Monday, November 29, 2010

The Other Canidates

I had decided that today was a good day. Not only had I run into Kevin and lived to tell about it with both arms still intact, but I had just been told that all class president canidates were to meet in the school auditorium… during PE! It was my lucky day.
I pushed open the doors to the large auditorium and noticed that I was probably the last student to arrive. A group of students were already sitting in a cluster in the front of the room. They were whispering furiously to each other, and I felt like an intruder, but slipped into a seat next to one of them. I might have joined in their conversation, but it wasn’t making much sense to me. It didn’t take long before I realized they were speaking in a foreign language. Not a problem. I really didn’t feel like butting in anyway. So instead I leaned back, closed my eyes, and let my mind wander back home to my lab.
I had stayed up late last night creating a miniature for my dream reading machine. I had decided to call it the Dream Reader. That is, if I was able to make it work. Right now it was designed for a small animal, so I would have to alter it if I was ever able to use it on a human being. But I could handle that. What I couldn’t handle was being starred at. And even with my eyes closed, I could feel several pairs of eyes drilling into me. My mind rushed back to school, and I turned to face the group that had been so busy talking. Now they were staring at me… or rather, glaring at me. I would have tried to break the ice, but their fiery glares had probably already melted it.
“Hi.” My voice cracked and sounded unnaturally high. Without saying a word to me, the ten students stood up and moved across the aisle to another group of seats. When they sat back down they resumed their gibberish. I wasn’t sure what they were so irritated about. Maybe they thought I had been eavesdropping. I wanted to let them know that only a few of the words had sounded familiar to me. Thus, my eavesdropping would have provided me with very little information. However, considering how happy they seemed with me already, I decided to let them initiate the next conversation.
I heard the back door of the auditorium click and turned to see Principal Evens walking toward us. The group across the aisle from me stopped whispering and sat up straighter. Mr. Evan’s didn’t make eye contact with anyone until he had positioned himself in front of us, straightened his tie, and cleared his throat. When he finally did look up he directed his gaze straight at me.
“Mr. Young, you may be opponents in this race, but that’s no reason to be unfriendly. Please join the rest of the group.” I glanced at the group that had minutes ago glared at me hatefully. They were now smiling at me and almost looked legitimately friendly, if not a little condescending. What kind of game was this? I knew I would sound foolish if I tried to explain what had happened, and the numbers were considerably against me, so I just mumbled an agreement and moved. I sat down next to the largest boy in the group. In fact, he was probably the largest boy I had ever seen in my life. He took up the whole of his seat and half of mine. However, I have always been taught to share, so I resisted the urge to shove his rolls beneath the arm rest of his chair. Instead, I extended my hand in a warm greeting.
“Hey, I’m Herbert Young.” He just stared at me. Maybe he didn’t speak any English. I thought about warning him how hard it would be to run for Class President without knowing English, but realized my efforts would be futile since I could only speak English. I tried again, extending my hand further. “Me, Herbert Young. You are who?” My enunciation was clear but I kept my voice down so as not to disturb everyone else.
The boy beside me glared harder, before saying in a very clear and quiet voice, “Shut up.” Well, if one was just learning English that was a helpful statement to learn… if one hated the world. But I could take a hint. I gave him one last attempted smile before turning back to face the front. Principal Evans had moved behind the podium on the stage, and looked down at us with a proud gleam in his eye.
“I cannot tell you, Students, how proud I am that we have so many volunteers this year.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chapter 8: Kevin Clyde

One may not realize the power of the reputation until he is forced to fight against it. I didn’t realize how well I had established my reputation until I needed to change it. How was I supposed to convince the student body that voting for a mobile time bomb was a good idea? I wouldn’t have even voted for me!
The candidate list had been posted on the school bulletin board today, but due to the crowd surrounding it, I had yet to view the list of my opponents. How does a man sentenced to hang build up the courage to view the rest of the hanging roster?
I knew I would find out who I was running against soon enough. Today I was working on obscurity. And I had found the perfect disguise! It was actually Brock who had provided me with the disguise. I had asked him yesterday to find me something that would cause people to look straight passed me. Perhaps I should have asked Sandy instead. This morning Brock had showed up at school with an oversized basketball jersey and a set of plastic rimmed glasses with no glass in them, and a large plastic nose attached to the bottom. They even had bushy black eyebrows attached to the top. I actually considered donning them. Sure, people might make fun of me, but it might also help them forget that I was the one running for class president. Unfortunately, Sandy had flatly refused to let me wear them. She said they would attract the wrong kind of attention and insure that I wasn’t elected. I wanted to let her know that that was already insured, but I held my tongue. Sandy is usually right about things, so much to Brock’s disappointment, I left the super neat glasses in my locker. I did however, convince Sandy to let me wear the basketball jersey. Anyone looking to beat me up wouldn’t be looking for someone in a sport’s jersey. I was practically invisible!
