A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Lord of Discipline"
"Oh, fuck!" Gary Chen snarls. "That old fat ass? Faugh! Only a fucking perv would—!"
He raises a clenched fist. But you only have to wag a finger at him, and with a scowl he shrivels up.
It's Sunday, and you're out at Hochstetter Park. This is another part of the city, like the Warehouse, where you normally wouldn't hang out. It's a tired, seedy old park near the industrial district, and the neighborhood isn't improved by the grim, sooty-brick visage of the Hochstetter All-Saints Hospital that looms nearby. But that makes it a good meeting place for you and Chen. You're not likely to run into anyone you know there, and if you do, they will be the kind of assholes who wouldn't be surprised to see Erik Carstairs and Gary Chen sharing a couple of beers and a smoke.
It took some doing to get Chen to come out. When you texted him, he told you to fuck off. Even when you called him, he only snarled at you. So you had to text around to get an address for him, and had to show up at his house, before he would acknowledge you as his master and sullenly follow you out to Hochstetter, there to exchange notes about your school schedules.
The goal, of course, is to find a teacher to add to your gang. You're not inclined to explain the plan to Chen—even as a golem, he's too much of a live wire to trust—so after settling onto the grass with some cheap brews and a pack of Marlboros, you asked him in that casual, lazy way that people have when they're talking bullshit with each other, which of the teachers at school he'd like to "body swap" with.
Th'fuck? he retorted. None of 'em!
And then you could fuck up their lives, you added, which at least caused him to freeze into a thoughtful silence.
Then you asked him about various teachers and their desirability. Would you fuck them? (That would be the female teachers.) Think you could get laid if you were them? (That would be the male teachers.) Whose life do you think it would be good to have? Which one would you fuck up if you could fuck them up from the inside?
You asked the Chen-golem these questions because you didn't want to go through the bother of swapping out masks to find out what Chen really thinks or feels.
He made some grudging confessions when you pressed him. He'd definitely fuck Ms. Cho and Ms. Simeon. Coach Schell, too. Ms. Willet, the art teacher. Mrs. Oliver, another math teacher like Ms. Simeon. Coach Acuna. Coach Puente, but only on account of her boobs and the hairy bush she's probably got. Fuck, he sighed at the end, I'd probably do Ms. Meek, and she wouldn't have to beg me. He was lying on his back by now, one leg crossed over an upraised knee, a cigarette dangling between his fingers as he blew a geyser of smoke at the sky. As for male teachers, he'd only allow that Mr. Hagerman, Mr. Montague, and Coach Gossett were likely getting some serious poontang, and he wasn't even sure about Mr. Montague. (Dude's probably sucking dick, he snorted.)
This list mostly matched the instincts you are getting from Erik, though he'd add the tutor he works with (Ms. Welch) and Bruno Nathan, one of the assistant coaches.
But then you laid these aside to concentrate on the most promising set of candidates—the teachers that Chen and Carstairs have for class. You started by going through Erik's schedule, beginning with his first-period Marriage and Family class.
That is how you came to ask Chen his opinion of Mrs. Heaney.
She is a lard-ass, you'd have to admit. She's middle-aged, too. But she's prettier than any of the other middle-aged teachers. Maybe on account of the fact that she is fat—the middle-aged female coaches, for instance, are gaunt and their skin is baggy, even if they are in shape. But Mrs. Heaney is also well-coiffed and always dresses very nice. And wouldn't a waddling, middle-aged, female Marriage and Parenting teacher be one of the least likely crime ... queen-pin imaginable?
"Mr. Muniz," you offer next.
"God damn!" Chen exclaims. "I hate that motherfucker! You know what he fucking did to me one time?" He sits up on one elbow and spins out an elaborate story, the point and horror of which you don't quite grasp, but which seems to have involved the math teacher telling Chen to more or less "grow up and fly right" if he ever wanted to make anything of himself. You can only suppose that Chen was deeply insulted by the talk.
