Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chapters 35-37

Janna Terwilliger’s Dream:

     This used to be the school, but now it’s called Janna’s Freak Show.  People are lined up all the way down the street and around the corner--a thousand of them waiting to get in.  It’s only 10:00 in the morning and I’ve already conducted five tours.   I have on one of those microphones right in front of my mouth so I don’t have to shout.  
    “No pushing, no pushing--you’ll get your chance!” My voice transmits over all the speakers in the school.  
    I’ve transformed all of the rooms into cages; in the cages I’ve created my collection of Freaks.  “Oh, look,” I say, “it’s feeding time for the Like-Like Birds.  Listen to them chatter!”  In the cage, sitting at their lunch table, are Monica Sellis, Delia Arkin, Dawnelle Sicard, and Janice Smithson.  One of them (Does it matter which one?  They all dress and sound alike)  says, “He’s so, like, stuck on himself, I can’t even, like, believe it.”  And another replies, “Yeah, and like, what ever happened to, like, the way he was, like, at the beginning of the, like, year.”  
    I tell the crowd, “Did you know that a typical Like-Like Bird chirps the word ‘like,’ on average, 300 hundred times in an hour?”  The audience laughs and wows at the statistic.  “Yes, and I, personally, have witnessed what is most likely a record--one bird ‘liking’ 712 times in 50 minutes!”  That gets big applause, and I joke, “If you don’t think I was, like, tired out after listening to, like, that for almost an hour, you’ve got, like, another think coming!”  My audience is loving me as I lead them to the next cage.
    “Here we have an animal that is proliferating at an astounding rate in this country, ladies and gentlemen.  Witness this collection of Techtites.”  The crowd gathers around to watch Maddy Bourne and five of her buddies, all of them crouched over their cellphones.  “Notice how they take that semi-fetal position, centered around whatever technology they have?  It’s a fascinating posture, serving two functions. First, it protects the device. Nothing is more precious to a Techtite than that little machine she’s holding.  Watch this.”  
     I take my elongated robot pincer, designed particularly for this exhibit, and reach it toward DeeDee Prince’s lap, as if I’m trying to snatch her iPod.  When the pincer touches her leg, she spins violently and lunges at it.  “Get away from me!” she screams.  “You’re not getting my phone!”  The crowd pulls back in shock, then laughs.  Works every time.  
     “In addition,” I continue, “the Techtite curls around her device to take nourishment from it.  Now, you might argue that it’s not actual food she’s getting; it’s communication from other Techtites.   However, as this photograph demonstrates, a starved Techtite is not a pretty sight.”  I hold up a poster-sized picture of Greg Sykes.  He looks like an emaciated zombie.  Granted, I Photo-shopped the image just a tad, but I did snap the picture a week after Greg’s parents had taken away his cell, and he looks like hell.  My audience gasps on cue.
    We move on to the Stressmunks.  I won’t stay long at this exhibit; it tends to make the crowd too anxious.  Abby Kolinkowicz, Isa Johnson, Janna Pinkman and several other type-A’s are in there.  I’ve installed an electrified mesh fence in this cage; otherwise, the Stressmunks will reach through the bars, trying to get their hands on notes or scholarship applications or anything that might help them get ahead.  They’ll beg to the audience, too:  “When’s the quiz?”  “Is there going to be a test on that?”  “Do you have the requirements?”  “How many colleges should I visit?”  Even with the electric fence, they’ll rush every new crowd, hoping to get fed.  Once zapped, they back away and huddle into a tight group, looking anxiously out and muttering.  They look for all the world like a bunch of ravenous Gollums who just can’t find The Ring.  Occasionally, I’ll get close to the cage and yell, “Look, it’s a transcript bump!” and the Stressmunks will scatter around desperately, trying to find the little morsel I pretended to throw.  The move gets a great laugh from the audience, but I don’t do it every tour or the animals would tear themselves up too much.
    We pass even more quickly by the Slacksloths.  This collection of slug-like mammals is impressive as a living sculpture representing a total waste of potential, but the lack of movement and activity quickly bores my attendees.  I generally stop long enough to ask one of the Slacksloths—Jolene Fines, for instance--what she’s planning for the day.  “What?” she’ll answer with the flat intonation so typical of the species.  
