The next incident occurred during my lunch break of the following day.
I had just sat down to enjoy my neatly-wrapped lunch in the company of my own thoughts, in a quiet corner of the playground when I heard my name called out from behind me.
At this point, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Theodor Suichu, a decidedly atypical name for a decidedly typical teen. As a rule, I prefer “Ted” to “Theodor”, a fact which is common knowledge at my school.
“Hey there, Theodor”
And so, naturally, nobody calls me Ted.
Instantly placing the voice, I turned to greet my unwelcome lunchmate with more than a little wariness as she took a seat next to me, a little closer than I would have preferred.
“I had to search all over the school for you, Theodor.” The girl laughed, flicking her rose-scented ebony hair out of her eyes. “What is this, the lonely kid’s corner?”
Yvonne Willow, a force to be reckoned with.
Capable of turning any boy, girl, or teacher into a laughing-stock with a single, carefully-placed witty comment, unquestioned queen of the school, and grade-A seductress, Yvonne placed high on the list of people in my school that I tended to avoid at all cost. Widely know to be able to wrap any boy around her pinky finger, her infamy did little to challenge her success.
“What’s up, Yvonne?” I inquired, drowning my unease with a swig of ginger ale.
“Just wondering what Bax was telling the boys behind the school corner.” She returned sweetly, causing soda to come out my nose.
“How should I know?” I mumbled back, wiping my face.
Yvonne kicked her feet and laughed loudly, as she turned and fixed me with her jade-coloured eyes. “Why, Theodor, you were right there! You can’t have forgotten already now?”
I felt a chill down my spine. She got me! She must’ve been watching the whole thing!
“J-just some silly rumours.” I stammered, brushing it off.
“Oh that’s wonderful, girls just adore silly rumours.” She smiled dangerously. “About the Junk Genie, I presume?”
I blinked in surprise. “How’d you know about that?”
She clapped her hands playfully. “Oh good, I was right. So, what did Bax tell them? It must’ve been more than just the basic rumour; Brodie already knew about it.”
Once again, I was in awe of her depth of information. “There were only two new points.” I grudgingly explained. “One was that there were seven kids, not six.”
“Oh, so he found out about Daniel.” She smiled. “So? What else?”
I tried not to be surprised again. “Just something about the procedure to have the Genie grant you a wish. It was complete nonsense, but you know Bax…”
Yvonne was staring at me intently.
“Well, go on then!” She urged me.
“Well, I think it went like this;” I continued, trying to remember the exact details. “You bring three of your most valued things to the Genie, and he grants you one wish. I think that was it. Oh, and it has to be in the evening.”
“And that’s it?” She prodded. “He didn’t find out anything else?”
“Well, they weren’t sure how many people could get their wish granted.” I remembered. “They were worrying that maybe only one person would get a wish.”
I turned away from Yvonne and concentrated intently on my lunch again. “Well? Was that everything you needed?”
“Almost.” She smiled smugly. “Next, I need to know what the boys are going to wish for.”
“Hunh?!?” I exclaimed, nearly dropping my lunch. “How should I know that?”
“Well, you can just be a dear and go ask them for me, can’t you?” She smiled, patting my cheek.
“There’s no way they’d just tell me that.” I muttered.
"You’ll do fine, I just know it. And, I’d be…” Yvonne grinned, sliding up next to me, as she whispered slowly in my ear. “e-ver…so…grate-ful.”
My pulse quickened exponentially as my face grew suddenly very hot. “W-well,” I stammered. “I can try at least.”
“Oh, that’d be awfully sweet of you.” She smirked playfully, standing up and brushing herself off. “I can’t wait ‘till we meet again, Theodor.”
She skipped off happily, leaving me very alone with my half-eaten lunch.
I began to feel like I’d gotten in over my head.
The next morning, I hardened my resolve. If I was setting out to do this, I was going to do it right, and to do that, I’d need some help.
Sliding up next to Baxter during recess, I casually put my plan into action.
“Hey Bax, wanna go to the Dollar Store and get a Mountain Dew?” I offered. “My treat.”
His eyes immediately lit up at the prospect. I was well aware Baxter was a Mountain Dew junkie, and that his allowance wasn’t due until the weekend, so he was bound to be strapped for cash.
“What’s this about?” He looked at me suspiciously. “You want something, don’t you?”
No kidding, Baxter. Nobody would voluntarily talk to you unless they wanted something.
“Nothing really.” I shrugged. “I just wanted to talk. Remember that rumour you were telling me about yesterday? I’ll admit you piqued my curiosity.”
