Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kindle Book Preview: Average Joe and the Extraordinaires

The Dating Game

Joe’s meeting with Principal Patrias had gone much worse than expected.  He was now the principal’s target, and the principal wanted him gone.  One good thing was accomplished because of the meeting though.  It had taken up so much time that Joe’s English class had ended and it was now time for lunch, or rather Fleez and Dozz happy hour.  He didn’t think he could stomach whatever cruel game they had planned for today.  He wanted to skip lunch altogether, but he was hungry, and if he was going to stay awake in class he’d need a lot more energy.  Most of all, he needed to be there for Mod.

Once he grabbed his lunch and strolled to his usual seat, he saw no sign of Mod.  That’s mighty smart of him, thought Joe.  No sign of Fleez and Dozz either, and that lifted the weight from the pit of Joe’s stomach.  He was able to eat half his lunch of ravioli and steamed buttery broccoli, which wasn’t half as bad as it looked.

Fleez and Dozz walked in theatrically about twenty minutes later.  They looked sad and sullen, but in an overacted sort of way.  They joined Joe near his mostly empty table and gave him more of their sad and piteous looks.  Joe tried, but failed to ignore them.  Mod isn’t here, so what will they do? he wondered.  There were a few other kids to pick on at the table, but Joe couldn’t really call them his friends.  Maybe Fleez and Dozz would actually direct their wrath towards him.  Joe would welcome it, since he was the one deserving of it anyway.  Maybe I should just join their stupid club, he thought.

Fleez: “Excuse me, all, if I could get your attention!  Womenfolk and gentler men, all eyes over here!”

It was another performance and it made Joe uneasy.

Fleez: “Well, it seems that even though we put on a great show yesterday, our red-headed guest wants no part in the joy that we bring to the masses, to our loving fans and subjects.  We have been searching for him since this lunch hour—which is also his lunch hour—began.”

Again, they poured on the fake sadness.

Dozz: “Unfortunately, the show for today is cancelled…”

Boos echoed throughout the lunchroom.

Fleez: “Is what Dozz would’ve said if I didn’t have our loyal minion, Byron rox-yer-sox, marching Mod to this very lunchroom.”

Cheers rang out louder than the boos this time.  Mr. Serano was nowhere in sight to even keep the noise level in check.  Fleez smiled like a madman and took a bow.  He rose and took another one on his other side.

Mod was brought in and didn’t seem to be offering any resistance to his captor, the humanoid gorilla, Byron.  Byron was roughly the size of three Mods put together, not in height, but in stone weight.  He was taller than Mod, but one really couldn’t say he had anything but average height.  His arms, legs, head, and belly were all wide.  He had a head full of dark brown hair that had likely not come into contact with a comb in some time.  His black eyes were small and beady, but looked even smaller hidden behind the excess of his fleshy cheeks and brow.  He escorted Mod to where Fleez and Dozz were standing.  Once they arrived, the kids cheered louder.

Fleez: “Now that the gang’s here, how about a bit of history, kids?  We can actually thank good old Joe for all this fun.  These great lunchroom games are a direct cause of him deciding not to join team Badd Azz.  Let’s have a big round of applause for Joe.  I think he likes this more than all of us.”

The kids of the lunchroom applauded and Fleez savored the moment.  He grinned and motioned for Byron to bring Mod over.

Fleez: “Hiya, Modrick!  Sorry for your loss.”

Mod: “What loss?”

Fleez: “The loss of your dignity yesterday.  That must’ve stung the ol’ ego, aye?  It got a little out of hand, I’ll admit, and the mess we caused was catastrophic.  How long did it take you to clean all that pukeball crud up?”

Joe noticed that Mod looked like he was suppressing a grin.  Fleez noticed as well, and seemed surprised by it.

Mod: “Not long.  As you can see I’m looking and smelling very clean today.”

Fleez: “That’s good.  Yesterday Dozz and I were just having a bit of fun.  Today is serious business though.  You see, Modrick, we want to help you.”

Mod's near grin was replaced by shock and confusion.  Something about the way Fleez said that made Mod uneasy.  Fleez turned his attention from Mod to the crowd.

