Day One: What a MESH!
People often told Atrast Valla, age 17, that their high-school years were the best ones of their lives. A paradise of partying, socializing, and "living it up"...
Unless, of course, you actually were Miss Atrast Valla, considered the absolute biggest perda at Unity High School, or Uni-Hi. You were never invited to parties, ridiculed as much for your plumpness as for your cerebral palsy, and had an incurable and slowly-lethal dose of pyriasis to boot...
Witness this scene. Two bullies, nicknamed Sketch and Grode, roam the hallways and spot her, holding cans of juice in their meaty fists:
Sketch: "Scope out the stack on her! See the way she bounces?"
Grode: "See the way she walks? Waddles, more likely. Look at her. Seriously. If she weren't such a tard, Atrast would be a total lupta."
Sketch (Calls after Atrast.) "Lupta!"
Grode (Does the same.) "Tard!"
Together: "Luptard!" (They guffaw, pleased at their wittiness.)
Atrast hears this, and she holds back tears. She's always been prone to "OE'ing", or "overemoting", especially in situations like this. It's something that the guidance counselors at Uni-Hi have always warned her about. "Do you think you're going to get a job if you can't take criticism?" they tell her. They don't understand. There is a difference--a definite one--between criticism and bullying. This is definitely the latter. Do the counselors care?
No. Atrast knows this as well. They say they do, but the blank void in their eyes betrays the lie of their perpetually-smiling faces. This is why she takes nightly refuge in the only friends she's ever had--eight pawns, two knights, two rooks, two bishops, a King and a Queen. She envisions herself as the King. Not so powerful on the board, no, but of infinite value. If he is lost...
She smiles, most likely for the first time that day. Chess makes her do that.
However, as she hastily takes her seat in ENG, or English class, little does she suspect that her smile will vanish for quite a while. She has not finished her MESHes--her Mandatory Educational Service Hours. Not by a long shot. If she doesn't complete them soon, she won't graduate, and then she'll be conscripted into the military despite her disability (and femaleness). The draft "left no one behind" these days. These days, Uncle Sam needed everyone, able-bodied and fit or not.
The intercom system crackled to life. Even in 2064, schools were ill-furbished:
"Good morning, everyone. Uni-Hi welcomes you." (Atrast thought, "Right.") "Before classes begin, would Atrast Valla, Dream Castier, Jeff--uh, Cochran?, Akira Kuran, Arvel--what is his last name, Turing?, Dee Donovan, Han-Jihye Park, and Michael--OMG, *giggles*! Caboose report to the PO-PO immediately?" The class stifled their collective laughter. The teacher glared.
Atrast shivered. The PO-PO was the principal's office. She was seriously borked--unless, hoping against hope, he'd give her an ENG award...
Arvel sat in class, bored to death. Taking CHEM, or chemistry, did have its perks - setting things on fire, for example - but many of the technical equations and laws were just too flat. Arvel was more of a loner. He almost never worked with anyone, and chose not to talk much. Nobody knew why. Arvel had been bullied before, and to an unhealthy extent, too, but that wasn't the only factor. He had begun to read - secretly, of course - and found out tons of things about history. He found out how humans were pretty much war-like - at least in his opinion - at heart. After reading about many philosophies, he decided he was probably and existentialist - meaning, he believed life was meaningless, but humans needed to define how they lived, too. Due to his research and the bullying, he absolutely loathed people and life. He then thought about his MESHes that he hadn't taken, and how he seemed to be one of the few non-infected people. He then heard his name called on the PA system.
"Before classes begin, would Atrast Valla, Dream Castier, Jeff--uh, Cochran?, Akira Kuran, Arvel--what is his last name, Turing?, Dee Donovan, Han-Jihye Park, and Michael--OMG, *giggles*! Caboose report to the PO-PO immediately?"
"Fork," Arvel murmered to himself, anxious about what would happen. He decided it was better to go up to the office rather then incur the wrath of the Principal - assuming, of course, that the principal wasn't already enraged.
As Atrast got up to leave the stuffy ENG classroom, she heard her teacher grumble, "Honestly. That should be the last time that Assistant Principal Thurmond lets Ashlee do announcements over the intercom." That made the class snicker even harder! Everyone knew about Ashlee. "Ca$hlee", as she was more commonly known, was trying to make a name for herself as a pop singer before she even graduated high school. Of course, she didn't have a snowball's chance in H-E-2-flipped-7's! For one thing, she needed an "auto-tune" machine to make her voice sound on key in her demo MP9's, and for another thing, she was from this two-bit backwater burb--Prestile Stream, Maine. Small town, small mind, small "stack". If anything good could be said about "Ca$hlee", it was that she was pretty and platinum-blonde...
Atrast sighed. Her body temperature was rising again. Even her prescription-strength deodorant--Bionic Bond Ultra--was starting to falter. This time, it wasn't only the fault of her pyriasis. Going to the "PO-PO" would make anyone's armpits sweat. Even the good kids (known as OY's, or "outstanding youth" in teacher parlance) were afraid of Assistant Principal Thurmond and his immediate superior, Principal Carolyn Patton. Both were known as "undertakers" who would "bork" anybody's chances at going to college given the chance. One mistake on your part, and your head would roll. That was what had Atrast worried. Even "F's" on exams were suspect...
Michael Caboose was sitting in CHEM, hoping not to mess anything up today. So far he's caused 4 fires, 6 spills, 2 explosions, and 1 missing lab mouse which he still claims isn't his fault. He was also hoping there wasn't going to be a quiz today as he would fail. Caboose wasn't exactly the brightest of the bunch and in no way would he ever be OY but that didn't mean he wasn't going to college. No what he didn't have in brains he made up for in sheer power. Caboose was the best LB or Line Backer Uni-Hi ever had. Caboose was about to speak when the announcements came on.
