by Xenophon Hendrix
The precedent being set, Mary, Sean, and I rode our bikes to school again on Friday, even though the day wasn't nearly as nice. When Sean and I went to stand by the grade-six door, Al moved away from us. That is, moved away from me, most likely. "Hey, Sean, go see if Al is OK." Al didn't move away from Sean, hypothesis proved.
Kirsten, talking to Pam, was in the crowd waiting for the door to open. Go say hello to her, prompted Ursus. I didn't see how I could make the situation any worse, so I did as Ursus instructed. "Good morning, Kirsten, Pam."
They returned my greeting. Pam giggled, which I found a little disconcerting. Kirsten asked, "Did you like the square dancing yesterday."
I felt Ursus steer my gaze away from her shoes and aim it at her face. "I felt kinda awkward, and we didn't actually get to dance, but I did like it, yes."
"Let's make sure we dance together again next week, then, if you want."
"I would like that. It's a deal."
We made a bit of small talk until Ms. Dutner, another grade-six teacher, unlocked the door. Once Mr. Dean noticed that I had arrived, he returned my graded make-up work. I noticed that the sentence writing assignment for the vocabulary words was marked 100% with the obligatory smiley face in the second zero. He had written, "Excellent work. It seems you were inspired." He also had a little "Hah!" by my stamen sentence.
Sean, who sat beside me, leaned over and said quietly, "Al is really pissed off."
"He say anything?"
"He didn't want to talk."
I acknowledged the information with a nod. The morning passed normally. At lunch, Al sat as far away from me as he could get. It looks like I've lost a friend, I said to the other voices in my head.
I felt a wave of regret come from Arthur. Ursus thought, Al had no claim on Kirsten, and you can't help liking her. She's a jewel.
I knew how Al felt about her. Why did you interfere?
I'm in your head, remember? I feel what you feel, and yesterday I felt some of the strongest attraction for someone that I've ever felt. Looking through what you know about Kirsten, I don't blame you at all.
But you made me fuck Al over.
I doubt if Al ever had a shot with her.
I knew he was right, but it seemed disrespectful to Al. What made you think that I had a shot?
What? Do you need me to spell it out?
I'm fat, ugly, slow, uncoordinated, shy, and get tongue-tied around girls.
The voices in my head went mostly silent as I recalled snatches of memory. I looked up and noticed Sean looking in Al's direction, but he didn't say anything. After a while, Ursus thought at me, shit, you actually believe that garbage. How did your ego get so crushed? Look, you have a bit of chub, but it's not an outrageous amount, and you could lose most of it if you moved around more. You aren't in the least ugly. It's almost like you've never looked in a mirror. Truth is, you are quite a bit above average.
Slow, I'll give you. In part, it's the extra weight you carry around. In larger part, though, you have a heavy skeleton, and it is going to get heavier as you get older. Your legs are also short compared to your trunk, and they are going to stay that way. On the other hand, now that you have hit puberty, you are going to find that your body gains muscle easier than most, and with a little practice, you can develop excellent acceleration. With some work, you will have sudden quickness, but you will never have sustained foot speed. More pertinently, not all girls are that attracted to jocks, and really, would you want one who was?
The lack of coordination is in part a lack of practice and in part the result of an early growth spurt. Your physical control is still catching up to your new size. That growth spurt also makes you taller than most guys your age, and women are attracted to height almost as much as guys are attracted to boobs.
You can learn to deal with being shy. I'm going to help you with that. Same with the tongue-tied. You just need to understand that girls are people, too. Some are nice, and some are mean. Be nice to the nice ones, and stay away from the mean ones.
Now, take a look at what you have going for you, besides the looks and height. When you aren't panicking from social fear, you can be articulate, even eloquent. When I take over this body's tongue, you know, I'm drawing on your knowledge of English. I didn't know the language until we began to merge. It's all you.
You keep your word and are generally honest and trustworthy. You are loyal to your friends. You are tearing yourself up right now over going after a girl that your friend liked, even though he had no chance with her.
Your biggest asset, however, other than the magic, is that you are very smart.
