Local High Schooler Saves Ballet From Acid Rain
By: Fidelia C. Marrbhles
Our small town was hit by a storm like no other when the green, acidic rainclouds formed overhead last Saturday. The scientists had been warning us for years, but did we listen? Oh no, that isn’t the way we do things here! We rebel at the sight of any inconvenience and loathe all specks of minor change in stubborn habits! So of course we didn’t listen. We kept right along our merry way and guess what? Maybe the town’s hall is destroyed because we didn’t want to use recyclable bags when we shopping and the acidic rain from our plastic chemical factory did some decomposing of its own, but at least we got to stick to our guns! Ha-ha, but guns are another topic, aren’t they? As long as the government doesn’t try to take them and we have the right to shoot the LIGHTS out of anyone who we even think is capable of doing something to us or our property, it’s all cool. That, however, is not what happened last Saturday. You see, and yes, this is rather informal for a local paper, what happened all started because of the acid rainstorms, but it continued to be, like, a problem because that was the weekend the Beautiful European Ballet Company was in town.
We had been waiting for ages (literally like seven months, and seeing as we are not very patient people, it took for-ev-er.) to get them to perform at our new stagehouse, donated by that guy everyone knows only as Big Jimmy who runs the used car dealership down by the underpass on Cholula Lane. You know the guy, I’m sure. He always wears a red shirt and khaki pants and his name tag has a small chicken emblem on it and he always gives you free refills and says, “It’s my pleasure to serve you,” while looking like he’d rather stab his cat with an electrical fork? Oh wait. That’s another place I’m thinking of. No, Big Jimmy has about four pickup trucks and seventeen sons who will all grow up to marry sweet blonde women with nice, round eyes and excellent childbearing hips because heaven forbid the car dealership kingdom go to rust, or worse, someone who wasn’t a direct relative of the titular monarch, Big Jimmy himself! Yeah. That’s the guy who donated our stagehouse. And the steakhouse, now that I think of it. Also a school playground or six. Popular guy, our Big Jimmy. Enough about him, though, because the stars of this totally legitimate news story are neither big or old enough to have a name like Jimmy.
The hero of this story is named Haywood Keaton, and he is the reason the Beautiful European Ballet is not stuck in a ditch somewhere with half their faces melted off. He valiantly struck out into the town even after the mandatory orders to stay inside at all costs because, duh, acid rain and crap. Instead of listening to the pleas of his mother, (No! Hayhay! Don’t do it!) the unshocking low growls of his father, (Now, see here, son. If you leave this house, there’s no guarantee I’ll leave the porch light on for you when you come back) and the determined mewing of his cat, Crocodile, (Meow. Meow. Meow.) our intrepid young kookaburra set out into town. He had a feeling in his gut that something was going to go wrong. It wrenched him. It nabbed and stabbed and polka dot jabbed him. He knew he was called to do something. For what, he was unsure. The only thing that he knew was that he had to pull on his big, husky boy trousers and leap to action before it was too late, Call it a coincidence, call it fate, call it Alberta May Simmons, we are all lucky to have such a brave person in our midst.
If it wasn’t for Hayward’s intuition, the Beautiful European Ballet would have never made it to their hotel rooms. They were trapped in a weak roofed tinfoil bus when he came swinging to their rescue, a knight in acid rain defyingly clear skin. (What? He moisturized, okay?) He stopped the clouds from their malevolent downpour, ripped open the doors of the bus, flew each of the ballet members, the bus driver, and all the instructors to the nearest open Waffle House, and waited with them for eighteen hours and four minutes, making sure they all knew what to order off the menu. It was a bit hard, seeing as he himself had never ordered of Waffle House’s secret Acid Rain menu, but as always, Hayward was a mastermind when it came to adapting to quick changes. By Monday evening, even though most of the town looked like an army of torpedo termites had ravaged it, the ballet company was free to perform at the stagehouse as planned. What can say except that it was indeed European. Also Beautiful. They have a spot on company name, if I do dare drop my opinion. If you haven’t yet, I would stop by the Keaton family home to pay Hayward a visit. After you give him your regards, why not head over to the steakhouse, then the stagehouse, and then the steakhouse again, and then go to your nearest school playground; go round and round on the merry go round till your shoes turn as green and splotty as the rain that started this whole story. Hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of the Dollop of Sunflower, and be sure to read again next week, as I’m sure we’ll have some more scintillating news.
Last Saturday, I didn’t stand in front of my mirror and say to myself, “Hayward, you are going to do something great tonight.” I said, “Hayward, you look like an idiot,” and then I threw my favorite Alpaca Daniel (best indie band around these parts) sweater on the bed. My best friend, Fidelia -and yes, she is the one who wrote pure fiction about me in that paper- had given me a long sleeved black shirt with a good for nothing zipper stuck to each shoulder last Christmas with the very intention of stupid nights.
