Baker's Dozen – Chapter 01-03
Written by argonaut :: [Saturday, 16 February 2013 08:56] Last updated by :: [Friday, 14 August 2015 22:07]
Bobby Baker reached out from under the blanket and slapped the “off” button on his alarm clock.
Blinking sleepily, he sat up and put on his glasses. The bedroom was dim and shadowy in the gray early-morning light. He flung the blanket aside and shuffled over to the desk by the window, his bare feet treading noiselessly on the carpet. His schoolbooks – algebra, biology, history, French – were stacked neatly by the monitor.
Bobby sat down and turned on the computer. He checked his e-mail, browsed his Facebook page, then logged in at SuperWomenMania.
There were a few new posts – an announcement of an upcoming Mindy Marvel video at PSW … some suggestions for a theme for the next story workshop … and a new Superwoman story by Dr. Muttonchops. Bobby would have to read that later. Right now, he had to get ready for school.
As he was turning off the computer, he noticed an envelope propped against the stack of schoolbooks – a small white envelope, inscribed Congratulations! In a fancy cursive script.
That’s strange, he thought. It hadn’t been there when he went to bed last night, and he was pretty sure it hadn’t been there when he sat down a few minutes ago. He tore it open and took out its contents – a small plastic card and a small sheet of stationery, neatly folded in half.
He looked at the card first. It was the same size as a credit card or a school ID, embossed with the initials “S W M” in a large bold font The numerals from 1 to 12 ran along the bottom edge, glowing faintly in the dim light.,
He turned on his desk lamp and unfolded the sheet of stationery.
“Dear Bobby,” he read.
“It gives me great pleasure to inform you that as a valued member of the SWM community, you have been chosen to receive a complimentary I WISH SHE WAS SUPER card!
“How many times have you seen a girl in the classroom or in the gymnasium, at the mall or out jogging, and thought ‘I wish she was super’? Well, thanks to this card, what used to be an idle daydream can become a reality!
“Simply hold the card while looking at the lady of your choice and say the words I wish she was super. That’s all there is to it!
“The card will grant you twelve wishes. That’s right – twelve opportunities to turn an ordinary girl into a super-girl, with powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals. Just think of the possibilities!
“Please note that wishes are non-revocable, and that the cardholder is solely responsible for their consequences.
“Once again, congratulations – and happy wishing!
“Very truly yours,”
The signature was an illegible scrawl.
Bobby turned the sheet over. The back of the page was covered with what looked like legal boilerplate in very small print.
Bobby sat staring at the card in his hand. This must be some sort of prank – but who could be responsible? Not his parents, or his sister. He had a couple of friends who might be capable of planning such an elaborate joke, but how could they have gotten the envelope into his bedroom? His room was on the second floor, and besides – yes – the window was locked from the inside.
He sat, lost in thought, for several minutes, until he happened to glance at the clock beside his bed. Yikes! Hurriedly he got dressed and stuffed his schoolbooks into his knapsack. He turned off the desk lamp, swept the envelope and letter into a drawer, and picked up the card.
He hesitated, then shoved the card into his trousers pocket before hurrying downstairs to grab a quick breakfast.
Bobby shut the door of his locker and picked up his bookbag. His first-period biology class was over, and he had the next period free. Slinging the bag over his shoulder, he began walking toward the library. He wanted to go someplace quiet, where he could sit and think about the mysterious letter and the card in his pocket.
He figured that it was a prank by one of his friends from the comic book club – Malcolm or Kenny or maybe both of them together. They’d printed the card and the letter, then asked Bobby’s sister to put the envelope on his desk while he was sleeping. That had to be the explanation. Well, he’d be seeing them at lunch. Maybe he could think of some way to turn the tables on them …
Head down, lost in thought, he turned at the end of the hallway.
Oof! He bumped into someone – someone big.
Stepping back, he looked up. Glowering down at him were two senior boys – Kurt Larsen and Mike Mankowski. They were six feet tall, with broad shoulders and brawny arms … and Bobby knew that the hallways belonged to them.
Stay calm, he told himself. They can smell fear.
“Sorry,” he said. “I – I didn’t mean – “
A grin spread across Kurt’s face. It wasn’t a friendly grin.
“Sorry?” he said. “You bet your ass you’re sorry.”
