Back to School Mom

(Read 4 Free Edition)

© By Patricia Backora

After much soul-searching, I have decided to make Back to School
Mom available for free reading on Scribd, one of the best platforms
there is for people to share the lessons of life with each other. The
important messages within this novel must get out. This decision is
a protest against students, teachers, school officials and bus drivers
who continue to commit, aid or abet the destructive bullying of
vulnerable children and teenagers.

Anyone who prefers to read this book on their Kindle or other Epub
reader can order it through these links:

http://www.amazon.com/Back-to-School-Mom-ebook/dp/B007HAZZH4

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Back-to-School-Mom-ebook/dp/B007HAZZH4

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/back-to-school-mom-patricia-
bakora/1109328890?ean=2940013910706

1
1
Knockout

“Make it burn! Shake it up! Right! Left! Up! Down! Turn
around!” a strident voice yelled at 59 people of all ages doing their
Bunburner Aerobics, to “Eye of the Tiger” blasting from a big sound
system.
Rows of sweating, jumping, twisting bodies pounded the gym
floor of the Waksaki Workout Center, where Sandy had worked for
most of her adult life. Even after marrying her lawyer husband
Edgar back in 1994, she’d loved her job too much to quit and rest
on her laurels.
Sandy loved the joy of movement, the adrenalin rush of fast
action. The 43-year old mother of two was six feet tall and lean-
muscled, lithe as a leopard. A lanky redhead dynamo of endless
energy, Sandy outdid them all. Not only did she hop and jump, she
break-danced and did forward and back flips to keep the momentum
going. Few of her younger students could keep up with her. Some
students came to see Sandy’s show as much as to get fit.
Her panting students moved in time with the music, clapping,
punching the air, pausing now and then to take quick sips of bottled
water. Finally it was time for Sandy’s cool down routine, a fast run
around the gym which gradually slowed to a trot, a speedwalk then
a leisurely stroll before concluding with slow stretches done to the
soothing music of Swan Lake.
As everyone else rested on their mats Sandy felt a strange
restlessness. Mr. Wakasaki, her lifelong Tae Kwan Do instructor, had
trained her well. Even when she was at rest Sandy’s Inner Sentry
must perpetually remain on duty, keeping a watchful eye. She must
forever listen to the Voice of the Wind and never lower her guard
completely. If her Ear of Wisdom detected a songbird peace was in
the air. If she heard the voice of a hawk, she must muster her inner
defenses for war.

2
Her Inner Sentry intuition detected trouble in the air before she
heard a stumbling noise, then a coarse laugh. Her eye drifted to the
door of the gym leading out toward the main corridor.
“Hey, babe, Ralston’s here!” a raspy voice slurred from the
doorway. A tall black dude wearing Gothic jewelry and a backward
baseball cap strutted in the gym like he owned the place. He
boogied on up to Sandy, humming. Every eye was on her as she
stood still, hands on hips. She gave him a cold stare.
Ralston panted provocatively as he stared at Sandy’s long, lean
body, clad in a slinky leotard and patterned tights. But she didn’t
seem flustered. She rolled up her eyes and asked, “What the hell
do you want?”
“Nothin’ from you, my vanilla queen,” he said, gyrating and
grinning. “Hey, La Rue!” he called to a woman resting on her mat.
“Hey, baby, I seen you hoppin’ and boppin’ over there, and it ain’t
done you a bit of good! You’re still my lil’ ol’ blubber lover! You
won’t never be one of them skinny babes on TV, so ain’t no use
tryin’!”
La Rue, a pretty plus-size woman in her late 20’s, lowered her
face to her knees, utterly humiliated. A woman next to her touched
her back consolingly. “Just ignore the a******,” she whispered.
“Men are sexist pigs.”
“Now you see here, dude!” Sandy cried, squaring off against a
plastered guy no taller than herself, but a bit heftier than she was.
“La Rue is one of my best students, and we’re all proud of the
progress she’s made, aren’t we, everybody?”
Everybody cheered for La Rue. She raised her head and smiled.
“Now hear this!” Sandy shouted for all to hear. “You guys aren’t
here to turn your bodies into toothpicks so you’ll get laid, though
this genius thinks that’s what exercise is all about! We exercise to
tone our muscles, improve our circulation, increase our strength
and stamina, and protect our bone density as we age! And what’s
more, we’re doing all that for the person in the mirror, not because
we’re dancing to somebody else’s tune! Size zero is no hero!”
Applause broke out. La Rue stood up. She walked toward
Ralston, wagged her finger and yelled, “Get your skinny a** out of
my life! I’m tired of taking your c***!”
“Hey, baby, I didn’t mean nothin’ by it!” Ralston whined,
blowing his liquor breath in Sandy’s face. “C’mon, brown sugar, we
got a date!”
“No, we ain’t got no date!” La Rue shrieked. “Hit the road,
Ralston! I ain’t never comin’ by your place no more!”
“Get out!” Sandy hissed, interposing herself between La Rue
and Ralston.
“Chill out, vanilla cake,” he cooed. “Ol’ lover-boy Ralston likes
skinny chicks too. There’s room for three in my bed, babe, ‘cause
you turn me on.”

3
Sandy’s voice cut like a knife. “Shove off, you creep!” She
meant business.
The liquor was making Ralston mean by now. “Outa my way,
honky b****!” he snarled, knotting up his fist, which Sandy raised
her hardened forearm to block.
“Trouble in here, Sandy-san?” A smallish man in his seventies
appeared, wearing his gi, a white martial arts uniform. His jacket
was embellished with a tiger logo and encircled with the coveted
black belt, which he held in many martial arts disciplines. Tojo
Wakasaki owned the entire Wakasaki Martial Arts Complex, which
included a state-of-the-art gym, a fried noodle bar, The Wakasaki
Martial Arts Arena, the Wakasaki Martial Arts Training Dojo and The
Wakasaki Youth Academy, a boarding school for high school age
students who wanted total immersion in the martial arts culture. A
short, wiry Japanese immigrant with just a bit of beard, he showed
no fear. “And I turn you off,” he told Ralston.

Ralston grinned when he saw the little guy. “Hey, chinky, c’mon
over if you wanna see some action. I ain’t scared of you!”
Breathless with suspense, everyone, including Sandy and La
Rue, backed away to make more room.
Before Ralston could even raise his fist, flying feet slammed into
his gut, flooring him. Wakasaki completed his backward spin and
landed squarely on his feet, crouching with hands poised to strike.
Ralston moaned, then staggered to his own feet. His hand slipped in
his pants pocket.
Wakasaki seized Ralston’s wrist, wrenching it just enough to
overpower him with pain. Ralston shrieked. Wakasaki held him till
Sandy returned from his office with duck tape to tie him up. She
ordered him to sit down till the cops came.
“That’s it, Sandy-san,” said Wakasaki. “You tie up, I call cops.”
Wakasaki fiddled with his phone and frowned. “I hear funny
beeps, Sandy-san. I try again. After several attempts he got a ring
tone.

4
Back in the year 1985 a police dispatcher picked up the call and
heard eerie high-pitched static, followed by an echoic voice:
“Officer, come to 2012 West Orient Avenue. Intruder drunk. He try
hurt people.”
Sounds like a Chinaman, the cop thought. Funny-sounding
phone, but I’ll send a squad car out right away.
When they waited for far too long and no one came, Sandy went
out to the lobby to check. She spotted a cop parked outside, called
by one of the students. As Ralston was hustled away in handcuffs,
he made a face at Wakasaki and said, “At least you didn’t call me
the ‘N’ word.”
“Nincompoop,” Wakasaki said with contempt.
“Mr. Wakasaki,” Sandy asked, “how’d that creep ever get in here
to disrupt my class? Are the security guards dozing off?”
“They all outside. Cigarette break. Nobody watch for intruder.
Now they all out of job.”
“Serves ‘em right,” Sandy said. “When the cat’s away the rats
will play. Which reminds me, I’ll meet you at the noodle bar in a
few minutes and show you that old diary I told you about.”
Wakasaki bowed and said, “Story written for ears that hear.”
Sandy, being thin, noticed the cold sea breeze more than others.
She felt a draft blowing through the gym door. She took her gym
jacket and sweat pants out of her sports bag and slipped them on.
She wanted to catch La Rue before she left, so in her excitement
she forgot to take the bag with her.
The gym was calm and quiet now, except for Maude, the cleaning
lady. A big, laidback woman in a dirty T-shirt, she stubbed out her
cigarette butt and flipped it into grungy gray mop water which
looked like it hadn’t been changed in ages. She’d just used it to
clean up spilled cooking oil in Wakasaki’s fried noodle kitchen, down
the hall from the locker rooms. She dunked her mop in the water
but didn’t bother to wring it out. She started swabbing a section of
the gym, then stopped. She yawned and glanced at her watch. “To
hell with it,” she muttered. “Larry’s waitin’ for me.”
Meanwhile Sandy lingered in the lobby, chatting with La Rue.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough,” she said.
“The only one you’re exercising for is yourself.”
La Rue picked up her duffel bag and said, “Thanks for the pep
talk, Sandy, don’t know what we’d do here without you.”
“Oh, you’d do just fine,” Sandy smiled. “Guess I’ll go back for a
shower before I head on home.”
After La Rue left, Sandy thought, Oh, damn! I left my own bag
in the gym. Better get it before it’s gone. Sandy’s LA Gear sports
bag matched her sweat pants, running shoes and jacket, which bore
the same label. White, accented with jagged green stripes. Green
looked good on Sandy. Her eyes were green and her hair was the

5
same fiery red it had always been. Sandy couldn’t let that bag fall
into the wrong hands. Before leaving the house, she’d confiscated a
laser light shooter from 16year-old Jake, who bragged about how
he’d bug the bus driver with it the next day. Maybe tomorrow she’d
sell it to the Army Surplus Store. Poor bus driver, Sandy thought,
all the c*** he has to take from those kids every day.
Humming, Sandy reflected on how great it was that Ralston had
been cut down to size. She strolled back toward the gym.
Dragging her diseased cleaning equipment, Maude moseyed
through the rear door of the gym, toward the maintenance office
and utility closets. Wakasaki caught her. He just couldn’t believe
such a sluggish-looking woman could clean such a vast gym so fast.
Wakasaki asked her, gruffly, “You mop whole gym?”
“Yeah,” she shrugged. “Can’t you see how clean it is?”
“You look!” Wakasaki glared down at the bucket. “Dead flies in
water! Stink real bad! Nasty! Cigarette butts in water!”
Wakasaki took a whiff. “Your hair smell like smoke! You know
smoking not allowed here! You come with me. We see if floor
mopped good.”
Wakasaki heard a loud rebel yell…from Sandy!” Wakasaki
peeped through the hall door opening onto the gym. After several
furious jumps on her trampoline Sandy had built up enough
momentum to do one of her favorite stunts.
She was already whirling in mid-air when she heard Mr.
Wakasaki yell, “Sandy-san! No!”
Too late now. After a graceful triple flip Sandy’s feet slid on the
spot lubricated by the mop. Shrieking, she flew backward feet first,
instinctively twisting to minimize the impact on her bony body
parts. But she couldn’t control where she went. Her head slammed
on the hardwood floor. Then she skidded, making a 90-degree turn
and moving perpendicular to the trampoline because of the circular
grease smear left by the lazy cleaner. Sandy’s forearm, sheathed in
beaded macramé bracelets beneath her sleeve, brushed against her
forgotten bag as she came to a stop. Wakasaki rushed up to her
and knelt down. He felt for a pulse in her neck, checked her
breathing. It was okay, but Wakasaki worried Sandy might have a
concussion. He called 911. At least he got through.
“Sandy-san! Oh, Sandy-san!” Wakasaki cried. He removed his
jacket and wadded it up, then used it to cushion her head and
protect it from further damage. He glanced up at Maude, who
whined that it was an accident and she didn’t know anybody was
still using the gym, so that’s why the Wet Floor Sign hadn’t been
put out. As Maude paced the floor, she slipped on her own grease
and landed on her bottom. Her boss didn’t think it was funny.
“You think old man too dumb not know what clean water look
like! You try get old Wakasaki sued, we go out of business. Why
you no clean mop and bucket?

6
“Uh…” Maude stammered, “I got in a hurry. My boy friend’s
meeting me at Duke’s Bar in ten minutes.”
“You get lots of time with boy friend now! You fired! And you no
come back!”
“You can’t do this to me!” the woman wailed. She grabbed the
mop and pointed the stick end at Wakasaki. Before she could charge
him with it and stumble over Sandy, he hurled Sandy’s bag into
Maude’s midsection, knocking the wind out of her and flooring her.
When she called him a bad name he gave her a light cuff with
his foot. “Stupid woman try kill Sandy-san. Not once but twice!”
Petrified, Maude watched Wakasaki break the wooden handle over
his knee. “This what I do to you if you try that again. Get out!”
“But I need to go get my junk out of my locker…”
“I mail it to you!”
“But I need bus fare. No decent man would throw a woman out
on the street at night with no way to get home.”
Wakasaki fished a five dollar bill out of his pants pocket. His
face a mask of rage, he wadded it into a hard little ball. He flung it
at Maude, who struggled to her feet. “Take bus to hell!” he yelled.
“I’ll leave when I get good and ready, you old goat,” Maude
sneered, as she picked up the money and tried to straighten it out.
“If Sandy wasn’t such a show-off this wouldn’t have happened.”
Wakasaki let out a blood-curdling war whoop. He picked up the
mop by its broken stub of a handle. He dipped the mop in the
grotty bucket and chased Maude, swearing and swatting her with
her own grimy water till she ran out the door calling him a crazy
bully.

2
Back Flip to a Parallel Universe

Sitting dejectedly in the hospital corridor, Wakasaki battled the
temptation to be selfish and ask Edgar Franklestone, Attorney at
Law, whether he was in danger of being sued. But Sandy must
come first. Wakasaki feared the worst, but clung to the hope
doctors could save her, all of her.
Bone-weary, Edgar met him outside the consultation room. A big
man with thinning hair and a sober face, Edgar felt every day of his
48 years. He didn’t feel mad, just sad. “Mr. Wakasaki, there’s not
much I can tell you right now. Sandy’s breathing is normal, thank
God. There’s a bad bump on the back of her head and a little
bruising to her right shoulder, but no concussion to worry about.
They’re doing an MRI brain scan on Sandy to access her for possible
brain damage. She’s lying in a coma.”
Wakasaki’s throat felt dry. “They…have to operate, Mr.
Franklestone?”

7
“So far, no. She’ll be kept under observation and closely
monitored for the time being, and fed intravenously.”
“Oh, Mr. Franklestone, this terrible! Cleaning woman, no should
have trusted. Stupid me. She need job, I feel sorry for her, hire her.
Need watching all the time. What this do to your family, and to me!
Many many years I run my dojo, never have such bad accident!
Poor Sandy! I hang head in shame!”
“I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Wakasaki, and you’re too
decent a man to mention it now. And no, you’re not stupid. You’re
just human. Sandy loves you like a dad, and I understand why. She
would kill me if I even thought of taking you to court over this. You
saved Sandy’s life when she was just a kid. When no one else could,
or would, understand the hell she was going through, you were
always there for her. It would be very unethical to sue you. You’ve
already explained that you’ve taken out comprehensive insurance
policies to cover mishaps at your center, and every martial arts
academy can expect a few, regardless of what preventative
measures are taken. No one can predict every eventuality. Clearly,
the cleaning woman was at fault for malpractice with a mop. We’ll
all get through this somehow.” He laid his hand on Wakasaki’s
shoulder.
“Sandy-san fight back,” Wakasaki choked.
“If anyone can beat this thing, it’ll be our Sandy,” Edgar said.
“We’ll touch base later and hash out all the insurance gobbledygook.
But now you need to go home and rest. You’ve been pacing this
floor like a tiger.”
“I be back early tomorrow, Mr. Franklestone. Sandy-san, she
need us here for her.”
“Better go home myself,” Edgar sighed. “Jake and Jasmine
phoned. Their Aunt Doris can’t get them to bed. I’ll give them all
the positive news I can.”
“I go home too, Mr. Franklestone. Wife waiting.”
Once Edgar was out of sight, Wakasaki picked up his briefcase to
leave. He remembered slipping Sandy’s notebook in it before
coming to the hospital. A wise warrior must stay informed.
On his way home Edgar stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of
coffee, so he could just sit by himself and collect his thoughts
before facing his family. No, he wouldn’t sue the dignified old
warrior, who must be struggling to keep his distraught feelings to
himself. Surely the liability insurance, and Sandy’s personal
coverage, would prevent catastrophic financial worries.
Once home, Edgar turned on the car light and reached toward
the back seat to get Sandy’s sports bag. He didn’t see it. He got
out of the car and checked to see if it had fallen on the back floor.
No bag. Everybody wants a bag like hers, Edgar thought. Some
punk most have pinched it while I was in the donut shop. But

8
Edgar found no evidence of forced entry into his car. No windows or
doors accidentally left open, nothing.
Weird, he thought. Oh well, I’m so tired I must have left it at
the hospital and just imagined I put it in the car. I’ll check on it
tomorrow.
Wakasaki had a similar experience. On his way home he parked
by a pier so he could take a walk and meditate in solitude, listening
to the peaceful ocean sounds. The brisk, salty air cleared his head.
The gentle lapping of waves against the wooden pier restored some
equilibrium to his agitated soul, reassured him of the continuing
rhythm of life. Wakasaki walked unafraid in the dark, taking
pleasure in the dancing reflections of the stars on the rippling
waves. When he got back to his car, everything appeared normal.
Once he got home, he greeted his wife and said he needed to be
alone in his office a few minutes. He just had to look at it. Where
Sandy-san’s notebook? he wondered. He emptied his briefcase,
unzipped every compartment, but no notebook.
There must be way, Wakasaki hoped. She need me to know.
He clapped his hands. “Ah! Sandy say she write notebook down
for computer!” He remembered finding one of Sandy’s USB
memory sticks she’d left in his office, and he’d forgotten to give it
back tonight. Wakasaki told his wife to keep his fried noodles hot.
He needed to go back out for a few minutes. He hurried back to the
Martial Arts Complex.
Wakasaki found the memory stick on his desk. But had Sandy
carried out her intention to write her memoirs, and had she copied
it to this particular memory stick? It was a long shot, but he logged
into his desktop and stuck it in a USB port.
There it was, in plain view on the home page: “Bully Notebook”.
Wakasaki hoped it was complete. He stored the info on his own
memory stick and desk top, then printed out the 89-page file for
handy reference. It would be a long read, but it might be worth
sacrificing a little sleep to gain more insight into why Sandy ran
away from home at the age of sixteen.

Must be dreamin’, Sandy thought, as she stood on a busy sidewalk,
still clutching her sports bag and wearing everything she’d put on
before entering the gym. A cool ocean breeze blew through her
hair. She blinked to adjust to the bright sunshine, so different from
the fluorescent light of the gym. She noticed she was standing
behind a bank of newspaper machines, in front of Dunkin’ Donuts.
But what shocked her was the sight of all those ancient-looking gas
guzzlers in that bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. Shoppers hurried
past her on the sidewalk. Mr. Wakasaki had taught Sandy to be
observant.
Sandy looked closely at her fellow human beings. This couldn’t
be true! There were loads of smokers in the crowd, and they even

9
walked into the donut shop smoking. Five teenage girls loitered
around the entry, hopping around on their skateboards, yakking and
and popping bubble gum. They had lacquered, spiky hair with dyed
tips. Their faces sparkled with glitter. They wore zippered, calf-
length jeans, scrunch socks, jelly bracelets and neon tops. What
shocked Sandy most was how they giggled about Duran Duran and
Wham! “Beat It!” by Michael Jackson, blared out of their boom box,
played on obsolete technology: a cassette tape, of all things!
Weird, Sandy thought, Jake and Jasmine wouldn’t be caught
dead carrying one of those old contraptions.
“Hey, you staring at us?” the girl carrying their ghetto blaster
asked.
“Sorry, girls, didn’t mean to,” Sandy said. “I just thought your
clothes look real…ah….rad! I’m crazy about Duran Duran and
Wham! Been to any of their concerts?”
“Yeah,” said one, “we got tickets to a big gig in Santa Cruz. Got
‘em early before they sold out. Hey, you’re pretty awesome for an
old lady.”
“Don’t have a cow,” another said, when she saw Sandy’s
expression. “Anybody over 25 is old to us.”
“Guess you’re right, girls,” Sandy said. “I’m over the hill.” She
leaned against the paper machines as if she’d faint.
“You okay, lady?” the one with the boom box said. “You on
something?”
“Naw, just worked too hard last night. No sweat, I’ll survive.”
“Your clothes are awesome too,” the blond one said. “You a lady
jock?”
“Yeah, I pump a little iron and sweat to the oldies.”
The girls giggled and turned their boom box up louder. They
skittered away on their skateboards after the store owner came out
and complained they were blocking the door.
Her mouth parched, Sandy turned her head to read the headline
of the first paper she saw, the San Francisco Siren. What an eye-
opener: “New Coke for a Thirsty Nation”.
“Oh, NO!” she squealed. “It can’t be!” But it was. A date that
would forever live in infamy: Tuesday, April 23, 1985.
Numbly Sandy unzipped the change pouch in her bag and
fumbled for a quarter to buy one. She’d read it later. She felt so
dizzy she collided with a woman hurrying back to work after her
lunch break.
“Oof!” Sandy cried. “Sorry, ma’am, didn’t see you. You okay?”
“Oh, I’ve been better,” the woman moaned. “My boss has been a
big jerk lately. Treats me like a slave. Just three days before I
spring that place and say ‘TGIF’.” She looked at Sandy’s running
shoes, jacket and bag. “Hey, that’s neat gear you’ve got. You into
aerobics?”
“Sure am. I teach it.”

10
“Where?”
“Ah…wherever I can find a job.” Sandy decided she must be
dreaming, so she would quit worrying and just enjoy the dream
since she’d be back with Edgar and the kids once she woke up.
“I really admire teachers,” the woman replied. “All the c***
they have to take. My mom was one, till the kids drove her so crazy
she had to quit. I’m Madison Reynolds. Care to tell me your name?”
Sandy’s brain spun. Might be best to assume a fake name till
she got back to her own time. She held out her hand. “I’m Cindy…
ah, Cindy Franks.”
“Nice to meet you, Cindy. Just touring Frisco or you live here?”
As Cindy wondered how to answer she studied Madison’s
appearance. Yep, typical 80’s. Madison’s big billow of frosted,
feathered hair swallowed up her foxlike face, painted with blue
eyeshadow, blush and thick mascara. Her ponderous shoulder pads
made her look like an NFL quarterback. A “power dresser”, Madison
wore a grey and pink-striped suit with a ruffled white blouse and
tiny string tie.
“Sort of both, just checking the area out. Just might relocate
here. Before Madison could ask another question Cindy inquired,
“Where do you work, Madison?”
“Starstruck Videoworks. I’m an executive secretary trying to
climb the corporate ladder. We mass-market video games and
games accessories. We do nationwide distribution for just about
every major games manufacturer. You name it, we sell it.”
Cindy’s face lit up. “Gnarly! You sell PacMan too? I’m nuts
about PacMan! I grew up on…I mean, I’m just like a little kid when
it comes to video games. I’ve even got an old-fashioned PacMan
machine at home. That’s my fun after work.”
Madison gave Cindy a weird look. “Old-fashioned? You must
have gotten hold of one of the prototypes. PacMan’s a current craze
for cool teenagers, not some outdated fad. And don’t be
embarrassed about touching base with your inner child. Every
weekend I say, TGIF, thank God it’s Friday, so I can let my hair
down and be the real me! Hey, Cindy, why don’t I rendezvous with
you some evening and we’ll go to this really rad arcade I know
downtown: ‘Crazy Jake’s’.”
“I’m really stoked about that,” Cindy gushed. “I don’t know how
long I’ll be in town and I sure could use a gal pal right now. Hey,
have you by any chance heard of a dude named Tojo Wakasaki?
I’m into martial arts.”
Madison was impressed. “Wow, here’s one woman who’s busting
through that glass ceiling. Yeah, I’ve heard of him, Cindy. He stages
fights at the Sports Arena a few times a year. You trying to track
him down?”
“If my memory serves me right, Madison, someone told me he’s
at 2012 West Orient Avenue.”

11
“That sounds about right, Cindy. Well, I hate to be a party
pooper, but my boss’ll give me hell if I don’t scoot on back to work.
Here’s my business card. Call me, maybe early next week, and
we’ll go cruising to see if we can find some cute thirty-something
guys. Unless you’re married or something.”
“I’m separated, sort of,” Cindy said. “But no harm in us going
out for a movie or something. I’m 43, but people say I look
younger.”
“You sure do, Cindy!” Madison’s mouth fell open. “I’m 34 but
you don’t look any older than me. How do you manage that?”
“Lots of sweaty workouts and peanut butter shakes, I guess,”
Cindy said. She tucked the business card away in her bag. “Sorry
you have to run, Madison, but I’ll keep in touch. And remember, we
women have gotta stay strong, so don’t let your boss give you any
b.s.!”
“I won’t, Cindy! See ya later!” Madison gritted her teeth, put
her grim business face back on, and charged down the sidewalk in
her high heels, toting her briefcase as if the future of Wall Street
depended on her.

3
Cruel Conflicts

“Are you coming to bed, Tojo?” Mrs. Wakasaki asked in Japanese,
her perpetually serene face hiding her uneasiness about the
mysterious papers her husband was reading in his home office. She
handed him a cup of green tea.
Wakasaki was too angry to feel tired now. His brows knitted
and his mouth tightened, in a kind of outrage he seldom showed.
“Are you coming, Tojo?”
“No. Not now, wife, very busy. Warrior work. Thanks for the
tea.” Wakasaki barely looked at her, he was so engrossed in his
research.
“What are you reading, husband?” she persisted.
“Something sad,” he said.
“What, Tojo?”
“I can’t say. Secret.”
“About Sandy?”
“We’ll talk tomorrow,” Wakasaki said. His look told her he
needed to be left alone, so she silently bowed and withdrew from
the room.
A good wife was content to cultivate the garden of her home
and leave the battlefield to the warriors, 74-year-old Mrs. Wakasaki
had always been taught. She was not a trained martial arts fighter
like her Tojo, and only trouble could come of her meddling in his
warrior work. All she knew was, Sandy was in the hospital. She’d

12
been given no other explanation. Had Sandy been attacked by a
hostile martial artist, perhaps someone she’d beaten in one of many
tournaments she’d competed in? If so, Tojo would feel deeply
ashamed he hadn’t trained her better in defensive techniques.
What else could make him clam up like that?
Wakasaki was meditating now, eyes closed. His wife felt she
must not distract him as he did research to find answers. No war
could be won without gathering intelligence to map out strategy.
Wakasaki resumed his reading, thankful for a docile wife who
didn’t pry. He paid particular attention to the worst incidents
recorded in the diary Sandy kept of the daily bullying she’d suffered
through at Hogwood High.
Daily, deliberate shunning in the cafeteria and in the auditorium.
Loud-mouth creeps running into the cafeteria and yelling “Giraffe
germ attack!” and “Skanky Sandy!” Peas being shot at her from
every direction. Foots flying out to trip her up. Sandy getting
“canned” in a school dumpster when no teachers were in sight.
Sandy getting teased in the locker room for being skinny in all the
wrong places. Sandy reporting such incidents to the principal and
getting a bored yawn from him.
Wakasaki gritted his teeth and damned the indifferent school
staff as he read the very last school incidents recorded from 1985,
each entry ended with her spidery signature.

