The Return of Thalia Plates: The Titan’s Curse Word
The Demigami Files: The Titan’s Curse Word
A Tale By SF Hades
The Iris Rainbow Writer- Bringing You The Crystal Clear Truth Since 2018
Today- my fellow students of Athens Middle School- is a dark day. It is with great distaste that we report to you the truth of our so-called hero, Mac Astley, or as he was more commonly known as, Pleaty Jackson. Pleaty Jackson’s claim to fame- looking back- was superficial. Mac Astley’s great feets included crushing Serene Monroe- the captain of our beloved base ball team- underneath a portopotty. He was well known for the essays he had written on this school’s history, although the teachers and Mac himself declined to share said “case files”- that being what he referred to them as.
On Febuary Fourteenth, Two Thousand and Twenty, we were supposed to be celebrating our love for each other, and our school- today, of course, being Valentine’s day- but some people just can’t be happy with what they’re given. As students danced and pranced about the dance floor of our afterschool “Enchantment Under The Sea” dance, reports brought to us by a source referring to themselves as “The Triumvirate” show evidence of Astley performing such acts.
Xtreme.Fun was introduced to the school a few months ago, and was controversial among the students, leading to numerous protests, some of which being violent, some being non-violent, all of which deemed by our principal, Mrs. Kemp, as a distraction to the learning process. Last year, on the day of the 2019-2020 field trip, students actually rioted, it’s believed that Mac Astley- or his cronies- may have played a role in inciting these riots, though this notion is only supported by the principal.
It goes without saying that Mac Astley was seen as a hero in our times, his betrayal is a shocker for everyone, and this causes great pain for us here at Iris News.
Please, students of Athens Middle, if you even somewhat enjoyed this factual article, smash that like button, share, and subscribe, and be sure to check out our other articles.
By Lina Kemp
Sigh. I didn’t want an earth shattering crisis on my first day back at Middle School. But if you wield an origami finger puppet, then you really don’t get to want things. I myself- regrettably- wield Origami Thalia Grace. Well, I did time out at Caesar Middle, of course, but then I had an Origami Neptune.
I searched far and wide, first in the library where I expected he’d be with Ximena, who he totally likes. No sign of either of them, actually. Next, I rooted through the trash, and found his schedule. I’m a bit of a sleuth like that. I decided that I would wait outside of his classes, sadly, that didn’t work out either. I got nothing but odd looks from students who didn’t understand- or respect- the hustle. I decided that maybe- just maybe- I’d do something I’d grown accustomed to not doing. I was going to ask for help.
Which brings me to Dennis Redwood. Dennis Redwood was OriGrover, he was, for all intents and purposes, Pleaty Jackson’s sidekick, as much as he denies it, claiming to be his “partner,” but half of the school sees through that lie. He’s like Dick Grayson but with less of a social life. So, I caught up with him at lunch, almost as a last resort. He was left alone for one day and the school nearly imploded in on itself.
He was moping around, as it seemed everyone was. The news shattered so many hearts, I don’t really blame them. My cousin was, to the last few days, a hero who we all looked up to. There were so many Pleaty Jacksons before him, but he seemed to ignite something in the student populous the way other students failed to do so. There was a sort of hopelessness in the air for these people, they’d been through so much. I felt as if I were to blame for this, my expulsion unplayed a role in Sebastian’s turn, after all. Ximena and Dennis had grown distant, even after we all reunited, and I can’t say I blame them.
Dennis seemed to take it the hardest, he always knew Mac had a distaste for the system that seemed to rule our very livelihoods, but he never would’ve suspected that Astley would have done something this depraved, no one would’ve, to deface our precious school. But, with credit given where credit is due, he lost faith all too easily. I still hung on to the hope that my cousin hadn’t yet betrayed us, that Mac Astley remains the spark of hope he was for this entire generation of students, or at least for Dennis, for me, even. Dennis looked like he needed something hopeful, something else to inspire him, because man, he looked bad. His hair was uncombed, a major redflag when speaking to Dennis, his hair was always combed into a neat little round circle. Today it looked as if the blender model of a hair piece he once had was broken into strange geometrica splotched, and poorly rendered. His eyes were ever so slightly bloodshot, like he had been crying hours before but the swirling pool of emotions had since calmed into a blurred mix of sadness, anger, and simply no longer caring, then I realized that probably wasn’t the case, what was more likely, was that was how I feeling. That I was projecting my own feelings onto someone else, I tend to do that.
When Dennis saw me he smiled, though there was a large chance he was faking it. “Lina,” he said, “Welcome back.”
“Yeah,” I said, like I was admitting to a lie, “wish it was through better circumstances, though. Like, the one day I come back, everything goes to $*@(!)”
He sighed, and chuckled to himself without humor.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally agree there.”
There was an awkward silence.
“So do you really think he…. Y’know?” He asked.
“I have no doubt that he’s innocent.”
“I wish I had that same confidence.”
“Well, to be truthful, I think that he needs that chance to explain himself. That’s why I’m hunting.”
“Searching, Mac’s missing and that’s…. Not good. You see Ximena around, either?”
“Oh, yeah, Mom had a business trip, she took it harder than I did, played hookie. We can give her a visit after school.”
“Dude, you’re the only person I know who still says “playing hookie.” Anyways, that’ll work.”
And then the lunch bell rang, good god these lunches seem to just be getting shorter and shorter.
