by Devon Pitlor
Prologue: "In the future," said Jared, "people will be different,
and a lot of the craziness around us now will have dried up and
blown away. But right now we have to deal with psychopaths, and
there are no end to those everywhere."
I. New Year's Eve, 2010: A small and intimate party
As one of the worst snowstorms in recent history blew through
Aristock, Brooke Nescott examined the small gathering in her cozy
house and was satisfied. Her arrangement of shared affection
between Dr. Eric Palobay and the inimitable Dragonsnort had been
a successful one, much approved of by each of her soul mates, but
more importantly understood and admired by her precocious son,
Jared, who this evening was of course staying up late to ring in
a new year, whatever that year might hold. Brooke would be
thirty-seven the coming spring, and Eric, kept alive and youthful
by the parasitical vap attached for many decades to his body,
would be a shocking ninety-seven. It was impossible to tell just
how old Dragonsnort would be because Dragonsnort did not measure
time in the same way as Brooke and the others. All that was known
was that he was a solid friend and lover who could, for temporary
periods, escape his tree form, don outrageous clothes and metal
studs and become as human as anyone else in the room. Jared was
his natural son, but Dragonsnort was always more than happy that
Jared was being reared by a stepfather of such depth and
intelligence as Eric Palobay, who continued as department
chairman of entomology at Central State University and had found
a unique way of integrating his involvement with the heretofore
secret Crypto-Zoological Society into his daily work by declaring
all vap wearers to be cryptids themselves and thereby gaining the
confidence and shared secrets of both clandestine worldwide
groups: The Crypto-Zoological Society and ultra-invisible
Brotherhood of Vap-Wearers.
But as the gaiety of the little family group wore on that
blustery New Year's Eve, another small but growing mystery seemed
to be sprouting, and Brooke's maternal interests were piqued to
the degree that she temporarily put aside her vow not to probe
into the life of her gifted son Jared, and this to the degree
that she slipped the eleven year old boy one more glass of
champagne, exclaiming "Oh what the hell? It's not like he is
going to drive anywhere."
Eric Palobay rolled his eyes at Dragonsnort, who was stretched
out on a sofa watching a documentary concerning the depressing
events of 2010. Dragonsnort, always definitive in his decisions,
shot back a glance of assent, and Jared quaffed a second glass of
bubbly. The wind howled beyond the walls and windows, and the new
year, soon to arrive, seemed to hold both promise and adventure.
Brooke had actually started to enjoy her life in the ménage à
trois that had developed. It gave her two strong and ultimately
extraordinary men to support. One was a bug and cryptid expert
and the other an incarnated tree that knew apparently everything
that had happened on Earth at one point or another. Bouncing
around the party too was the irrepressible, spring-heeled Katie,
Eric's assistant and, as ever, Dragonsnort's tree protector. She
too was enjoying the champagne.
But for weeks before, Jared, with his preternatural maturity had
been hinting at something that Brooke, perhaps becoming more
protective than usual, wanted to know more about. Jared and his
friends had been whispering about two things: One was some sort
of club they had founded with the baffling name of The Plus Sized
Club, about which they pleasantly refused to divulge anything,
but it appeared as if to the Plus Sized Club many decisions were
often deferred, as exemplified by a typical remark from Jared to
his best friends Malachi, Subaru, Ian, Cody and Tyshawn: "Let's
wait and see what the Plus Sized Club has to say about this,
whether we should admit her as a member." Dragonsnort, taking
very little notice of remarks like this, credited it to the
eleven year old boy mentality and said "It's probably about a
tree house with a sign that says 'No girls allowed.' Eric Palobay
agreed. "Boys need their secrets," he mused, perhaps remembering
his own rough and tumble boyhood as a homeless waif on the
Depression-ravaged streets of Chicago. But Brooke had her doubts.
Jared had always shared things with her as she had with him, and
their closer than usual mother-son intimacy had never known any
communication barriers. Perhaps a little more champagne would
loosen his lips. What was the Plus Sized Club, and who was "she"
who might be admitted?
Jared grinned and looked at the clock. The Plus Sized Club was a
secret, if she didn't mind, and she…. Well, it was about a
sixth-grade girl whose name Brooke had heard buzzed about before:
Nautica De Craquelot. For weeks it had been Nautica this and
Nautica that. At first, Brooke surmised that Jared might be
experiencing his first youthful crush---and this right along with
the other boys. But after a time, Nautica's name was mentioned so
often that Brooke began to feel it may have been something more
"Forget it," said Palobay, cornering Brooke in the kitchen as she
prepared a further round of ham sandwiches with the help of
Katie, who was only interested in eating the trimmed-off fat to
nourish the raging metabolism which fueled her always moving,
wiry frame. "Boys need their secrets. Trust me. I was one
This male wall of silence began to seriously irk Brooke, but she
couldn't say exactly why. She was happy that her quick-witted son
was gaining an interest in women and perhaps a few hormones as
well, but, having lived the arcane life she had, she continued to
suspect the existence of a deeper mystery. Katie, harboring her
own list of untold enigmas, seemed oblivious to it all and made
no comment, as she sprang about looking for odds and ends to
stuff into her mouth.
After Eric left the kitchen along with the ever-bounding and
leaping Katie, Brooke ruminated about the very bizarre nature of
the club's name itself. Jared and all of his friends were
anything but Plus Sized, being agile, athletic and active boys.
Perhaps this Nautica was fat or something. Brooke couldn't say.
What Brooke didn't know was that in the living room, Eric,
Dragonsnort and Katie were quietly conferring together.
Dragonsnort, always the most dominant, looked sincerely into
Eric's eyes and speaking through the true sense of friendship
which had blossomed between them whispered: "You need to have a
private discussion with Jared about this Nautica. I already have
when he visited the tree, and I think your Katie, my protector,
has too. But Eric, it is your turn. There is something about
Nautica that Jared needs to tell you. And to be fair, I am going
to let him do it." Katie vaulted around the room, pausing only
long enough to shake her head in assent. Eric Palobay knew his
"family" and said he would talk to Jared the next day. In
II. New Year's Day, 2011: Eric and Jared talk man to man
Despite the heavy covering of snow, January 1, 2011 presented
itself as bright, crisp and cheerful to Brooke and her little
family. Although she had gotten no answers from her handsome son
on the nature of either Nautica or the Plus Sized Club, she had
spent a night of towering passion with Dragonsnort in the rear
bedroom of her house, and this had been with Eric's total
go-ahead, as he not only respected Dragonsnort as a close friend
and first soul mate of his wife, but he realized that Dragonsnort
would soon need to leave for his tree and once again become a
part of it in order to ensure his own survival, much in the way
that Eric depended on the life-giving beneficial vap parasite to
preserve his own. Jealousy was not in the ninety-six year old
make-up of Dr. Eric Palobay, nor was it a part of the threesome
understanding between himself, Dragonsnort and Brooke. Brooke
found the warmth of both men to be her main salvation in what she
had always considered to be a rather monotonous and meaningless
existence. And then there was Jared. Her life was as complete as
it could be, and Brooke looked out onto the sunny vista of snow
in total contentment.