“Hey, Dufus!” I knew the endearing name was directed at me, but I hoped the person using it would choose to bestow his attention elsewhere if I pretended not to hear him. No such luck. I had only taken a few steps down the hallway when I heard a set of heavy footsteps behind me. I felt a hand grip my arm, and before I had time to react, I was spun around and slammed against a set of lockers.
“When I call, you answer. Got it?” It was Kevin Clyde, the schools most talented bully. He rivaled Brock in height and strength, but lost to Brock in the brain area. And that was hard to do. I wasn’t worried that Kevin was mad at me for running for Student President. Kevin could hardly write his own name, much less read mine.
I muttered an apology before explaining, “I didn’t think you were calling me. I could have sworn you said, dufus.” He pressed me harder against the lockers and I realized I should have kept my mouth shut.
“I did, didn’t I? That’s because that’s your new name, kid. Dufus. Fits ya, huh?” His smile was sinister as I nodded in agreement.
“Sure does. My parents could have saved a lot of time naming me if you had been around to help, Kevin.” He must not have appreciated the compliment, because his red face got redder and he shoved me harder against the lockers.
“You think you’re pretty funny, don’t you, Young? Well, when I get done with you, you’re not only gonna talk like a comedian, you’re gonna look like one too.” I was beginning to get worried. How was I going to convince people to vote for me if I only had one arm and a couple teeth?
“Kevin, put him down.” I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I heard Brock’s voice. I could tell that Kevin was loath to end the fun, but had crossed Brock enough to know that he was better off finding a different mouse to play with. He moved his nose closer to mine before hissing, “This isn’t over, Young.” I was given one last shove for good measure before he let me go and strutted angrily down the hall.
“You sure know how to make friends, don’t you Herb?” I sighed as I straightened my Jersey and picked up my backpack.
“Yeah, Brock. I attract them like honey attracts flies.”
“You sure do. Hey, I’ve been trying to find you. Mr. Evans asked me to give this to you.” Brock handed me a thick pamphlet with the words “CANIDATING RULES” written boldly across the cover.
“Oh yay.” I said, without much enthusiasm. So much for working on my experiment tonight.
“Sandy was looking for you earlier. She wanted to show you the list of candidates. She acted like there was something suspicious about it.
“Brock we both know Sandy can spot a conspiracy theory where there is none.”
“Yah, I know, but whatever it is, she seemed pretty excited about it. She told me if I found you, I’m supposed to tell let you know that we’re meeting over at her house tonight to put together some posters.” I groaned.
“Well, let’s both pretend you didn’t find me.” Brock grinned.
“Know can do, little man. Sandy would know I was lying as soon as I opened my mouth. Besides she told me to tell you that she’ll provide the pizza if you come.” Well, I thought, I might be worth it after all. I was getting a little tired of Howard’s British cooking. I’m an American. I start to break out in hives if I eat too much foreign food.
“Alright. You can tell her I’ll be there.”
“Sure thing. I’ll catch you later, Dude. I’ve gotta get ready for PE.” He looked so happy about it that he might as well have said he was off to a party. I had to chuckle. Only Brock.
“Okay. I’ll see you later.” If I lived that long.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chapter 7: On The Case

“Sandy! Did you have to invite Brock over? This house is getting crowded!” I was whining but I didn’t care. While I was napping on the Pet Store floor, Sandy had called Howard and asked if he could pick us up. She than called Brock and told him we could use his help. THAN, she took my wallet and purchased two of each disgusting little rodent and amphibian that resided at the pet store. I would have yelled at her, but my head hurt too much. The living room looked as though we had brought the entire pet store with us, minus the squeaky dog toys and puppy coats. Howard had instructed me to lie on the couch until Brock arrived. I turned my head away from Sandy, only to find myself eye to eye with a shrew or something.
“Eeeee!” I jumped up from the couch and pointed my finger accusingly at Sandy. “You! You are in charge of taking care of these creatures! I will not touch them. If they die of hunger, it will be your fault!”
“Herbert Young, you’d better quit pointing at me or I’ll bite that finger off. You were the one who asked for my help. How was I supposed to know that your reason for dragging me to the pet store was so you could rest on their floor? I thought you were buying specimens! So I bought a couple!” A parrot squawked behind me and I jumped away from it as quickly as I could.
“Sandy, if I had wanted this many animals I would have moved to the zoo. This is ridiculous. How much did you spend?” Conveniently for Sandy the door bell rang.
“That must be Brock. I’ll let him in.” I sighed in frustration as Sandy left the room. I shouldn’t have yelled at her, but she had turned my safe house into a mad house. I should have yelled louder! Brock would understand.
“Dude!” Brock’s eyes travelled over the cages crowding the living room. His exclamation did nothing to make me feel better.
