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May 30, 2013

I Hraet You (61)

Beat 61: On the Road to a Rabbit

Somehow, Lloyd didn’t find much solace in noting that the desk before him had gotten no less cluttered since yesterday.  If anything, the towers of paper and bunches of pens looked more massive than before.  But even so, they looked slightly smaller, if only because of the even-larger throne that loomed from behind.  He’d half-expected the smell of dried-out fish, but instead he caught wind of something very near to burgers and ice cream -- or a few super-sized shakes, perhaps.  He wasn’t sure if his mind could handle the image of a shake made from burgers, though.

But he kept his mouth shut and his hands on his knees.  On his left, Trixie fared no better; she might have had four years and almost three inches on Lloyd, but she looked like a preschooler who’d gotten caught making off with the cookie jar.  In stark contrast, Mrs. Overdose looked about ready to take a nap.  Somehow, the sight of cabinets and framed photos of fishermen didn’t do it for her, so she just swished her reed idly through her mouth.

Trixie nudged Lloyd in the elbow.  “So what happens now?” she asked.  “Ya already got expelled once, didn’t ya?  He can’t do it again, can he?”

“Of course he can’t,” Mrs. Overdose answered.  “And he can’t expel us, either.”

Trixie breathed a sigh of relief.

“He’ll probably just have us all arrested.”

Trixie looked ready to throw up.

“That’s what I’d do, at least.  None of us are students here, so that’d make the three of us trespassers.”  She looked over to Lloyd.  “And you’re already at the top of his list, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave you a boot in the ass.”

Lloyd glanced at her.  “Is that what you would do?”

“If I had a big enough boot.”  Mrs. Overdose shrugged and stared at the ceiling.  “Look.  You’re mostly innocent here; you’re the victim this time around.  Make your case to the principal, and I’m guessin’ you’ll be better off.  Hell, the old man might let you back in school without a fight.”

“Ya sure ya got the right to call someone else ‘old’?” Trixie asked, rubbing the back of her neck.

But Lloyd let the comment pass.  “Make a case, eh?  Do you suppose it would work?”

“Worth a shot,” she answered.  “Figure it’ll make this Tuesday a little more excitin’, at least.  Seriously, it’s like there’s nothin’ good on.”

Before Lloyd could rattle off a list of fine programming, Mr. Hansen strode into the room.  “Jeez Louise with mac and cheese,” he moaned.  “First period just started, and already there’s been a break-in, property damage, and three arrests.  I mean, yeah, those snake masks of theirs were pretty ballin’, but come on.  It’s too early for this -- and I didn’t even get to show off any of my moves.”  He groaned and took a seat.  “Ahhhhhhhhh man…and who keeps putting all this crap on my desk?  Was it you, Edith?”  He slammed a heel on the desk and kicked all the papers onto the floor.  “I told you, I’m taking a me day!  An indefinite one!”

Trixie rubbed the back of her neck.  "I dunno if I wanna live in a world where people made Lloyd look sane," she said to herself.  

“Now, then, what’s next on the old agenda?  Oh, right.  You three.”  He dropped his feet from the desk and leaned forward, hands clasped and eyes roving across the trio.  “Well, I’ve got good news for you.  All three of you are in no trouble at all.”

Lloyd and Trixie shared a look, and started to smile with relief.

Mr. Hansen nodded a few times -- and then pointed at Lloyd.  “Gotcha.”  He leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.  “Oh, boy howdy -- the two of you looked so hopeful, and then I went and curb-stomped your dreams!  Ha ha ha!  Haaaaahhhh…”  He sat up straight.  “Seriously, though, I’m super frickin’ pissed at the three of you.”

“Mr. Hansen!  Sir!”  Lloyd leapt from his chair and stood at attention.  “Allow me to explain the circumstances and --”

“Sit your ass down, boy!”

Lloyd sat his ass down.

