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July 8, 2012

I Hraet You (19)

Beat 19: Always Restock Your Fridge.  Always.  

The principal’s office.  Lloyd had been to it a few times in the past; he was there when the drama club tried (and failed) to garner some more funds.  Not to mention requesting a slot for the club’s bake sale.  And the less said about his regular visits on matters of sexual harassment, the better. 

He sat as tranquilly as he could in the chair, staring at the cluttered desk before him.  Towers of ruffled paper and enough pens to lend to the entire student body lay atop it; behind it, an oversized, upholstered office chair that would suit a king.  A slew of cabinets dotted the room, framing short-yet-stuffed bookcases.  Ritzy plaques and forms decorated the walls, though Lloyd noticed that since last spring a few more fishing-themed pictures had gone up.  The room might have looked a bit stuffy -- and smelled like dried-out fish -- but to some extent, Lloyd couldn’t help but relax.

He looked to his left.  May sat in an identical chair, staring blankly at the window and the ladybug skittering across the glass.  He looked to his right.  Sheila had practically frozen up, her hands clutching her knees so tightly he thought she might break them.  Incidentally, she’d gotten some more clothes from the lost and found -- an old jersey and shorts, both of which looked a few sizes too small for her.  “Are you all right, Miss O’Leary?”

Sheila bit her lip and sniffled.  “N-not really.  All that training this summer, gone to waste…I feel like a total loser…”  She turned toward Lloyd.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t things would get so bad -- a-and then I dragged you down with me.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me,” said Lloyd, raising his hands soothingly (but making sure to keep a stiff gap between himself and the girls).  “A bit of unexpected excitement is just what every first day of school needs.  I’d say you did the student body a service.”  He turned toward May.  “And how are you faring, my dear?  Stalwart as always, I presume?”

May picked a pill bug from the folds of her hat and started stroking it.  “What happens now?”

“Nothing too serious, I imagine.  We’re merely three well-meaning high school students who caused a bit of a ruckus.  I doubt we’ll escape SOME form of punishment, but so long as we make a strong case, we should be able to continue our merry days unimpeded.” 

At the sound of that, May turned aside.  “What if I want to get expelled?”

“Eh?  Why would you want that?”

“So I can find more bugs.”

She truly has a one-track mind, Lloyd thought.  “Nevertheless, I would ask that you not admit that to the principal.  It could…well, hamper our chances.”

The door to the office opened, but it wasn’t the principal who entered; rather, it was Lien-Hua, with one hand on her hip and the other scratching at her crown.  “You three certainly did make a mess of things,” she said with a sigh as she moved into one of the corners.

“Miss Zhang!  So is it true?  Did you speak on our behalf?”

“I did.  I know you’re not a bad egg, Lloyd, and anybody that happens to get involved with you can’t be bad, either.”  She flashed a wry smile.  “A little off-kilter, but definitely good at heart.”

Lloyd nearly leapt out of his chair and started singing.  “Ah, Miss Zhang!  Your glowing words set my very soul aflutter!”  And then he stood in his chair.  “Let me sing you a ballad, as tribute for your benevole-”

“Sit down, Lloyd,” Lien-Hua snapped -- and Lloyd did just that, bowing his head in shame.  “None of you are bad eggs, but you could all stand to use more common sense.”  She dug her fingers into her crown.  “Bringing weapons to school, indecent exposure, unsolicited displays of affection, destruction of school property, truancy…do you have any idea how many people could have been hurt if your antics had happened a few minutes earlier?  I didn’t think I needed to remind you of this, but bombs and grenades are dangerous…to say nothing of the spiders -- hopefully not poisonous -- crawling all over school grounds.” 

Sheila muttered a soft apology (one nearly muffled by a sickly snort), while May raised a hand.  “Most of that was our fault.  What about Lloyd?”

