Homework's gotta get done.
|"Aaarrg! It's hopeless!"
Tracy sat at her desk, staring at her computer. She didn't know what she was going to do. Her essay on the Civil War was due tomorrow and she had nothing written. She stared at her computer for another second, hoping the words would come to her, before standing up and pacing the carpeted floor. She kept doing this for entirely too much time, until eventually she realized that she was deliberately putting off writing the assignment. She huffed down in front of her vanity, lit one of the scented candles she had, and looked into the mirror.
"Mr Jorgensen said I have to get a good grade on this paper if I want to stay on the fencing team," she said to her reflection. "I know I told my mom I wouldn't do it anymore, but I really can't think of any other way." She stared at her reflection a while longer, then nodded to herself, coming to a decision. She stood up, put on her jacket, walked out of her room and down the stairs.
"Are you going somewhere, sweetie?" Mrs. Paymon was in the kitchen holding a large knife. In front of her were the eviscerated remains of a dead chicken that she was preparing for dinner. She put down her knife and wiped her hands on her pink apron as she turned around toward the door.
Tracy brushed her brown hair out of her eyes and down the back of her head. "Yeah, Mom. I have to get some things for school. I'll be back in about an hour or so."
Mrs. Paymon smiled an odd half smile, and for a second Tracy felt nervous, but then she said "Of course dear. Make sure you're back for dinner. This chicken can't eat itself."
"Got it. See ya soon." Her mother turned back to the chicken and Tracy went outside. She didn't have a car, but the town wasn't very big. She thought about getting out her bike, but it was a nice day outside, the few clouds in the blue sky Tracy could see looked like white fire, and she could hear the whistling of birds. Anyway, she wasn't in a hurry to get this stupid paper finished. She started walking down the street, figuring she'd hit up the flower shop first.
Tracy heard the buzzer make noise electronically when she opened the door, and for a second felt a little bad. What was wrong with a bell? Why digitize something as simple as a bell on a door? she thought. But there was no time for that. Mr. Drucker, the florist was looking at her and smiling. "Well hey there, Tracy. What can I get for ya? Your mom want some more roses?"
Tracy smiled, and resisted the urge to roll her eyes at this. Her mom spent too much money on flowers. She puts them in a vase on the table, they die, and she doesn't care. Instead she turned to the potted plants she could see when she was standing outside. "Actually, today I want something for me." She reached down and picked up a snapdragon plant. She turned to the shopkeeper and grinned for him. "How much is this?"
Mr. Drucker chuckled a little and nodded his head. "You've got fine taste. Tell ya what. I'll give you that plant for 8 dollars. How about it?"
Tracy groaned inwardly. She only had fifteen dollars to spend, but she needed the plant. "Sure, that'll be fine." She walked over, put the pot on the counter and reached into her pocket for the money.
Mr. Drucker reached out and touched one of the bright red flowers. "I'll tell you the truth, Tracy. This one is my favorite plant. So I need you to promise me you'll take good care of it, okay?"
Does he think I'm eight with that line? "Sure thing. Don't worry about wrapping it up, I want it to soak up some sun. Have a nice day."
"You too, Tracy." He gave her a wave as she left the store. She walked a ways so as not to be seen in the window, then stopped to think. The pet store was closer, but the craft store closed earlier. She'd better get there first. She walked down the sidewalk with some haste, carrying her red snapdragon plant all the way to the store. They had a nice selection of upholsteries, which was just what she needed.
The girl walked inside and shivered a bit; the air conditioner was turned up too high. She walked to the rolls of fabric until she found the one she wanted: a nice Persian medallion design. This was much cheaper, only a couple dollars, and this shopkeeper, a rotund middle aged woman, didn't say anything to her or even really make eye contact while bagging her purchase, preferring to watch her never ending stream of soap operas online. It's dangerous to give some people unconditional access to a thirty year run TV show, Tracy thought as she left and B-lined to the pet store.
She knew the store well. When she had been younger she was always asking her mom to take her inside so she could see the cats and dogs. Sometimes, if it was slow, they'd even let her play with them. Now that she was a little older she wasn't as enthused, but she still found herself liking the store, even if it did smell aggressively of bleach and excrement.
When she walked in she smiled; Derek was running the counter today. He was short and thin, but surprisingly strong, as some of the meathead football guys found out when they tried to push him around. He was on her school's wrestling team, and doing very well. Tracy thought she saw a hint of blush on his cheeks when he looked at her. "Hi, Tracy! What can I do for you today?"
Tracy made a show of looking around at the animals before turning to him and smiling. "Derek! How long have you been working here?"
Derek, faced with an easy question, seemed to be relaxing a little. "Oh, not too long. Just a few weeks. My dad said I needed to get a job if he was going to help me buy a car so here I am."
