The War of Archos

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Insane Asylums Would Be Filled With Mothers

This morning was chaos. Well, to be honest, Hope was chaos. I shambled into the kitchen to make some breakfast this morning and she rushed in, a whirlwind of energy and nerves. It was her first day at her new job, working at a bohemian store downtown, a place owned by an old school friend of hers. He had given her the job when he heard she was back in town, without so much as an interview. She blew through the kitchen, grabbing food, setting it down and picking it back up again. I could tell she was nervous for the job, but I knew once she got settled, she would be fine. It wasn’t any harder of a job than any other she’d had over the years. She kissed my cheek, wished me luck at school, and tore out, a banana clutched in her hand.

The first day of school started like any other. After walking to the high school, I followed the signs leading to the main office. The halls were devoid of students; classes didn’t start for at least another twenty minutes. I misjudged how long it would take me to walk from home this morning, and it caused me to get to school before anyone else. I had to figure that out, so I don’t end up crazy early like I did this morning. I pushed open the door to the office and walked in, praying that I hadn’t gotten there earlier than the receptionist.

The first thing I noticed was the hair. All I could see over the front desk was a mound of violently curly black hair. As I got closer, the rest of the short, plump woman came into view. She sat behind her desk, tapping absently on her keyboard, twirling a pen into her hair. She wore a bright pink suit, complete with sequined dragonfly broach on her lapel. She looked like she had never left the 80’s. She finally noticed me and jumped.

“Oh my!” she cried. “You gave me a start!”

“I’m sorry. I’m just looking for my schedule.”

“You’re Hope’s kid, aren’t you?” She pierced me with an inquisitive look.

“Yes ma’am. Malik Owain.” She typed some information into her computer, selected the file she wanted, and sent it to the printer. A printer next to her buzzed to life, spitting out a page from the top. She grabbed it and looked over it once before handing it to me.

“Your first class is History with Mr. Carpenter. But you’re a little early.”

“I know. Which way?” I asked, in an attempt to escape.

“End of the hall, on the left. But you’re still early!” she added, yelling after my retreating back. I had to get out of there before she tried to pull me into an awkward conversation. I had been on that side of the counter at enough schools to know not to get stuck in that particular routine again. I made my way down the hall, looking into various glass cases, seeing the school’s achievements over the years. They seemed to have a decent selection of sports, even if the teams were small.

I was about halfway down the long corridor when I heard a soft noise. It came from a classroom to my right and sounded like a tense conversation. I moved closer, my curiosity getting the better of me. The voices grew louder as I approached, my improved hearing enabling me to hear things a normal human couldn’t hope to hear. I got within a few inches of the door before I stopped, leaning against the wall on one side of the door.

“…like it. It didn’t strike you as odd?” a man’s voice said. It was high and nasally, with a pompous tone of someone who thought of himself as higher than the rest.

“You’re just being paranoid,” replied a woman. Her voice was softer, soothing, and calm.

“No, I assure you, I’m not. They know something.” Something or someone had riled this man up quite a bit.

“Dan, let it go. Please.” I heard the man named Dan pace back and forth. He stopped his pacing and, after a moment, started walking again. Only this time, he was walking for the door I was currently crouched behind. I pushed off the wall and made myself busy at a nearby display case, and not a moment too soon. No sooner had I stepped in front of the case then the door burst open, James taking his fury out on the door. A small, balding man strode into the hallway, fuming at his meeting inside the classroom. He came to a quick halt when he saw me, quickly becoming suspicious.

“What are you doing?” he demanded, his voice equally as nasally in person as it was through a door.

“Looking at the ’79 football team?” He eyed me with a growing suspicion, my answer not satisfying him.

“Who are you? What are you doing here this early?”

“My name is Malik Owain. I’m Hope’s son. We just moved here and I wasn’t quite sure how long it would take for me to walk here. I guess I over-estimated” I replied, playing up my innocence. His skepticism lowered, although his arrogance immediately shot through the roof. I knew he was thinking back to when Hope was a student here. I could only imagine what was going through his mind.

“Hope’s kid huh? I suppose that explains it.” He turned on his heel and walked away, leaving his condescending comment hanging in the air between us. A tall thin woman followed him out of the classroom, stopping in the door frame.

“You’ll have to forgive Mr. Graton” she said, her voice calming me with its gentle tone. “He’s rather set in his way, and always has been a bit of-“

“An ass” I finished for her.

“That’s no way to speak of your teachers, young man” she chided. “But yes. Come in. You can keep me company until class starts instead of pretending to be interested in our old football teams.” She turned and walked back into her classroom, leaving the door open for me to follow. I followed, closing the door behind me, and looked around the classroom. It was clearly a math room, with posters of Einstein and complex equations on the wall. I took a closer look at my host, who was mulling over her lesson plans on a large notebook on her desk. For as short and fat as the receptionist was, this teacher was tall and skinny. She towered above me but couldn’t have weighed any more than I did, and I was scrawny to begin with. Her long straight brown hair hung down around a sallow face and large glasses.

“You don’t happen to be Mrs. Michalski, do you?”