“Eh…well, that’s true.”  The teacher folded her arms.  “Of the three of you, Lloyd has the lowest chance of a severe punishment.  I wouldn’t say he’s completely guilt-free, but --”

“UNACCEPTABLE!” Lloyd roared.  He jumped out of his seat and glared fiercely at Lien-Hua.  “You would have these two fair maidens shoulder the weight of crimes brought about by my mere presence?  Crimes that I, as a guardian of the fairer sex and agent of love, could not assuage?  That I CANNOT allow!”  He slapped a hand against his chest.  “If you would bestow upon these women the worst judgment imaginable, then I ask that you do the same to me!  For I-”

“Sit down, Lloyd.”

Lloyd shuffled back into the chair.

“If it were up to me, I’d let you all off with a stern warning -- but it isn’t.  All you can do is hope that the principal has mercy.”

“Any advice?” May asked.

“Please, just don’t do anything stupid,” she answered, making sure to cast an eye toward the fidgeting Lloyd.

The office door cracked open again -- this time, allowing the principal to make his way into the room.  “So, let’s get this mess sorted out,” he said as he took a seat in his chair.

Lloyd nodded slightly.  Mr. Michael Hansen, principal of L. Bernstein High for the past ten years…he knew the face well.  He had his fair share of wrinkles and liver spots, but those blue eyes of his -- though decidedly focused -- had more of a spark in them than a schoolboy on the playground.  Lloyd noted that, though he kept his typical shock of slicked-back hair, his moustache had grown a bit bushier and his dangling beard a bit longer.

Mr. Hansen set his elbows on the desk, his suit jacket brushing against a few of the paper stacks.  “Now, then,” he began, running an eye over the three students.  “Lloyd B. Hoigleheimer.  You’re back again -- you REALLY have a knack for getting into trouble, don’t you?”

“Quite the blessing, I assure you.”

“You sure you don’t mean ‘curse’?”  The principal didn’t bother waiting for an answer; he just leaned forward, resting his chin on clasped hands, as his eyes moved over all his visitors in turn.  “All three of you are in very serious trouble.”

Lloyd pursed his lips.

Mr. Hansen glared at him -- and then pointed at Lloyd.  “Gotcha.”  He leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.  “Oh, lordy -- you should have seen the look on your face!  For a second I thought you were about to cry!”  He slapped a hand against his thigh and kept guffawing; as he did, Lloyd and Sheila -- and even Lien-Hua in the corner -- loosened up a bit.

“How’ve you been, Lloyd?  Bet you’ve been raising some hell this summer -- and this whole year, now that I think about it.  You’ve got some real bad mojo following you wherever you go, my boy!”  He stretched his arms out a bit, and then gave his desk a scathing glare.  “Hey, who put all this crap on my desk?  Was it Edith again?  Damn it all, that secretary of mine’s always trying to get me to do work…”  He slammed his heels -- clad in cowboy boots, incidentally -- against the desk, and brushed every sheet onto the floor.  “Ah.  There we go.  This old man deserves a little comfort,” he explained, kicking up his heels.

“But of course, sir,” said Lloyd.  “At any rate, I’ve been --”

“Oh, hold that thought.”  Mr. Hansen peeked under his desk.  “Damn it, Edith!  Always trying to hide my things…if you’re embarrassed of me, just come out and say it!”  He pulled out a toy basketball hoop, and hung it up on the file cabinet.  “How am I supposed to practice my half-court shot without my hoop?”  He sat down and crumpled up an important-looking document, and took the shot; he missed by several feet.  “I need to get back in the groove.”

“Mr. Hansen, sir,” said Lien-Hua, bowing a bit.  “About these students --”

“Huh?  Oh, yes, yes, of course, the students.  Let’s see…”  He pointed at May.  “You’re the one who brought in the bombs…”  He pointed at Sheila.  “You’re the girl who released the spiders…”  And finally, Lloyd.  “And that must make YOU the exhibitionist!”

“No, sir!  I learned my lesson last semester!”

