Back to School

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Back to School

Post by Ed » Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:44 pm

Tuesday. August 6, 2019
Old Temple West


“What have I said about screeching in the house?” Nellie threatened the boy with a shake of a flyswatter from the other side of the room. “If you wake up your brother, so help me I will thrash you like your father used to.”

“Oh come on, Mom! You can’t be serious! School? We didn’t go all last year. Why now?”

Only moments before young Wade Dean’s shriek of outrage, Ed had finished telling his mother about the wonderful opportunity that he had chanced upon. Now he was cowering against the kitchen counter by the fridge. Nellie looked positively terrifying brandishing that flyswatter about. He realized he was the only one legitimately scared of her. Probably because he wasn’t used to moms.

“Mallory set this up?” Standing beside him, in bare feet and an overlong t-shirt that acted like a dress, was Abby. She was leaning more casually against the counter, her elbow poking against his ribs. She kept her voice low so as not to interrupt the son and mother argument.

“Yeah.” Ed answered her just as quietly. “I was thinking more about next year when I asked. I’m just as surprised as you are.” His questioning had been a long shot and more an effort to pretend things weren’t still tense and awkward between them. The biggest surprise had been the fact that it hadn’t actually been weird at all.

Nellie was finishing up pretty much repeating everything Ed had told them, how it was a great opportunity that had been dropped on their laps. Not taking up this potentially one-time generous offer to attend the school would be a mistake. “And besides,” Nellie said to Wade, “You could use some extra discipline.”

Wade made a wordless, outraged noise and threw up his hands. Glaring across the room, he caught Ed’s eye and made him cower even more deeply into the sink. The boy’s eyes had the word traitor printed inside them in big, bold, hateful letters.

“I can’t wait,” said Mable cheerily. Of course she was the only one of the three eligible Dean children who was excited about the prospect. She had missed out on kindergarten entirely. This would be her first time actually attending a formal school.

“Is Ginger going?” asked Cindy without looking up from her current needlepoint project. “I’m only going if Ginger goes.” Ed exchanged an uncertain look with Abby. He honestly didn’t have an answer to that, yet.

“You’re going,” Nellie said sternly. “You’re all going.” She whipped the flyswatter side to side and pointed dangerously at each of her three school age children. Mable beamed at her. The other two scowled.

“This is not fair,” Wade shouted, stomping his foot. Fury rolled off of him in waves and crashed all the way across the room against Ed when the boy glared at him again. He flinched. “How could you do this to me!?”

“Honestly, Wade,” Nellie sighed, exasperated. “This isn’t the end of the world. And don’t blame Eddie. It’s not as if I was going to let you run wild for the rest of your life.”

“But Mom! I wasn’t running wild! I was learning a trade!” He threw up his hands again, but this time to hurl attention again at Ed, who by now was trying to hide his whole body behind Abby. It was no good. She wasn’t large enough.

“Hey!” Nellie roared. Apparently the rules about screeching only applied to children. “This is not a democracy! You’re going to go to school and learn about everything else the world has to offer. Maybe you’ll still end up tinkering with Gaia-knows-what in Eddie’s garage, or maybe you’ll discover something even more exciting, like doctoring, or numbers, or how to make bombs--I don’t care. The point is: you’re going to school until you’re old enough to decide otherwise. Until then? I make the rules. Capiche?”

“Can I make bombs, mommy?” Mable’s eyes sparkled.

Nellie smiled. “Oh, my sweet monster. Why don’t you find Jameson and tell him you want to play with fireworks? Let’s save the bomb-making for later.”

“Okay!” Mable jumped to her feet and dashed joyfully out the door.

The only person who seemed horrified by her enthusiasm was Ed, his eyes going extra wide. A concerned whimper got stuck in his throat. Abby reassuringly patted his knee.

Wade was simmering.

“When is that?” Cindy asked. She had given up on her needlepoint. Though her hands were folded demurely on her lap, over the project, her face was etched deeply in frowning. She was slow to boil.