“This,” I said pointing to Sandy accusingly, “Is her fault.” The look Brock gave Sandy hinted more of admiration than reproach. “This is a bad thing Brock.” He had turned his attention to a red and black snake, that was probably venomous.
“This is awesome, Man! It must have cost you a fortune!” I glared at Sandy.
“I bet it did.”
“Herbert, stop being such a baby. I covered half the cost, and I know for a fact that Brock loves creepy crawly, squirmy things. I bet you’d hardly have to ask before he’d agree to take care of them.”
“Dude, you know it!” He now had his hand inside the cage with the snake. I started gagging from across the room. “How many animals do you have here?”
“Well,” Sandy began, “We have ten mice, two rats, two hamsters, two shrews…” I couldn’t help but role my eyes. “… two snakes, two rabbits, a ferret, and a parrot.” I could tell Sandy was trying to avoid making eye contact with me. “I paid half the cost and Brock will be paying a quarter of the cost.” This must have been news to him because he turned toward her with raised eyebrows.
“I am?”
“Of course you are, Brock. You promised you would help finance this new case, and so long as Herbert doesn’t kill all of these animals, I plan to train them as undercover secret agents.” Brock looked at me, shrugged and turned his attention back to the snake that was now wrapped around his neck.
“Is that why you bought all these animals?” I was kind of disappointed, having thought Sandy had done it to benefit my research.
“Herbert, I think it’s time we briefed you on this case.” And I was ready to listen. I was curious to find out what kind of investigation required animals. “We’ve come to suspect that there is a spy ring using our school as their base.” I shouldn’t have smiled. I really shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help it. What a ridiculous assumption! Sandy’s eyes narrowed as she watched the sides of my lips raise. “Herbert Young, are you laughing at me?” I coughed into my hand, trying to wipe the smile off my face.
“No, no Sandy! It’s just that I’m curious to know what led you to that conclusion. It certainly isn’t the type of thing one stumbles across every day.” Sandy was still glaring at me.
“No it’s not. And it’s certainly no laughing matter, Mr. Young.”
“Well at least give me the particulars, Sandy.”
“Not here. Your brother changes nationalities too often for my comfort. Let’s get these critters up to you lab and then we’ll discuss it.”

“Have you noticed how many Guamanians have joined our school in the last two years? According to school records we didn’t have any Guamanians until three years ago. At that time there was one. Our school is now 50% Guamanian!” I raised my hand hoping Sandy would let me interject. She glanced my way so I took it as an affirmation.
“Sandy, I dare say that if you check state records, you would see a similar, though probably not quite as drastic, increase in the Guamanian population.”
“But not 50%.”
“Well, no. But an increase none the less. Besides, why would they choose our school as their headquarters? With a total of 200 kids we hardly show up on the map.”
“But that’s exactly why they chose this school, Howard! Here they can remain unseen and out of the way, while at the same time gathering the information they need!”
“And what information are they after, Sandy? The secret to America’s greatness? Her fast food recipes? Guam is a U.S. colony. You can hardly expect that the tiny island is trying to free itself from our tyrannical grasp!”
“That’s just it, Herbert! I don’t think that these new students are actually from Guam!” I gave Sandy a blank stare. Where in the world was she going with this? “I believe they are Cubans, masquerading as Guamanians.” I was beginning to get frustrated.
“That’s a stretch if there ever was one, Sandy.”
“I don’t know, Herbert. It makes sense to me.” Trust Brock to agree to something so ludicrous.
“You don’t have to believe me, Herbert. All you have to do is focus on winning Class President and keep your ears open for anything suspicious. Brock, the animals, and I will do all the investigating. Agreed?” I had to pause and think about it. I really didn’t have much of a choice. Principal Eve’s had told me running for Class President was an assignment. And I didn’t want to disappoint my friends. My only real change in circumstances was the situation in laboratory. And that wasn’t all Sandy’s fault.
“Alright, Sandy. I’m with you. But let’s put everything on hold until tomorrow morning. It’s been a long, exhausting day.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chapter 6: The Pet Store

“So why did you ask me to meet you here?” Sandy and I stood outside of Milberry’s only pet shop. I had been here before, thus I was petrified of going in again. Animals terrified me. I had met a dog that I kind of liked… once. He was stuffed and had a tag.
“I… I… I… think I might need some help.” I swallowed, but my throat was so dry there was really no need. Sandy looked at me skeptically.
“You need my help in a pet store? What’s really going on here, Young?” If she had been my mom I probably would have grabbed her hand. However, I thought better of it considering I was supposed to be the brave, strong one.
“I need to pick out several specimens for my experiment. Nothing big, but I’m going to need a couple different species, so as to add a variable to my hypothesis and to get the best results.”
“So you’re going to need what? A couple mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, fish…” My skin began to squirm and my head started to feel a bit fuzzy.