It also appears that the creation of “The Titan’s Curse Word” became a symbol for all the wrong people. The extremists have been using his face, his name, to promote themselves as just individuals, making them look even worse from an outsider’s point of view. It’s all so stupid. Sebastian’s claiming to be “The chosen heir to Mac Astley’s empire” which makes me want to barf. He even mass-emailed photo evidence, which further proves to me that he’s playing some sort of long game. If only I could figure out what he’s playing at. He has fifty members, and counting. We need more on our side, and thankfully there’s fifty students left. But I know many will choose to be innocent bystanders. Heck, I don’t really blame them. I wish I never got involved. Either way, we’re outnumbered, now it’s just a matter of by how much.
Just today, I had to handle a girl with an Origami Echidna.
This is so tiring.
By Ximena Strohm
I awkwardly paced the floor, stepping back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. I was getting restless. Getting angry, and most of all, getting stressed. Just when I thought I had a decent friendship- my first real one since Sebastian- crap like this happens. I had already tried everything sane. First, I called him. The number was disconnected. I went to his house, no one was home, but there was a weird guy in a white SUV claiming to be looking for him. He looked a bit like him, oddly enough.
I got home and decided to get on Discord, DMing him. The account was deleted.
My doorbell rang.
As I went to get it, I saw Dennis Redwood, Ximena Strohm, and Mallory Leavings. They all looked like they had gone through the same old ordeal I had just gone through, annoyed, agitated, and totally depressed.
“Let me guess?” I said, inviting them in, “Mac’s missing. I know. C’mon in, care for a cup of tea?”
As they filed in, I realized there was both good news and bad. Good, the general lonely vibes of the household were gone. Bad, said vibes were replaced with something much more akin to a collective depression.
I smacked my hand into my palm. “C’mon guys,” I urged, “Ok, let’s look at what we know.” I ran into the storage room and pulled out a large whiteboard, as well as red and blue expo markers. In an artsy style, combining both the red and blue expo markers, I labelled the top of the board as “The Titan’s Curse Word,” a term that I came up with, thank you very much. The puns have become more than just jokes, sure they would’ve made us laugh on other occasions, but in these circumstances it felt more like a chore.
“Ok, so,” Mallory began, “Mac Astley has been accused of defacing the East Wing, on a wall just outside of Room 304.” I violently scribbled those details down.
“Shortly after, Mac disappeared, the reason of which is unknown.” Lina chimed in. “Also, a quick announcement, I’ve decided to postpone the rebellion, at the moment it seems that it may be counterproductive. We also know that Mac is innocent.”
“As much as I want to believe you,” Dennis said.
“We don’t have much proof.” Mallory finished.
“Look,” Lina said, “Mac’s a good kid. Are you forgetting I stalked all of you for a year? It was my job to watch over Mad, h-he- I- I lost him.” Her voice grew soft and timid. “I lost him,” she said, once again.
“Look,” I sighed, “ we can’t turn against each other now, we need to understand that Mac needs to be found, we need to make sure our friend is safe, then he can or can not prove his innocence. Sounds fair?”
“Amen,” Lina said.
“Fine,” Dennis sighed.
“Eh,” Mallory grumbled.
“Look guys, let’s think things through logically, we have almost zero leads,” Mallory said, “Whatever case we make will be flimsy, it could be cut in two pretty easily.”
“Yo, wait a minute.” Lina said, perking up, “Say that last part again.”
“It could be cut in two pretty easily?”
“Cut in two… cut in two…. scissors…”
“Oh no, no way, Jose, you’re not-” I said, but I already knew we were.
“As much as it pains me to say this, he may be our only hope.”
“That’s truly depressing.”
“Again, we’re understaffed. Serene and Edward aren’t responding to our emails, Serene especially after the baseball game. At least Ed transferred over here.”
“Is there anyone else we could call? Anyone else?”
“Adam and Luke.”
“Forget what I asked.”
Dennis and Mallory both stood up.
“Guys,” Dennis began.
“What’s going on?” Mallory asked.
Some people just never grow up. I know I never did. After the Mina-tore, I sort of became a schoolwide icon, joining the OrigOlympians as the second Posideonigami, just after Mac’s father, William Emily, even going as far as to become our team’s swim captain in High School. After I graduated, life fell apart. Swamped in debt, I took up a job I only partially wanted, and certainly was only partially prepared for. A job as the swim captain at Athens Middle School, my art teacher growing up helped me fold Creaseeus, so I suppose it was only fitting if I helped carry on that love for this new generation, it’s the least I could do. I didn’t start the fire, I’m the one trying to fight it.
Lina uncovered my casefile whilst she was at Caesar Middle School and she berated me with questions, joking about how I’d be an “old guard,” as much as her quips were to my displeasure I couldn’t help but laugh, she was just like her Mom, bright, snarky, and took charge of every given situation. I just hope she wasn’t too much like her Mom. I hope that she wouldn’t become the person who her Mother is now, consumed by greed and an unhealthy obsession with the learning environment, all while wielding a finger puppet of a greek mythological character who’s mandated to be taught about in all social studies classes, almost year round. This can’t be legal. I hate my boss. I hate those stupid meetings I’m forced to attend without getting any real say. “Yeah, yeah, we’re cutting your budget,” they say. Great. This is exactly what we need right now.
Oh, and would you look at that, the swim elective has been pushed to after school to leave room for Professor Dumbtime and his screaming equation solver. How fun, and hip with today’s youth.