Dragonsnort had vanished by the time Eric got dressed and came
down to the alcove dining room and kissed her shoulder. "Happy
new year," he purred into her ear. Turning about abruptly, Brooke
flung her arms about her second lover and kissed him. "Do you
want to fool around now or later?" she laughed. "It's your turn."
"Let's make it later," said Palobay. "It's a nice day and I want
to bond a little with Jared. He is going to be lonely now that
his father is gone, and I want to step in."
"Great! Where are we going?"
"We are not going anywhere," laughed Palobay. "Despite the fact
that you have three of them, you never have managed to understand
men. I want to go out with Jared alone, maybe do some man talk
and all that. He is, after all, getting older. Boys pull a little
away from their mothers at his age…."
"I understand," said Brooke. "I feel like cooking anyway. I
actually do. I never feel like cooking but today I do. I'm going
to surprise you boys with something edible for a change."
"That really will be a change," joked Eric.
At that moment, Jared padded downstairs in his soft footie
pajamas and hugged each parent. "No coffee for me," he said with
a certain irony. "I don't want to grow up too fast, and that
champagne last night was just a little too much. I need to be a
kid for a while longer."
Palobay wasted no time in asking Jared if he wanted to go to the
indoor go-kart track, which had advertised a special discount all
day on New Years---and Jared---somewhat surprisingly---wasted no
time in saying that yes, he definitely wanted to go. The rapidity
of his decision ruffled Brooke a little. Jared had once raised
his eyebrows at the idea of an indoor track and had claimed that
it was "for sissies."
After a quick breakfast, Eric and Jared kissed Brooke goodbye and
piled into Eric's Ford truck, bundled against the cold in several
layers of clothing. "Just in case we decide to do something
outdoors instead," said Eric to Brooke upon leaving.
Once en route to the indoor track, Eric asked Jared if he missed
his father. Jared, with his usual adult-like demeanor, said that
Eric was his other father and that, besides, he could go visit
Dragonsnort whenever he wanted as he was, after all, planted
firmly in the ground and wasn't going anywhere. Eric looked for
another conversation opener, but at once Jared turned to him and
said "You know, I hate go-karts, especially those slow ones on a
phony-baloney indoor track. You may have not noticed, but me and
the guys have unplugged all of our video games and electronic
gear too. It's like a New Year's resolution that we are going to
keep, and we have others. And that is something you and I should
really talk about."
"For sure, where do you want to go?"
"To your office," said Jared, eyeing his unofficial stepfather
for a reaction. "The university is closed, but you have a key."
"You are running the show now," said Eric, resigned that Jared
was probably the best-spoken and most mature eleven year old he
had ever seen in his ninety-six years of life. "You obviously
want to talk about some thing."
"I do," said Jared, firmly but resuming his silence.
Across the snow covered campus there were only Eric and Jared's
tracks leading to the Natural Sciences Building where Eric's
office was. Eric let them both into his unheated workplace, which
characteristically was filled with every sort of exotic and
non-exotic bug specimens, flipped on the heating and sat down at
his desk, motioning for Jared to sit across from him. "Just like
one of your students," said Jared, his voice still twinged with a
slight irony. I have a few things to tell you, so we really ought
to change places, don't you think?"
Eric smiled and conceded. The two symbolically switched their
seats and Eric waited patiently for Jared to begin whatever
subject he was about to broach. He glanced outside at the empty
campus and wondered about the oddity of the situation. A
precocious eleven year old, whom he had virtually adopted as a
son, was about to lecture him on some subject. The world was
indeed a strange place, and Eric Palobay during his ninety-six
years had seen some of the strangest of it.
"Did you and Mom make any New Year's resolutions," began Jared.
"Not a one," said Eric. "Your mother isn't into planning stuff,
and I would have broken every one of them if I had bothered. Have
you made any?"
"Yep. A lot. The guys and I have started a long list and it keeps
growing. It is all part of the Plus Sized Club, and I'm not going
to tell you much about that, except that we are planning to do
things much differently in the future if we can. We are all
eleven years old, and soon the world is going to depend on our
generation to run it. We want to try to be different and make
things better, or at least not the way they are now. You have
lived for so long. You must have seen the really bad changes. I
can only tell you a few of our resolutions which start for real
today, but, to begin with, members of the Plus Size Club are not
going to just blindly go around believing everything that people
tell us. We are not going to stand or say the Pledge of
Allegiance anymore either, beginning in school on Monday. We
think it is stupid to swear loyalty to a piece of dumb cloth. If
anything, we are going to swear loyalty to one another and to
"Not just you, but to all of our parents. Just one little
resolution we plan to keep as adults. We consider ourselves a
tribe, and we don't need any cockeyed politicians, preachers or
even teachers to maintain a tribe. In Mom's old age, in
yours---whenever that comes----we are going to stay right here
and take care of you all---all the parents and grandparents, just
like a tribe. We are not going to spread out far and wide across
the world and lose contact with our obligations. We are going to
consider the maintenance of our parents in their old age as just
one of our many responsibilities. Moreover, we are not going to
close our minds to fresh ideas. You have your vap. My father is a
tree. My best friend last year was almost carried away by a
pterodactyl, a cryptid if there ever was one. My mother was
visited by representatives from the future on behalf of the
salvation of their society. She also ate that weird cheese and
visited a parallel universe in dreams and was almost hung until
some weird dream guy rescued her. How could I not believe in
astonishing things? And that goes for the other guys. No dumb
religion or standard way of thinking about stuff is going to
prevent us from exploring everything in the world that is either
unacceptable or downright weird right now."
"Very admirable," said Eric pushing back in his chair and resting
a leg on his desk. "And what else?"
