The Rise of Pleaty Jackson: The Bytening Thief
The Rise of Pleaty Jackson: The Bytening Thief
By Superfolder Hades
You Think Your Book Reports are Bad? Psh! Mine Got Me Expelled!
Look, I didn’t want to be caught up in the mess, I didn’t ask to be a hero, basking in the adulation of my companions, and such. Life like this is nasty, it’s scary, it might even get me expelled… again!
But the gods are real, well, figuratively speaking, I’m talking Zeus, Apollo, all them, like the ones you learned about in seventh grade, but you never really paid attention to them. Well, good news, they don’t pay attention to you either!
Y’know, I always had an inkling that they’d exist, but not like this.
So when you read the story before you, I envy you for being able to believe none of it ever happened, but if you see yourself in these pages, leave. Power off whatever device you’re reading this on and go outside, cause folks will call you crazy and then they’ll come for you. You have been warned. Or you can stick around, learn from me, this ain’t the Odyssey or something, no, this is the story of how I got expelled.
“So Luke killed Chronos a-and yeah, uh, suicide. And that’s like Chronos’ only weakness. Dying! So that’s the end.” I said, sitting in the principal office. He put his fingers to his temples as if he had a headache, why? I had no clue.
“The end of what?” He asked.
“My book report, I’m pretty sure I knocked it out of the park.” I told him, cheerfully.
“Your book report is why you’re here.”
I heard screams come from outside of the door. I turned around, and saw two students running and screaming in terror as snakes bit at their hair.
“Ooohhh, that’s where the backup snakes were.” I said. The principal pulled out a firecracker from under his desk. “And what were you going to do with this?” He asked.
“Oh, that’s for the act three closer.”
“Mac,” my Mother began, sitting next to me and placing her hand on my leg, “I love your creativity but it’s getting out of hand. Do you remember the last three times you were in the principal’s office?”
I thought back to the last three days, the school play where I was Romeo and went a little too in character with the poison, the time I made a statue of Arachne… with a real spider body, and when I got the fastest time on my (male) gymnastics team, they applauded me. I decided to show them something that was really impressive, such as uncovering my eyes and revealing my eyelids.
My Mother snapped her fingers.
“Listen, Macky… We love you for expressing yourself, but you need to learn to separate fantasy from reality.”
“Don’t worry Ma, I won’t let you down. No more… uniqueness.”
The firecracker exploded in the trash can that the principal threw it into.
“That doesn’t count, right?” I asked.
Spoilers: It did count.
The next few days I had almost no motivation, until I heard that a new school had accepted me, but it’s relatively far away. I’m talking just outside of the county, meaning I have to move… which sucks, alot.
Goodbye, Madison County. Goodbye, Goodman Middle. Hello, Athens Middle School, tagline: Think Inside The Box!
I sat there in my mom’s S10 truck, waiting at the bus stop, wearing my orange school T-Shirt with a big eagle on it. “Macky,” My mother began from the driver’s seat, “Now, don’t worry. Only one month and it’ll be Christmas Break! You’ll be so busy balancing checkbooks and learning to appreciate public radio, the time will fly by!” She said cheerfully.
“But I don’t like any of that stuff.” I replied. “I like editing anime clips to music and reading fantasy books with convoluted backstories.”
“Mijo, your fantasy world is holding you back. Do you have any friends? Real ones, not imagined or drawn or… half-animal?”
“I have some on Discord!”
“That’s not what I meant.” She looked like she had more to say but she was interrupted by the loud screech of the bus stopping. “Cuídate mucho, mijo. ¡Qué te vaya bien!” She shouted just before I got on the bus.
I stepped onto the bus and exhaled. New school, new kid, new life, I thought. Immediately, all eyes directed towards me and I instantly knew what type of district this was. This was a small one, everyone knew everyone. Strangers rarely made it around here… I sat down alone, but eventually, a kid peered around, looking at the dozens of empty seats. But when he saw me, he sat down next to me. His hair was a brittle shade of brown and his skin was deeply tanned. What seemed to ruin things was his limp and the deep, thick, bags under his eyes. His mouth had frown wrinkles but at the moment a mischievous smile was on his face. I worried that he’d try to strike up a conversation, but he began to talk to the other students at the table, some being tall enough to comfortably rest their arms on the seat. A backpack slid from underneath the seat, covered in floor dirt. He grinned.
He pulled out a ring and a trophy and, mumbling, addressed them as garbage, but when he saw bobbling eye glasses he gasped in awe. “THIS WILL MAKE ME RICH!” He shouted. He turned towards me and extended his hand, “Oh, hiya, you must be new. What’s your name?” He asked.
“Mac Astley.” I said, “What’s yours?”
“Stop. I don’t do names. Stop attachments, my life’s dangerous. Eh… uh, you can call me… Seb. Just Seb.”
Slowly but surely, all the students were picked up, revealing just how small this school was. About a dozen seats were still completely empty. “So uh, you seem like a nice enough guy.” I told him, “Do you want to help me with this whole transition-into-a-new-environment thing?”
“Well, here’s the deal Mac, I’m not exactly the type to make friends. I have enemies in all the wrong places, and I’m sensing you’re kind of a Dirt Bucket. I predict that this relationship would make it to say… December .”
“That’ll do. So uh, do these busses have seat belts or-”
“Y’know what? I can already tell you’re a pappy little spit crap.”
When the bus screeched to a halt, Seb put on sunglasses and walked away. The amount of orange pained my eyes, I was never the biggest fan of the color.
Posters covered the walls, advertising something known as “FunTime” with random historical images of Alexander the Great and George Washington. I guessed it was a history program but the fine print of each poster read, “EduFun,” same as almost everything in the school. I’m talking about the lockers, the chairs, and even the band instruments.
All products of EduFun, owned by Athens Middle School. I learned that there was a strange partnership between this school and EduFun, they dominated almost every program, and practically the school. I had no clue what EduFun was, or FunTime, but judging by the posters all around the school like,”Get ready for Fun Time with FunTime!!!!” They’re probably really, really, bad.
A teacher caught me snooping around the place, poking me on the back. She was a tall lady and her glasses seemed to magnify her eyes and her fuzzy brown hair made her look like a younger version of Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter. She smiled fakely, “Oh hi, you must be Mac Astley!” She said, “We’ve been expecting you!”
“You’ve been wh-“
“It’s your first day, so you’re not in trouble, but before the first period begins students are to report to either the Homework room, the gymnasium, or the library.” She said, still smiling.
I made my way to the library, she followed, it turns out that she is Mrs. Strohm, the librarian. Makes sense. The moment I entered the library the first sight was complete and utter pandemonium.
Students trotted around with Origami finger puppets. To any other person, that would seem like something strange. Insane, maybe? But you, reader, you make me think otherwise.
“Cower in fear over the Minatore!” Someone shouted, as he whipped out an origami puppet that looked vaguely like a bull.
“Nah homie, Pleateus gon’ stop you.” Another kid said, pulling out an origami hero in a greek chiton. I decided life was best lived on the floor, leaning your back on the bookshelf.
I heard a voice murmur to itself, jolting me out of my book “C’mon, you got this. You can do it!”
A Mysterious voice of encouragement? No, it was a frail little boy, looking the bookshelf up and down. “C’mon, even if you get a bad grade, it’s not a reflection of you as a student. And my parents are right. There are better opportunities on this track. Now, get to studying.” Someone bumped into him, a girl. She was beautiful, honestly. But there was something in her eyes, a silverish blue of sadness and despair. Their boldness gives contrast to her pale skin, and thin pink lips, made into a small smirk. Her cinnamon hair went down to her shoulders, perfectly combed, the occasional strand or two going over her face.
She smirked at the kid.
“Dennis!” She exclaimed,”Wow. You’re so unnoticeable I almost bumped into you.” She chuckled for a half of a second.
“Hi, Ximena.” Dennis replied, meekly.
“Wow, Dennis, shouldn’t you get to class early to prepare your whole… thing? Oh, wait, Dennis. You don’t have anything to show for your project, do you?” Ximena sighed, “This is why people call you so worthless.
He pulled out a small gold star sticker and placed it on his chest. “Hey, at least Mr. Wiligens gave me the gold star in the nature preservation club!” Ximena looked at the star, then at her own, admittedly, much better gold star. “Aw. It’s like mine. But much smaller, and meaningless. As top student, it’s my duty to tell you to keep at it. Even you could get a passing grade someday.” The bell rang, “See you in class, superstar!” Ximena said, skipping off to class. He began to walk away, glumly.
“Hey man,” I began, running up to him, “You really shouldn’t let people do crap like that.”
“I-I know, but she’s the daughter of the librarian and she can pull strings a-and then she’d-” I lightly slapped him, “Stand tall, idiot, have some respect for yourself. Y’know, if you let people walk over you now, they’ll be walking over you for the rest of your ding dang life. Look at me! Do you think I’ll be spending the rest of my life in this slophouse school? No sir. Dude! One day, I’m gonna be somebody!”
“L-look sir,” Dennis began, “I hate to tell you this but I gotta go disappoint my teacher.”
I had no clue why, but I took an odd liking to this young Dennis individual. I’ve known him for exactly thirty minutes so far and I feel like I could take a bullet for him.
I am Sent to the Principal’s Office over a Balloon
The gold stars should’ve been a dead giveaway. While being technically a Middle School, Athens was very much a Primary School.
The halls were color coded, people! It was so incredibly boring. I needed something wacky and/or dramatic to happen, but what? Then it hit me. A prank. A prank on Ximena Strohm, because, man, I was starting to not like this girl.