"Before classes begin, would Atrast Valla, Dream Castier, Jeff--uh, Cochran?, Akira Kuran, Arvel--what is his last name, Turing?, Dee Donovan, Han-Jihye Park, and Michael--OMG, *giggles*! Caboose report to the PO-PO immediately?"
Caboose blushed as Ashlee aka "Ca$hlee" giggled at his name. He had no idea if she was making fun of him or not, he still took it as a compliment.
"Oh boy," Caboose said to himself.
He looked over at his classmate Arvel before standing up and heading to the door.
At least I can't start any fires in there...I hope
"Caboose?" "Ca$hlee" Tyndale howled. "That's, like, your butt! WAY too funny!"
Assistant Principal John Thurmond sighed and shook his head. He definitely regretted hiring the girl as his office assistant during first period, which was supposed to be her study hall. However, the AP had long suspected that the only things Miss Tyndale ever studied were boys and their--"cabooses". Plus her song lyrics (inappropriate) and dance moves (even more so).
He supposed he shouldn't be surprised. After all, "Ca$hlee" was almost the prototype of all female students here at Uni-Hi. The vast majority were tall, thin, beautiful either through natural causes or plastic surgery in childhood, and uniformly bubble-headed. They cared about their friends and "social networks", as they called them, as well as the latest trends in fashion and music. School was an inconvenience and a chore for them--if any of their parents made them do chores, that is. Spoiled, inconsiderate lot, Assistant Principal Thurmond thought to himself. All they care about is themselves. Lord help us all if these kinds of young ladies become QG's--'Quarter Girls'--and drop out of school in order to become new mothers. At least here, they have a chance to learn about something more than the latest products they could buy. The thought of Ashlee dropping out due to an "unforeseen" pregnancy sent chills down his aging spine. She was harebrained, yes, but she made other girls seem like Albert Einstein (about whom he still knew). Maybe via this job--
A bone-jarring ringing sound suddenly startled him out of his reverie.
"Uh, Mr. Thurmond?" Ashlee looked scared. "Is the phone borked?"
He smiled with fatherly (or perhaps grandfatherly) tenderness. "Nonsense, my girl. Too many people are simply calling at once. Here. I'll help you answer."
As Ashlee obeyed his instructions, his smile deepened. Maybe she has a chance after all. Then again, not if my supervisor has her way...
Principal Carolyn Ayn Patton did not suffer fools. Especially not the students at Uni-Hi. All fools, the lot of them, she thought, except for perhaps the eight whom I'll see in a matter of minutes. Everyone here is either stupid or disobedient, and the worst students here are the ones who are both at the same time. She smiled smugly to herself. No matter. The students who count--the intelligent ones--are already out of school or graduating, and the ones who don't will be ushered right into their places in the working world or the Army soon enough. Waitresses, janitors, cooks, nannies and babysitters, car mechanics, soldiers. We need plenty of those. And teachers, but... She felt a small pang of sadness. All the good teachers who are truly worth their tenure aren't here. They're in the wealthy districts and suburban schools. Not Prestile Stream, Maine. A pity.
Shaking her head disgustedly at herself, Principal Patton's spine stiffened.
No more of that! I have students to deal with--using strict discipline...
Dream Castier or DC as she was more commonly known had her feet up on the desk but her legs crossed so as to not give the peepers a picture to treasure. No matter how many times her teacher asked her to sit up straight she just blew her off. That's when she heard the intercomm.
[i]"Good morning, everyone. Uni-Hi welcomes you. Before classes begin, would Atrast Valla, Dream Castier, Jeff--uh, Cochran?, Akira Kuran, Arvel--what is his last name, Turing?, Dee Donovan, Han-Jihye Park, and Michael--OMG, *giggles*! Caboose report to the PO-PO immediately?"
"Bork... here we go", Dream said as she sprang up to her feet and walked over to the door. The teacher simply shaking her head in disapproval. Dream was considered a full hotie in the school but she had rejected the top most popular guys in school for not being kewel enough for her. She didn't just want a random idiot.
As she walked up to the door one of the guys tried to spank her and she stopped his hand mid way and kicked him right on the back.
"Hands of lard, I'll fork up your face next time", Dream said and walked away. Most of the girls in the class simply muttered "gwad".
"Anus", she said as she left the class, closed the door and leaned on the wall of resting her head on it and sighing. She then went over to the PO-PO and saw a bunch of guys standing in the door way.
"Yaulp!", She said and they turned to face her, their expresion suddenly went to serious. "Keelyou", she finnally said, they scoffed and went away.
God I hate txt, but seems to be the only way to communicate with these idiots. I hate myself for using it but no one gets big words anymore, she said to herself and just opened the door and sat down on a chair.
"Dream Castier?", a woman behind a desk called.
"Yaulp!", Dream called out as she raised her hand a bit rolling her eyes.
"The Principal wants to see you so straighten up", the woman said.
Dream scoffed and just checked herself so she would be presentable, but she always was so there wasn't really a point, but she did always lift her feet when she sat down so she had to sit up straight this time and she simply crossed her arms. The "Undertakers" as everyone called the principal and his assistant, were pretty much feared by everyone in the school. But Dream couldn't care less, but she was to behave for her mother's sake.
Wow, it's like the administration is just as dumb as the students. Jeff Cochran, or Big Word Guy, as people called him, thought as he heard his name called over the PA system. It seemed as though he was being singled out yet again, but he took it with pride. Whenever he was picked on for his larger vocabulary, he could see in the other students' eyes and hear in the voices, they were afraid of him.