Thurs., April 25, 12:10 p.m. Wrote time on napkin. Lunch was hell!
That b**** Kirsten Crabtree plastered my Snoopy T-shirt with
ketchup while Sabrina Warren smeared mustard on Kitty’s hair. I
hate their rotten guts! Damn! I ran out crying. They laughed at
me! Stupid piles of dog s***! Hope they all burn in hell, I’ve
already suffered in mine. Signing off, Sandy Girard
Mon. April 29, 12:32 p.m. Wrote time on lunch bag. Went to
bathroom to write in notebook. Oh, god, how can I take any more?
Stinking Brad Bullard started it again when I came in cafeteria. He
yelled out: “Giraffe germs! Kill it before it multiplies!” Then those
b****** s came at me from everywhere. Made nasty noises when
I sat down. Spilled drink on my sandwich. They shot peas at me
and Kitty. Signing off, Sandy Girard
Tues.May 7, 8:55 a.m. Kids cracked jokes about my Kitty, laughed
at me when I cried!! I hate them so much! And Lofton that
sleazebag paper editor said he had more c*** to write on me, and
even if he didn’t he’d make something up. He makes me sick.
Same day, 10:53 a.m. I got kicked in the butt by who else? That
barfbag Bullard. When I got mad he pointed at a big sign somebody
taped to the tail of my jacket: KICK ME! I ripped it off, wadded it
up and threw it in his face but he still laughed with all the other
morons in the hall. Dammit, I hate Hogpen High! Sandy Girard,
signing off

13
Same day, 2:02 p.m. That dirty louse Wayne Woodcock stuck two
tacks in my chair, in biology. I know it was him, cause he sits
behind me and laughs at me with Russ Hobbleton, that scuzzball he
sits with. Funny how there’s an odd number of kids in that class,
two per table, and guess who has to sit alone with those dirtbags at
my back!
Then at 2:24 p.m. Mr. Peabody stepped out for smoke. Wayne
Woodcock used a rubber band catapult to fire a pencil at close
range and it tore through a thick book on my table. He scared the
s* * * out of me. Wish I could pulverize that rat. Sandy Girard,
signing off
Fri., May 10, about 1:55 p.m. This is it!!! I can’t stand one more
day at this c****y school!!!!!!! I don’t give a damn if I don’t finish
this year! When we came in from P.E. volleyball Linda Costello
poured red ants down the back of my sweatshirt. She laughed as
she ran off with the jar. Ambulance had to rush me to the hospital
cause I blew up like a balloon. I had to take shots to get the
swelling down while those a******s laughed at me! All Costello got
was a lecture never to do it again. The stinking pigs, I don’t need
no dirty diploma from Hogpen High, and they know where they can
shove it. I wouldn’t even use it for toilet paper!!!!!!! Sandy Girard,
signing off

The most tragic entries of all made Mr. Wakasaki choke up:

Friday, oh, I mean Saturday! morning, 3:43 a.m. May 11, 1985
Had big blowout with dad last nite. He called me a big baby for not
wanting to stick it out a few more weeks and finish eleventh grade.
I got mad, ran away from dinner table, hid in my room, good thing
I’ve got a bunch of mars bars and snickers in my bag. Oh hell it’s
my problem not his. He fought in Viet Nam and got hurt there,
says I gotta stay in the line of fire like he did, even if I’m a girl.
Well I fight too but I can’t win, there’s nobody on my side and if I
stay at that damn school I could be dead next week. Dad gets up
before everybody else. He’s a light sleeper so I better sneak down
the tree ladder when I make my getaway. Got 2 notes to write.
Sandy Girard, signing off

Wakasaki read a comment inserted by grown-up Sandy, after she
had transcribed the diary onto a Word document:

The next page is hard to read. I remember writing this entry on the
bus on the way to San Francisco. I bought a chocolate milk to kill
hunger pangs and I spilled some on this page when the bus jerked.
It looks all blurry, but here’s what I pieced together:
Saturday, May11,5:44 a.m. Won’t be long I’ll be in Frisco. Not
much left after blowing my piggy bank on ticket. Could hock my

14
Walkman but it’s the only thing I own in this world. Might go to
park to clear my head and make plans. I already miss Doris the
best sis, the best friend a girl ever had. Left her a note. I told her
to stay strong and take care of that awesome neon pink sweater I
never wore at school, and never to wear it at school because it was
too good for Hogpen High. I told Doris to always take good care of
my Snuggy Kitty Bed Pet, cos I love her so much I want her to keep
Snuggy Kitty to remember me always. She can have my sticker
collection and my cassettes and my stereo too, cos I don’t know if
I’ll ever see her again. As for dad I went easy on him. Note said I
ran away to make his life easier cos all I ever did was make him
ashamed of me cos I couldn’t fight the whole damned school. At
least I had enough guts to get out of dad’s life and be one less
thing for him to worry about. Now he can be real proud of me for
thinking of others and being unselfish and I told him so. He thinks I
ran away somewhere else, and I’m not telling. Sandy Girard,
signing off.

Wakasaki forgot his Japanese composure. He hid his face in his
hands and lamented, “Oh, Sandy-san! Best friend this old man
ever had! When they hurt you they hurt me too!”
Wakasaki read the last part of that entry:

If only I could get on the phone and call up some big strong hero
who could save me from all the b.s. I went through, cos I’ll have to
live with it the rest of my life and those b******s won’t. If only I
could go back in time and find somebody who loves me and can
keep all this c*** from ever happening to me. I miss Kitty real
bad. Signing off, Sandy Girard

This make me feel better, even if it no help Sandy-san, Wakasaki
thought. Ah, too bad there no hero to save my Sandy-san. He took
his cell phone and punched in Sandy’s number. He thought of the
date she fell: April 23, or 04-23, which he added to the end of that
number. He sighed and hit the CALL button.
Wakasaki recognized her ring tone: “Eye of the Tiger”. He
almost fell out of his chair when he got an answer within a few
seconds.
“Omygosh!” Cindy gasped, when she saw Wakasaki’s face on her
own little phone screen. “Oh, Mr. Wakasaki! You gotta help me!”
“Where you at, Sandy-san?” he asked.
Cindy could barely breathe as she gasped, “Outside a Dunkin’
Donuts store, somewhere on Haight Street! Mr. Wakasaki, it’s
broad daylight outside! There’s 1985 newspapers everywhere!
People are staring at me, ‘cause teeny weeny cell phones haven’t
even been invented yet! That kid over there thinks I’m a Russian
spy with a walkie talkie!”

15
“Sandy-san, go talk in bathroom where no one see you,”
Wakasaki said.
Cindy’s Dreamscape Cell Phone was the most technologically
advanced she could get in 2012. It ran on a long-life solar battery,
though Cindy couldn’t remember how fresh it was. She could see
the people she spoke to. She could play games, store movies and
videos, upload and access all kinds of stuff, take photos, record and
play songs, spy on people, surf the web, and do many other things
on it. She went inside, holding the phone next to her ear as she
went to the restroom. People gawked as she went in, but she didn’t
care. Good. No one in the ladies’ room, at least. She entered a
stall and kept talking, in a lower voice. She told Wakasaki all she’d
experienced since falling, ample proof she’d gone back in time.
“Oh, Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy moaned, “I need help, quick!”
“I try, Sandy-san. You got money?”
“Yeah, some bills and change in my bag.”
“Good. Take bus to Wakasaki Martial Arts Complex. Same
address. 2012 West Orient Avenue, you know where. Hey, wait!
What day of week is it?”
“Tuesday, Mr. Wakasaki. April 23, 1985.”
“What time is it now, Sandy-san?”
Cindy peeked at her watch. “My watch is still in Future Time,”
she said. “Oh, I wish I knew what time it was! Outside it looks like
it’s about one p.m.”
“Wrong,” a voice from an adjoining stall informed her. “It’s 1:32
to be exact.”
Cindy gulped. Someone was listening, but she must finish the
conversation.
“It’s 1:32 p.m. Mr. Wakasaki. What’ll I do? I wasn’t trained to
fight this kind of a problem.”
“I know you do just fine,” Wakasaki said. “Journey back take
one step at a time. Now here what I want you to do. 1985
Wakasaki always leave office 2 o’clock Tuesdays, meditate at Golden
Pagoda at Golden Gate Park. Catch bus. Go there right now. See if
you find him.”
“Gotcha, Mr. Wakasaki, Golden Pagoda, Golden Gate Park.
Pronto.”
“That right, Sandy-san, I try find more help. Now remember,
Sandy-san,” he said soothingly. “Remember what I teach you. Use
what you have. Sayonara.”
It’s easy for him to stay calm, Cindy thought. I’m the one stuck
in 1985, but he’s right. I’ve gotta use my brains to survive if I
don’t get back to my own time soon.
When she came out a young girl stared hard at her. “What’re
you on, lady, mumblin’ to yourself in the bathroom?”
“Nothing,” Cindy said. “Just practicing for a role I’m playing in
a movie. Filming starts soon and my lines are real shaky.”

16
“Wow, a real movie star! What movie ya playin’ in?”
“Revenge of the Future Fantasy Fighters.”
As the girl puzzled over that one, Cindy left before she could ask
for her autograph. Before leaving the store, Cindy realized she was
hungry. “Two glazed cherry donuts, please,” she told the guy at the
counter. She peered nervously at the other diners. “To go.”
He bagged them for her. She grinned when she saw her cheap
bill. She handed the cashier some loose change.
She darted out the door to catch a bus she saw stopping.
Meanwhile the boss came in. The cashier commented on how shiny
and new the quarters Cindy gave him looked. The boss picked one
up. He gawked at the date: 2012.
“You idiot!” he yelled. “I told you to keep on the lookout for
funny money. Whoever counterfeited these coins did a lousy job.”
Cindy had no problem with money on the bus. She just
deposited it where the driver pointed and took a seat. It was a
quick, easy ride to Golden Gate Park. Cindy stopped for a brochure
at the Visitors Center. She found out that the mysterious Golden
Pagoda wasn’t far from the Lily Pond.
Hunger stabbed at Cindy’s ribs but she didn’t want to go get
lunch yet. She dug her extra bottle of Evian out of her bag and
used it to wash down the two doughnuts. One woman saw her
eating and whispered to her friend, “how does she stay so skinny
gobbling those things!”
Not far from the entry to the park Cindy found a small bike
rental. She paid a few bucks to rent a 10-speed, strapped her bag
on the rear tire rack and pedaled off to go find Wakasaki.

Meanwhile, Future Wakasaki’s busy brain did some mental
gymnastics. Need hurry, he thought. No cell phone in 1985, need
catch Tojo home before he leave.
Wakasaki’s cunning brain whirled, using similar logic to find the key
to his old self as he’d used to find Sandy’s younger self. He
touched a long series of virtual buttons on his slim phone.
Someone picked up on the other end.
Future Wakasaki could see Past Wakasaki but Past Wakasaki
couldn’t see him on his old-fashioned desk phone. P. Wakasaki’s
face was unlined, his hair darker. He heard crackling static, then a
ghostly voice which grew clearer.
“Are you Tojo Wakasaki?” the man asked, in fluent Japanese.
“Yes I am Tojo Wakasaki! Who is calling me?”
F. Wakasaki knew he must gain the trust of his old self, so he
remembered to be polite. “Mr. Wakasaki, he began, “I am a
relative of yours. I need your help. It concerns a mutual friend.”
“Kindly identify yourself,” P. Wakasaki demanded. “Speak only
truth! If you lie, I will not converse with you.”
“I am you. I live in 2012. I shall present proof.”

17
“That is crazy!” P. Wakasaki cried, his hand over the receiver.
He was glad his secretary couldn’t understand Japanese. She would
question his sanity if she knew what they were discussing.
“I implore you, honorable sensi, do not hang up!” F. Wakasaki
pleaded.
At least the caller had manners and deserved courtesy in return,
P. Wakasaki reasoned. “Okay, I am fair man. What day and year do
I live in?”
“April 23, and the year is 1985.”
“Tell me more about myself.”
“Two years ago you fought Creeping Cobra. He was big, fat and
clumsy. But you were so much smaller he picked you up and threw
you into the ropes. You bounced back. You did two flips to distract
him. Then you did a Crocodile Tail Snap Kick on his chest. To
subdue him further you gave him a Kung Fu neck chop. He fell hard.
He got angry and staggered to his feet. He picked up a chair from
the corner of the ring and swung it at you. You hopped high, missed
the chair, spun in mid-air, then kicked his armpit hard. He dropped
the chair and rubbed his injured armpit. You trampled the chair
and smashed it to splinters. He ran toward you, tripped over the
pieces, fell on his face. Then you gave him a flying kick to his fat
backside. The referee counted. Creeping Cobra cried like a baby.
He did not get up. Creeping Cobra cheated with the chair so he
received no prize money. You won $100,000. You used the money
to start the Wakasaki Martial Arts Complex .”
“Everyone knows that,” P. Wakasaki said. “It was in the
newspapers. Now I shall ask you a harder question. I have never
told anyone, ever. I have hidden this secret in the depths of my
heart. Not even my wife ever heard this from me. What
mysterious object did I discover and where did I find it? See if you
can unravel the mystery.”
“The Broken Rainbow of Peace,” F. Wakasaki said without
hesitation. “When you were a boy of twelve you harbored so much
anger toward your honorable uncle you took a walk in the forest to
compose yourself. You picked up a stone to throw at a tree. Still,
you felt so angry you used a larger stone to dig a deep hole, hoping
to find an even bigger rock. Instead of a rock you found a treasure,
a piece of fine jewelry. It was a rainbow of many colors, cut from
gemstones. It sparkled with loveliness. But it was broken in two.
You took the treasure home and hid it from your relatives. You tried
to join the two broken halves with strong resin but the piece kept
falling apart. So you reset the pieces in a frame of black ebony
wood. You called it the Broken Rainbow of Peace because a
peaceful image of happiness was destroyed forever and could not be
restored to what it was before.”

18
Awestruck by such a deep mystery, P. Wakasaki took a deep
breath. “So where is it hidden now?”
“In a wall safe behind your honorable mother-in-law’s picture,
in your office. Your wife follows your orders never to venture into
your office. She thinks you have only one safe, the one in your floor
under your desk.”
The sheer wonder of it all baffled P. Wakasaki. This is crazy, he
thought. “One more question,” he said. “Why was I angry with my
honorable uncle and can you name him?”
“Karoshi Wakasaki,” F. Wakasaki replied. “He called you a weak,
useless disgrace to your family because you were unable to chop a
whole pile of wood before lunch. You could only finish half the pile.”
“That is correct,” P. Wakasaki said. “Where is Uncle Karoshi
now?”
“He is dead, honorable sensi. His ashes lie in our family’s
ancestral burial ground. He died at age 49.”
“Why did Uncle Karoshi die too young?” P. Wakasaki asked.
“Too much hard work, too little rest. He slept barely two hours
per night. He was promoted to executive manager at a prestigious
toy factory. He worked, ate, slept there. If his family wished to see
him they had to visit him there, and only on his short breaks.
Uncle Karoshi was an efficiency expert. He ate his dinner in ten
minutes. His life was work, work, work. He never stepped outside
for fresh air. He smoked continually and drank many urns of coffee.
He took pep pills to keep going. He collapsed from a massive
coronary.”
“All that is very true,” P. Wakasaki said. “Nobody could read my
mind when he died. One must never dishonor elders. What were
my thoughts at Uncle Karoshi’s funeral?”
“Uncle Karoshi lived up to his honorable name. He lived like a
slave and he tried to make a slave of me also. It is fortunate that I
ran away or I would have died in my youth. Such a cruel dragon he
was to me, and I celebrate his passing.”

19
“Enough proof,” P. Wakasaki breathed. “Outwardly I paid
homage to our uncle like all my other relatives. Never once did I
utter my true thoughts. I cannot understand why I heard a voice
from a faraway time. It must be written in the stars. How may I
serve you, honorable Tojo-san?”
“Too much phone chatter!” F. Wakasaki barked at his younger
counterpart in a new tone of authority. “Go to the Golden Pagoda
now! Like a stealthy tiger, you must patrol the whole pathway
leading up to it. Our friend Sandy-san is in trouble. She is a tall
lady in her early forties. Her hair is red. She is a very brave warrior
but needs help. I shall contact you again later!”

4
Fresh Encounters

It was unusually quiet in the park for such a sunny spring day.
Hardly anybody passed Cindy as she pedaled past the tranquil Lily
Pond, a reedy paradise for darting dragonflies and croaking bullfrogs
leaping after flies in the murky water. Cindy’s snack didn’t quiet her
hunger for long. Her mouth was parched with fear of the unknown
even as she reassured herself she’d wake up soon.
If this is a nightmare, it’s the most peaceful-looking one I’ve
ever had, she thought. Two hippies loafed on a blanket. One of
them, a young male in his twenties, strummed a guitar while his girl
friend strung beads. They waved at Cindy, who waved back and
pedaled on.
She smelled something delicious. A vendor stood by his hot dog
cart, taking a cigarette break. He saw Cindy slowing down on her
bike. Maybe she’d buy something. But Cindy resisted the
temptation to eat more junk food. Better stick with nutritious stuff,
she thought. Gotta stay in top condition.
Cindy enjoyed the ride. She drank in the sweet scent of the
flowers, delighted in the breeze and birdsong. Before long she
spotted it: the winding path leading up to the Golden Pagoda.
Sandy felt tired, so she got off her bike to take a quick break in a
wooded rest area just off the path. It was impeccably landscaped
with beds of dainty primroses, manicured shrubbery and shady
cypress trees. Good, there was a marble water fountain.
She propped her bike against a hedge, then turned her back and
drank deeply, enjoying the coolness of the water on her parched
tongue. She would rest just a couple minutes on the stone bench.
Her inner Ear of Wisdom broke her blissful moment. She stilled her
breathing to listen. Amidst the rustle of leaves and bird warbles
came a faint clink of metal and swishing footsteps.
Cindy stopped drinking and whirled around. In that unguarded
moment some guy in dirty clothes had snuck up on her to pinch her
rented bike, and, more importantly, her bag.

20
He had a head start on her. Cindy ran after him. “Stop!” she
yelled. The wino pedaled harder, but she wouldn’t surrender
quietly. As fit as she was, Cindy couldn’t outrun a ten-speed. But
she used what she had, her voice. She screamed louder, afraid
she’d lose her only link to the future, her precious cell phone.
“Stop!” she hollered. “That’s my bag! I gotta get back to
2012!”
Before the wino got much further a brick flew out of a bush and
crashed into his front wheel. Knocked off balance, he sailed off his
seat and landed on the pavement. Before Cindy could reach him,
someone else got there first. A small man in a white gi dashed over
to him before he could get up.
“ F*** off!” the man growled.
“Stay put!” the smaller man ordered. “I tie up and get police!”
The thief stumbled to his feet, rubbing his sore leg. When he
took a swing at the other man, his fist was blocked by a sinewy
forearm rippling with hardened muscles. Might as well hit a brick
wall. Excruciating pain pierced the man’s knuckles and shot up his
hand and arm. Wakasaki used a crescent kick to deliver a sharp
blow to the wino’s left side. He landed on the pavement again.
The man curled up in a fetal position to fend off further blows.
“Please,” he whined. “I hafta sleep in the park, and I ain’t got no
money for food. Please don’t call the cops on me.”
“You steal from woman, can’t catch you on fast bike,” his
opponent said. “Here two dollars, go eat. I smell booze on breath.
It kill you, make you poor. Go Salvation Army, get help.” He threw
the money on the ground. “No come back here make trouble again
or I be back.”
Humiliated, the man picked up the badly needed cash. Cindy
rushed up to them, waving a thick tree branch. “Oh, mister, how
can I ever thank you? And as for you…” her eyes narrowed. She
broke the branch over her knee as if it were a matchstick.
The wino’s eyes widened in terror. This skinny woman was no
wimp. She could have pulverized him.
A restraining hand touched Cindy’s arm. “No, Sandy-san. I
know your power. No need prove anything. Man no hate you, just
hungry. Hard world live in. But you okay and I here help. Let man
go. He no bother you again.”
Cindy sighed. “That wasn’t nice, stealing everything I own in the
world.”
The man hung his head in shame. “Lady, I didn’t know you were
homeless too, or I wouldn’t’a pinched your junk. We’re all in the
same boat here. Sorry.”
She looked at him more sympathetically. “How’d you end up in
this shape anyway?”
“Viet Nam messed up my head,” he mumbled. “That’s why I
can’t hold down a job, why I drink all the time, snort coke.”

21
Viet Nam. Cindy remembered her dad telling the family horror
stories of the massacres that took place over there, the nightmares
many soldiers had when they got home.
When questioned by P.Wakasaki, the man described his
involvement in a gruesome battle in the Mekong Delta, and how
he’d barely got out alive. He showed P.Wakasaki a long scar on his
arm, stitched up after a shrapnel attack.
“They say I didn’t get hurt bad ‘cause all I got was a big scratch
while some of my buddies lost arms and legs,” the man said, his
face crumpling up. “I used to be a fighter like you guys. I used to
be brave but they broke me...I was a top exec, made four grand a
month and more. Hadda compete with co-workers for bonuses and
sales. Fight, fight fight. Had flashbacks of ‘Nam. Couldn’t eat,
couldn’t sleep. Drank all night, lost my job, then my wife and kids.
She said it’s all in my mind and I could keep a job if I wanted to.”
“Soul live on after body die,” P. Wakasaki said. “Invisible part of
man get hurt worst. Way back hard but you must fight get back
what war take away.”
The man nodded silently. Cindy said, “You got hurt bad, so you
drink to drown out the pain. But that’s no answer. You’ll only make
yourself sicker. So better take advantage of whatever help’s out
there. There’s the men’s mission, the Salvation Army, St.
Vincent’s…”
“Yeah, lady,” the man said. But what I wanna know is, if that’s
all the stuff you own, where do you stay? Here in the park?”
Cindy shrugged. “Here, there, everywhere.”
P. Wakasaki scowled and dug deeper in his pocket. “Not
enough. Life not fair. You fight for country, no one fight for you.
Here five more dollars. Go eat. No drink. And get help.” This time
P. Wakasaki handed it to him instead of throwing it down.
The man mumbled his thanks and ran off, his thirst competing
with his hunger.
“How…how’d you know my name?” Cindy faltered. “I remember
you…the way you looked a long time ago, Mr. Wakasaki.” She
studied his pitch black hair and unlined face, the way he looked in
his late 40’s.
“Friend told me you come,” he said, bowing. “You know my
name too.”
She bowed in turn. “You taught me everything I know about
martial arts. Just watch my moves. Promise I won’t hurt you.”
Cindy ran around to warm up, then did some aerial somersaults.
She landed and started spinning like a top, balancing on her right
tiptoes, left leg extended. Closer and closer she whirled clockwise,
toward her instructor. The heel of her left hand edged toward his
head. Anticipating the blow, he swiftly ducked, whirled counter-
clockwise and shot up with with a sharp toe jab to the back of her
striking shoulder.

22
“Ow!” she yelped. “Enough practice today.” She crumpled to
the ground.
“I no hit hard,” P. Wakasaki said. “Hey, you crying!”
“I forgot, Mr. Wakasaki. I got hurt last night at your gym…I
mean, the gym of the future. Slipped on a greasy floor and landed
on my back. Bet I’ve got a nasty shiner on my shoulder. Just
didn’t think much about it till now.”
“I let wife check it,” P. Wakasaki said. “She got good horse
liniment put on it. She fix my bruises too.”
“So now I’m a horse!” Cindy laughed. She got back up and
rubbed her back.
“Sandy-san,” P. Wakasaki said sternly, “I tell you go straight to
Golden Pagoda but you stop. Why?”
“I got tired and thirsty,” Cindy replied. “But how’d you know I’d
stop here?”
“Some little bird tell me you stop smell roses. Women like that. I
hide in bushes on path to Pagoda, watch for you. You yell out ‘2012’
at man on bike. So I know it you.”
What a weird dream, Cindy thought. “So I guess the Mr.
Wakasaki of the future must have called you too. On one of these.”
She took her bag off the rear bike tire and got her cell phone out.
“See?” She showed him the little phone and said, “I can call people
on this thing.” She made the virtual keypad appear on its glass
screen. “Somehow the other Mr. Wakasaki was able to call me on it
today. But it probably wouldn’t work as good without the powerful
communications satellites and microwave transmitter stations we’ll
have in 2012.”
P. Wakasaki looked confused. “Wife cook microwave oven. You
say it help phone calls? Crazy!”
“Not as crazy as me coming back in time, Mr. Wakasaki. Wanna
see pictures of my family?”
“Sure, why not?” His no-nonsense face softened.
Cindy accessed the stored image files. “This is Jasmine, my 14-
year-old daughter, and Jake, my 16-year-old. And Edgar, my
husband. We live in the Richmond Heights suburb…what I mean is,
we will live there someday.”
P. Wakasaki grinned. “Nice area, beautiful houses.”
“You gotta see this one, Mr. Wakasaki. This is you at our Karate
Christmas Party a few months ago.”
“Look like my honorable Papa-san,” P. Wakasaki said. “Many
fights make many wrinkles.”
Cindy chuckled then grew serious. “Mr. Wakasaki, I suppose the
other Mr. Wakasaki told you that in a couple weeks the younger me
will come to this park after running away from Modesto. She’ll need
you to rescue her and she’ll end up training at your school.”
He nodded. “Wakasaki change mind, call again right after first
call. Almost out door, phone ring. He talk ten more minutes. You

23
and me, we need talk, Sandy-san. You come my house, spend
night. We find answers or answers find us.”
With a knowing wink he added, “You hungry, Sandy-san?”
She grinned. “Man, am I ever! Time travel burns calories.”
“Good. Warrior need good food for strength. Mrs. Wakasaki fix
your favorite noodles.”

5
Rippling Revelations

Cindy contentedly jabbed chopsticks at her sesame soba noodles as
her teacher pored over her notebook, yellowed with years that
hadn’t yet gone by.
“You always did make the best noodles, Mrs. Wakasaki,” she
said to the politely smiling little woman in the red kimono. Her
husband translated, but she seemed to understand anyway. Mrs.
Wakasaki nodded. She poured Cindy more jasmine tea, then took
away the empty sushi dish.
Mrs. Wakasaki had not been told the whole truth about Sandy-
san’s origin since her husband feared she would think him a crazy
fool for believing in time travel. He’d just told her Sandy-san was a
Tae Kwon Do/fitness instructor touring California to search for a
permanent job. Sandy-san had come here to see his center and
consider working for him. But a gang of well-armed thugs had
jumped her when she got off the bus. She’d fought them off but one
of them pinched the bag containing most of her clothes. Most of
Sandy-san’s money was gone and her husband hadn’t been paid
yet. She needed money for a change of clothes. P. Wakasaki had
privately told his wife he would loan her a few dollars to tide her
over till she got home. Mrs. Wakasaki nodded in agreement. She
said it was right to help a fellow warrior because the day might
come he would also need help.
Cindy was glad to see this charming little wooden cottage again.
Located on campus, it was the home the Wakasakis occupied before
they got rich enough to move to a larger house in an upscale
suburb. Landscaped with well-kept flower plots and rare oriental
dwarf trees, this place was an oasis of calm in this bustling part of
Frisco. Cindy had always felt at home here as a student. She had
often been invited for lunch and treated more like family than a
student. The house’s décor included rice paper screens, exquisite
alabaster vases, and wood carvings. Smoking sandlewood incense
lent an air of exotic elegance. P. Wakasaki noted with satisfaction
how Sandy-san remembered to remove her shoes upon entering the
house. She had immediately been presented with washable slippers,
one of many pairs kept for guests. Mrs. Wakasaki, nose wrinkled,
had taken Sandy-san’s socks for laundering.

24
The couple had one sixteen-year-old son, Shigeo, who attended
Mr. Wakasaki’s newly established Martial Arts Academy. When Cindy
asked about Shigeo, P. Wakasaki said he was visiting cousins in
Yokohama but would soon return to resume his studies. P. Wakasaki
asked Cindy what she remembered about his academy for younger
students. She told him it offered a well-rounded high school
curriculum for boarding students, in addition to training in every
major martial arts discipline. In time, she said, the Wakasaki Martial
Arts Complex would expand to include the Workout Center, a
health spa with an olympic swimming pool, Nautilus circuit training
facilities for body builders, sauna baths, a massage therapist,
acupuncture and aromatherapy therapists, and an on-site
nutritional counselor. Not to mention his popular noodle bar. P.
Wakasaki was well pleased with her answer.
“I remember all the happy days I spent at your academy, Mr.
Wakasaki,” said Cindy. “I cried in my bed sometimes when I missed
my sister, but I knew I couldn’t go back home till I got stronger.”
“You know so much, Sandy-san,” P.Wakasaki said, transfixed.
“You see much good fortune in my future, make me happy. But I
read your book. It make me sad. So sad.”
“You said the other Mr. Wakasaki, the one in the future…you said
he read the notebook too,” Cindy stammered. “How’d he do that if
I’ve got it here?”
“He read on computer,” P. Wakasaki said. “He find tiny stick you
write on, so very very strange. Like magic, he said.”
“He must’ve printed it out then,” Cindy replied. “So he’s got the
notebook too. If you want a copy, Mr. Wakasaki, I’ll let you Xerox it
off, ‘cause that’s all we can do here in 1985, with me not having the
memory stick and nothing to run it on anyway. I’ll need to keep the
notebook itself, though. And you must promise your copy won’t fall
into the wrong hands.”
“I promise, Sandy-san. Enemy must never find it. Need it to help
you. We copy in office tomorrow. Now I know why you come back.
Need conquer old dragon of fear. You strong warrior, can fight back
now. But one thing you afraid of. Tell me.”
The last bite of Cindy’s second bowl of noodles stuck in her
throat. Haltingly she said, “Even after I learned martial arts, Mr.
Wakasaki, I vowed I’d never set eyes on Hogwood High ever again.
Whenever I drive through Modesto I always steer clear of Muenster
Avenue, the street where that school is, ‘cause the sight of that
place makes me sick inside.”
“Then you go back,” Wakasaki said serenely. “We no know how
long you here. Get feeling you here to heal wounds time could not
heal.”
Cindy gagged. “Mr. Wakasaki, are you serious? Hogwood High is
the thing that hurt me and you want me to go back for more?
What’s the logic behind that?”

