The Fold: Or, How I Solved the Mystery of How My Leg Got Broke
A Personal Narrative by Matthew Yen
Lampert English/Comp Grade 10
Chapter 1: Race Day
My name is Matt Yen, and I’m the fastest guy in my school.
Or, at least, I would have been. Until I fractured my leg.
Actually, let me rephrase that: Until someone fractured my leg. See, I’m not the one that fractured my leg, but we’re getting there. First, I need to set the scene.
Ah, the first race of the season. Gosh, I love this day. The crisp March air blowing through across the track; the old pros stretching on the field; the newcomers taking everything in. The first race gives you a chance to show your stuff, but also see the stuff of everyone else. See who’ll give the most competition.
And then, I always win the first race, of course, so that helps.
No, seriously. That’s not just me being cocky. I promise.
I’ve been a part of my track team since elementary school, and I’ve earned my place. Believe me, there are some guys on the team who only get on due to past showings, uncalled bluffs, and probably bribes (I haven’t been able to prove that yet). I wouldn’t even try to join unless I knew I had the skill. And, for the past few years, I have!
It’s my sophomore year at Lampert High in good ol’ Jutefruce, California. I’m in the prime of my career! For some reason, people think I’m the star of the track team. I know people, and people know me. I can just be walking down the hall and people want to give me high-fives and listen to my pointers. The weirdest part is girls I’ve never seen before going up to me and giving me their numbers. It’s a strange feeling, being popular. But, I’d like to think I’ve earned it. People who are popular for no reason other than a pretty face are really annoying. I never want to be like that.
So, to earn my place in the annals of admittedly pointless social standing, I’ve been training. In the weeks leading up to Race Day, I ran around the track every morning before school. I’ve stretched every day, hydrated well, worked out whenever I can, all to be 100% ready for Race Day.
The anticipation nearly drove me crazy. My friend Casey will tell you that; I’d complained about the wait to her nearly every day for the past month. It’s hard enough for me to stay focused in school; it’s even worse when I have the start of my favorite season to look forward to.
Finally, the day dawned. The track was opened and Race Day was here.
I barely made it through the school day. Having the expectation of the first race, the first meet of the whole season, hanging over my head was torture. I kept stumbling down the hallways, seeing the trophy cases full of Track and Field trophies, ironically while I was trying to keep up with my schoolwork.
“Slow down,” Casey told me during lunch. “You look like you’re going to spontaneously combust.”
I fidgeted, nervously, eating fast. “Waiting, Casey. Waiting is terrible.”
“So is bloating. Which you will end up doing if you don’t stop sucking up your food like a vacuum.”
“I appreciate the concern, but I’m fine,” I replied, just before inhaling a piece of salisbury steak.
“You’re disgusting,” I remember her telling me. I ignored her.
You know, looking back, she was probably right. Retrospect, amiright?
The final bell rang and most everybody went home, but I’d already resolved to get some last-minute practice in before the race. I stretched and jogged the track once, getting a feel for the course. People began arriving and it was finally, finally time to get ready.
I took a shower in the locker room (which still reeks of dog poop after the Rover incident – someone should get that fixed) and made sure I had everything I needed.
Dirt-smudged water bottle? Check.
Running shoes? Check.
Lucky shoelaces? Check.
What can I say? I’m kind of superstitious. All runners are. It keeps me sane.
After getting dressed and dried off I sat down on a bench in the middle of the locker room. I set my shoes next to me on the bench, mentally preparing myself for the afternoon’s events. While I was slipping on my socks, a bigger guy walked into the locker room. I recognized him. His name was Calvin Moody, and he was a part of the wrestling team. I looked at him, confused, before I remembered that there was a wrestling match inside the school today.
He nodded towards me and I waved back. He sat down on the bench next to me, sweaty and gross. He smelled like mushy enchiladas. I tried not to wrinkle my nose too much.
“You getting ready to run?” He asked me, out of breath. He had a red water bottle in his hand and took a big swig.
“Yeah…” I replied. “And…you?”
“Just got out of a wrestling match,” he said, slowly.
He set his water bottle down next to my shoes. He stretched his arms and I got a whiff of milk-curdling B.O. He gave me a pat on the back. “Good luck, man.”
He stood up, accidentally knocking his water bottle over. The cap popped off and drenched my shoes in lukewarm wrestler’s water. I looked down at them, aghast. Yes, I just used the word aghast.
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” Calvin said, mortified. He took off his shirt and started to try to soak up the water out of my shoes. Personally, I would have taken my chances with the water, but now I had Calvin’s sweat inside the soles of my running shoes.
“Hey, hey, man, stop,” I said. “You’re good.”
Calvin stopped trying to absorb the liquid and gave a feeble smile. “I’m really sorry, man.”
“Yeah.” I stood up and grabbed my shoes, not bothering to put them on. Holding them in my hands, and slinging my towel over my shoulder, I left the locker room, along with an apologetic, sweaty wrestler.
I stepped outside, taking in the afternoon sunlight. Or, I would have. As soon as I walked outside, I got a phone shoved in my face, along with the painfully bright flash of a camera.
“Matt Yen, how do you feel about your chances today?”
“What?” I asked, blinking the flash out of my eyes.
As soon as my vision returned to normal, I saw the school reporter (and all-around gorgeous knock-out) Mandy Bennet. She was a popular girl who was well-liked throughout the school, even if her journalism was annoying to pretty much everyone, especially us athletes. To be fair, most of the guys seemed to be fine with hitting on her whenever she interviewed them. I didn’t bother; I just answered whatever questions she had and moved on with my life.
“Matt?” Mandy asked. “You there?” Mandy’s cameraman took another picture. This time I was ready for the flash.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here.”
“Why are you holding your shoes?”
I shrugged. Even though I was annoyed, I wasn’t about to sell out Calvin for a simple mistake. “A water bottle exploded on them.”
“I see. Will you be running in them?”
“Don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
Mandy thought for a moment. “Actually, you might. Can you work your magic, Mikey?”
“Yeah, I gotcha,” the cameraman responded. He grabbed my shoes and my towel.
“Wait a second,” Mandy said with a winning smile.
Mikey wrapped my shoes up in my towel, waited a beat, and removed them, perfectly dry and pristine. My towel was soaked, though.
“How did you do that?” I asked, amazed.
“Mikey’s been practicing close-up magic. He’s getting quite good, don’t you think?”
“He really is…” I held up my shoes to investigate. I looked at the soles, heels, my lucky shoelaces-
Another camera flash. “So, Matt, now that you have your shoes, are you ready for your race?” Mandy asked, holding the phone up to record my responses. She tossed her hair back and smiled at me. I rolled my eyes and started talking.
After being held for an interview for way too long by Mandy and Mikey I was finally able to make it to the track. I stopped to slip on my shoes, of course. I tied my laces while envisioning the race.
I was able to get checked in, say ‘hi’ to Casey who was waiting on the sidelines, and found my starting mark.
“Oh, great,” I groaned, inwardly. My starting mark was right next to one of the biggest idiots on the entire track team, and someone who I really, reeeeeally despised: Stevie Stewart.
Stevie Stewart was a year older than me, so he was currently a junior. We’d raced together last year and in middle school, and let me tell you that he is the worst. His family is nice; he has a brother my age who’s also on the track team and a freshman sister who are both nice enough, but Stevie’s nasty attitude is enough to sour the gene pool.
I guess you could say he’s my rival. He’s not a bad runner, but he never puts in the work to be a part of the team. He just shows up to practices, does the least work required, and somehow still gets some of the best positions on the team. Hence, why he’s right next to me.
“Stevie,” I greeted him as I did some last minute stretches on my mark.
“What’s up, Yen?” he replied. “Good to see you haven’t lost your spot.”
“Good to see you haven’t been kicked off,” I shot back.
Stevie narrowed his thin, blonde eyebrows. “I’d ask you to watch your back, but I’ll be ahead of you the entire race. Watch your front.”
I snorted. “Clever.”
The officials took their positions, and began the formalities; season announcements, notable players, that type of thing.
At long last, the countdown started.
And, we’re off.
In races like this, where there’s a lot of ground to cover, you have to pace yourself. You can’t exert all of your energy in the first push, unless you’re an idiot. The best way to go is to stay in the middle of the pack, let the rest of the competitors tire themselves out, and then give one giant push during the final stretch.