“Sandy, let’s not talk about this. Let’s just get it over with.” Again she gave me a quizzical look, and I decided not to answer it. Instead I opened the door… or would have if I could have. I pulled and it wouldn’t budge. I pulled again harder with the same results. “I think it’s stuck.” This time I put my face to the glass and peered in, trying to see if the store was closed.
“Herbert, maybe if you followed the instructions on the door and pushed.” I glanced down at the petit figure beside me. Surely it couldn’t be that simple. My eyes swung back to the door. The word PUSH was printed neatly on the door handle. Sandy giggled beside me.
“I’ve never known anyone as smart as you, Herbert, who is also as dumb as you.” She pushed the door open and walked in before me. She was still chuckling and shaking her head. I would have made excuses, but I couldn’t think of any. Although… who goes around reading doors anyway?
The smell of the pet store almost knocked me over. I felt bad for the person who worked her. I turned to face the counter and saw the poor victim. She was young lady who seems to be brained washed to the nasty smell surrounding us. She was chewing gum loudly and blowing bubbles. I thought about giving her a lecture on how little particles of dust and germs fill the air, but I wasn’t sure she would appreciate my help. Instead I turned my attention back to Sandy who was staring into a small cage full of little rodents.
“Here are some mice, Herbert. They’re not all that expensive either.” She tapped on the glass, testing their reaction. “And boy can they climb.” My skin started to crawl. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Maybe we should come back another day, Sandy.” I said in a high strangled voice. “The girl at the counter looks kinda busy.” Sandy ignored me and continued on the next class cage.
“What are you going to keep these little guys in, Herbert?” I looked at what she was calling little. It was a huge black rat with red eyes. I took a step back as it seemed to be staring at me menacingly.
“That’s not a little guy, Sandy. That’s a monster. We have a ‘No Monster Policy’ in our house. He’s not invited.” Sandy looked at me incredulously.
“Come on, Herbert. He’s not so bad. He’s actually kind of cute.” I looked back at the cute monster to try to see it from her perspective. He was now cleaning himself and I caught a glimpse of his razor sharp white teeth. This was definitely not a cute rat. “You don’t have to make up your mind right away. We’ll look and see what else they’ve got.”
We moved down to the next cage. Miniature hamsters. These weren’t so bad, I thought. “I don’t mind these too much, Sandy.” She continued to study them before agreeing with me.
“You’re right. They don’t have that long skinny tail, but they’re a lot more expensive. Ten dollars per hamster versus two dollars per mouse. That’s quite a difference in price.” I had to agree with her, but it seemed worth every penny to me.
“Maybe you could get two of each.” I winced at the thought.
“I don’t want mice in my house, Sandy. Or rats.”
“Well, how are you going to conduct a balanced experiment if you don’t have a variety of specimens?” I would have answered her but she moved on to the next cage. “Aww! Look at these, Herbert! Baby rabbits! So adorable.” Sandy looked down at them like she had never seen anything so cute. I had. They were better than the rats, mice, and hamsters, but it wasn’t as though they were adorable or anything.
“Sandy, they’re just rabbits.”
“No, Herbert. These are baby bunny rabbits. They’re adorable!” I wasn’t seeing the difference between rabbits and baby bunny rabbits. I decided to look it up on the internet when I got home. Girls are so strange. “We have to get at least two of these!”
“Sandy, you do remember we aren’t buying pets, don’t you? I’ll be experimenting on these animals. There is always the possibility that something will go wrong and they won’t survive. That’s why I’m not experimenting on people.” I stared her down hoping that she would see how serious I was. She glared up at me and then turned back and smiled at the rabbits.
“Well, we’ll save the rabbits until you have all the ticks worked out of your experiment.” Ticks. I began to wonder how many of these animals had ticks. My arms started itching and I rubbed them in irritation.
“Let’s get this over with, Sandy. I’m going mad.” She smiled knowingly and moved to the next cage.
“How about a couple frogs!” Her exclamation startled me and I jumped. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t jumped backwards. Even this wouldn’t have been a problem if the glass cage of mice hadn’t been positioned right behind me. Right where I jumped. I heard a creek. I turned around as quickly as I could and grabbed the mouse cage. I would have been alright if my grabbing the cage hadn’t knocked the lid off. Almost as soon as the mice saw that a way of escape had been provided, they took it. One jumped on me. I screamed like girl. I faced a serious dilemma. Should I drop the cage on the ground and smack off the offending creature or should I wait until someone saw my dilemma and put the lid back on.
“SANDY!” Sandy swung to face me, her face a mask of confusion. Her mouth swung open.
“Herbert! What are you doing?” It was a dumb question but I didn’t have time to tell her so. Another mouse jumped out of the cage and onto me. The previous offender had climbed up my face and was playing in my hair.