My phone buzzes loudly, interrupting Mrs. Kemp’s ramble about how our diagnostic scores have shown increase, while the entire council silently agrees that the reason why our diagnostic scores went up is because we easied up the problems to the extent of them being in no way comparable to the actual ACT tests and made them a mere series of ten questions. How an art teacher is more aware of this then the principal is honestly baffling to me.
I step out of the room, politely saying I need to take this. Mrs. Kemp orders me to sit down, I do. She says it could wait, I lie and say it’s from my wife. She sighs and says she understands. I’m not married. I answer the call and it’s one of my students, Lina Kemp, fresh out of the boarding school her own Mother referred to her too. It’s such a weird situation, all around.
Lina reluctantly fills me in on the situation with my godson. I should’ve felt something. Angry. Sad. Anxious. Instead, I felt nothing but a need to do something, not exactly a want, I felt like it was instead out of necessity. In short, I had no motivation to do anything.
I refuse to call Estelle, things would be too awkward, and I think her phone number’s changed since 2000.
I ask Mrs. Kemp later in the meeting if I could set up a club, a “Mythology Arts and Crafts” team, she says yes, though I’d have to pay for supplies, and I’d have to cancel one of the daily swim meets. I canceled my dry land day.
There’s no such thing as MythBowl.
Lina, Ximena, Dennis, and Mallory all show up.
“Alright students,” I say, “Welcome to the first official meeting of the Mythology Arts and Crafts team, or MAC.” I see a smirk grow on all of their faces. “Guys, we have one objective. To find what happened to Mac Astley, but we do need a cover operation. Mythology Arts and Crafts. So, the first thing we’re starting production on is a guide book I call MAC Confidential, it will detail all of our so-called “going ons”, a casefile that will go alongside the one I imagine Lina is currently organizing.”
“Recording this conversation as we speak, sir.”
“Well, today there’s not much we can do, I’ll see if I can pull a few strings. Don’t fret, this’ll all blow over soon.” There was a knock at the door, I peered in through the window-thingy and there was Mrs. Kemp.
“Well, this is a nice assortment of students you got going here, Mr. Willigens.”
“Yeah, you got Dennis, Mallory, Ximena, oh… and Lina.” She frowned, me and Lina giggled, because we knew she was being sarcastic. At least, that was the theory we all agreed on when in front of Lina. “Well,” Mrs. Kemp said, “I’ll let you four get back to doing your own thing, good luck, kiddos.”
Dennis flashed a peace sign, and Mrs. Kemp left.
“Okay gang, so I’ve come to a bit of a realization. We’ll need something to prove to Mrs. Kemp that we’re y’know… doing art. So, here’s how things will go. Dennis, I’ll need you to work on that casefile, collect interviews, keep in mind that you’ll be showing it all to Mrs. Kemp. Lina, Mallory, Ximena, you three will be in charge of keeping up the crafts.”
“Hey that’s not fair for any of us-” Dennis began.
“Let me begin. You three will be called the Three Sisters of Plate.”
“I’m in.” Mallory, Lina, and Ximena all said at the same time.
“Can I get a cool name?” Dennis asked.
“Look, I can’t think of any good puns so you’re getting the short end of the stick, and I doubt the student who came up with ‘OriGrover’ can come up with a good pun.”
“Dennis, get the art supplies from the art room.”
He sighed, and went to the art room.
I’m a good teacher.
Nico Di Angefold
I was wandering around Debbie Don’s this weekend, drenched in sweat. The classes were getting tougher, especially in the Wisdom cabin. I sat down on a bench, and caught a glimpse of one of the other cabins, the travel cabin, all of them tap dancing. I was always good at tap dancing, a fact I would always hold against Mac, with his big clumsy feet he wasn’t much good.
One of them stepped out of the room and sat on one of the rest benches, maybe seven feet away from me. He had curly brown hair and eyes that shifted around, squinting. I knew him from the track team but more importantly from the numerous pranks he had pulled with his best friend, Adam. Him and Mac would’ve gotten along well. He waved hello and sighed, hunching over to stare at the wall. Then he turned to look towards me. “Woah, you’re Ximena Strohm.” He said.
“In the flesh,” I mumbled.
“Well, you have my condolences.”
“What for?” I asked.
“The whole thing with Mac, sometimes you think you know people.”
“I did know him. He’s innocent.”
“If he’s innocent, then why did he run?”
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to figure out.”
“Personally, I think Mac did it. But that’s just me. I don’t particularly think he was in the wrong either, I probably would’ve done it myself.”
“Look, you and Luke are self proclaimed scoundrels, right, you had those Origami Stoll brothers.”
“Well, if you were on the run for this type of thing, what would you do?”
“Well, first I know that this is vandalism, and he’s a mexican in a police town. New York has no laws against imprisoning children, so he could be arrested, and if Mac’s smart he’d know this, wouldn’t he?”
“So, he’d be on the run. Probably to either defend himself or his Mom, they’d probably take away custody, too.”
“So, Mac ran away? Is that what you’re going with?”
“I’m not finished yet. To run away, Mac would need money. What’s the easiest way to get money?”
“Exactly, but obviously no pawn shop would buy from a literal child. Except one. Which one is that?”
“You must have fun at Charades.”
He screamed at Luke that they have a quest to go on, I wish he wouldn’t have, because Sebastian has many friends in the Travel Cabin.