Rolling his eyes at the giggling, Jeff got out of his desk and made his way to the Principal's Office. This can't be good. He thought.
"Well, it seems like half of you are finally here!" smiled Ca$hlee Tyndale in greeting, with her perfectly-white teeth (filed down to the roots and capped when she was only ten). "Let's see--Atrast Valla, Dream Castier, Arvel Turing, Jeff Cochran, and Mike"--she giggled again--"Caboose. Five out of eight. Is that half? Hmm..." She thought for a minute. "Never mind. The rest of you guys better get your 'cabooses' in gear, or Principal Patton's going to be majorly PO'ed." Part of her wanted to witness the explosion in the inner sanctum of the PO-PO when The Battleaxe herself got going, but another part of Ca$hlee--the part that was still Ashlee of Prestile Stream, Maine--felt sorry for them. This wasn't going to be a pretty sight. Maybe the rest of the people working in the principal's office would need earplugs. Then again...
The Battleaxe is at her worst when she's quiet, Ashlee thought.
In order to give them a word of warning, she waved at the empty plastic chairs in the outer office. "Pop a sit," she said. "PP could be a while yet." This nickname was even more pleasing to Ashlee (and the rest of the school) than The Battleaxe, because--well, her name was Principal Patton, and when did you ever get so marvelous a chance to nickname an authority figure--an Undertaker--after liquid body waste? Ashlee slapped her hands over her mouth, and she saw Atrast laugh, too. That was good. Humor was always good, especially if it involved making fun of Undertakers. They were fair game. Parents, teachers, principals, the REAL PO-PO--no one was safe.
Of course, if you made fun of an Undertaker, you weren't safe, either.
"Anyway," said Ashlee (rather humbly for her), "don't worry. It's only about your MESHes. Rumor has it that none of you are even close to completing them, and PP wants to send you all to the same place to do just that."
She leaned forward and started stage-whispering (very badly and loudly).
"The Ashwood LTC." She bit her lip. The Ashwood Long-Term Care Facility was what the residents themselves called a "nursing home" when no one else was listening or paying attention. The unpopular term had been jettisoned officially in 2025, to ward off the fears and negative predictions of the "baby boomers" who were going there at an unprecedented rate. Almost no one volunteered to do their MESHes there, and volunteers were badly needed. Who wanted to do such work as changing adult diapers and feeding elderly patrons lukewarm tapioca pudding? No one at Uni-Hi--that much was clear. Ashlee continued, "Seriously, guys. I'd beg for mercy if I were you."
Atrast considered it. Would she be able to do the physical labor? Nope...
"Anyway," said Ashlee. "Don't worry. It's only about your MESHes. Rumor has it that none of you are even close to completing them, and PP wants to send you all to the same place to do just that."
"The Ashwood LTC."
A teacher entered the room, uttering in a low guttural, and annoyed tone, "Literally found'im in a tree in the back of campus." That was all, the man turning around, and another somewhat smaller, definitely thinner, and far more.....springy, younger man slid in around the teacher as he left, sighing and shaking his head.
"Seriously, guys. I'd beg for mercy if I were you," was what Jiyhe heard, his head snapping in her direction. He bolted over to Ashlee, grabbing her hand and shaking it vigorously, he said quite enthusiastically.
"Helllllooo oh GREAT spoiled one, how are you? Got any new designer neeshons lately!?" ((He really thinks neeshons means shoes....Cause seriously, even I think it means shoes!!?!))
And with that Jiyhe backed away, looking around quickly he noticed the other five sitting near, pointing to each one in turn, he said, "Hi to you you you you, aaand you!" He quickly looked around, as if he'd seen something and he was trying to find it, but quickly gathered himself, shaking his head, he calmed slightly.
"I'll go sit down," he remarked, sitting in a chair between Atrast and Dream, sitting still and calmly for maybe, ooh, 2 minutes before he started bouncing his leg up & down, and sniffing the air, scanning back and forth between the two he was sitting by, remarking quietly, but loud enough to be heard, "Nunu, someone smells zipped ((means nervous....Yeah YEAH! Can't make up text-talk worth beans. My vo-cab-bu-lar-ee is too decent for my own good!))."
"S'oh, which one is it?" He asked out loud, yet, he wasn't asking anyone near him, in fact, it was as if he were talking to someone who wasn't even there, rather than himself even!
((Bwahahaaa, the crazy-man cometh....Okay, he's not crazy. :( Just....different. :D ))
Jihye suddenly felt the stinging impact of a designer purse from Prada--Ca$hlee's--beaning him right in the nose. The young girl's face was flushed.
"Designer what?!" she nearly shrieked. "I haven't even had implants done yet!" She straightened up and sniffed haughtily. "A gift for when I turn 18. My Undertaker parents said I couldn't get 'em until I graduate. Hmmmph!"
As the others stared slack-jawed at the incensed office assistant, Atrast leaned over and whispered a single "txt" word into Jiyhe's ear: "Pwned." Wink. Of course, "neeshons" were another word for "stack". Also, if you hadn't been paying any attention to the latest round of "txt", as Atrast suspected Jihye hadn't been, you wouldn't have known that at all...
She felt herself "one up" on the student that everybody else at school called "Raving Rabbit" or simply "Rabbit". They all thought that Han-Jiyhe Park was crazy, no matter if he'd been drinking "juice" or not. He was hyperactive, manic, "jumped", "volted"--whatever you wanted to call him. Atrast smiled. She hated it when anyone commented on her aromatic sweat, wishing that THEY would have to live with pyriasis for a day, or maybe a week. That would be better. However, another part of Atrast thought that Jiyhe was just as "hot" as she was any day of the week...She lowered her eyes.