When I saw Dennis during lunch I ran up to him, and I sat down right next to him. “What?” He asked, with no more than a twinge of annoyance in his voice, “Look, man, you really gotta stand up for yourself.” I said, “and I know just the way.” He awkwardly looked down, and peered at his notebook. He began to write. “Say uh, what are you writing?” I asked.
“Stories.” He said, his hands shaking, “True stories about this school. About these kids with origami finger puppets of those gr-Greek gods.” He said, his voice stuttering.
“Man, get out of town! I had no clue you did anything creative!” I extended my hand, “Here, let me read some.”
He put his hand on his notebook and pulled it away, “No, no, no, I never let anyone read my stories.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Well what if no one likes them? What if they tell me I was no good? I guess it would be pretty hard for someone to understand.”
I thought back to all the times people had told me I was no good. Bobbie Nancifit, Mrs. Doddly, heck, every teacher I’ve ever had. I understood.
“Uh no, not at all.” I said, lying. I cleared my throat. Something came up to me, out of the top of my head. I pointed at Seb, he was selling some random stuff, and then I realized what he was selling, and how much money he was garnering. Get this. He had that embroidered Hostess bookbag, and was pulling things out of it, random snacks. I told Dennis to get up and follow me, together we walked up to Seb.
“What are we doing here?” He asked, kind if nervous, his eyes always glancing at Seb.
“Take a look. Seb here has some gosh dang delectable snacks.”
“Yes, I- I- I can see that. So what?”
“One: I want you to witness me getting away with breaking school policy, so you can man up and realize that no one gives a monkey’s bottom. Two: I could really go for a Twinkie.” I handed Seb my cash, and without saying a word, he handed me a Sno-ball. “Give me a twinkie.” He showed me the contents of his bag. It was simply pure money. And, of course, Sno-balls. I handed Dennis my Sno-Ball, “I hate Sno-Balls.” I told him.
“Personally, I- I like them.” He said.
“I hate the coconut part, not really the taste of it but the consistency.”
“I like coconuts.”
I smacked his sno-ball out of his hands. “No.”
We sat back down. “So, now that you know no one cares about school policy, what’s your real problem?”
He shivered. “I’ve always had a chronic case of anxiety, I guess. I mean, I used to put myself out there, but that… doesn’t work out so well. So, I stopped. No one you love gets hurt if you don’t love anybody.”
In response to his melodrama, I pulled out a small rubber balloon. I extended my hand, “You never did catch my name, actually. Name’s Mac.’
He reluctantly shook it. “Dennis. So, what’s the plan?”
The plan was simple: I blow up the balloon, return my library book, smash the balloon. Her being the library helper would be right in front of me and most spooked by it, I’d throw the popped balloon at her and get her in trouble for it.
And I did exactly that. On Monday, eight thirty two AM, I asked to be excused from class to return my book. I tried my best to time it perfectly, so that she’d be in the library helping students check out books. As I hummed the Mission Impossible theme, I contemplated the morality of this. Hey, I thought, a soul for a soul, after this, all will be forgiven.
But as you might be thinking, that’s not how people work.
Now, after the situation with the balloon, I’ve had time to reflect. I actually feel kind of bad for Ximena, because she seemed actually struck with fear, I’m talking panic attack levels, nearly passing out.
The principal appeared in the room, claiming to have heard a loud pop from his office, “Mr. Astley, it’s your first day and you’re already causing trouble. I’ve just about had it with… your type. Now will you please tell me what is going on?”
I stayed silent.
She actually growled, dragging me by the arm and hauling me off to the office.
After she cooled down, and we sat in awkward silence, she finally spoke.“Please tell me you at least understand why you’re here,” She groaned while I was in his office.
“I do,” I stated, mildly.
Mrs. Kemp groaned once again. She put her fingers to her temples, like she had a headache. I’d seen that move a hundred times, probably; it signaled to the kid that the adult was smarter, wiser, that she knew better than all of us, and that the bad student was not worth their time and every second spent with them was Tartarus. Like I said, I’d seen it a hundred times; it didn’t phase me. I’ve always had a way of just knowing if a person is good or bad. Behind her eyes I saw that there was a resemblance of a good person, kind soft eyes that seemed to be forcing anger. I had a hard time reading her. That’s never a good sign.
“Now, what is this all about Mac?” She asked, “As hard as it may be to believe, I heard something about you. From one of the principals of a much older school. I heard that you might be… an issue. You’re not in trouble at all, I just want to know, why?” I asked her the better question. “Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking, what’s with all the Origami Myth puppets? They seem to be everywhere.”
“Well Mac, have you heard of the OrigOlympians?”
“Only in passing.”
“Well, kid, It was like a rollercoaster. Just a lot of ups and downs, I assume you know how kinetic and potential energy works already. The highest potential energy at the top point, the highest kinetic at the bottom, it was like that. Really, the school hasn’t changed all that much since its founding. No fundamental change has occurred. I can still remember a time when things would change left and right, but that was before the first incident. And later, the second incident.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Are you familiar with the Origameme?”
“Origami? As in folding paper? I mean, my classmates seem to participate in that–”
“No, I mean the Origameme. The concept. A meme is something that passes through non-biological means. The Origameme is something akin to mass hysteria. The concept that really just kick-started this whole finger puppet shebang. It started at this school out in Madison, in the forties. My parents left the district to try to get me out of there, but I had already gotten a puppet. Zeusigami. And my Mother encouraged me to start anew. Before I knew it, origami had spread. We had formed a new pantheon, yet it really started to grow around the twenty tens, heck, there’s been instances in California, Virginia, Massachusetts. I am the founder of The OrigOlympians, we’d constantly butt heads with each other. I’d say it was around 1991 to 1994…
As an adult, I came back to this school and worked my way up to where I am now. This filing cabinet,” she put her hand on, what else? The filing cabinet, “was here to greet me, full of all this stuff that, well, couldn’t be saved on, per say, a google drive. I tried to back it all up, but failed, now there’s a pen drive out there with tons of information that will never be found or go to use.
Can you believe that our old principal made it official? This was like our student council, then suddenly some things came, some things went away, and now here I am.”
She pulled out a folder covered in stickers of bands and musicians like Queen, Elton John, Billy Joel, etc.
“I have a question, why is there no current OrigOlympians group?”
“I never gave my puppet to anyone else. I saw myself as the queen and didn’t see anyone else fit to take on that role. Two people came close, Arthena and OrigAres. Ximena Strohm- the Mother and namesake of the one you’ve already met- and Alec Monroe. OrigAres. And of course, there was… Charles.”
“What about this Charles person?”
“Whole thing in our childhood, I don’t think much of it, he’s a manager at the local Qwikpick these days.”
“Qwikpick?” I asked, unknowing of the meaning of this strange and fascinating word.
“Yeah, the Qwikpick. It’s an odd place, a store where… mysterious objects can be bought… or sold.” She said that last part raising her eyebrow ever so slightly. “Well, to be a good principal, I do technically have to give you detention.” She said, putting the file back in her cabinet and pulling out a detention slip. “But, since it’s your first day, I don’t think I’ll be calling your mother.” She winked at me. I swear, I can’t read her.
“Oh is this him?” A voice asked, casually, from the door. Leaning on the doorframe was a tall man, the only way I can describe his posture was as aerodynamic, he twirled a fork around in his finger, likely because he had just returned from his lunch break.
“Yes, Coach, it is.”
I am Aggressively Invited to Swim
By Mac Astley
The Detention Room was empty, except for me and this new teacher. He seemed oddly happy to be there. He told me about his life, he invited me to the swim team.
Why Mac, I hear you asking, Why did you sign up for swimming? Because, dear reader, the anime video game of course!
Now, growing up, I always had an interest in the game Persona Three, the premise was simple. You fight demons in tartarus. But you’re an average high schooler by day, so when the game asked me if I wanted to join swimming I thought, “Huh, I got time, ” and so when Coach handed me the pamphlet I thought, “Huh, I got time.”
I, Mac F. Astley, hereby state that I made the Middle School Varsity Swim League on my first day of school, at age twelve.
No, not because I was a great swimmer, or a good swimmer for that matter, but because our school was so small the Varsity League was literally anyone who showed interest.
Thankfully, the first meet up was just a meeting. Coach had prepared a short PowerPoint presentation for us to help teach some helpful swim vocab.
Swim meet: That’s when you meet up and kind of compete against other schools.
Time card: a short little piece of paper that tells you your time, almost as if it is a time card of something.
Block: One of those step stool looking thingies you jump off of.
So that was fun, on my way out I mozied into the QuizBowl classroom, I saw Ximena walk out.
“Hey, I- I’m sorry.” I said, she turned her head quickly, “Look, just leave me alone okay? I’m sorry for messing with Dennis, it was wrong, I was having a pretty rough day, my Mom was giving me a lot of slack. So please, don’t make it worse.”
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” I said.
“Mac Astley. That is the dumbest statement I ever heard. You made me look like a fool in front of the entire library, in front of my Mother, do you know what could happen? She’d say stuff about me ending up like my Dad. She said she’d save me a spot as the future librarian when I graduate, but if I keep screwing up like this, that’s- that’s my future, Astley. Understood?”
“Yeah, just- I’m just saying sorry.” I glumly replied.
“Yes, yes you are.” And with that, my day ended. Momma asked me how my day was, I told her it was simply fine.
Not like I got detention on my first or anything.
When I arrived home I realized I needed something big. Something to stand in and stand out at the same time. I needed a puppet, Dennis did too. And I knew just the character, I even knew where I’d get the materials.
Tomorrow it’s time to give Qwikpick a visit.
