One Night in Wurstburg
T. Lee Harris
All eyes were on him as the librarian’s talons — ummm — fingers closed on his shoulder and firmly guided him across the hushed library, past the small knot of students making Pep Week posters, past the group of actual study hall students and within earshot of the snark.
“Some troubleshooter, can’t even keep his own butt out of detention,” said an unidentifiable whisper.
“Maybe trouble shot back,” said another whisper, answered by a chorus of snickers.
The Gorgon silenced them with a glare.
Durand ignored the whispers and the stares. He was used to it.
It Came From Burr County
“Hey,” I said, my eyes watering from the strain of forcing a casual smile. “What’s not cool?”
Snake’s knuckles cracked but his hands were relaxed, not flexing or knotted into fists.
How does he do that?
Danny said, “Making fun of people who live in the country. That’s not cool.”
“I wasn’t,” I said. “I was making fun of my aunt.”
Danny and Snake stared at me. They didn’t exchange looks, or move, or even grunt, but after all my blood had time to turn to icy red slush, they broke ranks and wandered off toward The Cow.
“Wow,” BeeJ said. “You look like you just had a near-death experience.”
“Aw, they don’t kill people.”
“Maybe they’re just really good at hiding the bodies.”
First day ever in a school. Middle school. I was excited and nervous. What if the other kids are way ahead of me? What if Aunt Phoebe left out some important things I should know for middle school? I don’t want to be embarrassed on my first day. Should I wear a head band? Should I change into another shirt?
My aunt seemed excited, but not nervous like me. During the drive she kept asking if I had any questions and if I was ok. Then, “I hope homeschooling you all this time was the right thing for you.”
“Of course it was. You’re the best, Aunt Phoebe.” Oh no! What did she mean by that? Is she worried about me? Should I be worried about me?
I kissed her cheek, she kissed my forehead and I jumped out. I watched the car disappear into the morning traffic before I started toward the double doors, and saw the huge banner, WELCOME TO WURSTBURG MIDDLE SCHOOL.
‘S Not Me
She shifted her back pack. “I knew someone who cloned himself. You know, to do his homework and other boring stuff.” She casually picked up a rock, started to throw it, and then juggled it in her hand instead. “He used his snot.”
“Snot?” He’d been somewhat of an expert on the subject in the past, but he’d never realized it had any uses besides entertainment and the occasional adhesive.
“Yeah. Got your DNA in it. Just don’t use the green stuff.”
Amber tossed the rock over her shoulder and took off in another direction. Amber was known as an unusual dresser among the middle-schoolers in Wurstburg. Today, she seemed to be wearing a bunch of ties for a skirt and some kind of clown shirt. James regretted that he’d let the opportunity go by to insult her clothes.
Green stuff? Why, that was as good as all the other colors. No girl was going to tell him what to do, at least not what color to use.
Up before daylight! The people of planet Earth are not sane. They send their heirs out in the dark to ride in a huge, yellow, metal vehicle called a school bus. My aunt showed me where the bus will stop for me, but for the first day she insisted on taking me to school herself. She said something about the school requiring parents and guardians — like I was a babe of six.
I had laid out two choices of clothing. After my shower, I decided on the black shadow-suit (my aunt says they are called “tights” or leotards here) and a green silk tabard. Aunt Rulda objected, saying I looked like one of the palace heralds, but this was a likeness I had found useful in the past. For shoes–I was not wearing those sparkly, pink, lace-up things my Aunt had chosen — I slid my feet into my favorite wooden clogs. They have felted soles that allowed me to slip silently along the stone passages of the palace — another thing I had found useful in the past.
My aunt informed me, “I’m not taking you anywhere dressed like that,” but Uncle Feldof looked me over and said, “I’ve seen worse. Take her to school.” Blessings on Uncle Feldof.
Don’t Read This Book!
“Being thirteen stinks,” she said a little louder than she meant to. The Gorgon glared over the top of her computer screen. Danielle ducked her head and walked quickly to the sci-fi section. Maybe some hours in another dimension would make life seem less miserable.