25
“You forget, Sandy-san. The other you, the weaker part of you,
still there before she run away.”
He took a calendar off the wall and set it on the table. “See?”
he pointed with a pencil. “We at end Tuesday, April 23. We count
school days before little Sandy run away on May 11. Ah, there
thirteen days left she go school! Thirteen days you can fight for her.”
“I wish I could go help myself,” Cindy sighed. “I wish I could
clobber every creep that ever hurt Little Sandy. But no unauthorized
adults are allowed on school premises during class hours. I’d need
an awful good reason to be there.”
“No need clobber unless they attack first,” P. Wakasaki said.
“Only use Tae Kwon Do protect yourself or weak person in danger.
You go back protect weaker self.”
“But Mr. Wakasaki, how do I do that?” Cindy persisted. “I can’t
just go up to the principal and say, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Trent, but I
need to be here to protect the school reject ‘cause you’re too wimpy
to do it yourself.”
P. Wakasaki waved his hands. “Sandy-san. How long you know
me?”
“Uh…27 years, Mr. Wakasaki. That’s a long time.”
“You know by now old Wakasaki never steer you wrong.”
“I guess not, Mr. Wakasaki. But how do I justify being there?”
“You work there.”
“Yeah, right, Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy sighed. “Who’d hire a teacher
this late in the year? My birth certificate says I’m only sixteen.
What if they wanna see my driver’s license? It was renewed in
2011.”
P. Wakasaki grinned. “Use charm offensive. Show principal what
you can do. Take temporary job. If cannot teach, you clean, work
kitchen, grade papers, type for teacher. Say you want work under
table till you sure you want stay in Modesto. Say all your stuff
burned in fire but you replace birth certificate later.”
Cindy gritted her teeth. “Okay, Mr. Wakasaki. Going back
there’s like swallowing vinegar but I’ll try.”
“Need new clothes for job,” P. Wakasaki said, “and furnished
apartment. I pay you $5000 for mission, in advance. You use my
old car too. 1980 Camaro. Run real good. You got driver license?”
“Yeah, Mr. Wakasaki, in my bag, but it won’t take effect for 26
years.”
“But you still got California license. When it expire?”
“Not for a long, long time, but…”
“Good,” said P. Wakasaki. “They the ones issue license with
crazy date, not you. Cop stop you, blame stupid bureaucrats.”
“What about my auto insurance? It won’t be issued for a long
time.”
“Blame house fire papers get burned in. If you get in trouble,
call me. I got money, I help.”

26
Cindy toyed with her teacup. “I really don’t feel right about
driving with a post-dated license, Mr. Wakasaki, ‘cause I’ve got a
sneaky suspicion this is gonna be one hell of a two-week ride.”

Edgar looked worried as he questioned Dr. Crumley in the
consultation room. “You say there’s suspicious EKG activity in her
cerebral cortex?”
“Sandy is holding her own, Edgar, though it’s been a rough ride
here. She’s been unconscious three days now, but doesn’t seem to
be losing any weight. No signs of deterioration in her brain activity.
Quite the contrary, I’ve never seen such active brain patterns in any
comatose patient. Just look at this chart. Sometimes there’s only
slight movements of the needle, other times you see wild pulsations
as if she’s arguing with somebody or…”
Edgar smiled sadly. “Fighting, doctor? Maybe she is, but only in
her dreams.”
Dr. Crumley shook his head. “Edgar, the world of dreams is one
of mankind’s few unexplored frontiers. You’ll find that every major
achievement begins with a dream. Sometimes we can’t even begin
to defeat our problems until we sleep on it.”
“Doctor,” said Edgar, “don’t change the subject to spare me the
truth. Will Sandy ever wake up? Will surgery be necessary?”
“Edgar,” the doctor said gently, “sometimes surgery does far
more harm than good. Your wife suffered trauma to an area of the
brain which processes memory and perception of time. For all we
know Sandy could be reliving her childhood days, and it could be
just as real to her as being here with you and the kids. We’ll give
her at least a few more days before weighing the pros and cons of
invasive procedures. Most of Sandy’s vital signs are relatively
normal. No signs of muscle atrophy. Her color is good, her
breathing regular. We just have to turn her now and then to
prevent pressure sores. Dr. Brannon, who specializes in brain
trauma, will fly in for consultation in just a few days. If there’s any
major change, you’ll be the first to know. But rest assured, Edgar,
Sandy’s in the best of hands and we’re doing all we can.”
Wearing a poker face Edgar went out to the hall where his kids
were waiting. They jumped out of their chairs. Jake was dark-haired
and stocky like his dad. Jasmine was tall and willowy like her mom.
Her strawberry blond hair was ironed straight like her friends’. They
rushed Edgar, breathlessly asking, “How’s Mom?”
Edgar hugged them. “About the same, but at least she’s lost no
weight and her color’s better. The doctor said your mom just needs
rest and so long as her vital signs stay strong we can expect her to
wake up soon.”
“I hope so,” Jasmine choked. “I always said she’s too old to
break boards and do wheelies in the air. If she’d only listened…”

27
“Your mom’s no old lady,” Edgar said, “and I doubt she ever will
be. Heck, she’s in better shape than a lot of kids your age. Before
you know it she’ll wake up hollering for a peanut butter shake.”
“I even miss all that yucky nutritious food she made us eat,”
Jake moaned. “And it’s only been three days!”
“Your mom wouldn’t want you two to worry,” Edgar said
soothingly. “I betcha she’s dreaming up a way to come back to us.”
Jasmine frowned. “Dad, promise you won’t get mad if I tell you
something?”
“Depends. You and Jake trash the house with a big party?”
“I couldn’t help myself, Dad! I overheard you and Mr. Wakasaki
talking about awful stuff Mom went through in school years ago.
Why didn’t she ever tell us?”
“Your mom’s a strong woman, Jazz, a real fighter. “Didn’t want
you to worry about it, thought it best to keep it under her hat.”
“But…you knew?”
“Yeah, Jazz. Sometimes moms and dads need to talk to each
other about things that are too heavy for kids to hear.”
“Dad,” Jake whispered, “is it true…the reason Mom got battle
scars on her arms? When she was a kid, did she really get her arm
muscles operated on to straighten ‘em out?”
Silently Edgar turned away, sighed, bit his lip, shook his head.
“We already figured it out, Dad,” Jasmine said. “As you said,
Mom didn’t want to worry us about it.”
Edgar spotted someone in the hall. He pressed his finger to his
lips. La Rue had come to check on Sandy. Edgar gently told her
only immediate family was allowed limited visitation, but they
appreciated her concern. He filled La Rue in on Sandy’s condition,
accepted her bright bouquet of flowers with a smile.

Cindy took a nice long soak in the bathtub while Mrs. Wakasaki
washed and dried the clothes she’d taken off. The little lady
couldn’t speak much English but she could read dates and recognize
numbers. She’d unzipped Cindy’s sweat pants and found a
crumpled leaflet advertising a karate tournament at the Wakasaki
Martial Arts Arena. The fighter pictured on the front page looked
just like Sandy-san. The date: Saturday, June 16, 2012!
Breathing hard, Mrs. Wakasaki looked closer at two coins taken
from Sandy-san’s pants: a nickel and a penny. The nickel was dated
2008 and the penny 2011!
Not wanting to alarm Cindy, she hurried to her husband, who
was in his small office meditating. She knocked, then went in. She
bowed and said, “Husband, I must speak with you.”
He looked up from his stack of papers, glad his wife couldn’t
decipher Sandy’s scribbly handwriting. He smiled pleasantly. “Yes?”
“It is not for me to question the ways of a warrior far wiser than
myself,” she said docilely. “But would it be agreeable to you to tell

28
me the truth about this woman?” She took the brochure and two
coins out of her kimono pocket.
P. Wakasaki frowned. She melted. “I am sorry, my husband, for
intruding. I only sought to be hospitable by washing her clothing so
she could wear it clean tomorrow morning. Once I saw that picture
my curiosity overcame me. Please forgive me.”
He sighed. “Women and curiosity go together like cats and
mice. All right, I’ll tell the truth but you will scarcely believe it.” At
length he told her the whole story. Shocking. Weird. But there
could be no other explanation.
“What a wonder, Tojo,” she whispered. “Who am I to say I
understand all things? You are right. We don’t know how or why,
but Sandy-san’s Road of Time is bending backward like a bow
instead of reaching forward like an arrow. There must be a reason.
We will help your Sandy-san bend her bow and shoot her arrow to
defeat her enemy. For this purpose she came to us.”

Cindy got out of the bath and dressed in the too-short gown and
kimono provided by Mrs. Wakasaki. After running a towel through
her hair she joined the couple in the kitchen. P. Wakasaki admitted
to Cindy his wife had found out, and how.
“It’s okay,” Cindy said. “It was kind of her to wash my stuff.”
P. Wakasaki looked intently at Cindy as she sipped ginger tea.
“Enlightenment come, Sandy-san. Many years pass but part of you
no move on. Enemy you need fight is deep Whirlpool of Hurt. It
down inside here.” P. Wakasaki pointed at Cindy’s chest.
“Whirlpool a big angry beast suck everything down. Bad bullies
throw big rock into peaceful waters of Sandy-san’s soul. Bad vibes
spread in pool of life. Must seal up whirlpool forever before peace
come. You go back, fight for Little Sandy.”
Silently Cindy nodded, though she didn’t relish this challenge.
Just as she had defeated so many flesh and blood opponents, now
she faced her hardest test of courage yet: She must conquer this
Whirlpool of Hurt to stop the ripples which spread negative energy
across time and space.
“Wakasaki’s second call much longer than first,” P. Wakasaki
said. “He say you got big scars both arms. Let’s see.”
“Uh…maybe Mrs. Wakasaki shouldn’t look,” Cindy said. “Might
upset her.”
“She no get upset,” P. Wakasaki said. “See scars all time. Scars
on my chest from Tokyo sword fight. Take advice, Sandy-san. No
booze. Make warrior slow and clumsy. I no touch now.”
“Sorry to hear that, Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy said. She rolled up
both kimono sleeves and showed the couple her disfigured
forearms. “These were self-inflicted,” she whispered.

29
“No, bully make scars. Use knife of fear,“ Wakasaki said, hotly.
“All warriors get scars. Some you can’t see. You fight many all
alone. No one care. No one help. You overpowered.”
Cindy’s mouth quivered. She swallowed hard. “Mr. Wakasaki,
this happened to me…two years ago when Little Sandy was only
fourteen. But me, in the year 2012, I’ve had these scars for 29
years. When you see Little Sandy, she’ll have them too.”
P. Wakasaki quietly nodded. His wife offered them more tea.
She said something in Japanese. “She ask if you still hungry,
Sandy-san,” P. Wakasaki laughed. “Too much talk feel like work.”
“Well…” Cindy hesitated.
“Sandy-san hungry!” Mrs. Wakasaki cried happily. Soon she
was back with rice cakes and miso soup, which soon disappeared
under her approving gaze.
“Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy speculated, “maybe the accident launched
me into a different dimension of the same reality. Maybe your
parallel universe is 27 years behind my own. But you do seem so
real, both of you, and I met the nicest friend on Haight Street.”
P. Wakasaki looked serenely at her. “I very real, Sandy-san.
This food you eat at my table, it real. The tea, it real. The rice
cakes, the soup, they real.”
“Right, Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy breathed. “I never taste or smell
in my dreams. And I never feel physical pain like I do now, just
emotions. Mrs. Wakasaki, your food is so yummy it has to be real.
And I just know your friendship is more real than any dream.”
Mrs. Wakasaki stood up, folded her hands, bowed and smiled
shyly when her husband translated. She spoke.
“Wife say it great honor to entertain warrior on quest,” P.
Wakasaki said. “She say you go fight fierce dragon and win.”
Cindy didn’t feel her bravest, but she would try. At that table
the three of them made a solemn pact to keep Sandy-san’s origin
and mission a secret known only to themselves, for Little Sandy’s
sake. If the press got wind of this it could generate widespread
panic and unwanted questions about the future. Hers, and the
future of the whole world.
Before Cindy retired, Mrs. Wakasaki checked the bruise on her
shoulder. It was purple, swollen and ugly. “Bad, Sandy-san,” she
sighed. “This help.” She massaged pungent arnica salve into the
area. Then she went to the kitchen to do a job performed often for
her Tojo: fix an ice pack to reduce swelling. As Cindy settled on her
sleeping mat, the little woman gently placed it on Cindy’s bruise and
lightly covered her. She hummed to Cindy as if she were a little girl,
then rose and turned out the light.
“I miss you guys like crazy, Edgar, Jake, Jasmine,” Cindy
whispered in the darkness of the cozy little room. “But I’ll be back
soon. I promise.”

30
6
A Charm Offensive

Wednesday, April 24. Barely four a.m. and already Cindy heard P.
Wakasaki’s frantic knocks on her door. “Up!” he yelled. “Hurry! Five
minutes’ stretch exercises, twenty sit-ups, ten pushups! All time
you got exercise! After that wash, dress, report to kitchen! Chop
chop!” He clapped his hands.
Cindy moaned and complied with his orders. Bleary-eyed she
finally finished and stumbled out of the bathroom, looking forward
to a hot cup of ginger tea to help her wake up. So little sleep. It
had been eleven before they all went to bed. But Mr. Wakasaki
must know what he was doing. He greeted her with a cheery smile.
What a little dynamo of energy, thought Cindy. He never seemed to
get tired.
Mrs. Wakasaki set hot tea and tofu noodles before Cindy, urging
her to eat. Dutifully Cindy nibbled and sipped. She didn’t enjoy
eating before 8 a.m.
“Warrior need eat,” P. Wakasaki said, nearly done with his own
bowl. “Big day ahead. Move chopsticks faster.”
Cindy nodded and took bigger bites. A mixture of dread and
excitement stirred inside. “Great noodles, Mrs. Wakasaki, thanks,”
she said.
“Wife wrap up sesame cookies, snack on later,” P. Wakasaki said.
Barely had Cindy finished when he said, “First day I go with you,
Sandy-san, test drive car to Modesto. In mint condition. Tinted
windows, tilt steering, 8-track player, CB radio…”
Cindy grinned. “How ‘bout a Sat Nav, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“What that?”
“It’s a little box with a woman’s voice in it. Space satellites
show the Sat Nav where roads and streets are located. The voice
tells you to go straight, turn right or left down a street, you’d love
it.”
“Strange world you from, Sandy-san,” P.Wakasaki said. “Maybe
someday car no need driver.”
“Now that would be awesome,” Cindy said. “Let some electronic
gizmo worry about the traffic lights and the road hog in front while I
fix my makeup.
“Oh, Mr. Waksaki,” Cindy wondered, “is the car an automatic?”
“No, you use stick shift. Help exercise concentration.”
Cindy grimaced. “I’ll try. The car I’ve got in 2012 spoils me, it’s
so easy.”
“Need go now,” P. Wakasaki said, rising from the table. He said
something to his wife, in Japanese. She nodded and bowed to them
both with a pleasant ‘Sayonara’.

31
“Friend owe me favor,” P. Wakasaki said. “Mr. Durrant, he own
Willow Tree Tall Gal’s Shop. Use Camaro, I take you there. But you
drive while I watch.”
Cindy gritted her teeth with dread. It wasn’t even six a.m. and
she could barely get her feet moving, much less pilot a vintage auto
32 years removed from her own time. Not only that, it was a stick
shift.
Slowly, carefully, Cindy drove downtown, directed by P.
Wakasaki. “Takes awhile to get used to, all this pushing and
pulling of the stick,” she muttered. “But glad to get it, Mr.
Wakasaki. Just hope the cops don’t get me.”
He watched her like a hawk as she parallel parked in front of the
upscale store, opened three hours early just for Cindy. Mr. Durrant
opened the door for them and immediately locked up again. He took
a long look at Cindy and whispered, “Tojo, you old devil, where’d
you find her?”
P. Wakasaki didn’t think it was funny. “That my senior fighting
instructor,” he growled. “Flew in last night. She need proper clothes
for company rep, she travel far, represent us.”
“Just joking,” Durrant said nervously. “Please don’t hit me. If I
didn’t like you so much I wouldn’t have opened this store at 5:30 in
the morning just for you. But I expect you to spend a big wad to
make it worth my while.”
P. Wakasaki paced the floor like a lion, glancing at his watch
while Cindy tried on a few 80’s-style power suits. “That one,” P.
Wakasaki pointed, when Cindy emerged from the dressing room
wearing a a russet silk blazer with shoulder pads and matching
pleated skirt. The tailored look was softened with a ruffled floral
blouse.
“Better pick out more,” P. Wakasaki grumbled, as Mr. Durrant set
the items aside.
Cindy did get more, including an extra skirt and blouse for mix
& match wear, two pairs of ¾-length zippered Guess Jeans,
accessories, P.J.s, funky tops, that all-important pink sweater. She
also chose a few smaller items, including an expensive watch.
Finally she picked out a pair of low-heeled dress shoes which didn’t
accentuate her height. P. Wakasaki grimaced as he whipped out his
credit card and told Cindy she could buy more clothes later herself.
“Made store owner happy,” Wakasaki said, as he loaded the
purchases in the trunk. “Need fix hair now. Early bird
appointments at Sandra’s, just around corner.”
The shop owner protested they were booked solid until P.
Wakasaki took out his fat wallet. “We can squeeze the lovely lady
in, sir,” she said with a creamy smile. “We also do manicuring and
makeup, if she’s interested.”
P. Wakasaki came back in two hours. Cindy was transformed.
Her red mane was now “Smoky Cocoa”, enhanced with extensions,

32
softly waved into Big Hair. Spiky bangs swept over her slender face,
made up in contemporary vivid shades and blue eyeshadow. Cindy’s
broken nails were filed and tinted, though she insisted on keeping
them short in case she had to fight.
“That do,” P. Wakasaki said with a poker face. He sighed and
paid the bill. Victory very costly, he thought. But she worth it in
the end.
Cindy was relieved when they finally got on the freeway. “To
think we got all that done before 9:30,” she yawned.
“Early bird get worm,” P. Wakasaki answered. “World not fair.
Prettiest chick get best worm.”
Cindy let loose with her characteristic rippling, cackling laugh. P.
Wakasaki steadied her hand on the wheel. “Mighty Wakasaki trip
over tongue,” he said.
“So I’m after a fat juicy worm in a hog pen! Oh, Mr. Wakasaki,
that’s the funniest thing I heard in ages!”
“Why Sandy-san color hair?” he asked.
“Well, Mr. Wakasaki, except for a wrinkle or two I look just like
Little Sandy. Don’t want the poor kid to freak out when she sees
herself in the hall. And by the way, I assumed a fake name, Cindy
Franks. But I’m still Sandy-san to you.”
“I better take wheel now,” he said. “You need read ideas I write
and paper clip in notebook. While you sleeping I put in your bag.”
“Guess it must’ve been important for you to sneak in a lady’s
room,” she chuckled. “Okay, we’ll pull off at the next exit and switch
seats, and I’ll read it.
“Best exit take,” P. Wakasaki pointed. “Saw sign. One more
thing buy. Explain later. You sit outside, I go in.”
They pulled up at Pee Wee’s Joke Shop. P. Wakasaki did a quick
tour of the store, picked some things out while Cindy settled in the
passenger’s seat studying her notebook. Wakasaki was back in
minutes. Cindy had a fit when she saw the funny stuff he bought
and heard what it was for.
Cindy scanned through the pages of Wakasaki’s strategies for
warding off bully attacks which were destined to occur from the
time Cindy arrived at the school until Little Sandy
ran away on May 11th. One would happen today, Wednesday, April
24, at 3:04 p.m., after school, while Little Sandy waited for the bus.
Around 11 a.m. they reached Modesto, pleasantly warm after
the chill of the Bay area. The city of less than 140,000 seemed so
small to Cindy after living so long in Frisco. “Remember how get to
school, Sandy-san?” P. Wakasaki asked.
She breathed hard. “Drive south on Caligula Blvd. till we reach
Muenster Avenue, then take a right, go two miles. The campus’ll be
on my left.” She gritted her teeth. “Ugh, I dread this.”
“We almost there,” P. Wakasaki said cheerfully.

33
Soon they spotted the vast campus, with its the big marquis
sign on the edge of the manicured lawn: Hogwood High, Home of
the Hamhocks. P. Wakasaki steered the car into the parking lot and
found a visitor’s space.
“I trust you, Sandy-san,” he said quietly. “Cannot go in with
you. This battle you need fight yourself. But you got my number.
Call when need help. He took her hand and pressed a wad of bills
into it. I take this out of safe for you. Call if need more. I guard
your book with my life. No worry.”
It would be years before Wakasaki would reach the pinnacle of
his financial prosperity. But he was far from poor. He had won
many bets at martial arts tournaments, and his budding business
was on the upswing. He knew that investing in Sandy-san’s well-
being would yield great dividends for the future.
She reached in the back seat and slipped the money into an
inner pouch of her bag. “Oh, Mr. Wakasaki,” she breathed, “I can’t
pay you back anytime soon.”
“It your pay, like I said last night. You help build my business. I
help you now. Pay it forward.”
“How will you get home, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“Bus, or rent car if schedule bad. There phone booth. I call cab
take to bus station. Go now. Try catch principal before lunch.”
Cindy’s ally was leaving. She felt strangely lost. “Goodbye, Mr.
Wakasaki. Thank you and Mrs. Wakasaki for everything. I’ll call
you as soon as I know something.”
He folded his hands and bowed. He said “Sayonara, Sandy-san”
and hopped out.

“The swelling’s going down in her shoulder,” Dr. Crumley told Edgar
out in the hall. “But my main concern is she’s still out cold. We’ll
give her more time before we do anything more drastic. But if she
doesn’t get some food in her in a few days, her muscle mass will
wither away. She has no more than 5% body fat, very lean for a
woman. Edgar, you’re wife’s got the metabolism of a lumberjack.
When she wakes up she’ll want to eat everything in sight.”

Cindy got her bag, locked her car, took a long look. Yeah, just like
it was before. The tacky red and white aluminum-sided buildings,
the Happy Hog Monument to the Hogwood Pork Corporation which
sponsored the school. Cindy remembered Hogwood High had its
own mascot. Snort was the only thing she liked about this place: a
big blubbery hog penned up near the football stadium, kept that
way by a mountain of yucky lunch scraps from the cafeteria. One-
quarter wild boar, the black and white hog had been fed special
growth hormones to fatten him up to around 850 pounds. Snort was
sweet as pie if you kept him well fed, but he did have a mean streak
in him if something gave him indigestion.

34
Her bad memories of this school needed that bit of comic relief,
thought Cindy. She laughed again when she saw a sign advertising
a student bake sale. Not even birds would eat the tough cakes and
cookies sold outside on the flyblown tables. Not even the sour,
watered-down lemonade was worth drinking.
Cindy remembered where everything was after all those years.
She detested this joint. She wrinkled her nose and tightened her
mouth, but this was her assignment. Even if she had to put on an
act she wouldn’t let Mr. Wakasaki down. “Stay positive, chin up!”
she ordered herself. “Forward, march! Tall is beautiful!” She
walked to the principal’s office, head held high.
When she walked in, she spotted him shuffling a stack of papers
in his office, through the open door behind the receptionist counter.
The lady smiled demurely at Cindy. “Yes? How can we help you
today, ma’am?”
Cindy breathed hard. “I’m here about a job…”
“You mean the temporary teaching job listed in this morning’s
paper?”
“Yes, that one. Is it filled yet?”
“No, ma’am, In fact, you’re the first to contact us today about it.
Are you a fully accredited physical education instructor?”
“Yes, ma’am. My name is Cindy Franks. I earned my masters at
U.S.C. I studied body building, sports nutrition, gymnastics, and
many other athletics courses. I have years of experience in fitness
training. I can turn any couch potato kid into a lean, clean
machine.”
The receptionist didn’t crack a smile. “Have you brought your
resume and certificates from schools where you studied?”
Cindy smiled sweetly and said, “That’s the problem, ma’am.
Just last week my house trailer burnt down. Everything I owned

35
was destroyed, except for a few things I escaped with in my car. All
my personal records went up in smoke. I really do need this job
and I’d be glad to send off for new copies of my personal records.”
The receptionist looked doubtfully at Cindy. At that moment Mr.
Trent, the 52-year-old principal, emerged from his inner sanctum
and spotted her. She was absolutely beautiful. He liked what he
saw. “You here about the P.E. job?”
“Yes, Mr. Trent, I am.” Cindy forced herself to smile warmly at
that lowlife who’d turned a deaf ear to her pleas for help when she
was younger. This was a charm offensive to win the heart of a
morally bankrupt skunk.
“The job’s yours if you can convince me you know your stuff,”
Mr. Trent said. “Why don’t you show me what you’ve got, after
lunch? My treat.”
The receptionist frowned. “But Mr. Trent, Mrs. Franks brought
no resume and no records.”
“Records, smeckerds!” he snorted. “That’s no way to treat a
lovely lady who’s lost everything in a fire! This is a temporary
position, and Mrs. Franks is here on a trial basis. Her verbal
contract will expire at the end of the school year. If she does a
great job, we’ll sign her up for permanent employment and worry
about the red tape gobbledygook later. Hell, I’ll just pay the lady
under the table for now. Mrs. Franks, can you coach my girls’
basketball team and lead them to victory when the regional
tournament comes up on May 25?”
“Piece of cake, Mr. Trent.”
He opened the door for Cindy. They walked toward the
cafeteria, continuing the conversation. Cindy struggled to suppress
her true feelings about him.
“Good. In case you’re wondering why this job opened up at
such a weird time in the school year, it just so happens Mrs.
Gunther, one of our best P.E. instructors, had a sudden gall bladder
attack. She’s no longer with us.”
Cindy raised her eyebrows. “Dead?”
“Nope, had to take early retirement. Our other P.E. teacher,
Nancy Bullard, has her hands full and we sure could use the help.
Nancy’s okay in volleyball, but her basketball coaching is c***!
Short and chunky, can barely hop on one foot let alone exercise.”
Cindy laughed, though her skin crawled to remember Mrs.
Bullard, that crabby old witch who’d always given her the lowest
possible grades whenever she’d had her for P.E. Her son was the
same baboon who pushed her around in the hallways, stamped on
her books, put unflattering comments about her in the school paper,
The Hogwood Squeal. Somebody needed to squeal about that.

7
Back in the Battle

36
Over a bland lunch of mushy pizza and chocolate milk, Mr. Trent
filled Cindy in on little details about the school, already well-known
to her. He asked, hesitantly, “So you’re married, Mrs. Franks?”
“Yep, I’ve got an MRS. Degree, don’t I?”
“I mean, is your husband happy about your taking this job?”
Cindy knew there were bound to be questions about why her
husband didn’t join her at school events and PTA meetings. “Uh…
we’re sort of separated.”
“But not exactly divorced?”
“Not yet. We’ve drifted apart but we’re trying to work it out.”
“Got kids?”
“Two. Jake, 16, and Jasmine, 14.
“They go to this school?”
“No. Actually, Mr. Trent…”
“Call me ‘Roger’.”
“Guess you’ll have to call me ‘Cindy’ then. Actually, my kids
went off with their dad to Germany, where they’re visiting relatives.”
“East or West?”
Cindy remembered. Germany hadn’t yet been reunified. “Uh…
West Germany, Roger. Thank God Edgar’s folks don’t live in East
Germany, eh? Edgar doesn’t exactly have custody of our kids, but
they just like to travel. They’ll all be back in a few weeks. After
that they move in with me.”
Roger nodded, silently appraising the situation. Gorgeous, but
she came with baggage and no divorce as of yet.
“You married, Roger?” she asked, as if she needed to know.
“Yeah, we got three kids, Damian, Greg, and Lorrie, ages 5, 13
and 17.”
Cindy peered up from the lunch table. One of her least-liked
teachers, Nancy Bullard, sashayed past. She looked at Cindy, who
got sick at her stomach. “Oh, hello, Mr. Trent,” she purred. “I see
you have a visitor.”
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Bullard. This here is Cindy Franks. She’s just
applied for our P.E. vacancy.”
“How do you do, Mrs. Franks,” she gushed with a cheesy grin.
“Welcome to our lovely school.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Bullard,” Cindy replied. “I heard they
have a great athletic program here.”
Mrs. Bullard smirked. “Athletics…mmm…Mr. Trent’s specialty.
Catch you later, Mrs. Franks.” She walked away with a wicked laugh.
After lunch Mr. Trent showed Cindy to the Sports Building. She
changed in the locker room and went to the gym. Cindy’s arms were
bare, covered only by her rows of macramé bracelets. Of course Mr.
Trent asked Cindy why she wore them on a job interview, and
indicated they might be inappropriate work attire.