“Huh.  You don’t say.”  Mr. Hansen leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, nodding to himself.  “Well, let’s see here…you kids don’t look like the troublemaking type -- except for Lloyd here -- so I guess whatever happened was all just a string of crazy shenanigans.  Typical kid’s stuff.  And I suppose it IS the first day, so the rules are a little more laid-back than usual.  Soooooooooooo…here’s what we’ll do.  You three won’t be expelled -- IF you spend the next week’s worth of your lunch periods helping to clean up the mess you caused.  Sounds fair, right?”

All three students nodded in unison.

“Heh, yeah it is.  ‘Cause there’s not a principal alive that’s as badass as me.”  He pulled some papers out of his drawer.  “Now, let’s draw up some paperwork right quick, and send you kids on your way.  Hey, anybody want to sign this thing in blood?  You’ll be the most metal kid in school!”

Lloyd signed in relief.  It seems like things will turn out all right, he thought with a slight smile.  That’s one problem solved…out of roughly eight.  His eyes roved around the room -- to Sheila, to May, to Lien-Hua, and to the scribbling principal.  It was far from my intention, but it seems as if I’m juggling three women at once thanks to my abilities.  To begin with, just who was that Deirdre supposed to be?  And why was she inside what I presume is a facsimile of Miss O’Leary’s heart?  And in addition to that, why was I unable to connect with Miss May when we made contact?  Is it really because of a lack of endearment?  Or is there another qualifier?  And, in addition to that, there’s still the matter of Miss Zhang’s status.  Should her condition deteriorate any further, doubtless we’ll both be facing real-world ramifications.

 He scratched at his temple.  And all that exists in tandem with the real-world issues that plague me. The end of the park, Miss Walters’ condition, and…  He stared at Mr. Hanson.  Now might be a fine time to inquire about the drama club…or perhaps not, given how close we all came to expulsion.  Still, perhaps I --

Mr. Hansen looked up from his desk.  “Paperwork makes me bored and hungry,” he moaned.  “Hey, Lien-Hua.  Do me a favor and open up that file cabinet on the right.”

Lien-Hua jumped to attention, and moved into position to do just that.  “What file do you need, sir?” she asked, sliding open a drawer.

“No, no, not there -- and not like that. There’s a latch on the lower half right next to the wall.  Tug on it.”

“Like this?”  And with a short click, the cabinet’s side swung open.

“Heh heh, not bad, huh?  I had a refrigerator installed a few months ago!  Let’s see that pain-in-the-ass secretary try to hide something she’ll never find!”  Mr. Hansen held out a hand.  “All right, toss me one of those popsicles.  I got a hankering for something cold and sweet.”

“You’re in luck, sir.  There’s one left.”  She held it out for Mr. Hansen to grab -- just as Lloyd spotted something on her back.  Something small, but black and orange.  Something with eight legs, and --

“Miss Zhang!  Be on guard -- there’s a spider on you!”

“Eeep!”  She leapt upward, her body going as rigid as a board -- and in the process, she flung the popsicle into the air.  It spiraled about like a propeller, just before having an unceremonious crash-landing on the carpet; in seconds, the shape dented, and droplets started to slide off its sugary surface.

“M-my…my popsicle…” Mr. Hanson stammered, reaching for it like he would a lover lost at sea.  He watched as Lien-Hua swatted the spider off her, and stomped frantically at the ground (and brushed a heel against his lost love).  Then, he turned toward Lloyd and the others.  “Get out!  Get the hell out!  All of you are expelled immediately!”

“What?  But you said --!”

Mr. Hansen shredded the papers in half a second, and threw the remains at Lloyd’s face.  “Expelled!  Expelled!  Anybody who messes with my popsicles deserves to die!  But I’ll do the next best thing and expel you!  Now get the hell out of my sight!”

Lien-Hua reached consolingly for the principal.  “Mr. Hansen, you shouldn’t blame them; I was the one who dropped the popsi-”

“And you!  You’re FIRED!  Worthless-ass popsicle-dropping teacher!  All of you get the hell out of my office!  MY WILL BE DONE, FOR I AM THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL!  BEGOOOOOOOOOOOONE!”