    “What’s the plan for the day, Jolene?  Anything big?”
    “Huh?”  she responds, dull as mud.
    “I heard you had some really hot stuff going on.”
    “Huh?” she says again, then turns to Rebekah Haugstad, another of her kind. “Huh?”  Jolene says again.
     “What?”  says Rebekah.  The audience gets a little kick out of the exchange, but we move along right afterward.  Nothing more to see.
    The culmination of Janna’s Freak Show is a single, rare animal.  I have a cloth covering the cage, and I do my real showy, suspense-building introduction:  “Inside this enclosure, ladies and gentleman, is a beast beyond your wildest imaginings.  Its initial presentation, some say, is quite beautiful.  Quite alluring.  But the eyes, my friends, are the windows to the soul, are they not?  Look carefully at, but not too deeply into, the eyes of this creature, and you will get a glimpse at one of the blackest souls in this school, if not the world.  Gaze, if you dare, upon the Vulbitch!”
     I pull off the cloth to reveal Maddy Stender, seated on her stool.  The men in the audience take a step closer; the women move to keep them back.  The Vulbitch sits, placid but alert, her eyes narrowed.  She surveys the crowd, moving only her head.  You half expect it to pivot all the way around on her neck, she seems that otherworldly.
     Inevitably, after a few moments, she finds the most attractive male in the audience and locks eyes with him.  “Watch it,” I warn the crowd, and the Vulbitch hisses at me.
    “Mind your own business,” the Vulbitch says to me.
    “Oh, you are my business.  Everyone needs to be warned about you.”
    The Vulbitch turns away from me and address someone else in my audience, a girl.  “I like your scarf,” the Vulbitch says with a warm smile.
    “Thank-you,” the girl replies, flattered by the attention.
    I step between the girl and the Vulbitch.  “Do you really like it, Vulbitch?  Or do you just want to have it?  Or are you setting up this poor girl for an insult?  Tell us your true motivation, because it’s never kindness.”  
    “Why would you say that?” Vulbitch replies.  I pull out a sharp stick and thrust it into the cage, knicking the Vulbitch on the arm.  It screeches.
    “Because I know you, Vulbitch!  What do you really want from this girl?  What do you really think of the scarf?”  
    Infuriated, the Vulbitch spouts its truth, and it comes out with such black spite that the crowd cowers.  “I want her to hang herself with that ugly rag!”  The scarf girl sucks in her breath quickly.  I need to control the moment or I’ll lose my audience.
    “No, no,” I whisper to the girl.  “You can’t take it personally.  “The Vulbitch just wants to hurt things, that’s all.  Your scarf is beautiful; you know that and I know that.  Don’t let it get to you.”  The girl nods, comforted.  I turn back to my main attraction.  “Vulbitch, tell me--do you always get what you want?”
    “Yessss,” it hisses.
    I turn to the crowd and speak in low tones.  “Gather around.  This is a bit dangerous, what I’m about to do, but remember--she’s behind the bars. Things are going to get a little...exciting in a minute, but you’ll be safe, all right?”  The audience members nod, looking nervous.  I turn back to the Vulbitch.  “You always get what you want, is that what you said?”
   “Yessss!” it hisses again, this time sounding like steam from a hundred hot boilers.
    “So when you stole my boyfriend from me, Zach Myers, you won, right?”
    The Vulbitch laughs.  “Are you sure you want to bring that up?” she says, her teeth seeming to spontaneously sharpen in front of our eyes.  
     “So if you won and Zach is truly yours, why did he give me this note just yesterday?”  I put the paper on the end of the stick and hand it in to the Vulbitch.  Though we play out the same scenario for every tour with a new copy of the letter, the Vulbitch falls for it every time.  Fortunately for me and my show, the only trait that matches the Vulbitch’s cruelty is her stupidity.  
     She reads the note--the one where Zach officially becomes my boyfriend again--and goes berserk.  Not a single ounce of beauty remains when the Vulbitch unleashes her fury.  She is all claws and spit and fury, exploding in every direction, her words a gush of profanity vile enough to make Blackbeard blush.  The crowd runs in terror from the room, spilling, by design, into the outer parking lot.  After a few moments, they laugh the laughter of those who have seen death and escaped it.
    And then they spread the word about my show, the greatest one on Earth.  

