My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter One


Shh. Don’t give away my position. I’m a refugee sitting in the fort I built out of the few resources I have at hand. If my fort gets knocked down, I cannot rebuild it, and I can’t afford to be seen or heard.
Okay, okay. The truth is, I’m at a corner computer in the library after much sitting around waiting for the other kid to get done, and my fort isn’t made out of driftwood and built to hide from Nazis, it’s made out of books and my trapper to keep the flying bits of pencils and folded-up paper from hitting me and to hide from the kids at my school, who compare pretty well to Nazis.
Normally, I wouldn’t set foot in such a crowded place as the library, but I took a photography class and I’d already digitalized the photos and saved them to my website and all I needed was to send the email –
A shower of books, trappers, and 130-some pounds of obnoxious boy come tumbling down on me and the person next to me. The kid slides over my keyboard with the remaining force and, since I’m at a corner computer, like I said, his head smashes straight into the wall.
Quickly I gather my books up, rescue my empty coffee cup, log off, and explain to the inquisitive librarian with one pointed gesture of le thumb exactly who was responsible for the mess – not me. With another eloquent gesture of le thumb, the librarian sends the kid off on that jolly walk to the principal’s office. The kid yells, “But I didn’t do nuthin’!” and then the librarian takes his hand and shows to him the exquisite cherry door and how well the custodian scrubbed the soda spill off from when he’d pushed a kid who had a Pepsi. Then she opens the door and smiles, points out, and says something I can’t hear but is probably pretty sarcastic. Then I hear the kid yell in protest, see the librarian signal to the other librarian, and watch as the first librarian took the boy’s hand and walks him down Sesame Street to the principal’s office, brought to you by not just any letter, but a specific one – the letter that you have to take home to your mom. Special.
You might call me a tattletale, but I call it telling the truth. Tattling is when you lawyer the story and use the more… accentuated word that still fits, but is more likely to get the kid in trouble. I’m also pretty good at that, too, which is useful if you don’t like somebody. And, for the record, it’s still telling the truth. Technically.
As the kid and the librarian walk down the hall, I slide out, hoping not to be seen, and get ready to hide. This is a very typical period for something like Study Hall. The idea behind Study Hall is that the library would be quiet so that you could study for a test or do Google searches on the computer. That idea didn’t quite work out – it definitely wasn’t quiet, and to get a pencil shard to write with, all you had to do was reach your hand into the air. Reach up a second time to get a folded-up scrap of paper. Reach up a third time to grab the angry kid who threw both of them at a kid behind you and, because of you, missed. It’s best just to stick with the pencil and wait five minutes before you try to grab anything else. But make sure that it’s pencils you grab, because occasionally, a kid will throw bits of eraser or stuff like his belt buckle, etc. Those really hurt when you try to catch them.
I’ve learned the unwritten rules around here for nerd survival. In the lunch room, you eat the dessert first or you get a bunch of moocher kids lingering around you, asking for your cookie. Never eat school pizza, but go back for seconds on Papa Johns day. Eat your main course quickly after your dessert, because that’s pretty well coveted too. The pink mush they serve is strawberry applesauce. (We hope.) The chicken in the soup is chewy. Don’t eat it. And never, EVER wear a white shirt.
In the library, set up a fort or hide behind a book all period. If you’re in study hall, to survive, you can hide out in the bathroom and the teacher won’t notice. Trust me on this one.
Never tell a teacher they’re wrong. Even if they are, they’ll usually find a way to get you in trouble for disrupting class or something. It’s better to get paired with a boy than to get paired with the class goof-off. If you can, avoid being partners (this solely applies to nerds. The other kids tend to piggyback on the group projects, but a clever nerd knows how to avoid them). If you are a nerd, advertise it, because that means people can’t tease you about it. But if you’re a girl nerd, keep your hair in good shape so people don’t start calling you a geek – that’s a label you don’t want, the exception being computer geeks, who are some of the best in the hierarchy of nerds.
In any normal class, try not to be noticed for the most part, but look smart when you’re called on to answer a question or something, because that’s the only time when people actually bother looking at you in class. Any other time, don’t bother looking smart, because half the kids are asleep anyway.
If you get sucked into playing “2 Truths and a Lie” on the first day, you come up with the dumbest, weirdest, or craziest things you’ve ever done and put them down as your truths. Then you come up with something weird, like “I rode a zipline across the Amazonian rainforest” and generally try to get people to stare at you like you’re crazy. Then they’ll think you’re just funny.
Generally, if you go to a school like mine, you try to be funny and people will like you. Make sure that you have just enough friends to hide behind at lunch and fade into the crowd. Above all, find other nerdy refugees. NOBODY touches the nerd table. Ever.
I’ve survived so far, but if a pencil hits me in the right place at 70mph, that could change with a quick concussion. Emphasis on cuss.
Speaking of which, that’s exactly how you weird someone out. If somebody uses a really complicated swear word, you grin and say, “Do you know what that word means?”
