March 21, 2017

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For the Justice of Drowned Homework

If slow motion happened in the real world, it would have happened today as we were running to catch the train. My brother, Daniel, and I, along with my friend Tia, had woken up late. We had gulped down our breakfasts, hardly pausing to breathe as we tossed on socks and shoes and coats and whatever else we thought we might need. By the time we arrived at the station, the train, which sat on the other side of the place, was preparing to leave. We could hear its whistle as we ran towards it, desperate to get on it.

I don’t quite understand how we managed it, but we made it. It must have ben like in the movies. Running and just barely grabbing hold. Almost losing our bags, an even greater feat considering we all had one or two. The man who met us at the door to the train’s cabin looked astonished, his jaw dropped to his chest in awe. Just between us, I think he let us on simply because we had jumped aboard a moving train. If something had assisted us in any way, I doubt he would have been so kind as to let us on without so much as a word or a protest otherwise.

We settled into our seats, our bags at our feet, as we watched the ocean and the trees pass us by. I had never felt more relaxed. Each tree whizzed by, becoming a blur almost before it became an actual shape. The ocean slurped at the rocks and the sand. The sound of the train running on the tracks was monotonous, but not irritatingly so. Soon, it put me to sleep with its soothing rhythm.

When I awoke, we had arrived at our destination. My family met us at the station, eager smiles on their faces as they ran to scoop us into huge hugs. My dad squeezed me tightly. I noticed that, strangely, both my parents had come. I didn’t comment, knowing what ruckus it might bring, but I harbored a smile deep within my heart. Seeing them in the same room gave me some semblance of normality in my otherwise oddball life. A sense of unwitting hope accompanied that normalcy, a hope I didn’t wish to hold dear because I knew it would bring nothing but disappointment. Still, the heart will hope if there is hope to be had.

On our way back to our house, we dropped Tia off at her family’s. We kept our goodbyes short and sweet, for we knew we would be seeing each other again soon.

The next day, we arrived at my siblings’ school, the high school I attended and graduated from. It had been innumerable days since I had last been there. Maybe even years. I couldn’t remember and it didn’t seem too important. As I stepped in through the doors, lost in the new unfamiliarity of the place, a sense of melancholy and nostalgia with perhaps a hint of anxiety washed over me. I had no idea where I was anymore.

My sister, Elsie, skipped along beside me, my backpack full of important documents, such as schoolwork and brainstorming, on her back. She had insisted she carry it when we left the house and I didn’t object. I figured that she would take care of it with her life, knowing her attachment to me.

I was wrong.

When she returned from a bathroom break, I noticed her face wet with tears. “What happened, Elsie?” I asked sympathetically. My heart ached for her. From her back, she pulled my now sopping wet backpack. She opened it. Slowly turning it on its end, she showed me the contents of it: nothing. Not a single piece of paper fell out of the upturned bag. My breath caught in my throat. “Elsie…” I warned, elongating the syllables in her name, emphasizing the final syllable. “What happened?”

“It fell in the toilet,” she whimpered. “The backpack. The paper. Everything. It’s all gone. I couldn’t save any of it.”

I felt my face pale as my head began to spin. “That was my homework, Elsie.”

“I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do, Elsie! That was my homework. Stuff that I need to turn in and now I can’t because you ruined it. That was my only copy. Now I have to redo everything, Elsie. Everything! That’s a lot of work! I spent hours on that! Now what am I supposed to do?”

Elsie didn’t respond and instead ran off without another word to me.

My mom rested a hand on my shoulder. “It’ll be fine, Andy. Just go to the office. They’ll be able to help you sort things out.”

Without questioning my mother’s logic—how could a high school help me with my college issues? how could a high school in a different state help me with my college issues? how could a high school unaffiliated with my college help me with my college issues?—I broke away from my family and headed towards the office. Considering the unfamiliarity of the building, I found the office quite easily to my great surprise and my even greater relief. Upon entering, I took a seat and waited.

And waited.

I waited for what felt like hours, going completely unnoticed sitting in my chair in the corner. People who came in before me were helped and they moved on to the people who came in after me. I was left alone in my corner, abandoned and ignored. Just like so many other people abandoned and ignored me.

Finally, I sucked in a deep breath and approached one of the computers. Sitting down, I started to do a Google search for I don’t know what. All I knew was that I was bored out of my mind and ignored to the point of wondering if I had somehow become invisible. However, as soon as my fingers touched the keys, a familiar, welcoming face appeared. An old family friend who had worked for the school even in my day approached me. “I heard you could use some help.”

And help she did. What a relief! I had my things situated and I could relax now.

However, when Tia and I boarded the boat for our return trip to school, my family following to embark on a short vacation, things started to go awry once again. We couldn’t seem to find where we were to stay. We searched the boat up and down, but had no luck. So we searched it again, still coming up with nothing. On our third trip searching the now darkened boat, we ran across an officer of the law.

He had heard about my sister’s accident, how she had drowned my homework, and it was his duty, or so he said, to bring her to justice. “I heard she’s travelling in a party of four.”

“Four? Well, we’re five,” I said, counting the four of us and somehow including the officer.

“No,” Tia said, “we’re four.”

I counted again, and again counted the officer. “No, Tia, I swear we’re five.”

“We’re four,” Tia insisted.

Increasingly more and more frustrated, I counted again and again and again, before I finally came up with the number four. “Four. We’re four. We’re only four. It’s us, officer. It was my sister. She did it, but I don’t think she deserves punishment.”

The officer looked me up and down, as if he thought I had gone crazy. Who wouldn’t want the culprit who drowned their homework to be brought to justice? Apparently, more people than naught wanted their siblings to receive justice for their crimes against their homework. I, however, saw no point. She had suffered enough in her sorrow and I had my homework returned intact to me. I had no need for justice. The officer scowled and walked away.

The rest of the return trip to school seemed uneventful compared to this.

***

Prompt: Narrate a dream/nightmare you once had.

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