by Xenophon Hendrix
Tuesday, 14 December 1973--I woke up on my own about twenty minutes before Mom normally called us, as I had been tending to do ever since I started sleeping well at night. My muscles were stiffer than when I had gone to bed, but I at least didn't have the feeling of impending death that I'd had the morning before.
Once I climbed out of bed, I saw that I had been sleeping on my amulet. I took it with me and grabbed some clothes as I eased my way into the big bathroom. I let a hot shower work out some of my soreness and massaged myself a bit as I washed. I didn't yet have a way to hang the amulet around my neck, so I put it in a pocket of my trousers. By the time I was out of the bathroom, Mom had awakened the rest of the clan.
"Are you feeling any better this morning?" Mom asked.
"A little. Stiffer than I was last night, though. I'm going downstairs for a while to see if I can work out some of it." Once there, I cleaned up my mess from the night before, practiced guitar picking for about ten minutes, and did some gentle stretching.
Over breakfast, Mom said that trying to bicycle to school would be a bad idea, and I didn't argue. After I finished eating, I called Sean to tell him that we'd pick him up in the van.
We arrived at the grade-six door before Kirsten. Carol hawked and spat when he saw me, but it wasn't in my direction, so I ignored him. I had just finished telling Sean why I was moving so stiffly when Kirsten slipped around me and gave me a hug. I returned it and added a brief kiss. "I have great news!" she said with a huge smile.
"Dad has given in. I can start seeing you again outside of school."
"That's wonderful!" And it was worth another hug and kiss.
"Get a room," Carol yelled.
Kirsten looked at him and said, "Shut up, asshole."
Carol seemed taken aback, and wonder of wonders, he shut up.
Kirsten snuggled back in beside me and said, "Dad wants Mom to talk to you first, though, so can you come over for lunch tomorrow?"
"I don't see why not. I'll double check with my mom."
"Great. I'm so glad things are starting to work right again."
"Yeah, it was like being punished for something we didn't do."
"Exactly. It took a while, but Mom and I finally made him see our point."
As I predicted, thought Ursus.
Indeed, O wise one.
"I'm really glad he did." That earned me another smile. "Do you think we could play together sometime soon?"
"Hmmmm, what kind of play?"
"Something that involves big instruments."
"You know: organs--and mouth organs--and guitars, drums, and the like."
"I see that someone is starting to lob my BS back at me. I think I like it. And, yes, I'd love to play with you sometime soon."
"Hmmmm, what kind of play."
She slapped my shoulder.
"Danny, Mike, Terry, Mary, and I have managed to work a song into good enough shape that everyone says it sounds pretty good, and we've started practicing another."
"Yeah, she's been playing some chords on that old chord organ in our basement. She's been trying to teach herself."
"That's great. I hope she can get piano lessons like she wants."
"I hope so, too. I don't think Mom or Dad ever thought music was that important, but they seem impressed with what I've been able to accomplish."
"They should be."
"I just hope my example makes it easier for Mary to get her way."
"Uh-huh, she's a nice person and deserves nice things to happen to her."
We chatted with Pam and Sean until Miss Gorse let us in. As we were hanging up our coats, Kirsten asked, "Why are you moving so stiffly?"
"I badly overdid the snow shoveling."
"Oh, poor baby." She kissed my cheek.
When we went into class, Mr. Dean said, "You appear to be in pain, Mr. Powyr."
"Snow shoveling--lots and lots of snow shoveling."
"Did you go door-to-door clearing drives?"
"Yep, my friends and I cleared several too many."
"I used to shovel drives when I was a kid, and I managed to overdo it a time or two myself. DOMS can be brutal."
"Delayed onset muscle soreness."
"That's a good name for it." I dug out my term paper and handed it to him at his desk.
"First one in. I'm impressed."
"It weighed heavily on my spirit, and I just wanted to get it done."
"Heavily on your spirit, I see."
I sat back down. About then, Debbie Taylor came in and carefully extracted her own term paper. It was in a fancy plastic folder. When she gave it to Mr. Dean, he said, "Second one in. Thank you. I like to spread out the grading of these things if I can."
"Who was first?"
She looked at me. "Hmph!" She made the noise in such an exaggerated way that it was clear she intended it to be humorous. She then almost marched back to her desk, extracted a book report from a folder, and posted it on the wall. "I'm catching up to you Art." She now had four.
"I was too busy to read very much this weekend."
"Did you do anything good?"
"Removed snow, watched siblings, and practiced guitar."
"You play the guitar? I didn't know that."
"I just started."
"I've been playing the piano for a few years."
"So have I," said Kirsten.
"Me, too," said Lisa Springer, Debbie's best friend and another of the excellent students who had chosen Mr. Dean's class. She had been tied for second place with Kirsten in the first marking period's book-report contest.
Mr. Dean, sitting just a few feet away, had heard all of this. "We should have a room talent show."
"That would be fun!" said Debbie.
"It would!" said Kirsten. Several other girls voiced their approval of the idea. I didn't notice that the boys said anything.
It would suck rocks, I thought. The Arthur part of my brain found the idea horrifying.