Fleez: “We’re here today to help this poor soul find happiness.”

Neither Mod nor Joe knew what the heck to expect next.

Fleez: “So, Mod, let’s take a little time to get to know you.  Sure, we bonded a bunch yesterday, but we still need to learn the particulars.  Now, I’ve been told that your parents are from a land called Limeyville, where they have Lobsterbacks”

Mod: “Yeah, but I was born in the States”

Fleez: “Tsk tsk tsk, Modrick.  Mind your manners now.  You should never interrupt a man when he’s talking.  Haven’t your Limey parents taught you that?  Now, you’ve been in Orangetown a while, but no one knows who you are.  That’s pretty sad, pal.”

The crowd reacted with an audible round of “Awww,” as if they were the audience in some nineties’ sitcom.  That stung at Mod a bit, Joe could tell.

Fleez: “That’s okay, though.  That’s why Dozz and I are here — oh, and Byron too — sorry Byron!  We’re gonna hook you up, man.  Big time.  Aint that right, boys?”

Dozz and Byron nodded their heads.  Both were smirking and clearly enjoying the spectacle.

Fleez: “Now, Dozz, would you care to explain the rules of our hook-up challenge?”

Dozz: “Certainly, Fleez.  You see there’s a science and an art to hooking up.  The theory is that men and women attract studs and studesses that are as hot and rich as themselves.  We call this a person’s ‘league.’”

He used air quotes every time he said the word “league.”

Dozz: “Whenever you fellas see a girl too hot for you and you walk away: that’s you recognizing that she’s out of your ‘league’ and you walk away to protect yourself from soul-crushing rejection.  So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of Mod’s traits and have calculated which girls are in his ‘league.’  I’m happy to say that we’ve found a match.”

Fleez: “Yes, indeed we have, folks, but we can’t have our bachelor seeing her before he gets to know her.  We here at Badd Azz Hook-ups pride ourselves on helping others find deeper connections that go beyond physical attraction.  And so ... we will blindfold our bachelor as he and our bachelorette get to know one another.  So bachelorette number one, MBH, please come on down.”

As she rose from her seat, Joe recognized MBH as Meribeth Hilday.  She was a freshman like Mod, but Joe knew her from middle school and elementary school.  She used to be very spirited and rambunctious and full of jokes, but had mellowed over the years into the quiet and timid girl that she was now.  As she walked over to team Badd Azz, she was visibly nervous.  They pulled chairs for both of them and sat her back-to-back with Mod.  She looked at Fleez sheepishly, and waited for whatever he had planned for her.  Fleez himself flashed her a big grin and winked at her.  The crowd laughed when she sat down, and that seemed to make her more self-conscious. 

She wasn’t what you’d call a small girl, but Joe thought it was wrong to call her fat, not morally wrong but logically wrong.  She was reasonably tall, just under Kate, but had a much thicker waistline, thicker arms and legs, along with wider hips.  She had a squat sort of shape to her, which made her look much bigger than what she was, along with a humongous set of breasts and a big round butt.  Her sandy blonde hair was always tied into a knot or a ponytail, she had a large hooked nose on her face, and her eyes a dark brown look to them.  Though she wasn’t the standard type of “beautiful girl” that the region was known for, Joe still found her to be attractive.  The only major turn-off that he could find was the outbreak of acne that pocked her face with a multitude of tiny red dots.  She was cute elsewise.

Joe was confused as to why she was humoring these two.  Is it something as simple as fear, he wondered.

Fleez: “Now we shall help the love birds get to know one another.  Mod’s gonna be in for a HUGE surprise.”

The crowd laughed at that, and Meribeth flushed red.

Fleez: “Now, Dozz, take it away with the introductions.”