Stevie is one of the idiots who explodes out to the front right at the beginning, but in an annoying twist of fate it doesn’t seem to wear him out. He’s one of the toughest nuts to crack at the end, but I was totally confident. I kept my pace at a light jog for the first portion.
The track was simple; it was a dirt path that stretched behind the school, looped through a small forested area, and circled back behind Lampert. It’s a dusty, muggy, and itchy track once you get in the trees. It’s easy to lose your breath among the stuffy leaves.
It was time to start moving up. Midway through the trees, I moved my jog into a light sprint, pushing through panting boys. Most of my competition was sweating and panting up a storm, but I could barely feel any perspiration. Perspiration means sweat, by the way.
I noticed something…weird, though, as soon as I started sprinting. My shoes felt…heavier. They definitely didn’t feel like they had during practice. They didn’t feel wet – whatever Mikey had done had totally dried them off – but they felt awkward. Maybe my feet were having a spontaneous growth spurt.
Whatever was wrong, I couldn’t fix it now. The race was a third of the way finished. As I came out of the trees and could see the finish line, I saw that Stevie was still in the front, along with some other fast guys. I waited.
I waited some more.
Finally, it was time.
I burst forward, kicking up dust with my weird-feeling-shoes as I went. I passed a few of the guys, sprinted even faster, and passed a few more. Soon, Stevie was the only guy in front of me.
He was close to the finish line, too. I’d need to pull out a photo finish.
I threw myself forward, pumping my arms and legs like a well-oiled machine. This was what I loved about running: racing towards the finish line, leaving my competition in the dust, feeling my body slice through the air like a knife. Exhilaration in its finest form.
I passed Stevie. I didn’t bother looking back; Stevie’s splutters of disbelief were reward enough. The finish line was so close. I poured my last bit of strength into my sprint-
As I lifted my left leg, my shoelace came untied.
It came down as I stepped on it with my right leg.
Needless to say, I tripped.
But it wasn’t a normal trip, let me tell you. It was the mother of all trips. I was using all my strength my push forward, and in doing so I think I’d made myself a little top-heavy. I flew forward, landing hard on my right leg. I think I heard an audible snap, but that might have been my imagination.
With the momentum, I rolled forwards and came to a stop on the dusty ground. It felt like my leg was on fire. I pulled it close to my chest and tried to not cry. Suddenly, the crisp March breeze wasn’t so nice: It felt like a bunch of tiny daggers stabbing my already-injured leg.
“Matt!” I heard Casey yell, worried.
It took the bystanders a few moments to realize that, yes, I was actually hurt. My coach, my parents, Casey, and the school nurse knelt down next to me.
“Are you okay, Matty?” my mom asked, holding my hand.
“Do you want the true answer, or the nice answer?” I said through gritted teeth as the teacher felt my leg.
“I don’t think he’s okay,” Casey translated. That was nice of her.
“I think you’ve got a mild fracture,” the nurse diagnosed.
“That can’t be good,” I heard my dad mutter.
“No, Mr. Yen, it isn’t,” Coach Yeager confirmed. “Even if it is a mild fracture, Matt can’t be on that leg.” Even through the pain of my leg, I knew that whatever Coach was gonna say would be even more painful.
My mom gasped. “You don’t mean-”
“Matt’s out of the running season.”
I momentarily forgot about my leg. How could this have happened? I’d checked everything. I’d practiced, I’d trained, I’d done everything I could to be ready for this season. I was the most popular runner on the team, and people were counting on me. How could I be out of the season?
As soon as he said that, I might have shouted a curse.
What? I’m not proud.
Chapter 2: Unfortunate Circumstances
I’m out. That’s it. I’m out of the running season.
“You know you’re not the only one who’s had to deal with this,” Casey reasoned, sitting on the sidewalk. Sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house was where me and Casey had built our friendship around sarcastic comments and unsympathetic sympathy.
I should probably take the time to introduce Casey, because she is the tritagonist of this story. Casey Rushman is a couple months older than me, and we’ve been friends since eighth grade when we were made lab partners in Biology. She’s just a bit shorter than me, with blonde hair (usually in a braid) and eyes that are the color of brownies right out of the oven. Weird comparison, maybe, but you’d agree if you know her. Since becoming friends and learning we lived on the same street, me and Casey have spent most of the last three years together. Not in romantically at all, by the way. Just best friends.
Per usual, we sat on the sidewalk, and this discussion tactic was what Casey was using at the moment. And I didn’t appreciate it.
“Really?” I said, raising an eyebrow. “Didn’t realize that.” I shifted my weight, painfully, so I could give her a more scathing look.
“Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning…” Casey replied, counting off of her fingers.
“Don’t you think you’re putting the cart before the horse?”
“What do you mean?”
My leg was set in what the doctor had called an ‘Ankle stirrup splint’, which was just a softer wrap attached with velcro around the fracture. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was an eyesore. It was supposed to help the fracture set and heal, but…
“The doctor said I can’t run on it, even when it heals again,” I explained. “The fracture was that bad.”
Casey blinked. “Oh.”
That’s what the doctor said. He’s a quack, I say. No potential discussion, no use telling my parents and my coach that I was fine. I’m totally fine! I’ll be back in the running season soon enough. Just as soon as I can figure out how to rip my splint off without my leg screaming at me.
Yeah, I’ll admit that it hurts. I used to think that a fractured bone wasn’t nearly as bad as a broken one, but if I’ve ever said so to you please feel free to slap me. Fractured bones hurt like crap.
Adding insult to injury, I don’t even need crutches. So, I can limp around school on my own two feet, but I’m not allowed to run? Where’s the fairness in that?
I hadn’t even touched my running shoes or my water bottle since the accident. Mom and dad had taken them home while I was brought to the hospital. I was worried that if I saw them, it would just be a painful reminder of what I couldn’t be anymore.
“Matt?” I heard Casey ask.
“You spaced out.”
“Oh, yeah.” I shook my head. “Just thinking about how I’m totally fine and should be allowed to run as soon as possible.”
Casey put her hand on my shoulder. “You know you can’t do that.” She gestured towards the splint. “This will help you get better.”
“Running is my life, Casey,” I said. “If I’m not a runner anymore…what am I?”
“A wimp,” she replied, smirking.
She stood up and smiled down at me. “Really, I don’t know what you are, Matt,” she said thoughtfully. “But I can’t wait to see what you become.”
“I try.” She turned down the sidewalk and headed home, leaving me to think about the philosophical implications of that statement all by myself.
You know what feels really weird? Limping around a school where you are known for how fast you run. It’s like someone has stolen your clothes in the middle of winter, leaving you wandering around naked and shivery. People ignore you, because nobody wants to deal with a naked- you know what, never mind. That’s a bad analogy.
All I’m trying to say is, I was having an identity crisis. Everything special about me was gone. I was just another kid.
In ability, anyway. I was still a bit of a celebrity, for all the wrong reasons; Mandy Bennet and the school news had a field day (no pun intended) with my accident. Usually, I’d love to be the center of attention, but not like this. Seeing myself trip over and over again on the TV screens was sickening, almost. It felt weird.
It didn’t just feel weird. It felt wrong.
People apologized for whatever reason, and felt sorry for me. Calvin Moody offered condolences and gave me his water bottle in recompense. I tried to take it as graciously as possible, but I didn’t even bother opening it and threw it into my locker as soon as possible.
I heard that Stevie Stewart had become the ‘star’ in my absence, which only added insult to injury. It was a dark time for the Lampert athletics group in my absence.
If you want to know how this all affected me, all you had to do is look at my report card for that first week. It wasn’t pretty when we got it in the mail.
Unfortunately, my dad was the one who opened it first. It was during dinner, too. “A C in Math, Ds in Science and History…an F in English? Matt!”
“Can I get an F in the chat?” I murmured.
“I don’t even know what that means!” Dad replied, annoyed.
We live in a small-ish apartment on First Street, a couple blocks away from the movie theater. It’s just me, my mom and my dad. My two older brothers already moved off to college, so I have all of my parents’ attention. Usually, it’s a good thing. Today, it wasn’t.