"You're getting a car!?" Tracy's mouth hung open a second before she realized and collected herself.
Derek smiled and leaned against the counter a little. "Yeah. I've been doing pretty well in school and I won my last few competitions. I even placed at the science fair. So he said he'd get me one, but I had to start working so I could pay for gas and stuff. These guys were hiring, and animals are cute, so I figured 'Why not?'.
Tracy moved the bag and the snapdragon plant from one arm to the other. "So how is it?"
Derek grimaced a bit, but kept smiling. "I probably should've thought about how much dog crap I'd have to deal with."
Tracy and Derek laughed some at this, then she turned to business. "I need a rat," she said.
Derek nodded. "Sure. We've got pet rats and stuff over there," he said pointing to a corner of the store.
Tracy shook her head. "No, I need, like, those rats for food. That snakes eat."
This seemed to confuse Derek. "Really? I didn't figure you for being the kind of girl to own a snake," he said.
"I'm not. I hate snakes." Tracy sighed, but natural talent came to her aid. "In fact I think we have a snake near my house somewhere. I was looking online and they don't look hard to trap, but I need a mouse to use as bait." That was pretty good.
"Oh. Okay. Wait here a second." Derek opened a door and walked into the back of the store. As he opened the door a massive cacophony of barking started, and kept going, well after the boy returned with a small box. "I've got it here," Derek said over the din, "You just want one, right?"
"Yeah, one's plenty," Tracy said, nodding. She handed over the last of her money and took the rat in the box. Well, I've got everything. Time to get back. Tracy looked at the boy. "Well, I've gotta get back to writing that history paper."
"Mr Jorgensen's paper? You didn't finish yet?" Derek said with an uncharacteristic lack of tact.
"No," Tracy replied, a shade moodily. "I've been busy with the fencing club."
Derek nodded at that. "You've definitely been putting a lot of work into that. I saw you beat Mike Shaefer last week while we were practicing on the other side of the gym."
Tracy smiled a little, remembering the victory. "He was so full of himself, too."
"Well he won't be next time," Derek warned.
Tracy nodded decisively, "Good! Maybe next time he'll be a little more challenging."
They laughed one more time, then Tracy said goodbye and left carrying her charges.
I'm almost ready.
When Tracy got home dinner was ready, so she threw all her things in her room and sat down to eat. Conversation was simple: school, work, school, no you can't have a car, and so on. Tracy finished quickly and went up to her room to prepare. Around this time the sun was going down, so Tracy decided to start right away. After locking her door, she took her nightstand and moved it against the middle of the east wall. Then she put the tapestry over it. The snapdragon was sitting on her windowsill. Using a pair of scissors, she cut one of the crimson flowers off and set it on the nightstand.
At this point Tracy got down on the floor and crawled under her bed. When she came back out she had a largish shoebox. Sitting on the bed, she opened it and took out two candles, a silver bowl and knife, and an old book with a parchment cover. Tracy picked up the candles and bowl and set them down on her nightstand, creating a small altar. She put her flower in the bowl, and then, taking the knife and the book, she reached for the box with the mouse in it. She opened it and looked inside. The mouse was white and clearly terrified. Of course, there's essentially never a time that a mouse isn't terrified of something. In this case, however, it was afraid of the giantess with the silver knife picking it up, and it was quite correct to feel this way.
Tracy held the mouse for a moment, looking like she was going to cry. Finally, she put the mouse back in the box and instead cut her own finger, yelping as she did so. Her blood now falling on the snapdragon, she picked up the book and started reading aloud. As she read, the temperature started to drop in her room and a wind started moving, swishing the bedroom curtains and Tracy's hair. She read louder and louder, and the wind accelerated, pushing over small objects on her dresser and moving a pile of dirty clothes she had left on the floor, until finally it was a deafening howl.
"Can I help you?"
Tracy, realizing she'd closed her eyes, opened them. She turned around and saw a creature, just a little too big to be a man. It was wearing old-fashioned robes of a style Tracy didn't recognize, smelled slightly of spice and body odor, and also had a ram's head. It's red eyes almost seemed to glow with hellfire as it tried to stare at her ominously, but goat heads are not built for staring straight ahead, so it wound up looking like it was trying to cough something up. She ventured a question. "Akvan?"
The demon nodded its massive head. Its tone was irritable. "Of course! You knew who you were summoning. Now state your business."
The tone reminded Tracy of one night when she was eight years old and had woken her father up at three in the morning. It clearly said 'I'm too sleepy to properly hate you for waking me up right now'. She elected to cut right to the chase. "I need you to help me with my history homework."
The demon's goat head somehow managed to look more startled and confused than an actual goat. "That's it?" it said a shade incredulously.
