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The size 8 blue sneakers, toes pointed towards the ceiling, drifted through the blackboard. The chunky legs in the light brown pants came next (naturally), then the pudgy body, arms hanging at the side.
“Brittlestone!” Mrs. Winter shrieked. The rest of the boy emerged, and he shot across the room, and landed in his seat as quietly as a Nerf ball.
“I don’t care what the rest of your teachers let you do. You will enter MY classroom through the door, and you will arrive on time.”
In 1262 William of Brittlestone saved Wysterium, king of the Wisters, from a carnivorous daisy. William ripped the ravenous flower up by its roots, and shook it until it disgorged a pollen-covered, sputtering, and incredibly grateful, Wysterium.
The king declared, “In recognition of your bravery I pronounce you an honorary citizen of Wisteritania. Therefore, like a genuine Wister, once any of your descendants reaches the age of 13, he (For purposes of this tale I shall use the male pronoun when speaking of either sex. ‘He and/or she’ rather breaks the mood, don’t you think?) will be granted a lifelong superpower.”
But Wysterium was only the size of a safety pin, and the best he could manage were superish powers, which disappeared completely after five years. That was fine with Sir William. It doesn’t take a great deal of courage for a 212 lb. man to strangle a daisy.
On the positive side, one could choose any superish power he could think of.
The less imaginative young people chose speaking with small mammals, flying short distances, or jumping over trees. In fact, in any given year there were at least 642 Brittlestones jumping over trees.
At age ten every member of the family got to choose a new first name. That wasn’t part of King Wysterium’s original promise. It was added somewhere in the 1800’s by Huckleberry Brittlestone who thought ‘Significal ‘ sounded better. It didn’t, but nobody had the heart to tell him.
And that brings us to Sam Brittlestone, who would be the hero in our story, if we had one…a hero, not a story, that is. We definitely have a story. Sam was the youngest of three children, the other two being Doris and Fred, his older sister and brother. Needless to say, (Give me a break. Everybody says ‘needless to say,’ and then says it anyway,) Doris and Fred looked forward to their 10th birthdays with great anticipation.
The morning of her 10th birthday Doris whispered her secret to her mother, who baked a cake with the new name spread across the top. It had to be a very large sheet cake, because Doris had chosen Danaliesseforte, after a thorough online search to ensure she’d be the only one.
The guests cheered and applauded wildly as the cake was set down upon the table. However, someone with excellent hearing might also have noticed an ‘Ick,’ two ‘Ughs,’ and an ‘Oy.’
On his tenth birthday one year later, Fred, not to be outdone, chose Matriculatdirigblenium, requiring two sheet cakes and a cupcake with a hyphen in the middle.
For the next 11 months Danaliesseforte and Matriculatdirigblenium spent at least seven minutes every day wondering and worrying whether Sam would choose a name so long and so spectacular no one would notice them at all. Sam didn’t wonder or worry about it. In fact, he didn’t even think about it until the day before his birthday.
“How big a cake will I need?” His mother cringed as she said it.
“Your new name.”
“Ohhhhh. I forgot. Well, I like ‘Bob.’”
Mrs. Brittlestone set the reasonably sized cake down on the dining room table, and the party guests exclaimed, almost in unison, “Bob? Why Bob?”
“It’s easy to spell,” Bob replied simply. Because he was a very kind person he didn’t mention that everybody, including his mother and father, referred to his siblings as Liesse and Mat, because absolutely no one could remember their actual names.
Choosing a superish power can be a daunting task if you are as picky as Danaliesseforte was. Now that Bob had quelled her anxieties with his peculiar new name, she was free to spend seven minutes a day searching the Internet for inspiration. She wanted something with a big ‘Oohh, Aahh’ factor and something her friends had never seen. With so many Brittlestones wandering the earth that was a difficult thing to accomplish.
She twirled her long brown hair as she thought. She thought so much that it began to look like a collection of phone cords.
“You could do the Cinderella thing,” her friend Betty suggested, near weeping for Danaliesseforte and her now Medusa-like coiffure. “You know, turn a pumpkin into a coach and ride to school in it.”
“I don’t like the implications of that. I’m not a princess.” Secretly she wished she were, but she still didn’t want to ride around in a big orange berry, which is what a pumpkin really is, despite what most people think. (So are eggplants, except they are purple. Well, some aren’t, but it’s the same principle. Of course, I read this on the Internet, so it might not be true. Or it might.)
Perhaps a brief survey would help. She emailed everyone in her address book.
What are three things that make you say ‘Oohh’ and ‘Aahh?’