See, my grades aren’t always the best anyway. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s because I can’t sit still and lose focus all the time. My parents both tolerated it during the running season, as long as I kept above B-. Now that I didn’t have anything to excuse my grades with, I didn’t have, well, an excuse.
“Honey, I know you’re upset about your leg, but you can’t expect to get away with this,” my mom said, kindly.
I nonchalantly spooned a glob of rice out of my bowl. “I’m fine, mom. It’s just hard…getting used to it. I’ll be back on the team soon enough.” I stuck the spoon in my mouth and took a long time chewing. I didn’t want to have this conversation. You know, again.
“Someone needs to tell you this, Matt,” Dad said, shaking his head. “You can’t count on being back on the team. You know what the doctor said.”
“Liang, come on,” Mom said.
“He needs to hear it, Lyla,” Dad replied. He turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder. My dad acted tough but I knew that he was just telling what he thought I needed to hear. “It’s a bad break you got, Matt. But you’ve gotta shape up, right? We’re counting on you. Casey’s counting on you, right?”
I grinned, in spite of myself. “Shut up.”
Mom laughed. “Look, Liang, you made him blush.”
“I’m not blushing,” I said, blushing. I picked up my plate and painfully got up from the table. “Just you guys wait; I’ll up my grades and rejoin the track team.”
Dad shook his head as I walked to the sink. Mom laughed some more.
“Hey, Matty?” Mom asked as I scraped my uneaten food into the trash. “Your water bottle and your running shoes have been on the coffee table for a full week now. Can you finally take them to your room?”
“Fine,” I said, groaning.
I shuffled past the kitchen counter to the living room, which was literally just a couch, a coffee table and TV next to the balcony window. A small cardboard box was on the coffee table, which probably had my stuff in it.
“This box?” I asked, just to make sure.
“That’s the one,” Mom confirmed.
I picked the box up and carried it down the small hallway into my room. It was cruel, honestly; my room had so many posters of famous athletes that it felt like it was making fun of me. I had been tempted to take all the posters down, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. They meant too much to me, even if they were a taunting reminder of my current condition.
I set the box on my desk, with my favorite poster of Usain Bolt (one that my brother got me during the Rio de Janeiro Olympic games a few years ago) above me. And, I left it there. For a few days, actually. I didn’t want to open it, because I was afraid that my stuff would attack me if I opened it or something like that.
The wound was still fresh.
Well, actually, by Sunday night the smell got so bad that I needed to open it. It was my mental health or my sinus health, and I went with the one that let me take in air.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and grabbed the box. I set it on my lap and breathed. “You guys let me down,” I muttered, opening the box to take out my equipment. “I trusted you, and you messed me up.”
Surprisingly, my running shoes and water bottle did not respond. I grabbed the water bottle first. Annoyingly, mom had washed all of the dirt off. It probably was more healthy, but that dirt had been gained after years of running. That dirt was my friend, and now it was gone.
I sat my bottle on the floor and took my shoes out of the box. These were the culprits. These were the shoes that had made me fall and ruined my leg. How dare they.
I held them in my hands, feeling their weight again. Man, it gave me a lot of nostalgia. How can one have nostalgia after barely a week? Break your favorite limb and you’ll know.
I looked at my shoes, fondly. The dark green color, smudged with mud; the Nike logo on the side; the white soles; the bright green shoelaces-
Those weren’t my shoelaces.
Those shoelaces were not my shoelaces! My laces are bright green, and these laces were more of a neutral green. How did I not notice that?
Just to make sure I wasn’t going insane, I grabbed a small container of extra laces from under my bed. I compared the color, and I realized I wasn’t insane. These were definitely a different color.
What did this mean? It meant that my carefully-meditated routines for running had been meddled with. It meant that something had happened to screw them up. Because if these weren’t my shoelaces, it meant that they weren’t used to my shoes. If they were new laces, it would mean that they would be fresher and more susceptible to untying. I know, because I never run with new laces.
It wasn’t my fault that I’d tripped. It was the fault of these shoelaces. And to get into my shoes, that meant someone had put them there in the first place.
That meant that someone had sabotaged my race.
Chapter 3: The Favor
If someone actually sabotaged me, I was going to make sure that they paid the price.
You may be thinking that I jumped to a serious conclusion. How can I be sure that I was sabotaged? Trust me on this one. My shoelaces are custom-made. My uncle is a shoemaker in Mexico, and ever since I started running he’s sent me ‘special shoelaces’ that he says make me run faster. Obviously, they don’t make me faster, but I’m able to tell the difference between my uncle’s laces and store-bought laces instantaneously. Someone stole my laces and replaced them with the Walmart-Brand crap.
Casey was skeptical at first, but after I gave her all of my proof, she started to come around.
“You could just be nuts, but that is pretty weird,” she said, as we sat in homeroom. “I know how seriously you take your shoelaces.”
“I’ll ignore that obvious jab and thank you for believing me.” I’d brought this theory before my mom and dad the night before, but they kind of brushed me off. They think I’m just taking the accident way too hard and won’t let myself move on. I ignored them.
“So, what’re you gonna do about it?” Casey asked.
“Catch the culprit, duh.”
Casey rolled her eyes. “How are you going to do that?”
I paused. I hadn’t really considered ‘the how.’ That realization came crashing down on me. “I…don’t really know, yet.”
“Uh huh.” Casey smirked. “I’ll be happy to help you, as soon as you figure out exactly what it is you’re accomplishing.”
“Well, then-” I started, before Mrs. Oklot walked in to start the morning pledges. We all stood, and putting our hands on our hearts, pledged allegiance to the American flag. ‘Justice for all’ felt particularly meaningful that particular morning.
I realized that it is hard to start an investigation when you have no idea where to begin. I’d never been one to watch detective shows or things like that, a fact which was biting me in the posterior. I was determined not to ask Casey for any help until I’d gotten some sort of start, but I knew I needed her. I was stuck wandering around the whole morning (it sucks wandering around with a cast on, by the way), with no indication of the right way to go.
The feel of the school had shifted for me. And, not for the better. People avoided me, like I was a bad omen. My accident had been rough for the athletic department. People were worried that they would get hurt like the star runner of Lampert!
None of the track team would talk to me. Like I said, runners are superstitious. When one gets hurt, it’s only a matter of time before the others do. I was hurt that none of them thought to check on me, but I understood as well.
I ate lunch outside, by myself, mulling things over. Sitting on the steps of the school was a good place to think, but nothing was coming to me.
“I couldn’t help overhearing about your dilemma during homeroom, Matthew,” a voice behind me drawled, slyly. A guy dressed up in a blue button-down shirt and black pants sauntered down the steps and stood next to me, grinning a big, smirky grin. I didn’t really like the look of him. He reminded me of all of the smug politicians working in DC at the moment.
“It’s a private issue, buddy,” I said. I wanted to get up in his face, but my cast made that a difficult act to perform. So instead I just stood still.
“A private issue that you have no way of solving. That is why I am here to offer my services, pal.”
Who did this guy think he was? “Sorry, but I don’t even know who the heck you are.”
The guy looked legitimately surprised at that statement. He stepped back in mock pain. “Oh, oh, Matthew. That hurts me. Right down to my core. But, just because I know you and like you, I’ll let it slide.”
“No, seriously. Who the heck are you?”
“I’m offended you don’t know me. You’ll at least know of me, of course, or the exploits of one Percival Miller.” He crossed his arms in a know-it-all way, waiting for me to react.
To my chagrin, I realized I did know who this guy was. He was known as ‘the Favor’ around Lampert. He was called that because he was known for helping people out but only so they could help him out later, ‘calling in favors’. He probably had about a billion favors going on at one time. He could do anything he wanted around Lampert and no consequences ever came to him. I didn’t like the reputation he had, but obviously he did.
Slowly, I nodded. “Fine, I know who you are. What do you want, Percy?”
“Percival,” he corrected. “What I want is the same thing you want, Matthew. To find this no-good ne’er do well and get justice for the horrible fate that has overcome you. Because only a lowlife of the lowest caliber would take you out of the running season. They must be stopped!” He slammed his fist into his hand for good measure.
“And what do you out of it, ‘Favor’?”
He smirked. “Oh, tsk-tsk. I never really liked that nickname, you know. Negative connotations and all that. But I’m an honest guy. I’ll admit I take advantage of opportunities when I see them presented.”
