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Chapter 2

Such was Everwood

I had a painful night. I slept for a few minutes, dreaming of visiting another world that orbited the North Star, and then waking up with full realization that I resurrected an old threat to my family. My thoughts again turned to my dreams as a solution. I just now remembered having dreams of visiting other worlds while asleep at the hospital. The burnt forest where I fought a warlord, the place where the trees grew down, could they be real? Could I have visited the spirit world in my dreams? No! It couldn’t! There is no spirit world! All that’s real is that I had a stupid idea that put my family in danger. I wasn’t visiting other dimensions or other planets, I was in a material world called Earth was real; earth had density, 5.51 grams per cubic centimeter to be exact. The worlds of my dreams were not real. They had no density.

I got out of bed after hearing Elijah’s alarm clock say: Bong! It’s twelve o’clock A.M. I walked downstairs to the living room, where I turned on the light and picked the newspaper up off the comfrey table. I closed my eyes. This is really happening. I saw the members of the vineyard. Most were asleep, some were awake, working in the coal mine. I could only imagine how school will be now. I saw Cassandra asleep, dreaming comfortably about the things she’d say to me when I returned to school.

I wasn’t sure if I fell asleep or not. My dream must’ve been proof that I did, but it didn’t quite feel like a dream. I turned off the living room light and walked back to my room as fast as I could while still being quiet. I didn’t want to face Cassandra; I didn’t want to go to school. If only I could go back in time and stop myself from trying to go back in time so that I could stop myself from going back in time so that I can be an awesome kid again so I won’t have to go back in time and stop myself from going back in time so I can…

It was dark and cloudy the next morning, but there was still sunshine in my soul. I felt the warmth of Heavenly Father’s gift to us. I felt encouragement and reverence. For the first time since fifth grade, I felt ready to face my day at school.

Just after the first bell rang, I ran into an ill-mannered seventh grader named Richard Guilford. I met him on the way to first period in a dim, spacious room with a stage, a few gym mats, a tiled floor, and pipes protruding from the walls in erratic places. The room was used for a gym and auditorium; we called it room ten. He was around my height with a blonde buzz-cut. He wore a gray jacket with a large tear he made with his own switchblade last October. He sat on the stage under a fluorescent light, playing a Gameboy. His brother watched over his shoulder. When he saw me, he asked: “So how’d your trip to the hospital go?”

“Dunno,” I replied. “I fell asleep because it was too boring.”

“Well maybe next time you shouldn’t get in fights like that.” Richard suggested.

“Fight with who?” I replied.

“The sidewalk, that’s what I heard from the news.” He said.

“I fought the sidewalk?” I asked.

“Yeah,” his brother said. “And it kicked your butt.” I heard Richard snort at his brother’s remark, followed by game over music.

“Dangit!” Richard shouted.

“Ha! You’re bad at that game!”  He held up his marriage finger at me as I walked out of the room. It was satisfying, but I couldn’t celebrate yet, I still had more people to prove myself to. The door to Amber’s classroom was locked, so we all waited outside in the music classroom, a room with tiled floor like room ten, but here, there were no pipes protruding from the walls, and in the middle of the room was a skylight, though that did so little to brighten the room that the sun might as well be setting.

The seventh grade boys all congregated in the near nautical darkness, barely able to tell each other apart; and talked about me. They started to talk about my absence, but anything serious died when Sister Amber walked in and turned on the lights. She was a moderately tall woman with straight black hair and a blue jacket with absolutely no organic compounds in it.

She looked exhausted, breathing heavily as though she had just run a mile. We knew she couldn’t have, because she was very visibly pregnant. It looked like it hurt for her to walk through the room and unlock her classroom. I remembered a dodgeball game in January in which Ross told me Amber had athlete’s foot.

“Okay class, hurry and get to your seat, we have important work to do” She pronounced the t’s in her words quite sharply. Everyone else just said “impor’n’t”

The classroom itself was one of the nicest in the school, it’s always been that way since Amber annexed it from Brother Alex last year. I know that’s not saying much in a school where a third of the walls are made of office cubicles, most of the ceiling tiles are broken from students falling through them, and cracked concrete for the lunchroom floor, but hers was actually well-kept. The only defilements to the tiled floor were a few marks at the doorway from when people entered irresponsibly. The ceiling also had a few tiles missing, there was a clubhouse of the bad kids above this classroom, and sometimes, the law of gravity forced the two worlds to collide. The walls were clean. The desks were arranged in an orderly fashion and the whiteboard looked like it had never been used. There was an empty aquarium in the corner, and next to Amber’s desk in the corner was a potted fern.