Dozz: “Will do, Fleez!  First we have our very lovely bachelorette here who loves moonlit walks to KFC and Dairy Queen, except without the walking.  Her favorite place to shop is the dollar menu, and not because she likes to save money — no, it’s because she lives by the motto: “Quantity over quality.”  Her favorite physical activity is something exotic called no-nay.  Whoops, sorry!  I believe I have mispronounced that, her favorite physical activity is actually “none.” Yes, none, folks.  Dislikes for her include cooking — because there’s a wait involved — and not being loved.  Her favorite date spot is the drive-in, which is pretty romantic — whoops again!  I misread that.  It looks like her favorite date spot is actually the drive thru.  It doesn’t specify which one, so I assume that means any and possibly all drive thrus.  What a catch!  She doesn’t discriminate and is easy to please.  On Saturday nights she likes to splash around wearing the bikini that she bought for that special day when she’d make some friends and they could all hang out by the pool.  Hey, we all have our dreams. Stop laughing!  She also spends most of Saturday pretending to play slurpy-face with rad boys, especially ones with rad red hair.  What a catch, aye guys?”

Hoots, laughs, and whistles came from the crowd, along with a bit of foot stamping and there was still no sign of Mr. Serano or even Mr. Zero Tolerance Patrias.  The faculty picked the wrong time to decide not to do their jobs.  Joe had seen enough.  He walked up to Fleez and asked him to end it.

Fleez: “It’s out of my hands, Joe-bro.  This is Dozz’s show now.”

Dozz was too busy reveling in this spectacle to notice Joe.

Dozz: “Now for the man of the hour.  The down-on-his-luck bachelor, Modicum Malington.”

Cheers erupted from the crowd, and Joe could swear that he saw the beginnings of a smile cross Mod’s face.  Joe himself was feeling embarrassed, and he wasn’t the one being humiliated.  How could Mod even slightly enjoy this?

Dozz: “Now Modicum’s likes include pretending to be Ronald Weasley, wishing he was Fleez and Dozz and sometimes Byron, girls he can’t have, and an unreachable popularity status.  His dislikes include himself, life, not feasting on souls, you, his haircut, his evil soulless ginger body, and having friends that won’t join team Badd Azz.  His favorite date spot is his mom and dad’s room cuz that’s where all the magic happens.  On his Saturday nights, he likes to make out with his elbows, which is a talent really.  You ever try that?  It’s very difficult to do.  He also builds Taylor Swift idols with his Lego collection, prays for popularity, and watches whole seasons of Glee that he’s personally recorded and sings to.  What insane girl here doesn’t want to friend-zone that?”

A roar of laughter went up from around the lunchroom.  That was it, Joe had to get him out of there.  He left Fleez where he stood laughing and walked towards Mod’s chair.  He looked to his right and saw Kate stomping towards the scene just like yesterday, except this time much angrier.  She looked at Joe with murder in her eyes, shook her head, and grabbed her brother by the arm, pulling him from the chair.

Kate: “What are you doing?  Get up!”

Dozz: “Hey, chicky!  We were in the middle of a hook-up here.”

Kate: “You two can do that just fine without my brother.  Let’s go, Mod!”

She pulled and he followed.  Joe ran after them this time.  Boos reverberated around the lunchroom as they dashed towards the exit.

Fleez: “It looks like big sister red didn’t approve of you, Meribeth, and if she doesn’t approve then we don’t approve.  Sorry, Meribeth, but it looks like you’ve been dumped before you even got to go on a date.  Harsh.”

“Awwww,” offered the crowd.

Fleez: “Now that was…”

Fleez and Dozz: “Off the hook!”

Joe looked back just in time to see Meribeth Hilday break down into tears.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kindle Book Preview: Average Joe and the Extraordinaires

What a bore!

Buzz Buzz Buzz!
The alarm clock seemed louder than ever before and Joe had to karate chop the big snooze button to save his sleepy state.

Joe: “Dang it!  Just a few more minutes.”

Nine minutes later the buzzing came back but this time Joe was ready to get up.  The morning went by in a blur.  Joe vaguely remembered taking a shower, having cereal, and watching T.V but not really paying attention to what was on.

He left his house and walked to the car which was parked on the street.  His dutiful girlfriend Kate had returned it—his parents said—after the whole stadium incident.  He still hadn’t seen or talked to her since and wasn’t sure what he’d say the next time that he did.

