A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Bids for Attention"
Forty dollars would be a nice little chunk of change, and a big profit on the two dollars that you bought the thing for. But—
"I think I already made a deal with Sean," you tell Brent, and shoot Jack a quick look. "Thirty dollars?"
Jack digs a wallet from the back pocket of his shorts and sorts through it. "Here's two twenties," he says.
"I don't have change."
"You can pay me back later. Or forget it." He elbows Brent in the side. "I'll get the forty from Sean."
"You're gonna try to get fifty off him, aren't you?" Brent laughs.
"Fuck," Jack drawls, "if you work with me to get him up to eighty, and I'll split the profit with you. Catch ya 'round, Will." He winks heavily at you, and gives you a raffish grin.
Your pleasure at a thirty-eight dollar profit sours a little at the thought of the extra you might have just forgone.
* * * * *
"You are so screwed, Prescott," Carson chortles the next day at lunch, which you take with him and his friends out on the grassy quad in front of the school. He jams his sandwich into his mouth. "Tho' thkwewed!" he mumbles through the peanut butter.
"I couldn't find anything else at short notice!" you protest. "I had, like, ten minutes to find something and get it to Mr. Walberg or else I was gonna—"
"So screwed!" Carson laughs again.
"I dunno, man," James says. He's sitting up very straight and looking off toward the school office, as though watching for someone, and as he speaks he doesn't spare you so much as a glance. "Prescott's typically a fuck-up—"
"—but in this case I think he's come up with something pretty genius."
"Oh, he's definitely come up with something genious," Carson says. "That's how come he's so fucked. You're gonna have to write a paper on your time capsule contribution, correct?" he asks you.
"That's the rumor."
"And that's where most of your grade is going to be. And that," Carson concludes, "is why you are fucked so hard."
You feel your face starting to burn.
"Listen, cocksucker," you snarl at him, "just 'cos I can't write as good as— as— as some other assholes who can write good!" you stammer. You flush even harder as Carson laughs out loud. "But I can write fucking good enough for Mr. Walberg!"
"Yeah, but what're you gonna say?" Carson hoots and nudges James with his foot. "Keep your goddam mouth shut, Lamont. Let Will figure out how he's going to explain putting a couple of cupcakes into the time capsule."
Because that's what you went with. After tearing the guts out of your locker to look for something to put into the capsule, you had in despair traipsed off to the office to get change for one of the twenties that Jack had given you, reasoning that it was better to contribute (and lose) a dollar bill than it was to flunk the project.
"Is it for the vending machine?" the secretary asked as she exchanged your twenty for a stack of fives and ones. You mumbled a yes, then on a whim decided to spend some of the money on a bag of M&Ms to console yourself. It was while glancing over the selection of junk food in the machine outside the cafeteria that it occurred to you that, instead of dropping a dollar into the time capsule, you could drop in a package of cupcakes.
Walberg gave you a heavy look when you presented it to him, but accepted it without yelling at you.
"Fuck you guys," you snarl now at Carson and James. "I don't know how come I eat with you!"
"You eat with us," James says, still staring off over your shoulder at the office, "because sometimes we have cheerleaders eating with us."
You whip around to look at what James is staring at. But you don't see anything or anyone.
"Sucker!" Carson laughs, and smacks you on the back of the head.
* * * * *
He's just pissed because you wouldn't loan him that screwy book, you tell yourself later, after you've parted for the last half of the day. When he caught you in the parking lot this morning, Carson had asked you again about that book, and snorted when you told him that you'd sold it to Sean Somebody-or-Other. "You're the most useless jerk-off I've ever met," he told you, but it didn't sound like he meant it personally. After the way he acted at lunch, though, you're starting to think that maybe he is going to hold a grudge.
"I wouldn't pay any attention to Ioeger if I was you," Caleb loftily declares when you get together with him at his house after school. With nothing else to talk about, you bitched to him about the way Carson acted at lunch.
"So I should just ignore him?" you ask.
"No, I mean, if I was you I wouldn't be paying attention to him, because you don't pay attention to hardly anything, Will, and Ioeger's not one to start with."
"Whaddaya mean I don't pay attention?"
Caleb gives you a look. "Do you have any idea how much goes sliding by in front of your nose that you're totally oblivious to?"
Oblivious. That's one of the vocabulary words he learned in junior-year English that he's so proud to have picked up. Like the way he used to drop jejune into every conversation he could, until Yumi Saito (one of the cheerleaders who sometimes hangs out with Carson and James) asked him what it meant. His ears reddened as he had to admit that he'd forgotten.
So: "What does that mean?" you challenge him now. "How am I 'oblivious'?" You put air quotes around the word.
"It means you don't notice half of what goes on in front of you, and you don't understand nine-tenths of the half that you do notice."
"Like I'd bet anything James wasn't watching out for cheerleaders. He was watching out for basketball players."
"How do you know? You weren't even there! Where were you?" That's the reason you ate with Carson and James, because Keith was hiding somewhere and Caleb ran off at the end of English class.
"I told you, I had to come home. Had to pick up the thumb drive I bought yesterday." He fixes you with a sharp glance. "You are going to help me get it into Walberg's desk after school tomorrow," he archly informs you. "After you totally disappeared on me today."
"Pff, yeah, now who's being oblivious?"
"You're going to stab me in the back?"
"How am I stabbing you in the—?"
"You're not much of a friend, Will, if you're not going to help me out."
"What do you need me to do?"
"Just play look out. Mr. Walberg's got detention after school, so—"
"How does a teacher get detention?" you demand.
Caleb stares at you. Then his face turns very red.
"That is the kind of goddamned oblivious question that I'd expect from fucking Tilley," he says in a voice choked with frustration. "Walberg doesn't have detention, you fucking nitwit! He's got someone else in detention! Dane Matthias! So he has to stay after school and babysit him! Jesus!"
"Alright," you grumble. "So what's the plan?"
"The plan is that we wait for Walberg to leave his classroom, run an errand, go raid the fridge in the teachers' lounge or something, then we sneak in and swap out the new thumb drive for the old one."
"So why didn't you do that today?"
"I tried!" he growls. "That's how come I know he's got Matthias in detention! But when he took off I realized I needed a lookout to warn me in case Walberg came back. That's how come I need you!"
"So why don't you just get Dane to act as lookout?" You don't really care one way or the other whether you play lookout for Caleb. But you are having a lot of fun winding him up.
"Because, you dildo! Dane Matthias is a fucking pot-head, and he's even more oblivious than you!"
* * * * *
You finally agree to help Caleb—there's no risk in acting as a lookout in the hallway, you figure—but matters get more complicated. It starts later that night, when your dad calls you into his study after dinner. He's looking distracted. "Did you pick up that book you showed me?"
"What book?" you blurt out. Your dad shoots you a hard glare, which is enough to stimulate your memory. "Oh, you mean the trick one? Yeah, um, I forgot to tell you that I snagged it and took it up to school. I, uh, needed something for the class time capsule, and I thought maybe that would—"
"Oh, Chr—!" Your dad catches himself before he can finish the profanity. "Do you think you can get it back? Give your teacher something to replace it?"
"Because I'm still interested in it."
"Oh. Well, the thing is, I wound up selling it to a guy. Someone at school. Because he was also interested in it. I found something else for the time capsule."
Your dad's jaw clenches. "How much?"
"How much did you sell it for?"
"Oh. Uh, forty dollars."
He doesn't hesitate. "If I gave you fifty, do you think you could get it back?"
* To try getting the book back: "A Fetch Quest"
* To let the book go: "Heists and Hustles"