Reality Check:  Dream 35
ü  Text from Janna Terwilliger to McKenzie Silver:  “Rise above it all.  You have to find a way to laugh at them or you’ll go crazy.” 

Rebekah Haugstad’s Dream:
The Lucky Ones

     I’m supposed to be doing this chemistry lab, something about making soap, but I keep thinking about what Dad said last night.  He’d had a couple of beers too many, which is nothing new, so he got kind of sentimental.  He patted the couch cushion and called me over to sit next to him.  After I sat down, he flopped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me in close.  It all felt nice except for the booze on his breath.  “Whadya say there, kid?”  he asked me.
     “About what?”
     “Oh, I dunno.  D’you think we’re lucky?  Whadya say?  Are we the lucky bunch?”
     Dad was referring to the old inside story about our family, of course.  I can’t remember which relative it was--my great-grandfather, maybe, or even further back than that--who started the whole idea by going to the ocean one day, diving into the water and coming up with a handful of gold coins.  Nobody knows how it happened, these coins washing up on this beach, but they did, and dear old great-great-grand-dad happened to be there to find them.  Not that it amounted to much--a few hundred dollars and his picture in some newspapers.  What did start with great-great-whoever’s discovery was the concept that we, The Haugstads, are lucky.  And we’ve been waiting ever since, for generations, to prove it. 
     The fact is, our total belief in luck has made us kind of a lazy, reckless family.  We’re all of us a little too laid back about life.  Everybody, from my grandparents to my uncles to my cousins, seems to always be losing a job or trying to find a new one.   Dad is “currently between financial opportunities,” as he likes to put it, and my mother does housekeeping at Motel 6.  She hates it.  I babysit when I can, but most of the people I know can’t afford to go out very often, never mind pay somebody to sit their kids while they do.  
     But the Haugstads are a lucky bunch, yes we are!  Good old great-great x 4 did scoop up those gold coins right out of the sand.  Didn’t have to do a thing--he was so lucky he just reached down and found a small (very small) fortune.  That’s pretty much what we Haugstads all live on, this reputation we carry about ourselves.  It’s all we have.
     So when Dad started to cry last night while I was sitting there beside him, it scared me pretty bad.  I’ve heard of sad drunks; Dad’s not one of them.  Calling him a drunk in the first place is too harsh.  He has a few beers. Pretty often.  Not every night, though, and he sings and plays the guitar and spouts off about the corruption of the government and stuff.  Then he falls asleep.  Except last night, just after he asked if we were a lucky bunch, he started to cry.  I asked him what was the matter, but he just shook his head and gulped a few times.  I could see the tears falling on his shirt.
     “Everything’s good, Daddy,” I said, and then I recited one of our Haugstad family slogans:  “It’s just around the corner, kid!”  
     Dad looked at me with weepy, serious eyes.  “I’m not so sure about that anymore, Becca.  Maybe it’s about time we stopped saying that, huh?”  I felt the tears start to well up in my own eyes.  I’d never heard my father so discouraged.  
     “Daddy, we’re going to be fine.  We’re going to be great!”  
     “No, honey, we’re not.  You can’t keep thinking like that.  I’m sorry I let you think like that.  We’re not lucky.  We’re not...anything.”  
     We’re not lucky.  We’re not anything.  I can’t get those words out of my head.  I keep hearing his low, thick voice; keep seeing the sag of his face.  
     “Oh, shit,” says my lab partner, Heather, under her breath.  She’s got a Bunsen burner going under the concoction we’ve put together, and the chemicals are boiling over.  On the instruction sheet for this lab, Mr. Gunderman has only one sentence in bold:  At the first sign of boiling, turn off the heat!  “We’re going to have to start over,” Heather says.  
     “We don’t have time.”  
     “Well, it’s ruined.  Gunderman said it would be ruined if we let it boil too much.”
     “I thought you were watching it.”
     “I was watching it. I just, it just...boiled over.”  I know what that means.  It means Heather was too distracted by her cell or by Matt Lowery’s version of flirting--which involves spitballs--to pay attention at the crucial moment.  Of course, I’m not going to go tell the teacher that my lab partner ruined the project; I wasn’t paying attention, either.  I can just see it now:  another D- to add to my already sucky grade.  
     “What do you wanna do?”  Heather asks.  I look at the clock.  We only have 15 minutes left.  
     “Okay, here’s the plan.  I’m going to throw this out.  We’ll start again.”
     “But you said…”  
     “We’ll start again.  You can make up some excuse why we got going late, and then we’ll beg for an extension to finish it.  It’s the only thing we can do.  If we show him this…”--I hold up the overflowing mess--“he’ll just fail us on the lab.”  Heather agrees.  She goes to get another beaker.  I sneak over to the trash to get rid of the evidence.  
     “What are you doing, Miss Haugstad?”  Mr. Gunderman calls out just as I get to the trash can.  