Baxter immediately looked nervous. “You’re not with Martin and the rest, are you?” He asked. “I already told them everything.”
“You ought to know me better.” I smirked self-depreciatingly. “Those guys only see kids like you and me as prey.”
“You got that right.” He muttered, edging closer and assuming a conspiratorial air. “Okay, I’m with you, but let’s leave in separate directions so they don’t get suspicious.”
I bit back the urge to remind him that Martin didn’t even notice the time Baxter left on vacation until after he came back.
“Got it.” I affirmed, and we split up.
“You want to know what Martin and the rest are gonna wish for?” Baxter asked, swigging back his second Mountain Dew. “Why?”
“Just curious.” I lied. “Who knows, I might try and make a wish myself, and it’d help if I had some references.”
“Well, I suppose I could try and do a little digging.” Baxter sighed, looking pointedly at my untouched soda can. “But you’re talking about Martin and the rest. Just talking to them is dangerous enough, let alone grilling them on their wishes.”
“I can handle some of them myself.” I shrugged, offering him my Mountain Dew, which he eagerly started on. “How about you take Martin and Brodie and I worry about Michael?”
“I suppose I could handle that.” He admitted.
Great. Phase one of my plan was complete, time for phase two.
“That reminds me!” I exclaimed, tapping my fist on my palm. “What would you wish for, Bax?”
“Me?” he replied, surprised.
“You’re the one who researched this whole legend the most.” I pressed. “Surely, you’ve got some kind of wish in mind?”
“Well, maybe just one thing.” He admitted, leaning back against the convenience store’s brick wall as he absent-mindedly swirled the last of his soda in the bottom of the can.
“Hey Theodor, do you remember Jacob Schwartz?”
My pulse quickened instinctively, as nostalgic memories started to flood over me. I nodded, instantly attentive.
“Well, he was sort of a big part of my childhood.” Baxter continued.
“Yours, and everybody else’s.” I thought.
“Anyway, it was because of him that I started to get interested in urban legends and stuff like that.” He continued.
That, I did not know.
“It’s just that…” He paused. “Do you know what's the one thing that ties all urban legends together?” He asked.
I stopped to consider it. “A mysterious origin?”
“Close.” He admitted. “It’s that they’re all just stories. No matter how extensively I delve into them, I still haven’t found a single one that ended up true.”
“And yet you’re still chasing after the Junk Genie?” I quipped.
“Hey, a guy’s gotta dream.” He laughed. “Honestly though, I wouldn’t really be surprised if this hunt ended the same way all the others did.
He paused, his eyes distant, as I waited for him to continue.
“But Jacob…he was different.” Baxter sighed. “Somehow with him, there was a very real adventure behind every abandoned lot, in every junkyard and forest around. He made the summers of each and every one of us kids, and he did it year after year. It was only after he left that I realized. He was the real deal, a true Urban Legend.”
Baxter smiled an oddly nostalgic smile, different from his usual skittish, nerdy grin. “After he left, I kept chasing down Urban Legends, even making up a few of my own, all to try and recapture that feeling of adventure, but in the end, a fake legend is nothing compare to the real deal.”
He looked up at me, eyes alight. “If I could have one wish, I’d just like to see the real deal again, our honest-to-goodness Urban Legend.”
Baxter quaffed the last draught of his soda as he finished his soliloquy, then both of us sat in silence, immersed in our own thoughts, mostly recollections of our past summers with our living Urban Legend.
Eventually, Baxter flipped his can into the nearby garbage, then stretched. “Well, that’s about enough reminiscing.” He smirked, his gaunt face back to normal. “Anything else you wanted from me before I head back?”
His question brought me back to reality, as I remembered my plan. Time for phase three. “Oh, just one thing.” I replied nonchalantly, as I swallowed my fear and took the leap. “Keep an eye on Yvonne too, and see if she’s looking to wish for something as well.”
“Yvonne Willows?” Baxter asked sceptically. “Well, it couldn’t hurt, but I think she’s got other things on her mind.”
“Such as?” I smirked.
“Who knows.” He shrugged. “Taking over the school?”
Laughing, we both took our leave, making our way back to the school the same way we came, going in two separate directions.
After recess, I considered my conundrum.
I had chosen Michael Chen as my target primarily because, as opposed to Brodie Furlough and Martin O’Conner, he was at least approachable, and was less likely to slam me against a wall if he felt I was grilling him.
However, he came with his own set of difficulties.
