Stinky Cheese – Chapter One



High school is so busy, with so many kids, I feel as if I could get lost in the hallways and trampled like a weakened buffalo in a stampede.

Would anybody care?  Or would they just keep running over me until I was flattened completely, like a fleshy throw-rug draped over the freshly polished floor.

I don’t know the answer to that question, and that scares me.

I went to my ‘homeroom’, but this is a bit of a misnomer since I’m only supposed to go there the first day of the semester; the rest of the time, I just go to my first class in the morning, and that’s all there is to it.  So, I guess talking about the odd people I saw there is pretty redundant.  I got my class schedule; that’s what matters.

My first class of my high-school career was one that I had really hoped I’d get, and I was really excited about going there straight away, but first we were all subjected to a boring lecture over the intercom from the school’s vice-principal, telling us to behave or else, essentially.

Many people in my homeroom seemed to disagree in principle with her demands.  Teenage rebellion seems to be quite common there.  I’d thought that sort of thing only really went on in movies, but it appears I was wrong.  I wonder what sort of conflicts I’ll get to see?

Anyway, back to what I was writing about before.  Oh yes, my first class — of course.  Well, after the long lecture on the merits of being a model student, we were dismissed, and I made my way to my first class in senior-secondary school: Turtle class.

“Forgive my interjection,” said the cat unconvincingly, “but what in God’s creation is a ‘turtle class’?”

“It’s about all things turtle,” Elsie replied, as if Damian had two heads and the second one was breathing fire.  “It’s a fairly well-known course; everyone wants to take it.”

Damian was perturbed.  “What do you mean by ‘all things turtle’?”

“Let me read more and you’ll understand better?”

“Right.  Carry on.”

The classroom was chaos, with people who knew each other from junior high-school greeting or mocking each other, depending on whatever their former dynamic was, and previously unacquainted pupils introducing themselves, making vital first impressions.  The overall atmosphere of the room was quite jovial, since we all wanted to be there; the reputation of Turtles 1 was quite well-regarded amongst junior high-school students, and everyone signed up for it.

Instead of the separate desks we commonly had in our old schools, the classrooms in this school seemed to consist mainly of two-seat tables, and I found an empty space next to a mournful black-haired girl who seemed either nonchalant, or withdrawn from the world around her.

“Hi,” I greeted her, snapping her back to the moment for an instant, in which she mumbled a similar salutation, and then returned to her world within once again.  In a few minutes more, our teacher of turtles came in and introduced himself as Mister Pickleson.

“Pickleson?” repeated the cat, his bemusement quite evident.  “Pickleson indeed.  Son of pickle?  Do go on; you’re making a mockery of me, aren’t you?”

Elsie stared at him, confused by his objection.  “I don’t get what you mean, Damian.  I’ve known plenty of Picklesons.  There was old Mister Pickleson who ran the grocery just down the way when I was six, and then when we moved, our neighbours to the right were James and Jan Pickleson, and their son Teddy.”  She paused in thought.

“Remember little Teddy Pickleson?  When you were a kitten, he used to pick you up and hug you like you were some sort of stuffed toy, and carry you around with your legs dangling, almost touching the ground.  Come on, you must remember little Teddy, don’t you?”

If Damian had eyebrows, he’d have raised them both in an expression of shock and consternation.  “It would appear you’re not as uncorrupted as I first thought.”

“You think?” shouted the giraffe, from the bathroom.  “I wouldn’t think you’re likely to be a model of sanity either, cat.  The whole world is broken, if you didn’t get that memo.  The whole world!”

“Listen here,” Damian called back, “I’m doing what I can to fix it.  Have some decorum, would you please?”

“Sounds like the blind leading the dumb, leading the mute, leading the stupid to me,” retorted the imprisoned giraffe.  The floating cow, having returned to the bedroom window a few moments earlier, voiced its agreement with that sentiment by way of a simple “Moo.”

“Oh, just ignore them,” Elsie said.  “You go away, you troublemaking cow,” she spat at the hovering bovine, who then snorted and pushed herself away, drifting off in disgust with her predicament.  “Can I continue reading now, Mister Damian?”

“I suppose it’s not an entirely fruitless exercise.”

“Thank you.”