Seb’s Conversations Are Always Interesting
By Mac Astley
Waiting for the bus stop was always an annoyance. You see, my backpack has a tendency to absorb all the things in a three mile radius leading to an increase in mass.
After I got on, I engaged in the typical conversation with Seb. Oddly enough, he seemed entranced at the concept, seeing it’s similarities to our school. I asked him why he didn’t have a puppet, he said he did, but he declined to share more information. He asked me to read, and I did so. The scene made me feel guilty. It was the climax of the Last Olympian when Percy forgives Luke. Slowly, I got sucked in, getting into character. As I read I seemed to be a part of the world.
“Mac, you’re getting all… swoony, is that the word?” Seb noted.
“Dude, I can’t help it. Percy is able to befriend everyone. Even his biggest rival. I wish I had that kind of power.”
“Rivals are meant to be annihilated, not befriended. Now keep reading. I’ve been sucked into your awful fandom.” I continued reading, eventually getting to the point where Percy and Co. were rewarded, a voice from behind the seat asked Seb, “Hey, M-“, he began.
“There’s no need for that.” Seb noted.
“I have your gift.”
“The book has come to life! Burn it!” Seb shouted, shocked at the magnitude of the concept of gift giving.
“It looks like you have a gift.” I said, pulling out a small bag labelled “Hostess” that however was behind us had slid over.
“Probably an offering.” Seb noted. The kid behind us grunted, and when I looked back there was no one there.
“So what’s up with that whole thing?” I asked.
“Oh nothing much, just making thirteen kay.”
“On a twinkies bag?”
“Can I help you out?” I asked, I needed some spare cash to buy my supplies, given that my Mom took away all my fancy art supplies.”
“Oh no, no, no, no, no, my sweet dear friend, I have a more important job for you, one that is far more rewarding.”
“Yes, you must return my library books. It will change your life as you know it.”
I scoffed, “Alright, I wouldn’t go that far but because I’m a good friend I will return your books.”
“Yes, you will.”
I made sure to avoid the hours that Ximena was in there, AKA the one day anniversary of the prank.
“Late.” Mrs. Strohm said at the front.
“Huh?” I asked, bewildered.
“Oh wait, these are Sebas’, I’ll put it on his tab.” She said, flaring at the blood, coffee, and grass stains. “By the way,’ she noted, “the library will be closed tomorrow for the Panarthenaea Festival.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Mr. Astley, you are in a library. Read a book.”
“I am in a library.” I decided.”I will read a book!” I said that last part a bit too loudly.
“Shh.” Mrs. Strohm quickly said.
After tons of searching, I found nothing, and just as I realized that this would probably be in a yearbook, given that it is a school event, I heard the voice of Ximena ask, “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been caught.” I said, pretending to be a book. Wait, I realized, because she wasn’t talking to me, no, she was reading. Reading to the actual Primary School students. She looked so happy.
“The sun did not shine; it was too wet to play; so we sat in the house; all that cold, cold, wet day.” She continued to the little children from a very comfy looking red chair.
Ximena, reading to kids? Impossible.
She seems so nice and- and smiley! Maybe I could befriend her like Percy Jackson befriended his rivals. The little kids ran off, and out the door, onto their buses to be sent back to their school. Then she saw me.
“Ugh. You.” She simply noted.
“Ximena… Whoop. Reading to kids. Wow. Looks like this sour lemon drop has a hidden sweet center.”
“It’s for extra credit, don’t get your leggings in a bunch.”
“Hey, I could help with the kids. We could take turns reading. And do voices. I do the best monster voice.” I said monster voice in the previously mentioned monster voice.
“Astley, do you see me going and bugging you while you… Okay, I don’t really know what you do , but every time you come near me, I get in trouble. Just leave me alone.”
“I’m sorry. I-I’m sorry.” So much for befriending rivals.
Then I heard a voice behind me ask, “You gonna let her get to you like that?” I saw two tall people, probably eighth graders- or just really tall- one a boy and the other a girl. They made the school uniform look cool.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Well‐wishers on a mission.” The guy said.
“A noble quest.” The girl added.
“Watch this.” The guy said,”Hey, Muffet!” He shouted at Ximena . “Mom says stop forgetting your lunch. And stop being a jerk to your friend.”
“He is not my friend.” Ximena replied, annoyed at her… siblings?
“Yeah, makes sense. She seems too cool for you.” The girl said.
“I am?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“You can leave now. All of you.” Ximena said.
The girl chuckled, I did the same, but I had no clue what was so funny.
“So, you’re the guy we’ve heard so much about.” The guy said.
“I’m Xena,” the girl said, “and this is Xander. We’re Ximena’s older siblings. We heard how you embarrassed her yesterday. No wonder she hates you.”
“I know. But I didn’t mean any of it. I thought we were as cool as cucumbers. But we’re as sour as pickles.” I said.
“Don’t waste your time with Muffet. Me and Xan, we’re way more fun. Follow us!”
A student walked to the fiction section, but me, Xina, and Xander had changed the signs, this was the non-fiction section. Nyehehehe. So evil The student gasped. “Fiction?” She asked. dumbfounded. “B-but this is for NON-fiction, not… Fiction. Is our world but fiction? Then what in my life is real anymore?” She began to sob. “WHAT IS REAL?” Then she looked at the books on the shelf. “Oh, it appears they just changed the sign.” She deduced, and finally walked away.
Then the bell rang. “Oh sorry guys, I-I gotta go to class.” I said.
“Or, you could, I don’t know, not. We have one last thing we need to do.” They walked up to their Mother. “Ho mother can we wend checketh out thy cubiculo bef’re class starts?” Xander asked his mother, calmly. “I seeth not wherefore not.” Mrs. Strohm replied. She ushered us into the backroom, there were four desks, one labeled “For Da Mom” the others labeled with “Xander”, “Xina”, and “The Favorite”.
“Muffet has gotten too full of herself. She keeps snitching on us when we cut class.” Xander said.
“She needs to learn not to mess with people like that. So, we’re going to find her diary.” Xena added.
“And then post the pages all around school for everyone to see.” Xander finished. They both laughed.
“What?” I asked,”Isn’t that taking it a bit too far?”
“No, it’s not like that.” Xander said, “You see, we’re her family. It’s tough love. She needs to learn to lighten up.” This was wrong, I knew it. I opened the desk labeled “The Favorite”, and saw a book labeled “Diary”, I hid it under my shirt.
“Hmm. Well, I‐‐ I don’t see any diaries in here. Nope, nothing. Let’s just leave.” I said, then I looked at the open desk “Wait, are those…” I held back a squeal. Trials of Apollo books one through three! You have these here? So majestic. Is this cover hand‐drawn?” I said, geeking out. Then I saw a small sheet of paper, it looked like it was wrapped out of a notebook, in fancy cursive handwriting it read:
“I saw that Astley kid again. I may have overreacted. I don’t wanna come off as cruel. I just can’t show weakness.”
“Whatcha got there, Mac?” Xander asked.
“Oh. Just The Burning Maze, this is where A-Apollo goes through the labyrinth.” Xander snatched the paper out of my hands and began to read
“It’s not fair. I’m the only one who knows Xander and Xina aren’t perfect. Why do they keep getting away with things?”
“This is it.” Xander said.
“Mac, were you hiding this from us?” Xina asked.
“You see how she treats people. And how she treats you.” Xander said.
“I-I know Ximena can be kind of cold but no one deserves this. These are private thoughts. Let’s put it back.”
“She needs this.”
“It’s for her own good.”
I looked at the diary page, why had it been ripped out? I thought.
“I wish I had somewhere to go”
“Why won’t Mac leave me alone?”
“Called my teacher mom again”
“Sorry I haven’t written for a while”
“Wait, why am I apologizing?”
“Really?” Ximena asked from behind me. She just stood there, looking torn. Heartbroken.
“I-I swear, i-it’s not what it looks like.” I said, quickly.
Xander and Xena giggled. She looked at them.
“You two are the worst.” She said, but then she looked at me. “But you… I’ve been trying to figure out what your deal is. Are, are you a poser? A nerd? I know. You’re a bully, Mac.” And she began to walk away.
“Ximena!” I shouted after her, but she ignored me. Xander and Xena continued laughing.
“Muffet killed the fun.” Xina said.
“Again.” Xander noted. “Oh, well. We’re headed out to go do very dangerous bad student things. Wanna come?”
“You’re just gonna leave?” I asked.
“Yeah, with you.” Xina said
“Look, you guys are cool.” I said.
“Mm‐hmm.” Xander said smugly.
“But I need to go talk to Muffet. I mean, Ximena.”
“All right. See you around, cutie.” Xena said, winking.
“Ximena, wait.” I said, in the middle of the Courtyard. “First you embarrass me. Then you wanna be my friend? I don’t get you. Pick a side.” She told me.
“Please, just listen to me.”
“Just go away before things somehow get worse.”
I went away before things somehow got worse. Excellent people skills, Mr. Astley!
I was still aiming to investigate this whole OrigOlympian thing, but I figured I needed to get into the flow of the new school first, and at the very least get my all powerful finger puppet finished. So the day was uneventful, minus the the evil deeds, and at the end of the day the final bell rang, the entire swim team made their way to the little classroom we occasionally used and did homework for an hour or so, then when all the busses were free, we made our way to a community center out in the middle of nowhere, no literally, it was like in a field, swim for about another hour, take a shower, and then I needed my ride home at around seven’o’clock, and we did this four out of five days for the rest of the relatively uneventful week, seeing as I was still saving money to get what I needed for my case, I might as well just speed through the week’s swim meets.