“Yeah,” sneered Mike, grabbing the front of Bobby’s shirt and pushing him against the row of lockers. “And you’re gonna be a lot sorrier by the time we’re through with you.”
Bobby gulped. “C’mon, guys. It was an accident. I don’t want any trouble – “
Kurt and Mike looked at each other and burst into guffaws.
“You hear that?” said Kurt. “He doesn’t want any trouble.”
Mike brought his face within inches of Bobby’s. “Too bad, dickweed,” he snarled. “ ‘Cause you just stepped in a steaming pile of it.”
Kurt jabbed a thick finger against Bobby’s chest. “Yeah. It’s time you maggots learned who’s in charge around here.”
Desperately, Bobby looked to his right, then to his left. The second-period bell had aready rung, and the hallway was empty. No, wait. He heard footsteps …
Turning his head, he spotted Cindy Corliss hurrying down the hallway in his direction. Bobby’s heart sank. Cindy was a junior. She was cute, in a pixie-ish way – petite, with a round face and pale blue eyes and a mop of straw-colored hair. She was wearing a loose white T-shirt and a denim skirt that fell just an inch or two above her knees.
But she was painfully shy. Bobby had said “Hello” to her once, in the lunch line. She’d turned a pair of frightened eyes on him, then looked down, blushing, and stammered “Hello” in return …
She’d stopped now, watching the scene before her with the same frightened expression. Bobby groaned inwardly. Of all the people in the school, why did it have to be this timid little mouse? She might turn and run to the office to get help, but he needed help now.
If only …
A crazy idea struck him. What did he have to lose? He slipped his hand into his pocket and clutched the card. Keeping his eyes on Cindy, he muttered: “I wish she was super.”
“Huh?” growled Mike. “What did you say?” Looking down, he saw that Bobby’s hand was in his pocket. “Are you playing with yourself?”
He turned to Mike. “Look. The little homo’s playing with himself.”
“Ha. Maybe he’s getting off on this.” He slammed Bobby against the lockers again, hard. “Let’s show him what we do with queers.”
Bobby had stopped listening. Kurt and Mike were standing side by side, grinding their fists into their palms and leering with anticipation. But Bobby was looking at something behind them.
A mop of straw-colored hair was rising into view … then a pair of blue eyes … an upturned nose … Now Cindy’s chin was visible above Kurt’s shoulder. Her hair was different – longer, shinier, falling down her shoulders in golden waves. And her eyes, no longer pale and frightened, were a piercing sapphire-blue …
Bobby stared, open-mouthed, craning his head back as Cindy grew taller and taller, until she was as tall as his two tormentors … no, taller …
She winked at Bobby as she laid one hand on Kurt’s shoulder and the other on Mike’s. “Seriously, guys …”
Her voice was no longer a shy whisper; it was a strong and resonant, with a light mocking inflection as she looked down at the two seniors. A corner of her mouth turned up in a smile.
“You know what’s worse than a bully?”
Whirling round, the two boys stared up at her, speechless.
Cindy frowned, digging her fingers into their shoulders. “Well?”
Wincing with pain, mute with terror, they shook their heads.
“Two bullies – that’s what!”
The next moment, Cindy grabbed the boys by the backs of their shirts and lifted them off the floor. They dangled helplessly from her outstretched arms, their feet flailing several inches above the scuffed linoleum.
Bobby gaped. Cindy was now six foot six, at least. Her baggy T-shirt was stretched tight over her broad shoulders and spectacular torso, revealing an expanse of taut midriff. Her skirt had shrunk, sliding high up her thighs to reveal a pair of firm, shapely legs. And her top now bore a familiar symbol – a shield-like shape enclosing a stylized “S” …
“Now why don’t you leave this boy alone,” she was saying, “and go pick on someone your own size?”
Mike found his voice. “We – we didn’t mean anything!” he squeaked. “Honest!”
“Yeah,” Kurt chimed in. “We – we were just fooling around – isn’t that right?” His eyes turned to Bobby, wide with a desperate appeal.
“Ri-i-i-ight,” drawled Cindy. She gave them a vigorous shake, then released them. Dazed, they dropped heavily to the floor.
Hands on hips, Cindy looked down at them. “Now don’t you have someplace else to be?”
Hastily, they picked themselves up, rubbing their bruised backsides, and hurried off down the hallway.
Cindy stood watching them with her arms folded across her chest until they turned a corner and scurried out of sight. Sighing, she shook her head as she turned to Bobby.
