The Plus Sized Club: Brooke & Jared Nescott, p2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A continuation of the story of the Jared's club and the work it does on human mutation and saving a girl's life.

Submitted: December 19, 2010

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Submitted: December 19, 2010

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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 companion.

“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 it.”

“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 interesting.”

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 witnesses present.

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 the room.

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.

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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 what actually transpired was not circulating, and other parents who had been on hand were strangely voiceless on whole matter. Many things happened in Aristock which were best forgotten, and nobody knew that better than Brooke.

Brooke, for her own part, was eager to listen to the recording Eric had made of Nautica’s presentation. She asked several times if they, being alone that day in Eric’s office, could hear to it. Eric said they would as soon as he had made some inquiries. So he kept on telephoning until a call finally came back to him. “Better turn on the television,” said a disembodied voice on the other end. That was all. Eric switched on the small portable TV on his shelf. A local newscaster, standing next to a snow bank in a flashing scene of police cars, reported that the body of one Gene De Craquelot, of late substitute teacher at Lykes Middle School, had been found dead head first stuck in a snow bank near the coal yards on the south side of town about seven AM that morning. The cause of death appeared to be thermal exposure, but investigators were unsure, etc., etc.

Brooke made another call to an office secretary at Lykes. She came away reassured that De Craquelot’s class had not yet been informed and that there were no absentees. And yes, even the little cousin Nautica was present and had not heard the news. A team of grief counselors was on its way to break the sad news to the eleven year olds, and the woman, a lifelong friend of Brooke’s, promised to call back if anything else developed. It was sad about De Craquelot, the secretary said. No one knew he had a nighttime drinking problem.Yeah, sure,” said Palobay on receiving this information from Brooke. “Whatever. That is how the cops make people disappear.”

Much to Eric’s displeasure, Brooke lit a cigarette which had been secreted at the bottom of her purse for a long enough time that it was dry, and flakes of tobacco fluttered out from it to the floor.

“I want to hear that recording,” she said firmly. “Something bad is going to happen at the end of school today. We need to be prepared.”

IX. A native child’s history of Crackland

?

Eric pulled out his pocket recorder, set it on the desk and put his legs up. “Get ready for Crackland,” he said. He punched a button, and an echo-y child’s voice piped up in a hollow sounding room above the coughing, shuffling and people-noises that enhanced the background of the recording. At first, the little girl was obviously reading, but then she became louder and more fervent as the delivery went on free style:

The bladder bird and the history of where it is from. My cryptid is called a bladder bird in the place where it lives and breeds with others of its kind. It is totally harmless, as I have told you, and it is native to a natural crevasse under the surface of the Earth, a place called Crackland, where both my cousin Gene, our teacher, and I were born. Crackland is a pleasant underground world that has been beneath the frozen surface of Somerset Island in the Canadian Arctic since the beginning of time, or at least that is what our grandfather

My grandfather had been tramping around the Arctic in search of fallen pieces of a meteorite since the early 1950s. He had made friends with different tribes of Inuits…Eskimos, and I think he even had some children by some of these, and that would make them my cousins too. Too bad I will never get to see them or know their names. My grandfather had been sent to the Arctic by the International Geological Survey to look for this fallen meteorite, which contained some kind of rare metal that scientists wanted. It had something to do with President Eisenhower and the Cold War. My grandfather was not a bad man. He was not a drunk or a renegade or a racist, as the new government has made him out to be. He took his best friend along with him in his explorations, an African-American named Jabari Cutler, who was the only person to remain in Crackland and escape the murders done by the royal government. Many people think that Mr. Cutler still lives there now and is a refugee from their crazy king’s justice. Crackland is a fertile and enjoyable spot where it is always springtime, and my grandfather wanted to keep it that way. He brought only a few people with him as pioneers, and our parents were some of them. Everyone was self-reliant. The idea was that people who knew and trusted one another could live in peace, grow food and escape the madness of the surface world and its senseless leaders. There was no real government, just polite agreements until…