He got into his car and turned on the ignition.  It jumped to life but it felt different.  Everything felt different.  The drive to school went by in a blur.  Joe vaguely remembered seeing street signs, a stop light, a slow old lady crossing the street, traffic lights, more traffic lights, and a cute girl with red hair in the school’s parking lot.  She smiled at him.  Her red hair reminded him of Kate but Kate’s was naturally red, he couldn’t say the same about this girl.

The walk through the school went by in a blur.  There were plenty of staring faces everywhere he went, much chatter, some laughter, and many whispers.  No one talked directly to him but Joe knew that they were talking about him.

He had shifted through the halls and was almost near his locker when he bumped into two guys that he was distantly familiar with but had never talked to before.  It’d actually be more accurate to say that they bumped into him.  He had known them as Fleez and Dozz and they were to be avoided.

Fleez: “Uh-oh!  Badass alert!  Clear the hallway peasants lest you want to be just another victim.”

Dozz: “That’s not fair Fleez.  He’s been acquitted of his crimes.  That makes us the only badasses setting off alarms here.”

Fleez: “He’s been acquitted of half his crimes so he’s a badass until proven innocent.  How ‘bout it Joe?  Wanna join the likes of us and raise hell?”

Fleez stuck his hand out.

Joe: “Sorry but your friend is right.  I’m not a badass.  I’m just a regular guy.  Excuse me I have to get to class.”

Joe sheepishly pushed past them and walked down the hall.  Further down he caught a flash of her red hair and saw her, she was facing her locker.  He stood still and wide-eyed like a deer in the headlights.  She turned and looked in his direction and they locked eyes but only briefly.  She turned her head and walked away down the opposite end of the hall.

The rest of the day went by in a blur until lunch when he bumped into the principal, Mr. Patrias.

Mr. Patrias: “So Joe, you’ve decided to join us in the land of the learning?”

Patrias laughed at his own joke but Joe didn’t find it so funny.

Joe: “Yes sir.”

Mr. Patrias: “Well I’m glad you’re in good health and that this whole ordeal is behind you.  Now you can get back on track to academic excellence.”

Joe: “Yes sir.”

Mr. Patrias: “Remember Joe, towing the line won’t cut it anymore.  I won’t have it here at my school.  I’ll be on your case until you’re just as bright and competitive as my best.”

Joe: “Yes sir.”

Mr. Patrias: “If you follow that we’ll finally see eye to eye.  I know you can do it.”

Principal Patrias smiled using only his lips.

Mr. Patrias: “Now go get some lunch and fuel up for the rest of your classes.”

Joe walked away from the principal feeling ill at ease.  As Patrias had alluded to earlier, neither he nor Joe had seen eye to eye since he was Joe’s teacher back in elementary school.  Joe honestly didn’t think the man liked him—ever.  He opted to get on with his day however and grabbed some lunch. 

Lunch was a standard affair, corndogs and tater tots.  Brussels sprouts were there too but who wanted those?  Joe grabbed his tray and looked for a place to sit.  He usually split his seating arrangements between Mod and his friends and the OrangeTown High benchwarmers.  The benchwarmers were usually good company and had much to say about football, which Joe liked, but today he didn’t feel like answering all the questions that they were sure to ask.  Plus even as benchwarmers they were too high profile for him right now.  He wanted to be as incognito as possible.

He spotted Mod sitting with only a few of his friends at their usual spot.  He wanted to make sure that Mod was doing okay and to also gauge the temperature of Kate.

Joe: “Hey Mod!”

Mod: “Wow Joe!  You can talk?  I can’t believe it!  It must be a miracle because I could’ve sworn this whole time that your vocal cords were stolen by the government or Aliens or Australians.”

Joe: “Very funny Mod.  You know I would’ve called if I could.”

Joe took a seat across from Mod and was again treated to the stares, whispers, and giggles of those around him.

Mod: “Well then why didn’t you?  It’s been almost two weeks since the stadium and they proved your innocence days ago.  Why am I just now talking to you?”

Joe: “I’m sorry.  It’s just…you know…I needed time.  I still need time to deal with everything that happened.”

Mod: “And that’s just it, nobody knows what happened.  None of us know what you saw or why you stayed.”

Joe: “And I can’t tell you for good reasons.”

Mod: “That bad huh?”