Tracy was starting to feel a bit defensive. "Yeah. I summoned you, and now you have to help me write my history paper."
The demon seemed to be waking up, which was only making it angrier. "You would DARE to wake up Akvan, inspirer of evil, and demand he help you with your history homework!?!"
The demon seemed a bit put out by the response. "Well, if it means you'll release the binding and I can get out of here, fine. What's the assignment?"
"The Civil War."
The goat head, now that it was content to stare with just one eye, stared much more effectively than before.
Finally Tracy broke the silence. "What are you waiting for?"
"The Civil War?" asked the goat head.
The demon sat down on Tracy's bed. "You're going to have to be a little more specific."
Tracy rolled her eyes. "Fine, the American Civil War."
Now Tracy sighed. "How could you not know what the American Civil War is?"
The goat head spoke again, a shade defensively. "I'm a three thousand year old demon, girl! I sleep through all sortsa stuff."
"Like America?" Tracy said a shade condescendingly.
"Like that thing you just said, yes," said the goat demon. "What is it anyway?"
Tracy started to look a bit nervous. "So you weren't present for the Civil War?"
"Apparently not," said the goat.
Tracy bit her nail, thinking. There has to be some way to salvage this!
Suddenly her face lit up. "You can inspire people to do wrong, right?"
Now the demon looked confused. "What's wrong-right?"
Tracy stared for a second as she tried to figure out what the hell was going on. Eventually she gave up and rephrased her question. "You can make people do bad things?"
"Yes!" Akvan, ram-headed inspirer of evil seemed to glow with an inner fire at this declaration, standing up and holding out both his arms. "I spread corruption and evil thought. All tyrannous lords, wicked mothers, cruel merchants and villainous highwaymen are inspired by me!"
"Great. Now go over to Derek's house and get him to write another paper for me."
It shouldn't be possible for a goat's face to fall, but Akvan's did just that upon hearing his instructions. He turned around and looked at his summoner. "You cannot actually just want that, can you?"
Tracy smiled at him. She'd gotten her bearings. "I know that you could do more, but right now this is all I need. Just go over to his house on 21st street and get him to write a paper for me. He'd never do it by himself, so it counts as corrupting him."
The demon seemed despondent at this trivialization of his powers. "Don't you maybe want him to murder your teacher or something? Then you wouldn't have to do the paper."
"What?! No! No way!" said Tracy, noticeably upset. "Mr. Jorgensen is a very good teacher. I just didn't have time to do the paper. I was too busy practicing so I could kick Mike Shaefer's ass. I only need this one paper done for me. Now get to it so I can release the binding!"
"Fine, whatever," said Akvan, desecrator of kings. He started to go towards the door.
"What are you doing!" said Tracy, horrified.
The demon was through being confused. "I'm going to get your boyfriend to do your homework for you," he said dully.
"Well you're not going out that way," Tracy said. "I promised my mom I wouldn't summon any more demons. Go out the window."
Akvan didn't actually sigh, but you could see the despair in his whole body as he moved to the window, moved the snapdragon plant, opened it and started to climb out.
"Wait," Tracy said suddenly.
"Oh, what is it now?!" cried the goat.
"Here, I have something else for you to do." Tracy grabbed the box with the white rat in it and gave it to him.
Akvan sniffed the box. "So you want me to make him eat it?" he ventured.
"No," said Tracy, "Just let it out somewhere outside. So it can be free."
Akvan snorted. "Fine, whatever. Let's get this over with."
"Oh and one more thing."
Akvan was already halfway out the window, but his one eye stared with the patience of one who's borrowing patience from his future self and going to need to sit in the dark for a few hours after he gets through with the day's trials.
Tracy smirked at the demon's eye. "Derek's not my boyfriend."
"Tracy! Wait up!"
Tracy stopped walking and stopped on the sidewalk, her backpack hanging on one shoulder. Derek ran up, panting a little but doing his best not to let her catch on. "So, did you finish your paper last night?"
Tracy put on a worried face. "No, I worked at it most of the night but I just wasn't able to get through it. I'm not sure what I'm going to say to Mr. Jorgensen."
"Well," here Derek's face got a bit sheepish, "I was afraid you wouldn't finish, so I wrote one for you."
"You did!?" Tracy said, bouncing up and down a little for dramatic effect. Maybe I'll join theater next year.
"Yeah. I just didn't want you to get thrown off the fencing team. But I'm only doing it this one time! If you have problems again, talk to me sooner. We can study together." Derek opened his backpack and took out some stapled papers, proffering them to Tracy.
"Ohmygod. Thank you so much, Derek." Tracy gave him a little kiss on the cheek, and she swore she could almost hear him buzzing as they walked to school together. Maybe I'll take him up on that studying offer, too.