[Here the child’s voice became impromptu and much more passionate] said when he was living…because, you see, it was our grandfather, a professional geological surveyor named John Crack, who first ventured into the place. Our family name has been changed from Crack to De Craquelot over the years for our own protection, and we have been refugees from our homeland since I was six years old. If we ever went back, they would kill us because a very mean and nasty government has been established there. Our own fathers and mothers were arrested and beheaded because they were among the first real settlers following my grandfather’s discovery. All of the earliest settlers and their descendants were hunted down and slaughtered in the years from 1958 to 2005. We were lucky to get out alive. The also killed my grandfather when he came back to America for the last time. These people will stop at nothing. They have a vicious king and are ruled by a pack of ruthless businessmen and motorcycle clubbers. If they found me, they would kill me too. That is something they have sent someone to do right now, and after today my life will really be in danger. But it is important for all of you to know about Crackland and its discoverer.

Then the recording was abruptly interrupted by the sound of the discharge of a large weapon and the cacophonic confusion in its wake. The little girl’s voice was heard no more. The only recognizable words to follow were those of an adult male shouting “Quick. Duck under the desks!!” These were, in effect, the last words of one Gene De Craquelot, substitute teacher and native of a miraculous fold in the Earth’s crust called Crackland. De Craquelot, né Crack, had been whisked away by the police during the mindless commotion following the shooting of the bladder bird. The rest of the story was apparently on the news.

Eric turned off the recorder. What he didn’t say was easily guessed. Nautica Craquelot, née Crack, was in great danger and had probably been saved by…

“The Plus Sized Club,” interjected Brooke, jumping ahead of Eric’s words. “She probably spent the night in our basement or something. Jared would know. We need to talk to Jared and the others now.”

“The vap people can hide her,” said Eric. “That is what I have been working on this morning. But we have to know where she is.”

“She’s in school,” screamed Brooke. “Right now! With Jared, Subaru and the rest. We have to get over there. Why didn’t you say something?”

Eric, who had watched Jared calmly stride across the snow toward school that morning, knitted his brow, perhaps realizing his mistake. But no. He had had a reason.

“The Plus Sized Club,” he said quietly. “I trust them. They have enough sense to hide the girl and act as if nothing has happened. They are probably her best chance. We have to keep confidence in Jared and his gang.”

“Confidence, my ass,” shouted Brooke, swinging on her coat. “I’m going there right now. You can stay here and wait for these eleven year old prodigies to do their thing, but I am not.”

Eric put his coat on as well. They would go together. It was now past lunchtime. They grey, snow-laden clouds above cast foreboding shadows over the dismal landscape of the empty winter campus. “Yeah. Let’s move,” he said. “But don’t act suspicious. My guess is that there are a hundred eyes on us even now. They came here for me, you know. They wanted me to see the cryptid bird. You know that someone has to be watching me, and it is probably the police. Walk slow and act laid-back. We need to play along. If we start acting panicky, they will move in. We have to do like Jared and behave as if nothing is wrong.”

“Fuck the Plus Sized Club and fuck the police. That girl, Nautica, is in danger.”

“Walk slow and smile,” said Eric quietly. “We’re just going out for lunch.”

And that is exactly what a uniformed Aristock policeman reported to someone else on his cruiser radio. “Suspects appear to be unruffled and going out for a bite.” Then he slowly followed Eric’s truck down the snowlined streets at a distance where he was sure he was unseen. He was not.

“Drive faster,” said Brooke, exasperated.

“I’m not that hungry,” said Eric.

“What in the fuck are you talking about? A child’s life is on the line here.”

“Lunch,” said Eric calmly as he pulled into a an off-campus diner favored by many of his best students. “I always wanted to try this place. The owner owes me a favor for sending him so many kids. It’s his day to repay. Get out, laugh, hug me and walk leisurely.”

Brooke, though frantic, had always known how to keep her head, and, above all, she trusted Eric. They parked in front of a not-so-busy side street restaurant. Classes had not yet resumed at the university, and there were very few customers at the tables. “Take off your coat and throw it on the chair,” said Eric, “and go take a pee. I’ll be back for you.” Brooke obeyed and went to the tiny rear restroom and stood behind the closed door.