"We're finished with artificial fun things too, like the video
games and the crazy role playing stuff on line. Our tribe is
going to have healthy braves. We are doing just like you did as a
kid. We turn off television and games and play outside, explore,
climb hills, run across fields. You know the routine. Maybe some
sports too. But no more mindless computer crap. Also, we are
going to be independent but obedient. We will honor our teachers,
but we will not necessarily have blind faith in all the bullshit
they throw at us, especially in civics and history. There has got
to be a better version to explain who people are and where they
came from and why they do the things they do. Our resolution is
to try to find it and not just agree to what is in the school
"Still very admirable," said Eric, suddenly rising and standing
with his back toward Jared and staring out the window. "So that
is what the Plus Sized Club is all about? You and your friends
becoming different than the older generation. Every age tries to
do that. I wish you luck but…"
"All we can do is try," interrupted Jared. "People need to
evolve. The first step, we think, in evolving is making ourselves
stronger and more self-reliant. Then it is taking accountability
for those in our various tribes who need us, as you might
"Nice. I mean that. So you boys play your rough games outside and
then go to your secret meetings of the Plus Sized Club and
discuss how you are going to mutate as humans?"
"I suppose it is about that," said Jared, "but there are other
things too. In our tribe if we can extend it far enough, there
won't be any need for people like you and your colleagues to hide
things like your vaps and your cryptids. We're going to drop far
enough out the nastiness of American society to try to start
over, and there won't be any need for cover-ups of things that
are natural. We would like to make contact with extraterrestrials
too----which has probably already been done. But we want to do it
the right way."
"I second that. Why would any advanced race want to talk to any
of our stinkin' politicians, anyway?"
"We want to promote your cryptid work too. Maybe get more
involved with it. Has Katie brought in any new, undiscovered
"Not lately. But I am always waiting. I'm sure the cryptid
society will be happy to have such allies as you boys…. Where
does the Plus Sized Club meet? Maybe I should come to a meeting,
like if you all invited me."
"Sorry. I don't think so. Our meeting place is secret. We may
have to hide someone there very soon."
"And who might that be?"
"Nautica de Craquelot."
"Mind spelling the last name? Sounds like some sort of French
After Jared spelled Nautica's last name for Eric and informed him
that the T was silent, he said that Nautica was definitely not
anyone's "girlfriend" but that she was someone that he and Eric
definitely needed to talk about.
"Anytime you like," said Eric.
"How about right now?"
Jared was therefore prepared to tell Eric about the famous
Nautica without Eric having to probe. But first the two decided
to wade through the deep snowdrifts to the other side of the
campus and settle behind steaming cups of hot chocolate in a tiny
café run by a Moroccan immigrant who did not know it was any kind
of holiday, or not one that he could recognize anyway.
III. Brooke receives a surprise visit
Alone in her family house, Brooke drifted about aimlessly making
weak attempts to clean up the slight mess left from last night's
festivities. Her thoughts centered around her union with the
now-elusive Dragonsnort, the passion that he had once again
reawakened, a thing which, despite the electric warmth of Eric,
she always avidly welcomed. Also, she began to wonder again about
Jared and his strange club. In passing, Brooke thought about
smoking a cigarette from a pack that she had hidden in her room.
She had long ago given up the habit, but, as with the desire for
Dragonsnort, the memory and desire for tobacco had not totally
abandoned her mind. She was about to indulge, when she heard a
heavy vehicle spinning its wheels on the packed snow of her
driveway. Outside she spied rather huge Explorer, which she
recognized as belonging to Lorelei Parmeter, mother of Ian, one
of Cody's closest friends and undoubtedly member in good standing
of the Plus Sized Club. Lorelei was an old co-worker of Brooke's
from her days at the Aristock Medical Center, a loose friend,
and, above all, president of the PTA at Jared's middle school.
Brooke had reluctantly become a member of this organization,
which seemed needlessly intrusive to her. A bunch of helicopter
mothers, she often thought, but she needed to be involved or at
least give the appearance of being involved herself.
It was still raining tiny pellets of hard snow, so Lorelei took
some time brushing herself off and sitting down. "Sorry to bother
you on a holiday," she began, "but I think there is some funny
stuff going on at school and with the boys. Ian has been acting
very strangely lately. He has totally lost interest in his games
and has them unplugged and sitting in a box in the closet. Brad
and I think that is a total waste of money, seeing as how much we
paid for all that gear. Furthermore, Ian and some of the other
boys have been spending a lot of time outside of the house,
wandering about town, and I worry about them. They have some kind
"The Plus Sized Club," interjected Brooke. "It's all hush-hush.
Boy stuff, I guess."
"I hope so. I hate to see these boys roaming around like some
sort of gang in the making. Brad insisted that Ian stay home
today and watch football with him. Ian hates football unless he
is playing it, but he obeyed Brad. There is something else I
wanted to talk to you about." At that moment, Lorelei's mobile
phone chimed out a disjointed tune, and Lorelei dropped
everything in order to answer and chat for a few minutes,
oblivious, as it were, to even being in Brooke's house or
Brooke thought again about her cigarette. Lorelei was so
wholesome, such a self-styled role-mother. It would have been fun
to light up in front of her. But Lorelei ended her call and
continued "Did you know that our children are going to have a
substitute teacher for the rest of the semester when school
starts? He's a real young guy, a Mr. De Craquelot, and he looks
way too young to teach, but they hired him anyway just before
school let out, and without asking any of us."
"I've heard of Nautica De Craquelot." Brooke felt suddenly
annoyed that Lorelei believed that all teachers should be passed
by PTA endorsement.
"Who hasn't?" said Lorelei, wide-eyed. "She is all the boys have
been talking about since she started in the last two weeks."
"Is this young guy her father?"
"No. We did a little innocent snooping, and it appears that he is
her cousin. Far as we can tell, they live together too, and that
is bad enough. Who knows who they really are or how they are
related or if they even are. This should have been put up to a
"That is not how they hire teachers."
"It should be. We mothers deserve a rightful say in who educates
our children. What if he is some kind of pervert? The De
Craquelots just came out of nowhere. No one in Aristock knows a
damn thing about them." Lorelei seemed righteously indignant and
appeared to want Brooke to share her anger. Brooke gave no sign
of any reaction. In truth, she wanted Lorelei out of the house as
soon as possible, so that she could resume her musings about
Dragonsnort and await the arrival of her live-in partner, Eric
Palobay. She also knew that Jared could probably give her more
information about this new substitute than Lorelei, and she
passively wondered why he hadn't.
