Excerpt from “Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine”
An Insidious Momnapping
The vice principal had candy on her desk.
I always stared at the candy. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I knew I’d never get any. Mom says some things are like watching a train wreck, because they’re so horrible we can’t look away. That candy was like a train wreck. It was always lollipops. It’s like Vice Principal Tearvey knew those were my favorite and put them there just to torture me.
I wouldn’t put it past her.
“What am I going to do with you, Trevor Tate?” She said. She always sounded chokey and stuffed up, like she wanted to sneeze out marshmallows.
I glanced at her, then back at the candy. I shrugged. “I don’t know. What do you usually do with me?”
“Look at me, Trevor.”
I did. Her puckery face wasn’t as train-wrecky as the candy, but it was close.
“Your mother says you are a wonderful child. I’m sure she’s right, but for the life of me I can’t understand why you feel the need to try my patience every week.”
I shrugged. “It’s a game I play. What can I say?”
Her brown eyes narrowed. “Somehow I doubt Arthur Kamps enjoys your game very much.”
“Arthur Kamps is a jerk,” I said without thinking.
I say a lot of stuff without thinking. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but this time I was already in trouble so it didn’t really matter.
Tearvey sat back and crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t expect all of my students to get along, Trevor. You may dislike Arthur all you want. But as I have told you numerous times, we do not allow bullying at Lewis Elementary.”
“I’m not a bully,” I said, trying not to get mad. It was hard. I hate being called a bully more than almost anything.
“You punched poor Arthur in the mouth,” Tearvey said. “That is what we call bullying.”
For once I held back the reply that first came to my head. That’s because it would have been something like ‘he started it’, and stuff like that never worked with the Vice Principal, even if it was true.
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” she asked.
I tried to think of something to say that would make her understand, but I realized it was pointless. So what if I’d heard Arthur picking on Amanda Byer at recess? So what if her crying had made me so mad I felt hot all over? So what if, when he laughed at her, my anger became impossible to control?
So what if the only way I could think of to make him stop was to punch his stupid jerk-face?
I wasn’t the bully. Arthur was. But if I said that, Tearvey would just ask me why I didn’t tell the recess teacher and let her handle it. Again. And I wouldn’t be able to convince her that my brain stopped working when I got mad.
So I just shrugged.
Tearvey nodded like I’d said something brilliant, then opened her desk drawer. “So. No excuses this time? Good. I’ll call that progress.” She took out a pink pad of paper and started writing on it. “Still, I think a week-long suspension will serve to teach you the lesson that my talks have obviously failed at.”
I took the paper from her hand without a word. It was probably pointless to remind her that this was my third suspension anyway.
“Mom’s going to murder you. You know that, right?” Tabitha said as we walked home together through the late autumn leaves.
I sighed without looking at her. “I know. Get off my case, okay?”
“Sure,” she said. “Sorry.”
Unlike most people, my twin sister knows when to leave me alone. It’s like she can feel my temper getting worse as easily as I can. She’s great at calming me down, too. Nobody else can do that. And Tab never gets mad. She’s never even been in a fight.
Of course she’s never had to. Nobody at school would dare hurt my sister.
Mom says Tab’s my Glory and I’m her Guts. I think that means we’re like a yin-yang, that black and white symbol they use in Kung-Fu movies that looks like fish. On the outside we’re almost exactly alike, with our not-quite-curly brown hair, blue eyes and tons of freckles. But on the inside we’re as different as pencils and oatmeal. If I’m a devil, Tab’s an angel. Don’t get me wrong, though. She’s not perfect. For one, she’s a know-it-all. I’d be totally happy if she never again told me how creeptastic spiders are good for the environment, or that light sabers are a scientific impossibility.
I don’t care. I still want one.
I played with the suspension notice in my pocket as we walked into the kitchen. While Tab went to the fridge to grab her after-school snack, I looked at the attic door with growing dread.
Most of the time we weren’t supposed to disturb Mom until she came downstairs to make dinner, but I wanted to tell her the bad news before she got a call from the school. Sure, I was already toast, but if the school got to her before I had a chance to even try and explain, I would be burnt toast.
“Staring at it won’t make it open,” Tab said from behind me.
I groaned. “Mom is going to kill me. Or maybe just turn me into a toad or something.”
Tab laughed. “Don’t be dumb. Mom’s a scientist, not a witch. Scientists don’t turn people into toads.”
I glanced at her. “They could. You never know.”
She just gave me a look and bit into her cookie.
It’ll be like ripping off a band-aid, I told myself as I reached out to open the door.
I got onto the first step and craned my neck, but I couldn’t see past the sharp turn a few stairs up.
Do it fast. Like ripping off a band-aid.
I took a deep breath and dashed up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Hey, Mom,” I said as I rounded the corner at the top. “I know you said not to bug you when—.”
I stopped dead at the top of the stairs in shock.
Mom’s usually spotless lab was a huge mess. The thick wooden workbench was covered in ripped-up strips of paper, shredded books, cracked pens, and twisted pieces of the metal beaker stand that normally stood there. All over the floor, broken beakers spilled out mysterious, colorful liquids, wetting more busted science equipment and making the place smell like a rabid raccoon had farted, thrown up, and died there. Worst of all, Mom’s prize microscope – the one she had worked years to afford – lay smashed and broken in a blue-green puddle of some kind of smoking liquid.
I saw all of that pretty fast, because my eyes were drawn almost right away to the back corner of the lab. There, an impossible wall of light flickered and rippled, like water over yellow flashlight beams. That was weird enough, but even crazier was the nightmare thing coming out of it – a huge coppery tentacle covered in sharp suction cup-looking barbs that reminded me of broken bottles. It slithered around the floor, scraping slowly over the mess like it was searching for something.
I hoped it wasn’t me.
There was a soft movement to my right. I glanced over to see a shadow kneeling right next to the watery doorway. The light behind made it too dark to see very well, but I would recognize that ponytail anywhere, with glasses perched on top like a double set of eyes, and a scarf – always a different color – wrapped around her forehead to keep her brown bangs out of her face while she worked.
“Mom?” I whispered, taking a step towards her.
Her shadowed hand went up. “NO Trevor! Get back! He’s found us!”
At the sound of her voice the tentacle whipped back, sweeping under my feet and knocking me to the floor. I didn’t even have a chance to pull myself up before it wrapped itself around Mom’s waist and yanked her back. Her scream was cut off as the thing pulled her through the door of light.
And then she was gone.
Updates as of 04/07/2018
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