Cal woke up with a start, his heart racing. He looked around his room, disoriented. Nothing seemed to make sense. Part of it was that he’d fell asleep at the foot of his bed, part of it was that his lights were on, and part of it was that he was still wearing the dark clothes he had worn to the golf course.
He’d just fallen asleep, so he decided to get up and change into his pajamas and try to get a little sleep before school. He glanced at the clock. Panic shot through his body. The clock said 10:27am. He sat on his bed for a moment to let the impossibility sink in. Both Art and Spanish were over, and Mrs. Klein would be halfway through her English class by now.
Fourth period was History, and he groaned as he remembered that today was quiz day. He had to get to that class.
He dashed around his room looking for clean clothes to change into, got changed, and ran upstairs. When he got to the kitchen, he remembered that he took his phone to his room. He had a moment of giddiness when recalling his text messages with Angel. They had a fuzzy, dream-like quality to them now.
He ran back down to his room and searched through his bed for his phone. He found it on the opposite side of the bed on the ground. He flipped it open to read over the precious text messages again, to verify that they had really happened, but found that his phone was dead. With a curse, he shoved the phone in his pocket and ran back up the stairs.
He grabbed his backpack and scooter gear and was on the road in two minutes.
Traffic at ten in the morning was much different than the rush of the early morning commute. Even the few traffic lights he encountered seemed happy to meet him, greeting him with green lights.
He made it to school with plenty of time.
He pulled into the parking lot and took his sneaky little scooter spot near the side doors of the school. As he was locking up his helmet, he heard the scrape of a shoe behind him. He jumped and turned quickly, nerves apparently still raw from last night. Mr. Miller stood in front of him.
Cal knew a high school security guard wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but Mr. Miller didn’t even attempt at getting respect from the kids. He was every stereotype of security guard mixed into one unfortunate conglomerate. A heavy guy who’s uniform didn’t help him out at all in the looks department. Security guards at the school were unarmed, a failing that Mr. Miller seemed to try to make up with a variety of pouches on his belt, the number of which would have made Batman question. Cal had no idea what could be in all of those pouches, but their obvious purpose was to provide a shelf on top of which Mr. Miller’s overflowing belly could rest. Cal would feel bad for being so judgmental for a guy stuck in such a crap job except that 1) Cal worked a crap job himself, and 2) Mr. Miller was a mean bastard. He was probably a bully in school and now gets paid for his expertise.
“What are you up to, son?” Mr. Miller asked. He was apparently enjoying a chocolate snack as there was some chocolate on one of his front teeth, making it look like he was missing a tooth and adding to his generally messy appearance.
Mr. Miller chewed on whatever was in his mouth. Cal realized that he’d never seen Mr. Miller not chewing on something. Maybe all of those pouches were filled with snack packs.
“Just getting to class,” Cal replied.
Mr. Miller stood with his arms crossed, trying to give Cal the evil eye. Cal suspected he was trying for the bad-cop look, but Mr. Miller was pushing It too far and was getting more of a pro-wrestler-about-to-give-the-smack-down look. He raised an exaggerated eyebrow as he assessed the situation. He smacked his lips and ran his tongue around in his mouth. Cal knew he had to wait for the verdict. This was part of the power game.
“A little late, aren’t you?”
Cal resisted rolling his eyes. He just wanted to get to class. He wanted to blow off Mr. Miller as the walking joke he was, but the truth was that Mr. Miller was scary. He was cruel and could make life miserable for Cal. Cal kept his witty comebacks to himself and just nodded.
“Yeah, I am.” Cal said. “I need to get to Mrs. Klein’s class.”
“Klein, eh?” Mr. Miller sucked at something in his teeth. Mrs. Klein was one of the prettier teachers in the school. It might actually help Cal that he had to go to her class. Mr. Miller would probably let him go in the hopes that Cal would mention him to her.
“Maybe I should escort you to class to make sure you get there.”
Well that didn’t go as planned. Mr. Miller turned and motioned for Cal to walk along side him. They walked around to the front of the school, as they passed by the windows of classrooms, Cal avoided looking in, though in his peripheral vision, he saw plenty of people looking out. As if being late wasn’t bad enough. Now Mr. Miller had to parade him around in front of everybody.
“Y’know that’s not a legal parking spot you parked in,” Mr. Miller said as they entered the front doors.
“I was told I could park there,” Cal lied.
“Mr. Sapulito,” Cal said, invoking the Vice Principal’s name. “I asked him about parking when I got my scooter. He said that place was okay.”
“Well, I’ll check with Mr. Sapulito on that,” Mr. Miller said, but Cal knew he was lying. Talking to Mr. Sapulito would be work, and work was something people like Mr. Miller generally avoided.
When they got to Mrs. Klein’s class, Mr. Miller made a point of interrupting the class to tell Mrs. Klein where he had found Cal. Then he waited until Cal was in his seat before he gave Mrs. Klein a smile and wink and left.
Cal sank down into his seat and tried to be invisible for the remaining ten minutes of class.