"I won't have such inappropriate language in my office, Ashlee," said the AP.
"Sorry, Mr. Thurmond," replied Ca$hlee, "but he started it." She gestured toward Jiyhe. "He asked about my--my chest, if you get my drift."
A hard glare. "Consider yourself duly warned, Mr. Park," he intoned darkly.
Were some of the other people in the office snickering? Atrast couldn't tell.
(("Neeshons" is the phonetic pronunciation of "nichons", French for--uh--"chest"...))
Caboose looked around the room while Ashlee talked to the group. He saw a chair he liked and decided to sit in it. He watched as that crazy kid came into the room and made fun of Ashlee. Caboose just smiled as the kid continued talking, even though the kid was crazy he seemed like a nice person. Then again Caboose thought everybody was a nice person, even if they didn't show it. He looked around the room and realized he didn't know anyone else in here. He was always "hanging out" with the popular crowd and by that they would get Caboose to do stupid things and he would do them no questions asked. He was also the go to muscle for anyone who needed it. That's Caboose though, way too friendly.
"Um Hi everybody, my name is Michael Caboose but you can all call me Caboose," he said introducing himself even though his name was on the back of his shirt.
Atrast turned her head and smiled at Michael. "Yeah, I've heard. Linebacker, right?" At Caboose's nod, she continued, "I'm not the kind of girl who's usually allowed to hang out with football players. Students like me are the ones who carry your books--if they can--or get sat on by some of your teammates. Not that I'm saying you're that kind of bully, of course, but--you know jocks."
She blushed. "Sorry. I'm always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time."
"You'd better not do that in front of Principal Patton," replied Ashlee wryly.
Arvel took a seat in the office, along with others, his classmate Caboose among them. He wondered what was wrong with Jiyhe, being extremely hyper-active. Maybe he's had too much juice, Arvel thought. Or maybe he's got a really bad infection. He then heard Caboose introduce himself to Atrast.
"Hello, Atrast, I am Arvel Turing. It's nice to meet you," he said, stretching out his hand for Atrast ot shake.
((Kudos to Jeff Cochran--er, Alkonium--for making my new "av"!))
Atrast shook it. "Nice to meet you, Arvel," she said, almost biting her tongue as she tried not to call him Arv. She had a tendency to shorten people's names and turn them into nicknames, as she truncated her own to "At" or "Trast". That was the way of "txters", or most of her fellow students, after all. "Your last name is Turing, eh? That sounds familiar. Something to do with computers. Turing...Turing..." She shook her head. "It sounds like something Mr. Dartmouth said in SCI class. Anyway, I can't remember."
The ominous click-clack of stiletto heels sounded on the linoleum floor.
That meant only one thing: Uh-oh! The Battleaxe is on the warpath.
"Good morning, students," smiled Principal Carolyn Ayn Patton, with a middle-aged woman in floral-print hospital scrubs standing next to her. "It's not even 9:30 yet, and all eight of you are already in trouble. Something to do with the incomplete status of your MESHes, I understand?" Meekly, almost involuntarily, Atrast nodded. "Well, we'll soon fix that. Mrs. Kimball?"
The middle-aged woman smiled. "Hello. I'm Nurse Meredith Kimball, R.N. and the Coordinator of Volunteer Services at the Ashwood Long-Term Care Facility. I'm sure you've heard of it." Some nods from the eight students. "Good. We're in dire need of personnel--and, failing that due to this tight economy and higher standards on the part of the Health Monitoring Entity that funds Ashwood--we'll take all the help we can get. Meaning volunteers."
She folded her hands in front of her. "Let me get straight to the point so you can all go back to class, and I won't waste any more of your time. I need two volunteers for the dish room, two for bedpan detail, two for CA or 'catheterization assistance', and two for routine daily care tasks such as bathing and feeding our residents. All of them need you. Who'll step up first?"
Atrast practically jumped out of her chair and raised her hand. "I'll take dishes!", she cried, wobbling unsteadily. Sitting back down, she continued, "Sorry. In the--the games that I play in my free time--you have to be a little aggressive." She became aware that her deodorant was failing more quickly.
Jiyhe suddenly felt something expensive smack his face, and although he could have reacted to it, he simply let it happen, as he felt he deserved it, even if he didn't know what it was for.
"Designer what?!" Ashlee shrilled. "I haven't even had implants done yet!" The girl quickly composed herself, but Jihye could still see the red in her face, which only made him smile, not that he understood what she was upset about anyway. "A gift for when I turn 18. My Undertaker parents said I couldn't get 'em until I graduate. Hmmmph!"
"Huh, I didn't know they made shoe implants?" He inquired, and although it may seem like he was prodding the issue, he was actually quite devoid of understanding on the matter at hand, not knowing what Ashlee was fully indicating.
One of the girls leaned over and whispered something to him with a wink, "Pwned."
He leaned over towards her and whispered back, "'You think so? Looked like prada to me.'" With that he sat back up and flashed the girl one of his 'suave' smiles, and returned his attention to the matter at hand...What attention he could give.
"I won't have such inappropriate language in my office, Ashlee," the AP said.
"Sorry, Mr. Thurmond," replied Ashlee. "But he started it. He asked about my--my chest, if you get my drift."
"Ooooohh, that's what you're talking about! I knew shoe implants sounded off, but you never know these days, what with all that subliminal stuff on TV these days," he commented, his manic behaviorism sliding slightly to reveal some of his schizotypal.