In a few seconds, Eric returned with a ring of car keys on his thumb. Lin-Chou, the owner, had parked his Chevy in back in the usual inconspicuous place he always did. Eric’s truck remained parked in front. This was noted by two passing patrol cars. “Come out, sit down and let’s order.”

Once the order was placed, Brooke and Eric joined hands and appeared to be in a rather intimate discussion. A uniformed police officer entered the diner. He was the same who had been in Jared’s classroom the day before. He walked up to the take-out counter, glancing visibly sideways to sneak a look at Brooke and Eric.

“I love you,” exclaimed Eric audibly. He squeezed Brooke’s hand with an alarming jolt. It was her cue.

“I love you too,” she stammered. “I have always loved you.”

“I have always loved you.”

The cop grimaced and turned on his heels. Moments later one heard the scattered gravel and halite crunch of spinning tires in the parking lot as he hurried away. He had nothing to report.

Brooke and Eric dashed through the kitchen, only briefly nodding to Lin-Chou who stood behind a steaming cauldron of some kind of soup he was stirring. “Back later,” said Eric hastily.

Natalie Morroway, middle school secretary and Brooke’s lifelong friend bolted to her feet upon seeing Brooke and Eric at the school office counter. “Your Aunt Penelope, the one with the wooden leg, came and checked all of them out ten minutes ago,” she said. “She loaded the whole lot of them in her van. That new girl too.”

Brooke indeed had once had an Aunt Penelope, her father’s sister, but Penelope had been dead for years. Eric, unseen, stepped on Brooke’s foot, and Brooke kept her calm although frantic below the surface.

“Here’s the note.” said Natalie, “signed by you…..I think?”

“Oh yes. I forgot I had asked Penelope to get them. We’re having a little birthday party at The Fun Shack this evening. Wanted to check them all out early. They’re good with Penelope. We need to get over there now and join the party.”

As Eric and Brooke calmly strode out of Lykes Middle School toward Lin-Chou’s black Chevy sedan, Natalie Morroway, “just to be on the safe side,” made a quick phone call.

A few minutes later two Aristock police cars pulled into the parking lot of a kids’ restaurant known as The Fun Shack. One of them had his lights flashing for some reason. Police work at its best.

In a borrowed car heading the other way, Brooke and Eric shared the same thought at the same time: The Plus Sized Club.

X. Conclusion: The Plus Sized Club

Aurora Delsmain, who was well past seventy and did indeed have an ill-fitting prosthetic leg as well as a sweet grandmotherly face, hailed from nowhere even remotely close to Aristock, and that was one of her problems. Following the advice of one of the eleven year old boys she had recently abducted, she took a snow covered side street “short cut” which would, he said, get her to the city’s private airport a little faster. When she was overpowered, as she was, the prosthetic leg was ripped off of its stump and tossed several yards uphill into a snow drift. Aurora had no way of reaching it. Each of the four tires of her van had been slashed with another boy’s pocket knife, and Aurora sat helplessly in the disabled van making a series of desperate phone calls. Had she been more mobile, she would have noted a stampede of foot prints leading backwards from her van on the little side street. Moreover, she would have remarked, as the police did, that at the first set of cross streets, the tracks, almost to a one, separated and led off in varying directions, mostly across vacant fields and down other dodgy streets that only the natives of Aristock knew in full.

Eric Palobay also made a phone call. It was to a colleague in the vaps society, a young man with a marked delivery van, who was cruising around ready to take the hunted Nautica De Craquelot to the safety of a farmhouse several miles outside of town. But Eric had nothing to say. He had no idea of where the Plus Sized Club met or where it was, but he was certain of one thing: Six eleven year old boys and one girl would be quite the match for an old “aunt” with a wooden leg. In that thought he trusted. He knew Jared. Jared would not be led very far, nor would his comrades…unless eleven year old boys have changed since I was a kid,” he said under his breath.