     “Just throwing something away.”  
     “What?”  he demands.
     Time for a quick bluff.  I reach in my pocket and find a small bottle of nail polish. I hold it up.  “This stupid nail polish.  It’s all dried out.”  Mr. Gunderman frowns at me, but he turns away to talk to Margot and Mindy and some other A students up front.  Somehow, in the process of getting the beaker out from under my sweater and putting my nail polish away, the polish ends up in the beaker.  I don’t even try to fish it out.  
     I’m ready to chuck the whole mess when I notice that the top of the nail polish has melted in the goo we made; the polish and our overcooked experiment blend together, making a red-blue combination that flows like syrup.  Weird, I think. Even weirder, the mass is sort of moving.  I’m not shaking it or anything, but it’s swirling around inside the beaker.  I take a quick look around.  Instead of throwing the beaker away, I tuck it behind the trashcan.
     Back at our lab table, Heather has re-started our experiment.  A quick look at the clock tells me we aren’t going to come anywhere close to finishing.  Sure enough, by the time we’re supposed to be cleaning up and Mr. Gunderman is coming around to collect our results, we’re left looking like exactly what we are:  a couple of slackers.  
     Heather starts in with her excuse about how we both were having some trouble with the directions and how her contact lens had slipped into the upper part of her eye and we stopped to try to get it re-positioned (I have to give Heather credit for this little bit of improv.  Pretty creative.).  Mr. Gunderman’s not going for any of it.  He tells us to clean up and no, we can’t have an extension and no we can’t re-do the lab and no, there’s no way we can get a decent grade.  Pretty much what I had expected when I first saw the scorched mess.  
      Once the bell rings, I walk over to retrieve the beaker from where I left it.  Here’s the crazy thing, though:  Inside the beaker is the empty jar of fingernail polish; beside it is a ball.  All the scalded liquid and polish have somehow formed into a glistening ball, about the size of one of those jawbreakers you get at the mall.  I grab the ball.  It’s a little soft but not sticky or anything. I slip it in the front pocket of my backpack and leave.
      I’ve got directed study next period, which basically means I spend 50 minutes pretending to do all my homework while Mr. Dickerson pretends to be working with me and the rest of us slackers.  Mr. Dickerson’s cool, though.  If we need help, he gives it to us.  If we say we’re all set, he leaves us alone.  He even lets us use our cells and tablets and stuff.  When I get to Mr. Dickerson’s room, I pull out the charger for my iPhone since it was dead this morning before I went to school.  
     “Anything to catch up on?”  Mr. Dickerson asks as I walk over to the wall socket with my charger and my cell.
     “Nope, all good,” I lie.  
     But when I go to plug in my cell, it’s already fully charged.  The phone was definitely dead this morning.  I remember Dad, hung over, whispering to me from the couch that I needed to be a little quieter as I rummaged around looking for the charger. But now the phone registers 100%.  Maybe I picked up somebody else’s phone?  No, that’s stupid.  Of course this is mine; it’s got all my icons and my background on it.  I go back to my seat, open my backpack to drop the charger back in it, when I notice a glowing coming from a pocket:  the ball from science.  
     “Uh, I need to go pee,” I tell Mr. Dickerson.  He waves a quick gesture of permission.  I leave with the ball in my hand.  It’s very warm, but not burning.  When I get into one of the bathroom stalls, I take the thing out and hold it up.  The swirling I noticed before is still happening.  It’s almost as if the thing is full of energy.  Then it hits me:  This charged my cell.  No, that’s impossible.  That’s ridiculous.  
     No one else is in the bathroom, so I bring the mysterious ball over to the one socket on the wall.  I don’t know what I’m looking for, exactly, but I crouch down and hold the ball close to the socket.  Instantly, a line of miniature lightning shoots out from the ball, arcing between it and the socket.  I pull back; the lightning gets longer.  I experiment and find I can get over three feet away from the wall and still have this line of electricity connecting the ball and the socket.  Frankenstein or what?  
     Behind me, I hear the bathroom door swing open.  I pull the ball back quickly, breaking the connection.  I shove the ball in my pocket, nod to the girl who just came in, and leave.  
     My heart is beating a thousand beats a minute.  I don’t know what I have.  I don’t know what I’ve made.  But as I walk back to Mr. Dickerson’s room, one thing gets more and more clear to me:  This thing in my pocket is worth a fortune, and not a small one.  Daddy and me and all the Haugstad’s:  We are the lucky ones.  We’ve turned the corner.  We’re all going to be rich and famous, just like we were meant to be.  
     It’s all clear, it’s all here, right in my lucky pocket. 
Reality Check:  Dream 36
ü  Amount of money Rebekah Haugstad’s father spent during the school year on lottery tickets:  $8700.00.  Amount he won during the same time period:  $16.00. 