“Honestly, you’d think they’d know better than to try that kind of stuff on my watch,” she said. “Good thing I’m around to keep that testosterone in check – right, cutie? … Hello?” She grinned. “Hey – my face is up here.”
Bobby looked up, blushing. “Sorry,” he stammered. “I was just looking at your chest – I mean your ‘S’ – I mean – you know – the symbol – the symbol on your – your shirt.”
Cindy giggled. “Well, duh. It’s not as if I haven’t been wearing it, like, forever.” She leaned down, bringing her eyes level with Bobby’s.
“Seriously,” she said. “Are you okay? Those guys didn’t – ?”
“No – no, I’m fine. Thanks.”
“Hey, anytime.” She straightened up. “Well, I guess I’d better get to math class.” She turned to go, then hesitated.
“You know …” she said slowly, then stopped.
She lowered her eyes, “It’s just that – well, I wouldn’t put it past those guys to be waiting for you after school – maybe with some of their friends … “
“Oh.” Bobby hadn’t thought of that.
“So maybe – well, maybe you’d better let me walk you out of the building – just in case – you know?”
Bobby gulped. “That’d be great. Thanks.”
Cindy smiled. “Great. Meet me in the lobby at 3:20, okay?”
“Cool. And then maybe we could, you know, hang out afterwards?”
Bobby gulped. “Sure.”
“It’s a date. Well, I gotta run. See you later, cutie.”
Bobby watched, speechless, as Cindy opened the door of a classroom and walked in. “Sorry I’m late, Mr. Reynolds,” Bobby heard her say. “I stopped to pick up some trash in the hallway.”
Mr. Reynolds’ voice came through the open door. “That’s all right, Cindy. Just, ah, take your seat and open your book to Chapter 4 …” Cindy turned to wink at Bobby as she closed the door behind her
Bobby stood all alone in the empty hallway, his mind in a whirl.
Bobby grabbed a book from the fiction section and sat down at an unoccupied table.
The library was nearly empty. Many students were assigned to study hall during their free periods; of those who weren’t, most went to the computer room to work on homework or browse the internet. Two freshman boys were sitting across the room, flicking a folded piece of paper back and forth in a game of table hockey, and Ms. Bartlett, the librarian, was posting an announcement on the bulletin board.
Ms. Bartlett …
Bobby was momentarily distracted from the questions racing through his mind as he watched Ms. Bartlett return to her desk. Fresh out of graduate school, she might have been mistaken for one of the senior girls if it weren’t for her deliberately conservative attire. But neither her horn-rimmed glasses nor her severe bun concealed the prettiness of her features; nor did her high-collared blouses and knee-length skirts obscure the trim figure underneath. Bobby wasn’t the only guy who’d wondered what Ms. Bartlett might look like with her hair loose, her glasses off, her blouse unbuttoned, her sexy lips parted softly …
Bobby shook his head. He had more important things to think about. Opening the book, he propped it in front of him and pretended to be reading.
What the heck had just happened out in the hallway?
Fact: Mousy little Cindy Corliss had grown into a six-and-a-half-foot-tall superbabe right before his eyes. But that wasn’t the most surprising thing. Cindy hadn’t seem freaked out by her transformation, and those two bullies – even though they practically wet their pants when Cindy confronted them – didn’t seem surprised by it either. And when Cindy went into her classroom, her teacher made no comment on the fact that she was now a foot and a half taller, with shoulders like a quarterback and a rack like Power Girl’s. He hadn’t said anything about her mini-skirt and bare midriff, either, even though he was a notorious stickler when it came to the school dress code.
And what was it that Cindy had said about the “S” emblem on her top – that she’d been wearing it “like, forever”?
There was only one conclusion. Bobby had read enough comic books to realize that his wish had not only made Cindy super: It had ret-conned reality so that she’d always been super – or at least long enough for everyone else to be aware of it … and even take it for granted …
Whew! The card must have some pretty powerful mojo if it could do all that. He drew the card from his pocket and took another look at it. The row of numbers along the bottom edge were still glowing faintly … except for the “12”.
He had eleven wishes left.
Bobby felt somewhat frightened. Giving a girl super-powers was one thing, but messing with time and altering the fabric of reality …
Suddenly Bobby was distracted by a commotion from across the room. The two freshman boys had been conducting their table hockey game in surreptitious whispers, but now a noisy dispute had arisen.
