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Vaughn seemed tired and a little punchy on the way back. He stumbled as we walked up the hill to the gate and then again on the way down the hill to the school’s tennis courts. Tennis being a spring sport, the courts were empty.

As we walked toward the soccer fields and the entrance to the gym, he seemed unable to stop talking.

“I’m in a position to do some good in the world now,” he said, “and change things. I know who sold me drugs. I bet I could find out where they live. I’d collect evidence and bring them, you know—KER-POW—zapped unconscious to the police. I’d just have to get a costume. Leather would be cool, but I wear leather a lot of the time anyway so that wouldn’t be much of a disguise… And a name… I’ll need a name...”

Daniel got that way when he overused his abilities too. Well, not precisely that way. Daniel got quiet and fell asleep a lot.

I felt tired myself. We had done around four miles, most of it running. That’s not a massive distance, but it counts.

We stepped into the gym to find the volleyball team just finishing practice. A couple girls were still practicing serves, but most of them were standing and talking.

Cassie stood in one of the bigger groups, laughing loudly with girls I recognized, but couldn’t name. As I shut the door, she waved and half-ran over to us. “Hey Nick, Vaughn. Have a good run?”

Unlike anyone else in the room she didn’t look tired at all.

She smiled at me, living temporarily in a happy world where Vaughn and I walking in together meant that we’d had a long talk and were now best friends forever.

Vaughn barely seemed to notice her. He leaned against the wall. “White Lightning,” he said, “That’s a cool name. I could go with that.”

“I’m pretty sure ‘White Lightning’ is synonym for moonshine,” I said.

“No way? That’d piss off my mom. Not that that’s hard.”

Cassie said, “Is he drunk?”

Vaughn laughed. “I am not drunk. Just tired. And I mean bone tired.”

He sat down on the floor.

“He really isn’t drunk,” I said, “but a few things happened during the run that we probably shouldn’t talk about here.”

She glanced toward the rest of the volleyball team. Most of them were leaving for the locker room. A few still stood talking next to the bleachers.

“Tell you what, I’ve got my mom’s car. I’ll drive you home.”

“That would take care of everything,” I said. “Um… You want to help me get him over to the guy’s lockers?”

Vaughn head lay on his chest. He had fallen asleep.

“Only if I don’t have to go in. The boys' locker room reeks. Do you any of you guys ever wash your uniforms or do you just keep them there for the season?”

I decided to take that as a rhetorical question and started to pull Vaughn up by his right arm. Cassie took the other arm, and to be honest, did most of the work. Not that that should surprise anyone.

Vaughn woke up enough to get himself into the locker room. We showered and changed into clothes. While I rearranged my locker, it occurred to me that Cassie was right about the smell. The reason’s not hard to explain.

I left my sweats there all week and took them home to be washed on Friday. I’m sure I wasn't the only one. In fact I’m pretty sure some people left their stuff longer.

Don’t judge me.

I pulled my backpack out of my locker and put the SIM cards into the front pocket along with the pictures.

Vaughn already had his jacket on and had one strap of his backpack over his shoulder.

“So,” he said, “rumor says you and Cassie are going out.”

“Where did anyone get that idea?”

“I heard it from Kayla first, but she’s not the only one who says it. I’d wondered myself. I’ve never seen you together before this year and this year you’re talking in the hall. You’re having lunch. You’re riding home from school together… Everything but PDA.”

“No.”

Which goes to show that the school rumor machine is pretty much full of it. Last time I heard anything about Cassie in school, the rumor was that she was a lesbian. Bearing in mind that that rumor goes out about all female athletes that are any good and every female phys ed teacher, I didn’t pay any attention to it.

It made me wonder if anyone bothered to try to reconcile contradictory rumors or if these things just washed ashore like waves on the beach and disappeared.

“I’ll bet you can think of one other reason we might be hanging out,” I told him.

Vaughn looked puzzled for a second, but then said, “Oh, duh. I'm a moron.”

I grabbed my backpack and we walked out of the locker room. Cassie was waiting for us in the hall. We walked quietly down the hall, out of the school and out to the parking lot.

Cassie's mom had a late model blue sedan. It looked distinctly like a mom-mobile--as in clean, has a tissue box, a trash receptacle,  and didn't have bags of fast food garbage on the floor or the seats.

Once we shut the doors she said, “OK, what have you got for me?”

I pulled out the photos and the SIM cards.

I told her everything.


A new chapter starts tomorrow, and we'll find out how much deeper this mess can get. If you're enjoying the story, please do review. I can use the help. A lot of people are reading on my main site, but I'd like to become more visible here.
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About the author

zoetewey

Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.

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