“Greetings,” said Mister Pickleson, a short, balding, bespectacled man in his forties, “and welcome to a fresh new year of learning about our wonderful friends, the turtles.”  He was met with polite applause, and beaming smiles.  Mister Pickleson then told us some basic trivia about turtles, such as how they were part of the order Testudines, and how they have been on Earth for 215 million years, making them one of the oldest species on the planet.

Turtles are so fascinating!

Anyway, he had us all introduce ourselves.  I told the class about how I wanted to some day be a turtleologist; Mister Pickleson corrected me, and explained that I’d actually be a Testudinologist, which sounds much better I might say.

“I thought you were going to study the theremin,” said Damian.  “You’ve wanted to for as long as I’ve known you.”

“The theremin?”  Elsie wrinkled her nose.  “Whatever gave you that idea?  I don’t even know what a theremin is.”

“It’s a primitive electronic instrument.  You play it by hovering your hands near two antennae.  It’s what they used in the theme music from Doctor Who.”

“Doctor what?”

I learned that my tablemate was named Frannie, when she gave a rather simple introduction that consisted of “I’m Frannie”, and nothing more.  I don’t think that she’s rude or anything, just anxious.  High school can be overwhelming for many people — the only thing keeping me from falling apart myself was my joy over learning about those wonderful turtles.  I love turtles!

“I think we’ve established that at this point, yes.”

“Oh, shush,” Elsie snarled at her insolent companion.  “I’m tired of your interruptions.  Face reality — turtle class is not some sort of ‘corruption’ or ‘deviation’, so start looking elsewhere for your clues, and stop poking fun at the turtles.  With my luck, the next thing you’ll try to convince me of is that the course I took last year on that gentle soul of the sea, the walrus, also wasn’t ‘real’, and I won’t stand for that.  The walrus doesn’t deserve your scorn, cat.”

Damian rolled around on the floor as if he was engaged in a fit of laughter.  “Course on the… walrus?”

Elsie ignored him.

The phone began to play Fur Elise.  The chimpanzee then hopped casually through the window, approached the telephone, and answered it.

“Hello,” the chimpanzee said into the handset, in a perfect BBC-English accent.  “I see,” he said after a few moments, to the anonymous caller on the other end of the line.  “I will do such. Cheerio.”  He returned the handset to its faux-piano cradle, and then looked up at Elsie, to ensure he had her complete attention.

“A Mister Hunt requests your presence at the Woody Plains Senior Secondary School at your earliest convenience.  He wished me to communicate to you that the matter concerns a certain Jonas, and that I was to pass along the following message:

“‘Konichi Wa’.”

“Jonas?” Elsie gasped.  “That’s my brother!  Where is he?  What else did this Mister Hunt say to you?”

The chimpanzee leapt over to the windowsill, readying for his immediate departure.  “Nothing else, I’m afraid; he merely laughed maniacally for a few seconds and then disconnected.  Sounds like a bit of a bad egg; I would be careful if I were you.

“Best of luck, and toodle-doo.”  The ape was gone.

“Well, then.  We haven’t any choice; we must go to the school right away,” Elsie declared without so much as a single moment’s thought.

“No, we must not,” counselled Damian in objection.  “We know absolutely nothing of this Mister Hunt, what his motives are, or anything of any real substance regarding the whys, hows and wherefores of our current, very fragile situation.

“As such, we are very, very likely to find ourselves at a severe disadvantage should conflict arise.”

Elsie vehemently disagreed.  This debate went on for several minutes, and was finally terminated by way of a simple, terse statement on the part of Elsie:

“You cat, me human, I go, you follow.  Period.”

“Really, now?” Damian questioned, “I should like to point out that I’m a cat — not a dog.  I naturally don’t respond all that well to such arbitrary orders.”

“I’m not worried.  You’ll come along.  You know, curiosity and the cat, and all that stuff.  Well, hopefully not killed.  You’re warm, and furry, and you purr.   I like that.”

“I…” Damian paused, unable to continue.  Elsie laughed at his dichotomy, and then raised her arm, pointing toward the window.  “To the school, Doctor Watson!”

“To the school,” Damian agreed blithely, in a flat monotone, filled with resignation.  “Don’t forget your diary,” he reminded her.

“Hey, what about me?” plaintively asked the giraffe.  “What am I supposed to do?  Oh, never mind.”

They did not mind.  The giraffe was sad.


Stinky Cheese – Chapter One

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