Amber began her day by drinking her comfrey, and then lighting a scented candle to lighten her spirit. For someone who spent the previous night talking to an angry mother whose son she suspended for not wearing school uniform, this was typical.

She called on a student to open with prayer, and then their class began.

“Did everybody bring their book that they’re doing their book report on?”

Crap, I completely forgot about that,

“Sister Amber, I said. “I left my book home.”

“Really, but you have a book, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Bring it tomorrow, I’ll have a look at it. Everyone else, write down the title of the book, and how many pages it has. Does anyone not have a book?” Two people raised their hands. “Okay, go the bookshelf in the back of the classroom. After they got their books, Sister Amber asked: “Ross, what is your book?”

“This one, but it’s boring.” Ross said as he held it up. Amber’s perpetual frown broke into a laugh. “Let me guess, you read it thinking it would be about killing mockingbirds.”

“Yes.”

“Déjà vu.” She muttered.

“Why is it called To Kill a Mockingbird anyway?”

“The mockingbird is the state bird of Mississippi.” Said Amber.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Ross asked.

“It’s the setting of the book.” Said Amber.

“Oh, so if a book takes place in Utah, It should be called to kill a sea gull.“

“No, you idiot, It would be called To Kill a Beehive.” Richard told Ross.

“The Sea Gull is the state bird of Utah, and if you want to pick a different book, you can;

it would have to be one off the shelf.” Ross groaned.

“Don’t complain. This is why I gave you guys a whole week to decide what book you wanted, so you can see if it suits you.”

“Israel, what book are you reading?” Amber asked.

“Roughing It, but it’s bad.” Said Israel.

“How, exactly, is it bad?” she asked.

“It makes fun of the Mormons, like, all the time, and not the bad kind. It says polygamists are ugly.”

“Well, they’re right, at least, with some of them.” Someone said, and Amber was quick to reply with: “John, bring me your homework sheet.”

Israel continued telling her the problems, and why he shouldn’t read the book, and Amber listened while she drew our spelling list on the whiteboard, a practice we were all used to.

“…and then he told the story about how Brigham Young killed a bunch of gentiles.”

A loud squeak filled the room as Amber whirled around to face Israel, making yet another mark on the floor. “Brigham Young was not behind that. That incident really did happen, but Brigham Young played no part in it. Go home and ask your dad, he played no part in it.”

“Wait, so the Mormons killed people?” Israel asked.

“That’s awesome.” Said Vince, another one of the “bad kids”, in case you didn’t notice.

“Yes, but Brigham Young wasn’t behind it, and killing people is not awesome.” Said Amber, but she knew her words were falling on deaf ears, ears too absorbed in their computer and xBox games to pay attention to what really mattered.

“Israel, the Mormon part of that book is only three chapters, and if you want to, you can skip those three chapters-“

“That’s not fair!” Richard said.

“Richard, even with skipping those chapters, Israel has one of the longest books in the class. If anyone has the right to skip parts, it’s him.” Amber told him. The smell of the candle was now filling up the room, it was supposed to comfort her, but Richard wasn’t the kind of kid to allow people to be comfortable around him.

“But my book’s pretty long too.” He whined.

“You are graded on how long the book is too. The longer your book is; the easier it is to get an A.”

“But-“

“Richard, you have a card pull.”

“I didn’t even do nothing!” He argued.

“Richard!” she shouted. “If you want to stay in this class any longer, you will bring me your homework sheet!”

Richard looked frightened now. He yanked the crumpled paper from his backpack and gave it to the teacher.

“Dang, she’s a grouch.” John said.

“John, bring me your homework sheet.” She said.

“But I-“

“Do it!” Amber interrupted. John brought his to her. She signed both his and Richard’s and handed them back.

She then breathed in deeply, and there was silence. The only sound anyone heard was the rain pattering against the roof. When the she had the student’s attention, Amber resumed the lesson. We were no longer out of her hands, but in her hands with her fists tightening on our throats. This was fear that the heathen churches have tried for years to instill in their people. Class was in full session.

“Did you finish those Mormon chapters?” she asked us.

“I tried to, but it was so horrible to read. I don’t think I can finish it, this guy’s a scumbag. My dad says he’s burning in heck.”

“Yes, he is,” Amber wouldn’t truly go so far as to say that about Mark Twain, but sometimes, you had to say things like that to kids. “If you want to read another book, you can.”

“I think I will.” She said.

“Good, Moroni, what is your book?”

“Geoffry Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.”

Amber widened her eyes. “That’s not a book for kids!” she said.