"Consider yourself duly warned, Mr. Park," the AP warned, Jiyhe saluted with a semi-serious face.
"Yes, Lord High Advocate, are we ready to see Satan yet!?" He said, but only just quiet enough so that the AP wouldn't understand what he'd said, although the others could hear.
He returned his attention to the recovered, but still flustered Ashlee, growing serious, or as serious as he could, he still looked/acted jumped, but it was the most clarity one would see him in at any one point when he was being a Rabbit.
"Sorry Great Spoiled One, I didn't mean it, I don't stay very synced with the world. I'll make it up to you, I'll...uh....Carry your stuff for a week, how's that sound? It'll make all the poppiez jealous!" He remarked, flashing his pearly whites, which, surprisingly, were natural.
His attention was torn away from Ashlee when he heard the others talking, looking around he saw they were introducing themselves; he, on the other hand, may be zoo bait, but he was very crowd divergent, his manic behavior was all that kept him intact around groups.
"I'm Raving Rabbit, although I'd prefer it if they insulted me completely and call me zoo bait like they should. But Han-Jiyhe Park is who I am, and who I am is who I'll be," he intoned, reverting to staring at his hands as he tried to make shapes with them.
Soon the principal arrived, a lady towing along, they said some things, and spoke some words, half of them gibberish to Jiyhe anyway.
"Let me get straight to the point so you can all go back to class, and I won't waste any more of your time. I need two volunteers for the dish room, two for bedpan detail, two for CA or 'catheterization assistance', and two for routine daily care tasks such as bathing and feeding our residents. All of them need you. Who'll step up first?" The other woman asked, the girl next to him shooting up like lightning, claiming dish duties.
"Ou, ou! Routine care, routine care! I like feeding old people!" He said, almost too excitedly, even for him, unnecessarily standing up and sitting down in one swift motion.
((I hope I'm using the "txt" words right.))
((I posted also before I saw Master_Archon's post XD))
"Huh, I didn't know they made shoe implants?"
Dream simply grinned at this, the guy clearly had no real grasp on txt but she was kinda relieved for the guy, the less he knew, the better off he was.
As she sat there and listened to everyone talk, the assigning of the tasks as she heard Atrast call fo dishes, she kne she had to jump in for them too.
"I'll take dishes too", Dream was disgusted at the other jobs and she wasn't about to die doing something like that. She looked around at the others quietly thinking to herself she had done it quickly enough, so everyone else was screwed. She looked over at the others and give them a sympathetic look.
"Sorry you lot", Dream said.
Ca$hlee looked flustered. She was definitely NOT used to dealing with unruly students like Han-Jiyhe Park, or "zoo bait", as he'd mentioned earlier. Usually, the guidance counselors gave kids like him medication--a very hefty dose.
"C-c-can I go now?" she stuttered, her face turning white at the sound of it. Only when she was very, very nervous or "jumped" up on "juice" did her speech impediment dare to rear its ugly head. She glanced at Jiyhe and back to the Assistant Principal, who gave her a nod. He was "txting" rapidly on his WhiteBerry X34, the alabaster grandchild of its darker electronic predecessor.
Ashlee Tyndale practically fled the principal's office, but not before she shot back at Jiyhe, "You don't have t-to carry my stuff, Raving R-rabbit. You'd drop it anyway."
After hearing the door slam behind her, Nurse Kimball continued her speech.
"Wonderful! It's always nice to see such willing volunteers, especially for such a tiring job as the dish room. What are your names, young ladies?" Dream Castier and Atrast Valla told her theirs. "Well, Atrast and Dream, welcome to the team!" The nurse giggled warmly to herself. "Hey--that rhymed. I never knew I was a poet." A small smile.
Atrast wondered who'd take which jobs. She pitied the two students who hadn't even shown up yet to the PO-PO--Akira Kuran and Dee Donovan. What if they got "catheterization assistance?" She didn't know what that was, exactly, but it sounded horrible. What if it had to do with fixing the residents' hair after they'd--"kicked the bucket", as her grandfather said?
She gave Dream a high-five. "Girl power!" she laughed. Only the "crup" jobs were left...
"I like feeding old people!" Jiyhe interjected suddenly--or, at least, she thought he did.
"Really? I'm surprised," said Nurse Kimball. "But, I'll take you on anyway, young man."
((Master_Archon: u rk @ txt!))
"And that's why I don't even bother with that nonsense." Jeff commented after seeing Jiyhe's little debacle. Noticing the group looking at him, he added, "I guess I'll take bedpan detail. It beats catheterisation assistance at least. That sort of job must be nasty, especially since I know what a catheter is." Turning to the nurse, he said, "My name's Jeff Cochran by the way, since you probably need to know that."
Nurse Kimball gave him a nod that was as crisp as a salute. "Welcome aboard, Mr. Cochran," she said, her gray eyes firm but kind. "Thank you so much for volunteering for a job that no one your age wants to do for their MESH hours."
Atrast raised her hand hesitantly. "Excuse me. Um, what's a catheter?" she asked.
The medic looked at Jeff. "Would you like to explain, or should I?"
Meanwhile, another of Assistant Principal Thurmond's thick teenage "office assistants" was trying to stifle a smirk. "Ha! Dude just volunteered to clean up other people's poop," he whispered to the secretary, who didn't look pleased.
Caboose just watched as everyone started picking positions. He frowned a bit when the pretty girl picked dishes with Atrast but he probably would have done something stupid in front of her anyway.
"Um Miss Kimbal, what's a good job for somebody who isn't exactly graceful? I'm not gonna say any names but this person may or may not be in this room," Caboose said trying to cover his clumsiness even though it was obvious he wasn't doing a good job.