A half hour later, me, Luke, and Adam, were at the front gates of the Qwickpick. I said hello to the man with Charonigami, it wasn’t after hours so he let me in easy as pie.
Mr. Emily wasn’t at his usual front desk, instead there was his adopted son, Edward Emily, the young man who scammed Mac Astley out of ten dollars, his lunch, and his dignity.
“Oy Malfoy,” Luke said, “What’s fresh out of the chute?”
“I don’t really remember.”
“But you work here.”
“I do, and as you know, the employee is always right. Then again, I’d be happy to get my memory jogged by a fat load of cash.”
“You know we don’t have any money.” Adam said.
“Well, that’s kind of your problem, not mine.”
I stepped forward. “I’ll pay for it, dirt wipe.”
“Oh, well for this lovely lady I’ll decrease the price, just five bucks.”
I slid over my five bucks.
“Well, a locket came in, had this photo of some compadre in a sombrero that was so funny I refused to take it out. It’s made of this really fancy gold.”
He slid over to the jewelry cabinet and pulled it out. I recognized it, Mac had always worn it, and rubbed it during stressful situations. I never questioned it, I always fingered a college ring I swiped from my Mother when I was six. I grabbed the locket out of his hands and stared at it for what must’ve been thirty seconds, my mind racing with questions.
“Tell me about who sold this to you,” I said, calmly holding back the hurricane of anger, joy, and sadness I was feeling.
I pulled out a hundred bucks, and slid it across the table. He pocketed it.
“Privacy. Policy. Also thank you, I don’t get that many tips.” He said, snatching the money.
I wanted to strangle that little twerp.
“I could buy this entire place and turn it into a sushi shop, you scheming son of a slithering salamander.”
“I’m sick and tired of people who grew up living in luxury not respecting the hustle. Me and my Dad have had to work for every penny just to keep this place up and running, So no, I’m not going to compromise our company’s integrity just because of a misplaced sense of self righteousness.”
“Look,” I said, now pleading, “I know what it’s like having to work yourself up from the ground, and this isn’t what it’s like, you need help, people need other people to grow, not just family, but friends, too. The owner of this locket was my friend. The owner of this locker was your cousin.”
“Actually, I’m adopted…” he mumbled.
“The owner of this locket helped me when I needed it most,” tears were starting to well in my eyes, “and clearly, I didn’t know everything about the owner of this locket, I didn’t know his birthday, what school he had transferred from, heck, I only learned his middle name a week ago. I care about the owner of this locket, and so please, I need your help, Ed. Right now, the world needs Edward Emily.”
His eyebrows furrowed, and he frowned, he seemed like he was reluctantly coming to a realization.
“Look, I shouldn’t do this, but if you give me… five dollars, I’ll tell you what I know, it’s not much but if it means that much to you, who am I to turn my nose up at that?”
I handed him five dollars. He handed me back my one hundred. “No, No,” I insisted, “It’s a tip.”
He took a look at the stack of cash and slid over a fifty, keeping the rest for himself.
“Thank you,” he said, “He came in here after school, this older woman entered a few minutes later, they both seemed to be in a hurry, they didn’t speak to each other either, so I doubted they knew each other. I didn’t think much of it, but I hope this leads to something. If you guys ever need something, come on over. Also these weird kids came in and rambled about Egyptian gods.”
“We’ll take that into account.” I said, walking off with Adam and Luke.
“Wow,” Luke said, “You played him like a fiddle.”
“Trust me,” I said, “I meant every word.”
A week later, me and MAC were going over the new information Ximena had obtained. Lina wanted to know who the woman was, and Dennis continued to remark how suspicious this behavior was. Mallory wanted to know why we should trust Edward, as they were bickering among each other, the intercom screeched to life. Mrs. Kemp said that I had a visitor waiting outside. How peculiar.
I stepped out and into the halls, there he was waiting on the bench outside, feeding the pigeons. William Emily, his body was lengthy, tall, and boney, not unlike Mac, I’m not the type to look at other dudes, but he could be considered attractive if you’re into the dorky type. He wore a black hoodie as if he lived in a basement.
“Hey, heard about what happened,” he said.
“So now you decide to come back?” I ask, quite frankly angry.
“Look, I know, I know, but after what happened to my parents, I didn’t exactly have the money to keep things going, to have a family, and it scared me. Do you know what it’s like to not want to grow up? To cling on to that sense of freedom?”
I did, but made no effort to show it.
“Listen, you left Estelle dirt poor, she had to move out to Madison County, I had to plead to your cousin to accept him, you brought shame to an entire lineage, you absolute #*@*!.”
“Hey, hey, no need to get fowl here, Tyler, listen, I was just wondering if I could get some help, I want to find my son, to see my boy again. Please. I made you his godfather just before the birth, so please, tell me where he is. I want to ask you this as a friend, but I know that’d be overstepping. I’m sorry.”
“You should be. Do you understand what you left Mac with?”
“No, no, no I don’t, but I want to, I want to see my son again, Tyler, you and I, we were like brothers, and I need you now. I know it’s too little too late, but please, just trust me for a moment, you knew me, you know I don’t lie, that I would never not apologize. Do you have any idea how painful each birthday’s been, each night I spend waiting for the right moment?”
“I mean… the right moment was twelve year ago but…” I sighed, “Listen, nitwit, even if I did want to help you further ruin your son’s life, I have just as good of a clue as to where hs is as you do, he got accused of some bad crap, and I guess running away from your troubles runs in the family, doesn’t it?”