There were 37 responses within six hours. While ‘getting my back scratched’ was the most popular choice, the words ‘sparkle,’ ‘shine,’ ‘bright’ and ‘rainbow’ were mentioned almost as often.
The morning of Danaliesseforte ‘s 13th birthday she practiced her new superish power on her bedroom furniture, making quite certain it was totally under control and would have a huge ‘Oohh, Aahh’ factor when she demonstrated it for her party guests. She managed all the primary colors, a few blends, and an occasional set of stripes. “Positively stunning!” She said to nobody in particular.
Her glitter schtick, as Matriculatdirigblenium referred to it, was a tremendous success, and there wasn’t a single ‘ugh’ or ‘oy’ in the room.
All the excitement left Matriculatdirigblenium feeling extremely discouraged. He immediately discarded the idea of having wasps fly out of his ears. That would be scary and disgusting, perfect for other 13 year-old boys, but it seemed most people were more interested in beautiful and amazing. Besides, the buzzing would have driven him crazy eventually.
He made a list of the components his ideal superish power would have.
3. Beauty in a guy sort of way
Actually, he wrote ‘Unikwissness,’ as spelling was not his strong suit.
5. Wow factor. No, sounded too much like Oohh, Aahh
And then he realized he couldn’t think of a way to be strong, powerful, beautiful (in a guy sort of way), and unique all at the same time, and he became very depressed, and sat on the couch staring at the TV, which wasn’t even on.
Bob sat down next to him. “You should do something with stars. Everybody likes stars, Mat.”
Stars! What if he extended his arms…no, threw them in the air…and a star would shoot across the sky? And what if it whistled like fireworks? That would be much better than glitter, which still struck him as a little tacky.
“So,” the senior Brittlestone asked Mat at breakfast, (Yes, I know. Families don’t eat breakfast together anymore. It’s just a story. Don’t be such a stickler for details.) “have you decided on your superish power? And would you prefer chocolate or vanilla icing?”
“It doesn’t matter. But the party can’t start until it’s really dark.”
The mosquitoes were very thick that night. (Personally, I’ve never seen a thick mosquito. Have you?) The party guests were fidgeting and scratching.
“I hope we don’t have to eat the cake and ice cream out here,” Mat’s Aunt Mildred complained. Mildred wasn’t short for anything. She’d only married a Brittlestone,
“Alright, everybody.” Mat raised his arms and a giant star whooshed and whistled across the sky. The guests made all the sorts of sounds you make when you’re truly amazed.
“More!” Mat’s 2 year-old cousin Lydia urged, her little hands waving wildly above her head, and her little feet stomping obnoxiously on the deck.
Mat demonstrated his new superish power seven more times, and the party guests went inside for dessert, much to his Aunt Mildred’s relief. All in all, Mat was extremely pleased with his choice.
Liesse was a little huffy, but Bob smiled and said very sweetly in his sweet Bob voice, “That was really, really good, Mat.” He didn’t try to take any credit for Mat’s success, because that just wasn’t like him.
There were only four days left until Bob’s thirteenth birthday. He told Mat that he hadn’t quite decided about his own superish power, so Mat gave him a number of ideas. Most of them involved small explosions.
“I’ll certainly think about those. Thanks very much.” Actually, Bob wasn’t going to think about them at all. He didn’t enjoy blowing things up, but he was a very nice person, and would never have told his brother that. Then he put the whole thing out of his mind so he could finish the essay he was writing for English, ‘Why I Think The Yearling Is a Very Sad Book.’
Bob handed his mother his party guest list.
“There are only seven names here.”
“I have seven friends. That’s all, but I think that’s plenty.”
Mrs. Brittlestone shrugged, and added the names of her twelve closest friends and all the available Brittlestone cousins.
Bob finished his second slice of the double chocolate cake. The air was charged with anticipation…well, not exactly charged. After the ‘Bob’ business at his 10th birthday party, nobody was expecting a whole lot.
“So I’ve decided that what I’d really want is to be able to float through walls on my back.”
“Why?” The party guests asked, almost in unison.
“It’s relaxing.” He levitated himself, and gently floated, feet first through the living room wall and into the kitchen, where he finished all the leftover cocktail franks.
A reporter from the Cityville Current called Bob a week after the party.
“I’d like to interview you about the floating through walls thing, maybe get a few pictures of you going through bricks or concrete.”
“I tried bricks, but they itch, and concrete is too much work.” Bob hated to disappoint her, but he was an extremely honest person.
“I have to go now. Nice talking to you.” And she hung up.