I know I'm pretty bright, but--
Dude, you are a copy of me. It's true that I enhanced my intellect over the years through magical means, and the enhancements didn't make the transition because of the unconventional way I entered this node, but even fresh out of the box, I had a considerably better than average brain. Wizards have to, or they get themselves killed. You're probably the smartest person in your grade, at least.
Curtis is really smart.
Ursus looked through Arthur's memories some more. Curtis is fast, and he is good with mathematics. I'd bet that you are better at everything else academic. I started to object, but Ursus kept thinking at me. Be that as it may, we are getting off the topic. You wanted to know why I thought you had a shot with Kirsten Kennedy. Even if you aren't the most intelligent in your grade, she certainly knows that you are intelligent, and brains call to brains.
Ursus halted his monologue. He had given me a lot to think about. Could he be lying to me? He was part of me now. Could one part of myself lie to another? After a bit of thought, I concluded that it could.
I'm not lying to you, thought Ursus.
We'll see, I thought back.
Sean and I cleaned up our garbage and headed outside. When I saw Al come out, I wondered if I should go talk to him. I asked Ursus's advice. He thought, it's hard to say what's best. He's clearly sending the message that he doesn't want to talk to you, though.
I thought about it for a minute or so and said to Sean, "Maybe you better go hang with Al for a little while. It looks like he's hurting."
Sean just shrugged and said, "All right," and headed over toward Al. I decided to get out of sight to give Al a feeling privacy in case he wanted to unload about me. Just after having that thought, I realized that it was not a thought I normally would have had. It must have been more influence from Ursus. I turned the corner and started to walk around the perimeter of the school.
The school was laid out in multiple wings. Each wing had an assembly area in the middle surrounded by classrooms. Every classroom had its own fire door, and the fire doors opened out onto slabs of blacktop. Because of the layout of the wings, some of these blacktopped areas were surrounded by two walls and others were surrounded by three. Thinking deep thoughts, I just followed the school walls around, in and out of these quasi-courtyards.
As I was making my way out of one of the three-walled ones, I looked up to see Donald Beauchamp, school bully, standing in the entrance. Not good. I tried not to show any fear. "Hi, Don." I tried to walk by him without giving him a shot at my back.
He moved to block my way. "Helloooo, Artie. Where are your buddies?"
"Right behind you," I said as I tried to slip around his other side.
My bluff didn't work. He blocked me again. "Last I saw, they were playing kickball." I currently was the third biggest boy in grade six. Don was the biggest, and by quite a bit. He continued, "You know, this is my exit, and you have to pay toll if you want to pass."
I kept my eyes on him, watching for any sudden moves. "What would that be?"
A centipound, enough to buy a carton of milk to have with lunch. Mom had given me one that morning, and I had already spent it on its intended purpose. "I don't have a cent."
"That's too bad. What do you have?"
I didn't really have anything but my clothes. Truth to tell, I wasn't inclined to give him anything, even if I had it. "I don't have anything."
"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll let you skip your toll now if you pay me two cents tomorrow."
I could have just agreed and gone on my way with no intention of paying him, but my natural stubbornness kicked in. "That doesn't sound like a very good deal to me."
"I think it's a great deal. But even so, what are you going to do about it."
"I could just wait here until the bell rings."
He had to think about that. "Yeah, well I could just kick your ass."
The Ursus part of my brain made note that Don making an explicit threat might be pertinent later. I again began to walk around Don. This time I moved faster. Don reached out to grab my coat with both hands.
Ursus took control of my body. I brought my hands up between Don's arms and knocked them apart even as I strode between them. Continuing my forward momentum, I struck under Don's chin in an uppercut motion with the heel of the palm of my right hand. My fingers were spread and hooked so that they made an automatic secondary attack at his eyes.
Don sprawled to the blacktop with a total lack of control. The back of his head struck hard. This left me striding between his splayed legs as I took one more step forward and kicked him in the testicles as hard as I could. I avoided getting caught between his legs as he curled up in a ball and began to puke.
Ursus looked him over briefly and noted the lack of blood and that Don could still move. Ursus internally commented that if we were in a war situation where finishing him off would be without legal consequences, a hard kick to the base of his skull or a stomp on his temple would now be appropriate. Instead, we walked away at a steady pace, Ursus preventing me from running. Just keep walking. No one saw what happened.
I walked over to the grade-six door.