And for a moment, he looked genuinely sad, like his heart shattered.
“Then…” he began, “I’ll help you find him. I’ll prove to you that I care, I’ll prove to him that I care.”
“We don’t need your help. You left your backpack at home like three days every year.”
“Would you shut up about that, man? It’s been like thirty years.”
“And you managed to get worse.”
“Fine, look, I guess, but know this, if you hurt Mac- or Estelle- I’ll personally make sure you pay for it. Understood?”
“Yeah, yeah, I guess.”
“Good. That’s what I thought.”
Hunters of ARTemis Record #263
Location: Gymnasium, Hallway
Date: 2019 A.D.
Author Name: Keana McDaniels, lieutenant of Art-emis.
Misc.: Chapter will not go into archives until mission is complete, due to it containing information that must remain hidden from Ms. Hunter.
I’m bad at segways. I was scheduled to be in service on February Sixteenth, which Ms. Hunter [Artemis] had sorely forgotten, an odd fact due to the fact that I have recently been made her second in command, ever since the issue with Kaitlyn had erupted.
First, I checked the gymnasium, no sign of her, instead I saw the other cadets there, all of which looked dumbstruck, seeming to have cow eyes. I wandered around the hallways, eventually bumping into her in the hallway. Where the Titan’s Curse Word has first been created. It remained there after numerous attempts to wash it.
I told her about the scheduling conflict, and she chuckled to herself. She said she wanted to ask me something. She asked if I had seen Mac around. I quickly deduced that Ms. Hunter was one of the teachers Mrs. Kemp had stuck on Mac. I quickly thought up a lie.
“Mac…. Nope, hadn’t seen him since breakfast two days ago. Why do you ask?”
“His parents aren’t responding to calls, see, and she has an update on the whole punishment situation. I’m surprised that not one of us caught him, it would probably mean people are lying to us, and that makes me very upset. So, you see anything?”
“Can’t say that I have.”
There was a sort of silence.
“Gosh,” I said, “This whole thing is such a crazy rumor. I’d sure love to know who reported it, just for funsies.”
“Oh, well, keep this between you and me, Flynn Macintosh.”
I smiled, fakely. “Oh my goodness, that’s so… interesting. Hey, why don’t I go see if I can find Mac for you.”
“That would be great.”
Later in the day, when the bell rang, I grabbed my puppet, Zoe Nightsharpie, out of my locker. All of the hunters’ puppets seemed to glow with a faint silver, a sign of the attention to detail and craftsmanship that went into folding each and every one of them. The art was expressive, the creases were nice and crisp. Each and every one of them was gorgeous.
I made my way, looking for one of the abysmal snitchbags I would have to interrogate. I personally met Mac Astley only once, and so I knew in my heart that he was innocent. I hate it when people get framed for things they didn’t do.
The second I saw Flynn’s stingy red hair and thin composure I ran over to him and pinned him against the wall just as we were walking to the bus line.
“Oh, hi Keana, didn’t see you there.” He said.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Flynn. I know that you and your boss framed Mac.”
“Oh, did we? Or did we just report the truth? There’s a stark contrast between reporting a crime to the proper authorities and being part of the problem. All we did was give Mrs. Kemp some photos.”
“I know what game you’re playing. You just want those popularity points, is that it? Did he promise you that you’d run this empire after him, maybe be the next Luke CastePleat?”
“Actually, I have a different puppet, one with a bigger end goal. You think I’m doing this because I think Sebastian will bring me to glory, oh on the contrary. Even you’re merely a pawn.”
“You’re just saying that to get in my head, I know you are.”
“Am I? Or are you just using my quote un quote ‘lies’ as justification to bury your fears?”
“Shut up. Shut up. I could crush you like a gnat.”
“Then why don’t you then? Imagine a fight breaking out in the bus line, moments before the end of the day, wouldn’t that be a tragedy? Word to the not so wise, Keana, don’t*#&*# with things you shouldn’t be &$#*)#) with.”
Flynn put his hand on my arm, twisted it ever so slightly, making me lose my grip on his shirt. He smiled and turned away, sticking out of his back pocket was a strange finger puppet, one I couldn’t exactly make out.
But there’s more important information at hand, isn’t there?
There we were, alone in the room. Us- the Sisters of Plate- and Dennis. There was light chitter chatter but all in all the room was tense. Mr. Willigens stepped in, behind him was the man I had saw looking for Mac, out in the white van, him and Mac looked alot alike, they both had the blonde hair, the light blue eyes, it’s just that this man looked more grizzled where Mac had more subtle, softer features, like a cat’s. Not like a police dog made for sniffing things out.
“Hi guys… this is William Emily… Mac’s Dad.”
Him being Mac’s Dad, I expected he’d shoot finger guns, instead he waved shyly.
Lina stood up, walked over to him.
“Hi… uh… Will- William… Bill… I’m your…. Uh…. sister’s daughter.”
“Pleasure, and who are these people?” He asked, looking at us.
“Oh uh, yeah, that’s Dennis, Mac’s best friend, Mallory, and Mac’s girlfriend, Ximena.”
I ignored her comment about Mac being my boyfriend.
“It’s a pleasure meeting all of you, really. Also, I think I know where we can find Mac.”