Liesse and Mat were veritable Cityville celebrities. His shooting stars were the feature of every Fourth of July celebration. The $742 the town saved was used to acquire a brand new ‘Welcome to Cityville, Population 18,503’ sign, which was unfortunately already out of date by the time it was erected, since the Bagleys and their 12 children had moved to Kearney, Nebraska.
Liesse was made chairperson (Note the gender-neutral term, ‘chairperson.’ There! Are you happy now?) of the décor committee for every dance at Cityville High. There was a certain sameness in the results, but nobody minded. You can never have too much glitter.
Meanwhile, Bob floated quietly through walls two or three times a week. Sometimes he sleep-floated, which was a little dangerous. If he woke up suddenly he shot across the room and bumped his feet on a lamp or a door, or some other solid object.
The pride of Cityville High was its more than Olympic size swimming pool with two emergency backup lanes should any of the others wear out. The Brittlestone family had never been much for chlorine, then who is? Mat and Liesse opted for racquetball and trampoline instead, but Bob wanted to find out if floating on water was as pleasant as floating through walls, so he opted in.
The class proved to be not so relaxing as Bob had wished. He was a very mediocre water treader, and he didn’t see the point of a kickboard. Coach Hardhart yelled “You’re not trying, Brittlestone” at least once every day.
On Thursday September 22, or perhaps 23rd (Bob didn’t take very good notes, and the ink always ran because he forgot to dry his hands after class), a marvelous thing happened.
“Today, boys, “ Coach Hardheart announced with all the lightness and humor of a man with a broken toe, “we start learning the backstroke. Few, if any of my students have ever excelled at it, which I find extremely frustrating, as I like medals and trophies, and Cityville has never won any in that category. Now, everyone in the water FACE UP!”
A number of the students tipped upright every time they attempted the maneuver. Several others caved in the middle and went under. None of them had to be rescued, fortunately, since they were in the shallow end of the pool.
Bob lay back and floated as if he were in the air. What a delicious feeling! He was so wrapped up in it he didn’t notice everyone else getting out of the water.
“Brittlestone,” Coach Hardheart bellowed, “Out of there now!”
Bob shot across the pool and through the wall into the locker room, landing gently in an empty shower stall.
“Well, that was lucky,” he said to himself later as he tied his size 9 blue sneakers. “Usually I have to stand in line for the shower.”
The coach was waiting for him at the locker room door. “Please come to my office after school, Bob.” And he marched away.
“Now that was nice. He said ‘please’ and he called me Bob.” Bob felt exceptionally happy the rest of the day, which is saying a lot, since he was already a very happy person.
Every wall of Bart Hardheart’s office was lined with shelves and nearly every shelf was filled with trophies, the exception being the very top shelf above the window. There was a small empty space, with an even smaller plaque, so small most people couldn’t even read it, but Bob had excellent eyesight, so he could.
Spelling wasn’t Bart’s strong suit, either.
The coach pointed to the trophy-less spot. “You, Bob, are going to fill that! With a little training you could be the greatest, if we can just control that shooting through walls thing.”
Bob came in 15 minutes early and stayed 15 minutes late every day, fine-tuning his backstroke until he could stay in the water the whole time, and stop once he touched the edge of the pool. He easily won at the Exurbia League meet, so easily that the judges checked the video seven times to see if it was merely an optical illusion. Coach Hardheart wept when they handed him the trophy.
The Brittlestones invited the entire swim team to a victory party. Liesse covered the house with glitter, and Mat made stars shoot across the sky the whole evening, except when he stopped for a slice of pizza. That happened quite often, as he was a teenage boy, but Bob didn’t mind. He would have been perfectly happy with just one star.
The coach had finally stopped weeping and was smiling broadly. He shook Bob’s hand. “Tomorrow we start training for State, right Bob?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t. I already signed up for the Madrigal Singers.”
Coach Hardheart began weeping again.
Bob joined the Madrigal Singers to be near Becky Beckstein, who had been his secret crush since 4th grade. He sent her unsigned valentines, and wrote poetry about her, which wasn’t easy, because there are very few romantic rhymes for Beckstein, and even fewer for Becky.
I’m in love with Becky Beckstein
I really think her neck’s fine.
I’m in love with Becky Beckstein
Perhaps she’ll kiss me next time.
That was a slant rhyme, and he was very proud of it.
Bob was a second tenor and Becky was a second soprano, and the Madrigal group had 34 members, because Mr. Forte, the conductor, couldn’t bear to say no to anyone who could carry a tune. There were nine singers between Bob and Becky. How could he possibly catch her attention?