"But there is more to this story," insisted Lorelei.
"There always is," said Brooke. "Tell me what you and the girls
have found out."
"Well, to start with, we're not girls," snapped Lorelei. "But it
involves the reason for the sub. Mrs. Ranger, their old teacher
whom we all approved of, has been in the Med Center for about two
weeks. And you know what? Not one doctor can tell what is wrong
with her. She is partly delirious and can't sit up. This sickness
came on rapidly. She has had all the tests, and I mean all. The
state plan pays for that. And as far as anyone can tell, there is
not a damn thing wrong with her. She is as healthy as a plow
pony. Psych has looked her over too. Her mind, when she is lucid,
seems totally intact. No one knows why or how she got sick so
Lorelei then stopped talking and stared at Brooke peremptorily
for a reaction, and when none was forthcoming, she huffed a
little and rose to retrieve her coat. It was obvious that some of
the other mothers of Jared's gang were on her visit list, despite
the heavy snow. Brooke knew upon watching Lorelei regain her
vehicle that the Plus Sized Club probably had the answers. Her
first line of inquiry, therefore, would be the Plus Sized Club.
IV. Eric and Jared
"Why Aristock?" asked Eric. "Now be honest with me. Openness is
part of the new era agenda you boys have."
"I'm not sure, but I think it is because you are here."
"Me?" gulped Eric almost burning his lips on the hot drink.
"I think so. So do the guys. Nautica used the word cryptid the
other day. I've never heard another kid say that word, and I
don't even use it around the guys. You are pretty famous with
your bugs, and I am betting that your Cryptid Society has a
pretty tough reputation too. And the vaps…"
Two things you are sworn not to talk about."
And I don't. But Nautica has a bunch of secrets, like where she
is from, and why her cousin became our teacher so fast. She and
Mr. De Craquelot move around a lot. That is something the club
found out. Like something is chasing them. They live in a rented
room close to downtown, but sometimes they can't stay there. So
they split up, like they have it all planned out. He goes
somewhere else, and she hangs out with the club. We have ways of
hiding her for a day or two."
Like where?" said Eric, suddenly intrigued.
Like with the Plus Sized Club when we can."
And when you can't?"
In our houses. You may not know this but she has spent a couple
of nights with us….in my room. And with Tyshawn too."
Eric Palobay was totally taken aback by the last remark. He
stared ominously at Jared and started to ask a question that
Jared, in his advanced wisdom, obviously predicted.
No!" said Jared firmly. "We haven't. We are just kids. I slipped
her in because she said she was in some kind of real danger,
danger of being killed or kidnapped and taken away to some awful
So you let her sleep in our house without telling your mother? Is
that how the Plus Sized Club operates? I mean on the sly like
that? Not very upstanding."
She didn't harm a thing, and neither of you even knew she was
there. Let's drop the subject unless you think it is real, real
significant. I have something else to tell you. Mr. De Craquelot
got real friendly with us boys on his first day or two just
before Christmas. I can tell you that he knows your name and your
job at the university. He wants to meet you, and Nautica wants to
meet you. But not in private. He wrote a note and copied it for
the whole class just before the break."
With this Jared reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a
folded piece of printed paper. It read "Sixth grade animal day.
Every sixth grader will bring in either a family pet or some
other animal that he has been keeping. Strange and exotic pets
are especially encouraged, like turtles and tropical fish. Every
student will show his pet and give a brief description of where
he found it and what it is. Snakes are welcome!! All parents are
urged to attend."
The final sentence was circled in red and next to it was
handwritten "Dr. Palobay: I hope Jared has something interesting
to show off and that you attend. Your presence is truly
The date for this classroom exercise was only eight days away,
January tenth, as it were. Eric read over the note once again.
Then Jared resumed. "Nautica says you must attend. Like it is
urgent or something. I didn't want to show this to Mom because
she would have taken your place. They, Mr. De Craquelot and
Nautica, want you to be there. They have made that more than
"What animal are you going to take?"
"The iguana," replied Jared dismissively. "Don't you see? It
really doesn't matter what I or the others bring. Nautica has a
cryptid. They want you to see it in a public place. They want its
existence to be known. The assistant principals have also been
invited. The classroom will be full."
"Nautica better not be exposing everyone to dangerous hybrids,"
said Eric, somewhat bothered. You saw what the thing I brought to
the convention in Philly did. Cryptids can be dangerous."
"Nautica said to tell you that this one isn't. She guessed you
were going to say what you just did."
"Smart girl. Too smart. Keep her out of your bedroom---unless, of
course, there is some kind of real emergency, and tell both her
and your teacher that I will be there. I love being a celebrity."
Jared seemed more than satisfied. He had achieved his own agenda
for once, and an adult had both listened and consented. As for
Eric, he realized he had a few quiet phone calls to make once
away from Jared. Something indeed strange had come to Aristock
once again. Eric could sense it.
Before the two got up to leave the café, Jared looked squarely
into Eric's eyes and said "Thank you." Then he added a little
something else. "By the way, the Plus Sized Club is going to
admit her. She will be the only girl. And we are going to protect
her too. After the show and tell, she says she is really going to
need it. The club learned, and don't ask me how, that there is
some real funny business going on with her cousin, like how he
became our teacher so fast. These are not people like us. They
have some kind of power to slide into places. It makes the club
"I can well imagine," said Eric calmly as they left the little
café. Eric remembered what it was like to be stalked. The bulging
parasite on his back had not always been so well hidden, and
clubs, gangs and organizations of all sorts had kept him out of
harm's way for decades. He knew that even though it was an eleven
year old boy thing, the Plus Sized Club needed to be taken
seriously from this point on.
V. Eric and Brooke re-united in love and passion
That afternoon the skies over Aristock cleared considerably, and
a bright but leaden sunshine fell across the waves of crusty snow
that blanketed the entire landscape of the city. The temperature,
however, remained below freezing, and a certain hazy blackness in
the clouds gave hint that perhaps another fierce storm was on
schedule. It did not matter, however, to Jared, who politely
asked Eric to drop him off at a small park near home where he was
going to meet with members of the Plus Sized Club to discuss some
other "strategies" for protecting Nautica from whatever it was
Nautica needed protection from. Eric, growing desirous of
intimacy with Brooke, consented to leave Jared to his friends.