She had put her hands on either one of my shoulders and looked me in the eyes and said, “If you don’t go to at least one party with me next year, I will drop kick you into the South Pacific ocean.”
I had taken the shirt from her and tossed it under my dresser, laughing and saying, nah, it would be the end of the world before Hayward Keaton showed up at a party.
Only thing was, last Saturday I thought it was the end of the world, and therefore I was pretty much obliged to attend a party. It was nice that someone at my high school had been thoughtful enough to throw a party that weekend, because it fit right into my plans. I would go to their house, participate in whatever ritual parties involved, have a mystery solved, please Fidelia, convince my family I wasn’t a complete waste of space, and die in peace.
I shrugged on the shirt and texted Fidelia to let her know I would be coming with her for the first and last time.
H: U win, coming 2 part E 2n8
F: You really suck at texting. I don’t even know what you’re talking about half the time.
H: dude, just wanted to come to party tonight
F: What party?
H: The one at
H: Chilo’s house.
F: NO WAY, I thought for sure you had found some dweeb fest, like a mid year Comic Con, and wanted to spend your last dying hours dressed as an elven warrior.
H: It’s not an elven warrior… but whatever. Get me?
F: You bet.
She got to my house five minutes later thanks to speeding and the Monster energy drinks both Fidelia and her car ran on.
“Are you ready to go?” She asked as soon as I answered the door, seizing me up and pushing past me to get inside.
“Yeah.” I waited for the comments about my hair, or my outfit, or the way my eyelids drooped like old turkey hens because of sleep deprivation, but none of that came. Fidelia just nodded.
“Okay, well, I told you I had good taste in shirts.” She grabbed an apple off my counter and grinned. “You should let me do your shopping more often, yeah?”
“What? Prove everyone who thinks I’m an uncoordinated slob wrong and show them what an undeniably dazzling hunk I am?”
Fidelia’s smile dropped. She crunched into her apple and glared at me. “You are not a dazzling hunk.”
“Thanks for the confidence booster.”
“Uh huh, well, Mister Dazzle Pants, I didn’t hear you singing my praises when I walked in the door and you know what?”
“I dressed up for the occasion. Bucko.”
She had dressed up, but Fidelia was always dressing up so it was hard for me to notice anymore. I liked her dress tonight; it was black and long and loose and patterned with several adorable woodland creatures all screaming, “Potatoes, please!” I patted the side of her face and inched very close to her.
She scowled, pulled back, and her nose pruned up. “Your breathe smells like three day old cold mold.” Then she smiled despite herself and twirled. “But thanks, I’m glad you like the dress. We’ll make quite the couple, yes?”
“Oh, sure.” I headed out to the car with her, and before we knew it, the music was blaring and we were screaming along to it, windows down and seats back. As soon as it started to stream neon green rain, though, those windows went up fast.
“Do you really think this is the last night?” Fidelia turned down the music and asked me.
“Maybe.” I said, because I didn’t have a better answer.
“Well, if it is, we should take care of unfinished business.”
I tapped the dashboard. “You remember that?”
“Oh,” that was a surprise, though not altogether a bad one, “Me too.” I wasn’t sure what to do. If it was a movie, I would have taken her hand in mine, declared undying young love, and we would have ridden off to the sky, or at least the nearest drive in movie theater. It wasn’t a movie, though. It was the last Saturday we knew of, we were going to a party, and we were both pretty sure whatever had happened before was just hormones. I turned the music back up just in time to finish screaming the lyrics to the Sesame Street Theme Song, which was popular on the PBSkids station we were tuned in to.
“What’s that?” Fidelia pointed at the road up ahead, where a large bus had stopped. “Should we go help?”
The bus was obviously not from our town, because we only had school buses, church buses, and food trucks, and this one was too big and wide to be any of those things. It also said, “Beautiful European Ballet” on either side, so that was helpful. It was like one of those discount cans you see in the discounted can bin at the market; you think you know what’s inside, but then once you open it, there’s no telling what’ll happen. One time, my very own sweet mother bought three unmarked cans from the Kroger parking lot dealership and one had baby rat tails, one was canned tuna, and the other resembled mashed potatoes but could have been cockroach droppings for all I know.
“Sure.” Fidelia was going to go help them whether I wanted to or not, so it was best to agree and follow along. She could take care of herself, but it was getting dark despite the neon rain and I didn’t want to die alone. “Let’s go see what they need. Do you have an umbrella?”
Fidelia produced a thick tarp from the driver’s side floorboard and draped it across our collective shoulders. “Think this’ll do?”