“Ahhh!!! Ahhh!!!” I knew I had to get myself under control. “The stand, Sandy! I knocked the stand over. Ahhh!!! Ahhh!!! Pick it up! Pick it up!” We really would have preferred to have enjoyed our party alone, but bubble gum lady must have heard the commotion and felt left out. She dashed around the corner and grabbed the stand that I had knocked over.
“Put it down!” She yelled at me. I did. I wasn’t about to argue with her. Sandy had retrieved the lid and slammed it down on the cage just as I was setting it down. Bubble Gum lady cut the mice’s fun short and took both the one out of my hair and the one that had begun to crawl down my pant leg. She flung them back into the cage and then turned to me accusingly. “Young man, if you would like to hold one of the animals, you need to ask for assistance.” She pointed to the sign clearly written on the glass cage. “PLEASE ASK FOR ASSISTANCE BEFORE HANDLING ANY OF THE ANIMALS.” I didn’t bother arguing with her and letting her know that some people don’t consider reading doors or cages, but instead I took a deep breath and said, “Yes, ma’am.” Then I fainted.

Chapter 5: You Scratch... I Scratch

I stared in amazement at the equations and formulas covering the page in front of me. Was it really possible? According to my calculations, if one could enter his own mind at the exact moment when deep sleep hit, he could play an active and controlled role in his own dreams, directing the scenery, the characters and even the circumstances. If this could be accomplished than children suffering from reoccurring nightmares could turn their dreams into something beautiful and pleasant. Dreams could be harnessed and even possibly recorded and viewed by someone outside of your dream.
The idea was incredible and hard to believe, but if the figures that I had calculated were correct, than it was very possible. All I had to do now was figure out how to create a machine that would be able to control the neutrons in the brain without harming the one being tested. Perhaps it was time to make a trip to the pet store.
I had just put my jacket on when Howard’s voice came across the intercom.
“Hebert, Old boy, there’s a call for you on line one. I’d wager it’s a chap from school. A female… chap.” I could picture his sly smile and I had to choke back my irritation at him. It wasn’t like he never received calls from female editors or anything. I determined to give him a hard time next time he got a call from a woman.
“Thanks, Howard. I got it.” I picked up the receiver knowing full well who it was. Sandy.
“Hello? This is Herbert.”
“Hey, Herbert. I know who you are. Who was the English guy who answered the phone though?”
“That was my brother Howard.”
“I thought he was Japanese or Chinese or something.”
“Oh! He was… I mean he wasn’t, but he was… I mean, the book he was writing was…” Was it necessary for me to explain our family affairs to Sandy? “He’s British now.”
“What?” I was feeling confused as well, so I stopped trying to explain. “… Okay… Well, I called to ask you how the interview with my dad went. Did you say yes? Are you going to run for class president?”
“It sounds like your dad already told you about it. Didn’t he tell you what I said?”
“Don’t be silly, Herbert. My dad keeps most things that happen in his office very private. However, I thought that our being friends and all… Well, I just wanted to know what you decided.” My mind began to work quicker as I listened.
“Sandy, if your dad didn’t tell you what we talked about in his office, how did you know that he asked me to run for class president?” I could practically hear her squirm.
“Well, I might have mentioned to him that you would make a good Class President…”
“Sandy! Why? I don’t want to be the class president! I can hardly stand on two feet at school. What kind of leader would I make? Are you trying to kill me!?!” I could practically feel my blood begin to boil. I had to cool down. I had to think clearly. I picked up a glass of water from off my desk and began to sip it while waiting for her response.
“Herbert Young, I’m surprised at you!” I hadn’t expected that. “Here I am trying to help the school and keep it from falling to the ground around us, and you’re giving me a hard time for involving you!”
“Sandy, the school is more likely to fall to the ground around us with me in a position of leadership! Besides, I’m about to make a scientific breakthrough. I don’t have time to waste making posters and speeches.”
“I’m about to make a breakthrough too, Herbert. But I can’t do it without putting ears into high places. I can’t jeopardize my private eye position by putting the spot light on me, and you know Brock will never pay close enough attention to what’s going on around him to be any help. You should feel honored that I chose you. Besides, I’ll help you make posters and campaign. It will be a synch. All you have to do is exactly what I tell you… and watch your feet.”
“Oh. That’s all?” I really did want to help Sandy and she really was cute and fun to hang out with. “But, I’m just about to make a breakthrough, Sandy! I can’t put this on the shelf.”
“You won’t have to Herbert! I’ll help you as much as I can on weekends and after school.” I was impressed by her offer. I could use some assistance.
“You will?”
“Sure! But you have to promise me one thing.”
“What’s that?”
“That you will try to win.” I groaned inwardly. What a yucky promise to have to make.
