Plastic Dinosaurs

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Things I know: Fletcher O'Thomas is someone I met.

At school today, I run into Fletcher O’Thomas. He’s an average-looking guy. Brownish hair, glasses, red t-shirt that he seems to wear every day.

I knew Fletcher O’Thomas, and by that, I mean I knew his name for years. He’s always gone to the same school as me, though we’ve never talked much. I’ve heard he’s a little weird, but he seems normal to me. I could pass him in the hallways and if someone asked who he was, I could say, “Oh, that’s Fletcher O’Thomas.” If someone were to ask me what his name was, he could say, “Oh, that’s Christina Miller.” But other than that, I do not know Fletcher O’Thomas. And Fletcher O’Thomas does not know me.

But today, I run into him.

I’m carrying a book for class- Lord of the Flies. I thought it was an okay book. Maybe it would have been better if we didn’t have to read it for school. Fletcher looks at the book, then at me.

“That’s a good book,” he says. “The symbolism is genius.”

“Yeah,” I say. “It’s all right.”

“All right? It’s one of the best books ever written.”

“Maybe, if we didn’t have to take a test on it today.”

Fletcher shrugs. “It’s the school system’s fault, then,” he smiles. “Always taking away the power and prowess of the great classics.”

“I guess.”

“Hey, what did you think about the part with the dead pilot?” he asks, taking his usual seat in front of me. I didn’t want to tell him that I’d only skimmed the book and didn’t remember this part, but since there was a test on it today, I figured it would be useful to listen to him.

“It was...weird,” I say awkwardly.

“I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” Fletcher answers. “The way it illustrates how all the kids are losing their sense of authority on the island is done so well...”

He goes on about the book for a time, and I nod every so often to make it seem like I’m understanding what he’s talking about. From what I gather, it’s actually sort of interesting. I even wish I’d read the book a little more closely last night.

The bell rings, and I begin the test, trying my best to remember what I’d read in the book, along with what Fletcher said. I absentmindedly look over at him, and I notice him driving his pencil into the answer sheet, then erasing it, and bubbling the answer again. Quickly, I glance away, not wanting to let him think I was looking at his test. I finish, thinking this is what people must have meant when they said he was weird. He turns in his test, then pulls out his phone, clicks it on and off a few times, waits a while, then does it again. Finally, he takes out a pair of earbuds and turns on some music.

Later that day, I meet up with my friend Ahalya at lunch.

“How was the English test?” she asks.

“Pretty easy,” I answer. “I didn’t read all of the book, though, so I don’t know how well I did.”

“I didn’t read it at all,” she laughs. “I probably failed.”

I don’t know how she does it. Ahalya is laid-back and easygoing, but she’s smart enough. Her grades are all right, from what I’ve heard.

“How’s Wendy?” she asks after a while.

I don’t know why, but this question always annoys me a little. How am I supposed to answer how another person is doing?

“Fine,” I answer automatically.

“Can’t believe she’s a senior already. And soon, she’ll be going to college! What do you think she’ll be majoring in?”

“I dunno,” I answer. “Probably paleontology, something dinosaur-related. What about you?” I ask, trying to turn the conversation towards her.

“Fashion design, probably,” she answers. “That’s what I want to do, anyway. But my entire family wants me to be a doctor or whatever. You know the drill. My mom’s a doctor, my dad’s a doctor, my sister’s a doctor.” She laughs, and I know that if Ahalya Tharu doesn’t want to be a doctor, she won’t be a doctor. She just seems to get through everything so easily, I know it’ll all work out fine for her. Besides, she’s got an obvious talent for fashion design. I’ve seen her sketches and patterns, and her own outfits are well-coordinated. Sometimes, she even throws in something she makes herself.

“Why not both?” I tease. “You can be stitching dresses and flesh wounds!”

Ahalya laughs, and I laugh as well. It’s the first time I’ve laughed all day.

Across the school, I see Fletcher O’Thomas. He’s sitting with a group of other guys. Some of them I know the names of- Gabe Dawson, Ben Tringali, Connor White. But I don’t know any of them personally.

Fletcher is laughing about something- probably not Lord of the Flies, although that’s likely. The guy next to him shows him something on his phone, and he laughs. He looks up, sees me, nods in acknowledgement, and goes back to chatting with his friends.

“You know him?” Ahalya asks.

“Sort of,” I answer. “He’s in my English class. Really likes Lord of the Flies- can’t imagine why.”

“Me, neither,” Ahalya answers. “All that gore really isn’t my thing.”

“Well, you’ve got to get used to it if you want to be the world’s first fashion designer doctor person,” I say.

“Yeah,” she answers, only this time, she doesn’t laugh.

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