It would allow you to show that you are more than a dangerous nerd, thought Ursus.
I remember back in second grade, thought Arthur, there was a mandatory in-class talent show. I didn't have any talent, so I played a pencil. It was humiliating. With Arthur's internal dialog came the memories, flooding all three of us who shared the brain.
Ursus "sounded" gentle when he thought to us: It's not going to be like that, now.
"We'll see what we can do after winter break," said Mr. Dean.
After the Oath, Mr. Dean said, "Remember, tomorrow the class is going Christmas caroling, those who are interested should show up at school at 7 pm. May I see a show of hands from those who plan to participate?" Just about everyone stuck up an arm. "Outstanding. I'll leave the fire door to this classroom unlocked. Just walk in." We were raising money for a homeless shelter.
During recess after lunch, Carol was again a pain in the ass. The temperature was slightly above freezing, so the snow was packing well. A bunch of kids were trying to roll the biggest snowball that they could. I was too sore to join in, but watching the ball grow to gigantic proportions was fascinating. They had managed to get it bigger than grown-man high, but they were having trouble getting enough people around it to roll it any farther. I felt the unmistakable impact of a snowball.
Throwing snowballs was against school rules. I turned around to see who had plugged me, and Carol was standing there laughing. "So, you're hiding behind your girlfriend, now, Powyr."
Ursus looked around carefully to make sure of Pat Hughes's whereabouts. It wouldn't do to have him sneaking up behind me. He was on the giant snowball crew. Good. As Ursus was controlling my head and eyes, I said, "I don't need to hide behind Kirsten, but I'm sure she could kick your ass."
"Why don't you come over here and say that to my face?"
"You heard me."
He mimicked me in a high voice, "You heard me," and then said, "candy-ass pansy."
"If you want to get close so badly, Carol dear, why don't you come over here?"
"Fag!" Nevertheless, he started walking toward me.
I felt Ursus readying for combat. Wait! Wait! I really didn't want to get in a fight, especially out in the open where I was sure to be caught. Not planning, just acting, I waited until Flagler was about eight feet away. I turned around, bent over at the waist--my sore muscles screamed--and began shoveling handfuls of snow between my legs like a dog digging. Most of them caught Carol right in the face.
While he was temporary blinded, I circled around him about ninety degrees, scooped up a loose snowball, and hit him in the head. I started to move again.
Who taught you how to throw? Ursus asked.
It looks like it. Here, like this. Ursus took temporary control of our body. He scooped up some snow and quickly formed a ball. Hold it closer toward your fingertips and give it some backspin when you release. He hit Carol, who had apparently lost track of where I was, right between the shoulder blades.
I was already moving again before it hit. Sean had been working on the giant snowball, but he noticed what was happening between Carol and me. Sean made a snowball, took a running start, and heaved it at Carol. That distracted Carol long enough for me to get in another clean shot at his back.
Al Gallo still considered Sean a friend, but I guess he couldn't see himself siding with me. He made a snowball and hit Sean. Chris Townshend saw that, and both he and Sean hit Al.
I managed to hit Carol again, but he finally spotted me. Instead of charging me for a fight, he made his own snowball and threw it at me. I felt relieved.
Good inspiration, thought Ursus.
Yeah, the penalty for a snowball fight is a hell of a lot less than for a fistfight.
We have ourselves a fine brain, here.
Shortly after Ursus's internal boast, the melee began. Kids began throwing snow everywhere. Even several girls took part. The playground ladies soon saw what was happening and began blowing their whistles, but they were ignored. Carol and I focused our attacks on each other, but as far as I could tell, most people were throwing at any target of opportunity. Carol missed a lot, so I knew my protection spell was still working.
My sore muscles were going to make me pay a stiff price as soon as the adrenaline wore off, but all three consciousnesses in my brain were having a great time. For a while, we quit being separate personalities and just became I again.
The fight felt like it went on for a long time, but it probably lasted only five minutes or so. It didn't break up until actual teachers started coming outside. I did a slow fade and got over by the grade-six door. The teachers didn't look too happy, but there were huge smiles on the faces of the kids.
Now, we get to see what the penalty is, thought Ursus.
As I sat in my desk after being let inside, I was definitely feeling a self-generated penalty. The pain was bad enough that I didn't want to move much. We found out the general penalty about five minutes after class started for the afternoon session.
Mr. Gattison, the principal, spoke on the public address system. "It has come to my attention that a snowball fight involving at least fifty--and perhaps as many as one hundred--students, primarily in grades five and six, took place today during after-lunch recess. As you are all well aware, and have been reminded recently, the throwing of snowballs is prohibited at this school.
"It is now clear that many students cannot responsibly use the privilege of having fun with the snow. That privilege is hereby rescinded. Any touching of the snow with hands is now prohibited. Students seen handling snow by a faculty member or other school employee are to be sent to this office for disciplining.
"As for the current incident, I will be conducting an investigation to determine those who participated." He then read off a list of students being summoned to the office. Carol Flagler was one of them.
"Nice going, Powyr," he said loudly enough for everyone in the classroom to hear as he got up and left.
"Mr. Powyr," Mr. Dean said, "is there something you need to tell me?"