more figures into the ledger.
"Why is she doing it at all?" said Tami.
"She's doing it at all," said Technita with weary patience, "because she is an integral part of the Principal Nolo Fighting Acorn Brigade."
"But these records are from 1912!" cried Tami.
"All the more reason," said Technita.
"Look at the dust on these papers!" Tami smacked a pile of papers raising a cloud of dust. "Nobody's touched these in years!"
"All the more reason," said Technita in her new business-like tone.
"You're being punished," said Tami.
"I'm being integrated," said Technita.
"Look," said Tamika. She pointed to a shackle clamped tightly around Technita's right ankle and linked to an iron ring that was bolted to the floor.
"Slave labor," said Tami.
"Willing participant," said Technita shaking her head and entering another figure. "And the funny thing is is that we're doing this all for you and you girls don't appreciate it."
"Appreciate what?" cried Tami.
"Appreciate that attendance is the key to a proper education," said Technita. "If you're not there in body, then you're not there in mind."
"But you're here in body and you're out of your mind. How do you explain that?" said Tami.
Technita shook her massive head and sighed.
"I wouldn't expect you to understand."
"But why from 1912?" said Tamika.
"Because, my dear child, many generations of East Schlicterians have attended this school, some more successfully than others. So we therefore enter the attendance records of each student, match up the current students by heredity and/or other distinguishing characteristics and can therefore identify those of you more likely to fail and take appropriate action. Now if you'll excuse me."
"That makes sense," said Tamika.
"If you lived in a police state," said Tami. "Technita, are you living in a police state?"
"I'm just a cog in the machine, little cheerleader," said Technita. "And if you were smart, you'd be, too."
"I'm a person, not a cog," said Tami.
"The machine is people, too," said Technita. "The machine is people and the machine is greater than any individual person would be on his or her own. The sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be."
"Then why are you in chains?" said Tami.
"I'm not," said Technita. She took a key out of a desk drawer and unlocked the shackle from her ankle. "See? Like Betsy Ross after the Revolution. Now if you'll excuse me." She snapped the shackle back in place and returned to her pile.
"What should we do?" whispered Tamika. "Should we slap her?"
"Slap me all you want," said Technita. "There's plenty more where I came from."
Tami and Tamika watched as Technita continued to pour over the dusty stacks of papers, taking one up, shaking her head, entering numbers into the ledger, then going on to the next.
"But they're not our friend," said Tami.
Technita stopped for an instant, not looking up or down, as if waiting for Tami to say something more.
"Well, they're not my friends either," said Technita.
"Then come with us," pleaded Tamika, gently tugging on Technita's massive arm. "We're your friends. We love you for who you are, not for what you can do for us. Technita…"
But Technita remained unmoved, though her jaw may have trembled slightly for the briefest of moments.
"No," she said. "I like it here. I like being part of something bigger than myself. I'm not like you. I can't blend in easily with others. I'll always stick out, always be different. Here, I belong. I may not be liked for myself, but I'm liked for what I do and that's fine with me. That's fine with me."
Tami and Tamika were a little stunned by Technita's explanation. Though they had known her for only a little while, they felt they knew her, they knew they liked her and though what she said might be partially true, they felt it wasn't totally true and that their briefly former friend would be better off with them back in the real world, despite all its flaws.
"What should we do?" whispered Tamika to Tami. "Should we call the Board of Ed?"
"Machine, machine," said Technita.
"Should we force her?"
"We can't force her," said Tami. "She's made her choice."
"That's right," said Technita as she entered another number. "Besides, you don't have the key."
"Well, can you at least tell us how to get to Roland," said Tami.
"Can't do it," said Technita.
"Don't know how."
"But you're part of them now, aren't you? Can't you ask one of the other acorns how to get down there?"
"Too busy, too soon. Maybe later."
"Is Roland one of you now, too?" said Tamika in a whisper.
"Don't know. Could be. Maybe the girl, too."
Tami and Tamika looked at one another.
"What girl?" said Tami.
"That new girl. That East Nareen girl."
"She's down there, too?"
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"Means I don't know. If I knew I'd tell you. Don't know. Can't tell you."
"But if you knew you'd tell us," said Tami.
Technita shook her head.
"You're asking too many questions. You'd better go now."
"Come on. Let's go," said Tamika, gently tugging at her friend's arm. "Technita said she'd help us get down to Roland later. Maybe we can help the other girl then, too."
"I don’t know," said Tami, but she let herself be led out as Technita continued on with her newly assigned recordkeeping duties.
(end sp 24, 02)
1) The dates in parentheses throughout WTH show when each part
was written. Most of the 2002 dates show when writing began or ended
for the date indicated. The 2002 date next to the title is a begin date.
All 1999 dates are begin dates. The dates without years are 1999 dates
from the original 1999 draft. The content indicated by the 1999 dates
has been revised by the 2002 draft.
2) Wendy, Connie and Tiki are the same character. Miguel and Carlos are
the same character. I was trying out different names.
3) Typos, etc. have not been corrected.
4) The 1999 draft was based from memory from notes written
sometime between 1987 and 1990 that were lost in Chicago while
fleeing across the country in the summer of 1990. For background,
see Joseph Yanny letter.
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