“Alright. What do I need to do first?”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chapter 4: Home and Howard

I sighed in sweet relief as the bus pulled away from its last stop. I was finally home. The day had proved to be a long, difficult, and disastrous day. After my meeting with Principal Evan’s, my mind seemed to be too cluttered to think clearly. It took me half an hour to find where I had left my bag, get it, and then find my next class. I shuttered at the memory of how the rest of the day had gone, and decided to try to forget everything. I was home, that was all that mattered. It was here that Herbert the clown and klutz became Mr. Herbert Young: scientist, inventor, and… just almost normal!
The house that rose before me was a two story, colonial style mansion. I had moved in with my brother 2 years ago when my parents had their midlife crisis and decided to be free lance journalists. They travelled from place to place came home every six months or so, and sent post cards from their current location on a weekly basis. It had taken me a while to get used their absence, but we had always been a peculiar family, so this was just another thing to add to the list.
The large house that I now shared with my brother was financed by his successful writing career. Howard began writing suspense novels while he was still in high school. To date: he has written 24 books; 22 of which were best sellers. Whenever Howard is writing a book he becomes so involved in it, that he seems to forget that I live with him, or that I’m even around. I don’t mind so much. Howard’s business means that I can make changes around the house and he doesn’t throw a fit or even notice sometimes. For instance, Howard didn’t notice when I replaced the lock and key on the front door with a retina and thumb print scanner. Howard had yet to visit my room which I had turned into a secure, high-tech laboratory. Thankfully this also meant that he hadn’t yet seen my newest project which currently kept my lab in an organized disarray.
As I made my way up the front steps I puzzled over why things seemed so much easier at home. There had been several times I had considered the possibility of homeschooling, but when I suggested it to Howard he told me that he believed school would strengthen my social skills. What are brothers for?
It isn’t that I don’t like school. Quite the contrary. I enjoy the academic exercise that it affords, but something about it throws my reflexes off kilter. Scratch that. There’s just something about the real world that seems to throw my mind out of whack. I could tell you stories all day to illustrate my point, but my policy is that it is best to dwell in the present… especially when I’m at home. Sigh.

“Good to see you made it home, Old Chap. Care for a spot ‘o tea?” My brother Howard was sitting at the kitchen table when I entered. Books and papers were piled around him haphazardly. His heavy English accent still threw me through a loop, considering last week he had been speaking with a Japanese accent. You see, Howard just began researching for his newest book “In London’s Fog.” Howard never does anything half heartedly. First he begins by studying the history of the setting for his book. Then he takes a month or two to investigate the present condition of his setting. And of course, what better way to do that than to go there and get hands on experience. Somewhere in this mix of research Howard tends to pick up the accent of the people he is studying. His British accent was actually a huge relief to me considering how much easier it was to understand than his Japanese accent. “Twilight Over Tokyo” may have been a good book, but the writing period had been painful for me.
“No. No tea for me. I’ve got some studying I need to do.
“Capitol! Capitol! I have some studying to do myself. No time to dillydally. Got to keep a tight schedule.”
“Right, Captain!” I figured if I couldn’t beat him I might as well join him. “Gotta keep the ship in tip-top condition!”
Howard chuckled. “Herbert, old man. I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m a captain. Never been on the sea in my life. Actually, in this book I’m a famous cricket player, running for my life, unable to trust friend or stranger. Jolly good plot, no?”
“Tip-top of the mast, Captain!” I managed to dodge the book Howard tossed at me as I headed up the stairway.
“Supper’s in an hour, old man.” Howard called after me.
“Wouldn’t miss out on the grub for the world, Captain. I’ll be there.” As I headed up the stairs I let out a sigh of pleasure. Boy, it’s good to be home.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chapter 3: Mr. Evans Office

“Mr. Young.” Principal Evan’s eyes moved to watch me as I staggered into the chair across from his desk. On the wall behind his desk, Principal Evan’s had hung a large American flag. At the moment he was standing straight and tall directly in front of that flag. I was prepared for him to point at me and say, “Uncle Sam needs you!” I sat closer to the edge of the chair, ready to stand and solute. However, instead Mr. Evan’s sat in the large chair behind his desk.
My mind began to race frantically. If I wasn’t being drafted, why had I been called here? I couldn’t think of anything I had done wrong. This could be about the Professor Sneugler incident, but that hadn’t really been my fault. If anyone, the drummer who had dropped his stick should be sitting here squirming. Leaving things lying around is dangerous! Especially if I’m around! My tortured thoughts became frantic and I was about to fall to my knees begging for forgiveness when Principal Evan’s began to speak.
“It has been brought to my attention, by a reliable source, that you are well known by the entire school body. You have the highest grade point average of anyone in Bethel High, and you have never spent any time in detention.” I was beginning to feel better about being here. I could handle all this praise. I sat up taller in my chair and could feel my chest rising. Maybe having two whole friends didn’t place me in the popular and cool section of well known, but at least everyone in the school seemed to know enough about me to stay away from me.
“For this reason, I have decided that you are the perfect candidate to run for class president.” I began to choke on the breath of air I had just taken. (Breathing can be a dangerous thing sometimes.