“Yeah, I- I emailed Estelle. She says that Mac was grounded, his Discord was deleted. Mac didn’t run away, or any of those wild rumors.”
“What about the whole flea market thing?”
“Oh,” Dennis interjected, “I can answer that. They go there every week.”
“You didn’t think to mention that earlier?” Ximena asked.
“Didn’t seem relevant.” Dennis shrugged.
“God, I hate your guts.”
There was another awkward pause, a lingering tension in the air.
“So is that it?” I asked, “The guy’s just grounded?”
“Yeah, pretty much, yeah.” Mr. Emily said, “But uh… what if we were to pay him a visit?”
“I’m in!” I yelped, “Or, like, I’m down… I guess.”
Dennis, Lina, and Mallory each shook their heads.
Since I didn’t have my parents, I went into the white van with two strange forty year old men. A completely normal day in the life of Ximena Strohm.
We drove in awkward silence, a silence interrupted by Mr. Willigens complaining about the bumpy ride in the back, as we sat in our comfortable leather cushioning.
And then, it actually happened, we had arrived. After all of this searching, it felt anticlimactic. We all had overlooked the most obvious detail, that Ms. Astley might just not have been home when we showed up. Annabeth Chase was supposed to be the brains of the team. She was supposed to be a great leader, and at the moment I felt like I had failed my team, I felt like I wasn’t the “Wise Girl” I was supposed to be. We buzzed the front gate, and they let us in. We continued up the stairs, and eventually made it to his apartment. William knocked at the door.
Ms. Astley greeted us at the door, apologizing for the issues we’ve had to go through. Estelle yelled at his son to come into the living room. Coach Willigens stepped outside, deciding to leave us with Mac.
“Maccy,” Estelle said, a twinge of worry in her voice, “Ximena came to visit.”
“Who’s the low life?” He asked, unknowingly staring at his Father.
“Oh… Mac… that’s your… Father.”
Mac stepped back, he had this shocked look on his face.
“No… No…. No… that’s- that’s impossible.”
William pulled the golden trident locket out of his pocket, and he dangled it over his hand. I pulled the one I had gotten from the Qwikpick and tossed it over at Mac.
“I can’t believe you tried to donate that without telling me,” Estelle chastised.
“Look, this guy isn’t even a part of my life anymore, I really don’t care about him in the slightest.”
“Nor should you,” William said, trying to interrupt the argument that was on the brink of taking place. “But when you shot me that email, Estelle, and I learned you came back to Athens, I knew something was up. You always said you just couldn’t wait to get out of here. I got worried.”
The day of the awkward silence grew more awkward.
“Look,” William said, “Let me and Mac just go on one walk, it’ll be maybe a half hour.”
Estelle and Mac sighed, Estelle looked at Mac, Mac shook his head. Ms. Astley nodded, slowly, and then gave William a stare that could kill.
“Half hour.” She insisted.
By Mac Astley
God, I don’t even know where to begin this. I guess I’ll give my side of the story, for future generations.
It was the night of the valentine’s day dance, See, Athens is like a military school, when students get a chance to unwind, man, they go to town. People were kicking the white and gold balloons into each other’s faces, someone had even brought a green smoke machine. The school had super low budget speakers, but someone hacked the intercom to blair a stupid song called Kiss This Kiss. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander were always chaperones for these types of events, it seemed like date night for them. They looked so happy, as Mr. Miyagi once said, they looked different but same. Just a dork with no social skills head over heels in love with a woman way smarter and grumpier than him, who’s way out of his league. I want something like that.
They were dancing, Amy was tripping over his feet, spilling Kool-Aid onto Lance’s shirt, Lance, on the other hand, seemed smooth and intricate, delicate as a ballerina. They both seemed so happy together, and for a moment I watched in envy, but in hope, in hope that I could find someone.
I zoned back into the conversation I was having with Ximena, I realized she had been rambling about this song’s largely nonsensical lyrics for three minutes now. But she paused just as well, she saw all the happy couples dancing. Ximena scootched a bit closer to me, and then I realized she had grown a bit taller than me. I asked to be excused out into the hallway, I needed to catch my breath.
I noticed someone was spraypainting on the walls, and I knew I had to stop him. I read what he was writing first, a swear word in relation to FunTime, a concept that’s been a thorn in my side ever since winter vacation ended. I walked over to him and placed my hand on his shoulder. He punched me in the jaw, and I caught a glimpse of a face that I knew I recognized, but had never seen before. It could’ve been Sebastian, could’ve been Flynn, heck, it could even be someone like Xena or Xander. Whoever they were, they punched me in the jaw. I swore, and they ran off. I picked up the spray paint can that they had dropped, but a reporter-looking kid with a rainbow pin walked up to me and took a photo, with a bright flash and a loud noise. I tried to explain to her that this was all a big misunderstanding but she said she needed to get those views. Imagine being so desperate, so vile for clout, that you frame someone for defacing school property. Personally, I’m disgusted. After she ran away, I did the only thing I could think of, I wrote a note. The problem was, I didn’t have much paper. All I had was Pleaty Jackson, so I wrote the note on his back.
No one ever bothered to read it. The evidence was stacked against me and so I ran off, lied to my Mom and told her I had the day off. While we were at the Qwikpick, and I was trying to sell off that pendant that no longer had value to me, my Mom got a call. She grounded me from my phone, and forced me to delete my Discord. Heck, she still thinks I’m guilty to this day.