Brooke darted her eyes around the familiar streets of Aristock, where she had spent her entire life. The snow was marked by thousands of tracks. There was no way of telling where the boys would go if, as Eric maintained, they had escaped. She kept a unwavering handle on the hysteric frustration which boiled up in her chest.

“Trust Jared,” Eric said again and again. “Let’s start by going home. He has hidden Nautica there more than once.” He realized at once that this was not the best idea, but kept on driving. Pensively, he repeated “the Plus Sized Club” again and again. It was starting to annoy Brooke, but she knew it had a meaning, something which neither she nor Eric could exactly get their arms around. But it meant something. Fat people, she thought.

Suddenly, off to the side of Varsity Lane she saw one: A fat person. It was a lady who worked in the Arts and Sciences Building and with whom Brooke had occasionally had lunch. Her name was Marie something, and she must have weighed three hundred pounds. She was toddling over the ice-glazed sidewalk, apparently heading for the intown outlet mall where she shopped. Brooke remembered in a quick flash that Marie was very jolly about her weight and casual about her clothes, which she claimed to buy on discount at the sprawling HyperMart which was only blocks away. The walk will do her good, thought Brooke, trying to get her mind off the missing kids.

Eric then repeated “the Plus Sized Club” one more time and the penny dropped. “Stop!” she cried abruptly. “Pull into the mall.” Eric, admittedly clueless, mechanically obeyed. “Call your friend with the potato chip van and wait for me,” she blurted, darting out the car and rushing toward the main entrance of the huge HyperMart complex. “Marie shops here,” were her last audible words.

A brown and red police cruiser slowly crossed the space between Eric’s borrowed car and Brooke. Both cops were eyeing Brooke distrustfully. Crowds of post-holiday shoppers were tramping in and out of the massive store. There were a lot of sales after New Years. Brooke almost slipped on the slush of the walkway….left by the cattle, she thought, running into the store. Wasting no time she walked quickly down the clothing aisles until she reached the women’s section in the far corner. Then she stopped. The racks and shelves were packed with garments. HyperMart was renown for its huge selections and quantities of clothes. Brooke canvassed her eyes across the vista, an ocean of sale signs and brand names that no one had ever heard of. Then her gaze fell on exactly what she was looking for. In the farthest corner by the rear stockroom doors of the store hung a large, red-lettered sign. PLUS SIZED, it read. Pausing no more, she plunged directly into the section. Several obese women gaped wonderingly at her slim torso. What on Earth was a slender, svelte woman like that doing here. One of them even made a move to assist her. HyperMart was known throughout Aristock as store with absolutely no floor assistance. Customers usually assisted one another in the absence of clerks. But Brooke brushed on past. In the farthest recess of the department just under the sign was a huge, circular, chest-high rack of dresses made expressly for….plus sized people. Brooke, taking no notice of the shocked females behind her, flung the hanging dresses back to reveal the underside of the rack. Strangely, it was covered with cardboard, which Brooke instinctively pulled aside, and there, crouched on some dresses strewn on the floor sat six boys and one girl in a circle. It was, of course, the Plus Sized Club, their meeting place. Brooke neither noted nor cared whether the kids were shocked to see her. She ducked back out and threw the hanging dresses back in place. Without worrying about Jared’s contempt, she made a quick call to Eric. And Eric made a quick call to someone else.

Later Jared would agree that it was a wise use of the cell phone, a polite and necessary application. One that the Plus Sized Club would approve of now and in the revolutionary years to come.

In those years, many changes would occur, both to the boys and to a far away place called Crackland ruled by a despotic king, but most of all to an exquisite little girl whom the boys would one day see again as an enchanting, full-grown woman. But on that day, she was still a little girl, and whatever nascent attractions to her the club felt were overwritten by their relief in seeing her climb into the back of a potato chip delivery truck and disappear, but this time in a good way.

And later in absentia she was voted a charter member of the Plus Sized Club. She would remain thus for life.

___________________________

Devon Pitlor -- December, 2010

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© Copyright 2020 Devon Pitlor. All rights reserved.

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