“But, but, but…” Principal Evan’s waited patiently for me to finish my motorboat impression and go on. “I, I, I don’t know anything about running for class president!”
Principal Evan’s gave me an indulgent smile. “Mr. Young, no one knows anything about anything until he tries to accomplish it.”
“But, Sir!” I stammered… “I’m allergic to public speaking! Crowds make me break out in hives! Not only that, but you couldn’t pick a worse person to represent the school body! I might catch the school on fire. Besides, I don’t believe in climate change or going green… or, or anything a good, self respecting politician would!” My mind continued to scramble for reasons I could not and should not run for class president. I hoped that Principal Evan’s would listen and believe that I was telling the truth, but he continued to smile at me with that condescending and indulgent smile.
“Mr. Young, I am not asking you to run for president of the United States. You have nothing to worry about. Nothing you do or say will be held against you in a court of law. Think of this as a simple class assignment.”
“But, Sir…” I tried again, but Mr. Evans held up his hand to silence me. He stood up again and put his hands across his heart.
“Some choose greatness, son, and others have it thrust upon them. You must do this for the sake of honor, justice, and school pride.” I could almost see the American flag waving behind him. I could almost hear patriotic music being played. Then the school bell rang.
“That will be all, Mr. Young. You will be given a pamphlet with the rules and regulations for the race within the week.” Principal Evans sat back down and began shuffling through some papers on his desk, effectively dismissing me. I got up in a daze and managed to find the door. I stepped out into the now crowded and noise filled hallway. Which class had I been in before I was summoned to my own execution plan? I pushed my way through the crowd hoping my feet would remember the way. This was going to be a long day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chapter 2: Sandy

“Herbert!” I looked down the length of the hallway to see who had called out to me. It was Sandy Evans, the principals daughter. You might as well know that Sandy is one of my best friends, even though she is a girl. We’re in most of the same classes, and she has kind of appointed herself my personal bodyguard. I suppose Sandy is kind of cute, if you can see past her thick lensed glasses. They magnified her eyes and made them look huge. Sandy has her own quirks. She fancies herself somewhat of a detective. If anyone can sniff up a conspiracy where there is none, it’s Sandy. Just the other day, she told me that she suspected the school nurse of stealing drugs from the school medicine cabinet and selling them on the black-market. I told her that our 70 year old nurse, Mrs. Salve, probably could find a better way to earn money than selling aspirin, Band-Aids, and antibiotic ointment to drug dealers. She still has Mrs. Salve under close investigation, but if it that’s what floats her boat, I wasn’t about to sink it.
“Herbert.” Sandy was practically on top of me now, her magnified eyes sizing me up. “Are you on the case too? “ I stared at her in confusion.
“Look, Sandy, if you’re talking about the investigation on Mrs. Salve, than no.” I spent too many hours in the infirmary having my limbs sewn back on. I wasn’t about to get on Mrs. Salve’s bad side.
“Don’t be silly, Herbert.” Sandy’s replied. “The case around Mrs. Salve is closing in. I just have to bide my time until she slips up and makes a mistake. I’m talking about a whole new case! We just caught wind of it this morning!”
“We? Whose we?” Sandy rolled her eyes as though she though my question silly.
“I’ve got Brock investing some classified information for me.”
“Brock? You’re having Brock help you on one of your cases?”
“Of course! I can’t exactly walk into the guys locker room, now can I?” She was giving me that, “Are you stupid look, but I didn’t answer since she never really asked the question aloud. I decided to change the subject instead.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to have Brock help you? He’s so… so…”
I suppose now’s as good a time as any to tell you about Brock. Brock was my other best friend. We made an odd trio. I was an averaged height nerd with a knack for disaster. Sandy was extremely short, kinda cute, with an overactive imagination. And Brock… Brock was the biggest kid in school and was extremely popular among the ladies. However, the size of his body seemed to have robbed some of the nutrients from his brain. He was constantly stating the obvious or being surprised at simple common place things. I suppose he could have fit in with the popular crowd, but he didn’t try. Brock had joined our little group, and we were glad to have him.
“But to have him on one of your cases, Sandy? Aren’t you afraid he might give up your undercover position or something?”
“Well, who else was I supposed to ask, Herbert? You avoid the locker room like it’s a leper colony. Brock loves to spend time in the gym. He’s the perfect undercover agent for this case!” I could see her point.
“Okay, I guess that makes sense. What is this case about?”
“Mr. Young.” I turned slowly to my right were Principal Evans was standing. What do you know! I had made it all the way down the scary hall to his office without knocking anyone over or blowing anything up! “This must be my day!” I thought. However, the look on Principal Evan’s face told me otherwise.
“Mr. Young,” His voice was always calm, with a rich and almost spooky quality to it. It made me shiver. I did not call you to my office to have you converse in the hallway. You may enter my office.” I turned to look at Sandy one more time before entering the office of doom. She was smiling adorably at her dad.