They had shared a most productive morning together, and Eric was
debating in his mind just how much of it was shareable with
Brooke. After Jared left the truck and disappeared behind some
snow-laden spruces at the edge of the park, Eric decided that a
summary would be about all Brooke would need. Something
undisclosed was in the offing, and when it finally became clear,
he would withhold nothing, but for the moment he felt that
Jared's revelations were better conveyed in the abstract. Of
course, Brooke would need to know about Nautica being in the
house and the possible peril that the boys were ostensibly
protecting her from.
But on arrival, he was greeted not by the curious Brooke but by
the seriously amorous Brooke. Her affection for Eric was
boundless and often burning, just as her affection for
Dragonsnort, and there had been an absence, and something close,
warm and immediately physical needed to be done about that. Eric
shared the same yearning which heightened the excited coupling
even more. 2011 needed to start with some zeal, and between Eric
and Brooke, it did.
Later, over glasses of hot spiced wine, Eric offered up his
summary of both the Plus Sized Club and its goals as well as the
enigma of Nautica and her older cousin, now Jared's substitute
teacher. He was not surprised when Brooke gave an account of
Lorelei's visit. "Snoopy, over-protective and empty-headed
bitch," he sighed. "Boys like Jared and Ian need space. A mother
like that just gets in the way."
"So you're taking next Monday off and going to this animal show
and tell?" asked Brooke. "I suppose I am not invited."
"I think Jared may be trying to protect you from something," said
Eric. "Or maybe he is just breaking free of his own mother. This
whole New Era Plus Sized Club is just trying to distinguish
itself from their parents. Every generation does that, even mine.
I was in dozens of gangs when I was a kid."
"I bet you were," laughed Brooke. "You sounded like a real
"Totally," said Eric sharing the humor. He rolled over and
pointed to the vap hump on his lower back. "That's how I got
Jared, alone, came in later, kissed his mother, hugged Eric and
went to his room. Later he came down for dinner and dialogued
pleasantly about being anxious about getting back to school the
following week. The animal show and tell was only momentarily
mentioned. "Eric's coming," he said.
"I know," said Brooke.
VI. A trip into the future and a vision of the absolute
The promised snow never fell, and Aristock settled under a gloomy
ceiling of clouds that obstructed the sun for the next two days.
During each of these vacation days, Eric went to his university
office for a couple of hours, and Jared ran outside as soon as
breakfast was finished to meet his friends. They really are
roaming around on the streets, thought Brooke. Maybe Lorelei is
right. We are raising a pack of animals, but then she remembered
Eric's words about boys needing independence and busied her mind
with other thoughts, many of which were affectionately and
equally divided between Eric and Dragonsnort.
On Thursday, the skies suddenly cleared, allowing another bright
bath of cold but cheery sunshine to fall upon the city. Eric had
informed Brooke that he would be away the entire day on "vap
business," and Brooke knew that any kind of vap-wearers' meeting
was best conducted in secrecy at places unknown…..just like the
Plus Sized Club, it suddenly darted into her mind, and a
connection between the two clandestine activities formed in her
brain. Everyone needs secrets and secret meeting places, she
thought. Mine is probably right here in this house now.
But her reverie was interrupted by the sound of young voices
outside the back window in the yard. Peering out from the
kitchen, she saw not only Jared but all of his close friends. She
named them mentally as she observed: Tyshawn, Cody, Subaru,
Malachi, Ian----and there was another with his back turned to
her. Who had she forgotten?
She was happy to see the boys once again in her yard instead of
wildly speculating about them wandering the streets. She had
known all of them since Jared had begun school. She remembered
that she had a full tray of Christmas cookies left over in the
refrigerator and threw on her coat to go out and maybe hurl a few
snowballs with them or at least invite them all in as she always
had for snacks. They were all eleven and in the sixth grade, but
to Brooke they were still the same little boys she had always
known. Just as she was leaving the house by the back door, her
cell phone rang. Mechanically, she picked it up. It was Eric,
driving somewhere to his vaps meeting. Routinely, he wanted to
give her a list of things to do in the office when she finally
went back to work for a few hours on Friday. She held the phone
to her ear and walked toward the group of boys who were clustered
together and sitting on her outdoor picnic table. The unknown boy
still had his back turned. Closest to her arrival was Jared, who
stared at her expressionlessly, as if he had lost all interest in
who she was and what she meant to him. Still talking to Eric, she
faintly perceived a stony look in Jared's otherwise loving eyes.
Then little by little she looked at the other boys. Cody first.
He had always hugged her like a son, but this time he seemed to
be imitating Jared in the disdain which reflected in his eyes.
The other boys turned toward her to with steely regards that
hardly resembled the boys she had known since they were in
kindergarten. The unknown boy kept his back turned. One by one,
Jared, followed by the other boys, glanced ruefully into her eyes
and then, shockingly, turned their heads away as if to pretend
not noticing that she was there. Their conversation ceased, and
she perceived flinty looks of disgust on their faces. What had
she done so evil as to repel them so? Then Jared slid down from
the table and pointed at the cell phone, still stuck to her ear.
Brooke suddenly became aware that the phone and only the phone
was the offending object. She glanced at it and then again at the
boys. Yes, it was the phone. Making a quick excuse to Eric, she
closed the call and shoved the phone in her pocket.
"Hi, Mom!" blurted Jared, brightening. Other eyes illuminated as
well. "Hi, Mrs. Nescott," said the others in one way or another.
All were at once smiling and coming forth with spread arms for a
hug. She squeezed them all warmly and kissed Jared, who did not
mind being kissed by his mother in front of his gang.
"The lesson," began Jared without prologue, "is either talk to us
or talk on the phone, but not both because it rude and annoying."
Brooke stood back somewhat aghast, but then she remembered just
how much she hated conversations being interrupted by phone calls
herself. As a product of the pre-mobile phone era, she loathed
the intrusion of these devices into the interface of everyday
encounters, but here she was with the boys doing what she had
always hated most. After Jared had admonished her, the other boys
shook their heads in avid consent. They were clearly all against
cell phones. Her consternation was such that she automatically
blurted out a general apology, which was roundly accepted. "Is
this a Plus Sized Club thing?" she asked innocently and with some
"Yes, it is," said Malachi quietly. "We can let it drop. But no
more multitasking with phones, okay? One or the other. The live
person in front of you or the distant electronic voice. It's your
"You too!" stammered Brooke in amazement, not concealing the fact
that Malachi had always been the least verbal of Jared's friends
and that a phrase like "distant electronic voice" just did not
match with his personality or vocabulary as she had always known
Then she asked if they wanted to come in, eat some cookies, drink
some chocolate and warm up. The boys huddled once again, asking
one another. The consensus was yes, but first they had one more
item of business to clear up. Then suddenly all eyes turned
toward the street. A black compact pick-up truck with darkened
windows rolled slowly by the yard fence, stopping only briefly
when it reached its closest point to Brooke and the boys. Then it
resumed its route at a faster pace.