37
“Hafta wear ‘em, Roger,” she said. “When I was a kid I had
operations on both arms to correct twisted muscles. Muscular
dysmorphia, the doctor called it. If they hadn’t operated, my
muscles wouldn’t have grown normally. The bracelets look better
than the scars.”
Mr. Trent nodded. “Guess that can’t be helped then. Okay,
Cindy, we’ll make an exception for you. Matter of fact, there’s an
eleventh-grader here, Sandy Girard, who’s got the same problem.
She wears bracelets too.”
“Thanks for being so understanding, Roger. Now to show you
my stuff.”
Cindy’s feats on the parallel bars were as graceful and agile as
those of a much younger gymnast. The principal panted with delight
to see her rotations on the bars. Cindy did handstands and a few
elliptical spins, supported by one hand. Then she did her own
routine called the jungle jive, spinning once before she landed on
the mat.
Cindy soared off a trampoline and performed the same triple flip
which got her into this situation. She jumped a second time, making
a graceful spiral descent as she landed. She shot hoops with the
basketball, even dunked a few in backwards. She hopped
backwards across the room, even handled a soccer ball with ease.
Finally she demonstrated her simple fitness routine for beginners:
slow stretches, arm circles, toe touching, jumping jacks, leg lifts,
squat thrusts, pushups, modified situps,, running in place. This
routine would be followed by a short session of dancing or sports
practice to fill up the 45 minutes’ class time available before the
girls must dress for their next class.
“Great!” Mr. Trent clapped. “No further questions, you’re hired!
I was looking for somebody in great shape, not an ounce of fat on
them. Don’t know how any P.E. teacher can lambaste a kid for being
fat while they’ve got a spare tire the size of the State of Texas.”
After Cindy changed out of her leotard and leg warmers, she and
Mr. Trent spent another hour touring the trophy room and football
field. Animatedly he chatted about all the honors won by the
Hogwood Hamhocks, even while lamenting the dismal record of the
Hogwood Hamettes, the girls’ sports teams.
“I have faith in you, Cindy,” he said. “You can turn things
around here.”
Another hour to go before school let out for the day. Cindy sat
in the library where no one could see her, pored over her notebook.
She had good reason to hang around. The diary said Brad Bullard
and gang would hassle Sandy and Kitty as they waited on the
school bus. While his buddies laughed, Bullard would stomp on the
girls’ books till they were ripped to shreds. He would shove them
and stomp on their toes, while his buddies kicked their shins and
tripped them.

38
Cindy’s eyes narrowed, like an angry tigress defending her
young. I’ll be damned if I let that happen!
Her keen ears picked up a tidbit from the checkout desk. Mr.
Trent and Mrs. Bullard were an item, though the man was “happily
married” and the father of three. A sour-faced woman had been
spotted leaving his office, griping that she didn’t get to some job in
time. Probably Miss Littleton, Cindy thought. It was she who’d
actually landed that P.E. job in the other dimension of Cindy’s past.
Cindy heard Mr. Trent’s secretary whisper to the librarian with a
catty smile, “The wife is always the last to know.” Then she hurried
out to tell others.
The dirty rat! Cindy thought. As sorry as she felt for Roger’s
poor wife, Roger and his lady love would be too preoccupied to
interfere when she saved Sandy.
At precisely the right time Cindy went to a restroom to change
into an outfit P. Wakasaki bought her at the joke shop. She took
off her nice suit. She put on a pair of jeans. She tugged on a loose
gray hooded jacket. She removed her dress shoes and hose, put on
her socks and tennies.
Cindy stilled her breathing, listened for footsteps before
emerging from her hiding place, just like Mr. Wakasaki had taught
her. No one was in the stalls and no one seemed to be approaching
the bathroom. She pulled the drawstring of her hood tightly about
her face, hiding all her pretty hair.
Eyes and ears alert, she exited through the rear of the library
building and rushed toward the curb where several school buses
parked. She didn’t go down the walkway where the kids were, but
crept toward it behind the buildings through the alleyway facing the
north fence of the property. As she crouched, watching from her
vantage point, Cindy peered at her watch. If Sandy’s account was
correct, it would be exactly 3:04 when she and Kitty would be
ganged up on, unable to defend themselves. Cindy put on her
yellow and black PacMan mask and leaped into action when she
heard loud teasing and cries of terror. Other kids stood around
laughing at Sandy and Kitty. It wasn’t their problem.
“Gag me with a spoon! The giraffe and the elephant! Ain’t they
butt ugly!” Brad Bullard sneered, lapping up the crowd’s approval.

39
Bullard’s Buddy Chad yelled out the ultimate 80’s expression of
disgust: “Barfout to the max!” He made a grotesque face at the
two girls.
“Leave ‘er alone, Bullard!” the bully heard a hoarse voice growl
menacingly. Cindy was thankful her figure was long and lean, and
her natural speaking voice low enough to sound like a boy.
“Give Sandy back her books!” Cindy ordered a big thug with a
floppy woodpecker hairdo. “Now!”
Bullard, 17, tagged as a “jock”, did sports. Though born a year
earlier than Cindy, in this weird time warp he was much younger
physiologically. Cindy knew her capabilities but carried them with
humility. Mr. Wakasaki had always warned her that overconfidence
weakened a warrior and did half his opponent’s job for him. Yet
Cindy knew she must intimidate her enemy to weaken his morale.
She didn’t relish fighting a much younger foe, especially a larger
male. But she knew that Bullard, like most bullies, was an arrogant
airhead who just might get careless. Bullard looked a bit soft in the
middle, the type who did the bare minimum of football practice.
Probably ate junk food and laid around watching TV when he wasn’t
terrorizing girls at school. Everybody knew Bullard could get away
with murder because that tomcat principal had the hots for his
divorced mom.
“You gonna make me, you grody spaz?” Bullard slurred, sticking
out a pouty lip. “Who the f*** are you?”
“Sandy’s cousin from Capstone High, that’s who! Now back off
or you’re dead meat!”
“Eat s*** and die!” he hissed.

40
“Who’s gonna make me?” Cindy growled. All the kids backed
away and gasped in shock. Their hero had been challenged!
Bullard’s best buddy, Chad West, knew his place in the pecking
order. He stood right behind Bullard, to back him up.
Bullard sashayed toward Cindy, giving her the finger. “I’m
gonna rip your guts out, you skinnybones barfbag. He squared off
against her, a foot or so to her left, about three feet away. He
swung his hips and swaggered, arms proudly stuck out at his side,
leaving his chest unprotected. What did he have to fear from a guy
with no meat on his bones?
Bullard strutted, hopped up and down, made monkey noises.
Cindy detested this creep who’d gone out of his way to make Little
Sandy THE designated school victim. Ever since ninth grade he’d
kept Sandy famous on campus, pointing at her, making dirty jokes
about her, driving her to do desperate things. Yes, part of Cindy felt
sorry for the boy because his divorced mom was such a slut and he
hardly ever saw his dad who didn’t give a damn about his own kid.
Clearly it made Bullard feel like a king to trash somebody else’s rep.
But why make others pay for his misery? Bullard must be stopped,
even if Cindy had to risk everything to save herself.
When Bullard stopped moving and knotted up his fists, Cindy
whirled around and landed a mighty roundhouse kick to his side
which knocked the wind out of him. He fell backward, knocking
Chad down as he crash-landed. As they lay moaning, Barney, a big
dimwit oaf, rushed up to their defense. He pulled back his arm and
swung at Cindy’s face. Instinctively she blocked it with her left arm.
P. Wakasaki had given her long silver bracelets, studded with little
spikes, to be worn under her jacket in times of extreme danger.
Barney’s hammy fist rammed into the sharp metal, nicking his
knuckles. He bawled like a baby, fell to his knees, waving his
bloody hand. Cindy noticed Bullard had staggered to his feet just as
she’d finished with Barney. Well-trained, she sensed his defiance
and anticipated his next move. When he bent over to pick up a
brick, she sailed through the air and landed a spinning hook kick,
ramming her hard heel into his butt before he could lift the stone.
He lay on the ground crying and cursing her while some of the kids
razzed him. Cindy karate-chopped Chad when he uttered further
threats and tried to get up. Now the three boys couldn’t move
without pain. Angry as she was, Cindy had released only part of her
power, only hitting softer areas of her opponents’ bodies, and just
hard enough to render them incapable of fighting back. She whirled
around to face the kids who whined about the beating their bully
heroes got.
“Now I want you all to listen!” Cindy barked. “If any horse’s
a** tries that c*** again, they’ll get more of the same!”
No security guards were ever around to protect kids from
campus thugs. Too hazardous. Cindy knew where the lone guard

41
was stationed: at the door of the principal’s office to keep people
out, laughing and enjoying his job.
The bus arrived, but Sandy knew those kids. They’d want
revenge, and like bloodthirsty sharks, they wouldn’t rest till they got
it. She didn’t want to ride with them. Bullard didn’t need to ride the
bus because his mom taught there. But he loved the buzz he got
by turning the bus into a torture chamber. Cindy picked up on
Sandy’s fear and felt it herself, though she was now more powerful
and confident. Sandy walked up to “PacMan”, speechless,
stammered her thanks. Kitty followed.
“Girls,” Cindy whispered, “I know you’re scared of riding the bus.
Go over to the gym and wait outside the locker rooms. Somebody
will come by to help.”
The other kids boarded the buses, some laughing at Bullard,
others giving their intended victims a vicious look. Cindy was glad
the two girls couldn’t see the tears wetting her face behind the
mask. Little Sandy was half an inch shorter and a slighter figure
than herself. Just as Cindy remembered herself. Fidgety, with
nervously chewed-up nails and a freckly face. She had the huge,
frightened eyes of a hunted deer. Her forearms were swathed in
macramé lacework bracelets. Cindy remembered she’d been given
special permission by school staff to wear such conspicuous jewelry,
for cosmetic reasons.
Poor Little Sandy, thought Cindy. Tall but small, so vulnerable.
Like a child forever struggling for approval, Sandy was perpetually
stooping over, so self-conscious about her height, feeling like she
almost had to apologize for her own existence. And as for Kitty, she
too shrank away from other kids who’d singled her out for abuse for
being unfashionably fat, at barely five foot two. Every day Sandy
and Kitty were called the Zoo, a giraffe hanging out with a baby
elephant. Every day they’d walk alone, eat alone, never dare
interact with anyone unless spoken to in a civil tone, which rarely
ever happened. Cindy’s throat tightened. She loved both of them:
the scared, scrawny youngster she used to be, and the wider girl
terrified of living in her own body.
Before “PacMan” could get into trouble, she raced away, found a
restroom and switched back to Cindy Franks, feminine P.E. teacher.
If questions were raised about the incident, some nonexistent
relative from Capstone High would be the one under suspicion.
As she peeked down the hall Sandy saw a lovely lady coming.
Someone about her mother’s age, an adult at school who actually
smiled at her.
“Girls,” she said, “I’m Mrs. Franks, your new P.E. teacher. I’ll be
taking your class over from Mrs. Bullard.”
“Hallelujah!” Sandy whispered to Kitty. “Didn’t expect that!”
Don’t worry, Cindy told herself. These are the days before it
was against the law for a teacher to hug a student. She gave both

42
girls a quick squeeze on the shoulder. “Someone told me you girls
always get picked on when you ride the school bus. Well, we can’t
have that anymore. If you want me to, I’ll pick you up and take you
home every single day.”
Kitty’s eyes lit up. “You mean that, Mrs. Franks? Wow!”
“Would your parents mind if I did that for you, Kitty?” Cindy
knew Kitty lived with only one parent, the wrong one!
“No, Mrs. Franks. Mom said as long as I watch my diet I can do
anything I want.”
“Dad might say something,” Sandy worried. “He might say it’s
weird.”
“If you want me to, Sandy, I could swing by and speak with your
father. When’s he home today?”
“Six o’clock, usually. He runs Jungle Joe’s Greenhouse and it
closes at five.”
“Ah…would that interfere with your dinner time?”
“I don’t guess so, Mrs. Franks,” Cindy said. “Tonight Mom’s
makin’ pot roast. When she does, it’s forever before we get to eat.”
Cindy’s mouth watered. “Okay then, Sandy. I’ll drop you and
Kitty off, then swing by your house about sixish.”
Cindy must play her role perfectly. She knew where both girls
lived but remembered to write down their addresses to allay
suspicion.
Just to avoid premature questions Cindy dropped the girls off a
block from Sandy’s home. She looked longingly after them,
remembering all the good times she and Kitty had together…before
that terrible accident on Tuesday, April 30, which took her best
friend away. Cindy was determined that neither Kitty nor Little
Sandy would ride that bus ever again. Still, Cindy felt a gnawing
fear that the least popular kid remaining on the bus might get
picked on, and that accident might still happen as it was destined
to.
Cindy felt tired from having risen at four that morning, which
she was very unused to. She bought a newspaper to look through
the ads for a furnished apartment. She didn’t know how long she’d
be here, away from Edgar and the kids, so she needed to plan for
an extended stay. She went to a large mall to buy a few things at
a supermarket, a hardware store and a health food market. She
decided to wait till after her visit with the Girards to get herself a
motel room.
Still, Cindy needed rest. She found a little kiddie park near the
mall, with picnic tables and swings. She parked under a shady tree.
She set her alarm for 4:45 and put cardboard shades all around her
car windows. She locked the doors and curled up in the back seat
for a catnap, soothed by the sweet warbles of birds. Ah, she
thought. This is heaven.

43
Barely half an hour later Cindy was roused from a deep sleep by
a persistent scraping sound. Exhausted though she was, her
training took over and she swung into action. Fast as she could she
swept the shades off the window then rolled over into the front
seat. Some jerk was outside leering at her, trying to jimmy her front
door lock! Her hand touched the ignition key.
Before Cindy could start the motor her keen ear detected a
breaking sound. Instinctively she repositioned her body for action.
No sooner had her door flown open than her powerful leg shot out
and sent the intruder flying several yards across the parking lot.
Cindy glanced to see if the creep needed a doctor. He lay curled up,
gagging and holding his stomach. But he didn’t look too hurt. Cindy
shut the door as best she could and got out of there fast in case he
had a gun.
“Can’t even rest a few minutes,” she mumbled. “Stupid me,
should’a taken care of the motel first.”
Cindy found an auto shop a few blocks away. Good. The
mechanic could fix the damaged door lock right away and it
wouldn’t take long. She took her bag to the ladies’ room. No other
women were at the shop and it was a single occupancy restroom,
so she could lock the door and take time to dress for her visit with
the Girards. Her phone rang. Who else could it be but Mr.
Wakasaki?
“So good to see your face again, Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy said,
warmly.
“Greetings, Sandy-san,” F. Wakasaki said. “I want progress
report.”
“It’s been a beautiful day, Mr. Wakasaki, though I had to beat
off Brad Bullard and his pals. Then I tried to take a quick nap in the
park and some bum tried to break into my car. Had to fight him off
too,” Cindy said.
“Any trouble police?” F. Wakasaki asked, worriedly.
“No, I didn’t contact them.”
“Anyone suspicious?”
“So far, no. I wore the PacMan mask the other Mr. Wakasaki
bought me as part of my disguise, when Brad Bullard attacked
Sandy after school. No one knew who I was when I fought him and
his pals. And after I kicked the car intruder away at the park I
made sure he was still breathing. Then I hit the gas. I’m at a
garage now getting the door lock fixed.”
“That good, Sandy-san. Any happy thing happen?”
“I got a teaching job at my old school and I’m even going over
to meet Little Sandy’s parents tonight. Thank you so much for
helping us.”
“You get apartment yet?” F. Wakasaki demanded.

44
“Not yet, Mr. Wakasaki, but I’ll read the paper tonight and hunt
for one. The other Mr. Wakasaki helped me with new clothes and
money. ”
“Good, Sandy-san. You get apartment real soon. Or motel.
Don’t go seedy one, good one. Locked house safer for woman sleep
in than car.”
“I know that now,” Cindy said. “That park looked so peaceful.
The intruder probably wanted my Camaro for drug money.”
“True, Sandy-san. Tiger hide in same tree where bird sing.”
“Sandy-san,” F. Wakasaki said, “I count on you. I know you find
way to win. Honor Past Wakasaki like you honor me. Walk in peace,
no inflict pain when no need to. Fight for Little Sandy’s honor with
words of wisdom. When tiger jump from tree, lift spear up so he
fall on it. When words no work and enemy no want peace, must
fight with body. Keep weapons always ready.”

8
Familiar Faces and Places

“There’s Dad,” Sandy breathed. She put the TV remote down,
hoping against hope for a good outcome.
Her mother Alice peered up from her magazine. “You seem glad
to see your father tonight. What is it, Sandy?” she winked. “Need
money again?”
“Something better, Mom. Hope he doesn’t have a cow when I
ask.”
Tension knotted in Cindy’s throat as she drove down familiar
streets in the quiet suburb, looking at old memories. Finally she
reached the address: 5898 W. Trump Street. Good. Her dad’s
1983 Ford convertible was already there.
Wakasaki had trained Cindy to be strong and fearless, so it must
be Little Sandy’s anxiety she felt. Must keep my professional face
on, she thought. Pulling this one off will be harder than beating
Bullard..
Cindy pulled into Sandy’s driveway just as her dad entered the
house, carrying his familiar newspaper and briefcase.
“Oh, Dad,” Sandy breathed, “I wanted to talk to you about
something…”
“Company’s comin’!” eleven-year-old Rusty yelped, peeking out
the window.
“Oh, hell,” Joe Girard moaned. “I’ve been around people all day.
All I wanted was five minutes with my paper.”
Pepper, the family schnauzer, barked excitedly, jumping up and
down, paws against the door.
“Pipe down, Pepper!” Joe snapped, swatting him with his paper.
Sandy peeked. “Dad, it’s Mrs. Franks, my new P.E. teacher!
She wants to meet you!”

45
“What for?” Joe muttered. “You ain’t in trouble, are you?”
“Oh, Joe, teachers dropping by don’t always mean trouble,” Alice
said cheerfully.
“They sure did when I was a kid.”
Sandy reached the door first, but Pepper shot out between her
legs and flew at Cindy when she opened it. Trained to be sensitive
to sudden disturbances, Cindy would ordinarily have rebuffed the
blow, hands and legs tensed to strike back. But she knew who this
was and felt no alarm. She hoisted the dog up into her hungry
arms. It as all she could do not to cry. She’d owned other
schnauzers over her lifetime, but thought she’d never see her
precious Pepper again.
Sandy took the dog and put him down. “Sorry, Mrs. Franks, this
dog acts hyper sometimes.”
“Chill, Sandy!” Cindy laughed. “I’m crazy about dogs! Had one
just like this a long time ago.”
Joe stood up, walked over, looked Cindy over, gave her a
grudging smile.
“Dad,” Sandy announced, “this is Mrs. Franks, my new P.E.
teacher. Mrs. Franks, this is my dad, Joe Girard. My mom, Alice,
my brother Rusty, and my sister Doris.”
Cindy warmly greeted them all. What a wonderful smell wafting
over the wide counter which divided the kitchen from the living
room. Mom’s pot roast simmering in a Dutch oven. Cindy’s eyes
watered in spite of herself.
Eight-year-old Doris rushed up waving her sticker album. “Hi
there, Mrs. Franks, wanna see my psychedelic stickers?”
“Yeah, sure do, Doris,” Cindy said with studied composure, “after
I talk to your dad.” Cindy drank in the sight of young Doris, with
her hair parted in ponytails on both sides of her head, her gap-
toothed grin. Of course Cindy loved Rusty too, but he just shrugged
and stayed parked in front of the TV.
“Rusty, Doris, go upstairs till I call you,” said Alice. “This is a
private conversation.”
The kids pouted and obeyed. “Sandy better tell us later,” Rusty
grumbled.
“I like Mrs. Franks,” Doris said. “Nice lady.”
“This probably concerns you as well, Sandy,” said Alice. “So you
may join us in the kitchen as we talk.”
Cindy’s mouth quivered. Her mother, aged 42. Alice’s wavy
golden hair was paler than Cindy’s natural shade. She was shorter
and rounder than her elder daughter, and more of a homebody by
nature. An expert baker and cook, Alice found as much fulfillment
in the kitchen as Cindy did in the gym.
Joe grinned awkwardly as he helped Cindy into a kitchen chair.
“We don’t get too many teachers coming by here, Mrs. Franks.

46
What can we help you with today? Oops! I sound like I’m still at
Jungle Joe’s Greenhouse.”
An effective ice-breaker. Everyone laughed. Alice started the
coffee maker. She told Sandy she couldn’t have a milk shake
because dinner would be ready in an hour. Sandy got a glass of
juice and hunkered over the table.
“Mrs. Franks,” Joe said, “don’t mean to be nosy, but your eyes
are watering.”
“I get allergy sometimes, Mr. Girard. Runs in the family.”
“Me too,” Alice said. “With everything in bloom the pollen can be
bad this time of year.”
“You probably wonder why I dropped by,” Cindy said. “We
teachers sometimes unintentionally stumble across information
about what’s happening in the lives of students. A colleague told
me Sandy’s been bullied in school.”
“Happens a lot,” Joe shrugged with a poker face. “Part of
growing up.”
Cindy bristled, struggling to keep calm. “No offense, Mr. Girard,
but why should bullying be a normal part of growing up? What if
one of your work colleagues or one of your customers stomped on
your toes and called you a nasty name? What would you do?”
“Punch ‘em in the chops, I guess,” he mumbled.
“This is a bit awkward. Please forgive me for this, Mrs. Girard,
but I’ve got to press the point a bit further. What if your wife were
working in some office, Mr. Girard, and she came home every day
with fresh bruises on her leg from being kicked? What if some co-
worker spread vulgar jokes about her and no one wanted to join her
for lunch? Now, if things got so bad she had to quit her job, who
would you blame? Your wife, or the work bullies?”
“The ones who drove her crazy,” Joe growled. “I guarantee you,
I’d be down at that office raising hell about it. I’d sue the pants off
‘em.”
“Then why do adults expect school children to take the same
abuse day in and day out and turn a blind eye to it? I’m not saying
you’re guilty of that, Mr. Girard, but many other parents brush off
bullying as if it were nothing.”
Joe breathed heavily. “Mrs. Franks, you can’t expect me to be
there holding Sandy’s hand all day. She’s gotta learn to stand up
for herself. That’s a big bad world out there, and…”
Cindy held up her hand. “Sorry for interrupting, Mr. Girard, but
let’s take this a step further. We’re all on the same side here and
nobody in this house is the bad guy. I’m not blaming you for the
situation. But consider this: Now we know you’re a big strong man.
You could fend off an attack if one or two men assaulted you. But
what if it was a whole crowd? Sandy’s been terrorized countless
times in the hall, on the bus. Not just by one person, but often

47
several at the same time. How do you expect Sandy, a girl thinner
than myself, to fight a whole crowd of big bullies?”
“But all they do is tease her!” Joe argued. “Why should she
care what those jackasses say! Ya know, like water off a duck’s
back!”
“Dad!” Sandy interrupted. “Today Brad Bullard and his gang
threatened to rip my books up. That big gang makes me feel like a
tiny ant. Sometimes Bullard trips me in the hall, shoves me, boots
me in the backside, calls me bad names. I can’t live like that
anymore, Dad. I know you want me to fight back, but I can’t!” She
started to cry. Her mother went to hug her. Cindy felt her angst.
Hiding her feelings and acting professional was harder than karate
chops.
“Mr. Girard,” Cindy said, “I’d like to ask you a question: Did you
fight in the service?”
“Yep, I was a Marine sergeant in Viet Nam. Got sent home in ‘67
with shrapnel in my leg. Never went back. Married Mrs. Girard the
following year.”
“Mr. Girard, my heart goes out to you for all you suffered there.
But what if you’d had to whip a whole nest of Viet Cong all alone?
Say they had all the tanks, all the grenade launchers, all the planes,
all the artillery, all the manpower. But what if your unit commander
had said, ‘Girard, you gotta win this war all by yourself and all you
get is a water pistol to fight with?’ How brave could you have been
then? Outmanned, outgunned, outflanked on all sides?”
“Mrs. Franks, you’d make a damn good trial lawyer!” Joe said.
“You’re smart enough to join the army! Yeah, I get your drift. But
what can one man do? Sure, Sandy’s sixteen and old enough to quit
school. But she can’t flip burgers all her life. If I take Sandy out of
school I can’t afford private tutoring. After she got sick with that
operation she had, it nearly broke us to pay a tutor to keep her
from falling behind. The government won’t let her change schools
unless we move to another district.”
“Mr. Girard,” Cindy said, “a great deal of the trouble happens on
the school bus. I’m prepared to assume responsibility for picking
Sandy up each day and driving her back home, unless I’m out sick.
That’s a small price to pay for helping my fellow human being.”
“You’re one classy lady, Mrs. Franks. But are you a safe
driver?”
Cindy winked. “Safer’n Santa Claus. Been behind the wheel
since I was 18. Spotless record.”
“Got insurance?”
Cindy nodded. “Everything’s taken care of.”
“Oh, please let her, Dad,” Sandy begged. Cindy was glad she
distracted her dad from grilling her about whether she had 1985
auto insurance.

48
“Okay!” Joe snorted. “School’s almost out anyhow. And if Mrs.
Franks keeps her driving record clean, we can let her drive you in
the fall too, if she’s still teaching there.”
“Yay!” Sandy jumped in her seat and clapped. She ran over and
kissed her dad. “And Dad, Kitty’s gonna come with us too. Her
mom told her she can do anything she wants as long as she sticks
to her diet.”
“Fat chance of that!” Joe cackled, slapping his knee.
“Oh, Joe,” Alice chided, “you can be such a meanie.”
“Of course I can chip in a few bucks each week for gas, Mrs.
Franks,” Joe said.
“No problem, Mr. Girard. It’s my pleasure.”
“No, I insist.” He pressed five dollars into her hand. “Ripoff
prices at the pumps. $1.35 a gallon! What’s this country comin’
to?”
Cindy chuckled deep inside. Lucky him. In 2012 gas was four
bucks a gallon.
“Guess what!” Sandy chirped. “Brad Bullard shot his mouth off
today and got…”
Cindy caught Sandy’s eye, pressed her finger to her mouth,
looked at Joe, hoped he wouldn’t think the bus was safer and
change his mind.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Girard, I did hear a rumor that Brad Bullard got
sent to Mr. Trent’s office for talking back to a teacher,” Cindy said.
“Everyone could hear that kid cussing and swearing all the way
down the hall.”
“Hard to believe his mother’s a teacher,” Alice said, shaking her
head. “Oh! The timer just went off. The roast is nearly ready.
Mrs. Franks, would you care to join us for dinner? There’s plenty,
and I made apple pie too.”
“I wouldn’t want to put you nice people out,” Cindy hesitated
politely, as she felt her perpetual hunger gnawing.
“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer!” Joe insisted. “Sandy, go
call Rusty and Doris and tell ‘em they can wash up and come down.”
“Just make yourself at home,” Cindy’s own unsuspecting mother
said.
Dinner was delicious and a welcome change from the oriental
fare eaten at the Wakasakis. Beef chuck simmered with potatoes
and carrots. Three bean salad. Cloverleaf rolls. Cindy put down her
fork. “Ah, may I use your ladies’ room?” she asked.
“Sure,” Alice said. “Go up the stairs, turn right, down the hall
and you’ll find it on your left. Sandy, would you like to show Mrs.
Franks where it is?”
“Oh, don’t get up,” Cindy said. “I can find it. Be right back.”
“She’s beautiful for a P.E. teacher,” Alice said.
“Even if she’s too old to be a model,” Rusty put in.