“You talk a lot.”
“It’s a condition.” He paused, and thought to himself. “I’ll get back to you on that.”
“You don’t even know what you want?”
Percy ignored me. “So, do we have a deal? I help you, and you help me with some to-be-determined deal in the future.”
I looked at him, confused. “How do I know you’re not just full of crap?”
Percy casually sat down next to me and leaned back. “You really don’t. Sometimes, I do the most I can. Other times, I am full to the brim with crap. But, I do want to help you out. You were my favorite runner on the team, and what’s happened is a tragedy. And, I’ll be honest; I’m really curious to see if you’re full of crap, or something sinister is going on.”
My knee-jerk reaction was, obviously, to tell him no. This guy had such a big head that he shouldn’t be able to fit through the door. But, his reasoning was mostly sound. And, besides…I really needed the help.
To make sure he didn’t think I was too eager, I sat considering for a minute. Percy waited, patiently, twiddling his thumbs.
Finally, I groaned. “Whatever, man. You’re hired.”
Percy grinned. That grin was going to get so annoying, I just knew. “Fantastic. I’m glad you came around.” He stood up and stretched. “Perfect timing, too. Lunch is nearly over.” He held his hand out for me.
I reluctantly took it and stood next to him, ignoring the consistent pain in my foot. “So, if you’re such an expert like you say-”
“I never said that.”
“-What’s the first thing we need to do?”
Percy led me up the steps and back into the school. He opened the door and stepped inside, just as all of the students were let out of the cafeteria. The hallway was loud, cramped and frankly dangerous as people shoved each other out of the way and did their best to make it to their next classes. Percy spread his arms and gestured to this overwhelming crowd.
“The first thing to do, Matthew,” Percy shouted, over the hustle and bustle, “Is to pick your suspects.” He chuckled, looking at the enormous crowd in front of us. “Shouldn’t be so hard.”
Chapter 4: The Usual Suspects
We couldn’t start our investigation immediately, obviously; we still had classes to go to. That’s the problem with still being in high school. Anything important that has to be done is moved aside in favor of the inane. In other words, high school sucks.
I didn’t see Percy again until the end of the day, which was fine by me. I could tell that he would become a pain in my butt pretty soon, so I’d make the most of all the freedom I had. However, he caught up with me as I was walking home with Casey. That was a fun introduction.
I figured it would be best not to bring up anything related to my leg on the walk home, so we just chatted about our classes and stuff like that.
“Binns was the worst today,” Casey complained. “He sprang a pop quiz on us about the chapter that we started reading today. I barely passed it. Gah, Algebra is going to murder me.”
“Same,” I muttered. “Ms. Hughes assigned us a ‘personal essay’ that we have to write, so who knows what the crap it-”
“Matthew!” someone shouted behind me. “Matthew Yen!”
Gosh dangit, I thought to myself. I turned around and sure enough Percival Miller was striding up to us.
“Who’s that?” Casey asked.
By that point Percy was within earshot, and he took the opportunity to introduce himself to my friend. “My name is Percival Miller. A pleasure to meet you. You are-”
“Not interested,” Casey shot back, immediately.
“I don’t think he’s hitting on you,” I interrupted. “That’s just how he talks.”
“Matthew is correct. I’m off the market, so no need to worry.” He had a notebook with him and a pen, looking like he was ready to take lots of notes. He turned to me and raised an eyebrow. “I couldn’t help but notice that you seemed to be avoiding me, Matthew.”
“No, of course not-”
Casey looked confused. “Okay, so, what’s the story here?”
“Matthew hired me to help him find the person who sabotaged him,” Percy explained, matter-of-factly.
I grimaced. Casey sighed. “Matt, seriously? You hired someone?”
“Okay, I didn’t ‘hire’ him. We worked out an arrangement, and so he’s helping me.”
“But I can’t help you if you keep avoiding me,” Percy said, opening his notebook. “But I understand I can give that affect. Now that I have you, though, let’s work through the suspects.”
I looked at Casey, guiltily. “I mean, I need to find the person who did this. Percy seemed to be my best bet.”
Casey crossed her arms, but she still had a smile on her face. “Whatever. Go for it, man.”
“It’s Percival, by the way,” Percy said. “Focus, Matthew. Who are your suspects?”
I thought, hard. I knew it would have to be someone I ran into on Race Day. I tried my hardest to think back, but my mind was drawing a blank for the most part. “Uh…”
“Didn’t Mandy Bennet hold you up before the race?” Casey asked. “I remember you telling me about it before you started.”
I looked at Casey, surprised. “You’re actually helping me out?”
“I said, ‘as soon as you figure out what you’re accomplishing, I’ll help you out.’ You have a lead with Percy here-”
“-so I’m helping you out.” She looked around. “But we can’t do it on the sidewalk. People might…eavesdrop.” She winked at me and laughed. “Let’s head back to your place, Matt.”
I nodded, ready to solve my problem. Suddenly, I had two partners on this case!
The mention of Mandy had started all of the gears working in my brain, and now I had four suspects; Calvin Moody, the gross wrestler; Mandy Bennet, the reporter; Mikey, the cameraman; and Stevie Stewart, my rival. I’d had significant interactions with all four of them, and all four had come in close proximity with my shoes.
This is what I assume Percy wrote down in the notebook, along with a brief bio of the specific people. I thought that this was a great start. Casey agreed; Percy wasn’t so optimistic.
“But what is their motive?” Percy asked me. “Four suspects is great, yes, but there’s no point in following them up if their reasoning is non-existent.”
“Can I say the notes?” Casey asked.
Percy slammed his notebook closed. “Nobody looks at the notes except me.”
Let me just say; Percy was really annoying. I looked forward to mine and Casey’s sidewalk chats, but now that Percy was here he was really messing with the flow. He was dominating the conversation, mostly with pessimistic comments like the one above.
However, I knew I’d be dumb not to listen to the purported expert of our group, so I tolerated him. “Okay, Percival. Explain why this is a bad thing.”
Percy rolled his eyes. Gosh, he was arrogant. “From what you’ve told me, none of these four convince me. Mikey and Calvin both interacted with your shoes, but neither with enough time to effectively ruin things, and they have no motive. Stevie Stewart has motive, sure, but he didn’t come close to your shoes. Mandy doesn’t have motive or potential and is the least probable out of all of these suspects.” He glared at me. “And can you please stop tapping your foot?”
I glanced down at my un-bandaged foot, which was tapping up and down really quickly. I hadn’t even realized I was tapping. I self-consciously stopped my foot.
“You’re a ray of sunshine, Percy,” Casey muttered. She was laying down on the sidewalk, barely listening.
“Just stating the obvious. You want to solve this case? Don’t look at the obvious.”
I groaned. “This is hard.”
“And you’re pathetic.” Percy stood up and closed the notebook. “Listen, Matthew, I’ll go along with you. If you’d like to interrogate these suspects, I will help you do so. But don’t blame me if you fall on your butt.”
Percy walked away, evidently heading home. “If you want to stop this whole thing, be my guest. Or, you could suck it up and work at it. Either way, you still owe me. See you tomorrow, Matthew.”
As soon as Percy was out of earshot, Casey moaned. “I hate that guy.”
I nodded, but I knew he was making good points. As long as I wanted to avenge my foot, I’d be stuck with Percival Miller.
Chapter 5: Investigation Nation
No matter what Percy tried to tell me, my gut was leading to these suspects. Especially Stevie. He was right that I had no idea what the potential motive could be, but hey, gotta start somewhere, right?
But, this left me at another disadvantage; how the heck would I investigate my suspects without looking like I’m investigating? The less people knew about my suspicions the better, and I already didn’t want one of my partners on this case. Keeping a low profile would be difficult.
“What you want to do is act as casual as possible,” Percy told me before classes started. “Talk to people like you normally would, but make sure you ask the questions that get you answers.”
“Which questions get me answers?” I asked him.
“You’ll have to figure that out yourself.” He looked at the notebook he was still carrying. I tried to peek at it, but he closed it before I could. “I’m willing to follow this really, really far-fetched hunch, as long as you’re willing to work at it yourself. If you go interrogate someone, I’ll interrogate someone as well.”