Y’know what REALLY would’ve been useful in a situation like this, a Father who I could talk to about these sorts of things, who was there for me. Every time I see Dennis with his family or Ximena complaining about her Dad being in jail, I wish I could just tell them to shut up. Do you understand how it is, to grow up and not have that bond, to cling onto those faint memories of someone who deep down you know doesn’t give two flyings &*^&^%*s about you? It’s hard, alright, so forgive me when I show a little bit of bad attitude towards the person who ruined my life by not even being there, for not giving me that support system I so desperately need. Forgive me for ‘not giving him a chance’ because my whole god dam life has been spent giving him a chance, thinking that he had to leave, that my role in this cursed school is tied to him being gone.
I wish I could say he had an excuse, I would’ve chosen to believe it because god knows I’m a gullible idiot with way too much trust in people.
While we took our walk down the road, my Father told me about the locket, which rested in my pocket, feeling more and more like a hot coal. He said it was a gift from his Father before him, a Emily family heirloom.
“Look, kid,” he says, “I have no right to intrude in on your life like this, and I have no right to just apologize for what I have and haven’t done for you, but I’ll say this, every day I used to look at that locket and wish I could go back in time, to fix things.”
I was… unimpressed. I walked away, but William was persistent.
“Please…” he pleaded, “Could I at least buy you dinner? For your troubles?”
So there we were, at Wendy’s, these things are all over New York, I tell you.
William tried to fill me in on his life, which, to be honest, I didn’t care about. Mostly just pyramid schemes he had gotten involved in, schemes that hadn’t worked out. He said that I could stay out at his place in California for a few weeks. I was at a loss for words. On one hand, who exactly does he think he is? The second I move on, when I’m ready to get rid of the burden he’s cast on my self esteem he just returns like this. But on the other hand, what if he really is better? Who would I be to deny a man his son, and to deny myself a father, albeit twelve years late. I just said ‘yeah.’ What else could I have said?
We went home.
Just before I arrived back at my Mom’s apartment, William asked if we could sit on the bench just outside of our apartment. He asked me if I still wore my locket, every day. I told him yes, and that I had it on me every day. He told me a detail that he had overlooked earlier, his eyes seemed to be shifting around. He said that these lockets were made from real gold, they were made by some fancy french designer and are worth Marilyn Manroe level money. He said that if he could get both of them, maybe he could put a deposit down on his house.
And that’s when my heart shattered.
This stupid, happy go lucky, kid trusted everyone, and what does he get out of it? Cheated, time and time again. Dennis turned his back on me, Sebastian and William betrayed me, Lina is just putting me up on a pedestal, heck, Ximena’s the only person who hasn’t downright been awful to me, everyone’s been acting like I’m their puppet, I’m a real person. People are acting like I’m some kind of symbol of rebellion against authority, but I don’t want to be. I folded Pleaty Jackson expecting it to be fun and it’s not, and looking at William I felt like I was looking at the last four months, the worst of my life. Seeing my school in ruins, seeing my friends betray me, being called a thief, a vandal, and everything in between. I gave him the locket. What else was I supposed to do?
I stepped into my house, Ximena was there waiting for me. My Mom looked at me, she knew me, she knew it was best to leave me alone. I didn’t want that.
I’ve been to six schools in six years, kicked out of every place. I’ve tried to keep my head down in some of them, keeping my chin up in others, it all ends the same. The only family that really matters thinks I’m a vandal. The second I find a place where I think I’m happy, where I think I’ll stay, I’m sent packing.
I hugged Ximena, and my tears dripped on her shoulders, and I cried as the sun set, the only thing illuminating the room being the moonlight seeping in through the windows. She went home at around nine, and I went to my room, feeling small and cramped. I felt totally and utterly isolated. Like my self imposed prison.There was only one place where I really felt welcome, not the school, not my home- or at least anymore. Debbie Don’s Dance Dojo. I knew it would be closed, but it’s not like I have a reputation to uphold.
I had grown Mr. Alexander’s trust over the months, he had sort of become a mentor of mine, so naturally, he had left me with the key. I opened the door and the little bell rang. I headed into my room, Loyalty, and sensed the irony of it, the only person in the loyalty cabin giving up hope, the one who was betrayed the most. I went to town on the punching bag and realized I was only building up anger, so I did the only other thing I could think of. I turned the music on and danced.
I wouldn’t say I’m graceful, but dance was always one thing I loved about Debbie Don’s, it felt magical, like I was a paper crane, flapping its wings through the night. It felt eerie dancing in the dark, the only things that illuminated the room were the foil origami tridents that I had folded to liven up the one room that had all but been abandoned.
Suddenly, Mr. Alexander practically kicked down the door, still in his pajamas, but holding a Zerf gun. He froze up when he saw me.
“Jesus Christ, Astley, you scared the life out of me. Do you have any idea how loud your stomps are?”
“Amy! Come on out, it’s okay, it’s just the Astley boy. You scared the absolute crap out of us.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know you two were here.”
“I mean, we live here. It’s not exactly easy to afford both a big place like this and a house, now is it?”
“Yeah, I would know.”
“Look, you seem to be in pretty bad shape, do you need to talk in my office, or something? I could get Amy to make you some tea, it’s helped me out on some really bad days, too.”
“Sure, that would be great.”
Five minutes later, I was venting. Almost yelling at my teacher, and he sat there, he took it all in.