“Are you sure, because I thought it was.” He held up a book bearing a picture of a knight on horseback. It had, printed on it, the words: Geoffry Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (For Kids)

“You’ve made your point, any issues with that book?”

“Not really, I just…”

The lesson continued with this, and then along came our English class, where we went on to do everyone’s least favorite part of school: diagramming “our” sentences; I should emphasize the quotation marks around the word “our”. Our textbooks were not gentile textbooks, they were written by a christian named Noah Jalonen and his publishing company, the Bridge Builders. It was a nice alternative to the public school textbooks, which removed anything religious, and said the founding fathers were atheists, but sometimes the sentences they put in were so sickly sweet that I was at risk for diabetes. I found one sentence that said: “On Friday, Jane asked Jesus to come into her heart and was saved.”

“What a bunch of crap.” I said quietly, but not quietly enough. Sister Amber heard me and said: “Martin, you have a card pull.” I really should’ve seen that coming. A card pull is like a strike for us. You start on a green card, then go to white for doing wrong. Next you pull to yellow, which is supposed to lead to an after-class lecture from the teacher, but not even Sister Amber does that, for if she did for each student, it would take up the entire following class period. The next card is orange, which sends you to the office to call your mom. After that was the dreaded card, the steamroller that would squish you flat: the red card. It sent you straight home, and that was only the beginning. You have to come back to school with a parent for two hours before you can stay there, and nothing you, your parents, or even the best lawyer in the world says can make them revoke that punishment. I was on a white.

Our next class was Sister Rose’s. She was also a mean teacher, she seemed to want nothing to do with us, though Elijah always liked her and insisted that she was a nice teacher. She was young, very young, I think she was about Rachel’s age, but she was a teacher. I wasn’t sure if she was even married or not. Her class was a science/history and geography class. Each day alternated between the two subjects. Today, we learned about India’s leader Mahatma Gandhi and his strategy of Passive Resistance that eventually freed the country from the British. We then learned about their culture, cuisine, and the bindi, a red dot on a woman’s forehead that signifies that she is married.

When the lesson was finished, we all left, but Rose asked me to stay after class and help her put the books away, this was a quagmire that nobody has ever been in, but I was curious to see exactly what would happen. Perhaps she would treat me like she treated Elijah, or even better, she would let me into the room of adventure. In Sister Rose’s classroom was a large red curtain that covered a massive opening to the school’s storage room, a forbidden room larger than any room in the school, even the lunchroom. Yes, that’s it, she was walking towards the room, she was about to move the curtain, and then she opened the drawer next to the curtain.

“Can you help carry these out to my car?” she asked, destroying all my childhood dreams with one question, but what could I do. I was led outside in the light rain to her car, but the journey was more important than the destination, we traveled through the old locker room, a dark room with small holes in the wall leading to Rose’s class, casting the images of stars on the floor. Rose strode across them looking like a phantom image in the dark, leaving behind a trail of perfume scent. When we entered room ten, she asked me how Elijah and Patrick were treating me.

“um, good?”

“That’s good, I always knew they were good guys. I see them helping clean up after church a lot.” She said.

“You were Elijah’s teacher a couple of years ago.”

“Yes, and now I’m your teacher, you’re a lot less of a pain than Elijah was- I mean- you’re better than he was.”

“He said you were an awesome teacher.”

Rose gave a confused look. “I didn’t know that,” she said. “but that sounds like him, he misses me. Once you lose something, even something you hated, you come to miss it. That’s the way everyone feels about this school, everyone who’s left says that. How do you like this school?”

“It’s okay, I guess. I like some things about it.” We stepped out the door, the rain was now falling lightly. I saw the car, there was a carseat inside, meaning that Rose may have had a family after all. She opened her trunk, and I put the box in with a whole stock of boxes just like it. One of the boxes had no lid, and its contents were exposed to me: financial statements, accounting papers from 2001, with a signature line at the bottom saying: Reviewed by: Fedor Volea.

“Thanks for the help, Martin, you are such a sweet boy.”

“Is that all you needed?”

“Yeah, it was.” Rose said. “I need to write you a letter for Sister Kolleen, so she won’t mark you late.”

As she was writing the letter, she said: “you may not believe this, Martin, but I was once your age.”

“umm, I believe that.” I said.

“Then you must know that I understand you kids a lot better than you think. Life is hard, Martin, but you can pull through, and if there is any problem you think you can’t overcome, I really, truly, am there for you.”

“Well-“ I said before an awkward pause. “I guess- thanks- for that.”