As she scanned the titles, she thought about all the times she’d borrowed her parents’ Star Wars videos, all the reruns of Star Trek she’d watched. At Mass, she would catch herself using the Vulcan sign for “Live long and prosper” at the sign of peace. She wasn’t just a geek; she was an antique geek. The only place she’d ever fit in was home, and now that was falling apart, too.
Snake dropped his backpack on a table next to her, and the loud thud startled Danielle back to reality. She resumed her search. In the middle of the third shelf, she saw a navy blue leather-bound book with gold lettering. It was the title, though, that caught her attention.
Don’t Read This Book!
Danielle carefully pulled it down from the shelf.
After lunch, I see Jane coming down the hall toward me, looking a little worried. I follow her into the library and wait for the news.
“Look at this.” She hands me a smeary-inked scrap of blue-lined paper.
Half a message runs off the side: “Byers gonna buy mud” and “him and that new car” and “on Friday, have to skip gym.”
“Sounds ominous. Where’d you find it?”
“On the floor outside the cafeteria.”
“Maybe you should take it to the office–”
“You don’t think anybody would try anything really . . . physical?”
“–Considering the number of kids that call him ‘Bald Byers’, which you couldn’t say to his face, and that rumor about leaving a backpack full of dynamite outside his office, I’d say, yeah, they might.”
She blinks, in a sort of “undo the last sentence” way.
“This is probably Ned Binks,” she told me, “and Rick James.”
I nod. “Sounds like them. They’re pretty sore about having to sit out the next game. Of course, calling the referees the kind of names they do, what else can they expect?”
“Even if I turn this in, Snakowicz will probably get called in as suspect number one because of his reputation, and because he always looks so guilty.”
At this point, Evan, the monitor, looks over my shoulder, and whispers a whistle at the news. More kids, wanting to know what’s up, join him.
“Good thing we’ve got a ringside view of the parking lot,” he quips, gesturing toward the row of spattered glass windows, beyond which Mr. Byer’s car sits slightly aloof from everyone else’s, on an old cistern top.
In the cafeteria I’d had a conversation with Hawk Kingsblood about the casting call for Blood Splattered Moon. He thought I’d be perfect for the lead of Lyndsey Butterfield-Vampire Exterminator. He couldn’t want me. I’d mess up — then I’d be embarrassed. But, oh . . . How I wanted to be in the production. I’d been practicing acting in my room and I’d been taking Aikido lessons which taught me a form of martial arts. If only I was more confident, better looking, somebody else. . . .
I was on my way to science class. For me, just getting there was like going through a mine-filled forest — the mines being any sudden contact with the other kids in the hall that weren’t in my small circle of friends.
I always lugged an overloaded backpack, hanging onto the straps as if they were suspenders. So I’d duck and dodge not making eye contact with any other students if I could avoid it — and I was good at avoiding it. It was easy to hurry past if I just walked faster. Locker doors slammed, laughter brayed out, boys shoved other boys . . . it was a typical morning at Wurstburg Middle School.
Blood-Spattered Moon — the Movie
The boy didn’t believe in vampires, as such, but it was dark and he knew anything could happen in the dead of night. Danny furtively scanned the rows of bone-white tombstones. Some were classical block stones, some had crosses for toppers, while others were very ornate and even artsy. Danny appreciated the skill needed to carve such antique stones, in fact, he was intrigued, and made a mental note to return to the cemetery with his camera and sketchpad. The boy smiled, having found a new outlet for his interests.
Sparrow asked her brother, “You guys think you can have a look in that window? Hawk? Are you tall enough, you think?” She stood under the old leaded glass window, iron bars spaced an inch and a half apart, spanning each window.
“Probably not, Birdy. But, I believe we’ll get by.” The tall boy grinned and motioned to Snakeowitz. “Dude. Come make like a cheerleader, okay? Let’s send some eyes up to look in this window. Emma? You’re the tallest and lightest girl–”
“Woman.” The previously shy Emma interrupted.
Momentarily taken aback, Hawk quickly recovered. “Eh. . . . Okay. Woman. If you’re game — Woman — Snake and I will boost you up and you can report back about what’s in there.”
“Vampire.” Said Ponceau and James in one voice.