So when I heard that we were doing swim meets four out of the five days, you’d assume that the fifth is a day off, right? Wrong. The fifth day was called ‘Dry Land Day’, and those are the days we’d do sprints and weight lifting and stuff.
But uh, as someone who could never do the three hundred meter dash, I skipped Dry Land Day a lot. I remember Coach being very disappointed in us and saying over and over, “a strong runner is a strong swimmer” and that “you must have strong endurance, great form and learn to pace yourself with controlled breathing.”
Now take it from me, I had none of those skills.
I struggled to lift cat litter. Do I have a cat? Did. Did have a cat.
I lost it.
So I don’t know why I had any idea I thought I’d be good at swim. So when we got to that pool everyone else would be diving and kicking and flipping and they were all just so majestic and there I was, forgetting to not inhale the water.
So while the big boys did laps and flips and stuff, Coach paid extra attention to us newbies. He taught us free style which is the basic, y’know, swim.
Man oh man, it looked so simple. Looks can be deceiving. You see, you want your arms to be at a perfect perpendicular angle when going into the water, glide smoothly forward to reduce drag, and then you want to stick out your entire body, straight as a pole to, well, reduce drag. Then, you gotta scoop the water under you and after every third or fourth reach you wanna go and get air.
Now I’m rambling here, but pictures of swimmers going out for air always turn out really scary, like man, I had no clue faces could look like that.
Ooh, ooh, yeah, you should always wear your swim cap to hold back your hair, as well as a swimsuit that’s two sizes too small, on purpose, also it’s recommended that you shave your legs to do what? To reduce drag.
Do you get all that? No? I can repeat it if you didn’t? Now you know how to swim. Congratulations.
When I got home, I did my chores and looked at the money I had accumulated. Ten dollars and twenty two cents. Exactly enough to buy a USB pen, a black sharpie, orange and white origami paper, and a sheet of silver tin. Everything I needed to make Pleaty Jackson.
The Qwikpick Is A Weird Place, If We’re Being Honest
I wanted art supplies. I did not want cursed art supplies. I knew that an “OrigOlympian” would be here, one of the last to exist, but even he had fallen. Mr. Charles Emily. So, after school, and swimming, I made my way there. I walked in, I paid for a tape recorder, a pen, and my art supplies alongside the notebook, the one that you’re reading at this very moment.
The place was clearly made in the nineties, still covered in posters for “The Terminator” and “Disney’s Hercules” and filled with vintage items. Like a hodgepodge of every time period after eight hundred BC, random relics scattered the shelf, with VHS Tapes to Blu-Rays, Vinyl Records to Digital Codes, you name it. It was beautiful. I placed my stuff on the counter. “Making origami, are ya?” The man at the counter asked. He was tall, maybe in his early thirties, his eyes were worn out, hollow with sadness.
“Yes sir.” I said, I wanted to give him respect. He looked like he needed it. “My son always loved origami, heck, back in my day people did so too. Just so rare to find kids like that these days.” He replied, I felt like he was about to go on a tangent. I like tangents.
“Kiddo listen,” He said, “Do you go to that school just north of here, Athens as it’s called, and do you plan to carry origami?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Well then, kid, I see something in you. I see the colors you picked out. Pleaty Jackson, is it?” He asked.
“Yes.” I said.
“Well then, you get something in the house. This one kid always comes in here, clamoring for this one pen. A USB pen. But I don’t trust him one bit, you, on the other hand. I like you.” He handed me a pen. I looked at his name tag. “T-Thank you….” I was stunned, “Thank you, Mr. Emily.”
“That’s Dr. Charles Spot Emily, B.Sc., M.Sc., M.A., Ph.D., ScD. to you.”
I stared at him for a moment.
“Quit looking at me like I’m crazy, my wife had me tested.”
He began to ramble about scrying and black mirrors and that it’s a common misconception you can get stuck in a mirror but that’s just a myth. You are safe from the mirrors. I learned something about myself. I love talking to crazy people.
Something about hearing his perspective on things was fascinating. Like this person actually exists. Eventually, I asked him a question. If he has tons of doctorates and such, why does he work at a Qwikpick?
“Me and my sister always had… What’s the word? Beef, yeah, that’s it. Beef causes heart disease. One day I got myself a girlfriend, I loved her, but she got in trouble. Big time, but I listened to her. To her reasoning. I understood the who, what, where, when, and why, and I believed her. My sister told me to bring her in, given that he’s a member of the student council. He made up some big rumor about me kidnapping her, god, I hate it. She had her happily ever after, ran off at nineteen with that no-good husband of hers, me and my brother had to take care of Mom and Dad, we were on their deathbeds, she wasn’t. Didn’t help that me and my brother had our falling out as well, I miss him, kid. I have a feeling you know him, and I’m sure you will. Tell him I’m sorry, would ya? And tell my sister she’s the worst.”
“I will if I ever find her.”
“I know you will.”
“Because, she’s your principal.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, “‘Miss High and Mighty’, ‘Miss Hey-You-Get-Off-Of-My-Cloud'” and all that.
I Knew Mr. Good Clean Fun Would Snap Someday
By Ximena Strohm
So an odd thing happened today, and I feel like writing about it. You see, there is this travelling showman who calls himself Mr. Good Clean Fun, apparently he’s spent time in Virginia, Prison, and now he’s in New York, apparently. He teaches kids my age about sanitation, cleanliness, and how to get away with war crimes.
So we were all gathered up in the gym, and his monkey hand puppet was singing. It’s cold, dead, eyes staring into my soul. It was agony.
“If you pick it you don’t like it, if you lick it don’t stick it!” Oh the horror of this knows no bounds, apparently this guy’s name was Adam. What a disgusting name.
My nose began to get an itch, I scratched it. “Heya kiddo!” He yelled, walking towards me, “After touching your nose, have a wet wipe!” I wasn’t done scratching my nose. I continued. He stood there, holding a wet wipe.
“Child. Take the wipe.” He said, even more annoyed. At this point, I needed to pick. I picked, and he grabbed onto my arm with the whole school watching, he pulled it off of my wrist. “WIPE!” he shouted, and then I did it.
I sneezed on him.
It wasn’t a little sneeze either, no, it was a disgusting, snotty sneeze. His face turned red, he began to violently pant. He began to shout swears, loudly, and then he threw his puppet onto the ground, and into my face. “Nobinoffn orkanitroffanoffskitroskiaulalleuhshlayeah!” I heard, which is the best transcription I could do of that unearthly, lovecraftian, eldritch sound.
“Stand back, you fiend!” Someone shouted, behind him was Mac Astley. He walked up to Mr. Good Clean Fun. “Hey buddy,” he said calmly, “How’s life, how are your issues, what traumatic event caused this?”
“Well it started back when I was in the Virginia State Penitentiary, I was in for assaulting this kid Harvey when he was like fourteen, it was a rough day and he was screaming swears at me so I ran up to him and squared him in the jaw, now he has to wear these triangle shaped glasses because his old ones broke in his eyes, the new ones are experimental and-” and I cut him out. I was in awe of Mac Astley. He had managed to calm this guy down. I wish I had social skills like that, eventually he even calmed down Adam and wiped the snot off of his pants legs. “I-I’m so sorry. No clue what came over me.”
I made sure to find Mac later that day, out in the courtyard. “Man oh man, what an adventure.” I tried to say, casually. Maybe I misjudged him. “I mean, fair disclosure, this never did happen.” I quickly added. “We won’t speak of this.”
“Wait.” He said, stopping me and putting his hand on my shoulder, “It doesn’t make up for reading your diary but would you wanna borrow this? I noticed you only had up to three.” And he handed me The Tyrant’s Tomb, Book Four of The Trials of Apollo. “Thank you.” I said, and sighed. “Maybe you aren’t a bully. I haven’t exactly been the friendliest kid either.”
He pulled out a finger puppet, one wearing an orange shirt, with golden foil armor and a sword, jet black hair and two green little eyes. He did it casually. “So, I hear you’re an artist. Mind doing some critique?” He asked. I was stunned.
I remembered the puppet that one of my old friends had given me. “The eyes are a little poorly done and the mouth could use work. The hair could’ve been better, maybe make the creases crisper but that’s just me.” I looked at the handbag I always carried. Things would be awkward if I showed her off, then again, things were already awkward.
I pulled out Annashred Chase. My puppet. He was stunned, “W-When did you get that?” He asked, questing the romantic implications of having puppets that date but being… enemies… acquaintances? I asked him why he chose that character, he said he had the same beliefs, kindness, loyalty, and bravery. I admired that. He asked me about the Annashred Crease.
“Y’know, my Mother gave me a puppet of a character who could turn invisible. Someone who, if she wanted, no one could see. Maybe it was a suggestion.”
“C’mon,” Mac said, “she can’t be that bad, can she? I mean, she’s your mom.”
“Mac Astley. Do you believe in what lies under the veil?”
“I guess I was too quick to judge.”
“We all were. I-I’ve always been a smart girl. I always got the grade, and,” I chuckled to myself, “the gold star. But being the smart girl can only ever get you so far.”
“I can relate.” Mac replied, “Not really being smart or a girl, but having the skills that well, don’t fit here. My thoughts tend to… break the box.”
“And mine are trapped in it. Y’know, there’s a place that me and Dennis go to. It’s called Debbie Don’s Dance Dojo. Every month they pick a model student, he or she has got to be on their top behavior that whole month, including doing special tasks for them, they call them quests. Never once have I been picked. If you don’t go, you’ll never know if you’ll ever be good enough.”
“Th-that’s tough.” Mac said, not knowing what else to say. It felt nice to talk to someone, even though he looked a bit uncomfortable.