When they ask what it means, you say that it’s not appropriate to say on school premises, flip your hair over your shoulder, and tell them to look it up in the dictionary. Then you grin impishly every time someone uses that word, and you watch as they get really nervous. They never will look up the word – most kids are lazy that way. If you get suckered into telling them, you claim it means that they’re calling themselves trailer trash (if the person is a girl) or they’re calling themselves a hot chick (if the person is a boy).
Another way to weird someone out? Find the one guy in the class who hates it when you use big words. Then drop one like zymurgy (def.: the scientific application of fermentation, such as in making beer, wine, or other YES I AM A TOTAL NERD! Get over it. I thought you’d caught on by now) and don’t tell him what it means for a week. Try a Napoleon Dynamite act and smuggle some popcorn in class in your pocket. If you get bored or caught, you can give the teacher the speech about how studies show that gum helps kids concentrate. Avoid this, though, because the speech is used all too much.
Generally, I’ve found that if I lay low and weird people out whenever I can, I get ignored. This is the quote-on-quote “nirvana” of school: Be ignored. It’s right up there with “Get good grades.” And “Get Mrs. Evil off your back.” And “Eat breakfast that consists of more than four tablespoons of Trix and supersweet strawberry milk, two whole days in a row.”
But the nerds are mostly aiming for the ignored bit. They already get good grades, and since they get good grades, the teachers don’t bug them anyway. And most of us get brekkie at home, because we’re the only ones who see anything wrong with eating Splenda straight every morning.
So that’s my survival strategy. I’m glad we met. I’ll tell you my story. It’ll be easier to explain in past tense.
Now that I had sent the email and was safely logged off, I was about to follow Rule #8 (hide in the bathroom for all of Study Hall) but I noticed something incredibly wrong.
The halls were empty.
This was freaky. There’s always a few kids who are skipping class. Translation: There’s always most of the school skipping class. The halls are packed no matter what. Except now.
I went back into the library, and was relieved to see that things were chaotic as usual. It’s sort of a comfort now. I found the librarian discreetly following Survival Rule #7 (hide behind a bunch of books) behind her desk. She had a computer, which is a good block, and quite a few books sitting in a neat stack – a brick wall protecting her from the hornets, which were the little paper thingies that kids shot across the room. One whacked me in the side of the head, and if I were new here, it would have stung like it did at the beginning of the year, but I barely noticed it now. I started to inquire to the librarian about the empty halls, but she was new and the hornets still stung her. So she made a big deal about it (as if the air wasn’t already thick with papers, pencil shards, and the occasional belt buckle or random car part) and sent the kid to the principal also, employing one of my fellow nerds (poor kid) to escort him, since she couldn’t and the kid couldn’t be trusted to go by himself.
She handed the kid a pass and sent them out, returning quickly to hide behind her books. She sat down and stuck her nose in one – automatic face guard. She almost immediately got glassy-eyed, and it became clear that she was lost in the book and shutting out her surroundings.
I watched the nerd and the hornet kid walk out the door. My glance lingered on the poor, innocent nerd kid who had the sick, sick job of escorting someone to their Doom, making herself an enemy. I saw her confusion when she saw the empty halls, watched as she realized what she was doing and wishing she didn’t have her glasses on. I started to offer to go with her, but this other kid – probably another nerd – catch up to her. A boy. I sighed in relief. Not only were the female nerds constant targets who shouldn’t be left alone with a troublemaker (it takes two of us to come up with enough snarky comebacks to keep the non-nerd boys busy while we delivered them to their Doom, ha ha), this boy nerd had just saved me from following the guy who got in trouble because I existed.
Snarky, snappy comebacks aren’t the only reason girls of any kind shouldn’t be left alone with troublemakers. Most girls, especially us nerds, hate having to listen to a troublemaker, and they hate listening to us. Especially if the troublemaker is a girl herself. Girls roll their eyes at boys, but it’s just somehow not quite right to roll their eyes at another girl. So they have to take their anger out in… other ways. Or sometimes a girl’s just gonna lose it. And therein lies the reason girls can’t be left with troublemakers: They need someone to intercept them before blows land. There’s always one or two areas of the school with no cameras and little traffic. And girls can be compelled to take that route if they particularly dislike a boy. I’m not even venturing into the area of where the blows land. I’m already tiptoeing around swear words. Let’s just say a blabbermouth guy has nothing on an infuriated girl. Trust me here.
There was only one thing to do.
I hid behind the glassy-eyed librarian for the rest of the period.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 at 3:48 pm and is filed under Short Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Chapter One”

  1. Writer
    10:18 am on July 22nd, 2010

    Haaaaiiiiiii, empty comment area!

  2. Mendelevium
    12:01 pm on April 15th, 2011

    Relatively interesting, but exaggerated in the usual fashion, plotless, infodump, etc.

  3. Writer
    2:48 pm on May 1st, 2011

    Yup. That’s why I didn’t continue with this idea. I post most of the stuff I write on here regardless of whether it’s good or not, though, and I always keep all the old drafts of novels in case some other writer wants to see how to edit–what I changed, etc., since I don’t keep old copies of stuff on my hard drive. It’s harder to manage on the site, but I think it’s worth it.

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