“You’re welcome, Martin.” She was standing close enough to me that I was able to smell her breath; not a pleasant experience. She put her hand on my shoulder; I believe that if I didn’t take a slight step back, she’d have wrapped her whole arm around me. It seemed like she was trying to cheer me up somehow, it wasn’t really working. Maybe she should’ve brought balloons. Those always work. I wonder if Rose can make any balloon animals. I can make a snake- Oh my heck, her hand is still there!

“um… Sister Rose, this is kinda weird.” She made a noise that is still stuck in my head to this day. It went like: “eeeeehh”, but don’t take my word for it. “Sorry- you- you probably want this now.” She pulled her hand away from me, allowing me to sieze control of myself and strengthen my anti-affection bulwark. She gave me the note, and I thanked her before leaving the classroom and asking myself: Just what the heck was she planning to do?

I went to math class and showed Sister Kolleen the note, she didn’t even seem to notice I was late, and neither did anyone else. It was a normal class. Eating lunch was also normal, except that went through the lunch line and got my noodle soup, Cassandra turned away from the stove and looked at me; her eyes caused a burning sensation all across my skin until I looked away.

“Martin.” She said. I reluctantly said: “What?”, but over the sound of the dishwasher and the trays being moved, nothing more could be said, so she only gave me The Look. I experienced The Look, even as I sat down to eat, she came out to get the dirty trays, and as she loaded them on the cart, she gave me The Look. She’s given me The Look almost every time she’s seen m since she started working at the school two years ago. The only good thing about her is that she can’t pull my card, but I get the feeling that rule was made specifically to protect us from her.

The outside air was warm and smelled of rain. In the only tree on the playground sat a beautiful black and yellow bird, singing to remind us all that springtime soon will be here, but that didn’t help me at all.

“Just what was Cassandra going to say to me?” I asked to anyone who would listen, which was Ross and Helen.”

“I don’t know, maybe she blames you for the plague.”

“The plague?”

“Well, yeah, they say you started it. Some people were released from school because of the plague, and you were hospitalized the day before.”

“Well, I know what’s making everyone sick. It’s the food.” I said.

“Yes, but you were the first to get sick, and you were hospitalized, so some of the kids are a bit worried about being around you.”

“Sister Kolleen asked us to pray for you at closing prayer yesterday.” Helen said. “So that helped you out a lot.”

“Is that where Nephi and Sam are?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s where they are.” Ross said quickly.

“So Kolleen wanted you guys to pray for me, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“What did Kolleen say was going on?”

“She said you got sick and passed out. This was after everyone read the newspaper.”

“So what’s everyone saying about me?”

“John Reagen says that you got beat up by Patrick and Elijah, and Ryan says the guy who beat you up was Alvin Andrews.” Alvin was Joshua’s older brother, it is said that Joshua’s one redeeming quality is that he’s nicer than Alvin, who was greatly feared by his enemies.

“And Aina Swanson says that…”

“…our entire family is going to go back to foster care again.” Freya said she, Nephi, a neighbor boy, and myself rode our bikes through the neighborhood. This was supposed to end when I got home, but I became a pretty popular guy around the school in the past three days alone. Popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; right now, I just want to be alone.

My bike was now a motorcycle, it sped past Freya, who was so slow that all she was able to do was hopelessly ring her bell to get my attention. I arrived at the soccer field at East Sandy Elementary, and then stopped to rest. I wondered what Freya would say when she made it here. Apparently, I was popular with the neighbor kids too, that boy came up to me and asked me if I was okay, he reminded me of Rose with the way he asked me. I was lying on the grass, looking out at the clouds. Was this really a victory? This morning I felt sure of it, now I wasn’t. Everybody wanted to know what was going on, all I remember clearly was wishing on that star, and then waking up in the hospital. In between that, though, was a blur of images: a madman being stabbed with a spear, an endless, burned hallway, and a forest who’s trees grew skyward down. Just another dream I couldn’t remember.

I looked to the north, the clouds covered it, and its light was obscured by the sun, but it was there, the North Star. Did my wish really come true? Had the Gods heard my plea? This morning, something came in my room, I was caressed by a being of charity. Was that a good spirit? an angel? a diety?

Freya and Lehi soon caught up to me. The neighbor kid was gone now, I guess he wanted to hang around a celebrity, but that celebrity’s sister told him to get lost. I didn’t even know his name; I think it was Airhead or something like that.

“martin.” Freya said.

“Yeah?”

“I wanted to ask you something.”

“What’s that?”

“On Tuesday, on the bus, you mentioned something about seeing Andrew again.”

