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Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:36 am
[i]How’s the good life treating you? Well I’ve been hanging here waiting for you to get back, kinda bored without you around Lex. Has it really only been a week? The school’s sending your class schedule soon, so I’ll pass it along ASAP. I have a feeling you’re really going to like Pacific Grove, California (and this time I mean it!) Hope you’ve made some new friends and I hear from you soon.
I folded the letter into my pocket and felt a wave of relief rush over me. It’d been years since the police were seriously hunting my dad down, but keeping low-profile was important if we planned on continuing the work we did to find and hide Misprints. Getting a letter meant that the threat level was low. My eyes swept towards the bottom where Dad had signed. I still didn’t even know Dad’s real name. Every time I’d asked he’d given me a sarcastic, “It’s strictly classified,” then simply told me that it was important that I didn’t give him any single name outside the realm of “Dad,” since we were always changing his identity anyway. I skimmed the note for any clues towards deciphering anything my dad wouldn‘t be able to put in a letter but would need for me to know. Since I’d never risked attending a public school, I knew the class schedule would undoubtedly be something completely different. More bluntly I now knew that Pacific Grove was our next stop, which if it was as warm as it sounded didn’t sound unpleasant at all. We’d spent a couple months high up north last winter, an experience I managed but wouldn’t endure again for all the seal-blubber in the world. But my heart sank a little at the “new friends” part. No, I hadn’t found what he was really hoping I’d encountered.
“Nice that your dad actually writes you,” Shadow said from across the table, swallowing a mouthful of sandwich. “I bet my dad doesn‘t even know where I am right now.”
Cass added in, “Well considering your dad’s a reaper and all, Shadow, I guess that isn’t a shocker.”
Shadow stiffened almost as much as I did. “Your dad’s a reaper?” I asked, my voice lowering even though this was a completely acceptable conversation. Great…I was crushing on a reaper’s kid?! Well this just got better and better.
“He…manages the child abortion labs where I live,” Shadow muttered, taking another bite of his sandwich and staring vacantly at the plate before him. “He doesn’t like being called a reaper, though. Considers it insulting.”
“Well no offense or anything, but I don’t think you can get a job that’s really any
insulting,” Cass argued with a scrunch of his nose. “Doesn’t matter that they’re freaking rich. It’s just disturbing.”
A reaper was the loose term for a doctor that worked the procedures of "humanely putting down" Misprints. After being tattooed, Misprints were put in the reaper's hands to be euthanized. Tattoos were indications of where the flaw lied, always a small crescent-moon shape like the one above my eye.
Shadow didn’t say anything for a second, then finally managed, “Well I mean it seems terrible - it is terrible, I mean - but it needs to be done…I mean, right?”
This conversation was making my skin burn. Was I falling for someone who didn’t even agree with my existence? Somebody whose dad kills dozens of “insignificants” month-after-month? “You say ‘I mean’ a lot when you don’t actually mean it,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he said admittedly, rubbing the back of his neck. “But my dad says he puts a lot of them out of their misery. Newborns with strokes, or Siamese twins, or babies that they know would never be okay. Maybe it wouldn’t be fair to make them go on.”
“Maybe it isn’t fair to have the decisions be up to people like your dad.” I didn’t mean to sound as fierce as I did, but suddenly every fiber of my being was put to work in resisting the urge to snap. Shadow’s gaze locked mine, and his boyish pair of warm brown eyes reminded me that he’d been brought up on this state of mind. Patience. It’s hard, but Dad always required patience. Shadow was brainwashed to trust his father the same way I had to trust mine.
I sighed. “Sorry. I guess I just don’t really agree with it,” I managed. A couple of kids were staring from their places at the separate tables now, but their eyes quickly darted away as I spotted them. I kept it in my mind that any one of them could be a Misprint, so letting them listen could be a productive way to gain their trust. By the look on Shadow’s face, all was forgiven, so we dropped the conversation.
“All right, everybody look over here!” Counselor V shouted, all of us turning towards the counselor’s table that she was standing on. She was probably early-twenties, slightly overweight with a head of frizzy brown hair that was wrangled back into a ponytail. Her expressions had a range from disgusted to unimpressed, and right now is was the latter. “I need you to get into clothes that can get wet and shoes you won’t sacrifice to the sea if you guys capsize. Not that I'd recommend jumping into 45-degree water. Groups of threes. Five minutes to be ready if you’re not ready now.”
“Please come,” Shadow pleaded in a final effort, leaning across the table towards me with an overly-charismatic look.
“Consider it therapy,” Cass added with a wink.
“Look guys, I’m not going.”
“What did I just hear you say?”
I turned around to see that Counselor V’s henchwoman Janelle was standing behind me, arms crossed over her Cali State t-shirt as she smacked her lips together and blew an obnoxiously large gum bubble.
“I…I said that I’m not canoeing,” I repeated nervously, turning to my empty plate and fingering a cluster of crumbs to form a tiny pile. “I have hydrophobia.”