49
“Her handshake’s hard as a lumberjack’s and she sure eats like
one,” Joe said.
“Probably plays a lot of sports and runs off the calories,” Alice
said.
Cindy knew where everything was in this house. Seizing the
moment, she quietly snuck in Sandy and Doris’s room. Everything
was just as she remembered. Two beds and a big book shelf full of
stuffed toys. Her fat sticker album on the second shelf. Michael
Jackson and Duran Duran posters on the walls. On her pink
bedspread was her Snuggy Kitty Bed Pet, a fluffy white mass with
orange stripes and green eyes. Impulsively Cindy rushed over,
picked it up and held it next to her face. In 2012 Doris still kept
that doll in a big keepsake chest with other childhood treasures,
sometimes taking it out to show children.
At the table, Little Sandy felt unusual sentiment sweep over her.
“Aren’t we lucky to have a home like this!” she breathed.
Alice smiled. “How sweet of you to say that, Sandy.”
“Hey,” Joe said suspiciously, “what brought this on all of a
sudden?”
“Better go get my violin,” Rusty mumbled, cramming his face
with potatoes.
“I was…just thinking,” Sandy said. “Sometimes it’s a war zone at
Kitty’s house. It’s rough having a stepdad around.”
Joe stifled a laugh. “Mmm…stepdad? That’s a very tactful way to
put it.”
Sandy’s shoebox full of cassettes lay on top of her stereo,
speakers all plastered with stickers. Another shoebox was crammed
with Garbage Pail Kid cards. Her hair crimper lay on the floor, its
cord tangled around her skates. Sandy’s red skate board filled one
corner. Cindy stopped to see Flipper the goldfish, who turned and
pressed its nose against the tank. Deeply moved, Cindy had to tear
herself away from this well-loved old bedroom but was glad to
rejoin her family downstairs.
It was too hot for Cindy, but she felt free to remove her tailored
jacket and place it with her purse on the couch, since her long--
sleeved blouse concealed her bracelets. Her sports bag, which went
with her everywhere, was securely locked in the trunk. She
reseated herself at the table. To stave off unwanted queries about
her background, Cindy started a discussion about politics. Last
year’s election had been an interesting one.
“Ain’t got much use for politicians,” Joe shrugged. “They
promise you the moon and take the whole universe back in taxes.”
Over dessert, Joe and Alice exchanged puzzled glances. Sandy
and Cindy laughed the same way, and they often laughed at the
same time at the same things. Their mannerisms were similar,
except Cindy’s movements were more graceful and she seemed far
more at ease. The two of them even shared the same taste in

50
music, yakking about Duran Duran, Prince, Wham!, Boy George,
Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, MTV, Madonna, Tears for Fears.
“You must be young at heart to like that music, Mrs. Franks,”
Alice smiled.
“Yes, Mom…uh, ma’am. Whew! Long day, eh?” Cindy hastened
to add, to override the awkwardness of that slip of the tongue. “No
matter how many years pass by there’s a part of you which never
stops dancing and looking for rainbows.”
“What are your favorite movies, Mrs. Franks?” Rusty asked.
“Let’s see, now…” Cindy’s brain whirled. Which films had just
come out in 1985, or were fairly recent for that time?
“I’m crazy about Flashback…uh, I mean, Flashdance, because of
the dancing, and as you know, I’m a P.E. teacher. I also like
Ghostbusters. Karate Kid’s another favorite of mine. I love it
because Danny gets to see Japan. Wasn’t it just awesome when
Danny climbed up that power grid to save his Japanese girl friend’s
life?”
Everyone fell silent. “Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, Mrs.
Franks,” Joe said. “We all saw Karate Kid and all the action was
filmed here in California.”
Cindy blushed. “Oh, I forgot, Mr. Girard. I’ve got a friend who
knows somebody in show business, and he showed me sneak
previews of Karate Kid 2, which will be released in a year or so.
Silly me, don’t like to brag.”
Rusty coughed. “Ya know, I heard Back to the Future is comin’
out soon. That’ll be awesome, watchin’ Marty rocket back 30 years
in time. Wish I could do that too!”
“Wow! Can’t wait!” Sandy agreed. “But seriously, can you
imagine, flying back in time to meet your own parents when they’re
still young!”
Cindy swallowed hard. “Still young!” her Dad playfully roared.
“Sandy, that’s a cheap shot!”
“If you keep your heart young, Sandy, you’re young forever,”
Cindy said. “Actually, being a bit older has its advantages. No final
exams, no zits…”
“Like that creep Barney Bristol’s got,” Sandy laughed.
“Ugh, Sandy,” Cindy said. “Let’s not mention their names right
now.”
“Now if I ran that school,” Joe said, “Barney Bristol and gang
would get banished to Devil’s Island.”

The meal was delicious. Cindy laid her fork down before her
younger self did. Sandy begged for just one more portion of
potatoes and gravy.
“My metabolism’s slower now,” said Cindy, but my family food
bill still hits $200 a week. I mean, it did before Edgar…I mean, Mr.

51
Franks and I, went our separate ways. But we are making every
effort to patch things up.”
Her mom nodded shyly. Her dad asked, “If you don’t mind my
asking, Mrs. Franks, is that why you don’t wear a wedding band?”
“Joe…” Alice frowned.
“That’s okay, Mrs. Girard,” Cindy said. “It’s just I’m allergic to
wearing metals. I keep it somewhere else.” Actually, Cindy didn’t
wear rings as a safety precaution, just in case she had to do hard
hand strikes.
“Do you have children, Mrs. Franks, and are they with their
father?” Alice asked.
“Yes, ma’am.” I’ve got two kids, Jake, 16, and Jasmine, 14.
Right now they’re visiting their dad’s relatives over in Germany, ah…
West Germany! When they get back they’ll come stay with me.”
“What part of West Germany, Mrs. Franks?” Joe asked.
“Dresden, I think. Edgar, he’s got relatives all over that country.
Edgar’s just three generations removed from whatever boat they all
came on.”
“Poor Dresden,” Edgar said absently, equally ignorant of the fact
Dresden was in East Germany, not west. “That place got blasted to
bits in World War II.” Before more questions could be asked about
her husband’s genealogy their phone rang. Joe got up to answer it.
Cindy felt a sense of foreboding. She wadded her paper napkin
in her fist.
“Yeah?” Joe said. “So what, Mrs. Buzzard…I mean, Bullard? If
your boy got beaten up, my Sandy didn’t do it, so don’t come cryin’
to us.”
“Mr. Girard?” Cindy whispered, getting up. “Sorry to intrude, but
I work there and I know all the teachers, so maybe I could help.”
Joe gnashed his teeth and handed her the phone. “Yes?” Cindy
hissed.
“Who is this?” the voice on the other end demanded.
“Cindy Franks, the new P.E. teacher. I came over to meet
Sandy’s parents.”
“Mrs. Franks,” the other woman said stiffly, “this is Nancy
Bullard. You know, Brad’s mother?”
“Hello, Mrs. Bullard. How may we help you?” Cindy scrunched
her nose.
“Don’t suppose you’ve heard, but my son got beaten up by
some masked thug while waiting for the school bus. Sandy Girard
was one of the witnesses.”
Cindy reddened. “Oh, but she was more than a witness, Mrs.
Bullard. Other witnesses told me your son was hassling Sandy and
he was gonna rip up her books when some brave hero stepped in to
stop him. Brad had a gang of big, loudmouthed thugs with him.
How fair was that, a whole gang terrorizing two defenseless girls,
those same kids who’ve been allowed to get by with such behavior

52
for the past two years! Why didn’t anyone raise hell about that!”
She was shouting by now.
“Mrs. Franks,” said Mrs. Bullard coldly, “the attacker is said to be
Sandy’s cousin, who attends Capstone High School. The police are
going to be investigating the incident. Now kindly hand the phone
back to Mr. Girard, please.”
“Not on your life, madam,” Cindy hissed. “That poor man’s been
through enough. I know what’s been going on in that principal’s
office. Secret agents have collected a mountain of evidence on you
two. If you involve the police or breathe one more word to
intimidate Sandy or her family or try to make trouble ever again, I’ll
be on Mr. Trent’s doorstep in a flash and tell his wife everything.
Did you know they made a prenuptial agreement that if either of
them commits adultery, the other partner gets 90% of the assets in
a divorce, and even if you steal Mr. Trent from her, he won’t have
two nickels to rub together?”
“I didn’t know that, no.”
“Mrs. Bullard, how much do you value your teaching career?”
“Are you threatening me, Franks?” the other woman barked.
“Bullard, all I know is, if you bother me, Sandy, or her family
ever again, the PacMan Mob will blast your career all the way up to
the Blogosphere.”
Mrs. Bullard’s eyes went round with fright. “What’s the
Blogosphere?”
“A place of terrible nightmares you can never, ever get out of.
Good night, sleep tight, Bullard!” Cindy slammed the phone down
and smiled sweetly.
“Wow!” Rusty yelped. “Mrs. Franks sure can kick butt!”
“Rusty!” his mother scolded. “Mind your manners!”
“This calls for a celebration!” Joe exclaimed. “Vanilla shakes on
the house.”
“Mrs. Franks,” he whispered worriedly, “you really got mob
connections?”
Cindy smiled. “Only in your dreams, Mr. Girard. Sometimes
you’ve gotta bluff a bully away. Bullies are like lice that get in your
hair and don’t let go.”
Cindy enjoyed the rest of her visit. Doris and Sandy told their
dad they’d already done their homework before Mrs. Franks arrived,
so they could stay and enjoy the company.
Milkshakes were served. Little sister Doris brought her treasured
sticker album and showed off her favorites. Joe and Alice noticed
how close Cindy sat next to her, the way her eyes fogged up again.
Her hay fever must be bad.
Rusty got banished to his room to do his math homework. With
a look of self-pity he trudged upstairs. Cindy looked longingly after
him, though she’d never been as close to him as to Doris.

53
“There’s my silver unicorn,” Doris pointed. And the diamond
rainbow.”
“I just love rainbows,” Cindy said wistfully. “Whenever it rains,
the rainbow comes to celebrate the end of it.”
Joe chuckled. “Except this is a mighty dry area, Mrs. Franks.
Lots of farmers appreciate the rain. No rain, no crops.” He went to
get a glass of water.
“Weather’s kind’a weird in the Bay Area,” Cindy said. “The place
feels damp most of the time but you don’t get much more rain there
than here.”
“It’s already short sleeve season,” Joe called from the kitchen.
“Can’t stand summers here. Modesto gets hotter’n hell!”
“Joe! Your language!” his wife rebuked.
“Well, Alice, it does.”
“I don’t like to wear short sleeves,” Sandy said, “since I had my
operations. But it gets so hot here you can’t help it.”
Cindy gave her a pleading look. “I feel cold any time of year, Mr.
Girard…because I’m thin.” Hopefully she’d be gone before summer.
In a flash it all came back to her. Sandy’s self-harming had been
very traumatizing for her mother, who discovered her bleeding in
the bathroom. But thankfully, her younger siblings had been in bed
asleep at the time. After Sandy was rushed to the hospital, her
parents had simply explained to six-year-old Doris and nine-year-
old Rusty that after they went to bed Sandy had carried a big mirror
into the bathroom to help do her hair. She had slipped on puddles
left from her shower and landed on the floor, breaking the mirror
and cutting her arms as she fell. To help substantiate the alibi Joe
had taken a large mirror from their closet and smashed it up in the
back yard, then shown the children its remains with a stern warning
to always handle glass with caution.
Fearing others wouldn’t buy that lie, a more elaborate fib had
been concocted to satisfy any further curiosity about Sandy’s
extensive cuts and scars. Rusty and Doris just assumed Sandy had
unlucky arms and let it go at that. After the incident Sandy’s dad
had given her an explicit warning that if she ever tried that stunt
again she’d be put in the nut house, an even scarier joint than
Hogwood High. A place inhabited by fruitcake shrinks waving
butterfly nets. A grim choice, Cindy reflected, the proverbial rock
and hard place.
Cindy was thrilled to see Pepper bounding in from the utility
room, making a beeline for her lap. She laughed and held the dog.
Her perfume made her smell different from Sandy. But the dog was
no dummy. He knew who she was. He licked her face. She grasped
him tightly as if she didn’t want to let go.
“Odd,” Alice whispered to Joe, looking on from the kitchen. “The
way she’s hugging that dog. Must love animals. Those must be very
expensive clothes, but she isn’t worried about ruining them.”

54
“Mrs. Franks,” Sandy laughed, “I’d almost swear that was your
dog instead of mine. Most of the time Pepper growls at visitors.”
“Oh, look, Mrs. Franks,” Alice fretted. “Pepper shed all over
your pretty skirt. I’ll go get the lint brush. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Girard,” Cindy said cheerfully. “No harm
done. Hey, it’s almost nine. I still haven’t done everything I need
to today. I just moved here. I need to go through the want ads
and find a furnished apartment.”
“Oh,” Joe said, “you need an apartment? Just today one of my
best customers told me he’s got a nice furnished guest house on his
property, which includes use of his garage and free landscaping.
Wally Orbison. Wally wants to rent it out. $350 a month. That’s a
little steep, but…”
“Sounds great, Mr. Girard,” Cindy said happily. She thought of
how high 2012 rents were. “Is it fairly close to Hogwood High?”
“Sure is, about three miles away, on Mystic Circle, just off
Parabola and Ventura.”
Cindy went pale. Parabola and Ventura, the site of the tragic
accident which would occur, unless she prevented it.
“Mrs. Franks,” Sandy asked, “are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Sandy. Just real tired. Mr. Girard, could you please let
your friend know I’m very interested in the apartment if it’s still
available?”
“Will do. I’ll call Wally right now before he puts it in the paper
tomorrow. I’ll put in a good word for you too, Mrs. Franks.” As
he called Wally and praised Mrs. Franks, Alice returned with the
brush and worked on Cindy’s skirt. As she knelt, she glimpsed
Cindy’s arm under her wide sleeve cuff. She held her tongue.
Cindy spoke with Wally on the phone. If she didn’t want to pay
for a motel she could swing by tonight and see the place. If she
liked it she could move in immediately.
“Another thing to celebrate,” Joe said. “Mrs. Franks just might
get a great apartment and Sandy’s got a decent ride to school.”
Absentmindedly Alice said, “Oh! Yes, I’m very pleased for you,
Mrs. Franks. And thank you so much for helping with Sandy. We’ll
forever be in your debt.”
“I’m only too glad to help,” Cindy said.
“Renting from Wally would be much better than signing a long
lease with one of those ripoff rental agencies,” Joe told Cindy. “No
fuss, no red tape. Something breaks, Wally’ll fix it right away.”
Cindy thanked him and put on her jacket.
“We’ve really enjoyed having you, Mrs. Franks,” Joe said. “We’ll
have to see you again in the future.”
Smiling, Cindy said, “Thank you, Mr. Girard. And thank you so
much for your hospitality and the great meal, Mrs. Girard. Best food
I’ve had in ages, absolutely unforgettable.”

55
Alice beamed. “We must plan on doing this again soon. You felt
so home here, you seem like one of the family.”
If only she knew, Cindy thought. “So sweet of you, Mrs. Girard.
But for now, must get my own brand new kitchen up and going…
that is, if I take the place. By the way, I’ll be by around 8 a.m. to
pick Sandy up. I’ll just honk.”
Joe wrote out directions to Wally’s address. “Since it’s so late
Mrs. Franks, want me to tag along in my own car to make sure you
get there okay? Not to scare you, but there’s a few weirdos
prowling these neighborhoods at night.”
“No thanks, Mr. Girard, “it is late and you need to get up for
work tomorrow. I can take care of myself just fine.”
“Wow,” I believe you,” Joe said. “The way you handled that
teacher.”

9
Making a Big Splash

Wally, a heavyset guy in a T-shirt, opened his door to Cindy. He
stuck out his plump hand and pumped Cindy’s smaller one
vigorously. “Hello, Cindy, pleased to meet ya. Joe said you were
new in Modesto.”
“Yes, Wally,” Cindy smiled. “I’m from San Francisco.”
“Good old Frisco. So C’mon in, have a beer, let’s talk turkey.”
They chatted about half an hour. Cindy sipped ginger ale and
successfully fudged questions about her background. Wally took
her out back to see the apartment. It included everything expected
of a furnished pad, even quite a few bonuses. Cindy saw an
answering machine for the phone and a word processor in the
bedroom.
She was impressed. The guest house was sparking clean, well-
kept, very charming. The bed was large and comfy. Clean bedding
lay neatly folded on the dresser. Lace curtains and tasteful paintings
lent a bright, airy atmosphere. Plants hung from beaded macramé
pot holders. All kitchenware was provided. Cindy was delighted to
see a microwave oven and a blender on the counter.
The deal was soon closed. To her utter relief, Cindy wasn’t even
asked to show some I.D. She didn’t even have to sign a lease
because she was a personal friend of the Girards. All she had to do
was pay a hundred-dollar deposit and the first month’s rent. Wally
didn’t even ask for the last month’s rent like most landlords would.
“I can move in tonight,” Cindy said, after paying him in cash.
“It’ll save me shelling out for a motel.”
“You got stuff to move over?” Wally asked. “I got a truck to
help.”
“No need to, Wally. A friend’ll be bringing my junk over later. I
travel light.”

56
Cindy felt refreshed after that long soak in the bath. Clad in a
bathrobe and slippers, she used the blender on the kitchen counter
to whip herself up a Wakasaki Workout Shake, taken once or twice
daily to keep her calories up to a 4,000 minimum. It consisted of
peanut butter, soy milk, protein powder, Brewer’s yeast, honey and
a big banana.
Seated at the little kitchen table, Cindy slowly sipped it. This
place was cozy and comfy, though Cindy felt like she was living in
a museum. The Panasonic analogue TV with its UHF-VHF knobs
would take some getting used to. At least it had a VCR, which Cindy
vaguely remembered how to use. There was a touch tone phone on
the wall.
Cindy yawned. It was already 10:30, late for having to get up
next morning at 6:45, which she usually did to allow for her
morning workout routine. But she couldn’t let too much time elapse
before contacting Madison again. She found her business card and
dialed long distance on the wall phone. Three rings, then an
answer.
“Hello?” a sleepy voice murmured.
“Uh…sorry if I’m disturbing you. Is this Madison? I’m Cindy
Franks, you know, that woman you met on Haight Street yesterday.”
“Oh, Cindy, what a surprise! Yes it is late, but it’s a good thing
you called me. Tomorrow I’m moving to Modesto. I had a
confrontation with that boss I told you about. What a cheapskate!
After ten years working my brains out for him, wouldn’t even give
me a freakin’ raise. Well, I told him what he could do with his job.”
Cindy’s eyes lit up. “You’re…moving to Modesto? Awesome!
That’s where I’m at right now, Madison. I landed a temporary job
at Hogwood High teaching girls’ P.E.”
“Oh, Cindy,” Madison breathed, “that’s wonderful! We’ll
definitely have to meet up sometime this week, for sure.”
“Madison,” Cindy wondered, “do you have a place to stay? I’ve
got a guest house apartment and there’s plenty of room.”
“I don’t even know you that well, Cindy.”
“Then maybe we should spend time getting to know each other.”
“Well, just for a day or two till I get a pad of my own. Thanks.”
“So why’d you pick Modesto, Madison?”
“I never burn my bridges behind me unless there’s another one
waiting. I lined up a job working for a brand new newspaper, The
Modesto Messenger. It’ll be a pay cut at first, since it’s just starting
up. But the boss is so sweet, a friend of a friend. I’m well qualified
in journalism and news flash photography. I’ll be scooting around
here and there, digging up scoops, mainly warm and fuzzy human
interest stories, stuff like that.”
Cindy got an idea. “You know, Madison, I just might have a
scoop for you, in a few days or so. How’d you like to cover a story
about my class?”

57
“No offense, Cindy, and you are a very fascinating person, but
wouldn’t covering a high school class be a bit…dull?”
“I don’t do dull, Madison. You’ll see.”
“We’ll talk it over later. But where do you live, Cindy?”
“Mystic Circle, Number 9b, a little cul de sac just off Ventura and
Parabola. You can’t miss it.”
They talked just a little while later, making a few plans for
Madison’s visit. No sooner had Cindy hung up than “Eye of the
Tiger” went off in her sports bag. Cindy rushed to get it. F.
Wakasaki was on the screen.
“Mr. Wakasaki,” she breathed. “I was gonna call your younger
self, but it’s so late. I’ve got fantastic news.”
“You find place?”
“Better than that. It’s a private guest house with garage. It’s
clean, cozy and furnished. Near the school too. And Madison, this
gal I met in San Francisco, is moving to Modesto too. She’s
becoming a great friend. She’ll be staying with me a couple days till
she finds her own place.”
F. Wakasaki didn’t crack a smile.
“Mr. Wakasaki, you aren’t saying anything. Something wrong?”
“How I call you while other people in house, Sandy-san?”
“There’s a home phone here as well, I could just give you the
number.”
“That no work, only cell phone cross time warp. Lotta times I
need call. Madison might hear.”
Cindy gritted her teeth. Oh boy, what’ll I do now? She thought.
“Mr. Wakasaki, Madison was so sweet to me when I landed in San
Francisco, and she’s moving here to Modesto to take a new job. I
can’t take back my invitation. You don’t do that to nice people.
Friends are so hard to find in this world.”
F. Wakasaki’s look softened. “It dishonorable welsh on hospitality.
You woman, need friend in Modesto. If questions give answer. Your
relative inventor, you test prototype at Hogwood High. Say you use
phone protect niece from bullies. Say it put girl in danger if Madison
tell world about phone or reveal your mission.”
“Great alibi, Mr. Wakasaki. But I will try to keep the little phone
secret.” Little did Cindy know how difficult that would turn out to be.

Time to prepare for her first day on the job. Cindy laid out her gray
shorts and pink blouse, the Hogwood High School colors. Just as
ugly as I remember ‘em, she thought, her nose wrinkling in disgust.
Cindy’s last job of the day was peculiar. She unpacked two
condiment bottles from her shopping bags, one red and one yellow.
She’d also bought two small sink stoppers, carefully measured
before purchase. She filled one bottle with ketchup, the other with
mustard. She plugged each with a sink stopper, then sealed the
edges with Super Glue. When they were set, Cindy turned the

58
bottles over and used an ice pick to bore two small holes in the
bottom of each bottle. She sealed the holes with strong Duck Tape.
It was nearly 1.a.m. before Cindy got to bed. Not much time
left to sleep, but she felt it would be worth it if only she could save
herself some trouble.
Thursday, April 25. Cindy’s heart beat fast when she picked Sandy
up for school next morning. Sandy was wearing the Snoopy T-shirt
which would be attacked today! It was visible under an unzipped
windbreaker. Sandy grinned and got in the front seat.
“Morning, Mrs. Franks, how’s it goin’?”
“Just great, Sandy. So good to see you again. Ready to go get
Kitty?”
Kitty lived just a few blocks away, on La Guerra Drive. She was
outside waiting when Cindy drove up, smiling in her usual shy way.
“Good morning, Mrs. Franks. Thank you so much for picking me up,”
she said.
“My pleasure, Kitty,” Cindy smiled. If only Kitty knew who this
was.
“Oh, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy asked, “can I go back there with
Kitty?”
“Sure, Sandy, go ahead. I’ll just be your chauffeur.” Her eyes
misted as the two girls sat in back, chattering away. How she
missed that part of her youth.
Cindy sailed through her first three periods. At nine she taught
ninth-grade Girls’ P.E. At ten she coached the girls’ varsity
basketball team, which she loved. Lethargic Mrs. Bullard grudgingly
admitted she was glad to be rid of the task. She preferred teaching
a more controversial P.E. course, formerly taught by a woman who
got fired because she didn’t have enough experience in the subject
to keep the kids stimulated.
At eleven Cindy taught one tenth-grade girls’ P.E. class, while
Mrs. Bullard was in Mr. Trent’s office planning extracurricular
activities. Unlike her, Cindy made her classes worth attending. She’d
purchased a few popular rock albums to play during class on the
boom box provided by the school. Twisted Sister, Survivor, Prince,
and Bruce Springsteen kept the girls hopping and bopping, made
the time fly as Cindy put them through their paces. At 11:30 she
told the girls to just get dressed and finish the period by taking her
handouts and reading them in the library. For the first time ever
they hated to leave P.E. early.
Each time Cindy had brought the subject of her bracelets up
herself, knowing the girls would naturally be curious. She repeated
the tall tale that she wore them to conceal scars from an operation
to correct muscular dysmorphia. And yes, it was hereditary, not
contagious. The girls didn’t appear to suspect the dark truth, at
least not yet. They had warmed to Cindy immediately. They loved
her class because she enjoyed her work and made movement fun.

59
Mrs. Franks taught by example instead of standing still with a
clipboard and yelling at them.
I’ve had my fun, Cindy thought, now for the ugly part. Hate to
do this but they’ll bring it on themselves. Having made the extra
time, she locked herself in her little office, then got the condiment
bottles out of her bag. She peeled the Duck Tape off the bottoms
and gently plugged up the little holes with matching red and yellow
stickers. Cindy put on a pair of stonewashed jeans, then a neon
windbreaker and pale brown afro wig, topped off with a Crocodile
Dundee hat, other items purchased for her by Wakasaki. She laid
the condiment bottles lengthwise against her abdomen, then
tightened the jacket’s drawstring around her waist.
Cindy hid her sports bag in her private locker, making sure the
combination was written down and securely stored in a plastic
pouch concealed in her zippered shoe, just in case she forgot it.
She put on a big pair of Ray Ban sunglasses. After peeping out into
the hallway she locked her office, put her keys in her purse, then
stuffed it in a green army backpack. She headed to the lunchroom.
Cindy could only pull this off smoothly if she got to that table
first. She checked her watch, knowing no one would dare sit in that
spot but her old archenemies, Kirsten Crabtree, Sabrina Warren,
and their pals. It was 11:57. Good, 11:00 lunch was over, and
12:00 lunch was just beginning. There weren’t that many people
seated yet. She blended in well. No one seemed to be paying any
particular attention to her as she approached the table facing the
big window which overlooked the pathway to the racetrack.
Crabtree and her pals loved to stare out at the track jocks, who’d
always wave back at them. Cindy checked to make sure no one
noticed her from the front, then crouched over the table.
Deftly she switched the condiment bottles, pulling her doctored-
up ones out from the bottom of her jacket and hurriedly stuffing the
others in it. As kids started pouring in she slipped out the building
and hid behind a tree.
Right on schedule. Sandy and Kitty went in, bringing home-
packed lunches because they hated “barfout” school food. Besides,
if they waited in the food line and all the tables got taken no one
would let them sit down and they’d have to eat outside and get
stared at. Once they got their milk they sat down in the same area
Cindy remembered.

12:02 p.m. Cindy saw Kirsten and Sabrina going in. This is going
to be priceless, thought Cindy. She just had to watch. Making sure
no one saw her, she pulled off her disguise and hid the items in her
green backpack, then pulled a large plastic shopping bag out of it,
along with her purse. She hid the backpack in the bag and put her
purse on her arm. Now Cindy was clad in the same jeans, plus a
Hogwood High T-shirt with a whistle dangling from her neck.

60
Nonchalantly she entered the lunchroom, then slowly walked to a
spot where she could get a good view but from a safe distance.
Cindy felt sure of victory but immediately picked up on Little
Sandy’s sick-all-over fear.
Nervously, barely daring to shift her eyes, Sandy nudged Kitty.
“Oh, no,” she whispered timidly. “Crabtree and Warren are coming.”
Brad Bullard’s pals were inching over too, closing in for the kill.
“Thought you might want some mustard and ketchup on your
food,” the two mean girls sang in unison. One stood behind Sandy,
the other behind Kitty. Kitty felt Kirsten’s bushy ponytail brush
against her cheek. Dead silence. Then the bullies pointed the
condiment bottles at them and squirted with all their might. The
mustard and ketchup took the path of least resistance and sprayed
out the weakly sealed holes in the back of the bottles. The goo
splattered all over Kirsten and Sabrina. They screamed.
“Gross!” Sabrina wailed. “Mustard all over my Madonna top!”
“Oh, s***! My best crop top!” Kirsten screamed. “Giraffe, I’m
gonna kill you for that!”
Cindy blew her whistle loud. She stalked over, angrily. “Hold it
right there, you two! You’ll do no such thing, Kirsten! I saw what
you guys tried to do to these two girls and it just backfired on you!
If you ever try a stunt like that again I’ll report you to the principal!”
Bullard’s pals picked on Sandy and Kitty all the time but they
couldn’t help laughing at their partners in crime.
“Whose side are you on, you grody ho-bag!” Sabrina yelled,
running to hit one of the boys.
“I bet Chad did it!” Kirsten accused the lanky jock. “You’re
gonna pay for my crop top! It cost twenty bucks! You better pay I’ll
sick my brother on you!”

61
“Knock it off!” Cindy yelled, waving her hands. “Each of you go
back to your tables and behave yourselves or I’ll tell Mr. Trent!”
Kirsten gave her a malignant look. “Why bother? Old Man
Trent’s a joke. He won’t do nothin’ to us, you old b****. He’s too
busy doin’ it with old Bullard.”
Cindy glared, hands on hips. Everybody was looking at her to
see what she’d do. Cindy would not lay a hand on her without
physical provocation. “Mr. Trent might be no saint but I’ll tell your
parents if he doesn’t discipline you.”
“Now you see here, Mrs. Franks,” Sabrina chimed in, “like,
you’re new here, y’see, and you don’t know how we operate at
Hogwood High. Don’t go throwin’ your weight around at us!”
Cindy was glad Wakasaki had trained her to keep a cool head.
At that moment Ken Codgins, a football coach in his late 40’s,
appeared. “Trouble here?” he frowned.
“I hate to squeal on these young ladies,” Cindy said, “but they
had an accident with the mustard and ketchup bottles and are
taking it out on Sandy and Kitty, who had nothing to do with it.
When I reprimanded them they mouthed off at me, just because
I’m new here.”
Arms folded, Ken smiled reproachfully at the girls and demanded
if it were so.
“Well, what if it is true?” sassy Kirsten said, fearing she’d lose
face in front of her friends. “My dad is vice president of the West
Fargo Bank. I don’t have to listen to you, Coach ‘codger’. You ho-
bag hoser! You old f***! You half-a**ed athlete.”