I looked around the hall, completely out of my depth. “Well, I guess I’ll go talk to-”
“By the way, I call dibs on Mandy,” Percy said, chuckling. He walked off to his own class.
“No fair!” I shouted after him, earning me some confused looks from the other students. Huh. He actually did have a sense of humor.
I tried to put all of this stuff out of my mind as I sat in class, but it was difficult. Class was, objectively, more important, especially since my grades were now on the line. My usual jitteriness never made it easy to focus, and now it was even harder.
Math with Mr. Jackson went well (Math has always been my strongest subject) but per usual English with Ms. Hughes was difficult. I got onto her bad side since I still hadn’t chosen a subject for my personal essay, but I promised I would find something soon. And, between classes, I planned my first approach.
I figured that Percy would find Mandy and Mikey together, since where you find a reporter you usually find a camera. That left me Calvin and Stevie as my two targets. Even though my feelings were the strongest related to Stevie, I really didn’t want to deal with him today. So, Calvin it was.
I decided to make my approach during lunch. Casey was already sitting at our usual table. She waved to me, but I shook my head as nicely as possible and gestured at my foot. I saw her roll her eyes as she continued eating.
Looking around, I was happy that even if I wanted to, Stevie was occupied; he was having an argument with his younger brother, Richard. It looked pretty heated, so I decided that I wouldn’t even bother.
Thankfully, Calvin was sitting at a table all by himself! That would make things way easier. I grabbed my tray of mac and cheese and walked over.
“Hey, uh…hello,” I greeted, as casually as possible. Calvin looked up from his tray, surprised.
“M-Matthew?” he asked, stuttering.
I made a mental note of the stutter and continued. “May I sit?”
Calvin nodded. “Sure, man. Go for it.”
I placed my tray on the table and sat down, opposite him. “So, Calvin…uh, what’s shaking?”
“I mean, um, what’s been going on with you? How’s, uh, wrestling?” I knew that had sounded really awkward. I took a big bite of macaroni so I didn’t have to talk anymore.
Calvin stared for a moment, then shrugged. “It’s gone pretty well,” he said, slowly. “I’m going to stop in a bit, though.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Really? Why?”
“I would like to try out for the track team,” he announced, slow but proud. I resisted the urge to smirk. Calvin had a body that was definitely not suited to running. He was big and bulky and stocky, and if the meeting in the locker room was any indication he did not do well with sweating. “I’ve wanted to join for awhile. You were a big inspiration to me.”
I smiled, in spite of myself. “Well, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he replied. I never before just how slowly he talked, but it was starting to grate on me. “When you left the track team, several others left after you. There may be room on the team now!”
I blinked. That sounded like motive! And I’d barely done anything to get it out of him! My confidence soared. I decided to push forward. “So…would you happen to get any new shoes if you tried out?”
“You know, new shoes,” I said, nonchalantly waving my hand. “To do track you need shoes. With really nice shoelaces as well.”
Calvin looked thoughtful. “I guess I would need new shoes. But what’s so special about laces?”
“Nothing much.” This didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Against better judgement, I went even further. “You should be careful not to spill anything on them, too.”
Calvin grimaced. “I’m sorry, man. I already said that.”
I looked at him, focused. “I bet you are. But did you mean to?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Was it really an accident?” I asked, raising my voice slightly.
Calvin’s cheeks reddened, and his eyes narrowed. I suddenly realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea to make one of the head wrestlers angry with me. But, thankfully, he didn’t pound my head into my body. He just took his tray and walked off, going to sit down by Richard Stewart who was no longer arguing with his brother. I had pushed too hard, and now I’d lost my suspect.
I finished lunch fairly quickly, texted Percy and left the cafeteria. Casey followed me out.
“Now you’re bailing on me now just to talk to the wrestlers?” she asked, elbowing me on the way out of the door.
“Yes, because I’d rather smell a ridiculous amount of BO than talk with you,” I replied.
Casey smirked. “So, did you get anything out of Calvin?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know if I did or not. He had motive, because apparently he wanted to join the running team. Getting me out of the way would work. But he also seemed really offended when I mentioned the shoes. Like, really offended.”
“He could be acting.”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Calvin doesn’t seem like the acting type.”
“Where are we off to now?” Casey asked, rounding one of the hallways.
I took my phone out of my pocket and looked at the message on the screen. “Well, Percy’s talking to Mandy and Mikey. I texted him but he just responded with a really condescending tirade. I might have done something.”
We found Percy by the media room, still talking with his subjects; Mandy seemed very interested in everything going on, but Mikey was a couple feet off, messing with a deck of cards. He obviously wanted to be anywhere else.
“…That’s why it had to happen just like that,” I heard Percy say. He seemed to be the middle of a very elaborate story. He was more animated than I’d ever seen him.
“We should hang back a bit,” Casey said. “Let’s not interrupt him.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“I’m just glad you’re alright, Percival,” Mandy said. She seemed genuinely concerned by whatever he was saying. “Be a shame if something happened.”
“Thanks, Benny,” Percy replied.
“Benny?” Casey whispered.
“Probably short for ‘Bennet’,” I replied.
“Stop tapping,” she whispered.
I guess I was getting excited. I realized my fingers were tapping the wall. I stopped. “Sorry.”
“So you’re sure you didn’t have anything to do with Matthew Yen’s accident?” Percy asked her. “I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this, and sadly you were one of his suspects.”
Mandy giggled, lightly. “Of course not, Percival. I never had anything to do with Matt, other than covering some of his wins. I will say, I enjoyed covering him more than any of the other muscle heads. He was one of the only ones that never flirted with me while I was trying to conduct an interview. Well, him and that Stewart guy.”
“Yes, of course,” Percy said. He opened the notebook he always had and handed his pen to Mandy. She wrote something down before he slipped it back under his arm. Whatever their relationship was, she must have been really special to be allowed access to the Sacred Notes. “I think that’s all for now. It was great to see you.”
“Any time at all, Percival,” Mandy replied.
Percy turned. “Good to see you, Mikey,” he said, waving to the bored cameraman.
“You too, Percy,” Mikey said, still focused on his playing cards.
“It’s Percival,” Mandy corrected him.
Percy turned down the hallway quickly, collecting himself. He paused, and started striding down with his usual arrogance. He hadn’t noticed me and Casey watching him, and something told me we should keep it that way.
“That was…enlightening,” Casey commented.
“Kinda pathetic, if you ask me,” I replied.
Chapter 6: Things Get Worse
“Fantastic. Wonderful job. You ruined your only job.” Percy was as kind as he usually was when he heard how I scared Calvin off. I face-palmed way more dramatically than he was necessary. “You could have jeopardized your whole operation if anything of use actually came out of that.”
“Wow, Percy,” I snapped back. “So kind of you to remember that I’ve never done this before in my life. I’m a runner, not a detective.”
“Well, right now you’re neither.” Percy flipped through his notebook and jotted a few things down. “Though, I will say…Calvin’s potential motive at least exists.”
“Thank you. I did my job.” I stretched out on the sidewalk, and rubbed my cast. My foot had been a bit better the past few days, which was a bright point amidst the Percy-shaped annoyance. “What did you find out from Mandy, then, if you’re so much better than this?”
Percy’s cheeks took on a pinker shade. “Mandy is not involved at all. She’s not a suspect.”
Casey stepped in between us. “While you guys were doing that, I listened in to Stevie’s fight.”
“So you actually did a job?” Percy asked, shooting me a glare. “Did you find anything out? People tend to accidentally reveal things when they’re upset.”
Casey sighed and sat down next to me. “Not really. All I heard was Stevie’s frustration that the entire athletic department is taking a hit.” Casey looked at me. “Seems that Matt’s accident was even more important than we realized.”
“Seems far-fetched, but sure,” Percy replied. “Potential motive, though.”
“And Mikey?” I asked.
Percy shrugged. “I never knew Mikey all that well. I can’t quite get a read on him.”
“Aha!” I shouted, against my better judgement. “So you admit you knew Mikey and Mandy beforehand!”
Percy colored an even deeper pink than he had been earlier. “What do you mean by that?”
I probably should have stopped right then and there, but I couldn’t help myself. I guess it was my innate curiosity. Or my mouth working faster than my brain, as has been known to happen. But even with Casey punching my arm I continued on. “I saw you talking with her. You totally knew her beforehand! You’re not as swaggery as you’d like us to think, Mr. Favor.”
