Tuesday, Benjamin passed Andi in the hall and exchanged a quick smile. He wanted to tell her that the game was on for Saturday, and that they had a place to play, but the crush of bodies between classes carried them away from each other too quickly.
Tuesday night, Bast raised an army of cats and led them in an assault on the Mighty Ant Lion’s fortress.
(“No, not a lion like at the zoo. It’s a kind of bug that –”
“A bug!” Bast shrieked. “Kill it, kitty army!”)
All this happened after negotiations with the imp went through at last. All Bast had to do to fill her canteen was to promise the imp a few years of her youth.
She agreed happily, then ran to refill her water supply under the bathroom sink.
Wednesday, negotiations continued between Randall and another type of imp entirely.
“Sorry, y’all,” he sighed. “I accidentally told my little brothers what we were planning, and they tattled on me. We can’t play at my place Saturday.”
“No you didn’t,” Eddie said between mouthfuls of pimento cheese sandwich.
“I did! I told them, and –”
Eddie didn’t even look at him, just waved the remnant of his sandwich at Randall while staring at the churchy girl who’d glared at him yesterday. She gave him the stink-eye back. “If your parents knew, you’d never play again. You wouldn’t be talking about ‘we’ needing to find a place to play Saturday, since you wouldn’t be playing.”
“Ah, shoot.” Randall looked down at his sliced carrots despondently.
“Don’t feel bad,” Eddie said. “Battles with me are usually over before they begin. You entered this arena of combat a child, and have left a…slightly older child.” He got up and dropped what was left of his sandwich on the tray. “Now if you gents will excuse me…”
And with that, he walked over to the Pentecostal girl. Benjamin could hear him say, “What’s up? I’m Eddie.”
Wednesday night, Bast was introduced to the idea of random chance as it related to her efforts in Voidville. The Host didn’t want to overload her or anything; he’d kept stats out of the game so far so as not to blind her with science. She was a bright girl, but seven-year-olds of any stripe tend to view math with suspicion.
“Okay, so you know how in Yahtzee, the dice come up with different numbers?”
“And how in real life, sometimes…” He struggled to come up with something random that might have significance to Eury. “Oh! You know how sometimes a roll of Life Savers has a bunch of cherry-flavored ones, but sometimes almost none at all?”
“Okay, so in the game, we use random numbers, like what you get when you roll dice, to tell if something good happens, like getting a bunch of cherry Life Savers, or something bad, like getting nothing but lime.”
Eury agreed this would be a bad thing indeed. She seemed to understand the application.
“All right, so Bast, you’re going to fight the Mighty Ant Lion, and I’m going to use my calculator to make random numbers that show whether or not you two hit each other as you fight. That way — what are you doing?”
She had wandered over to her desk and was digging around. After a few seconds, she produced a roll of Life Savers and popped one in her mouth.
“Want the next one?” she asked him, voice garbled by the candy as it rattled against her teeth. “It’s cherry.”
Thursday, he found one of Andi’s signature folded rectangles in his locker.
Game on Saturday still?
And did that first sentence too much like Yoda sound?
He wanted to slip a note in her locker and tell her yes, yes, the game was happening, just come to Randall’s house, here’s the address, see you then, looking forward to it…
But then at lunch, the battle was rejoined, minus Eddie, who sat with the Pentecostal girl, making her laugh and swat at his arm with every utterance. Benjamin could swear he saw a little blush and eyeliner on the formally-dressed girl.
He thought about Andi, and if he could have had this kind of interaction with her last year, when she first moved to town, if he’d just walked up and said, “What’s up?”
Benjamin turned his attention back to Randall, who lamented to Cy, who, while sympathetic, still kept urging Randall to let them use his house.
“Look, man, it’s just another step beyond what you do when you tell them you’re going to Bible study. What’s a slightly bigger lie?”
Randall stirred his glob of chocolate pudding, not seeming to want to eat any of it. “And that’s just it. I haven’t been honoring them. And you’re supposed to honor you father and mother. It’s the…” and he paused and ticked off on his fingers, “…Fifth Commandment.” Then he seemed even more depressed, as though ashamed he didn’t have the exact numbering of the Ten Commandments at the front of his mind. “They ain’t my neighbors, but it means I’ve been bearing false witness, too.”
Benjamin tried another tack. “You know there’s nothing wrong with the game, right? Nothing evil, nothing demonic.”
“Yeah.” Randall took a bite of pudding at last, but then appeared guilty over enjoying its tastiness.
“But your parents would think differently. But you know they’d be wrong if they said the game was evil.”
“But you also know there’s no way you’d ever convince them they’re wrong.”
“It could be raining,” Randall said. “And if Daddy said the sun was shining, Momma would agree, and nothing I’d ever say would convince them. Not even dragging them outside and letting them get soaked.”
“Okay, then,” Benjamin said. “A lie is when you say something untrue to hurt somebody. Aren’t you lying about the game to keep them from getting hurt?”
Randall looked up, a little light of hope gleaming in his eyes. But just as quickly, the light dimmed, and he dipped his head.
“I’m sorry, y’all…but I just can’t do it.”
Today’s Words: 1026
Total Words: 13726
Notes: Lucky day thirteen!
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)