62
“That should earn you two weeks’ suspension,” the coach said,
matter-of-factly.
Kirsten felt all eyes on her. Her pals looked up to her. She
mustn’t appear weak. She balled up her tiny fists and looked at
him as if he were a maggot.
She snarled that timeless 80’s teenage curse: “Eat s*** and
die.”
Dead silence. No one sipped or chewed. Most of the bullies
sided with her. Kirsten was widely known as one of Hogwood High’s
dominant bullies who bossed her own girl gang. If Kirsten
commanded them to give Coach Codgins grief, they’d do it just for
her. But the better kids, especially the boys who had Ken for a
teacher, knew he was an excellent coach and deserved some
respect. They stared coldly at Kirsten.
“I don’t care if your daddy’s the king of Timbuktu,” Ken said, hot
under the collar. “Kirsten, Sabrina, come with me to the office right
now!”
Sabrina saw the barely restrained fury in Cindy’s eyes. Terror
gripped her. “Mrs. Franks,” she whimpered, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it
again.”
Cindy’s face softened. “Go sit down, Sabrina. Just go eat your
lunch and we’ll forget this ever happened. Okay?”
“Mrs. Franks, is it okay if I go to the bathroom and wash out my
top?”
“Sure, go on.”
Meanwhile, Kirsten was spouting off at the coach, protesting
she knew her rights and the principal was a big fat horse’s a* * who
couldn’t lay a finger on her. “Mr. Trent, he don’t give a s***. He’s a
girlie-man, he ain’t gonna do nothin’,” she taunted, swiveling her
hips. “My old man’s got clout and he’ll buy him off.”
“Then that’ll be bad publicity for him, won’t it?” the coach
shrugged. “A rich man using money and influence to disrupt
discipline at Hogwood High. If Mr. Trent doesn’t do his duty, I’ll
notify all the newspapers. Let’s go, Kirsten. Hey, where’s Sabrina?”
“She apologized, Coach, and I sent her to the bathroom to clean
the mess off her top,” Cindy said.
“Well, half a victory is better than none,” Ken said. “Let’s go,
Kirsten.”
Kirsten turned and stuck out a candy-coated tongue as she was
led away to face her fate.
Cindy got some gooey lasagna from the cafeteria, then sat down
with two friendly-looking teachers. She’d eaten most of it when Ken
joined them.
“What a little hellcat, Cindy,” he complained, unwrapping his
Subway ham hero. He held out his hand. “Hey, I haven’t introduced
myself. I’m Ken Codgins. I coach football and baseball, though
most kids these days prefer video games.”

63
“How’d you know my name, Ken?” Cindy asked.
“Everybody knows you by now, Cindy. You haven’t been here a
full day and all the girls are so excited about your classes.”
“In a good way, I hope,” Cindy said demurely. “Thanks for your
moral support. I didn’t expect such defiance from a student, and I
tower over most of them.”
“So educate me, teacher,” Ken said. “What the hell is a ‘hoser’?”
Cindy shrugged. “Probably somebody with his nose on straight.”
“It’s no picnic teaching these kids,” grumbled Rosa Marrtinez, a
Spanish teacher.
“I take medication for migraines every night after work,” Millie
Chandler, a science teacher put in. “No sane individual teaches
teenagers. How do you teach a bunch of deadheads who don’t want
to learn?”
Ken grinned. “Wish I knew. Anyhow, here’s all the dirt on
Kirsten. Turns out the girl was bluffing about her dad, which I sort
of suspected anyway. He’s not in the banking business, but the…
ah…pharmaceutical trade.”
“He pushes drugs?” Cindy breathed, feigning shock.
“For the moment, no. He’s in the state pen now. Her mom got
so lonesome she made friends with every rich businessman in the
area. So that’s how Kirsten gets her trendy clothes.”
Cindy felt sorry for Kirsten and how others shaped her life so
negatively. She’d abused others to shore up her own rep. Still, her
kind of behavior couldn’t be tolerated in a place where other kids
wanted to learn in peace. School staff must not be left at the mercy
of incorrigible students. Cindy reflected that someday many
teachers would be physically assaulted at school because kids knew
they could get away with it. And Sandy and Kitty shouldn’t have to
pay for the sins of Kirsten’s dysfunctional parents.
“So what happened to her, Ken?” Cindy asked.
“When I threatened to quit before the big baseball tournament
Trent punished Kirsten for foul play. She got suspended till school’s
out. If she ever pulls a stunt like that again she’ll be banned from
every school in the district. She’s bound to fail unless she makes it
up this summer. But she brought that on herself.”
Gone till I’m gone, Cindy thought. Yay. One less enemy to worry
Little Sandy. But bullies were like household pests, she realized.
They multiplied and made life miserable unless you isolated them
from decent people. Dream on.
Just then Cindy felt someone brushing past the back of her chair.
A cold chill ran up her spine. She looked up into Mrs. Bullard’s hard
hatchet face. “Just thought I’d let you know, Franks,” she said
breezily. “Brad’s a bit better. Stayed home today with a couple of
wrenched muscles. He’s so sore he can barely walk. Don’t worry,
though, we’ll catch the perpetrator. Don’t even need the police,
‘cause I’ve got a few ‘Blinkys’ and ‘Speedys’ to track down that

64
pesky PacMan monster and gobble him up. Nice hunk you got
there.” She ruffled Ken’s hair and sauntered away.
A new problem. Did that woman really have a gang at her
disposal or was she just bluffing? Cindy wondered if she should
contact Mr. Wakasaki soon and get his input. Madison was coming
tomorrow and Cindy didn’t want to start their visit off on a
downbeat note.
Ken broke her reverie. “She doesn’t seem to like you much,
Cindy. But hey, that’s nothing new. Nancy Bullard is nobody’s
friend and I don’t know what kind of person would even want her
friendship.”
Rosa Martinez giggled. “Mr. Trent, he sure does love her, doesn’t
he?”
“I’ll say.” Millie made a face. “A match made in hell.”
“I had her son Brad for P.E. last year,” Ken moaned. What a
prima donna. Spouted off at me because some other guy made star
quarterback, not him. He got two week’s detention. There’s no
room on my team for sore losers.”
Cindy’s 1:00 class, eleventh-grade girls’ P.E., would be next, then
the final day’s duty would be her volleyball coaching, her favorite.
As she entered the gym she immediately noticed how many of the
girls stared at her. Cindy asked if it was because of her bracelets.
“No, Mrs. Franks,” one of them said. “We saw what happened in
the cafeteria, the way you stood up to Kirsten Crabtree. Nobody’s
ever had the guts to do that before.”
Cindy smiled coyly. “Sometimes you’ve gotta do things you
don’t really enjoy. The longer you put off an unpleasant job the
harder it gets. So are you guys curious about why I wear these
bracelets?”
“Everybody already knows,” someone said. “Nothing ever stays
secret at Hogwood High.”
Cindy felt uneasy about that. She harbored the biggest secret of
all.

10
Choosing Sides

Friday, April 26. Almost time to go pick up the girls, but Cindy dialed
her wall phone. She was relieved to catch P. Wakasaki in his office
before he must go teach beginner’s karate.
As he spoke a curt greeting Cindy wished she could see him like
she could on her cell phone. Only the other Wakasaki was equipped
for multi-dimensional cell phone communication across time and
space.
Cindy told him she’d slept on it and thought their tentative idea
was a good one. P. Wakasaki agreed it just might help put a few
proud students in their place and lift the self-esteem of others.

65
“You need be sneaky, Sandy-san. If tell truth, principal no allow.
He find out later you get fired.”
“Mr. Wakasaki, ordinarily I wouldn’t go out of my way to get fired
from a brand new job. But the final entry of Sandy’s notebook is
Saturday, May 11. If I don’t make it back to 2012 any time soon,
I’ll just work as some celebrity’s personal trainer.”
“No, you come work here. Okay, Sandy-san, I get ball rolling. I
call later. Sayonara.”
Cindy picked the girls up in time. “I’ve got something special in
store for P.E.,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
“Not square dancing, I hope,” Kitty said.
“Better than that. We choose sides for basketball.”
Neither girl looked happy about that. “Please, Mrs. Franks,”
Sandy moaned, “we always get picked last, just to make us look
stupid!”
“Sandy, Kitty, don’t have a cow! I’ve got a plan. In a few days
you’ll know why I’m doing this. I can’t tell you guys now or the
others will worm it out of you and my surprise’ll be spoiled. Chill
out. Just play along with me and everything’ll turn out cool.” She
turned her head with a reassuring smile.
“So who did Mrs. Gunther always ask to choose sides?” Cindy
asked, though she knew.
“Lacy Gillis and Glenda Mumford,” Kitty grumbled. “Why can’t
we be the ones to choose, Mrs. Franks?”
“’Cause if I did let you guys choose, you wouldn’t like me one bit
in a few days. Trust me. Don’t worry, be happy! Stay optimistic!
People who choose bad bats can’t hit the balls life sends their way.”
I’m gonna give those girls a taste of their own medicine, Cindy
thought.
“Those other girls really give us the treatment,” Sandy
grumbled.
“You’ll pull through this, Sandy, of course you will,” Cindy
consoled. “Things will turn out great. There’s a special reward for
those who are patient. Must stay positive.”

“Edgar,” Dr. Crumley said, as Edgar searched Sandy’s face for signs
of life. “Trust me. Don’t worry.”
“It’s awful hard not to worry, doctor. Her head took a bad rap
and she must be in pain.”
Sandy reposed, her breathing regular, digital monitors overhead,
IV’s dripping glucose into her veins. Her expressionless face
betrayed nothing of the conflicts she’d fought, or those which lay
ahead. A nurse jotted on a chart and attached it to the foot of her
bed.
“Sandy hasn’t tasted food in days,” Edgar worried, as he touched
her sharp profile. “Please doctor, say something positive.”

66
Dr. Crumley sighed. “We men of medicine always try to be
optimistic. I know there’s not much to be happy about right now,
Edgar,” the doctor said, laying his hand on his shoulder. “but there’s
a great specialist in the ward, and the treatment they choose will
pull our patient through.”
Cindy sank eager teeth into a big turkey hero, piled high with
sprouts and provolone cheese. Mama Capelli’s was a topnotch mom
& pop lunch spot, serving great food at painless prices. The little
eatery was charming, with red-checked tablecloths, al fresco tables,
zesty smells. Terra cotta planters spilled over with gorgeous
blossoms. Cindy couldn’t remember the last time she’d bought a
big sandwich, Tuscany bean soup and raspberry tea for just $5.99.
Life in the past had its perks.
“Thanks for treating me, Cindy,” said Rosa Martinez. “Beats a
burger joint every time, doesn’t it?”
“I’ve gotta try and eat healthier,” Cindy said. “Try and get in my
five a day.”
Rosa and Ken exchanged quizzical looks.
“Oh, what I meant is, nutritional experts advise everyone to eat
five portions of fruit and veggies every day,” Cindy said.
Ken laughed. “Psych! Take cover, everyone! George Orwell’s
1985 is upon us, and Big Brother’s monitoring every bite we eat!”
“It would wear those guys out to count my bites,” Cindy
laughed. Once Ken and Rosa had finished their food she sighed, “Oh
well, all good things have gotta come to an end. Better scoot on
back to school for my 1:00 class.”
Just as expected, Sandy and Kitty were chosen last by the team
captains. Instead of seeming sad about it they just looked at each
other and shrugged as they joined opposite teams.
Sandy overheard snobby Heidi Meyers snicker to her friend
Linsey: “No wonder it doesn’t bother them. They know their place
now. Hmmmph!”
“The dweebs,” Linsey tittered. Sandy overheard, gnashed her
teeth. Cindy felt Sandy’s rankling rage, suppressed behind her
habitually shy face.
Cindy held up her hand. “Class, before we begin our practice
I’ve got a special announcement to make. As the team captains
chose sides, I kept track of the final four chosen. And they are, in
no particular order: “Maria Sanchez, Autumn Forrester, Kitty
Hawkins, and Sandy Girard.”
Dryly she added, “My assumption is, the team captains chose
these girls last because they need to improve their physical skills.
So I’m offering these girls a special opportunity to participate in
one of my special projects, my Physical Coordination Workshop. It’ll
be a two-day field trip to San Jose. This event will take place from
Wednesday, May 8 to Thursday, May 9, when we’ll be returning in

67
the evening. This short seminar will be conducted by Mrs. Su Wan
Koto, an aerobics instructor, at the Bonsai Learning Center.
“Now this workshop is not compulsory, but all who participate
are guaranteed an ‘A’ grade at the end of this school year. All your
meals will be provided and we’ll be staying at a nice hotel. And,
this workshop will be a unique opportunity to explore new and
challenging ways to develop greater agility and hand-eye
coordination in playing sports.”
“Now,” Cindy asked, “how many of you four would like to go on
this field trip with me? Raise your hand. This special offer will not
be repeated after today.”
Sandy and Kitty’s hands immediately shot up. Autumn and
Maria looked around to see if their few friends disapproved, then
forced their hands up.
“Good,” Cindy smiled. “And it won’t just be you guys. I’ll be
picking girls from my other two P.E. classes to join us, which will
make twelve in all, if the others want to go too. We’ll be traveling in
a mini-bus. Now be sure to bring your Walkmans along so you can
enjoy the scenery. After class I’ll hand out permission slips for your
parents to sign.”
Cindy heard three very loud coughs coming from the rear of the
class.
She remembered. This one incident hadn’t been recorded, but
the coughs jogged her memory.
“Sandy, duck!” she cried, doing so herself.
Sandy did duck, simultaneously. Barely a second later, a small
rock whizzed over her head. The girl standing in front of her wore
her hair in big bushy ponytails on both sides of her head. The rock
grazed her right ponytail. “You b****!” she yelled, unsure who
threw it.
“Heidi!” Cindy scolded. “How dare you throw rocks in my class!
You march straight to the principal’s office right now!”
“You didn’t see me do it,” Heidi grinned.
Heidi felt creepy all over when Mrs. Franks’ penetrating gaze
caught her eye.
“Yes, I did!” Cindy cried. “You threw it because you’re sore about
Kirsten getting kicked out of school and you’re taking it out on
Sandy! Well, Sandy had nothing to do with it. Kirsten was the one
who tried to start a fight. When Coach Codgins got on her case
about it, she cussed him out. That’s why she got kicked out of
school!”
A couple girls exchanged dumbfounded stares. “Like, this is so
f****in’ spooky!” said one. “How the hell did old lady Franks know
Heidi was throwin’ the rock? Man, I know she couldn’t see it from
where she’s at.”
Her friend shrugged. “Maybe she’s got psycho powers. There’s
something weird about that woman.”

68
“I know what you’re thinking, Heidi,” Cindy said, remembering
the taunts Heidi hurled at her after throwing the rock on that
particular day so many years before, while some substitute teacher
pretended not to notice. “You’re wrong about a certain individual
being a ‘skinny skeleton skank’. Why don’t you go look in the
mirror before you say bad things about other people?”
Heidi gripped her face in shock. “This is so unreal! I didn’t even
say it yet!”
“But you were gonna say it, Heidi!” Cindy said, hands on hips.
“Some folks read books, I read people. I know all about that hairy
tarantula you’re planning to bring Sandy tomorrow.”
That freaked Heidi out. She hadn’t breathed a word to any
living soul about that spider. She’d bought it yesterday when she
was out shopping alone, which popular Heidi hardly ever was. It
had to be top, top secret so the prank could be pulled with a
straight face.
“Stress me out the door to the max!” Heidi screamed. She ran
out of the gym door as fast as her feet could carry her, chased by
laughs and wisecracks about her acting so “s****ing bricks”
nervous. Maybe a stogie would help. So off she ran to the
bathroom. Even if she got caught smoking, old man Trent wouldn’t
take it seriously. Afraid the class might tease her too, Linsey
followed her.
The rest of the class ran rather smoothly, except for a couple
girls who squabbled over an intercepted basketball.

Around six that evening, F. Wakasaki paged Cindy on her cell phone.
He laughed when she told him how she’d foiled Heidi’s attacks.
“Girl reap what she sow,” he said. Now we laugh. But know
opponent’s strengths, not weaknesses only, Sandy-san. Chase tiger
away with rock, he madder when he come back. Wise warrior swap
olive branch for thorn branch when tiger eat dove of peace. Nobody
like to fight stickers. Better scare opponent away than fight.”
“Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy breathed, “you’ve been to the hospital.
Am I any better?”
His expression neutral he said, “Exercise, drink lotta water, drink
workout shakes and eat way I teach you. Focus life force from
dream dimension into body. Soul touch body and body touch soul.
I call back later. Sayonara.”
“Mr. Wakasaki…” she began, but he was gone.
F. Wakasaki waited in the hospital corridor for further developments
on Sandy-san’s condition. He felt his age tonight, his eyes hollow
from fitful sleep. The little man knew he was getting no younger
and must take better care of himself to prevent his powers from
deteriorating. He must fight this dragon of insomnia, for his own
sake and that of others who depended on him to be strong for
them. F. Wakasaki sensed Sandy-san’s physical weakness, her

69
utter weariness of having enemies to contend with. But he also
knew she had guts and grit. In that faraway land of dreams Sandy-
san was still a mighty warrior. Their conversations across time and
space boosted his spirits. Sandy-san would do everything in her
power to triumph for Little Sandy.
Cautiously he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a
jeweled case. He opened it. The Broken Rainbow of Peace
shimmered under the fluorescent light. Its Blue Arc of Tranquility
outshone the other hues. Ah, he thought, Sandy-san now has a
moment of rest and peace. There will come a time when the Red
Arc of War will glow more brightly. Bitten by its own brutality, the
tiger will run in circles and chase its own tail.

Cindy felt restless. If she kept busy it wouldn’t hurt as much to be
away from Edgar and the kids. She bustled about, preparing her
own room for Madison’s visit. Madison had just phoned to let her
know she’d arrive in an hour. Cindy would crash on the sofa bed,
which she didn’t mind because it was closer to the kitchen phone.
Cindy set out the coffee maker and a plate of sugar-free cookies
from the health food store. If Madison was like most other women,
she was weight-conscious, even if she was already gorgeous.
The doorbell rang. Cindy hurried to look through the peephole.
Sure enough, she saw the beaming face of her old acquaintance.
“Hi! C’mon in!” Cindy gushed. “Have any trouble finding the
place?”
“Not too much, Cindy,” Madison replied. “Hey, what have you
done to your hair? I like it.”
“Just thought I’d try a different color, been a redhead all my
life,” Cindy said.
Madison’s eyes darted around. “Hey, this is a great place you’ve
found for yourself. Hope I’m not putting you out.”
“Not at all,” Cindy said. “I appreciate the company. Just bring
your stuff back here to the bedroom and I’ll take the couch.”
“You sure? That’s awful nice of you, Cindy.”
The two of them had a wonderful time at the kitchen table,
getting to know each other better. Madison’s black hair was still a
big mass of feathered waves. However, she had ditched her “dress
for success” garb. She wore a floral mini-dress, black leggings and
laced-up boots.
“Just call me the weekend hippie,” Madison laughed. “I get
tired of being told thirty-something women are too old to dress in
fun clothes.”
“You’re never too old to be yourself,” Cindy said. “When you’re
out of the office, the real you emerges. As for me, you can take me
out of the gym, but you can’t take the gym out of me. Me, in my
faithful tennies and sweat pants.”

70
“Oh well, neither of us looks like an office fixture,” Madison
laughed. “You’ll never guess how different I used to be from what I
am now.”
“How different?” Cindy was very curious.
“Actually I grew up in the solidly conservative heartland of
America. Nebraska, believe it or not! Well, in 1968 I joined the
anti-war movement and my parents freaked out. So I joined a
vanload of hippies and ran away to San Francisco! You’ll never
believe how spacey that van looked, Cindy. Painted up in
kaleidoscope colors, with bald tires the cops kept bugging us about.
I had long, shiny hair down to my waist. We wore wild clothes,
slept under the stars in the woods, cooked over an open fire.”
“Did you have any hippie boyfriends, Madison?”
“Did I ever, but I kept it platonic. Didn’t want to end up like
some of my friends, getting abortions, or worse. And contrary to all
that sentimental schmalz about the “Summer of Love”, it had its
downside. Most young people who ran away to Frisco couldn’t make
it there, survived on grub from food banks and soup kitchens.
Yeah, we lived off the land but it wasn’t always nice.”
“Did you end up going back to your parents, Madison?”
Madison hung her head. “Couldn’t,” she said thickly. “My dad
hated me because I hated the war in Viet Nam, and my brother
Drew was a Marine fighting over there. Everybody in our
respectable little town thought I was a traitor for hating a war
waged on people who had never attacked us.”
“I always held the same viewpoint on Viet Nam,” Cindy
admitted. “But I never could tell my dad how I felt about it, either.
But know what? I betcha someday men in high places are gonna
admit the Viet Nam War was a huge mistake and never should have
been fought.”
“When hell freezes over,” Madison said.
Little do you know, Cindy thought. I lived to see that day. Did
you and your dad ever make up, Madison?”
She shrugged. “Sort of. Dad and I, we reached an
uncomfortable truce. He swore he’d die defending the Viet Nam
War but promised Mom he’d try and understand my need to follow
my own conscience. But I never went back till that damn war was
over.”
“So how did you survive in Frisco, Madison?”
“My mom, bless her soul, arranged for me to stay with my Aunt
Rose, who just happened to live in Frisco. I got my G.E.D. there,
then I took journalism courses while I worked at a few deadend
jobs. But hey, I’m here, and I made it, Cindy!”
“That makes me happy to no end, Madison! You’re cracking that
glass ceiling.”
Madison reassured Cindy she’d already eaten dinner. They talked
for hours over hot drinks and snacks. Madison had just “finished a

71
dead-end relationship” with her old flame Tristan. She wasn’t in any
hurry to start any new commitments. She asked Cindy about
Edgar.
“Haven’t heard from him lately,” Cindy sighed.
“Didn’t you say you two have kids?”
Cindy toyed with her coffee cup. “Yeah, two teenagers, Jake
and Jasmine.”
“They’re with their dad?”
“Just for a while, till they get back from West Germany, where
Edgar’s relatives live.”
Madison felt suspicious. “Mmmm…that’s a bit weird, Cindy.
School’s not even out yet, and you say they’re overseas on a
vacation?”
“They’re getting some private tutoring,” Cindy explained, “and
doing curriculum modules to pass to the next grade. It’s been
kind’a hard on Edgar, not getting to be with his kids enough. He’s a
lawyer who travels a lot and hardly ever got to see them. It blew
our relationship apart, the way we live in separate worlds. We
decided he’d get the kids part of the year and the rest of the time
I’d get them. In the meantime, maybe we’ll find a way back to
each other.”
Madison nodded. “Long-distance relationships are hard to do. I
get the feeling there’s a few things you’d prefer not to tell me now,
but I won’t pressure you. Not like I’m nosy, that’s just my ‘prying
eye for news’. I can smell a good story like a cat smells a fish.”
“No problem, Madison. Maybe I’ll have something newsworthy
to tell you later. But right now I’m going through a lot of weird stuff
that not even I understand.”
“Like what? Oops! There I go being the nosy reporter again.”
“I’ve got some kind of a sixth sense, Madison. One of my
students is going through absolute hell. The other kids selected
Sandy Girard to be the designated victim to pick on, along with her
best pal Kitty Hawkins. It seems like every time Sandy’s in trouble,
a sick feeling creeps all over me and I end up going to check on her
and chase the bullies away. I seem to be at that school just so I
can pop up in the nick of time to save Sandy from the vultures
trying to pick her apart.”
Madison’s voice trembled. “At least you’re there for her, Cindy. I
know how Sandy feels. I got picked on in eighth grade, before we
moved to another school district. It all started when my dad got laid
off work, which meant my parents were too poor to buy the kind of
clothes the kids approved of. Even when I got rich enough to get
some fancier threads, they’d already decided I was forever tagged
as a reject. I was always under their microscope. Either I was too
fat, or I had a zit, or I had bad breath from eating onions.
Whatever they could dig up they used as an excuse to hurt me.”
Madison lowered her eyes.

72
Cindy reached across the table, patted her hand. “I guess my
kids’ private tutoring has its advantages,” she said. “They get to
choose what kids they’re around instead of being thrown in a cage
full of hungry lions.”
“Yeah,” Madison choked. “But it’s unrealistic to expect every kid
to be able to afford private lessons. I’ve heard that a few mothers
can stay home to home school a bullied child. How, I don’t know.
Nowadays everybody’s gotta work.”
To lift the mood Cindy said, “Hey, wanna watch a few MTV
videos before we hit the sack? I’ve got some Jiffy Pop and root
beer.”
“Sounds great, I’m game,” Madison said.
As Madison watched an REM video, Cindy checked the papers for
movie ads. They picked a cheesy chick flick to go see the following
evening, after dinner at Rustler’s Steak House. When Madison
caught a glimpse of Cindy’s scars, Cindy simply explained her arms
had been operated on.
Before the evening was over the pair were best friends.

11
A Collision With Destiny

Monday, April 29. Today Madison would check out two apartment
ads circled in the Sunday paper, though Cindy reassured her she
could stay as long as she liked. F. Wakasaki hadn’t called for some
time, which helped Cindy keep her strange origin secret from
Madison.
The night before, Cindy had checked her old notebook.
Something bad was in store for Sandy, unless she prevented it.
This time the solution would be much easier: take Sandy and Kitty
out to lunch.
Cindy picked up both girls. Just as she remembered, Sandy had
a fat lunch bag with her. “I’ve got something nice for lunch today,
Mrs. Franks,” she said.
“What’s that, Sandy?”
“A mortadella hero with sprouts. And, a leftover chocolate
brownie.”
“Sounds delicious,” Cindy said. “What did you bring, Kitty?”
“Not much. Just low-fat turkey on diet bread, with a few carrot
sticks.”
“Hey,” Cindy asked, “how’d you girls like to have lunch with me
today? I know just the place, Mama Capelli’s. They serve a great
lunch buffet where you can choose food that’s already made. So
you can finish eating and get back to school before lunch period’s
over. And Kitty, if you’re worried about calories, they make a great
lo-cal minestrone. That’s vegetable soup.”

73
The girls looked at each other. “What’ll we do with our lunches,
Mrs. Franks?” Kitty asked.
“You’ll see,” Cindy said. She took a detour which passed
Sunbeam Park. She pulled up in the parking lot, then waited a
moment till she spotted a couple of homeless men walking by.
“Yoo-hoo!” Cindy called. “Here’s some nice lunches for you!”
When they came a little closer she tossed the bags to them,
waved and told them to have a nice day.
“Some people think they’re weirdos,” Sandy said.
“Not necessarily,” Cindy replied. “All it takes is two or three
missed paychecks and anyone could end up sleeping under the
stars. I told them to have a nice day, but I wonder how they ever
could. That’s an awful way to live. You can’t wash your clothes or
find decent food to eat, and you don’t feel much better than an
animal. Just be glad you aren’t in their shoes.”
“The food here is totally awesome,” Kitty said, as they finished
dessert. “Just don’t tell my mom I had a bite of your cheesecake,
Mrs. Franks.”
“Scout’s honor I won’t,” Cindy said. “Sandy, wasn’t that great
ravioli?”
Sandy grinned. “Totally gnarly! I won’t tell my mom what
happened to the lunch she made me.”
“That might be a great idea, to keep this little outing a secret,”
Cindy said.
Sandy’s eyes met hers. Somehow she understood what Mrs.
Franks was driving at. She nodded.
“You girls ready to head on back to P.E.?” Cindy asked.
“Sure,” Sandy said, “after a great meal like that.”
Before she headed for the gym, Cindy stopped off at the school
cafeteria to investigate. Not a soul in sight. But sure enough, peas
had been on today’s menu. In fact, they were splattered all over
the lunch room, along with blobs of mashed potatoes and Hogwood
High’s famous “Alpo meat loaf”. On the windows, on the walls, on
the tables, even smushed on the floor by many rowdy feet. Plastic
straws lay scattered here and there, mute evidence of the mother of
all food fights.
Jenny, one of the food service ladies, walked up to Cindy, to
explain. “Didja hear about the big food fight, Mrs. Franks? There’ll
be no lunch served here for the rest of this week, to punish the kids
for doin’ it.”
Some punishment, Cindy thought, as she considered the quality
of the cuisine served at Hogwood High. “Who started it, Jenny?”
Rolling up her eyes, Jenny said, “Who else? Brad Bullard.
Rumor has it they’d planned to gang up on Sandy Girard and her
friend Kitty. Well anyhow, all the kids waited and waited but those
girls never did show up. But why waste all those nice chewy peas?
Brad went up and shoved another kid and blew peas in his face.