Nurse Kimball understood immediately, responding, "Routine care, perhaps. We wouldn't want your friend spilling the bedpans all over the floor or making a mistake inserting the catheters, now, would we? At least if you--er, he or she--feeds the residents in the dining hall, there's a lower probability of missing the target area of their waiting mouths." She gave Caboose a wink. "Besides, perhaps a bit of heavy lifting--helping people get in and out of bed, that is--might be right up his or her alley. Your friend's, I mean."
Dream returned Atrast's high-five and smile, she kinda laughed when she said girl power.
"I'm Dream by the way, but peeps just call me DC", Dream said to Atrast figuring that since they'd be in dish washing duty for some time together, she might as well have a friend and Atrast seemed normal enough by Dream's standards which were high enough as it was.
"Ha! Dude just volunteered to clean up other people's poop"
"Eww", Dream said looking in Jeff's way. "Are you sure you want to do something that gross? I mean yeah catheters are flat but bedpan detail is totally borked".
Atrast was still confused. "I know what bedpans are, but what's a catheter?"
Seeing as how Jeff Cochran remained silent, Nurse Kimball cleared her throat and explained firmly: "When people get older--elderly, that is, not my age--sometimes they can't go to the bathroom by themselves. Sometimes they can't even feel it when they have to relieve themselves, or else they can't make it to the toilet in time. A catheter is a long rubber tube that we insert into a person's bladder so that the waste--the urine--goes through it and gets collected in a bedpan or a plastic bag. Both are promptly emptied out."
The young girl's face was as white as the walls of the PO-PO. "I...I see."
Nurse Kimball smiled. "Don't worry. Dish washers don't get anywhere near the catheters or the patients who need them." Atrast visibly relaxed, and the color returned to her cheeks. "Now...who hasn't volunteered for a position?"
"I know who hasn't," remarked Principal Patton gravely. "Akira Kuran and Dee Donovan haven't even reported to the office yet. It's as if they're walking backwards, or hiding in the restroom. At this point, I wouldn't blame them." Her smile was icy. "I'll have them put down for whatever slots aren't filled by the time the rest of you volunteer. Is that all right, Nurse Kimball?"
"I would prefer to give them a choice, but if they're no-shows..." A sigh.
"Very well. Continue." She surveyed the five in front of her. Gotcha!
But Dee was not there to hear the request over the PA system. Indeed, she was being practically dragged to school by her mother, who was in quite a state of rage, terror, and who knew what else?
"Skydiving, Dee?" she protested, exasperated. Dee just grinned. It was the fifth time her mother had asked that, as though she could think of nothing better to ask. Dee herself had a brilliant question her mother could have asked, but she didn't want to encourage cheating like that!
"So what, mom!" she said again.
"So how do they let a sixteen year old go skydiving?"
"Told 'em twenty-one," Dee shot back, grinning. "They didn't ask. No ID check." She shrugged. Then she let out a cry of protest as her mother shoved her roughly toward the school doors.
"I'm going to have a talk with them," she said sharply. "You stay in school."
She stormed off, but just as Dee took the door handle to open it, she heard her mother call, "Where is the place?"
Dee grinned. "Somewhere!" And with that, she darted into the school and into the crowds of children there. Almost immediately, people who knew her crowded around.
"Where you been, Dee?" one asked. "Borked!"
"Who, me?" Dee asked innocently.
"They called you," another said. "To the PO-PO! Where you been anyhow?"
With a mischievous grin, Dee answered, "Skydiving."
The small crowd murmured collectively, "Nine!" and Dee skipped away toward the office to see just how 'borked' she was. She danced into the office and sang out,
"You called for me, the lovely Dee.
Well here is me, but not for free!"
Giggling a bit, she then asked, "What's up?"
((Writer: Dee's little "rime" is FTW, according to Atrast!)) :)
The Battleaxe glowered at Dee. "Considering how late you are, Miss Donovan, and also considering how far behind you are on completing your MESHes, I would not be so jubilant." Turning to the other students, she said, "For those of you who find three-syllable words taxing, 'jubilant' means 'happy'."
To Dee she continued, "This is Nurse Kimball, from the Ashwood LTC. She has graciously agreed to take all eight of you on, even at this late point in the semester, in volunteer positions that suit the needs of the residents there."
"Right you are," replied the nurse, gesturing to an empty chair in which Dee could sit. "Atrast Valla and Dream Castier here have already volunteered to wash dishes in our resident dining hall. Jeff Cochran has bravely agreed to tackle bedpan detail. Han-Jiyhe Park and Michael--C. are on routine care: bathing and feeding our residents. That leaves one slot in bedpan detail, and two slots in catheterization assistance, for those who cannot make it to the toilet or can't feel it when they have to go." She smiled. "Care to pick one?"
"Well you're not me," Dee answered brightly to the Battleaxe, "and I am so jubilant!"
Once Nurse Kimball had explained her options, Dee made a face. "Okay, not so jubilant now. Guess there are advantages to being early... bedpan, I guess." She shuddered a little. "Joy of joys."
That's what you get for being late--or trying to skip school altogether, Miss Donovan, Principal Patton thought to herself. Time to face the natural consequences. She said none of this aloud, preferring to watch everyone squirm. As Nurse Kimball nodded, she also noticed the empty chair.
"It's almost time for second-period classes," she announced. "If anyone sees Akira Kuran today, you may inform her that she's just been volunteered for 'catheterization assistance' duty at the Ashwood Long-Term Care Facility."