Lloyd, May, and Sheila didn’t need -- or want -- to hear that twice.  One after another they scurried out the door, with the teacher following closely behind.

“Oh, wait, hold on a second,” Mr. Hansen called out.  “Yeah, Lien-Hua…if you could call up these kids’ parents and file all the paperwork for me…yeah, that’d be swell.  Okay, bye.  Have a nice life.” 


Lien-Hua sighed for what had to be the eightieth time in the past fifteen minutes.  As she filed out the paperwork in silence, Lloyd just kept staring at her bobbing pen.  Bad enough that she’d lost her job, and worse that she’d lost her classroom; now she not only had to do her work in a corn dog-scented cafeteria, but drew up the papers for her own termination.  All because of one ruined popsicle.  Or rather, one purple-haired prince of love.

Lloyd sat in front of her with his hands clasped under the table.  He could hardly imagine what was going on in her mind, and hardly wanted to.  Of course, he could say the same regarding May and Sheila; the former crawled along the linoleum floor, tailing a trail of spiders.  The latter sat in a booth near a distant window, banging her head against the table -- and each successive strike spewed more snot across it.

The teacher -- ex-teacher -- sighed once more.  “I suppose that’s the end of it,” she announced, taking out her cell phone.  “All that’s left is to contact the parents, and get them caught up to speed.”

“Miss Zhang, is there really nothing that can be done?”

“I don’t think so.  Thanks to some loopholes and contractual issues between Mr. Hansen and the rest of the school board, whatever he says goes.  I’m afraid if he wants you expelled, he can do so without question.”

Lloyd gripped the table’s edges, ignoring the old gum stuck to its underside (though he reminded himself to wash his hands later).  “You misunderstand me.  I’m not concerned so much about my fate as I am toward yours.  This whole situation is my fault; if I’d been able to handle it more ably, then I --”

“Lloyd.”  Lien-Hua offered him a serene smile.  “Don’t worry about me.  I’m an adult now; I should be able to figure something out.  I’ll try reasoning with the school board, or maybe waiting until Mr. Hansen calms down a bit…or maybe I’ll just bring him some more popsicles.”  She pressed a finger to her chin.  “I just can’t imagine anyone flying off the handle like that over something so trivial.  It’s just surreal.” 

“Er…yes, quite surreal indeed.”  Lloyd shook the thought out of his mind.  “At any rate, if your plan is to reverse his decree, then might I ask that you tend to Miss O’Leary and Miss May first?  Fool that I may be, I would hope that their enrollment is reinstated first, that they may continue to further both their education and halcyon days.”

“I’ll do what I can.  Still, as long as you’re here, I think I should at least tell your dad about the situation.”  She gazed at a few papers, and then dialed a number into her phone.   “He’s home at this time of day, isn’t he?”

“Typically, yes; I can’t imagine him being anywhere else right now.”  He glanced aside.  If Patton found out about what Mr. Hanson did to his eldest son, then Lien-Hua would probably need to call 911 next.  Or maybe she should just cut out the middle man and start organizing the funeral.

“Hello?  Mr. Hoigleheimer?  This is -- oh, I’m sorry, I must have the wrong num-” Lien-Hua froze.  “Um…yes, I -- no, I -- I’m his -- yes, he’s right here.”  She stared at him with a stunned expression, as if she’d just seen a ghost break into song and dance; with a trembling hand, she offered him her cell phone.

Lloyd pressed the phone against his ear.  “Hello?”

“Lloyd!  Get yer ass back home RIGHT NOW!  We got a situation, pal!”

“Miss Walters?!”  Lloyd stroked his now-throbbing ear.  “What is it?  Don’t tell me the house caught fire!”

“What?  No, that ain’t it!  It’s…it’s your brother, Lloyd!  He got kidnapped!”


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