Michael Chen lived in a world apart from the rest of us lower-middle class kids. Everything about him reflected the gap between us, from his expertly styled hair, to his designer jacket and slacks, to his spotlessly-white sneakers. He was the kid all us other kids wanted to be friends with, in some vain hope that his charmed life would rub off on us.
Born with the childhood superpower of rich parents, he was the first kid to own a game system, always managed to get tickets to any baseball game he wanted, and his family even had a backyard pool.
He could insert himself into any existing clique in the school, even the dreaded company of Brodie and Martin, without fear, as his family’s reputation preceded him. As classes ended and lunchtime rolled around, I still felt no closer to a solution for bridging the gap and discovering his wish.
Pulling an insulated bag out of his knapsack, he began to dig into a homemade bento that looked like an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in a box, making my jelly sandwich suddenly seem crushingly bland.
Well, this negativity won’t get me anywhere, I decided. Instead of dwelling on the problem, I began to think back on everything I knew about my target, and especially anything that might give me an edge. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’d almost never seen Michael rattled. In fact, despite the significant clout he no doubt had around the school, he seemed far more content to simply slip into existing groups, as opposed to creating his own.
So, in that case, the best approach is the direct approach!
Rising from my seat, I set aside my sandwich and strolled over to his desk, as cockily as I could. However, the moment I raised my hand to call out to Michael, the door to the class slammed open and in trooped the rest of the gang, Martin and Brodie.
Time to bail!
Without missing a beat, I continued extending my hand, turning it into a natural head-scratch, as I altered my path ever so slightly to the back corner of the room. Pulling a candy bar out of my pocket, I unwrapped it and dropped the packaging into the awaiting garbage can as if it was my goal from the start. Waltzing back to my seat, I slipped my headphones on and resumed my lunch as the three usual suspects began their conversation.
Of course, my music was off and I heard every word. One of the magical effects of headphones is that as long as you have them on, people tend to talk as if you weren’t there, something I never fail to use to my advantage.
“I still say something’s fishy about this whole “seven kids instead of six” business.” The voice was Martin’s. “Did Bax’s story check out, Brodie?”
“As far as I can tell, anyway.” Brodie mumbled back around a mouthful of popcorn. Lunchtime rarely equaled mealtime for Brodie, as far as I had noticed. After all, the entire day was Brodie’s lunchtime, so he was usually only in a snacking mood by the time noon rolled around.
“And that’s what bothers me.” Martin continued. “Sure, I can see a couple of them wishing to go someplace else, heck maybe even half of them. But every kid except one is now missing? Something’s totally wack about that.”
“We’re dealing with an urban legend, here.” Brodie countered. “You can’t really expect everything to be normal.”
“Well, yeah but…” Martin started. “All I’m saying is that we should be careful. What if only one person can get a wish after all?”
“Why don’t we all agree on a wish beforehand?” Michael interjected, setting his chopsticks aside. “Something that works for all of us. That way, even if only one of us gets a wish, we all benefit!”
“Too naïve.” Brodie laughed. “What’s to stop the one kid from wishing for whatever he wanted for himself? I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust any of you enough not to take everything for yourselves.”
I smirked to myself. Isn’t friendship beautiful?
“Well, you can trust me when I say that if either of you even THINK of stealing the only wish for yourselves, I’ll straight up murder the both of you.” Martin muttered, cracking his knuckles one by one.
“…and I think that solves the problem perfectly.” Michael smiled placidly, as if he hadn’t just received a death threat and open declaration of mistrust from his friends. “If any of us wish for anything other than the group wish we decide, the rest of us will, ah, wreak vengeance upon him.”
“I can live with that.” Brodie admitted, breaking into a wry smirk.
“Well, then whadda we wish for?” Martin asked.
“That’s easy!” Brodie returned. “A million dollars each!”
“That’s thinking too small, Brodie.” Michael laughed. “A million dollars? That’s pocket change. You’d burn through that in a couple of years. At least go for a billion, or, better yet, why not just wish to be rich? A steady stream of money’s better than a giant lump sum.”
“Mike’s got a point.” Martin nodded, pointing a meaty thumb at him.
“Of course, I’ve already got more money than I know what to do with, so that hardly interests me.” Michael quickly added.
“Damn rich kid.” Brodie spat, which caused the three of them to break into laughter. It seems like the fact that their bond was sealed with a death threat was already behind them. For all their faults, at least they didn’t seem to hold grudges.
Of course, I still hadn’t discovered Michael’s wish, but the whole conversation had given me the ammo I needed to make my move.
As soon as classes were out for the day, I prepared to put my plan into action.ns220.127.116.11da2