Joe: “Yeah…”

Mod: “I’m fine with that, not too sure about Kate though.”

Joe: “You and me both.  But I’m telling you, the less you and her know the safer you’ll be.”

Mod: “I wish I was there with you.  Whatever happened, you shouldn’t have faced it alone.”

Joe: “It’s okay Mod.  I wasn’t alone.  Just hearing you say that though makes me feel a lot better.  I’m just glad you two got out safely.”

Mod nodded.

Joe: “I’m going to lay low until this all blows over.  As you can see I’m a little too popular today.”

Mod grinned.

Mod: “You can never be too popular.”

Joe: “I don’t like the spotlight as much as you do.  For now I’ll let you enjoy your food, free of stares.”

Mod: “Psshaw, you kidding me?  I’ve never been gawked at by so many hot babes before in my life.  Stay!  Heck, I might even get a phone number out of this.”

Joe laughed.

Joe: “You’ll never change Mod, I swear.”

Mod: “Change?  Why do that?  When life gives you lemons eh…”

Joe: “Yeah…”

They talked for a while about Mod’s girl troubles mostly, until they were interrupted.  Fleez and Dozz had pushed themselves into the table the boys were sitting at, each on another side of Mod.  One of Mod’s friends ended up being pushed from the end of the bench when Fleez and Dozz sat down, his lunch fell to the floor with him.

Fleez: “I just came over here to continue our conversation from earlier Josephus.  It didn’t exactly end on the right footing.  For one you didn’t let me explain my terms.”

Mod looked extremely uncomfortable between the two boys.  Joe had only now just noticed how big they both were.  Both Fleez and Dozz were over 6 foot but Fleez was a lot bulkier.  He was now wearing a green tank top and Joe took note of how chiseled and large his biceps were.  With that in mind he had no idea why he was going to say but he was about to say.

Joe: “My answer is still no.  I have a lot on my mind right now.”

Dozz: “He’s definitely got balls Fleez.”

Fleez: “Well he wouldn’t be the badass we know he is without ‘em.  Now listen Joe, the truth of the matter is you don’t have much of a choice here.  Wait—no, that aint right.  You have a lot of choices but they aren’t the ones you think you have.  We have choices too.  We could just make you join us and easily establish our own badassery that way but you’d probably just let us and that’s no fun.  It wouldn’t get us anywhere either.  So me and Dozz here—whoops—sorry, Dozz and I, will instead make a friend of your friend.  Yeah this little guy here.”

Fleez patted Mod on the shoulder and Dozz gave him a few rough slaps on his back.

Fleez: “He’ll be our little ‘friend’ for the rest of his high school life or until you come to your senses.”

Dozz: “I’ve always wanted a little red headed brother.  What color do you think his hair would turn if we burned it?”

Fleez: “Good question Dozz!  We should find out, you know how the principal’s always going on about academic curiosity and whatnot.”

They both got up laughing.  Mod looked mortified especially after Dozz gave his shoulder another tap.

Fleez: “Here’s a little demo Josephus.”

Fleez took out a mason jar from a brown paper bag that he had.  He unscrewed the lid and produced a wad of something that filled the air with a horrid and bitter odor.  Dozz followed suit.  Loudly and in tandem they proclaimed:

“Welcome, everyone, to pukeball; everyone’s favorite wacky, wretched, and whacked out event.  We are your hosts.”

Fleez: “Fleez!”

Dozz: “And Dozz!”

Fleez: “Today’s guest is Mod which is short for…”

Dozz: “Mod—er, or maybe Modicum as in modicum of girls that like him, modicum of athletic talent, modicum of coolness—”

Fleez: “Or maybe just words that he’ll never hear from a girl ever.  Haha get it Dozz, get it?  Cuz when you break it down it sounds like Mod-I-oh nevermind!”

The kids at the other tables ate up the act and howled with laughter throughout.  Finally an adult had come by. It was Mr. Serano the math teacher.  He typically monitored the lunchroom during Joe’s lunch period.  Kids usually despised when he approached their table but Joe welcomed it today.  Finally an end to this craziness, Joe thought.

Mr. Serano: “Keep it down you two.”