“Did I? I don’t remember- Oh yes, I did. That’s right, I remember now. What I meant was- I mean- I was tyring to- I don’t really know what I meant by that.” Freya saw through my deception, and she was disappointed.

“Are you sure it wasn’t anything, because some kids at school said-“ she clenched her fists and gnashed her teeth.

“They said what?”

“They said- They said you were going to kill yourself!”

“They what?! Who said that? Oh, heck, I already know! It was Christopher, wasn’t it?” Freya nodded, her fists still clenched.

“He’s going to pay for this.” I said.

“So you weren’t trying to do anything like that!” Freya said. A sudden merriment came over as she sat down on the grass and wiped the mud off her shoes.

“Heck no! I would never! People aren’t seriously saying this about me, are they?” I suddenly remembered Rose’s actions toward me, and realized this was really happening. This was bad, but the only thing worse would be for them to hear the real story. If only I could stop all rumors, I’d set up a committee, and we’d put an end to all of the gossip, and then the people would spread gossip about us; such was Everwood.

We strutted across the fields to find an old gnarled tree that Lehi climbed while carrying his backpack.

“Why’d you take your backpack with you?”

“I didn’t have time to put it away, so I took it with me, it’s not even heavy.”

“What’s in there?”

“Just some papers, oh, and this book.” He pulled out a book showing a tabby cat on the cover titled: Warriors: Into the Wild.

“You’re reading that book?” Freya asked.

“Yeah, it’s cool.” Lehi said. I climbed the tree while Freya told him that books about cats are stupid. As I got higher, I heard the shouts of teenagers echoing across the field. I heard the familiar voice of a boy and his sister. I didn’t know the sister’s name, but the boy’s name was Mohammad, which told me enough about him. I saw them from afar, kicking a soccer ball from across the field.

“Are those the people Patrick was talking about?” Lehi asked.

“Yes, yes they are.” Patrick told us all about the Islamic faith when they moved in. They spread their faith by the sword, cutting their way through Europe. My ancestor, Charles Martel, was the leader of the force that beat them back. Now, they have returned, setting their sights on America. “We should not be around them.” I said to Lehi, but he was too occupied with a magpie that rested above him. It briefly stopped to consider using Lehi’s head as a toilet, but decided against it when he started shouting at them. When it flew away, Lehi said: “We should probably get going, eh?”

On the way back, we discussed ways to get revenge on Christopher. We couldn’t really come up with anything, other than beating him up. Then Lehi said: “You can make him cookies for everybody on the bus…except for him.”

“Yeah, but then Sister Corinne will get mad at me.” I said.

“You can make cookies for him and only him.” Freya said. “And then make them taste really bad.”

“Good idea, Freya.” I said. We put our bikes in the shed, and went in through the back door, the windows were open, and we smelled someone cooking chicken Quesadillas, something we were all looking forward to. We went straight to the kitchen, where Elijah sat, doing his English homework. He looked at me right in the eyes, and said: “So Martin, I heard you got abducted by aliens. Is that true?” I was caught off guard by this homework more than any assignment Amber’s ever given me. When Amber surprised me with something, I usually abandoned all hope, but there was still one thing left to do here. I walked out of the kitchen immediately, with no more interest in what he would have to say than I would for my nose. I went to my room, which was as secluded as a log cabin in Idaho, coming out only for supper. It came and went with Elijah and me saying not a word to each other. Finally, that night, I went to bed, an Elijah came in to the room. We said barely more than good night, said our prayers, and went to bed.

I laid in bed, looking at the slightly opened door in despair. I always felt like there was someone watching from outside the door, but Elijah always left it like that.

“Elijah, could you close the door?” I asked. He gave a grunting noise and closed it. That didn’t make

Nobody behind it would trouble us; our trouble was in the room. I offended Elijah, and now a poisonous energy hung in the air around us.

“Martin,” Elijah said.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry; about what I said before, in the kitchen. I don’t really think you were abducted by aliens.”

“Yeah, I know.” I said. I wouldn’t have cared if he did; it was his sarcasm that bothered me.

“Have people been asking you about that?”

“Not the alien thing, but other stuff like that. I just wish they’d shut up.”

“Yeah, well, kids will be kids, sometimes you just gotta deal with it. Besides, I’m sure nobody really believes any of the stories they hear about you.”

I’ve been dealing with it my whole life, it wasn’t working. The auction had begun, and the rumors would soon be bought off by the preteen masses. Soon, the voice of Everwood would be heard, and it would be against me; but it wasn’t too bad, after all, I at least had Elijah on my side.

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