I was kind of impressed that he didn’t say anything. All he did was stare daggers at me, turn around and walk away, taking his notebook full of our notes with him.
Casey glared at me. “Well, that went amazingly. We just lost our best bet at finding your supposed attacker.”
Suddenly, I realized what I’d just done. My big mouth had messed things up again.
I jumped up to my feet (a stupid idea, it hurt like crap) and started to hobble after Percy. What I’d said was probably too personal, and I wanted to fix it.
“Hey, Percy!” I shouted. He ignored me. I tried to walk a bit faster. I felt really ridiculous; I’d been the star runner and now I was struggling to catch up to someone who was walking. I pushed myself till I was keeping pace with my disgruntled partner.
“I’m sorry, man,” I apologized. It sounded pathetic but it was the only thing that came to mind. “That was really inappropriate and I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Percy ignored me.
“Dude, come on, I really need your help on this. You’re the only one who has any idea what’s going on.”
He still didn’t say anything, and my foot was getting sore.
“Can you please come back?” I begged.
Percy shook his head, imperceptibly. “Deal’s off,” was all he said. He picked up his pace and strode away, leaving me feeling terrible on the sidewalk.
That night at home, I guess mom and dad could tell I was upset. Well, more upset than usual.
I was watching TV on the couch next to my dad, and not doing much beyond that. It was a show about a superhero, The Flash, who had super speed. Except, it was an episode where he’d lost his speed? And there was something about a runaway dinosaur or whatever. It was way too confusing and cringy for me but I still related to the hero. I wasn’t even as jittery as I usually was; I was completely still. That’s not really normal for me.
“You okay, Matt?” my dad asked.
“I’m fine, dad,” I replied.
I really didn’t want to discuss anything. I already felt bad about everything; my leg, sure, but also the fact that I’d scared Calvin off and now lost my best chance. I didn’t feel bad about hurting Percy’s feelings, per say (I didn’t know him that well at all.) but I did realize that I’d struck a chord with him. A chord that shouldn’t be struck.
“Is this about Casey?” Dad asked.
I looked at him incredulously. “What? No, of course not.”
Dad chuckled. “Okay, okay. Keep your secrets.”
Mom stepped in front of the TV, holding another piece of paper! She must have found one of my tests. I tensed immediately. “You brought this home and didn’t show us, Matty,” she said, with one eyebrow raised.
“Oh, really?” Dad asked.
The eyebrow raise was never a good thing. I realized I hadn’t even looked at the grade on the front. I was ready for the worst. “Mom, come on, I’m working on it-”
She suddenly smiled. “Hey, at least this isn’t an F.” She handed the sheet to Dad, who skimmed it quickly.
“She’s right,” Dad said. “A B- on a Chemistry test? You’ve improved since last week, which is good.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe things weren’t so terrible. “Oh, yeah, of course. I’m doing great.”
“Not great,” Mom interjected, “but not terrible either. Keep up the improvement, okay?”
“And stop tapping on the couch,” Dad said. “I’m trying to watch the game.”
I rolled my eyes and stopped my tapping fingers.
By the end of the episode, The Flash had gained his speed back because of his girlfriend or whatever. The important thing was, he’d gotten his powers back. Why couldn’t I?
Chapter 7: Things Get Worser
Who knew that a better grade would make me feel so much better? I felt confident enough to continue the investigation on my own. Well, my own, with Casey, of course. Who needed Percy?
“We need Percy,” Casey moaned during homeroom. “He was great at all of the talking stuff. Stevie Stewart’s the last person we need to interrogate, and he’s also the most annoying.”
“We can handle him,” I said, confidently, as Mrs Oklot walked into the room to start the morning pledges. “He’s just annoying, but he’s harmless.”
“You do realize that by suspecting him of causing you to hurt your leg, he is, in fact, not harmless?” Casey asked.
“I think you know what I mean,” I replied.
No matter how confident I sounded, I knew that Casey was at least partly right. Stevie was a year older than me, and a bit bigger. And I was also handicapped. If he wanted to pound me he wouldn’t have any problem doing so.
However, it needed to be done. He was the last one on the list, and honestly I still kind of suspected him the most. It was time to bite the bullet and interrogate Stevie Stewart.
Stevie was in the hallway next to the lockers. He had a really big friend with him. Thankfully, I had Casey with me. That helped my confidence a lot.
“Richie, what’s your locker combo?” I heard him say. “I think some of my books are still inside it.”
Richard was talking with some of his friends (they looked an awful lot like Calvin and Mikey) and not really paying attention. “10, 7, 14-” He turned around, quickly. “Hey, Stevie, don’t look in my locker-”
“Stevie Stewart?” someone asked, interrupting both of them. Percy stepped forward before I could say anything. He looked like he was back to his normal self, and had the notebook in his hands.
“Who wants to know?” Stevie replied, turning around. “Oh, hey, you’re that Favor guy. What do you want?”
“Just wanted to ask a few questions-” Percy said, opening the notebook.
“Like why nobody likes you?” Stevie interrupted. He and his friend started laughing.
Percy ignored them. “What’s your relationship to Matthew Yen?”
“Matt? You mean the guy I replaced on the team?”
I had the major urge to punch him as hard as I could, but I was mostly just surprised that Percy was still investigating on his own. I was suddenly kind of touched, honestly. He did care.
“That’s the one,” Percy replied. “I just have-”
Stevie grabbed the notebook from Percy’s hands and skimmed it. I felt Casey grab my shoulder, and I tensed up. We didn’t need someone like Stevie looking at our notes. But, he said something we didn’t expect. “Who’s Benny?” he asked, smirking.
Percy had a look that I’d never seen him with; he looked flustered. “No, it’s Bennet-”
Stevie laughed. “Oh, so you’re in love with the news reporter? Even the Favor has a problem he can’t solve. That’s priceless.”
I’d had enough. I pushed forward.
“Lay off, Stewart,” I ordered.
Percy, Stevie, and Stevie’s friend all looked surprised. “Matt?” Stevie asked. “So, you’re actually with this idiot?”
“It seems I am,” I said, looking at Percy. “I’m with him.”
“Me too,” Casey replied, standing next to me.
Percy stood quite still, not sure how to react. I’m pretty sure he’d never have anyone help him out like this before. “Matt, what are you doing?”
“I thought you only called me Matthew, Mr. Manners,” I replied. I looked at Stevie. “Back off. Give Percy his notebook.”
“You mean this notebook?” Stevie’s friend grabbed from Stevie and threw it down the hall. Casey immediately broke off from the group to go retrieve it.
Stevie looked surprised. “Not cool, man,” I heard him mutter.
His friend wasn’t listening. “You should have stayed out of this, Yen. This doesn’t concern you.”
“It does when you mess with one of my friends,” I countered. I was as surprised as Percy looked, honestly. I’d known Percy for barely a week and I didn’t like him for most of it, but I didn’t want to see him picked on. I guess the word ‘friend’ just felt right in this scenario.
“Sure, whatever.” Stevie’s friend shoved me to the ground, (again, not hard since I’m handicapped) and before I could react kicked me hard right on my cast. Pain exploded up my leg, making it hurt almost as bad as when I’d hurt it.
I probably screamed. Really, the pain was so bad I didn’t remember much following. What I was told happened was that Casey ran back and sent Percy to get help. Stevie apparently apologized profusely, even if he didn’t actually do it, and Stevie’s musclehead-friend that did it was suspended for a while.
What I do remember was hearing Percy really quietly say “Thanks, Matthew,” before he ran to get help.
Chapter 8: The Surprise
I was out of school for a few days as my leg was reset. Nothing had been broken by that kick, but things were now out of line and it would be even longer before my leg fully healed. That should have made me really mad, right? Now I was worse off than I was before.
But, I wasn’t, really.
Instead of being hurt in a race or something like that, I’d been hurt for a good cause. I felt way better about that fact.
Mom got home from work early on that day, Friday, and took me to the doctor again when things were readjusted. I would have to stay in bed for the next couple days, and on Monday go to school with a pair of crutches. Thankfully, the next day was the weekend. On Saturday I mostly just stayed in my room, playing Zelda on my bed. Until, a knock came at the door.