Margot Collins’ Dream:

Leech Treatment

   “Hey,” Mindy says, sidling up beside me with her over-crammed pack jutting from her back.  We’re on the way to Algebra. We have every class together, me and Mindy.  Every. Single.  Class.  How we got scheduled this way, I have no idea. I guess the computer just does it.  The computer must hate me.  
     “Hey,” I say back to Mindy, hoping that my tone and lack of eye contact will tell her I don’t want to have a conversation.  No such luck.  There is never any such luck with Mindy.  
     “Yeah, so, my fish died last night,” she starts in.  I don’t reply.  We’re almost to the classroom door.  Maybe something about walking into math class will keep her from telling me about her dead fish.  Or about anything, for that matter.  “It was the one I named after you.  Did you know I named a fish after you?  It was a fantail.  They have double anal and caudal fins.”  Where is Mr. Bluthen?  He should be starting class by now. Right now.  Please, Mr. Bluthen, get in here before she tells me more about her fish’s double anal fins, before she asks me a question so directly that I just can’t ignore her, before…  
     “Do you know why I named my fish after you, Margot?  Do you?”  I sigh.  “Because Margot died last night.  It was pretty sad.  Do you know why I named my fantail Margot, after you?”
     “Why, Mindy, did you name your dead goldfish after me?”
     “Fantail, actually.  I mean, it’s a type of goldfish, but it’s a fantail.”  Where in the hell are you, Mr. Bluthen?  Get in here and do your job, for God’s sake!
     “Okay, then, why did you name your dead fantail after me?”
     “Well, it wasn’t dead at the time I named it.”  First period, first thing in the morning, and already I feel like I’m going to cry.  Mr. Bluthen enters in a rush, yelling as he goes, and I am extremely grateful for his grating voice.
     “Books open to page 158, people!  Let’s get hopping, let’s get learning, let’s get algebrating!  Mr. Cryans, how did you solve for X on number one of the homework?”  
     And as Jack Cryans fumbles his way through pretending that he actually looked at number one of the homework, Mindy whispers, “Because she was pretty.”
     “That’s why I named my fantail after you--because she was pretty.”  Yeah.  Nice.  Christ.  Just leave it at that.  Don’t follow up with…
     “Like you,” she whispers.  I turn to see her smiling at me.  I give her the tiniest, quickest upward move of my mouth I can possibly make.  Mindy leans in to whisper more, but I shake my head and point up toward Mr. Bluthen as if to say I really need to listen to his instructions.  Mindy furrows her brow and mouths the word “okay,” but the expanded version is, “Okay, right, we’re in this together, best buddies and all, but we can’t talk now because we have business to attend to, but you can bet we’ll talk more later, yessirree!”  
     Her opportunity comes near the end of the period when Mr. Bluthen gives us ten minutes to get a start on our homework.  He barely finishes his sentence--“And now, why don’t you lovely people give those problems a try on your own?”--when Mindy starts talking.  I mean, it’s like you hit the pause button on a song and then you hit the play button and it picks up exactly where it left off.   
     “Yeah, so I found it lying on its side on the bottom of my aquarium, really early this morning.  I couldn’t sleep; it was the weirdest thing.  I was having this dream about unicorns, how they were taking over this forest that looked like the woods behind my grandparents’ house--you know how weird things get in dreams--but it wasn’t really their woods.  I know what it felt like!  It felt like the Dark Woods in the Harry Potter movies, where he meets Voldemort and all the spiders?  So anyway, it was like 2:00 in the morning.  2:17, actually, I remember that’s what my clock said when I got up and found Margot lying on the bottom of the aquarium, just lying there, dead. You’re the first person I’ve told.  I haven’t buried her or anything yet.  I wrapped her in some tissues and put her in the drawer under where the aquarium is. Maybe I should have put her in the freezer.”  
     I see the day in front of me.  It’s going to be just like the past two months of days since school started and Mindy has been in every one of my classes.  My day is going to be filled with Mindy bumping into me everywhere I go, Mindy constantly cramming the air between us with useless information like where she’s going to bury Margot.
     You would think, after a while, she’d run out of topics.   But give Mindy anything--anything!--a can of tuna, a broken pen, a wad of chewed gum, and she’ll riff on it for hours.  It will remind her of something from her childhood or her future or the future of some distant planet she once imagined.