“Why yes I am. Am I on your schedule?” she asked, looking up from her planner with a smile.

“5th period.”

“The best period.”

“Why’s that?”

“My brightest students are in that class. You’re lucky” she added, although I didn’t feel as lucky as she sounded. I had always been good with numbers, but I hated math, ironically. Never was my best subject.

“So, what are you and your mom doing back in town?” Mrs. Michalski asked, her smile not reaching her eyes. Mercifully, the morning bell rang, saving me from the subsequent lie I was trying to come up with. It was always hard trying to remember what fake life story we were telling these days. I suppose it was the FBI one, although I couldn’t remember any more of it than that.

“Sorry, Mrs. Michalski. Rain check?” I darted out of the room as fast as I could, and found myself back in the hallway, although it hardly looked like the one I’d left. Packed full of people, all swarming this way and that, their conversation a dull roar. At least it would have been for a normal person, but with my heightened hearing, it was an excruciating amount of noise. Hope and I had been practicing blocking out the noise, but I was horrible at it. As I looked around, hopelessly lost, an arm slipped through mine and guided me down the hall. I looked at my savior and found Lily staring back. Her loose shirt hung off her chocolate shoulders, revealing an amount of skin I wasn’t used to seeing. My mouth immediately went dry and my mind blank, as all my blood rushed elsewhere. My tongue fought to right this problem with a series of sounds and mumbles, but Lily just smiled.

“History with the Carp, right? Me too.” She led me through the halls until we reached our room and found a pair of seat next to each other. Mr. Carpenter, or the Carp as his students called him, was a nice old man who did look vaguely like a fish. He gave me a textbook from the shelves before continuing the lesson from the day before, droning on about the “narrow isthmus of Tecuantépec.” I quickly lost interest, finding my eyes drifting to a certain tie dyed beauty next to me.

I’m sorry, I have to stop my story here for a second. And explain myself. I don’t mean that Lily is pretty the way you’d say the girl next door was pretty. I mean like she is the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Let me paint you a picture. She is about 5’8” and slender, but in a curvy Shakira way, not an anorexic model way. Her face is round with a small, upturned button nose. She has big round eyes, with irises of a warm chocolate brown that spoke of compassion and understanding. Her hair is silky and smooth, running in graceful waves down her spine. She dressed in loose, flowing clothing in bright colors that often draped off one side or another, revealing a sumptuous, deep brown shoulder. The colors she wore always complimented her dark skin, drawing a pleased eye to the contrast. And she was nice. To everyone. And in turn, everyone was nice to her. This school seemed to be pretty cool anyway, but they were extra nice to her. Anyway, sorry, back to the story.

The rest of the day droned on in awful monotony, in ways every other school day had. After the final bell rang, I walked through the halls alone, and wandered onto the front lawn. Waiting there for me, surrounding the large oak next to the parking lot, was my interracial Breakfast Club. I stopped before they noticed me to look at them, to see them act when they weren’t around me.

Grace and Wally sat on the picnic table that had been placed underneath the branches, lost in their own private conversation. As polar opposites they were, they actually worked. Grace kept him from getting lost in the material, and Wally kept her demons at bay. I had already seen it happen already, when Grace got upset, it was only Wally who could talk her down.

Slash sat up in the branches, leaning against the trunk, looking like he was asleep. But the more I looked, I realized he only had his hat pulled down low to look like he was sleeping so he could watch the people passing around him. It looked like he was the group’s guardian angel, watching over them from on high.

Lily sat at the base of the tree, amongst the roots, her knees pulls up to her chest. In her hand she held an old book, barely held together, with a bright red cover. I couldn’t make out the title from this distance, but it had to have been an antique by the looks of it. She was unabashedly reading, her eyes feasting on every word. I smiled, liking my new friends. They were an odd motley crew, but they were cool. I walked towards them, and Lily was the first to look up, watching me for a moment as I approached.

“Hey! The Geek’s shown up!” said Slash, jumping down from his perch and landing more gracefully than I would have guessed.

“Hey Criminal” I responded and was rewarded by a joking headlock from Slash that I easily pushed off. “What’s the plan? We doing anything?”

“Not us” said Wally and he and Grace stepped off the table. “Sorry guys, but today is just us.” He wrapped his arm around Grace’s shoulder, grabbed his bag and set off towards his car.

“Not me either, I’m afraid” said Slash, looking more sad by that fact than he needed to. “I’ve got… uh… work.” He turned and loped off before either of us could respond. Lily watched him leave for a moment before turning back to me.

“He doesn’t have work does he?” I asked, already knowing the answer. She shook her head.

“The man’s never worked a day in his life.” I laughed at this and together we started walking towards the parking lot and, ultimately, home.

“I guess it’s just homework then.”

“We could do homework together” she suggested, and I stopped. “You know, to finish it faster.” Did she wink at me? No, of course she didn’t. Or did she?

“Uh, sure. Great, that sounds” I stumbled before catching myself. She smiled as I took a breath. “That sounds great.”

“Good. Come on, I know the perfect spot.” And for the second time today, she slid her arm into mine, and lead me down the road.

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