“Mac, do you wanna know what my grand plan is? I wanna be remembered. Man, just wait and see. Mom always said, “Wise up, Rise up.”
“Man!” Mac said, enthusiastically. “That’s great!”
“You know, when your step dad treats you like a freak, your Dad doesn’t give two flying fricks about his own life, and your Mom treats you like both an angel and devil spawn, that changes you.”
He patted my back, “Permission to hug?” He asked.
Debbie Don’s Dance Dojo Does Diabolical Deeds
Dy Dac Dastley
As you may have already noted, I have horrible time management skills. I had the bright idea to think huh, I have free time.
Obviously, I didn’t.
After my talk with Ximena, I went to go check up on Dennis, he was outside leaving pencil markings on the small concrete pathway we had. One name. “Lina”.
“I think you should ask better questions.”
“Why does Ximena bully me?”
“Dude, I don’t know I talked with her a-”
“Dude, I’m joshing. That was rhetorical. Me and Lina were best friends, then there was Ximena and this other kid, they were besties as well. Lina held us together. One day, I screwed up. There was this jerk picking on that other kid I mentioned, Merrick, I tried to get him to stop, a fight escalated. I was about to get in trouble, all the fingers pointed at me. Lina took the fall. It broke the principal’s heart to expel her own daughter.”
“What?” I asked.
“Mrs. Kemp had to obtain law and order, you know that. But, maybe if I was a little braver, maybe if I took the fall for her, as I should’ve, things might’ve been okay. Merrick fell into depression, I think he was in love. He got expelled too for getting revenge on that one bully. Two of my best friends gone, and it was my fault. ”
“Dude, I-I’m sorry.”
“I leave these markings here, Lina’s name, because back in the day she used to do this. She was rebellious like that.”
“I’ve done worse.”
“I know, you’re a lot like her. I think you’d be great at DDDD’s.”
“Debbie Don’s Dance Dojo.”
“Where we all met for the first time, it teaches self defense.”
“I think I’m good, I have swim and-“
“Ximena will be there.”
“I’m free during the weekends.”
So that’s the story of how I ended up in the mess. Man, people sure do love venting in my direction.
I walked in, there was a small lobby. My Mom had already signed my permission slip and I brought it up to the lady at the front desk. She was sipping on Kool-Aid, when she peeled the cup away from her lips they were cherry red, her age was undeterminable, she looked like she could be either sixteen or forty. Dennis was standing right beside me, acting like he had brought me into a cult and was questioning if they’d indoctrinate or sacrifice me.
“Oh, Dennis, I see you brought a new recruit. Hey kiddo, Name’s Amy, but just call me Miss Youmans..” She said,
“Well, hello Miss Youmans.”
“I’d say it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Amy, please.” A man shouted, leaning on a wall and standing in a cramped hallway. “Be nice to our guests!”
“LanLan, it’s Dennis. He lost us our two best people, so why don’t you go back to your room, honeybuns?”
He went back to his room. “Maybe if I go play Pinochle with Ximena for a few hours things might improve, for me. Not for you.” She grumbled.
“Wait, so are you guys married or something?” I asked, referring to “LanLan” and Amy.
“Oh great. You haven’t even been debriefed. Look,” she handed me a cassette tape, “here’s the orientation film. Now it’s time we sort you.”
“Sort me? Like… Hogwarts?”
“Yeah, plagiarism is fun.”
“Ma’am,” Dennis said, “Shouldn’t you tell him about the cabins themselves?”
“Guess so.” She pulled out a magazine and began to read.
“Well, aren’t you?” Dennis asked.
“Nope,” She said. Dennis decided to do it for me.
“There’s honor, protection, loyalty, travel, growth, wisdom, battle, love, craft, foresight, independence, and my personal favorite, delirium. Miss Debbie had that one requested. Each ‘Cabin’ consists of up to three people, some are empty, some have two, some might even have one. Miss,” He said, tapping on the desk nervously, “Can Mac get his test?” She handed me the test. It was thirty multiple choice questions that I bubbled in little answers. Amy handed the results over to Lance. Lance brought me into his office.
He read it over. “Hmmm, I see a strong sense of loyalty in you, dude. Your fatal flaw is pretty, and excuse ny french, is pretty stooky, not one I see in many.” He said, seeming confused. “Do you know anyone from here? Other than Dennis of course.”
“I know Ximena Strohm.”
“Oooh, from the wisdom cabin. She’s a smart girl, kind of like my fiancè. Sad what happened to Merrick and Kemp, you do know what happened right?”
“Yeah, I know what happened.”
He then went on to tell me what happened.
“Anyway, where to put you?” I crossed my fingers and began to mumble under my breath, “Not battle, not battle, not battle.”
“Not battle?” He asked, raising his eyebrow. “You could be great, you know. It’s all in your answers, you do need to learn combat and that cabin would lead you to greatness. So, obviously, I send you to loyalty, sadly, it appears you’ll be alone, we haven’t had anyone in Loyalty in the last five years, and boy that did not turn out well, whatever that says about humanity is up to you. And if you don’t mind me asking, have you ever met your father?”
What an odd question. “No, sir.”
“So I thought. Anyways, and this is a weird question, do you have any fascination with arts and crafts, including, but not limited to, origami?”
“Yes sir.” I said.
“And do you, by chance, have a finger puppet?”
“Yes. It’s of this book character P-“
“-ercy Jackson? I’m well aware of Pleaty Jackson, EduFun, and the goingons at your school. Personally, I’ve always hated them. They tried to ruin my school once, back when I was about Your age, too. In my eighth year I had to move away, out to this heckwhole, me and Amy stayed together, long distance, and eventually, she came back to me. I told her about the affinity with origami here, just like at our old school and when we graduated… Debbie Don’s Dance Dojo was reborn!”
Miss Youmans was now leaning on the doorway. “Mr. Alexander, are you trying to hide something from this young man?”
“Miss Youmans,” he said through his teeth, “what ever do you mean?”
“I mean,” Amy said, “that he forgot to mention one very important detail. Just how much Lancey Wancey here hates EduFun. He’s studied them since he moved out of McQuarrie, and the OrigOlympians too. They didn’t have much of a choice, EduFun saved the school from closing down after the Titan War. Here at Debbie Don’s, we strive to think outside the box, we modelled this place after Camp Half-Blood and everything.”
“Kid, it’s really not.” Amy said. “Mr. Alexander here was always a RiorFan.”
“Fair.” Lance said.
“Just curious.” I said, “Do you guys have any of your own origami?”
“Well, we used to have Star Wars puppets. Art2d2 and C3PO. But these days, well, ever since Debbie’s was founded we’ve had” she pulled out a puppet, “Mister D, er, Dionysusigami, and…” she gestured to Lance who pulled out a perfectly detailed Origami statue of a centaur, “Chironigami.” I looked at the amazingly intricate folds of the origami statue. It was beautiful, except for the paper it was folded out of was oddly purple. Apparently some kid gave it to him just before he moved, and that kid always loved purple.
A few weeks went by, I got to know Ximena and Dennis more, they were distant with each other but at least I got Ximena to stop yelling.
All the while, I’ve encountered a new bully. Three weeks ago, we did our first PE exam. The Coach was a forty something year old man who looked vaguely like David Hasslehoff, his throat was incredibly thick, probably because of all the screaming he did. If screaming was a sport then this was the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and he was Russia. He was one of the OrigOlympians I planned to investigate.
Eventually, after a snarky joke from Ximena, he offered to wrestle every student in the class. I think that’s a bit much but whatever floats your boats, I guess. Oddly enough, I managed to beat him, likely through my sheer determination and will, obviously. Not like it was luck or anything. Anyways, his daughter is holding a grudge, something about making her father look like an imbecile. I guess it must be hereditary.
But I did decide to begin my case. The Case of Pleaty Jackson and the OrigOlympians. Questions have littered my kind for a while now. Why do the teachers act like I’m something special? How did the OrigOlympians fall? How has origami had such an impact on American schools?
To Ximena: I Talk To Yo Mama
I pulled out my cassette tape. The person whom I am first investigating is Mrs. Strohm, or as she is otherwise known, Arthena, head strategist of the last OrigOlympians. I had arranged an appointment with her at exactly two in the afternoon. Mrs. Strohm invited me into her back office, I pulled out my cassette tape and hit rec. I have put her words in bold as well as mine in italic.
No Ma’am I don’t drink.
Nor should you. Drinking is bad. So, I take it you’re doing this for a history project?
In a sense, yes. So the first question I have is, how did this all start?
Well, there was a term my colleagues use, they refer to it as the OrigaMeme, no, not as in the funny cat videos you kids send to each other. As in something that spr-
I know what it means, Ma’am.
Well, what you may not know is that we effectively started it. Those nineties, kid, they were a crazy time. We went through tons of Zeusigamis, Aphorigamidites and such, they replaced those who left. Also, if I were you, I wouldn’t go around with your Pandora-level curiosity. You’re lucky that you met one of the nice ones.
Ok, hmmm, uh, uh, ok question: why did you choose to join in on this? I hear you’re a logical person, and myths, Athena in particular, isn’t quite logical.
Myths, hmmm, Astley, as you may know now, one question always begs another. What is a myth?
A myth is w-what people used to believe before science.
Precisely. Such a simpler time, those Greeks had. Now, what do you think people three thousand years into the future will think of our science? They’ll see them as myths. Even now, there’s a website chronicalizing tales like these and people already see them as fiction. They think it’s just dumb tales about kicking and punching. That’s what I love about the OrigOlympians. They think they’ve come so far. Tell me Astley, how would you and Pleaty Jackson like becoming a myth? A myth to show how kids deal with being the new kid. Your flaw? We all know it. The loyalty to your friends, at the end of the line you’ll see why it’s called fatal.