"I'll expect all of you there at four-thirty sharp," added the nurse, although not unkindly. "Your volunteer shifts are two hours per day, four days per week standard. Although in your particular cases, I suggest you work five days. The two-hour shifts will give you plenty of time to get home and complete your assignments for the next day of school. Thank you all, and I honestly look forward to working with you." She meant it, too. "I see great potential in you students, and great compassion. I'll see you at four-thirty."
Nurse Kimball smiled, turned and left the principal's office. Atrast saluted.
"Can we go now, Principal Patton?" she asked the Battleaxe, quite humbly.
"May we go now, Miss Valla," corrected Carolyn Ayn. "Yes, you may."
The bell rang for second period. Atrast couldn't run out of there fast enough!
Dream rolled her eyes at Principal Patton correcting Atrast's words and she left as soon as they were given permission to leave. She waved back at the others in a very casual way as to say "see ya" and went over to the classroom. She headed over to math class, she didn't really do bad on the subject but had neither the patience nor the interest in classes, and only went there because it was either that or getting drafted in the army and spending the last of her life in a barracks. School was tolerable. She sat down on the seat beside the window and looked out from it. As soon as it was lunch break she'd go to the roof, sneak off and write in her journal about this dismal day.
Lifestyle Fitness, or LF, was Atrast's absolute least-favorite class. Not only was it "flatter than flat", but since she couldn't do 99% of the exercises therein, everyone (or almost everyone) considered her a "tard". Even her teacher, Mrs. Riordan, treated Atrast with a mixture of disdain and pity. The C's she earned in Lifestyle Fitness were "pity C's", as she called them, because Atrast knew that had she been held to the same standards as the other kids at Uni-Hi, she would have gotten F's in the class. Luckily for her, Mrs. Riordan was...compassionate? Most days, Atrast had her doubts.
"Come on, ladies!" she exhorted the class as they jerked, stomped, kicked and flapped their arms along with a digitally-broadcast aerobics program. Only the really athletic girls took it seriously. Come to think of it, only the really athletic girls could even hope to look like the woman on the screen if they worked hard enough. "Are you 17 or 87?!" Mrs. Riordan was walking around. Watching. She didn't have to do this inane choreography!
"I'll take 87," mumbled Atrast dispiritedly, earning a frown from Mrs. Riordan.
"Come on! Move it!" The aerobics program continued, but our heroine quit.
King's Pawn Opening: pawn to e4, more commonly known as e4.
Black's move: Sicilian Defense, pawn to c5, called c5 for short.
White responds with Knight to f3, preparing to castle kingside.
Black counters: Scheveningen. Scheveningen variation. What is it...?
She was making moves all right--just not with her uncoordinated body--!
Caboose smiled back at the nurse. She was very nice to him for not even knowing, he would make sure to go the best job he could. He waved back to Dream when she waved to the group and stood up when she left.
"Well I'll see you guys later."
He made his way to his next class...History.
((Boy th Memorial Weekend hits and I am already behind. :P))
Akira Kuran sat looking bored during ENG class. She had studied the whole book within a few days and now found that the teachers were nothing more than parrots in spitting out the lesson. She glanced to see Atrast sitting in her seat and could tell that she had gone through an OE period before class. Typical. As if the morons at Uni-Hi have anything better to do.
She wasn't surprised when she was called to the PO PO along with Atrast. Her MESHes weren't exactly outstanding either even though she had fairly good grades in her class. There were some she took the easy way out by stating that she didn't believe in it, much to the amusement of the rest of the classes she claimed it in. She heard her name and left after Atrast but didn't go to the PO PO but rather took the opportunity to sneak to her locker and switch out her books for the day.
Second period had her jogging to LF only to find some stupid aerobics on the menu. She watched as the bean poles, as she privately called them, tried in vain to look like the woman on the screen. She listened to the teacher ask the question of if they were 17 or 87. She muttered, "87 in tarken dog years."
She maneuvered next to Atrast and said, "Got a new chess move in that head of yours?" It was her way of asking what happened in Hatchet Face's office. In order to keep the attention off of Atrast, she put more artistic flair in her aerobics, giving a dance like quality to it.
Atrast cast a quick sidelong glance at Akira. "Queen takes pawn?", she smiled, jerking her head toward Mrs. Riordan, who was scrutinizing her weaker students with an athlete's discriminating eye. Meaning, do you want to make Mrs. Riordan look like a complete idiot and show her up by doing even fancier moves that blow the whole class (and her) out of the water?
"Seriously, though," Atrast whispered, "we're both in big trouble, along with six other kids. It's about our MESHes, and since we're not even close to completing them, we're all being sent to the Ashwood LTC at four-thirty today. You've just been volunteered to help the nurses insert catheters into old people's bladders so they can pee." She shuddered. "Don't hurt me, OK? I'm just the messenger, but if you want, I'll try to get you off of that duty."
The flat aerobics program continued, with the class becoming ever more impressed with Akira's coordination and agility. She was quite good...
"Sometimes you gotta swoop in for the kill," Akira replied, meaning that she was distracting attention from the true goal and she didn't mind nor miss the opportunity to make a teacher look like a fool. When Atrast gave her the news, she replied, "Catheters? No problem."
Fact of the matter was that she didn't care what she had to do for her MESHes. She thought the whole system a waste of time. She added, "Hey I know you hate LF but if you want to work on improvement, I'm game. Could raise up the 'pity C' a bit." She smiled at Atrast in reassurance, aware of the disease that she had.
She then turned her attention to her athletic performance and finished the routine with a rather showy display of athleticism, ending with a complicated move that ended with her in front of Riordan with a smirk on her face that asked, "Can you top that?"