“All right, let’s set aside the fact that you’re back here on school grounds, even though I’m pretty sure I expelled you, and last I checked my word was law around these parts.”  He folded his arms and started tapping a finger against his borne biceps.  “And let’s set aside the fact that you not only brought a bunch of snake-faced punks into this school, but put the lives of plenty of other students in danger.  Do you know what the worst part about all this is?”

Lloyd’s gaze wavered for a moment; he would have thought that putting the lives of others in danger was stupid enough of him, but having things get even worse made him reel.  “Is it that I allowed these thugs a full view of the school, so that they could storm it as they saw fit?”

“What?  No!  That’s wrong and stupid!  What are they teaching you kids these days?”

“I wouldn’t know, sir.  I was expelled.”

“Don’t sass me, boy!  I’m talking about little Arjuna!  Do you know how valuable he is?”

Lloyd nodded quickly.  “As the student council president, the unchallengeable contender for the title of valedictorian, and the brightest mind L. Bernstein has ever known, he’s certain to bring unparalleled glory to our school…right?”

“No!  Wrong!  You’re wrong!  I need him safe and sound and happy so he can keep on being my gofer!”  He gestured toward the papers on the ground.  “Who do you think I keep handing off all my work to?  The student council -- and Arjuna, especially!  Hell, I even had him take the top slot so he’d be under my thumb.  I needed someone skittish and spineless working for me so I wouldn’t have to worry about him ever thinking for himself!  I can’t have him having a nervous breakdown thanks to some moron bringing in an armed squad of street punks, now can I?

Lloyd stared blankly at Mr. Hansen.

“…This is the part where you say, ‘Right on, Lord Hansen.’”

“R-right on, Lord Hansen.”

“Urrrrrrrrrrgh…this is giving me a headache.  All right, let’s wrap this up before my brain bursts or something; I wanna be in tip-top shape for when I start practicing my penalty kicks this afternoon.”  He pressed a forearm against the desk and glared at Lloyd.  “Here’s what we’re gonna do.  I want you out of my office, out of my halls, and out of my school in the next five minutes.  And I want you, and your little friends, to STAY out.  If I even catch a hint of you around here, you can bet your ass I’ll be booting you out myself.”

Mrs. Overdose raised an eyebrow and came very close to smiling. 

“You should be thanking me, Lloyd.  Last time I gave you a punishment.  This time, it’s a warning.  Next time, if I don’t end up breaking your backbone, then the police will.  And I’m guessing you don’t want to get them involved anytime soon; you’ve got one hell of a track record since you started here at L. Bernstein, and I’m guessing you don’t want anyone else finding out about what’s gone down.”

“As I explained before, it was merely a matter of scientific inqui…”  Lloyd shook his head.  “Sir, please reconsider.  I wouldn’t dream of crossing you and your order if not for certain matters pushing me to action.  Is there no chance of an appeal?  Some favor, some act I can do to appease you?”

Mr. Hansen stroked his beard.  “Hmmm…well, now that you mention it…I guess if you did something that really got my heart racing -- something that really rocked my boots off -- then I’d think about it a bit.  But I’ve seen it all, Lloyd -- and I’m guessing a kid like you is ten years too young to impress me.”  A slight smirk slid across his face.  “Of course, maybe the senorita here might be willing to make a strong case for you.”

Mrs. Overdose’s reed nearly fell out of her mouth. 

“Let’s see…been a while since I’ve had any Spanish classes, but I think I know just enough to win a lady’s heart.”  His eyebrows bobbed up and down, as if starting up some sort of senior citizen’s mating ritual.  “Mi amor…dios mio…vaminos guacamole la cucaracha con leche.  Feliz navidad.”
   
“You reek of failure,” Mrs. Overdose barked.  “And a thirty-year mid-life crisis.”

Mr. Hansen leaned back in his chair, and rested his chin atop clasped hands.  “Get the hell out of my office.