Ma’am, what is it you’re all hiding from me? You’re acting like I have a destiny or something.
You do, it’s in your blood.
It’s in my what?
You’ll know soon enough. Now Mac, I just have to say. Have you ever realized how lucky you are? I could tell Mrs. Kemp that I caught her thief.
[Interview was abruptly cut short. All files saved onto the pen drive in which I dubbed “RipTide”. Once drive was opened on computer a file was discovered titled “Lore of OrigOlympus” and contained several PDFs. Further investigation is necessary. I feel as if this may be a linchpin in this case. And why did Miss Strohm call me a thief?]
Ximena’s Comment: Investigate it now you idiot
Debbie’s Isn’t That Fun Now That I Think About It
Of course she was there. The Daughter of OrigAres. Serene Morone. And of course, she has a puppet. Meet: Crease LaRue. Now, this begs the question. Why wasn’t there an Origami Percy Jackson already? I mean, this is the mythology school, and there’s already an Annaebeth and a Clarrise. It’s almost like there’s something blocking it. Will look into it.
Anywho, as my days here in Athens went on I got into something reminiscent of a routine.
In Debbie’s I’d rotate through activities and see what I was good at. Foot racing? Well, these travel house kids beat me in the dust, these two guys, Adam and Luke. They did give me Cheetos on occasion, they even gave me a nickname based on them. I like them.
Wrestling? Forget it, Serene beat me everytime. She’d always mumble something in my ear about payback. Slowly, I got used to the city life. Madison County was always small, but here I got used to the thin layer of fog each morning as winter break slowly approached.
One day, I was quote un quote “adopted” by the Wisdom Cabin. They took me in. The bad news? YAY! I GET FENCING CLASSES! THIS IS EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED IN LIFE. So you know that fencing suit they have you wear? Well, boy oh boy, Debbie’s can’t afford that. Nor could they afford the sword things. So, how would we fence? Hitting each other with sticks of course!
Stick hitting is quite a tough thing to learn. Eventually, I managed to twist my stick around Ximena’s until she was forced to drop hers, a skill that she just said took years to master. Soon I shall join the stick council, I suppose.
“Uh, sorry.” I said.
“Sorry? By god Astley, why are you sorry? Do that again!”
I didn’t want to. It’s like that short burst of energy had suddenly left me. The next match there was no context. Ximena won.
Probably beginner’s luck. Ximena and Dennis pitied me. They said they’ll do the next two interviews for me.
The place was only a few miles away from my apartment so I tried to make my way there. “Hiya champ.” Someone said, leaning on the brick wall just outside of DDDD’s. It was Seb. “Tough week?” He asked.
“No kidding, Sherlock.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Sorry…” I said.
“Don’t worry about it dude. Look, I wanted to talk to you about this casefile you’re collecting. I have to say, you’re lucky. You got three of the big names to do an interview, that’s special. They have a lot to deal with and they don’t always care.”
I heard a twinge of bitterness in his voice underneath a soft, caring role. I’d only known him for a few days, but he’s acting like a Dad to me. Or at least a weird uncle.
“You know,” he said, “they’re not all bad, normally if they treat you like you’re something special it’s sometimes a good thing.”
“You mean, sometimes it’s not?”
“Yeah, but hey, we all go to this cursed school and so no one could blame you for holding a grudge.” He shrugged.
We talked for a long while, until I got to my apartment.
The Sunday after was the day we’d been excited for. The day that Miss Youmans and Mr. Alexander would take us out to the local forest for a day of Capture The Flag.
My team captain was Ximena, the wisdom cabin. The other team’s captain was… guess who. C’mon, guess. Serene Morone. I heard her and her team chanting as they went out hunting.
My team just stood around.
“Hey, uh, shouldn’t we get going.”
“Not yet.” Ximena said. She pointed at two kids, “Frankie, Margaret, I need you to carry the bombs to section T4 and A9.”
“The bombs?” I asked.
“Her team has won forty two games in a row. That ends today.”
“Yeah, but- Ximena, what do you mean by bombs?”
“Ok, I’ll need all of the travel cabin members to make a foot brigade. Dennis, you’re good with nature and crap. Do you know what you need to do?”
“Yep!” He shouted. “Hide in the trees!”
“What do I do?” I asked.
“Astley, I have a special hob for you. Go to the porta potty.”
I went to the bathroom. I did not stay there. The moment I walked out complete pandemonium had broken out, Ximena ran past me holding a notebook in one hand and a trumpet in the other, the trumpet was covered in a red liquid.
Ximena saw me outside of the porta potty. She pushed me back in.
I decided to remain in the porta potty. It was safe there. Eventually I got a knock, being the socialite I am, I said, “Come in.”
The door swung open. There she stood, Serene.
“I heard you were tough.” She sneered. “You don’t look the part. Your goose is cooked. I’m here to cook it.”
“Look, Captain Crazy, the flag isn’t here. If you have an issue with me, then let’s handle it right now.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“It’s a threat.”
She tried to push me into the portapotty, dunk my head in the nasty, disgusting, water. I pushed her off of me, and knocked it over on her.
It worked. She was trapped underneath the portable pottable. Suddenly, I heard distant clapping, and I got a tap on my shoulder.
No one was there.
I turned around and standing two inches from my face was Ximena. She had a smirk on her face and a flag in her hands. She broke a forty two game streak in two minutes.
“H-H-How?” I asked.
“Mac, the bombs were what I call “Pressure Bombs”, they were homemade and made with gunpowder, it caused the proper disturbance. Meanwhile, I had the honor kids operate the drones and the machinery needed for the paint bombs, the battle kids always used a trumpet as a war cry, I brought the trumpet onto the field to draw them to me, I hid you in the bathroom so that Serene would follow you there and you could take out the biggest opponent, finally, a drone would pick up the flag and bring it to Dennis, our guy in the trees.”
“That’s- That’s wow.”
“Could’ve said it better myself.”
“Don’t you mean couldn’t-”
“No. Quite frankly, I don’t.”
“Hi Mac!” Two voices said from behind me. I panicked and stepped back a little. When I turned my head I saw Xander and Xena.
“Ah, jeez, sorry Astley. They insisted on coming and meeting with you again, for some reason….” Ximena said.
“Because we wuv you baby sistew!” Xander said, mockingly. I now have the profound urge to shoot Xander several times. “They’ve been acting really protective of me since the library incident.”
“And we still apologize every day.” Xena quickly added.
“Any case, I realize I never really gave you your back.” She handed me the book.
“So…. what’d you think?” I asked.
“It was… fine.”
I looked through the book and pulled out her thin, handmade, bookmark. It had a little doodle on it.
“So fine that you drew creepy fan art of Apollo kissing his own mortal form?”
She snatched the drawing out of my hands and tore it up. The siblings began to walk away. Ximena did too. We did sit on the bus ride back to Debbie’s together. Dennis was forced to sit with Serene.
I Have Hamburgers with a War God
Mac, I hope you’re happy. I had to go through the Twelve Labors of Heracles for this. Well, not really. That would be pretty cool. No, no, I had it worse. I had to actually take Physical Ed.
Dodgeball. What evil man invented dodgeball? After annihilating the other team and then turning against my own, my interview awaited. Imagine me sitting across a desk from David Hasslehoff, but he’s a sloppy eater and just covered in sweat.
O-Ok so my first question is, did you ever participate in the OrigOlympian schtick in your childhood?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. It was quite the hoedown.
And, which puppet did you have?
OrigAres of course. Me and your Mama never got along.
I wonder why. Now, follow up question, why did you choose that particular puppet?
Because, I thrived on the chaos. I never really created any of it, no, it came naturally, but when it came, I thrived. Students, both back in my days and now, have always been weak, cruel, selfish, capable of sparking their own horrors. Like gravity, I just gave it a little push. OrigAres helped with that, a symbol to show the concept of anger as a whole, don’t you love it? Now, say what you will about your Mother, that was the one thing we agreed on. We, obviously, took different approaches later on in life. She decided to become a librarian, giving the gift of knowledge while I stamp the bad out. So tell me, Ximena, do I sound like the bad guy?
Child, if anything I’m the OriGod of the Spirit of Battle.
People don’t talk like that.
I’m above most people. All I wanted was to show Kemp the horridness of the students, but he refused to see the truth. Ximena, this interview is over, but I want to leave you with a thought. As a teacher, K can whisper in their ears. Ideas. Inspiration… but I don’t make them act on it, no, they choose to do that on their own.
I helped orchestrate his plans in the hope that the Principal and these students would destroy themselves. To spark war.
You’ve met him. The Thief. Haven’t you heard? They discovered who stole our old files, it’s reaminging classified, of course. But oh, who could it be? Could it be a Mac? The poor old new kid, you and I both know his destiny, it’s not out of character. Think about ol’ scarry boy. Maybe it was my daughter, ooh, ooh, maybe it was… Dennis. The poor boy, getting his friend expelled over his own doing, he’d have as much reason as any to get revenge.
You’re just trying to get in my head.
Oh…. What makes you think that?
I just know it.
Kid, stop being a smart-alec.
*smiles and holds back laugh* S-Sir, I’m yet to mention th-the one myth that actually involves you.
No. We don’t talk about that.
For factual reasons of course, we will. So uh, tell ms about it. *blinks*
Fine. So are you familiar with the myth of Ares’ abduction?