As soon as Akira finished her brilliant routine and challenged Mrs. Riordan to do better, the entire LF class--including (and especially) Atrast--broke into wild applause! No one since Carrie Iskati, Uni-Hi's best cheerleader ever, had pulled off such a dazzling display of midair acrobatics. Mrs. Riordan gawked.
When she finally regained her composure, the LF teacher grumbled, "This is a Lifestyle Fitness class, Kuran, not 'America's Future Superstars,' okay?"
Atrast begged to differ. "It seems like she won and you lost, if I may beg your pardon. What is that you're always telling us about being a good sport?"
"Quiet, Valla, or you're getting another trip to the PO-PO!" Atrast fell silent.
Still, as the Undertaker continued to sneer at the rest of the class for being nowhere close to Akira's caliber of physical prowess, she walked with her shoulders hunched and her head bowed. The classic posture of defeat...
((Pardon my fast-forward, but I want to get the ball rolling at Ashwood. ;)))
Day One, 5:30 PM, Ashwood Long-Term Care Facility
Atrast swore she was roasting alive in the dish room of the Ashwood Long-Term Care Facility, but she dared not complain. She didn't want to seem like a "wissy" (a combination of the words "wuss" and "sissy"), and besides, if she did complain, she'd be transferred to one of the other jobs--which would make her throw up. Anything to do with other people's body waste would. As for routine care, she lacked the physical capacity, and the catheters? That would make her most likely to remove the remnants of her snack from her stomach. Thus, she stuck it out and scrubbed the pots with all her might.
Sweat poured down all over her body, making her think she was in Florida (or at least in a sauna). She hoped that Dream wasn't noticing any of this...
(She would notice :P after all sweating like that? XD)
Dream had gone to the roof at lunch. She had been alone and she had writen down what happened during LF for her class. She once again had her depth perception off and she stumbled and fell on her face. This was getting more and more common. Regularly people who'd fall down would try to break themselves from the fall with their arms and hands but her reflexes totally failed. She fell face first onto the ground causing the laughter of most everyone in the class, except a friend of hers who knew what she suffered from and ran over to her immediately to help her up.
She had a band-aid on her chin and was simply washing the dishes as she started to sing a song just loud enough for her to listen and maybe Atrast. She would often do this to keep her mind off her sickness and what was happening. But she turned over to Atrast to see how she was doing with her share of dishes and she seemed to be sweating like crazy.
Dream stopped and went to her pack, she then took out a drink that helped hydrate the body. She then walked over to Atrast and handed her the drink.
"You look like you need it more than I do Atrast, why don't you take a small break to drink that and rest for a moment, you seem like you'll faint from dehydration any moment now. I can manage it for a while", Dream said giving her a grin.
Akira smirked at the Undertaker and just shrugged her shoulders. She shot a grateful glance at Atrast for her defense and gave a grin. When the teacher's back was turned, she whispered, "Thanks for the D. Don't let her get you down. At least we can have some fun later after school."
Most people would probably vomit at the thought of inserting catheters into patients so they can continue their bodily functions on a somewhat normal level. Akira didn't flinch nor gag like her partner at times but rather gave a nonverbal challenge of getting through the day without a trip to the water closet.
When she was finished with her set of patients and waiting for the next batch to be set up, she wandered into the kitchens where Dream and Atrast were up to their elbows in suds. Dream had just beckoned for Atrast to take a breather when Akira asked, "How's it going in the suds?"
"Hot," gasped Atrast as she glanced up from the sink. "Really, really, really hot."
She gratefully snatched the hydration-drink bottle from Dream and took five long swigs. "Wow! I'm surprised this stuff stayed cold in here," she exclaimed, wiping beads of sweat off her brow. "How's it going with the--well, you know?" A curious glance. "You don't look like you've 'gurged' yet at all. Congratulations!" "Gurged" meant "regurgitated."
"I really don't gurge at things like that." Akira shrugged her shoulders. "Catheters are just another part of this world we're in. Can't avoid it so get over it pretty much. Anyone who gurges though is not wissy."
Akira took a seat next to Atrast and leaned back in it. "Just waiting on another batch that the Nurse Rachetts are preparing." She looked at Atrast who was gulping water like a fish and a look of concern flitted across her face. Out loud she asked Dream, "So Dream, will dish washing be considered a MESH or rather free labor?"
"Wow! I'm surprised this stuff stayed cold in here"
Dream simply grinned at Atrast and looked over at Akira who came in just a moment ago talking to Atrast, they seemed friends. She then turned to face Akira.
"So Dream, will dish washing be considered a MESH or rather free labor?"
"Apparently both, I wouldn't be surprised with the way they handle things around here. Everyone I've met here seems like they don't like it here. I can't blame them though, who would dream about this place? I mean sure, you might be able to come to love this place if anything but dream job? You'd need to be seriously forked up", Dream said and then put up another batch of clean dishes over on the racks. She looked at Atrast who was taking the bottle and almost emptying it in seconds. "Take it easy Atrast, you might want to save some for later, you sweat like crazy, is that a normal thing for you? I mean it's hot in here but not like desert hot".
She then turned to Akira.
"You have a pretty tough stomach to pull through all that stitch, I mean handling all that, I couldn't be able to do it", Dream meant this more around that she'd be more concerned about the patient because of her ataxia than about having the stomach to do so, although she did find it gross.
"Part of being considered not normal by one's kin folks," Akira replied before glancing at nothing in particular. She then stood up and said, "Well better get back or Nurse Rachett will be coming after me. I guess another batch of catheters are ready."
She stood up and looked at Atrast and said, "You're not a wissy," gave a pat and went off to take care of a bunch of catheter insertions. Not the highlight of her day but anything to keep those in charge happy.
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