Lloyd, Trixie, and Mrs. Overdose slid out of their chairs and headed out the office door.  A part of Lloyd wondered if he could spare a few words to the principal, but considering his arctic glare -- and the basketball he looked primed to fling at Lloyd’s head -- he followed behind the others with a quick step.

He didn’t get very far, though.  None of them did.  Arjuna was there to greet them a few steps away from Mr. Hansen’s door, leaning against a wall and staring at the ceiling -- maybe to make sure each tile had the proper number of dots.

“Arjuna.  Hello there,” Lloyd said with a wave and a smile.  “It…didn’t go well.”

“I heard.”

“I’d wager that we only have a few minutes to spend here before Mr. Hansen and his forces chase us out.  Or worse.”  He scratched at his temple.  “But even with that in mind, I wanted to spend at least a few moments apologizing for earlier.  Had I known that I’d attract such unwarranted attention, I would have hidden under my bed and called it a day.”

Arjuna didn’t share his cheer.

“…Well, I’d say it’s about time for the three of us to be on our merry way.”  Lloyd pointed to the front doors.  “Comrades!  Let us depart, and march toward --”

“To where, exactly?” Trixie asked.

Lloyd’s finger sagged.  “To…er…well…”

Arjuna pried himself away from the wall and moved in front of the group -- and then, he handed Lloyd a sheet of paper.  “You’ll be heading here, no doubt.  This is where you wanted to go, right?”

Lloyd seized the paper and gave it a look.  “This is --!”

“Sheila O’Leary’s address.  You’ll find her house there…assuming she hasn’t moved away in the time since.  But I doubt it.”  He twiddled his finger through the air.   “Turn it around.  My cell phone number is on the back.”

“O-okay, but…why would you give me that?”

Arjuna turned away.  “Honestly?  I’m not even sure myself.  But I get the feeling you’ll need it soon, especially if you’re dealing with her.”

Lloyd smiled nervously.  “That sounds more than a little ominous.”

“Good.  You should be worried.  Scared, even.”  He looked back at Lloyd, eyes wide -- as always -- but undeniably certain.  “If you’re gonna get involved with that girl, you’d better be ready.  She’s deranged.  She’s destructive.  She’s deadly.  Don’t go near her unless you’re ready to put your life on the line, Lloyd.  Trust me on this.”

“That’s a little extreme, isn’t it?”

“You don’t believe me?” 

Lloyd shook his head.  “It’s not that I don’t believe you; it’s just that ultimately, your concern is a triviality.  Helping Miss O’Leary is a high priority right now.  My safety isn’t.”

Arjuna shrugged and sighed.  “I guess that’s the difference between you and me.”  He waved for the door.  “Go, then.  Put some distance between me and you, all right?  I don’t know if my poor heart can take any more stress.  And I don’t want to start gulping down pills again.  And come to think of it, even children’s medicine is too strong for --”

Lloyd had already put a hand on the door, waving back at Arjuna as kindly as a mother to her son.  “Lloyd, wait!  Listen -- when you finish your business with Sheila, call me, all right?”

“Of course.”

“Y-you’re not even gonna ask why?”

“Why would I?  It’s the least I can do for someone who’s helped me -- and a friend, of course.”  And with that, Lloyd and the others headed out the door.

That left Arjuna alone in the halls.  With a sigh, he pressed his back into the wall and started counting the dots in the ceiling.  “I guess that’s the difference between you and me,” he muttered.

“Arjuna?” Mr. Hansen yelled.  “Arjuna!  Run to the store and get me some more popsicles!  You know the ones I like!”

“The star-spangled sherbet, sir?”

“Yeah.  You know where they sell ‘em -- over on the bad side of town.  Don’t worry, I’ll cover for you.  Just go grab some!”

Arjuna sighed and hung his head.  He hoped no one had stolen his keys from his busted knapsack.  And come to think of it, he needed to stock up a new knapsack.

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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