74
Brad got mashed potatoes in his face. Brad shot peas at a few
other kids, then the whole cafeteria took sides and shot peas at
each other. The rest is history, as you can see.”
And I’m the one who changed history, Cindy thought. At least
Little Sandy and Kitty weren’t in the crossfire.
On the way home, Cindy asked the girls what they would do at
lunch time now that the cafeteria would be closed the rest of the
week.
“Dunno, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy said. “Guess we’ll hang out
someplace the other kids won’t bug us. At least they don’t do much
to us when we’re in the cafeteria with the teachers eating in there
too.”
“Then how on earth did that food fight start, if they don’t act up
too bad when the teachers are around?” Cindy asked.
“That’s just it,” Kitty said. “You weren’t around, Mrs. Franks.
You’re about the only teacher that doesn’t laugh when stuff like that
happens. I heard Gloria Culvert tell Tina Hilton that those other
teachers are so easy they just pretended to be hacked off when the
food fight started. They just went somewhere else to get away
from those crazy kids.”
Cindy looked irked. “Kitty, does anyone know whether Coach
Codgins was in the lunch room when the food fight broke out?”
“No, I heard somebody say he just stood outside yakking with
Coach Shelton. Fact is, he ran in there real mad when he saw it
goin’ on. He yelled at the kids but they just laughed at him.”
“Nobody hassles you guys while I’m around,” Cindy said firmly.
“If those teachers aren’t gonna keep lunch time peaceful, then I’ll
do it. If you want, the three of us can just have lunch together
again. It might look weird if I made a habit of taking you off
campus during school hours. But I know a great place where we
could take some sack lunches. Think that’s a good idea?”
“I’m stoked about it, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy said.
“Same here,” Kitty said.
“Then it’s settled,” Cindy said. “Tomorrow at twelve, meet me
outside the Sports Building and we’ll walk around the athletic field
till we find a cozy spot. Be sure to bring a Capri Sun or something
like that to drink. I’ll bring some sugarless cookies I got at the
health food store.”
“Guess I could have those,” Kitty said.
“Good,” Cindy said. “You know, Kitty, you look skinnier.”
Kitty’s round face beamed. “Thanks, Mrs. Franks. Lost two
pounds this week.”
Tuesday, April 30. The girls laughed as they lounged on a blanket
under a shady locust tree. Snort the pig made faces at them and
grunted, hoping for a few crumbs. The sun was starting to bake.
He rolled over on his back, splashing in his muddy wallow, watered
twice a day by the caretaker who slopped him.

75
“Even a pig can get lonesome,” Kitty reflected. “They oughta
put another pig in the pen to keep Snort company.”
“Then they’d fight each other to see who was boss,” Sandy said.
“Friends are nice as long as they don’t turn into enemies.”
Cindy nodded. “Poor Snort. At least the caretaker talks to him.”
The pig shrieked with joy when Cindy tossed him a French bread
heel. He got so excited he banged his head on a railing.
Cindy sucked in her breath. A collision! Making light chitchat was
part of her act to dampen suspicion. But this was the day she must
change forever, at least for Kitty’s sake. When she drove the girls
home, she always crossed the Parabola-Ventura intersection. “Kitty,
Sandy,” she breathed, “I think we’ll try a different route home
today. I needed to stop off at this new health food store, if your
moms don’t mind your being twenty minutes late.”
“No sweat,” Sandy said. “Mom knows Kitty and I always hang
out after school lets out. As long as we aren’t gone too late our
moms don’t have a cow about it.”
“Good,” Cindy said, struggling not to tremble. Just then her tiny
phone went off. She excused herself, grabbed her bag and ran
toward an outdoor bathroom a hundred yards away, near the
concession stand of the sports arena.
Sandy looked at Kitty and shrugged. “Wonder what that music
was?”
“Must have a Walkman in her bag,” Kitty guessed.
“Look,” Sandy pointed. “She just ran around that corner, holding
something up to her ear.”
“Yes, Mr. Wakasaki!” Cindy panted, ducking into the bathroom,
which, fortunately, was unlocked.
“Sandy-san,” the little image on the phone said, “look worried.
What wrong?”
“I’m eating lunch with Little Sandy and Kitty,” she said. “But I’m
in a bathroom by the sports field. They don’t see me.”
“Good,” F. Wakasaki said. “I read notebook. Today bus crash.”
Cindy felt like crying. “Yes, I know. At least I’ll be driving
Sandy and Kitty home. I just feel awful about those other kids
who’re gonna get hurt. But they’ll think I’m nuts if I tell the driver I
can predict the future.”
“No worry,” F. Wakasaki said. “I try change things. Take girls
home.”
Wearing a weak smile, Cindy rejoined the girls. She hung her
bag up on the tree limb where she’d had it before. Before Sandy
could ask about the device she’d held up to her ear, they heard the
sound of snapping wood. Snort, all 850 pounds of him, squealed
and rammed at a rotting corner post till he made an opening big
enough to squeeze his colossal body through.
“Oh no!” Sandy cried. “Snort!”
Suddenly a bee stung the hog on the nose. He went wild.

76
“Oh no!” Kitty yelled. “He’s after me!”
Before Snort could collide with Kitty, Cindy was on top of him.
Her bony knees dug into his meaty ribs. Her arms encircled his
bulging neck. No easy task to ride a sloping mountain of meat, but
Snort was covered in bristles, so Cindy got a better grip on him
than if he were smooth-skinned. She hung on tight, lifting one
forearm to cover the animal’s eyes so he couldn’t see Kitty, who
scrambled up a chain link fence, boosted by Sandy, who followed.
The girls clung to the top of the fence, too scared to look down,
their tennies barely clinging to the tiny gaps in the chain links.
Knowing they were safe, Cindy rode the hog with her knees hitched
up so her feet wouldn’t drag on the ground. She felt his rough
bristles dig at her legs through her sweatpants. The hog was
squealing from his own pain. How long could Cindy hang onto an
animal that was arching its head and back and trying to roll her off?
Cindy knew that if she had to fall, Mr. Wakasaki had taught her how
to do so in the safest possible way.
Just when Cindy felt her grip on the bucking hog’s back
weakening, they heard a loud shout: “Snort! Stop!” The old
caretaker, carrying a bucketful of kitchen slops, flung a few meat
scraps to divert the crazed hog away from the two frightened girls
clinging to the fence.
With a gleeful grunt Snort slowed down to go gobble them up.
That chow looked so great his forgot the bee sting. Heaving a
heavy sigh of relief, Cindy slid off the hog’s front end and went to
thank the caretaker.
“I was walking by here and saw the pig was getting loose and
going after the girls,” Cindy explained. “I think Snort got stung by a
bee and he went real crazy after he broke out.”
“Yeah, that’d do it to old Snort,” the caretaker said. “A pig’s
snout is real sensitive. If Snort got stung on the schnozz, he’d go
haywire.”
Cindy couldn’t help laughing. “I grew up on a ranch, so I hopped
on his back to bring him under control. Old Snort feels like a Brillo
pad!”
“The man guffawed. “Lady, you oughta join the rodeo. Never
seen nothin’ like it.” He stooped down and stripped off a shred of
brittle wood. “See?” he pointed. “Termites. Don’t know why they
don’t fix things up around here, just let things fall apart. If you ask
me, it’s plum stupid keepin’ a wild animal for a mascot. After awhile
the novelty wears off. No wonder Snort’s crackin’ up. Nobody
comes by to see him, they just coop him up here for the hell of it.
Why, he’s just a big fat garbage disposal, ain’t ya, Snort?” He
tweaked the pig’s ear.
After he scolded Snort for being a bad pig and chained him up
till the enclosure could be repaired, he heaped more praise on Cindy
for her heroism and finally left.

77
Cindy looked pale as a ghost. Speechless, she sank down on the
blanket and hid her head in her hands, trembling.
“That’s the first time I ever saw Mrs. Franks look scared,” Kitty
said to Sandy.
“Girls,” Cindy breathed, “you aren’t hurt, are you?”
“We’re okay, Mrs. Franks. Honest.”
“A fine job I did keeping your lunchtime peaceful,” Cindy
murmured.
“It wasn’t your fault!” Sandy cried, hugging her. “Things just
happen, that’s all!” Some tears of relief were shed, but the girls
agreed not to tell their parents. They couldn’t risk losing their only
safe ride to school.
“Man,” Cindy groaned, “that was a rough ride.”
Dr. Crumley clapped Edgar on the shoulder. “Edgar, there’s one
thing that makes me optimistic. Her EKG activity’s much stronger
than it was. This woman is remarkable. She’s still out but she’s
fighting hard to beat this thing. She’s stronger than any man.
She’s had a real rough ride.”

Fifteen-year-old Yolanda Tillerman fearfully boarded the bus. If it
got much worse, the soft-spoken girl just might ask that nice Mrs.
Franks to drive her to school, but she knew she lived some
considerable distance from the teacher. Today she’d just do like
Sandy and Kitty had done, sit close to the driver and hope he’d get
tough on those dirtbags who were already hassling her. But that
might be too much to hope for, Yolanda thought. The sourpuss
driver wanted only one thing: Get through those damn traffic lights
as quick as he could, drop off his hated cargo with the least hassle,
and call it a day.
Two new kids got on the bus before she did. Maybe they’d be a
diversion for the mean kids…or would they join in their cruelty?
They were awesome-looking dudes. They must be at least
eighteen. They looked Hispanic, just like Yolanda. Both wore black
leather jackets, silver-studded jeans and black bandanas with a
rainbow logo on the front. Wow, Yolanda wondered, could those
tough-looking dudes be gang leaders?
“Uh...” one of them said to the bus driver, “what’s your name?”
“Jack. What’s it to you?”
“Jack, my friend and me, we heard there was a crazy guy in a
white van runnin’ up and down Ventura like he’s on crack. Maybe
you should drive kind’a slow today.”
“How’d ya hear?” Jack demanded.
“On fuzzbuster CB radio.”
“Look, kid, d’ya go to this school or not? This here’s a school
bus, not a hippie bus.”
“Yeah, we just started today. And we ain’t hippies, Jack. We’re
Rainbow Scouts that go to meetin’s after school lets out.”

78
“Ain’t you guys a little big to be in the scouts?” Jack guffawed.
“Now you see here, punk, I’m the one drivin’ this here bus, not you.
The faster I go, the faster I dump all these rug rats off, the faster I
get home to my old lady and my beer. Got it?”
“Yeah,” the strange dude muttered.
The two guys plopped in the side seat on the left, facing
Yolanda. They nodded and grinned shyly.
“How’s it goin’?” the shorter guy said to her.
“Okay, I guess,” Yolanda shrugged. “You guys new here?”
“Yeah,” the taller one replied. “Hey, I’m Chico, this here’s my
buddy Carlos.”
“Hey,” Carlos waved. “Yeah, guess you could say we’re new in
town.”
Kids kept piling into the bus, several grinning evilly at poor
Yolanda and sizing up the two strangers. Finally, the dreaded Brad
Bullard hopped on the bus, sneered at Yolanda and called her a
skank.
“That ain’t very polite,” Carlos said casually.
“What’s it to you, d***head?”
“This here’s my cousin, so if you don’t want me to kick your a**
when we get offa the bus, you better tell the little lady you’re sorry.”
Bullard could ride home with his mom anytime he liked. But he
was way too macho for that. And the school bus was part of his
territory, ruled over with an iron fist. He stared at the stranger with
unflinching eyes because he had a rep to defend.
“Like hell!” Bullard sneered. “Okay, you’re on.” Bullard gnashed
his teeth. The whole bus was watching.
“We’ll settle this when I get off at Fifth and Arcadia. We’ll make it
a four-way fight. My buddy Chad’ll help me grind you guys into
burger meat and when we’re done, they’ll have to scrape you up off
the road.”
“In your dreams,” Chico shrugged, his keen eye studying
Bullard’s body language and predicting his likely reaction.
Kids in the back of the bus started hurling spitwads at poor
Yolanda, who cringed and hid her face, sobbing.
Chico stood up and yelled, “Knock it off! I’m gonna cream the
next dirtbag that throws at Yolanda!”
“No, keep goin’!” Bullard ordered. “This is my bus!”
“Stop right now!” Chico’s eyes blazed fire. “I’m a black belt in
karate and I’ll floor anybody who hurts Yolanda!”
Bullard squared off against Chico. “You’re bluffin’, man,” he
growled, fists knotted.
“”You better not push me, dude,” Chico said, staring him down.
Bullard flung his fist at Chico, only to hit the metal plating under
the bus window. F. Wakasaki had trained Chico to anticipate his
opponent’s intentions and swerve in a split second. Bullard waved
his sore hand and cussed.

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“You just wait,” he muttered. “That was just round one.”
Chad took one look at the two guys in black and shuddered.
Why was Bullard always dragging him into nasty fights? But he had
a rep to defend. The whole damn bus was watching. He couldn’t
back down now.
A rap tune went off. The bus driver hollered for whoever was
playing the Walkman to knock it off. Apparently rough language
didn’t faze him but he hated music on board. Chico reached in his
jacket pocket and pulled out his cell phone. “Yes, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“Everything under control, no worry,” the old man on the screen
said serenely. “Be brave. You no get hurt. Sayonara.”
Chico pocketed the device. Brad Bullard’s mouth hung open. He
approached Chico and said, “Hey, man, lemme see that Nintendo.”
“It ain’t no Nintendo,” Chico said.
“Then gimme that Atari, gotta see it.”
“Naw, ain’t gonna let nobody see it. It’s top secret.”
Chad was up front hassling the bus driver. He was an easier
target than the two weirdos. Two loudmouth girls from the back of
the bus went up too. “Hey, man,” Chad barked at the driver,
“who’re you to tell us we can’t play no music on this bus? Don’tcha
like music, man? What kind’a dweeb don’t like music?” He waved
his hand in the driver’s face, playing cat and mouse with his nose.
Chico had the cell phone out again. Later, some kids would
remember seeing it emit flashes of light.
“Better behave,” Carlos said in an offhand way. “Principal Trent
might get mad.”
“That dog t*** eats s*** for breakfast,” Bullard snarled. He’s a
girlie wimp with a widdle worm.” He looked at Chico again. The
strange device kept on pulsating light.
“And as for you, you’re gonna gimme that gameboard right now,
a**hole, or I’ll beat the c*** outa you and rip your ears off before
we even get off the bus, man,” Bullard said. His eyes met Chico’s.
Chico was sprawled out on the side seat next to Carlos. He
looked a bit bored. Before Bullard got any closer his leg shot out
and rammed him in the solar plexus. Bullard sailed backward and
hit a vertical metal pole. He sat, dazed, on the floor. He didn’t
need a second reminder to back off.
The driver was yelling at Chad to shut up and move to the back
of the bus. The two girls lifted their tops and flashed the driver,
boogeying and banging the back of his seat. Carlos whistled at the
girls. Both sidled over to say hello. The bus broke out in chaos.
Kids yelled and threw garbage, Yolanda cringed in her seat, the
driver wasn’t watching the road, then…
Chico threw his body over Yolanda to keep her from flying
forward. Carlos flung himself on top of the flirty girls to protect
them. The girls fell backward onto the side seat where Yolanda sat
alone. The boys flung out their arms and grabbed the bottom frame

80
of the window, opened because of the stifling heat. A split second
later, there was a mighty crash. The anticipated impact of the
speeding van pulled Carlos and Chico’s bodies backward, but their
steely grip on the window prevented them from crashing to the
floor. The three girls hurtled forward, their fall broken by the two
guys, who were wearing bulletproof vests under their black jackets.
When the girls opened their eyes, both of them were gone!
Yolanda’s ribs ached, but when the bus stopped spinning in the
street she noticed the van had only struck the front end of the bus
instead of ramming it in the middle. Otherwise kids might have
been killed.
But it was bad enough. Some were scratched or slightly cut,
others badly bruised. There were several whiplash injuries. Kids
were crying and moaning. Brad Bullard still felt sore from his scrape
with Chico but he sashayed out of the bus bragging that he didn’t
get hurt in the wreck. The driver was screaming curses and wailing
about his legs. Before Yolanda blacked out from sheer shock, she
heard shrill sirens.
12
Stage Fright

Wednesday, May 1. Nobody believed what anybody said about there
being two bizarre strangers in black bandanas on the bus, just
because those guys hadn’t been seen getting off the bus. Most of
the bus riders were so achy and traumatized they stayed home, but
a few felt okay enough to show up at school today. When Sandy’s
folks heard about the terrible wreck, they thanked their lucky stars
Sandy wasn’t on that bus. Kitty’s mom was relieved too. Her
boyfriend merely shrugged and said Kitty must have lucked out.
Sandy’s parents were surprised to see a cab outside honking for
Sandy. Normally Joe would be at the greenhouse by this time each
morning, but planned to go in late so he could go run a few errands.
He went outside with Sandy to investigate and saw Cindy in the
front seat. She explained that her car was at the shop getting the
battery recharged, but would be fine for tomorrow morning.
Joe shook his head. “Man, that’s nice of you to ride the girls to
school in a cab, Mrs. Franks. Here, I’ll give you a ten-spot to help
out. I know cabs don’t come cheap.”
“Oh, no, Mr. Girard, that’s okay. Honest.”
“No,” he insisted. “You take it. I mean it.”
Cindy accepted it with a smile. Sandy got in, then they went to
pick up Kitty.
Madison’s fingers flew over her word processor keyboard. She
needed to get this story in by midnight, for tomorrow’s front page of
The Modesto Messenger. Madison hated having so much to do, but
at least she had a job. This evening she must move into her new
pad, because her rent would be payable the first day of each month.

81
Cindy had volunteered to help her, saying she was glad they
wouldn’t live far from each other.
Today Madison would meet Cindy for lunch, after which she
would question the principal about the bus wreck. Of course the
girls would accompany them to lunch since Cindy promised to eat
with them till the cafeteria reopened. But maybe Madison could
steal a few minutes alone with Cindy to see if she could shed light
on that alleged paranormal activity on the bus.
Sandy’s 10 a.m. algebra class was interrupted for a special
assembly in the auditorium. She had that class with Kitty, as well as
P.E. At least she’d have somebody to sit with her.
Sandy sat at the end of a row on the left side of the left aisle of
the auditorium. Kitty took the seat to her left. As usual, the other
kids left every seat within a wide radius of them vacant. No one sat
in their row, and no one sat directly in front or behind them. As
always, she heard snickers and whispers of “there’s a seat.” Or,
“there’s the zoo. There’s the elephant and the giraffe. Grody
dweebs.”
Sandy loathed Hog Pen High, as she and Kitty called it. Before
her high school years, she’d never, ever, had reason to hate any
human being. Once Sandy had been a happy girl in love with life,
but those mean kids had withered her spirit. Only Mrs. Franks gave
her and Kitty any motivation to keep coming to finish this school
year and she knew it.
In the darkness Sandy felt something brush against her leg.
Two tall guys said, “excuse us” and squeezed past her and Kitty. To
Sandy’s utter shock, they sat with them! The guy to the left of Kitty
opened a paper bag and passed each of them a can of Coke. Kitty
was so happy she didn’t care if it was regular instead of Diet.
Evidently these were very special guys who didn’t see her as fat
first, human second. This was a time for celebration. Both girls got
a handful of Skittles.
The girls couldn’t see the fellows’ faces, but their black jackets
glistened in the dim light. They could make out the faint outlines of
bandanas on their heads. One of the guys felt a couple of tiny paper
wads whiz past, heard snickers about “they wanna get it on with the
elephant.” Someone kicked the back of his seat.
As the school band played a cheesy song in their predictably
downbeat, draggy way, the guy got up and shook his fist at the
perpetrators. He banged real hard on a seat back and warned them
to f*** off or they’d be sorry. The other kids got a better look at
him. Metal studs glinted on his black leather jacket. His voice was
hoarse with rage. Frenzied whispers went up and down the rows:
“Girard’s got her own gang!”
Mr. Trent leaned over the podium and cleared his throat. His
lethargic eyes scanned the student body for any signs of interest.
He loved these all-too-rare moments in the limelight. He gestured

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for silence and peered down at his carefully crafted speech. In a
somnolent monotone he lamented the tragic bus accident as just
one of those things that happens in the normal course of a school
year, and thank goodness no one was killed or seriously injured. No
one, that is, but the bus driver who was in the hospital with both
legs broken. A few of the students were absent with various
injuries, including sprains and whiplash. One or two might be out till
the end of the school year. But all were expected to make a speedy
recovery.
As kids yawned, Mr. Trent went into a long spiel about the
necessity to learn lessons from the unexpected tragedy. He
eulogized the bus driver as a safe and conscientious driver who
would probably never drive a bus again. The principal quoted
accident statistics, both state and national. He said some
authorities suggested that bus marshals might help prevent injuries
on school buses. But this was America, said Mr. Trent, not some
communist totalitarian state, and young adults were not animals
being transported in a cattle truck. He waffled about kids needing
the freedom to socialize on their way home from school, and a little
noise was understandable. Besides, investigators had concluded
that under the circumstances, the accident couldn’t have been
foreseen or prevented, and no one on the bus had created
conditions contributing to to the crash.
Mr. Trent heard strange noises, saw stray glimmers of light
beneath him. Kids in the first couple rows pointed and squealed.
“Settle down!” he demanded. “I haven’t finished my speech yet!”
“Hey, Mr. Trent,” one boy called, “ya gotta see this! Come
quick!”
The principal hurried down. Obligingly, the stranger in the
second row, hiding his futuristic cell phone behind his open jacket,
replayed the video, flashed on the front of the principal’s podium.
There was even audio, loud enough for those nearest the video to
hear what was said!
Kids crowded around the podium, not yet knowing the source of
the scenes flashed on it. A hush fell over the auditorium as
everyone strained to hear.
At one point a girl got in the way and the video flashed on her
back. Another kid pulled her to one side and said to stay away so
they could see better.
Many kids got an eyeful of Brad Bullard orchestrating the riot on
the bus, bellowing that he’d beat the c*** out of anybody who
didn’t help him bug the bus driver. Brad pushed and shoved other
kids on the bus till they hollered cuss words and threw garbage at
the driver. Bullard’s buddy Chad swung his fist around the driver’s
face to psych him out. The video ended with a closeup shot of
Bullard grossly insulting the principal. Mr. Trent almost had a

83
stroke. The man was fairly liberal in his views, but this hit too close
too home.
The kids sitting around Comrade Kenji had already figured he
was the one showing the video, but left him alone so he could do his
thing. But now that he’d finished and put his “Nintendo” away, they
had questions. One boy grabbed at Kenji and asked how he’d done
it. But before they could shake any answers out of Kenji, he
hopped out of his seat, forced his way past the other kids and ran
toward the front exit. At the same time, Sandy and Kitty’s two pals
got up, squeezed past the girls and went to leave with him. Mrs.
Franks approached Sandy and Kitty. She bent over and whispered
to the girls, distracting them while something weird happened.
Several kids saw the three boys disappear before they reached the
exit, which caused mass hysteria about vanishing E.T.s and aliens.
Some screamed about the giraffe’s ghost gang.
The principal, whose own view of Kenji’s disappearance had been
blocked by a bedlam of shouting, jumping kids, thought they were
only being disruptive. He pounded his podium for order. He was
mad as hell. He’d given Nancy Bullard’s kid chance after chance and
that rotten punk had caused the worst tragedy in the history of
Hogwood High.
But Mr. Trent could care less. So what if kids bugged each other?
Hey, all that mattered was his feelings were wounded and
something had to be done about it. Several kids who’d ridden the
tragic bus were called up to the stage and grilled on the spot.
Threatened with expulsion if they were caught lying, they gave a
fairly accurate account of what they’d seen and heard. Although
the tangible evidence had disappeared with Kenji, Brad Bullard got
kicked out of school that very day.
Up and down the hallways Kids carried on about a video-playing
gang leader in a black bandana vanishing in thin air. But the
principal concluded that the stranger with the “movie camera” must
have simply disappeared in the dark. If the police wanted to bother,
they could hunt for the ghostly film maker so they could get
another look at his evidence. The family of the hapless bus driver
needed to know for sure who should be held liable for the wreck.
Mr. Wakasaki sure does like to cut it close, thought Cindy, as she
thought of her disappearing comrades. She forced composure on
her face and exited the auditorium with Sandy and Kitty and walked
toward the Sports Building.
“Mrs. Franks,” Sandy said, “a few crazy kids hollered that they
saw ghosts around me and Kitty, and they disappeared. But I didn’t
see ‘em go anywhere. They must have gone down the other side of
the aisle while you talked to us. Know anything about those guys?
Whoever those dudes were, they sure were cool!”
Cindy hated having to fudge the facts, but Sandy wasn’t ready
to know the truth yet. “Yeah, Sandy, maybe those guys got

84
nervous when Mr. Trent called kids to come up front and they just
split. Principals can be very intimidating.”
Sandy pouted. “They never even said goodbye!”
“Maybe you’ll see ‘em again later, Sandy. And as for those other
kids carrying on about ghosts, remember that a lot of them went
through a very traumatic experience yesterday and feeling that way
plays tricks on your brain.”
Mrs. Bullard waltzed past, looking like the wicked witch of the
west. “Well, if it’s not our ‘ride ‘em cowboy’ teacher who chases
hogs for fun. Just thought you should know, Franks. My son just
got expelled on airy-fairy evidence which conveniently disappeared
before anyone could grab hold of it. Don’t suppose you know where
those space aliens might be holed up, would you?”
“Not at all, Bullard. Maybe they flew back to Planet Pluto.”
Now you listen here, b****!” Mrs. Bullard tried to grab Cindy by
the hair. A very bad mistake. With a quick reflex action Cindy
grabbed the offending arm and twisted it behind Mrs. Bullard’s back,
then lightly kneed her in the side to subdue her. Mrs. Bullard yelped
and landed in the bushes.
A black bandana-clad character popped up from behind that
bush, cell phone flashing. “Got it!” he yelled. Mrs. Bullard turned
her head, briefly glimpsing him before he vanished.
“I’m gonna sue you, Franks!” Mrs. Bullard blubbered.
“Someone filmed all the action,” Cindy said coolly. “You just try
it, and we’ll prove in a court of law that you attacked me and I was
only defending myself like anyone else would’ve done.”
“You’ll pay for this, Franks,” Mrs. Bullard muttered, as she
hobbled away, rubbing her sore parts.
“Rusty was right,” Sandy said. “Pardon my French, but you sure
do kick butt, Mrs. Franks. Who was that guy in the black head
dress? Where’d he go anyhow?”
“He was just a 3D hologram.” Cindy lied. “I didn’t want to tell
anybody, but there’s a secret government experiment going on. A
Holographic 3D Image Simulator is still in the experimental stages
of development. It would be used in paranormal warfare, to scare
the enemy into thinking he’s being observed. But all the enemy sees
is an illusion.”
“But Mrs. Franks,” Kitty objected, “those guys sat with me and
Sandy. They gave us real Coke and Skittles when we were watching
the assembly. I felt the guy’s leather jacket when he sat next to
me. They had to have been for real.”
“Maybe he was, Kitty. But don’t forget. I stopped by to talk to
you guys just before they left. As I said, they must have gotten
spooked by the principal and snuck out on the other side.”
“Are…you…a spy?” Sandy breathed. “Is that why you’re friends
with me and Kitty?”