“Hey, Matty?” Mom called. “A guy named Stevie is here to see you. Should I send him in?”
Stevie? That was unexpected. I really didn’t know I could trust that guy, but I was curious about why he was here. “Uh, yeah, sure,” I called back.
Stevie knocked on my bedroom door. “Hey, uh, Matt. What’s up?” He looked way different than he usually did at school; less swaggery and more like a kid with normal feelings. He had a plate of cookies in his hands.
“Hey, Stevie,” I replied. I paused my game and shrugged. “Not much is going on. You?”
“I’m fine.” He stood in the doorway awkwardly for a bit, and it was uncomfortably quiet.
“Um, do you wanna sit down?” I scooted around and made room for him on my bed.
“Thanks.” He stepped into my room and sat down next to me, and placed the cookies on my desk. He looked at the TV. “Ah, Breath of the Wild? Good game.”
I nodded. Another awkward silence followed as I tried to think of what to say. A guy I suspected of trying to hurt my leg was in my house with a plate of cookies (fresh-baked, from the smell) and recognizing one of my favorite video games. This kind of went against everything I’d expect from a rival like Stevie Stewart.
“So, what are you doing here?” I asked, as casually as possible. I didn’t want to sound rude, but I was a bit confused.
He twiddled his thumbs. “I just wanted to apologize for what happened yesterday. Hudson went way too far, and I’m glad he got suspended for what he did.” I sighed. “I guess it was kind of cool of you to stand up for the Favor guy like that.”
“His name’s Percival,” I said automatically. “But, um, thanks.”
He gestured to the plate on my desk. “My mom felt really bad, so she made some cookies for you.” He reached over, then stopped himself. “Mind if I have one? I’ve had to smell them the entire drive over.”
“Go for it.”
Stevie grabbed two, and handed one to me. I bit into it. It wasn’t the greatest cookie I’d ever had, but they were Snickerdoodles and still really, really good. “Tell your mom thanks,” I said, with my mouth full.
“Sure.” He leaned back against the wall. “Hey, I also wanted to say that we have…kind of…actually missed you on the team. You did kind of carry us a bit.”
I nodded. “I’ve missed being there, man.”
“Yeah, the coach has even made sure that all of the shoelaces on the team are a specific quality after what happened to you.”
My eyebrows lowered. “Really?”
“Yeah, wasn’t it your shoelaces that messed you up?”
“It was…” My suspicions came back immediately. How did Stevie know about the shoelaces? Had he actually done it? “How do you know?”
He shrugged. “My brother said something about it. He said he saw you wipe out during the race. That’s weird, though, because he wasn’t even there. But we just took his word for it.”
“Huh.” All of a sudden, things started snapping into place. I knew who’d hurt my leg! I needed to be at school on Monday. But, I tried to act normal. “Yeah, yeah it was.”
Stevie actually stayed for a while that morning. He was actually pretty fun, once I got to know him. He was still a bit prideful, but I was able to look past it. We finished off the plate of cookies and played Smash Bros. for a long time. All the while, I kept the new information in the back of my mind.
My attacker would be brought to justice.
Chapter 9: Confrontation
Obviously, I called Casey, and Percy, to my apartment. It was still a bit awkward with Percy being there, but I tried to make him feel at home. You know, as much as I could without being able to move from the bed.
“And that’s who I think hurt my leg, and how, and why,” I concluded, proudly. I would have stood and posed triumphantly, but again, broken leg.
“That’s…plausible…” Percy said, rubbing his chin. He leaned against the door post, still unsure if he was allowed inside. “But, Matthew, it’s also incredibly risky. You could be really, really wrong.”
“I think it’s exactly what happened,” Casey said, supportively. She spun around on my spinny chair. “We can already see what happened is working.”
I took on my serious face. “I’m going to need both of you with me when I do the reveal.” I looked at Casey. “You, because you’re my best friend, and because I need you pretty much all the time.” Casey smiled and blushed. I did as well but I ignored it. I looked at Percy. “And you, because, well, I couldn’t have done this without you. You’re kind of essential.” Percy’s face didn’t change, but he at least nodded. Progress.
The next day, Sunday, we drew up my ‘reveal speech’ as I call it, because I stink at writing and needed all the help I could get. It needed to be clear, concise, and flamboyant like all of those TV detectives. I wanted to look good while I unmasked the assaulter.
“So, you’re sure about this?” Percy asked. “I’m still not sure…”
I eased off of my bed and looked Percy in the eye. “I know you’re afraid that this will come back to bite you. But trust me on this. You’ll still be good to pursue whatever it is you’re pursuing, and I’m pretty sure nothing will be ruined.”
Percy sighed. “I’m trusting you on this, Matthew, which is not something I often do. Do not let me down.”
Monday came. It was very rainy and dreary, which I hoped wasn’t an omen for the day’s events. Dad dropped me off at school that day.
“So, don’t ruin your leg again,” he ordered. “Our bills can’t take it.”
“I don’t plan on screwing this thing up anymore than I already have,” I assured him. “This is my moneymaker. Or at least, it was.”
Dad smiled. “Be careful today, Matt.”
I nodded. “Later, dad. Love you!”
“Love you too.” Dad let me out at the sidewalk and drove off. I steeled my confidence for what was to come.
During lunch, we slipped notes to four people to meet us after school in one of the hallways: the hallway where I’d been kicked, to be exact. It was important not just for dramatic effect, but to prove my point. This was where I’d rise, or fall, depending on if I was crazy or not.
Thankfully, after school, everyone showed up in the hallway; Calvin Moody, the wrestler; Mandy Bennet, the reporter; Mikey, the cameraman; and Richard Stewart, instead of Stevie. I’d ruled Stevie out of the suspects list and had now come up with my culprit.
“Good evening everyone,” I said, making my dramatic entrance. It would have been more dramatic without the crutches click-clacking up the hallway, but I made due with what I had.
“It’s the middle of the afternoon,” Mikey said, annoyed. He was practicing a card trick with his cards, still bored.
“Semantics.” I walked in front of my four suspects, with the lockers behind me. Casey and Percy were on either side of the lockers, acting as my body-guards. Hopefully I would not need them.
“Matthew Yen?” Richard asked, confused. “What are we doing here?”
“You’re probably wondering why you’re here- dangit,” I muttered. I had the script running through my head. “You four are here because you each encountered my leg on the day of the race. I have reason to believe that my leg was sabotaged that day. You’re the suspects.”
“Is that why you acted so weird that day at lunch?” Calvin asked, as slow as ever. “You think I hurt your leg?”
“Slow down, man. I’m getting to it.” I paused, gaining the audience’s attention. “Okay, so, I’m- was, the star runner of the track team, and one of the most popular athletes at the school, right?”
“Yeah, you were,” Richard replied. “You were one of my inspirations to join the team. Definitely not my brother, whatever he says.”
I nodded. “This helps my point. Thanks, Richard.”
Richard backed down, suddenly nervous.
“Okay, what’s the point, Matt?” Mandy asked. Of course the reporter would want me to skip to the end.
“Calm down!” I ordered. “Okay, so, that day, Calvin spilled water on my shoes. I left the locker room, had an interview with Mandy, and Mikey cleaned the water off of my shoes. Then, I took my race and tripped because the laces were all wrong.”
“This is all because of some laces?” Richard asked, incredulously. “I wasn’t even there. Why am I here?”
I breathed deeply, annoyed. “If you’d let me get to the point, you’d know. So, I looked at my shoes later and realized that they weren’t my shoelaces. Someone had tampered with my shoes and tried to sabotage me. So, me and two others tried to get to the bottom of it. And we’ve come to the conclusion,” I paused and looked at Casey and Percy to boost my confidence, “That all four of you are the culprits.”
The reaction was pretty instantaneous. They were all confused, and some of them looked genuinely hurt. Calvin looked down, beaten.
“Do you have proof?” Mikey asked.
“Don’t need any yet,” I said. “But just wait up. Let me explain.”
I pointed at Calvin. “Mr. Moody. You wanted to join the track team, but all of the runners act like you don’t even exist. By assisting in my accident, you knew that people would leave the team, and a spot would open for you. So, you spilled water on my shoes, making sure they were ruined.”
Calvin didn’t respond. He just kept hanging his head. I took that as an admission of guilt and kept going.