"That's the fifth time," said Subaru. "I've been counting."
Brooke looked questioningly at Jared. Was someone stalking the
house? Why was a truck with dark window glasses cruising around
the street by her house? "Never mind," said Jared definitively,
"Let's get inside." Brooke felt a sudden bolt of fear rise up
through her frame. What was it that Eric said about danger? What
exactly were these boys facing now? She preceded them into the
house and tried to forget the incident but made a mental note to
watch out of the front window for the same truck to pass again.
As the group entered the kitchen and proceeded into the dining
alcove, they all halted abruptly as if on cue. Almost as a one,
their still-hooded heads turned toward the entrance to the living
room. None of them removed their coats but rather stood there in
the doorway to the alcove abruptly immobilized.
"Sit at the table where you always do. I'll get the snacks and
chocolate," she said a bit apprehensively. "Take off your heavy
Not one boy sat down nor took off a scarf, coat or gloves. Like a
frozen zombie pack, they all just remained standing there. What
on Earth? thought Brooke. This is getting stranger and stranger.
It was Jared who first tipped her off. He raised a mittened hand
and pointed into the living room at his side. In the living room,
the television, which Brooke often kept on during the day whether
she was watching it or not was blaring. It dawned on her that
this may have been the problem, and she pushed past the boys and
walked into the living room and switched it off. At once, the
tension faded. Coats and gloves were removed and folded neatly
and placed over the backs of chairs. Laughing like boys do, the
group sat down, smiling and happy to be in a warm and familiar
"You tell her," said Jared to Malachi.
So it was Malachi once again who gave odd proof of some sort of
evolution which had overtaken him. "There is no need to use a
television as background noise, Mrs. Nescott. Too many adults and
kids do that. They do it with music as well. We either talk and
listen to one another or we watch television and listen to music
but not both at the same time." And then more like the old
Malachi he finished: "It eats up your brain."
The boys had really matured, and things which they themselves had
done all their lives were now forbidden it seemed. But an even
larger shock was in store for Brooke when she returned from the
kitchen with the warmed-over tray of cookies and steaming pot of
chocolate. The extra boy whom she had seen in the yard with his
back turned toward her was not a boy at all. Rather it was a girl
with deep topaz eyes and a rivetingly serious expression, high
cheekbones, full lips. A more than striking little girl with long
flowing, flaxen hair which she had previously kept hidden under
her stocking cap. A girl that, like the others, looked far more
mature than her years. A girl that was sure to age into a true
beauty, a girl with a supernal face and amazingly awakened eyes
that caught one's own and captured one's interest almost
completely. She was young still, but gorgeous. Brooke had been a
pretty girl and later woman all her life, but she had never seen
a child as symmetrical and flawless as this. The wideness of her
aqueous green eyes. The fullness of her poised lips and mouth.
The shape of her chin and head. There was something magical in
this girl…something unreal.
"Meet our friend and new club member, Nautica De Craquelot. Her
cousin will be our new teacher when we start back. Mrs. Ranger is
still sick," said Jared. "And turn off your phone so that it
doesn't ring again if you don't mind."
Brooke felt herself gaping at Nautica as she extended her hand
for the girl to shake. Nautica stared unflinchingly up into her
eyes and said "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Nescott. Jared has told
me a lot about you."
"Everybody eat and drink," said Brooke trying mostly to relieve
her own stress. Boys that she had known practically all their
lives were now transformed into…into what? Not quite grown-ups,
but, in reality, something beyond the intellectual boundaries of
the dull adults that she knew. Ian, for example, was already
superior in attitude and speech to his nosy, probing mother. The
others had happy smiles, but broad, serious brows. And it was
then, finally, that Brooke felt herself get much older while
observing the boys and Nautica. They were tomorrow. And tomorrow
was going to be something far, far different from today. Tomorrow
would be populated by a new breed, a positive evolution and
fortuitous mutantcy. Eric had given her the outline of it. A
tribe that owed nothing to anybody in the past or present. A
generation apart. An enhanced generation, one which vowed to both
support her in her waning years and make small if not huge steps
to transform the insanity of a world she had always openly hated
into something richer, more stable, more meaningful and more
worthy of human continuity. She saw it in their eyes and in their
faces and heard it in their voices. The future in its infancy,
one that she had once played a huge role in salvaging, was seated
around her dining room table. The nucleus of new age, a better
age. Had she not made the right decision years before when
confronted by representatives of two different versions of a
future time which only her choice of marriage and bed partners
could determine? Already it was happening. The change had come.
The winds of transformation were blowing. Everything old,
grotesque, materialistic, misguided and ugly was gradually being
sanded away---and god speed the day. Change was far overdue.
Brooke had known and felt this all her life, but she had not
expected it so soon and from her own son and his friends. How
great would it be, the future!! Her trip today had been there, to
the future, in the presence of these children….or once-children.
She had been privileged to have a glimpse into the absolute
otherworld, and what she now saw pleased her immensely and left
its indelible mark on everything that she would think or feel
from that point on.
VII. Monday, January 10, 2011: Lykes Middle School
The vengeance of winter had somewhat abated by the re-opening of
schools that Monday in Aristock. Wet slush lined the streets and
the early morning gave assurance of a semi-sunny day with
moderate temperatures in the lower thirties. In front of Lykes
Middle School, among the usual number of parents' cars
discharging their children, there began to arrive other cars
carrying usually unseen parent visitors whose plan it was
strangely on this workday to attend a pet and exotic animal show
and tell in the sixth grade class of one Mr. Gene De Craquelot,
substitute teacher. Two uniformed Aristock cops stood,
unaccustomedly, at the main entrance of school, watching the
legions of children arrive and wearing expressions of a rather
dreary post-holiday boredom.
"I don't see why we are here," said one policeman to his
"Terroristic threat over the phone," yawned another. "Nothing new
these days. What really is stupid is all these kids bringing out
their rats and hamsters on a day like this. Those animals have to
be freezing. Couldn't they have chosen a better day?"