“When is what?” Nellie snapped prematurely. Like most mothers, she was well aware that the cool facade of her daughter’s voice was a ruse. Any minute now Cindy was going to explode.

“How old do we have to be to decide for ourselves?” She thrust up her chin challengingly. She wasn’t quite a teenager, but she might as well have been with that attitude.

Nellie rounded on Ed. “What grade does this school go up to?”

“Twelfth,” he squeaked. Cindy’s eyes narrowed. She knew what was coming next.

Her mother whirled to her and said, “You’re old enough when you’ve finished the twelfth grade.”

Both mother and daughter locked thinly slitted gazes for what felt like an eternity. There weren’t any analog clocks in the house, but Ed heard them ticking. Then he realized it might as well just have been one of Jameson’s aforementioned bombs. In actuality, it was the oven timer, and it decided right now was the appropriate moment to ding. Ed leaped off the counter with a terrified yelp. Abby started laughing at him.

“Not. Funny.” He pressed his hand over his furiously beating heart.

Across the room, Cindy Dean very, very slowly stood up from her end of the second hand loveseat. Clutched tightly in one hand was a wadded up unfinished needlepoint project. The needle was quite possibly lodged into her hand. Her knuckles were stark white. She wasn’t the one to erupt first, though.

NOT,” roared young Wade Dean, “FAIR!

And then, that’s when the shouting started. Everybody, all three of them, began yelling furiously at each other all at once. It was impossible to make out what any of them were saying. The one thing that could be heard over the din of their raised voices was the pitiful wail that drifted out from the back bedroom.

It was chaos. The oven timer continued to beep, ignored by Nellie who’d finally advanced on her oldest son. Wade vaulted over the back of the loveseat in an effort to get away, bellowing so loudly that it rattled the window panes, and Cindy shouted resolutely at her mother, looking like a bomb herself, seconds from exploding.

They quickly gathered an audience. Ed was sideways shuffling along with his back pressed to the wall, praying to avoid becoming an innocent bystander casualty. He intercepted Pert sliding in from the hallway. Her eyes were wide and mouth hanging open. Ed shook his head, unable to explain. She shook her head as well, and he realized the fight wasn’t her concern. She scurried along the other wall to the bedroom and dashed in to rescue the crying baby.

Jack and Gus were leaning around the door frame looking in. The former had a big, mean grin on his face. Ed ducked out between them. “What’s this all about?” asked Jack.


The word SCHOOL roared out into the hallway.

“That,” said Ed, pointing back into the apartment.

“You’re making the poor kid go to school?” Jack scoffed.

Sensing an ally in the older ratkin, Wade dodged his mother’s flyswatter and darted over to his side. “She’s making us all go! And it’s his fault,” the boy accused, pointing a grubby finger at Ed’s retreating back.

“Harsh, man,” Ed heard Gus say before he dove out the front door and into the street.

Jameson had just lit the end of a sparkler for Mable when he arrived on the scene. Black marks on the pavement stood as evidence of other fireworks having been set off. Was he really surprised that he hadn’t heard any cracks or bangs over the noise of the upstairs argument? No. No he was not.

“Uncle Eddie! Uncle Eddie!” Mable cheered his name happily and ran over to him. He dodged aside, narrowly avoiding being skewered by the sparking stick in her hand. “Uncle Jameson let me throw fire crackers.” Her eyes got exceptionally, joyfully wide.

So did his. He looked up and saw Jameson grinning like a maniac. “Kid’s got guts. I like her.” With a zigzag gesture of his hand, he indicated the building behind them. “What’s all the ruckus?”

“Um.” Ed was still shaking from the terror he had fled. “Well. It turns out Mable’s the only one who wants to go to school.”

“I’m going to learn how to make bombs!” the little girl cheered. Giggling madly, she ran off and into circles with the next sparkler that Jameson lit for her.

“I don’t think that’s---”

“Shh,” said Jameson. “Shh. Don’t crush her dreams. This is how we make little Twitchers.”

Ed shuddered. What had he done?
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