Well, I think you’ll find this familiar. Our story begins with the Origiants. Their names were Eualphiacrease and OrigOtis. Now, what you might not know, is that these kids were… what’s the word? Simps. They had this big master plan to make our resident Heragami and Art-emis fall for them. Which, not to critique people’s crushes, of all the OrigOlympians to choose from, is to pick the two that are one hundred percent not going to be okay with that. Now, the plan involved the assassination of
Zeusigami, Mister Kemp. The problem is that ye lives on this big hill, the last time a bunch of Origiants stormed that hill they were all knocked out when he called up his homies, plus, I’m not tactician but-
Aren’t you the war expert?
Charging up hill is always a bad idea. So, being the geniuses they are, they surprise him a bit when they climb up a tree and try to hop on the roof of that big mansion. Now, little did they know, the entire OrigOlympian Council was here. They have a bit of a scuffle, and they win. Now, the OrigOlympians begin to realize something. The Origiants have kidnapped me. They began to think “THIS IS TERRIBLE, AWFUL, WE MUST DO SOMETHING IN TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN BUSINESS MONTHS!” Anyways, two of them did come for me. The Origami Hermes, and Art-emis. Now, while “Hermesigami” sneaks around to the back Art-emis just kind of knocks on the door and does that awkward shoulder prop and is all like, “Hello boys, uh, looking for me?” And after getting over the shock over seeing a real live girl in their man cave. Now, OrigOtis is overjoyed that his crush has made an appearance while Eualphiacrease is stricken with jealousy. They began to fight and they simultaneously beat each other, then Hermesigami busted me out of the basement they had me in, and they wouldn’t let me hear the end of it.
Mr. Monroe, you seem like the smartest guy on the football field.
I Should/Should Not Have Signed Up For Swim
I’m going to be keeping this short, so I’ll just get to my point at hand. I do not like swim. No, not because the teacher is mean, Coach Milligen is incredibly nice. No, I’m just terrible. I have no clue how I even got in. I could barely finish a fifty meter. My dives were painful belly flops. My form was awful. I never knew how to flip a turn without choking on water. By the time I was halfway finished in a race, everyone else had already done it. I felt so exhausted and so defeated that I literally dog paddled to the end.
Everyone would cheer and praise me, and, I know they were being nice, but I mean, they had to help me out of the pool sometimes. I normally don’t care what others think of me, but it was so embarrassing. I kept trying so hard at practice, but it was the same thing over and over, day by day.
On December First we did our Secret Santa among the team and I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. I was the weakest link.
But, the amazing part is, no one ever made me feel about it. In fact, an upperclassman appeared just today, his name was Ben. He offered to teach me how to dive. And I was like, “Dude, Coach couldn’t fix this, are you sure about that?”
“Yeah dude, of course, what are teammates for?”
And I don’t know how he did it. But something clicked that day. My dives weren’t just good, they were beautiful. It’s all a matter of form and momentum. You have to tell yourself. “Speed. I am fast.”
So thanks to him, I improved a lot. I know how to dive, I stopped skipping dry land days… as often. And guess what? I managed to finish a fifty without anyone having to pull me out of the water. Whoo.
Coach noticed as well, so on our way to one of our meets, she handed me not one, not two, but three cards. A fifty free. A one hundred free. And a two hundred free.
“Coach Tyler, I just learned how not to breathe underwater, y-you can’t put me on a two hundred, I-I’ll die.”
“Well, our five hundred girl quit and the two hundred kid took her place, and now someone has to fill in for two hundred, so good luck.”
A two hundred or anything above is for people with mega-endurance. This two-left-feet hooligan here was not prepared.
And then the news dropped.
We will be having a swim tournament next week against our old rivals, and two other schools. McQuarrie Middle School, Tobey Elementary, and, my old school, Goodman Middle.
Note To Self: The Qwikpick is the OPPOSITE of a sham
I sat back and smiled, facing my computer. I plugged the drive in. There it was, a PDF labelled “Pleaty Jackson and the OrigOlympians”. The investigation was finished. I had interviewed all of the OrigOlympians, I learned that they weren’t some magical heroes but just some jerks, some were less jerky than others, sure, but with all of this put together the evidence was clear. The OrigOlympians were not all that great. This school is not all that great, but hey, there’s no harm in trying to make it better. I kicked back in my rolly chair, laptop on my lap. I opened my files.
I was curious, obviously, I opened up “Lore of OrigOlympus’ ‘, the files were labelled “1”, and “2”. And “3”, going down to ‘100”. I opened file “1” an image, hand drawn, on a sheet of paper with a low quality camera, maybe nearly two thousand. The sheet of paper on the image wrote,
“To whoever owns this file, I have chosen you myself. You showed up at my shop and I saw something in you. It may seem cliche but I see you as being a “Chosen One” of sorts. I think you’re a hero. I give you these files, for the next generation of OrigOlympus, whoever you are, I choose you. I stole this file for you. I’m the Bytening Thief
I was stunned. I clicked on “2” and slowly began to read, I read through the night, tales of the past that both intrigued and shocked me. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so. It felt like it’s own mythology. Like an origami universe. There were other folders, some that I don’t have the time or energy to study, some called “The Serapis Saga” and “Nine From The Nine Folds.”
The realization hit me like a truck. I’m such an idiot. These random accusations of me being a “Thief” that were thrown around were technically true. Charles, Hades, The Salesman, whatever you want to call him, he sold me the pen that he stole, I have no clue how. Maybe it was out of revenge. Out of spite, but maybe, just maybe, he wanted the true story to be known.
Maybe he did it out of altruism.
Maybe he wanted to frame me.
Who knows? All I know is that I have to take action. The Case of Pleaty Jackson and the OrigOlympians is over. This is the case of The Bytening Thief.
I called up Ximena and Dennis. They were shocked. Dennis seemed a bit nervous, jitterry, but that was expected. It was dark, the perfect time to confront the OriGin of darkness.
I pulled out my puppet, it’s like I could hear it speak. The puppet seemed to shake it’s tiny paper head.
The Qwikpick was a rave. The Qwikpick was a rave. The Qwikpick was a rave. Dennis and Ximena stood behind me, I truly felt like they had my back. No matter what happened, this wasn’t the end, but this was a battle.
“You guys go home.” I told them.
“Are you kidding?” Ximena asked, “This is the best action I’d get in a lifetime.” She said,
“Yeah,” Dennis said, “I mean, guys, we got this.” He held up a puppet, one I could barely see in the darkness, but I made out the shape of a puppet with goat horns and little paper legs dangling off of it with hoof-like feet.
“OriGrover?” I asked.
“Heck yeah, man.”
We began to walk towards the door but there was a bodyguard up front. “Cash, credit, or chosen one?” He asked.
“Chosen One.” I said, and I pulled out the pen drive.
“Oooh, you’re trying to be a hero? I’ve seen plenty of heroes over the years, they think they can just pop in for a quick trip.”
“Yeah…” Ximena said, “If ‘Shradies’ here really has our best interest in mind then I don’t have a problem.”
“Kid, here’s a tip. I’ve been working here for longer than you’ve been alive. Boss forces me to carry around this stupid puppet, ‘Charonigami’ he calls it. One thing I’ve learned is, people don’t leave here. You’re gonna be stuck here for a while. This is where your story ends.”
“Nice pun.” I said, he raised his eyebrow.
“This being like the origami underworld and all… ” I sighed, “Dude, just let me in.”
He let us in.
There was a small lobby, where they kept all the carts and stuff. I looked at a small rack of vinyl records. Queen. The 88. The Beatles. The good stuff.
“Nice collection.” I said.
“Oh, we have all the greats down here! Mozart, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain.”
“Do you have any like..” Dennis began to ask, “Justin Timberlake or something?” Me, the bodyguard, and Ximena stared at him. Ximena sighed.
“Mm. We will. Eventually.” ‘Charonigami’ said.
A song began to play over the radio, real old timey. “Oh, listen, it’s the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
They crashed their bus on the way to sing for the Vatican.” Ximena morbidly said.
“They’re kids.” I said.
“They’re lucky! Their voices will never change now.” ‘Charonigami’ said.
We began to walk in. Purple and blue neon lights filled the convenience store, smoke filling our lungs. There was a piano playing in the background, the bodyguard led us to the manager’s office, we turned the corner and saw someone with tinted glasses playing the piano terribly, ignoring us, in big white letter the piano said “Cer-Beat-Us”, a pun on the guardian of the underworld, Cerberus. I wondered how no one payed attention to this place, or how the parking lot was full but no one “Who has two turntables and knows three sick heads? Everybody gives it up for D.J. Cerberus!” He grumbled, “Listen, I’m still learning.” There was an awkward silence that Ximena interrupted with offering him lessons.
The bodyguard led us to the manager’s office, it felt like walking into the gates of hell.
Mr. Emily was up front, side note: what kind of last name is Emily? I haven’t a clue. “The jig’s up, Shradies.” I said, trying to stay confident. The room gave off an aura of panic, terror. This is where Karens went to die.
“Listen, kid, I apologize if your gifts were not presented to you in a completely honest fashion but it was important that your actions be genuine.” His typically suave, calm, voice now sounded like a nineteen thirties radio host. I’m pretty sure I heard his voice at a car dealership.
“Not presented in a completely honest fashion? Dude, you almost got me in huge trouble.”
“Well , didn’t your Dad ever teach you about accepting gifts from strangers? Oh yeaaah…”
Dennis was shivering, I couldn’t tell if he was hiding something or just scared, heck, Ximena was acting the same way too. I decided to brush off the thought, we already caught the culprit, right?
“Low blow,” I said.
“Or maybe a hint? Maybe he did teach you, er, he teaches you the opposite. He sure did give you a gift.”
“What are you implying? My Dad was just some deadbeat.”
“Don’t talk about him like that, he was a nice guy. Don’t you dare talk about him like that.”