The golem has no opinion of Mr. Hummel, who teaches Erik's Woodworking class. You're intrigued by him, though. He's is a young guy, skinny, with a long, thin ponytail that trails all the way to the small of his back. He has a short beard and mustache, too. He's one of the "cool" teachers at the school, which would make him a natural to hang out with and maybe a fun guy to impersonate. But he's also too obvious a choice—the opposite of Mrs. Heaney—for he has dropped some pretty broad hints in front of his students that he has first-hand experience with weed.
Much the same could be said of Bruno Nathan, the assistant coach. He's also young—just out of a college—with a strong body and handsome face. Though he'd look natural hanging out with Erik outside of school, he also looks too irresponsible.
As for the others, Chen concurs with your assessment that Mrs. Gladstone is "a dog," and the thought of impersonating fat, grouchy Mr. Walberg leaves you retching. Coach Porter, who runs the football program, would be at least as plausible as Mrs. Heaney, but he's in his fifties and has had some health issues.
So next you ask Chen to list his teachers. With a sigh, he quickly rattles off names and opinions.
Mrs. Gladstone? "Woof." Coach Gellman? He howls like a wolf in pain. Mr. Peters? "Oh, Je-sus!" Mrs. Heinz? "Bleugh-eugh-eugh-eugh-eugh-eugh!" Mr. Muniz? "I told you all about that fucker." Mrs. Gambetta?
He pauses and stares at the sky, his jaw working. "I'd do her," he allows.
* * * * *
"Where the fuck you been all afternoon?" Roy Nelson mutters when you come swaggering into the Warehouse an hour later. He glares up from under his brows, but remains bent over the mop he's using to clean the floor of the barroom.
"Boss man don't have to do no work," his friend Dominic mutters.
Well, you are late. And Erik Carstairs doesn't usually set this bad of an example. Normally he's the first to arrive on Sundays, which is the day the crew spends cleaning up from the weekend.
You answer by grabbing Roy's mop from him and jabbing him in the gut with the hard end. He falls back with a gasp and a grunt, and for a moment it looks like he's going to rush you. But you plunge the mop into the water bucket and slop it around the floor while holding his eye, and he backs off. "Go see if Cantu needs any help with the shit upstairs," you tell him. "At least go find some other way of fucking off," you add when Roy's lip curves in disgust. He wheels and stalks off, leaving you with Dominic.
You work hard for the next few hours, mopping the floors, wiping the tables, mucking out the toilets. In ones and twos the various vendors—the guys who sell beer, whiskey, snacks, and weed—drift in to collect their cut of the nightly receipts. When they've all arrived, you take Blake and Ryder Hillberger—the junior quarterback who Erik is training to take over management of the Warehouse next year—into the back storeroom where you count up the unsold items, calculate the amount of each kind of item sold, then bring the vendors in one at a time to settle accounts, paying them out of the cash receipts they collected on Friday and Saturday night, less the amount they ask you to use to replenish stocks for the upcoming weekend. What is left—several thousand dollars—you lock up in a metal briefcase. Blake and Ryder give you a funny look, but don't say anything when you take it with you when you leave. (It would have been Dwayne Macaulay's job to come around and collect it.) You take it home—to Erik's—and tuck into the back of the closet.
You are tired and filthy from the afternoon's work, and but at least you've shaken off the hangover from Saturday night's bacchanalia—during which you screwed that Eastman girl, and one of her friends—and wash it all off in a shower. Then, again in clean clothes, you lock yourself in the bedroom to finish the brain band.
It and the mask you will use on a teacher tomorrow.
You did wind up spending an hour inside Chen's mask, nursing his anger and insecurities as you chain-smoked, but gleaned only two useful insights: Mrs. Gambetta is the one teacher he has that he wouldn't mind fucking, and Mr. Muniz is the one teacher he would definitely like to fuck over. Indeed, the thought of turning the sanctimonious math teacher into a drug distributor gave you a stiffer hard-on the thought of ramming your dick into Mrs. Gambetta.
But when you go to bed, you still haven't culled your list of possible acquisitions any further down than five. Not until the next morning, after sleeping on it, do you feel a strong instinct to choose:
That's all for now.