I posted about this piece earlier
, but I have so completely revised and re-worked it, that I wasn't sure if it belonged in the same thread. (If I'm in error, powers-that-be, please move me!)
Plot: A twelve-year-old protagonist, makes a list of things he believes would make him utterly happy. Save, when they begin coming true, he discovers that perhaps he already had everything he really wanted. Now he has to find a way to keep the rest of his list from coming true before his wishes destroy everything.
There might be elements of light fantasy in this thing, but it's pretty heavily based in reality.
Target audience: middle grade/YA boys
I had the unfortunately luck of a terrible
name, and there was something about the way Tom Merton drug it out that rubbed me wrong. Like chewing glass. I hated him
. Not because he scared me—he didn’t
—but because he was such a coward.
I wasn’t the kind of guy to pick a fight, contrary to what my Dad currently believed. I didn’t really
think that a quick knee to the groin of some round-faced kid solved anything. Not really
. But the momentary look on his face—the way he sucked his breath through clenched teeth while clutching himself—made me grin. Sometimes, the initial satisfaction of retaliation is totally
My split lip stretched and burned. I quit smiling. Dad was gonna’ lose it. I knew I was already walking a fine line, demanding more understanding, or more absence of questions,
than was fair. But when it came to fair
, he was partly to blame for this. I could honestly fault my Dad for my name. Apparently, it was not something he or my mom put much thought into when they christened me with it.
It was this fact that often undid any bonus points I was able to squeeze out of life, throwing me into the cruel grip of fate, and Tom Merton’s line of fire. Though, it should be mentioned, that I rarely ended up there on my own merit.
Standing behind the door in the janitorial closet, I did my best to take deep breaths and calm my racing heart. Sweat trickled down the small of my back and I wiped my face against my shoulder. This wasn’t the first time I’d taken refuge here, and I frowned in the darkness at the numerous brooms, mops, and the shelves of cleaning supplies that kept me company.
A single rap of knuckles met the solid door and I grunted. My cue
With his back to me, the bent figure of the old janitor emptied a wastebasket and re-fitted it with a large black trash bag as I slipped silently out of the closet. I caught the man’s bemused gaze as I eased down the hall, attempting a look of nonchalance despite my torn shirt and bloodied lip.
I had exactly three minutes before the bell rang. Just enough time to grab a jacket from my gym bag and wash my face in the water fountain on the way to my next class.
Welcome to my glorious
The bell rang as I wiped my dripping face and made my way into room 215. Behind me Lannie snagged the back of my jacket and gave it a little tug.
“How’re the brooms?”
“Restless.” I grinned at her over my shoulder and she cocked an eyebrow.
“Lucky they have you
to keep them company.” She slid into the desk behind me and I turned, watching her pull an assortment of crumpled papers, writing instruments, and books from her bag.
Lannie carried herself with a ‘do-your-worst-and-see-if-I-care’
air that I absolutely loved. Stripped yellow socks to her knees paired with green Converse sneakers and rolled jeans added to the overall impression.
For as long as I cold remember Lannie had been the most reasonable
girl I knew. She approached life from such a mater-of-fact perspective, that just being around her was refreshing. Though lately, I’d noticed things had started changing a little. I chalked it up to female hormones.
Our friendship through grade school had survived the brunt of elementary jibes, making us stronger for it. Lannie always threw a wet blanket over our tormentors with her lack of concern. You can only tease someone who refuses to respond for so long before it gets ridiculously frustrating. An only child, Lannie was fiercely independent and oddly protective over anyone or anything who seemed the brunt of unreasonable torment.
I met Lannie for the first time in the second grade.
My Mom had dropped me off at school on her way to work, and I was running through the parking lot, when a “Hey you!”
forced me to stop and retrace my steps.
A couple of the older kids—well-known bullies—had cornered a stray cat in the back ally that ran between the school office building and the grounds-management shed. Skinny and square-jawed, Lannie had the largest boy pinned against the side of brick–walled office building with a pair of pruning sheers. Her face was so deadly calm that none of us questioned her intentions.
“Pick him up and get him out if here,” she’d instructed me, leaving no room for negotiation. I’d obeyed and attempted to remove the mangy cat from the cardboard box it was trapped beneath. But I never had a chance to get close to the animal. It streaked out of sight as soon as I lifted the box, its tail bushed out three times the normal size.
Articulately snipping the shears beneath the nose of the boy she’d pinned, Lannie smiled, “Do it again and I’ll cut your heart out.”
Later, as we both sat in the principal’s office, (I was guilty by association), I listened, rapt, as Lannie confidently and easily explained the situation to the mildly amused man in charge of maintaining order within the student body. He'd nodded, hearing her out, and finally dismissing us both with the admonition to report
bullies—and not bully them ourselves.
If only it were that easy.
• • •
Eureka California, Population 27,000, is located on the northern coast of California, surrounded on three sides by redwoods, the Pacific Ocean on the west. Both of my parents had grown up here, though neither of them had ever planned on staying.
Mom left Eureka for a school out east, and Dad traveled a bit with whatever work interested him—logging, construction, fishing. Dad is an industrialist by profession—the get-your-hands-dirty
type—and had an uncanny ability to fix nearly anything. Mom is a social worker for the school districts, and goes about fighting for social justice, doing her best to enhance the quality of life for the people she works with, and generally striving make the world a better place. Despite their wandering, they both eventually returned to Eureka, for reasons I am still confused about. As a result, here I am.
I am the youngest—think surprise
—of four boys; the older three are out of the house and off doing their own thing.
All four of us have, um, unique
When my oldest brother was born, Mom and Dad were really concerned that they give their son a meaningful name—something solid and grounded. They named him Evert. Strong
. The next brother in line—Leo. Lionhearted
. Brother number three—Justin. Fair and just
. Sense a theme here? By the time they got to me, the idea of the virtue seemed more important than the name itself, and so they didn’t bat an eye with Basil. Brave and valiant
. I doubt they were dwelling on the repercussions of such a moniker, especially considering the surname.
Though their intentions were well-meant, there are certain dark corners of my heart where I regularly curse the lack of time they took to think their choice through. Personally, I could think of several virtue-based names that would have worked nicely and not subjected my identity to the continual classification of herb.
It was this train of thought that started my wish list.
The list was harmless, in and of itself. Simple. A short itemized run-down of things I’d love to alter. First on the list—a new name.
Had I know the implications of that last, I never would’ve written a single word. But things didn’t start changing until I’d actually completed it.
Seven things—seven terrible changes.