“Fine. I have one question then, one to close the case. Why?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” He asked, “Look at these wretched OriGods. Look at their futile attempts to stay in power over a school that’s slowly collapsing on itself. Look at what these so-called ‘heroes’ do, merely just kicking and punching, treating things like it’s a game, it’s torn families apart. I wanted to inspire you, a kd like you, the willpower in your blood, I knew you could bring change. You could bring us back to a true golden age. I’ve always been a lover of history, something about everything here belonging to a dead person.”
“What about this pen?” I asked.
“Did I stutter? Mac, the reason why I picked you is because kid, I love you.”
“That’s kind of a weird thing to say.”
“An uncle can’t say he loves his nephew?”
“WHAT?” I asked.
“I’m your uncle, my brother is your father.”
“Wait, now, now hold on just one cottonpicking moment.” I said, “Is Principal Kemp my aunt?”
Ximena and Dennis began to mutter to each other, somehow a shared pain instantly sealed their tension. I could make out the words “…..pen….Lina… another one…” I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t sad. Or scared. I was confused.
Hey, at least I had a cool cousin who got expelled. You win some, you lose some.
I looked at Mr. Emily, then back at my friends. I managed a smile. A real one. Maybe Charles was a thief, but he had a point. He believed in me. I put the pen back in my pocket and began to walk away, with questions that I knew would not be answered.
All’s Well Doesn’t Mean Ends Well
Mac called me at maybe three in the morning, that Saturday, he asked to talk. “Sure, let’s go for a drink.”
“But we’re not twenty one.” He said.
We went to a local diner that makes greek food, that was, oddly enough, open, the workers looked bored. I wore my usual getup, long gray trench coat, black floppy hat, rose gold tinted sunglasses. Mac wore a denim jacket, something with wool thick enough to warm him up on the cold December night.
He told me about everything, and I listened. Mac seemed like the type to get anyone to ramble on and on and on about their life. He seemed happy to let it all out to someone else, instead of bottling in other people’s ramblings. I came here with a goal, but Mac was also my friend. I asked him why out of everyone in his new friends he chose me to talk to. He simply smiled and said, “Because you’re funny dude, also Dennis seems like the type to get groggy and Ximena seems like she’d yell at me.”
I always knew Ximena, we were passing acquaintances, once we had been close but that felt like years ago. I looked around, it was awfully busy for three in the morning. A bunch of adults, all with kids our age, were eating. They seemed happy, but like- nineteen fifties happy. I decided I’d pay for the check, I had a lot of money. I asked Mac if he had a pen, for when it’s time to pay. I had one of those little mini-VISA cards too. My Dad’s friends with the Home Economics teacher who helped get me invested. He pulled out his pen, a fancy, chrome gold one.
“Is- Is that the pen you told me about?” I asked.
“Yes, but I- I returned it, right?” He asked, I pointed at some little writing on a scotch tape, it said “copy”. We both realized what had happened. Someone, maybe Coach, maybe Mr. Emily, gave him that drive.
Maybe it was the lemonade, maybe it was hormones, but I told him that he was like family to me. I told him that I had daddy issues, and had the same feelings on this system as he did, and I told him my real name. Sebastian “Seb” Merrick. He seemed awestruck, he looked at me like I was a hero. He asked me if it’s true, how I got suspended and never returned.
Is that what Dennis said about me? Or Ximena? They tried to brush it under the rug. But I guess, as Lina would say, they never lied. It was true, from a certain point of view.
“Wait, hold on a minute. ” he said, he began to mutter to himself, “for the next generation of OrigOlympus, I choose you. I was supposed to start this! I was the heir!” He shouted, a bit too loudly.
“What?” I asked.
“I was supposed to rebuild OrigOlympus, Mrs. Kemp didn’t want me in power so she sent me on a wild goose chase to find unimportant information, it all makes sense!” He looked at me, he handed me the drive, “If I’m going to start a new golden age, I want you by my side.”
“No, C’mon- Mac… no.” I said. Mac got up, “I have to call Dennis and Ximena.” He said, and walked out of the diner, the adults walked out of the room. I don’t know who they were.
But the children remained. They began to walk towards my table. Slowly, the illusion dropped.
“See?” I asked, “It’s really not that hard.”
They began to cheer.
I took off my trench coat, my sunglasses, my hat, I put on something more comfortable, a white dress shirt, the kind you’d normally place a fancy coat over, but instead I had the sleeves rolled up.
I handed the pen drive off to one of the random people, “Okay, get “RipTide” connected to my computer, I want all the files printed out. Make me an omnibus, baby.” The two workers stepped from behind the counter, joining in. There were about six people, the oldest two being actual workers, the youngest being a third grader. They began to chant.
“Ok, ok, we got the pen, this is a big win but we’re not done yet.” The oldest, a pretty blonde girl poured me a glass of lemonade and then one for everyone else. I stood up on the table.
“Ok, Toast!” I shouted.
“To the gods who brought us all together! The OrigOlympians!” I shouted, they began to boo at the mere mention of their name.
“The gods. Literally folding the money that they’re unfit to have. Like my Anti-Bullying Program that they so aptly called “CHRONOS”, an acronym so dumb that I can’t even fathom what it stands for, a name so dumb that it made this group fall. I told Mrs. Kemp it was a bad idea, she didn’t listen. She said I was ‘unstable” But rejoice! We still stand! Lina’s sacrifice will not be in vain.”
“Next, to Xena and Xander.”
“The integration of you messing with your sister’s head, tearing her apart from the inside, making her turn against Mac. Phenomenal!”
“Thank you, Brother Merrick.” Xander said.
“Benny, helling Mac out with swimming was excellente, you made Astley work hard, made him struggle to climb up the hill of betterment only to repeatedly trip and tumble down to the fiery pit of failure! Excellent work! To Flynn!”
“Staging those events with your friends out at Caesar back last year so the case records would confirm that when Pleaty Jackson rose he wasn’t unique? I love it!”
“And to the rest of you, OrigOlympus is gone. There is a window of opportunity and someone will step up. But these days, you can be the smartest guy in the room, the most qualified, and no one cares. Unless you’re fighting with a little paper puppet, no one cares.” I pulled my puppet out,”Well… I’ve got a puppet.” I chuckled to myself, “With our information, OrigOlympus CAN fall!” There were more cheers. “And everyone will listen! Not to boozy man-children!”
“Not to a hormonal new student!”
“To me! And to my very wealthy crew! To us.”
“To… To Luke CastePleat!”
Suddenly, I felt bad.
“To- to Mac Astley!”
At that moment, Mac walked in through the door. He chuckled a bit, ,”Ah dang, sorry, just forgot something.” He saw the small huddle around me. “Hey… uh… Sebastian….ooh, dang… What’s this?” He asked, “Oh and hey, I was thinking maybe you could give me that pen back? It’s actually really fancy- worth maybe twelve bucks? I-“
“Mac, I’m sorry. But you don’t understand. I really need this pen.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Could you like- send me a copy of the drive’s links first or…”
I snapped my fingers and everyone ran after him. For a split second, his face showed a sign of terror. That quickly morphed into one of sadness. He tried to run off. My crew caught him. I knelt down to Mac, my crew was holding him on his knees.
“Y-You-re- What? How?”
“When Mr. Monroe offered to help me, he thought it was about starting a war between the OrigOlympians. It’s bigger than that. It’s about wiping them out and taking the student’s turn. Y’know, I’ve been here since I was a kid, I did everything they ever asked, and for what? This school will never be for the students as long as things stay the same, Astley. The truth? I don’t care who I hurt, I’ll do anything. Soon, there’ll be no OrigGods at all. But I don’t want to hurt you, Mac. Join me.”
Mac broke free. He ran off.
Soon, in time, he’ll join me.
I know he will.
Betrayed By One Who Calls You Friend, Spending Time With What Matters Most In The End
“Merry Christmas, Sleepyhead,” my Mom said. She was sitting on my bedside. I frowned, and looked at the clock. So it is, I thought, looking at the clock. It also appears it’s ten thirty in the morning. Mom told me that my friends were waiting in the living room, and she kept questioning why I woke up so late. Sneaking out to get the crap beaten out of you is one way to lose sleep.
I ran out to greet my friends, but soon realized I was in my underwear. I ran back into my room and put on the only acceptable garment I could think of for this day: a reindeer onesie. I ran out to meet my friends.
Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock.
Y’know that feeling when you’ve had a rough day, and the next everything is perfect? That day was this Christmas.
Me and Dennis waited eagerly at the stove. Ding!
Oh god. They were ready. Me and Dennis rushed to my Mother, “Jeez boys, calm down, they’re just peanut butter cookies.”
“Just peanut butter cookies? Just peanut butter cookies?” I asked my “Mother.” (Jkjk)
“Mac, calm down, you’re gonna have another panic attack,” Ximena said, smiling and holding in a giggle.
We went to the table, Mom had prepared a nice dinner. “You sure you’re getting enough veggies, Wally?” Mom asked Dennis.
“Yep, don’t worry, I like veggies.” I stepped on Wally’s foot, “Oh yeah, my name’s Dennis… not… Wally.” I smiled, good to see that Dennis is standing up for himself, I guess.
Ximena was at the table, the dog stole her chicken leg. She swore. I told her to mind her language. “Yah, yeah, golly-gee.”
That isn’t a swear, is it?
Yeah, life is good, or, at least for me. Dennis and Ximena still have that salt, Sebastian is still out there, man, there’s still a lot to deal with, all I know is, this isn’t the end. I’m not alone. Far from it, because as far as I can see, the bonds are starting to heal.