Fleez: “Aww man.  You’re gonna stop pukeball?”

Mr. Serano: “Did I say that?  I said keep it down.”

Mr. Serano looked at Joe and walked back to the front of the lunch room where he sat.  Fleez smiled a nasty smile and pumped his fist.  Joe was speechless, so was Mod.

Fleez: “Now Dozz let’s continue.”

He and Dozz held up the nasty wads in their hands for all to see.

Dozz: “Behold exhibit A, the fabled pukeball.  It slithers with life in my hand.  It wants…it wants to splat…real good.”

Fleez: “Without further ado, here’s the main event!”

With that they chucked the fowl smelling wads at Mod which splattered gross grayish-green colored muck all over him.  Everyone that was sitting at the table including Joe shuffled away from the havoc.  Fleez and Dozz threw the wads with such force that Mod stumbled over to the ground as one caught him as he tried to dodge.

They were more vicious with the second round and decided to coat his face with the stuff.  Joe watched in horror at what they did to his friend and then it all stopped and Mod was standing and covered from head to toe with muck.  He kept his hands in front of his face in case they weren’t finished.  Joe decided then that he’d grab Mod and get the heck out of dodge.  He walked two steps before he saw Kate and stopped in his tracks.  She grabbed up Mod, her eyes never leaving him, and whispered something to him, most likely to console him.  Joe couldn’t tell what she was saying over all the laughter.  They were gone in a heartbeat.

Dozz: “Fear not serfs.  All you innocent casualties can rest knowing that no real puke was used in this spectacle only mustard, vinegar, old mayonnaise, pickle juice, and shame.”

Fleez looked at Joe grinning while Dozz continued.

Dozz: “Don’t miss our next show, we’re here all day folks.”


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kindle Book Preview: Average Joe and the Extraordinaires

Home Sweet Clock Tower

The drive there went quickly enough.  It was even easier getting into the tower at this time of night.  The only company that the three of them had was a blinking traffic light and that was a mile down.

Joe brought the girls in from the back entrance.  He couldn’t tell one from the other thanks to the bundle of stuff each held in front of them.  Only when their heads poked out to the side to see where they were walking did Joe see who was who.  He decided to help lighten their loads once they reached the stairs.  He took the sleeping bag from Melissa and had her carry the folded blankets as he had originally intended before the girl declined.  She was adamant about pulling her own weight, a virtue that was taught to her from her dad, by her telling.  That was all fine and dandy, but Joe didn’t want her to trip and break a leg.  He wouldn’t have that at all.  He liked the little girl.  She was very sweet.

Melissa looked up at the long stretch of stairs going towards the rooftop, and Joe followed her gaze.  He could see nothing but black after the halfway point.

Melissa: “Wow, it looks much bigger inside than outside.”

Joe had always thought that too, especially when he walked the winding steps.  The climb had always taken so long and his thighs would always burn, and his ankles were seldom not sore once he reached the top.  Outside the tower didn’t look very tall at all, despite that.

Joe: “Maybe there are double the stairs.”

Melissa giggled at that and Dahlila shook her head in disapproval.  They weren’t going to go up the stairs tonight, however.  It was much too dark for that and Joe was getting sleepy.

Joe: “The room you gals will be at is through this door here, so we’ll skip the stairs for now.”

They walked through the small single door and into a room that was nothing but shadow and moonlight.  Joe was used to daytime strolls here.  It had been quite some years since he had seen the inside of the tower at night, and it was very striking to see.  Pale blue light poured in over the long oaken benches that sat, black as night, near the front of the hall.  The light came from the five large windows that surrounded the room.  The windows were set high up, unreachable by unaided human hands.  There was mostly empty space, especially if you discounted the benches.  A large ornate tapestry that strongly smelled of dust took up most of the room’s space.  The tapestry had some sort of coat of arms on it, with a spear, vines, and that thing that Julius Caesar and the Little Caesar guy wear on their heads, Joe had concluded.  The girls looked to and fro, surveying their new digs.

Joe: “There’s a lot of space here as you can see.  That’s why I figure it’d be a good spot to sleep. Plus, there’s no wind.”