“Well you’re not going to get out of it. Suck it up, chica, ‘cause we require that you participate.” Janelle flipped back her highlighted blonde hair and yawned as if she was bored of the discussion. “No options. No exceptions.”
“I doubt we’ll tip anyway,” Shadow reassured. Did I look as worried as I felt? His expression looked sincere, and I felt at least a little consoled. He was right, what were the chances of us being dumb enough to tip a canoe? Shadow smiled. “But if we do tip, you’ve got me and Cass here. We won’t let you drown any time soon.”
I nodded. Beneath the table, I kept my fingers crossed.
“This is a terrible idea.” I tightened the straps of my life-jacket, which had apparently last been worn by somebody with shoulders about as wide as an ox’s. “I mean it. This is a really, really bad idea.”
I took my place in the middle, where I didn’t have any obligation to paddle considering that my persona of Alex Wood feared water the way the real me feared snakes. In front of me was Shadow, and Cass took the rear. Both looked totally amused.
We pushed off of the dock and cut through the mellow bay, gulls gliding overhead and drifting heads of kelp floating beside us. The sun had managed to overtake the incoming clouds and now broke through to create a clear blue sky, while the morning mist laced around the mountainous island around us. “Wow.”
“Feeling a little better?” Shadow asked teasingly, turning back to reveal the glint of humor in his eyes.
Cass gave a hard stroke to the left, and the canoe winded further into the open water, a pair of seals bobbing on the surface a few yards away. “Cool seals are always a good distraction from a phobia,” added Cass sagely.
Shadow turned to see Cass. “What if you’re afraid of seals?”
“A complex conundrum,” Cass concluded. He squinted as he looked beyond the sun. “Is that the Monty crew over there?”
“Oh god.” Shadow and I said it at the same time. I said, sounding as nervous as I legitimately was, “Cass, don’t do anything stupid.”
“I…I’m not going to do anything.” Cass’s gaze didn’t stray from the canoe twenty yards ahead of us. “Even if it would be awesome to see them take a dive.”
He didn’t even hear Shadow. Not with his arch-nemesis in sight. “I mean, come on, that would be great. Wouldn’t that be great?”
“No.” Me and Shadow said it in unison again.
Then the person at the front, head douche Bradley Monty, shouted towards us, “Hey,
What do you say to a little battle? We already tipped two canoes though, there’s no chance we can’t dump your sorry asses!”
My heart was pounding a double-speed rhythm. “Crap. Don’t do it Cass. Don’t do it. Please, please, don‘t be this stupid.”
Shadow worked fervently to hinder us from moving, but it didn’t matter much considering that the Monty crew had now deadlocked on us as their next quarry. The nose of their boat glided closer on the waves, Shadow’s arms churning the oar in the water, Cass’s paddling completely neutralizing us until we were unmoving.
I ducked as a paddle was swung just above my head, a tall dark-skinned girl named Katarina barely missing me and Cass. The guy in the rear - a hockey-playing meathead with a brain that had been replaced with a cinderblock - was dumb enough to toss the paddle like a spear, which managed to successfully hit Shadow square in the forehead. “Damnit!”
“Are you okay?” I asked, trying to get back to my knees from my awkward position on the bottom of the canoe.
“Just dandy,” Shadow grumbled through gritted teeth with a hand pressed on his forehead. “Damn bastards.”
Brad Monty gave his infamous smirk, one that had made the other girls fawn over him for a reason I can’t understand. But I knew that smirk. It meant we were screwed.
“Well this has been fun, but I’m getting kind of bored.” Bradley Monty laughed, grabbing his buddy’s paddle and grinding it along the side of our canoe. “Happy trails.”
And with a hard bump to the side of our canoe, we were plunged into the icy waters of the bay.
The makeup covering my mark would wash away. I would be exposed. Reaching the surface or sinking beneath it, either way I would most likely die.
Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another. ~Lemony Snicket
Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:15 pm
There is no way, in any dimension of any universe, that these are being done in 15 minutes. They're better than what I can do in 4 hours!
The only thing I can think of is, "Every time I'd asked, he'd given me a
'It's classified'. " I don't know if it's just me, but I wouldn't have used 'sarcastic' here. The impression I'm getting is that Alex and her dad are very close, and I just don't see her Dad being sarcastic. I imagined it as more teasing, or mock-seriousness. Apart from that, it was awesome!
I hae but ane gallant son, and if he were to follow me in my footsteps, how proud I shall be.
Time isn't a straight line. It's a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff
Thu Aug 25, 2011 11:17 am
Reading the comment above me this was done in fifteen minutes? Ok, so now I'm jealous!
The only comment I'm going to make regarding your story is the whole conversation about the reaper/ Shadow's dad. Alex says that the decisions shouldn't be up to him but I thought that in reality they weren't? The mother ultimately has the final choice in the matter doesn't she? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you meant.
Great job on this, and keep typing!
"There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers. I'm the kind that pays better."
It's a dramatic situation almost every time you answer the phone—if you answer the phone.
— Matthew Weiner
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