"Yeah, some class with a lot of parent visitors and kids talking
about animals. That's what I'm assigned to after this."
"Lucky you," said the first cop.
"Yeah, lucky me." But there was something slightly paradoxical in
the officer's tone that was briefly noted by the other, something
that to a suspicious cop said that his duty partner knew more
about why they were actually there than he did. He made note of
his feelings, as cops do, and went about his business watching
anxious, and often over protective parents drop off their kids.
Marching down Ivory Street came six boys with boxes wrapped in
towels. Inside these boxes were, of course, various animals. A
snake, an iguana, a chameleon, a tarantula and so on. It was,
naturally, Jared Nescott and his friends from the Plus Sized
Club, who among so many other resolutions for the year to come
had vowed to never again depend on a parent for a ride to school.
Moreover, they had all tramped out of their way to collect
Malachi, who lived the farthest away. It was all part of their
new era agenda. Obesity, which none of the boys suffered from,
was caused in part by lazy kids getting a daily ride on a school
bus or in a car. Henceforth, these boys would walk to school, and
as a compact group at that.
The cops signaled for each to enter the building after quickly
examining their packages. "Your spider looks dead," said one cop.
"They aren't designed to withstand the cold."
"If he's dead, he's dead," said Subaru with a kind of cold
determination. "I'll talk about a dead spider."
Inside the sixth grade classroom of Mr. De Craquelot, many new
and more comfortable chairs had been placed for guests and
administrators, two of which were already seated and waiting.
"This is going to be boring as hell," said one to another. "Who
gave this guy permission to hold such an event on the first day?"
"Beats me," said the other. "Someone higher up, I guess."
Behind the teacher's desk, De Craquelot and his arrestingly
stunning cousin Nautica busied themselves shuffling papers and
were at least acting busy. Nautica had arrived early with her
older male cousin and had thereby evaded police examination of
whatever she was carrying in a burlap sack now nested comfortably
in an open desk drawer. Furtively glancing at the administrators
already present, De Craquelot occasionally took out a can of
spray room deodorizer and spritzed it around the desk and bag.
Whatever Nautica was to exhibit that day must have carried an
odor of some sort, and a quick look at the bag it was stuck into
revealed that the creature was active and probably trying, though
in vain, to escape.
Little by little the spacious classroom filled with children,
pets, and parents, and nearly all were seated. A final five
minute warning bell rang, and the taciturn police officer from
outside, wary no doubt of the phoned-in threat of the night
before, took an authoritative stance at the back of the room. He
glared knowingly at Nautica and her cousin, then hid his concern
behind a compassionless police face once again.
"It's them," whispered Nautica to De Craquelot nervously. "I know
"Yeah. Just hold on. This place is full of witnesses. They aren't
going to try anything just yet. We need to do this. Where is he?"
The substitute teacher glanced at his watch. Someone was late,
and that someone was, of course, Dr. Eric Palobay, department
chairman of entomology at the university and principal activist
of the International Crypto-Zoological Society. Little did the
cousins know that among the parents seated at the back of the
room were planted two other, unknown representatives of this
usually low-key and clandestine group.
When a final bell had finished its thing, a loudspeaker voice
boomed throughout the school beckoning all students to stand for
the Pledge of Allegiance. Six boys and one girl in Mr. De
Craquelot's room did not. It was quite a chunk of
non-participation in a usually orderly class. "The Plus Sized
Club," whispered one of the more amenable students, hand on heart
ready to recite the Pledge.
A bald administrator grimaced and made a written note of each
child who was not standing. He would deal with this omission
later. Many of the parents in attendance were military veterans,
as was he, and the refusal to pledge was an outrage. Someone
would pay for this---but later. The animal thing needed to be
gotten over first and the guests sent home. The same
administrator would later hear from a lawyer about the children's
First Amendment rights, but that would be much later and after
events that were about to make the matter at best insignificant.
Then De Craquelot introduced his class, explained the nature of
the event, and asked the first child, an innocent looking girl
named Avatar, no doubt after some early-decade computer nonsense,
to begin. Avatar was, unsurprisingly, intimidated by the crowd.
She brisked up to the front of the room and pulled a woebegone
puppy from her bag. It was, she said, a "shit-zoo" and its deep
wrinkles were natural, as was its tortured expression. "Shit-zoos
come from China," she said. "I have a history of the breed."
Avatar then proceeded with stultifying timidity to read a printed
web page about her kind of dog. It was short and sweet and would
have been perhaps informative if her voice had been even
moderately audible, which it was not. Avatar, relieved, concluded
her presentation in great anxiety and hastily regained her seat.
Then it was one child to the front after another, each with an
animal and a brief written description to read. None of the
animals were unusual in the least. One boy named Rocky had a
small boa. The highlight of his presentation was when he
explained that the skin of boas carried bacteria and that they
needed to be wiped off with sani-wipes before being handled. He
wiped down his patient snake and asked if anyone wanted to hold
it. Few did, but the one brave child who volunteered, mostly out
of bravado, found his neck briefly encircled by the boa. Rocky
snapped the reptile in the snout, and it released its hold.
"Grabner likes to hug people," he muttered, giggling.
"Until his love kills them," came a snicker from the back.
Then the parade of children and pets continued. When Cody,
Malachi, Subaru, Ian and Tyshawn took their turns, each boy was
blunt, brief and factual. Joking around was not part of the
agenda of Plus Sized Club, at least not in school. And, yes,
Malachi's spider did appear dead and gave no signs of life.
Malachi, unmoved, dispassionately read its description and
provenance anyway. "Tarantulas are tropical," he said. "This one
may be dead. Things die."
Jared's presentation of his pet iguana was likewise
dispassionate. The reptile seemed listless, but that was
ordinary, Jared explained. "They come from Mexico and farther
south. We really should not have them in Pennsylvania. I'm going
to send this one back home tomorrow. Keeping it here was a dumb
and unfair idea to start with. We should only have pets that can
withstand our climate." It was, of course, the Plus Sized Club
once again speaking.
Suddenly another tall and handsome adult slipped into the room
and took one of the few remaining chairs at the rear of the
classroom. It was Eric Palobay, and he did not escape the rather
contemptuous scrutiny of the police officer in attendance. A
small and barely audible sigh of relief arose from the boys of
the Plus Sized Club, and if one had been seated close enough to
either Mr. De Craquelot or Nautica, one could have heard it
shared by them as well.