“Sandy, shouldn’t you be in class?” Mr. Evans asked.
“Yes, Daddy.” Sandy answered brightly. “I just wanted to make sure Herbert made it here safely.” She gave him a sweet smile, before turning to go back to class.
I turned back to her dad, who was smiling down the hall at her retreating image, before he turned back to me with a serious gaze. He turned without saying anything to me and entered his office, leaving the door open behind him. I took a deep breath before taking a step into Mr. Evans office, only to trip over the doorstop. No, maybe this wasn’t my day afterall.

Chapter 1: Professor Sneugler's Class

I was filled with trepidation as I walked the long, empty corridors of the school. My destination was the principal’s office, but these hallways had never seemed so long. I put my hand over my heart to muffle the sound of its rhythm.
I could hear it bouncing off the walls and brightly shining tiles of the floor.
“Shhhh…” I whispered, hoping my heart would take the hint. Just then trumpets joined the beating of my heart. I jumped, tripped on my shoelace, and SPLAT, fell on my face. After picking myself up, making sure I hadn’t broken my nose, and checking out the new tear in my slacks, I sighed with relief. That wasn’t my heart beating after all. It was Professor Shneugler’s class. They’d been practicing a song for the end of the year ceremony since of beginning of the year. Each orchestra member had his or her part memorized by heart. I had tried out for the cymbals, but had managed to slam my nose between those two shiny pieces of metal one too many times. Mr Shneugler held back his temper, but let me know in no uncertain terms that there was no room for me in his world of music. My disappointment was keen, not because I had any great aspirations of becoming the world’s next famous cymbal player, but because Cynthia Smith was the lead violinist, and I would have done anything to be near her. Even getting my nosed slammed between two sharp pieces of metal seemed worth it. But it was not to be. As it was, Mr. Sneugler begged me to stay away from his classroom. Of course, that was after I had tripped over a drummer’s stick. So technically, what happened next was the fault of the drummer who was careless enough to misplace his stick. But no matter whose fault it was, I tripped over the drummer’s stick into the drummers set. After I untangled myself there, I fell into the orchestra pit right onto Cynthia Smith. That day was one of the worst days of my life and the best days of my life. Cynthia spoke to me!
“Get off of me!” she shrieked. And I did. Only to run into the piano, which for someone’s convenience (but certainly not mine) was on wheels. I hit it with enough force that it and I began to roll rapidly across the floor right into the brass section of the orchestra. It was actually quite a masterpiece of confusion, my specialty. There I was sprawled on top of a rolling piano, which was picking up speed as it rolled through the brass section of the orchestra. Shrieking band members leaped our to my way, each holding on to their instrument as though it was a child in danger. Professor Shneugler stood behind his desk, sputtering and blinking through his bifocals. When the finally came to a halt… “BANG – ching”… against the opposite wall, my handiwork was something to behold. M. Shneugler continued sputtering before his eyes turned to focus directly on me.
“Young man! Ged oud uv my clazz!”
“But, sir!” I said, trying to explain and apologize at the same time.”
“No. Do nod speak. Ged oud uv my clazz!”
It probably would have been a humorous sight if I hadn’t been the one who had caused all of the trouble. All the band members were cowering in corners as I made my way to the door.
“I really am sorry. If you want I can help…”
“NO! Leab my clazz!!!”
So I left. I could hear the sigh of relief as I shut the door. Funny, that’s the same sigh I heard when I was called out of Biology class to go to the principal’s office. I couldn’t see the connection. It wasn’t as though I had knocked anything over or blown anything up… yet… today…
I suppose it’s about time I introduced myself. My name is Herbert. Herbert Young. I’m 13 years old and I’m in the 7th grade. You know how everyone is usually labled in school? Every highschool has their jocks and their preps, and their nerds. You may not have guessed yet but at Franklin High I’m considered a topnotch nerd. Hey, everybody’s good at something. My specialty just happens to be studying and destroying things.
My dream is to invent something in high school that will let the world know that there really is a brain connected to my large hands and feet. You may be asking how someone who can’t even bang two pieces of metal together without getting his nose tangled up in between them thinks that he’ll ever be good at anything. Well, I’d be the first to admit that I’m a clutz, not quite world famous yet, but working on it.
As far as looks go, I’m fairly average height, but my feet and hands must be on steroids. They’re too big for my body and usually send me flying down stairs or dumping my lunch into some unsuspecting and innocent bystanders lap. I like to think of myself as an undercover superhero… in a scientific sort of way. You see, my inventions always seem to work when I’m alone, but something always seems to happen when I try to show them to people. I’d give you examples, but I think you’ll understand if you stick around. Just don’t stand too close. Back up a little. A little more. Okay, you should be safe from there, but I’d check my insurance coverage first if I were you.