“Jeez, that’s- that’s, that reminds me of something, actually. See, we had this friend, but some people weren’t exactly appreciative, and they tried to ruin him, eventually they tried to kick him out of school, and he did, he got kicked out, almost like you’ll be, soon. But he left us something behind, he helped our lives out, he even helped get me Amy. So, no matter what happens, it’s not about what we do with the time we’re given, it’s about what we leave behind.”
That one line.
It changed everything.
It’s not about what we do with the time we’re given, it’s about what we leave behind.
And I came to a sudden realization.
I don’t want to be Pleaty Jackson anymore.
I’m tired of being a puppet.
So if I go away, I might as well leave something behind.
It’s time that I do it, it’s time that I beat him. It’s time I beat Sebastian Merrick.
I asked Mr. Alexander if I could borrow his phone, he questioned why, and I told him, I told him I was going to use what I learned against Sebastian. I think that, for just once, I’ll solve my problems with violence, we’re learning stuff like this for a reason.
He tried to sway me against it, mercilessly quoting The Karate Kid. I ran outside, and found one pay phone just outside of the Qwikpick. I put the quarter in.
“Hello? Who is this?” Sebastian asked.
“Mac Astley. And I’m tired of this. Meet me any time, any place. Let’s settle this like men.”
“Oh, lovely. See you at the park.”
I walked to the park. It was completely empty, given it being the dead of night. Sebastian came ten minutes later. He wore our school uniform which was neon orange, making him seem to glow in the dark. His normally jagged brown hair was combed, his eye bags were better, and he no longer had a limp. He looked better, stronger, more sophisticated.
“Hey man, I don’t want this but-”
I punched him in the jaw. He laughed, “Please be gentle, it’s my first time.”
I swung at him again, square in the jaw, I heard something snap. This was going good, I was winning. I struck his leg and he fell over, writhing in pain. I stopped for a moment and realized that he may have been in pain, so I tried to help him up. He swiped at my leg, and kicked me in the face, now, my nose was roughly the size and texture of a water mattress. He elbowed me in the ribs, and pushed me onto the ground.
“Y’know,” he said, “I was Pleaty Jackson once. I had that same naive outlook that you do, it blinded me to this harsh reality. That’s what I want you to see, Mac, I want you to stop being blinded by this light that dims your intelligence. Your friends have turned against you, got you kicked out of school, now, you feel everything that I’ve felt. And so you know that theo system is flawed.” I tried to get up but he pushed me back onto the ground. “See, there’s this old proverb I like to quote. All it takes is one bad day. But now, it looks like you’ve been having a bad couple of months. It hurts, doesn’t it? To know how small you really are in all of this?” He kicked me again.
I closed my eyes.
In every school I’ve ever been to, there’s always been bullies, people who try to grind up the gears of the little guy in their snake’s maw and spit the gears out. But I’ve never let people walk over me.
I opened my eyes.
And I swung, with all of my force, it didn’t feel like I was just punching Sebastian, it felt like I was punching every villain who I’d ever had the displeasure of being around. As I kicked and punched, I acted out of emotion, my vision was blinded by a sensation of red, glowing, rage while his moves seemed calculated.
I tried to kick him, but his boney and spindly leg tried to wrap itself around mine and pulled it in closer, Sebastian ripped my shoe off and threw it at me.
And while I was distracted, he twisted the leg, and I howled in pain. He shoved me back onto the ground and he pressed his spiked boot on my heel.
“Isn’t it ironic?” He asked, “All of this training at Debbie Don’s, and it’s your heel that’s your weakness. Those big, dumb, feet of yours.” He applied more pressure, slowly, more and more, the pain was indescribable, the pain in my foot seem to ripple through my nerves, my fingers grew weak, like string was tightly wrapped around it, my stomach hurted and I felt like I was going to throw up. I could physically feel my face turn into a kaleidoscope of green, red, and purple, and he knelt over and placed his hand on my mouth so my screams wouldn’t wake anyone up. He walked away after holding his foot over my heel for what must’ve been a mere minute. I sat there for about thirty minutes, simply not having the willpower to stand. Eventually, I headed home, climbing up the fire escape with just one (barely) working foot.
I sat down on my comfortably cushioned bed and just stared at the wall for an hour.
I’ve been expelled from Athens Middle School.
My friends have lost faith in me.
My Dad is a complete and utter dirtwipe.
Pleaty Jackson was confiscated.
Sebastian Merrick won.
I couldn’t be Pleaty Jackson anymore, not like I wanted to anyways.
If it’s not about what we did with the time we’re given, but instead about what we leave behind, then call me a loser, because I left behind an empire of dirt.
The sun rises. It’s a new day.
Bon voyage, Athens Middle School.
I caught up with William on the crosswalk.
“I just wanted to ask you something.”
“What the hell are you thinking, man? The kid, he loves that locket.”
“Look, dude, I’ll make it up to him… somehow, maybe I’ll buy him a video game or something.”
There was an awkward pause.
“Don’t ever come back here, William.”
“Wasn’t planning on it, tough guy. Tell Estelle I said bye, she looks good, not as good as when I had her but still.”
I punched him square in the jaw.
“You’re lucky I’m busy.” I told him.
Later that day, I went to work. Did my classes. And when the bell rang, they came to me.
“Alrighty class, welcome to M.A.C., but due to recent events, I think a new name is in order. So… drumroll please…”
Lina did the drum roll.
“The Heroes of OrigOlympus.”