“Speaking as a girl” Liesse suggested, as if she had another option, “I would say you should shoot through the wall with a bunch of roses in your right hand, drop down gently beside her, and declare your undying love.”
“Thanks. That’s a very good idea.” Of course, it was a terrible idea, but he was too nice to say so.
The next day he walked over to Becky just before class started.
“Hi, I’m Bob. You’re Becky, right?” He would have shaken her hand, but that seemed awfully unromantic.
“I saw you swim. You were very good.”
“Thank you, Becky. Would you like to have some French fries after school?”
What an excellent beginning!
“I notice,” Mr. Brittlestone commented with a very concerned expression as they all sat at the dinner table one night, (and don’t tell me that families don’t eat dinner together anymore. We’ve already discussed that.) you haven’t floated through a wall in several months. You haven’t lost your superish power, have you?”
Bob stopped eating his ear of corn. He was finished with it, anyway. “Well, Becky can’t float through walls. We tried once. I held her hand. We both fell down.”
“And?” his entire family said, more or less at the same time.
“It’s not much fun without her.”
High school graduation is a very trying experience for a Brittlestone. Soon his powers will disappear, if they haven’t already. Many a Brittlestone refers to high school as ‘the best years of my life,’ while many regular people refer to it as ‘the time when I had lots of pimples and no friends.’
The Cityville senior class asked Liesse to decorate the gym for the graduation dance. “I could buy some streamers,” she offered.
Mat turned 18 the next June. Cityville had to buy fireworks again, but Mat did volunteer for the cleanup committee.
They both apologized to Bob, because they couldn’t light up the sky or cover the cafeteria with glitter for his junior prom.
“I don’t mind. I’m going with Becky, and I like streamers.” Bob gave each of them a hug, so they knew he meant it.
Bob graduated 71st in his class, which was better than any Brittlestone had ever done. Somehow it had never occurred to anyone to ask for ‘fluent French,’ or ‘ability to solve quadratic equations’ as his superish power. Bob and Becky got into the State University College at Cackleton, where they studied agricultural science. It had an excellent department, although the pigsty below Bob’s dormitory window was a bit of a problem on hot days.
It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway, that they decided to get married. They sat in Dell’s Deli making wedding plans.
“You know, Becky, I was thinking…”
“I was thinking, too, Bob. We must be absolutely perfect for each other, because we always think at the same time.”
“After we get married we should change our name and move to California and grow avocados. Is that what you were thinking, Becky?”
She put her chin on her hands. “Exactly, except I was thinking Michigan and cherries.”
They changed their last name to Samsonite, and moved to Traverse City, where they grow lots and lots of cherries and have a cherry festival every year, so if you want a cherry orchard it’s definitely the place to be. Becky had a cherry jam recipe with a secret ingredient, (I would tell you what it is, but it’s a secret, so even I don’t know.) and people all over the world bought the jam to put on their English muffins. It got a very nice review in the Cherry Jam Quarterly, which called it extraordinary, and said Bob and Becky were extraordinary too, and put their pictures on the cover.
Mrs. Brittlestone picked up a copy, and brought it home. At lunch she showed it to her husband. “I think that’s Bob and Becky.”
Mr. Brittlestone studied the picture a moment. “No, Their last name is Samsonite, and nobody would ever call Bob brilliant.”
“You know, Becky, I was thinking…”
“I was thinking, too, Bob. We must be absolutely perfect for each other, because we always think at the same time.”
“I was thinking we shouldn’t tell our children about superish powers.”
“Exactly. Except I was thinking they shouldn’t change their names, either.”
Eventually, Becky and Bob had triplets, and named them Tiffany, Kimberly, and Emily. They sent everyone in their families a jar of cherry jam and a brief note as to why they had decided to break with the Brittlestone tradition, and raise their children as regular people, except for the fact all three girls would know what the secret ingredient was, and could stay in the family business, or do what would ever they thought was especially fascinating.
Liesse, and Mat were very impressed by Bob’s courageous decision. They wondered if they should change their last names too, but Bob said it really wasn’t necessary, because King Wisterium didn’t say you had to choose a superish power when you turned 13, and he wished he’d thought about it before he changed his.
Tiffany eventually became an accomplished flugelhorn player, Kimberly wrote an internationally famous book about toffee, and Emily moved to Maine and grew blueberries, which are extremely good for you, and make an excellent jam, especially if you know the secret ingredient.
#Unreal #Fiction #CreativeWriting #Illustration #Brittlestones #ShortStory #Prose #Kingdom #FairyTales #YourName
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