I pointed at Mandy. “You, Ms. Bennet, are the school reporter. A position that should garner respect, yes?”
Mandy nodded. I could tell she saw where this was going. “Nobody respects me, though.”
“Everybody just sees you as a really pretty, glittering face and not much beyond that, right?”
“Not everybody sees you as just a pretty face.” I nodded in Percy’s direction. Both Mandy and Percy’s eyes lit up, which made me happy. “But that’s not the point. The point is that you don’t want people to flirt with you anybody. So, if you take out the star they might get scared and start to shape up?”
I turned to Mikey. “Which is where you both come in. Mandy distracted me while you used some of your growing sleight-of-hand abilities to pull the ol’ switcheroo on my shoes, leaving me none the wiser.” Mikey looked up from his playing cards and guiltily stuck them behind his back. “And all because your best friend was getting harassed. I mean, you too are like Ryan and Sharpay.”
“We’re actually cousins,” Mandy explained.
“Twice-removed,” Mikey added.
I nodded, and turned to Richard. “And that leaves you, Mr. Stewart.”
Richard crossed his arms. “You have some convincing proofs for these three, but like you said; I wasn’t even there that day.”
“You didn’t have to be, man. Because you’re the mastermind.”
On cue, Casey and Percy walked a bit closer, just in case I needed any help. “Mr. Stewart, you are on the track team, are you not?”
“Yeah, obviously,” Richard replied. “People tend to forget that about me.”
“Which is my entire point, here,” I said. “You are tired of living in the shadow of your older brother, Stevie, and the track team in general. You wanted to get some of the older members out of the way so you could finally have your time to shine. Who better to move out of the way than the star himself, Matthew Yen?”
“So, you find all of these other people, suffering because of the track team. You bring them together, make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, and adjust accordingly. All because of some pesky shoelaces.”
I gestured to Richard’s locker. “I assume we would find said shoelaces in your locker, if we looked. Do you mind?”
“I-” Richard spluttered. He looked at the other three, who nodded. “Ugh. Fine. Look inside.”
I nodded to Casey. She reached the lock.
“It’s 10-7-14, right?” Casey asked.
Richard nodded, ready for the worst.
Casey opened the locker, and sure enough, at the top of a stack of school books, were bright green shoelaces. My shoelaces.
“I think this proves it,” Percy confirmed, inspecting the laces himself. “What do you think, Richard?”
Richard groaned. “Fine, we did it! We were all just so sick and tired of all of the jerks on the team and wanted to get back at them. None of us wanted to actually hurt you, specifically.”
“I was just a symbol for the team, right?”
“Yes,” Richard replied, glumly.
“What are you gonna do to us?” Calvin asked.
I planned this out beforehand, and had discussed it with my partners extensively. I knew exactly what I would do to them.
“Nothing,” I said, simply.
“What?” all four of the culprits said.
Casey and Percy stepped forward. Casey put a hand on my shoulder and Percy stood next to me with his arms crossed. “We’ve decided not to turn you all in,” Casey explained. “Even though we probably, definitely should.” I felt a small pinch on my arm. Casey still didn’t totally agree with me, but I knew it was the right choice.
“Why?” Mandy asked. “You caught us.”
“Turning you in won’t get my leg back. I’ve accepted that fact. And, I know it wasn’t against me, really. So, I don’t want to take revenge.”
“Wow,” Mikey said.
“Just don’t hurt anybody else. If you’d hurt Stevie, for instance,” I looked at Richard, “He really wouldn’t be so forgiving.
“You have our word…” Richard said, still confused. “But-” Whatever he was going to say, he didn’t say it.
“You guys should all head home,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure you guys…didn’t get away with it, I guess.”
I left, then and there. I knew that everyone would still be really confused, but I’d accomplished exactly what I wanted to accomplish.
The culprits had been found. But they couldn’t get me back on the track. Nothing would, for awhile. However, I was fine with that at this point.
Chapter 10: The Next Day
In a stunning move, Richard Stewart turned himself in to the principal. As far as I knew, he took full responsibility, and told all about how I’d confronted him with the information. He didn’t mention anybody else. Richard was suspended, and lost his place on the track team. I needed to make sure I visited him later, to let him know that I appreciated the gesture.
I talked this over with Casey.
“I still think we should have turned the others in,” Casey said. “You could still do it.”
“Nah, I’m good,” I replied, taking a bite of the really lumpy taco on my tray. “We caught them. Turning them in really wouldn’t do anything.”
Casey looked at me and smiled. “You’ve changed a lot, Matt.”
“Really?” I asked, still chewing the taco.
“Okay, manners-wise, you’re still disgusting,” she said, laughing, “But I think I’ve figured out what you’ve become.”
I swallowed. “Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“You’re a hero, Matt,” she said, putting her hand on mine. “Only a real hero would be able to do what you did.”
I moved my hand, embarrassed. “Yeah, whatever.”
“I mean it, you know,” she replied, taking her hand back. “And I-”
Whatever she was going to say, I interrupted her. “Oh, there’s Percy. I need to go thank him.”
She glared at me. “Yeah, sure, go talk to Percy.”
I smirked. “I’ll be right back.”
I got up and tried to maneuver my crutches through the cafeteria. Percy had his tray, but he was discreetly waving to someone in line. I assumed it was Mandy, but I didn’t bring it up.
“Hey, Percy!” I called.
“Percival,” he replied. “But hey, Matthew.”
“Thank you so much for helping me out,” I said. “It means a lot. What do I owe you?”
Percy looked taken aback for a brief second. “Really? You’re asking about what you owe me?”
“Most people just ‘forget’ and avoid me until I can call in another favor to shake them down. It’s an annoying system.” Percy thought for a moment. “You know…I think I figured out what I want you to do for me.”
“Name it. You’ve earned it.”
Percy smiled, slightly. “I’d like it if…you were a friend. I don’t have many. So, that’s what you owe me: friendship.” He held out his hand.
I’ll admit; this gave me pause. Having Percy around all the time could get annoying. But, he’d grown on me. And, honestly, it would be cool to have a guy friend who I could talk about stuff with…stuff that I could never bring up with Casey. And really, he had earned it.
I shook his hand. “You got it, Percival.”
Percy smiled. An actual, real smile, too. “Great. Now get out of here. Benny’s coming over.”
Chapter 11/Epilogue/Whatever: How I Got The Fold
If you couldn’t tell already, this was the Personal Essay that I decided to send in to Ms. Hughes. This essay was able to bump up my grade from an F to a C+, so I’m really happy about that. So, thanks for not snitching on the other culprits, Ms. Hughes. English class is still the worst.
You may be wondering why it’s titled ‘The Fold’. Well, word got out about Richard’s suspension and all that, and pretty soon people thought I was a pretty big hero. Casey was kind of right, I guess.
Right before I went to give Ms. Hughes this essay, a freshman runner came up to me. He had been a friend of Richard’s, I guess. His name was Edgar Smith.
“You’re Matthew Yen, right?” he asked me.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
He had in his hand two puppets, I guess; one that was mostly white and one that was all red. It looked unmistakably like the Flash.
“We on the running team thought you should have this.” Edgar handed me the puppet. “It will serve you well.”
“Wait, what?” I asked. “Two things. One: I’m not even a runner anymore. Why do I need the Flash? Two: this is a finger puppet. What the heck do I do with a finger puppet?”
“There’s more to the Flash than being fast, Matt,” Edgar explained. “You’ve proven, with your whole adventure, that you exemplify his most important traits. And it’s not a finger puppet. It’s origami.”
“We’re Asian, I know what origami is,” I said. Though, to be fair, I hadn’t seen origami quite like this. Everything was flat and colorful, but it was definitely the Flash. “Well, who’s that on your hand?”
“This is Impulse,” Edgar said. “He’s the grandson of Barry Allen from the future, who also has super speed.”
“Wait, so you want me to be your grandpa?”
“Keep the puppet, Matt. And call him ‘The Fold’!”
“Is that supposed to be a pun?” Edgar walked off, leaving the Flash in my hand and questions in my brain. “What do I do with this?” I called after him. No response.
So, I guess I’m the Flash now. Or, the Fold? I don’t know. All I know is, I have a finger puppet and an essay, and that’s good enough for me.