     I know.  I get it.  Mindy has no friends.  My mother knows her mother, and her mother tells my mother how wonderful I am for putting up with Mindy who has some kind of an unfortunate--oh, how should we put it?--disadvantage when it comes to reading social cues.  My mother says she’s proud of me.  My teachers say they’re proud of me.  Apparently, the Pope is considering nominating me for sainthood because I let Mindy sit beside me and eat beside me and walk beside me and, if she could figure a way to make it happen, use the toilet beside me.  
     Sure, everybody gets it, that I’m doing the nice thing, the kind thing, for Mindy.  But at the same time everybody gets it, you know what?  I think everybody’s extremely glad that I’m the one doing the nice thing for Mindy so they don’t have to do the nice thing for Mindy.  What if I don’t want to be a saint?  What if I’m sick of seeing my other friends give the two of us a pitiful half-smile and say, “Oops, that’s right, I totally forgot I’ve got to be somewhere else right now”?  
     What if I walked into the nurse’s office and told her, “You know, I visited a foreign country recently and I picked up a parasite.  It itches me all over my body from the minute I walk into the school to the minute I leave, and it even bothers me when I’m at home.”  
     What do you think the nurse would do?  Say, “Well, it’s awfully kind of you to be so nice to the parasite.  Keep up the good work.”  No!  She’d help me get rid of the thing!
     And now I’m not being so nice, am I, to be thinking of Mindy as a parasitic worm, but guess what?  Right now, as she has somehow moved in her conversation from talking about Margot, her pitiful dead goldfish--who I happen to envy, by the way--to a description her birthday party next week at her house and it’s going to have tons of balloons on the walls and all over the floor and she’s sure I’m going to really enjoy coming over and maybe even having a sleepover….  Right now, referring in my mind to Mindy as a parasitic worm feels downright charitable.  
     “Yeah, and the thing about balloons is that I used to be afraid of them.  Isn’t that a weird fear to have?  I wonder if there’s a name for that.  You have arachnophobia, fear of spiders, and germophobia, of course, which I sort of have, but do you think it’s, like, a medically-proven thing that some people could have balloonophobia?  Of course, they’d probably label it something else, some more scientific-sounding…”   
     “What?” she says, her face expectant.  Her face is always expectant, like I’m about to share some secret that will cement our friendship into the eternities.  I can’t stand that expectant face any longer.  I’m done.  
     “Mindy, I don’t want to be mean.  I like you.  But…”  
     Crap.  Why am I even bothering?  I’m not going to be able to do this.  I just can’t be cruel to the kid.  The Pope can call me a saint if he wants, but the truth is, I’m a wimp.    I’ll let puppies lick me all over my face even though I hate the smell of dog breath; I’ll let Melissa Eisner drag me to a debate tournament; I’ll endure watching First Blood for the 15th time because it’s my dad’s all-time favorite movie and he thinks we’re bonding when we watch it together.  That’s just who I am.  
     “But what?” Mindy asks.
     “Never mind.”  
     “You’re sick of me.”
     “What?  No, it’s not…”
     “Hey, it’s okay.  Actually, you’ve lasted longer than anyone else in the school or in any other school I’ve been to.  I wear people out.  Even my parents tell me that.
     “Mindy, I didn’t…”
     “They call me their little parasite.  I’ll leave you alone.  Thanks for being my friend for so long, though.  I’m still going to name my next goldfish after you.  Oops, that’s the bell.  ‘Bye!”
     And she walks away.  Mindy walks away from me.  She heads out the door into the hallway, alone, without me.  April Marriott comes over.  “What happened to your sidekick?” she asks.  
     “She...left,” I say, still in shock.
     “Cool. That’s a frigging miracle.”
     As we walk out of the room, I feel odd, like a certain weightless patch of air has opened up beside me, the space Mindy has occupied for so many days.  Half-way down the hallway, though, two more friends join me and the hollow feeling quickly goes away.  I glance quickly up, thanking God for trading my sainthood for this beautiful frigging miracle.

Reality Check:  Dream 37
ü  Crumpled up note in Margot Collins’s trash basket:  “Mindy, I’m sorry I can’t go to your birthday party, but I have to wash my hair.  I have to pick my nose.  I have to plan a murder.” 

ü  Only person who came to Mindy Finburg’s birthday party:  Margot Collins.

ü  Number of balloons at Mindy Finburg’s birthday party:  342.

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