“In a pinch.” She opened her door and got out. I crawled after her and hoped to high Waffle House I didn’t die with a tarp over my head like some kind of degenerate idiot. We shuffle ran across the road and arrived at the Ballet bus panting and laughing. “We didn’t die!” I yelled over the sizzling shots of rain.
“Not yet, we didn’t!”
We started knocking on the bus door, which was harder than it sounds with a tarp over your head, and soon the doors slid open and we came face to face with, not a ballet company member, but a full grown, fully dressed, one hundred percent, bandit. He was wearing a tube top that said, “100% Bandit” actually, that showed off his toned stomach and arms. “I am in the middle of something can you not see?” His voice was higher than I had expected, more like a miniature porcelain teacup than the iron chain soon to be wrapped around my neck.
Fidelia’s hand found mine and we began to back up off the bus. Haha, who were we to ruin another guy’s business? No one, because we weren’t in the mood to die last Saturday night after all. The universe didn’t take no for an answer, though, and the bandit grabbed us by the collars and yanked us further into the bus. There were ballet dancers, male and female alike, all sitting steady in their seats. They didn’t look scared. They looked bored.
The bandit twirled a gun around his belt loops; a cowboy in a tutu wasteland. “Here’s two more, boss.”
I was curious to see who this boss type was, and it turned out to be more of a shock than even getting kidnapped by a bandit. The boss was none other than our town’s beloved Big Jimmy. He stood at the back of the bus, hands resting on his meaty stomach, and smiled. “I know these kids, Little Jimmy.” Ah, it was one of the infamous Jimmy Jr’s. “They should keep quiet if we let them go.”
The ballerina nearest to me picked at her teeth with a switchblade. I didn’t think they needed our help after all. “Fidelia,” I whispered, “We can leave. I think they have everything under control.”
“Are you kidding me?” She did not whisper. “This is one of the biggest stories of the year! I can see the headlines now. Local Icon Taken to Prison for Holding European Ballet Hostage.”
Everyone in the bus started to laugh so hard the bus shook. “You think this is a hostage situation?” The switchblade ballerina was amused as she asked me. “This is a business meeting.”
Fidelia blinked. I tried to blink but my eyelid got caught and I said, “Ow, drat these genes.” Fidelia hushed me and moved out from under the tarp.
“You said this is a business meeting?”
“Yeah,” Little Jimmy (aka future Miss Dollop County) said, “I thought you were here to join us so I pulled you in from the acid rainstorm out there. Hear it’s going to go on till at least four this morning.”
“You thought we were in on whatever illegal business you’re conducting in this house, er, bus of sin?” Fidelia’s eyes were twitching. She was upset, or curious, or really excited, or maybe very constipated… it was hard to tell what her eye twitching meant mid peril, though.
Big Jimmy shook his head. “Who said anything about illegal business?” He snapped for Little Jimmy to hand him a huge duffel bag. This is it, I thought, this is the last Saturday I’ll ever live to see, and I’m going to spend it with my best friend Fidelia C. Marrbhles, Big Jimmy, Little Jimmy, and at least one or two ballerinas named Svetlana. “Look here, kids.”
Big Jimmy pulled three jars from the duffel bag. I read the labels and handed the jars to Fidelia, who read them with the same disappointed look as I had. They were jam jars. Jams, jellies, preserves, canned fruits, whatever the difference between them all is, Big Jimmy had quite the collection. “The European Ballet swears they can’t dance without eating some of our famous jams first. We, of course, decided to make a little profit off the luck they get, and the best place to make the transactions was the bus.”
“Then WHY does Little Jimmy have a gun?” Fidelia pointed at Little Jimmy’s waistband. “Why did he make it sound like a big deal when it was just jam, of all things?”
“Little Jimmy has a gun because it’s Dollop County, and our gun laws let people have a gun just as easily as though they were buying dog food.” Big Jimmy explained. “And he made it sound like a big deal because it is. I’m Big Jimmy, and this is my deal, therefore, Miss Fidelia, it is a very Big deal.”
“Oh.” Fidelia pulled the tarp back over our heads. “Guess we’ll be going then.”
“Don’t tell anyone about this, you hear? The Ballet doesn’t want the other companies to know they’re running of a bumpkin town’s prized jam.” Big Jimmy chuckled. “They think that’d be silly.”
“No, no, not silly at all.” I grinned at Big Jimmy. “Not a word of it, though. Gotcha.”
Fidelia couldn’t get the night out of her head though. She was worried sick that sooner or later, someone would realize we hadn’t been at Chilo’s party, so she did what only Fidelia could do.
She wrote a story she knew people would believe.
All of Dollop County, except for me, infamous Fidelia herself, Big and one of the Little Jimmies, and the entire Ballet company, knew the truth.