A couple more kids came to the front. The last child, a young
Asian girl, whose name no one had ever been able to pronounce,
brought only a picture of her pony and explained in broken
English that the pony was naturally too big to bring to class.
Then Mr. De Craquelot took the podium. He smiled at the entire
class and visitors, darting an apprehensive look at the
policeman, and began. "The final presentation is going to be a
bit longer, so please bear with us. My own cousin Nautica has an
animal with her that comes from a far away place that she will
tell you about. It does not have an official scientific name. It
is a cryptid. A cryptid is an unknown creature out of time and
place. I'm sure you will find her presentation to be most
Eric Palobay shifted attentively in his seat. He did not give any
signs of acknowledging his colleagues from the Crypto-Zoological
Society, but it was clear to any observer that this was what Eric
had been waiting for.
Nautica, radiant and beaming as usual, pulled her brown burlap
bag out from under her desk and walked confidently up the aisle
to the front. "It smells like bathroom deodorant," sneered one
voice as she passed.
She poised herself and began untying the heavy twine which held
the sack closed. "My animal is not known anywhere on Earth," she
began, "except in one place, and I will tell you about that
directly. It is called by the people there a bladder bird because
it flies through the air using its natural compressed gasses…"
"You mean farts," scoffed the same mocking child's voice which
had mentioned the smell.
"I guess you could say that," replied Nautica, unruffled.
She then produced a dull-complected slate colored bird-like
creature which appeared to be struggling for freedom in her
hands. The animal had the shape of a small football or blimp. Its
head was diminutive like a walnut and its eyes were red and
bulging. On each of its sides were small, pointy primitive fins.
It was covered by a light dusting of long-stranded fur. Its
yellow beak opened and closed as if to take in gasps of air. Its
body, a bladder, seemed to be ever expanding.
The stolid police officer at the rear of the room placed his hand
over his gun, switched on a concealed recorder, and took one step
forward. A radio message in his earphone must have told him to
stop because he did. Nautica would continue. There were too many
Both children and adult visitors sat galvanized in rapt
attention. Eric Palobay removed his cell phone from his pocket
and openly began snapping pictures. Other adults were using video
recorders. Yes, there were a lot of witnesses.
Nautica continued. "Bladder birds are harmless," she said. "They
do not smell very good because they are full of methane from the
decomposing material they eat. It allows them to fly. Do you want
me to release this one so that you can see?"
A loud general YES! arose from the Plus Sized Club section,
drowning out the No's of several adults, including that of Dr.
Eric Palobay. Without further delay, the charming, green-eyed
girl let the bloated bird free. It sputtered from orifices in its
rear and launched itself toward the ceiling of the room,
spreading a foul and gassy redolence at it passed. In wide
circles it propelled itself in the air just under the classroom
ceiling. The smell of the bird became almost overpowering, and
Mr. De Craquelot began spraying deodorizer everywhere. The bird
sputtered and sputtered and circled and circled to the aghast
amazement of all present. Then suddenly it landed on an overhead
light and remained perched far above the class and visitors. The
cop curled his lips and glared at it, his hand still on his gun.
It was what he was waiting for.
Then Nautica assured everyone again that the bird was harmless
and took out a sheet of printed paper. The cop moved closer, but
was once again informed by radio to desist.
Nautica then began to read her paper, but in truth, she only
glanced at it. She knew what it said and didn't need to simply
read. The police officer was not the only one recording her talk.
Eric Palobay and two of his colleagues also switched on their
recorders, as did Mr. De Craquelot and the two administrators in
Nautica's calm and earnest presentation was more than shocking
and it was faithfully recorded by many present in the room. It
told a bizarre tale about an unknown place buried deep in the
Earth called Crackland. So fascinating were her crystal clear
words that not even one joke came forth about the name.
Therefore, the exact transcript of her talk became a matter of
document, and a full transcript of it will be given shortly as a
part of this tale. But first it should be mentioned that when
Nautica had finished, there was no instantaneous applause.
Instead, a loud gunshot rang out, and that was duly recorded too.
The police officer had finally come forward, drawn his service
revolver, aimed it at the bladder bird on its perch and shot the
creature dead just after Nautica finished. The large caliber
bullet left virtually nothing intact of the cryptid creature,
whose splattered remains rained down on the class in
unreconstructable chunks of flesh and bone. Then there were
screams and the voices of administrators ordering children out of
the room and into the gym for safe haven. Lykes Middle School was
subsequently evacuated for the rest of the day.
Later, Eric Palobay would note that there was practically nothing
about the shooting or school closing in the Aristock news that
night or thereafter. A child had brought a dangerous predatory
bird to school and an intrepid police officer had killed it with
timely precision. Order had, thus, been restored.
VIII. Chaos hidden beneath apparent tranquility
The following day both Brooke Nescott and Eric Palobay were at
work in Eric's campus office. As noted, very little was reported
of the previous day's commotion, and Jared had marched off
through the snow on his way to the re-opened school, accompanied
of course by members of his Plus Sized Club, now determined to
walk each day to school despite the weather, which itself
remained in a insipid, gray winter holding pattern, neither
snowing or getting any warmer. Brooke had been fully apprised of
what the local news had omitted and was slightly worried about
her son, Nautica and the others.
Eric Palobay, in his usual direct style, told her that she had
every reason to worry. Two forces were obviously at work in
Aristock. One had promoted the public revelations of Mr. Gene De
Craquelot and had, in fact, secured him a hasty role in becoming
Jared's sixth grade substitute. The other had tried to suppress
everything that De Craquelot had schemed to reveal.
Palobay wasted no time in establishing contacts. He made hasty
calls to both the Vaps Society and to his colleagues in the
Crypto-Zoological organization. The former was prepared to shield
and hide both Nautica and her cousin for however long it took.
They had a long history of making people disappear, and Palobay
knew that something of the kind was probably going to be needed.
Around ten o'clock, Brooke, still carrying her cell phone,
received a hasty call from Lorelei Parmeter, Ian's mother. Mrs.
Ranger was now in total recovery and would most likely be back
into her classroom by the end of the week. Her unidentified
illness had dissipated almost as quickly as it had appeared. Her
problems were handily credited to "temporary food poisoning."
Lorelei, who had not been present in the classroom the day
before, had the official and sanctioned version of the events: An
unruly child had trapped a bird of prey and brought it school,
and a police officer had killed it before it could harm any of
those present in the classroom. Of course, Eric Palobay and a
score of others knew differently, but the story of wha
The Plus Si