“No fair! You moved your hands!”
“Did so! I want a do-over!”
A sharp voice came from the front of the room.
Ms. Bartlett was standing up behind her desk.
“I’ve asked you boys twice to be quiet,” she said. “Now for the last time …”
She raised a finger to her face; her soft lips drew together alluringly. Without thinking, still holding the card, Bobby whispered “I wish she was super!” just as Ms. Bartlett let out a sibilant “Sh-h-h-h!”
Next moment, a blast of air struck Bobby like a pile-driver and sent him toppling backward in his chair. Stunned, he lay on the floor, breathless, his glasses askew.. He got up on his hands and knees and crawled into the shelter of his overturned table. Straightening his glasses, he looked around him with wide, fearful eyes.
A powerful wind was rushing around the library. The two freshman boys lay dazed amid overturned furniture. Gusts of wind tore maps and posters from the bulletin boards. Magazines flew from the racks, newspapers rose fluttering from the tables. A row of encyclopedias began sliding along a shelf, the heavy volumes dropping to the floor one by one.
The gale stopped as quickly as it had begun. Torn posters and sheets of newspaper drifted quietly toward the jumble of overturned tables and chairs. The last volume of the encyclopedia teetered on the edge of the shelf for a moment before joining its companions on the floor below. Groaning, the two freshmen sat up, rubbing their bruises and catching their breath.
The sound of high heels came from the front of the room. Bobby peered over the top of his overturned table. Ms. Bartlett was striding out from behind her desk.
Bobby stared. Unlike Cindy, Ms. Bartlett didn’t appear to be any larger or more … robust – but her conservative attire had been transformed into a leather miniskirt and a cream-colored blouse with a plunging neckline that displayed a generous expanse of cleavage. Her hair, no longer bound in a bun, tumbled about her face in a profusion of auburn curls. She stood, coolly surveying the wreckage of the library, holding an arm of her glasses to her lips.
“Well, boys,” she drawled. “I suggest you start cleaning this up.”
“Us?” protested one of the boys, rising shakily to his feet. “We didn’t – “
Ms. Bartlett arched an eyebrow.
“Er – yes, Ms. Bartlett,” the boy said meekly. He began gathering the scattered newspapers while his friend picked up one of the overturned chairs. Nodding, Ms. Bartlett returned to her desk.
Bobby grabbed his bookbag and headed for the door.
“Do you want to check that book out?” Ms. Bartlett asked.
“Huh?” Bobby looked down at the book in his hand – the one he’d grabbed from the shelves when he came into the library. He hadn’t realized that he was still holding it.
“Er – yes, please.” He handed the book to Ms. Bartlett, who glanced at the spine.
“The Lathe of Heaven.” She smiled at Bobby. “One of my favorites. You’ll have to tell me how you liked it.”
“Sure,” said Bobby, resisting the temptation to stare down the inviting plunge of Ms. Bartlett’s neckline. “Uh, listen – do you want me to help those guys tidy up?”
Ms. Bartlett shook her head. “Don’t worry about it,” she said as she scanned the book into the computer on her desk. “I just wanted to keep them busy until the period’s over. I can finish the job myself in a jiffy as soon as the bell rings.” She smiled complacently. “Super-speed is so convenient.” She held out the book. “All set.”
“Thanks.” Bobby tried to take the book from Ms. Bartlett’s hand, but it didn’t budge. He pulled harder, staggering back slightly as Ms. Bartlett released it with a giggle.
“Actually,” she said, “there is something you can help me with.”
Bobby blinked. “What’s that?”
Ms. Bartlett gestured toward the open door behind her desk. “You see those piles of books back there? Those are new acquisitions, and I’ve got to get them cataloged and on the shelves. How about dropping by after school to give me a hand?”
“Gee, Ms. Bartlett, I don’t know anything about cataloging books – “
Ms. Bartlett waved a hand dismissively. “There’s not much to know, really. I can teach you the basics in no time.” Leaning forward slightly, she lowered her voice to a confidential whisper. “In fact. I bet I could teach you a lot of things.” She winked. “So what do you say? 3:20 – here in the library?”
Bobby gulped. “Uh – okay.”
Ms. Bartlett smiled. “It’s a date.” She turned to her computer as Bobby, his mind once again in a whirl, staggered toward the door.
To Be Continued …