Melissa: “But it’s so cold in here.”

Joe couldn’t disagree with that.  It was always colder inside the tower than outside it for some odd reason.

Joe: “Yeah, it’s always like that.  Sorry.”

They put their sleeping equipment on the floor and Joe continued the tour.  He pointed up to the front, where an altar sat with a woman’s face on it.  They all walked towards it.

Joe: “I think this used to be a church or something.  There’s a statue of some famous wise woman up there.  I never figured out who she was, but the description under the altar says that she brings out the potential in men and helps them reclaim their destinies.”

Dahlila: “She looks tough.”

Melissa: “And beautiful.”

Joe nodded his head in agreement with both accounts, and continued on.  He led them to the front hallway, near the front door, along with the coat closet.  He warned the girls never to use the front door.

Joe: “If you have to leave, use the back door.  You don’t want to be seen in here, and the front door leads right to the streets.”

He then walked them through the tiny kitchen where the slivers of moonlight filtered through an overhead vent.  The kitchen was still very dark regardless of the moonlight, and Joe loudly called himself stupid for forgetting to bring any flashlights.

Melissa: “I still have mine!”

Dahlila looked over the old appliances and wiped dust off the stove and blew it from her fingers and off into the air.

Dahlila: “Does any of this work?”

Joe: “I doubt it.  The tower doesn’t get power, and I’m sure they turned the gas off too.”

Dahlila made a face as if she smelled something rotten.

Dahlila: “I guess beggars can’t be choosers.  Draft up the papers, we’ll take it!”

All three of them laughed at that.  Afterwards Joe felt a yawn trying to escape.

Joe: “Well, this is it for now, I guess.  It’s not the best, but it’s peaceful here.  That’s why me and Mod like it, but we’ve never slept here overnight.”

Melissa: “What about the top?  You haven’t shown us what the view looks like yet.”

Another yawn crept up, and this time Joe couldn’t stifle it.

Dahlila: “He can do it some other time.  Come on, let’s set everything up for bed.”

The little girl looked as disappointed as Joe had ever seen her look.  She didn’t look sad per se, just a little less happy.

Joe: “No, it’s okay.  I don’t mind, Dahlila.  Come on, follow me.”

That perked Melissa right up.  She gave Joe her flashlight and he led the sortie up the winding staircase, with both girls not far behind.  Once they neared the halfway point, he looked back after he heard Dahlila say something to Melissa.

Dahlila: “Why’d you lug that up with you?”

Melissa: “Oh, I forgot that I had it in my hands.”

Dahlila eyed her suspiciously.

Dahlila: “Mmhm.”

At the halfway point Melissa spotted an open window that was just beyond her reach.  Joe turned down her request to be lifted into the large windowsill because he felt it was too dangerous.  Dahlila seconded his decision.

Joe: “I promise you’ll have an even better view at the top.”

They continued on to the top, and once more — like before — his thighs burned, but this time his ankles didn’t hurt quite so much.  It was here that Joe lost the attention of both girls.  They gaped up at the insides of the four pale blue clock faces that glowed with the moon’s light.  Their own faces glowed with that same light.  After that, Melissa inspected the other gears and machinery.  He figured she’d have long enough to do that later though.  He wanted to get to the coup de grace.  He needed sleep sooner rather than later.

Joe: “Okay, gals, this way please.”

Melissa smiled up at him, obviously excited by all the mechanical wonders around her, and took Joe’s hand.  He led her up one more level of stairs to the southern clock face and they looked out of it.  The wind was blowing coolly, just as Joe had said, though it wasn’t even half as chilly as the altar room downstairs.  It was a nice night.

Melissa wanted to climb a little higher, and this time Joe obliged her.  This windowsill was much bigger than the one below, and there was enough space for her to stand on the inside.  She stood transfixed by the goings on outside and below, and then by the stars.

Melissa: “I think I’m going to sleep up here.”

Dahlila sighed.

Dahlila: “You knew you were going to sleep up here, you little sneak.”

Melissa smiled and shrugged while Joe laughed.

Dahlila: “Greeeaat!  Now I have to go get my sleeping bag.”