* * *
The quiz in History didn’t go all that great. Too many dates, too many names. Cal hated History, especially American History. It just seemed so dry. It didn’t help that he’d done nothing to prepare for the quiz, even though they were warned about it yesterday. Plus his thoughts kept drifting to a more immediate matter. He didn’t have the time to grab any food on the way to school. He was starving.
He heard a few “What are you up to, son”s on his way the front doors of the school. People mocking Mr. Miller and making fun of Cal getting caught.
He got out the front door to the place he normally met Oscar, but Oscar wasn’t there. Laughing off a few more impersonations of Mr. Miller, he waited, growing concerned. Oscar always beat him to the spot. His fourth period English class was closer to the front of the school than Cal’s History class.
Cal started to wonder if Oscar was okay. Surely he made it home last night. Oscar’s mom would have called Cal if there were any problems. Except, Cal remembered, his phone was dead. That’s when Cal started to worry. He recalled the ride home in silence the night before. How upset Oscar had seemed.
The office would let them use their phone to call Oscar’s house. They’d have the number too. Cal sprinted up the stairs and pulled open the front door. He saw Angel and Oscar sitting on one of the benches in the entry way. Angel had her phone to her ear and was nodding at something Oscar was saying.
Angel met Cal’s eye over Oscar’s shoulder. Her eyes grew wide and she closed her phone. Oscar turned quickly and stood up when he saw Cal.
Cal walked over to them. Oscar looked terrible. He had dark circles under his eyes, and, unlike Cal, it looked like he hadn’t changed out of the clothes he slept in. Angel was harder to gauge. She was wearing glasses and had her hair pulled back, both new things for Cal. He couldn’t quite tell, but her clothing seemed a bit more casual than normal also.
“What are you doing, guys?” Cal asked. “I’m starving, let’s go get some food.”
“We were trying to get a hold of you, dumbass,” Oscar said, giving Cal a friendly shove.
Angel came up next to Oscar.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“Sorry,” Cal said. “I slept in.”
“I’ve been calling you,” she said. “Oscar too.”
“I didn’t charge my phone last night,” Cal replied. “It’s dead.”
Cal’s stomach rumbled.
“Look, can we go get some food,” Cal said, pleading. “I’m starving.”
“Taco Bell?” Oscar asked.
“Anything,” Cal said, “I just need to eat.”
Angel gave Oscar a nod, and they were off to the Taco Bell across the street.
* * *
“I couldn’t sleep, either,” Oscar said. The three of them sat on a wall outside of the restaurant.
Cal nodded, his mouth stuffed with a burrito.
“Every little thing was making me jump last night,” Angel said.
“So what do we do now?” Oscar said. “Looking up a dead reporter and a suspicious FBI agent is one thing, but that green stuff in the lake is another dimension. Do we Google ‘glowing green lake’?”
“Sentient pond scum?” Angel said with a laugh.
“Alien encounters at water hazards?” Oscar said, also laughing.
Cal smiled around the last of his burrito. It was good to see the two of them getting along again.
“Well I did do some research,” Angel said.
“When did you have time to do research?” Cal asked, balling up his empty bag of food. The half-chewed burrito sat in his stomach like a brick. It was satisfying to have something in his stomach at least.
“I had to do something while I wasn’t sleeping,” Angel said. “Also first period is ‘Computer Skills’. We basically just get to do whatever we want online for the class.”
“Sounds like a tough class,” Oscar said.
“Yeah, it’s a joke,” Angel said. “Though I’ve heard rumors of a final project that’s a killer. Anyways, I looked up Walsh. Mostly a bunch of junk on local politics. Nothing anybody would get all that upset about. Looked like just the usual political mudslinging stuff. He was working on a something to do with local gangs, though. Before he was killed.”
“Wow,” Cal said. “How’d you figure all of that out.”
Angel gave him a disbelieving frown. “The Internet?” she said. “Seriously you should check that thing out.” She laughed. Cal blushed.
“I read a few of his articles on the Times’ website archive,” she continued. “And the stuff about his current project was in the write up on his death in the paper. Not all that difficult to find out.”
Oscar hopped off the wall.
“We gotta get back,” he said.
They ran across the street and chatted more as they crossed the large lawn in front of the school.
“So it sounds like maybe it was the gang thing?” Oscar asked.
“Back to the Lemolos?” she asked.
Cal shook his head.
“I just don’t see them doing this,” he said. “Doesn’t seem like their style.”
“It’s been a few years,” Oscar said, leaving out ‘since your father was killed.’ “Maybe they’ve grown up.”
“I don’t know,” Cal said. “Maybe.”
They split up once inside the school, Angel heading for the basement for drama, Oscar to the left for his History class, and Cal to the right for Biology.
* * *
A powerful, chemical smell assaulted Cal as he opened the door to his Biology class. Great, he thought, another dissection day. His least favorite part of Biology.
He took his seat and the bell rang.
“Okay, people.” Mr. Tule said. “Line up at the front with your trays and get your frogs.”
Cal stood at the end of the line, the burrito in his belly making it’s presence known. Maybe he should have just stayed in bed.