85
Cindy shook her head. “I am sworn to secrecy, but I sure as hell
don’t work for any government. I help people just ‘cause I care.
Don’t worry, Sandy. Before long you’ll know everything, and you’ll
know why I had to keep it secret.”
Sandy breathed hard. “So you made that stuff up about those
vanishing guys being a government project?”
“Yeah, Sandy, and only ‘cause I didn’t want to scare ya. And I
really am under oath not to spill all my beans yet. My main
concern is to keep thugs like Bullard and Woodcock out of your way.
There’s lots of stuff I know that almost scares the life out of me. I
just found out there’s deep mysteries and bizarre secrets of the
universe that shape our lives and our destiny. Sometimes our lives
aren’t as happy as we want them to be. Then we find out things
might have turned out a lot worse for us. Guess I’m trying to make
sense out of what can’t be explained by modern science. But we’ll
both figure it out one of these days.”
“Mrs. Franks,” Kitty gasped, “are you a Ninja or something? Do
you have supernatural powers? I can’t believe how you whipped
Mrs. Bullard.”
“Girls, when I was about your age I got hassled a lot by bullies.
One day I realized I needed to get stronger or I’d be dead meat. I
took specialized martial arts training in San Francisco. I did special
exercises to build up my muscles, learned how to take advantage of
my opponent’s weaknesses, learned to keep a cool head in
emergencies, or at least I try to! Without all that good training that
hog would’a scared me so much I never would have jumped on his
back to calm him down. I must sound awful scary to you guys.
Sorry about that. Still wanna meet me for lunch in an hour?”
“Sure, Mrs. Franks, at least you’re tryin’ to level with us, and
school has been less stressful for me and Kitty since you came
here,” Sandy replied.
“Thanks, Sandy. Oh, by the way, a friend will be joining us for
lunch today. Her name is Ms. Reynolds. She’s a reporter for a
brand new newspaper here in Modesto, the Modesto Messenger.
She’s interested in yesterday’s bus wreck, so I’ll have a few
questions to answer, although I wasn’t actually there, of course.”
Cindy explained to Madison about her car being out of commission.
Madison drove them all to Paco’s Tacos for lunch. Sandy and Kitty
were excited to see three video game machines there: Frogger,
Demolition Derby and Space Invaders. Sandy and Kitty wolfed
down their tacos, then hurried to play the machines.
It was a perfect opportunity for Madison to pick Cindy’s brain
about the bus wreck. She told Cindy she was recording the
interview and Cindy chose her words carefully.
“I’ve heard a few rumors, Madison, but I really don’t have much
first-hand knowledge about the accident, since I wasn’t there,”
Cindy said. “But I will give you my own personal opinion on road

86
safety. Drivers can’t do their job safely unless they can concentrate
on the road. When you drive, your ears are almost as important as
your eyes. If you have a busload of screaming kids throwing things
and raising hell, you can’t listen for emergency sirens or hear the
screech of the occasional souped-up hotrod with bad brakes running
a red light. If that bus had been quieter and those kids hadn’t
gotten in the driver’s face, he might not have had to divide his
attention between the kids and the road, and he might have spotted
that white van before it slammed into the bus.”
“Very well stated, Cindy,” Madison smiled. “What’s your opinion
on the guy who allegedly disappeared after an altercation with Brad
Bullard?”
Cindy shook her head. “At this time I’m unable to comment on
any particular individual’s possible role in the accident. But I’m
puzzled about the alleged disappearance. Some might conclude
that paranormal occurrence was just an illusion experienced by kids
who suffered nervous strain from the violent atmosphere which
created dangerous distraction for the driver.”
“Thank you very much, Cindy, for your valuable input,” Madison
said, turning off her recorder.

Cindy ended her 2 p.m. volleyball coaching session early, saying she
had to go run an errand for the Athletic Department. She disguised
herself in a blond afro, jeans, sun glasses, and an oversize surfer
jacket, then ran outside to the parking lot which bordered the
Humanities Building. Lurking behind a parked pickup and watching
carefully, she waited till she spotted Sandy, then called her over.
Puzzled, Sandy rushed toward the blonde stranger to see what
“he” wanted. Hard on her heels came Derek Stanford, a dimwit
gorilla who was one of Bullard’s most faithful toadies.
“Run, Sandy!” Cindy yelled. Cindy raced toward the would-be
assailant, who wildly waved a knife at Sandy, yelling threats. Cindy
pulled a rock from underneath her jacket. She threw it with deadly
accuracy at his knife hand. There was a crunch of cracking bones,
then a loud scream.
Sandy and Cindy hid in a doorway as Stanford fled, still waving
his knife in his broken hand. An irate plain clothes cop ran out of
the building and nabbed him.
“Okay, you punk! Gotcha this time!” the cop snarled. “Thought
you wuz a big hot shot, cuttin’ up the tires on my Camaro!”
“Didn’t know it was your car,” Stanford sneered. “You had the
only red Camaro in the parking lot. Besides, it wuddn’t my idea
anyhow. So don’t go blamin’ me.”
The cop lifted him up by the jacket lapel. “So whose idea was it,
sleazebag? Better tell me or I’ll mop up the parkin’ lot with ya.”
“Brad Bullard put me up to it,” Stanford squeaked.

87
“Thought so,” the cop muttered, pinning Stanford down and
cuffing him. “Bullard’s wanted at six convenience stores for stealin’
candy, and his old lady’s loaded from her divorce settlement.
What’s this crazy world comin’ to when rich kids steal like poor
kids?”
“My hand hurts,” Stanford wept.
“Lemme see the thing,” the cop said. “Hey, you’re paw’s all
swollen up. How’d ya manage that?”
“Some tall skinny dude in a blonde afro threw a rock at me
awhile ago, hit my hand.”
The cop looked left and right. “Your knife hand! Don’t see no
blonde guy around here. I bet your hand got crushed under my car
after you ripped off two of the wheel rims! Let’s go, bud, you’ll get
free doctorin’ at the jailhouse.”
“But somebody did hurt my hand, officer,” Stanford whimpered.
“Ain’t you gonna arrest them too?”
“Well, what’d ya expect, ya little snot-nosed punk? I seen you
chasin’ somebody across the parking lot, wavin’ a knife at ‘em and
yellin’ bloody murder. I ain’t got no sympathy for bullies. Serves ya
right. Let’s go. A squad car’s just pulled up, and I do bee-leeve
your good ol’ buddy Bullard’s already dozin’ off in the back seat.”
Earlier Carlos had tipped off the cops about Bullard’s part in the
debacle, and the cops had caught him helping Stanford tear up the
Camaro. Now both bullies faced a long stint in jail, unless the judge
was as soft-headed as Mr. Trent.
Sandy looked at Cindy with thankful eyes. “Oh, Cindy, I’m so glad
you were there for me! I know you can’t tell me how you know all
these things, but at least you care and you always do what you
can!”
Cindy smiled modestly. “I try to do my bit, Sandy. All that’s
important is getting a decent education without fear.”
When Madison got in from work, Cindy asked how her interview
with the principal went.
“That guy put me to sleep!” Madison laughed. “You just
wouldn’t believe how hard Mr. Boring tried to impress me, the big
star reporter who could give him his two minutes of fame! But
seriously, Cindy, it is pathetic, Mr. Trent’s utter lack of concern for
the kids who got hurt. He talked about the bus driver as if the
whole thing were his fault!”
“Anybody who drives a bus needs nerves of steel,” Cindy said.
“Someone said Mr. Trent mentioned a novel idea: bus marshals to
keep students from misbehaving on buses. Now that makes sense
to me. Kids aren’t gonna treat each other with respect just out of
the goodness of their heart. They’re like chickens in a barnyard
looking for the weakest one to peck to death. And that poor driver
was yesterday’s sacrifice for the big kill. Oh, he did try to assert his

88
authority, or so they said, but kids will push an adult’s patience to
its outermost limits.”
“Amen to that,” Madison sighed. “Care to read my proof text?
After we finish moving my junk and grab a quick bite, I’ve gotta
rush it to the printer’s.”
Cindy nodded happily when she read it. “I never was a publicity
seeker, Madison. But I didn’t mind helping you get your journalism
career off and running.”
“Thanks, Cindy,” Madison said, “and I really do look forward to
that little field trip, even if we’re going to San Jose instead of
Honolulu.”
“It’ll still be fun,” Cindy gushed. “I told Mr. Trent an anonymous
benefactor offered to sponsor all the expenses of the trip because
he’s deeply concerned about the deteriorating physical fitness of
today’s youth.”
“I get the funny feeling, Cindy, you’ve got some surprise up your
sleeve.”
Cindy pouted. “Oh, please, Madison, don’t spoil my fun by
making me tell.”
“Well,” said Madison, “surprises aren’t much fun if they stop
being surprises. So I won’t worm it out of you, Cindy. Can’t wait to
cover the story if it’s that exciting.”
Cindy chuckled to herself. You just wait, she thought. Never a
dull moment when I’m in the middle of it.
Madison was full of curiosity. “Hey, Cindy, I heard about some
plain clothes policeman getting his tires slashed in the parking lot
today. And he happened to drive a red Camaro, just like yours.”
Cindy grinned shakily. “Yeah, wasn’t that something? It’s a
good thing he didn’t work my car over too, huh?”
“I don’t suppose you know anything about the perpetrators?”
queried Madison.
“Well,” said Cindy, “whoever they were, they sound like pretty
nasty dirtbags to do what they did.”
Madison playfully tapped Cindy’s arm. “Don’t worry, Cindy, I
won’t get you in trouble by getting you to talk about those rough
characters. The baddies always hate the good guy. I already
interviewed someone else about them and got some good answers.
So I’ve got two stories to turn in before I turn in tonight.”
“Who gave you the extra story, Madison?”
“An oriental guy, Kenji Fujiyama.”
Cindy nodded as if she knew. She had plenty of questions of her
own to ask Mr. Wakasaki. One of them or both of them.
They packed Madison’s few things into her car, then drove both
their cars to go get a quick bite to eat. Afterward, they stopped by
Madison’s new apartment, which was just a few blocks away from
Cindy.

89
Madison opened the door and flicked on the light. “Your new
place is beautiful!” Cindy exclaimed. “And it’s completely
furnished? Are you okay for bed linens, kitchenware, stuff like
that?”
“Definitely,” Madison said. “My bed’s already made up, my cereal
milk’s in the fridge, and tomorrow I go get my big stuff out of
storage.”
“Need any help?” Cindy asked. “I’m pretty strong for a skinny
gal.”
“Okay, why not?” Madison said. “I’ve also got two neighborhood
kids lined up to help with my knickknacks and home office
equipment. We’ll slave away and after that, we’ll do dinner before
we lay our tired bodies to rest. I’ll treat again.”
“And maybe I’ll get to treat you to lunch at that nice Italian
place sometime,” said Cindy, very unsure of how long her time trip
would last. “I hope you grow to like Modesto. Sometimes I miss
Frisco.” Cindy had a faraway look in her eye.

13
Please Hide Me

Thurs., May 2. Cindy’s innards were tied up in knots. Fresh out of a
powwow with regional sports reps, she was on her way back to
Hogwood High. There’d been an accident at a major intersection
and this traffic snarl would prevent her from getting back in time to
save Little Sandy again…from Bud Bullard, who was expelled, out on
bail, and mad as hell. Cindy’s old diary told her the incident would
happen around 1 p.m., when her P.E. class started. It was now
12:40.
“Eye of the Tiger” went off. Since there was no law against
taking cell phone calls in a car (yet), Cindy reached in her bag, left
unzipped in the passenger’s seat next to her. She shaded her
windshield to shut out the glare of the noonday sun. The traffic
was crawling. She saw no cops. Yet.
“Mr. Wakasaki,” she said, anxiety in her voice.
“Sandy-san,” F. Wakasaki said. “You worried. What wrong
now?”
“I’m tied up in a traffic jam,” Cindy moaned. “I won’t get back to
school in time to save Little Sandy from Brad Bullard. Did you read
what happens at 1 o’clock today?”
“I sure did,” F. Wakasaki nodded. “No sweat. Drive safe, hang
up so cops no catch you with funny license. It take whole village
protect one child. Sayonara.”
No sooner had Cindy put the phone away and zipped her bag
than a smiling policeman asked her to roll down her window.
“Uh, anything wrong, officer?” Cindy queried.

90
“No, ma’am, just wanted to say we’ve opened up an alternate
route to get around the accident. Drive two more blocks, turn left
on Fig Tree Avenue, take a right on Dimmesdale, then another right
on Harvey Lane and you’ll get back on this road and miss all the
excitement.”
Cindy smiled tremulously. “Why, thank you, officer.”
“You seem jittery today,” he said. “Anything wrong?”
“No, not really. It’s just I’m a P.E. teacher who was out at a
meeting and I didn’t want to get back late for my next class.”
“Where do you teach, ma’am?”
“Hogwood High. I’m filling in for another teacher who had an
operation.”
He shook his head. “Too bad for her, eh? Well, drive safely.
There’s lots of morons out there causin’ accidents like the one up
the road. Some punk teenager put high-octane kerosene in his tank
so he could race some other kid. The damn thing blew up with him
still in it. My hat’s off to ya, ma’am, teachin’ rug rats, can’t learn
‘em no respect for nothin’ or nobody.”
“You’re right about that, officer. Well, better scoot before the guy
behind me starts yelling at me for going so slow.”
“Bye, ma’am,” the officer said wistfully, “and if you ever need a
date, swing by the station and ask for Big Al. A guy gets mighty
lonesome chasin’ drunks and speeders. Bet you get lonesome too.”
Cindy bit her tongue, then said, “Sure do. see ya later, Al.
You’re a sweet guy.”
While he was still elated about the compliment Cindy took off, as
slowly as she could. “Grrr,” she muttered. “Man, did he ever cost
me precious time. But I can’t make enemies of cops, Bullard’s bad
enough. I just gotta get to Little Sandy. Poor thing. I can already
feel how scared she is.”
Sandy cringed in a janitorial closet, locked just in the nick of time.
Bullard and his buddies were outside baying for blood and banging
on the door. She was crying.
Bullard didn’t see the shadows creeping up on him from behind.
“You’re gonna die, giraffe!” he bellowed. “That skank Franks
ain’t here to save ya this time, chicken!” His buddies Dick, Arnie and
Chad moved to either side of Bullard as he continued to kick and
pound the door. They clucked like chickens and squawked crazily.
They started dancing and flapping their arms. But once they all
turned their heads back toward the door, a basketball slammed into
Bullard’s back, now fully exposed to the thrower.
Three members of F. Wakasaki’s organization “Right to Respect
Radicals” sprang into action, running toward Bullard’s gang from
where they’d been crouching under a stairwell.

91
3R comrades Carlos and Kenji chased Bullard’s three cowardly
pals, who always obeyed him like slaves to gain status in their peer
group. Chico took on the ringleader himself. Bullard was almost
crying from the pain in his back and curled up in a fetal position.
Chico picked Bullard up by the collar of his T-shirt and slammed him
against the wall, told him he’d get a knuckle sandwich if he didn’t
leave Sandy and Kitty alone.
Carlos and Kenji reported back in no time. “Mission
accomplished?” Chico asked, as Bullard slouched on the floor, his
head ringing and his back aching.
“They split, Chico,” kenji said. “We could’a caught ‘em easy, but
didn’t wanna hurt nobody if we didn’t have to. Man, they ran off
like girls.”
“You did the right thing, guys,” Chico said. “We ain’t here to
hurt people, just protect people. Although it is hard to call them
scumbags people, ain’t it?”
“Sure is hard,” Carlos mumbled. “It’s all right, Sandy,” Chico
called, softly. “It’s me, Chico, the guy that sat next to you in
assembly. I scared Bullard’s gang off. You’re safe now.”
Slowly, cautiously, they heard the lock inside the closet slide
open. Sandy ran into Chico’s arms, crying.
Kenji glared at Bullard. “You ever show your ugly face around
here again, man, you’re a**‘ll be grass.”
“My mom’ll get me back in school and when she does, you
guys’ll be dead, man,” Bullard glared.
“I don’t see how,” Chico said. “We ain’t even been born yet.
C’mon, Sandy.”
“Thanks, Chico,” she whispered. “Hey, what’s that thing on your
head? It’s awesome. Love that rainbow. Why’s it broken in two?”
“My Right to Respect Radicals bandana. That’s the name of our
organization. We fight the bad guy and always try to win. The
Broken Rainbow symbolizes the rainbow of happiness getting
broken when people hurt each other. We’re tryin’ to fix that.”

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“Oh, Chico,” Sandy breathed, “that’s fantabulous. I’m stoked
about what you just did. And I liked what you said to Bullard. Give
a stupid answer to a stupid brain.”
Chico smiled coyly. “I’ll leave it up to that dweeb to figure that
one out.”
Shyly Sandy said, “Chico, if you ever need somebody to, like, go
to the video arcade with…”
He looked down, shifted his feet, hands in jacket pockets.
“You already have a girl friend?” Sandy wondered.
“Yeah, guess so,” Chico muttered. “Sandy, you’re a great girl,
but things are so complicated you wouldn’t believe.”
Before Sandy could say more, Bullard’s pals were back. They
tried to sneak up on Chico and Sandy, but the 3R men reappeared
from under the stairwell, chasing them away again, hollering
warnings at them. Dick desperately wanted Bullard’s approval. He
paused and turned around to swing at Carlos. Bad, bad mistake.
His blow got intercepted by a rock-hard fist which cracked Dick’s
knuckle. Then Dick got a ringing slap which left a red imprint on his
cheek. To further subdue him, Carlos kicked him in the side. Then
he dragged him up off the floor and ordered him and his scum bag
buddies to get out and stay out or there’d be hell to pay. Chad and
Arnie pled for mercy as they helped Dick hobble away. But the two
3R men followed them to make sure they wouldn’t come back
anytime soon.
“Hey,” Sandy asked, wonderingly, “did you really disappear like a
ghost after you guys played that video at the assembly?”
Chico didn’t want to go into details. He mumbled something,
then music played from his jacket pocket. “Hey, I gotta pop in the
little boys’ room a minute.”
Bullard saw Chico rush in there. Rubbing his aching back, he
staggered to his feet, glared at Sandy, muttered under his breath
and went in too.
She struggled to stifle a snicker when she overheard Bullard yell,
“Where’d you go, you piece of s***? I’m gonna smash your ugly
face in!”
Just then Cindy hurried down the hall, out of breath, wearing a
voluminous surfer jacket. “Sandy, you okay?”
Sandy rushed toward her. Cindy gently held her back and
looked into her eyes. “Calm down, Sandy, everything’s gonna turn
out fine. I just know it will.”
“Oh, Mrs. Franks, thank God you’re here. Some guy in a black
bandana floored Bullard when he chased me in the broom closet
and yelled that he’d kill me. The guy who saved me, his name was
Chico. He went in the bathroom and Bullard went in there to get
him.”
“Mrs. Franks, why are you smiling? Aren’t you worried?”

93
They heard infernal banging, then a bloodcurdling primordial
scream coming from the boys’ room. “Damn you! Where you at,
you scuzzball?”
Shortly Bullard emerged, eyes bulging with hate and fury.
Cindy faced him, hands on hips. “What are you doing here? You
were expelled and you aren’t even supposed to be on campus.”
Gnashing his teeth, Bullard growled, “Shut up, b****!”
Calmly, quietly, Cindy stood still. Her expression betrayed no
fear.
“I’m gonna land one right in the gut!” Bullard barked.
Sandy sucked in her breath. “Mrs. Franks! No!”
Bullard’s fat fist rammed Cindy’s midsection. Sandy nearly
fainted when she heard the cracking of knuckle bones. Bullard sank
to his knees, sobbing like a baby.
Cindy stared down at him coldly. “That’s what you get for
picking on girls. ‘Bye, dirtbag. Let’s go, Sandy.”
Just then someone else arrived. “Hey, what’s wrong here?” he
demanded.
“The bathroom wall jumped out and hit Brad Bullard’s fist , Mr.
Trent,” Cindy drawled. I think this boy needs medical attention.”
The principal checked out the boys’ room. All the stall doors had
been thrown open with a couple ripped off their hinges. A tall trash
bucket lay across a urinal, all its contents strewn across the floor.
The paper towel dispenser lay on the floor. Sharp shards of a
broken mirror lay everywhere.
Mr. Trent left the bathroom, shaking his head. Bullard was
hunched on the floor crying over his knuckles. “Boy,” Mr. Trent
chided, “you oughta know it’s bad luck to break a mirror. That little
rampage is gonna cost your mother, ‘cause I know you ain’t got the
cash to pay for damaged government property.”
He grinned. “But there’s more than one method of payment. If
she gets down on her knees and begs me for mercy and starts
being sweet to me again, me we can forget this ever happened.”
“F*** off,” Bullard mumbled. He made a rude gesture at the
much older, shorter principal.
Mr. Trent didn’t want to act chicken. “Are you challenging my
authority, boy?”
Carlos and Kenji ran up, seemingly out of nowhere. Mr. Trent
looked surprised and asked who they were.
“The school nurse sent us, Mr. Trent. We’re the Rainbow
Rangers. We have to do a good deed every day, and we heard Brad
Bullard needs medical attention. We’ll take him down to her right
away.”
Mr. Trent’s eyes twinkled. “Well, Brad just might enjoy that,
and…”
Before he could babble on they whisked Bullard out the nearest
door, one man holding his arms, the other his legs. They didn’t stop

94
till they reached Snort’s freshly renovated hog pen, which smelled
as gross as ever. They swung Bullard back and forth before
throwing him in. Splat! Bullard sputtered in rage. Mud caked his
clothes, his face, his hair. Snort squealed with delight and started
sniffing around his face. Before Bullard could get out of the pen
and attack the two guys they vanished right in front of him.
Bullard stumbled out and ran crying for his mom, screaming that
space aliens threw him in a pig pen. She told him he was crazy. As
much as she hated Sandy and Cindy, she sharply scolded him for
violating the terms of his bail and ordered him to clean up and stay
home. She grounded him for a whole week. Not that it meant
much.

“Mrs. Franks,” Cindy whispered, as they strolled down the central
walkway. “You just stood still and did nothing. But it was Bullard
that got hurt. How’d you manage that?”
With a toothy grin Cindy unzipped her jacket and revealed an
armored jacket. “Always like a battery, ever ready.”

Cindy dropped Kitty off first on the way home, explaining that she
and Sandy needed to be alone a few minutes to discuss some
personal problems. Instead of feeling slighted, Kitty seemed to
understand and waved cheerfully as they drove off.
“Hungry, Sandy?” Cindy asked her young friend. “I sure am.”
“Yeah, Mrs. Franks, lunch evaporated a long time ago.” Sandy
grinned shyly.
“Your mom won’t miss you if we go get an ice cream, will she?”
Cindy asked. “It’s a pretty warm day out.”
“No, I told her I might be over at Kitty’s awhile. But if she asks
I’ll tell her I talked to you about some problems. Lots of kids talk to
their teachers.”
“That’s just what I wanted to talk to you about,” Cindy said.
“Sometimes teachers pick up news flashes through the grapevine.
A teacher pal of mine heard about something planned against you
tomorrow. We’ll talk about it over a big hot fudge sundae. What
d’ya say?”
“What better place to talk about bad junk than a good place like
that?” Sandy said.
The two talked for over an hour, in hushed tones. Cindy gave
Sandy a page of instructions to study that night so she could carry
them out the following day. Sandy was told to always check her
chair for tacks when she sat down anywhere at Hogwood High.
When Sandy got home an hour later, her mom assumed she’d
been with Kitty and didn’t hassle her about it.

14
The Rat Trap

95
Friday, May 3. As Sandy passed the Student Activities Building on
her way to biology, Denny Lofton, editor of the school paper, stuck
his tongue out and threatened to publish some nasty stuff about
her.
Flashing her sunniest smile she said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that,
Lofton. What goes around comes around.”
Denny, 21, was not a student there, just a wannabe news
reporter who barely scraped through community college. Lacking
experience, he’d had a hell of a time landing paid work in his chosen
field. So two years ago Denny had volunteered his services as
Senior Editor of the Hogwood Squeal, to get some work experience.
Nights he managed a local burger joint.
Any lurid story Denny could either cover or concoct out of his
demented mind served to fatten his work portfolio. The picked-on
students, namely Sandy and Kitty, frequently made the headlines.
Cindy remembered one ridiculous scoop about her being abducted
by space aliens and experimented on, how her bracelets reportedly
concealed sites where aliens had inserted bionic probes. Cindy
stewed as she remembered all the humiliation Denny had caused
her.
Wearing gray sweat pants, sunglasses and a curly black wig
Cindy used her passkey to sneak into Mr. Peabody’s classroom
before anyone else. The classroom was stuffy, malodorous and
creepy. Vials of chemicals and gray lab specimens were stored on
high shelves. A skeleton grinned from one corner. Mr. Peabody’s
many reference books were stored in a double-doored cabinet, a
dusty antique with peeling paint. Any book might be borrowed by
students, with the sole exception of one, his treasured classic The
Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. Cindy had brought a cassette
mini-recorder with powerful magnets attached to the back. She
remembered the exact spot where Sandy sat alone, a front table
facing Mr. Peabody’s lectern. She hated this room and would be glad
to get out of it.
Cindy pressed buttons to start recording a 90-minute cassette.
She glanced at her watch. It was now 1:50 p.m. Cindy removed the
one forbidden text from Mr. Peabody’s cabinet. Cindy located the
borrower’s roster on the highest shelf in cabinet, just above the
books. She scribbled, in first-grade handwriting: ‘The Orange End of
Feces’ and next to it, Your Best Buddy, Wayne Woodcock. Cindy put
the roster clipboard, face-down, back in the cabinet.
Knowing time was short, she left the room, locked the door and
scurried away. She and Sandy met in a janitorial closet down the
hall and around the corner. Cindy locked the door, pressed her
fingers to her lips. Sandy sucked in her breath when she saw Mr.
Peabody’s treasured book, although she’d gone over all the plot’s
details with Cindy the day before. Cindy reassured her that if things

96
fell through she’d take the rap. Cindy said she’d had to just grab
the book and work on it here since she feared being discovered in
the classroom. She finished preparing the book for the mission and
said, “Remember everything we talked about yesterday, Sandy.
Woodcock’s bound to bite the bait. Don’t worry, I’ll be watching
your back.”
Sandy nodded. “Gotha, Cindy. I’ve gone over everything a
zillion times.”
When they exited the closet, a janitor, noting Cindy’s male
appearance, walked up and said, “What’re you two up to in there?”
“It’s not what you think, pal,” Cindy whispered, slipping him fifty
dollars. You will keep this under your hat, won’t you?”
“For that amount, yeah!” the guy grinned, pocketing the cash.
“Man, you’re a smooth operator with the chicks. Nice doin’ business
with ya, kid.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Peabody unlocked his classroom, turned on the
lights and went out for a quick puff on his pipe. Kids started
trickling into the room.
“Look!” Cindy whispered and pointed, the closet door slightly
ajar. “There’s Woodcock! Now go and do what I said!” Gently but
firmly she shoved Sandy away, closing the door again.
Once Sandy knew she was within earshot, she pretended not to
notice Woodcock and Hobbleton, then patted her green knapsack in
ecstasy and sighed, “Yes! I got tickets for Duran Duran! Yay!”
Sandy deliberately dawdled, pretending to read a bulletin board.
Now Cindy must don her next disguise. Keeping a wary lookout,
she hurried to her 2:00 Girls’ Volleyball Coaching session in the
Sports Building. She asked Melinda Flores, one of the team
captains, to oversee the girls’ practice for a few minutes, as she had
a quick errand to run. Cindy ran to her private office and slipped
inside, then quickly locked the door. She opened a special locker
and unzipped a bag containing the items she needed for this
particular phase of her mission. She tucked her big hair under a
tight cap. She pinned on a men’s blonde frizzy wig, topped off with
a white Croc Dundee hat. Cindy donned a white surfer jacket,
jeans and huge wraparound sunglasses to look like Denny Lofton,
who customarily dressed that way. She made up her upper lip,
chin, cheeks and throat to give herself a bluish aftershave shadow.
Cindy pasted on fake zits from the joke shop, blending them in with
touches of reddish clown makeup to mimic Denny’s spotty, florid
complexion. She looked at her calloused, hard-knuckled hands. A
bit slim, but rough enough to look masculine.
She peeked outside first, then grabbed her green backpack
before she hurriedly locked the door and rushed back to the
science building.
Sandy would not enter the classroom until Mr. Peabody went in
himself. As usual, he was slightly late today. Mr. Peabody was a

97
well-educated native of Coventry, England. Years ago he had
emigrated to the States with his American-born wife, who missed
Modesto. Only dire financial need, and lack of other teaching
vacancies, had induced him to take a job at Hogwood High.
A pompous egg-shaped Ben Franklin clone with flaring wing-
shaped eyebrows, he bid “Miss Girard” good morning. She entered
the class with him, then pointed at two tacks in her chair.
“Mr. Peabody,” she pleaded, “I know who put those tacks in my
chair. Would you do something about it, please?”
“Miss Girard,” he drawled, “I don’t convict on circumstantial
evidence alone. You may have your suspicions as to the identity of
the perpetrator, but in the absence of concrete evidence, I must
bestow the benefit of the doubt upon said nameless individual.”
Sandy’s cheeks burned with rage as Woodcock and Hobbleton
tittered behind their sleeves. But she had another trick or two up
her own, and he who laughs last laughs best.
Woodcock thought he knew why Girard didn’t seem too bent
out of shape, even though he’d booby-trapped her chair. She’d
snagged tickets to that big concert, and at the last minute, too!
Must be a scalper at school, he thought. Why else would she have
‘em in her backpack?
Mr. Peabody took roll, briefly commented on their last lesson, then
assigned some reading “to be done diligently” while he was out
Xeroxing some pop quizzes. Right after he left, Sandy moaned, “Oh,
no! Gotta go to the can!”
The class laughed. Maybe she wouldn’t make it in time, some
speculated.
Usually Sandy would take her backpack if she went out. But she
rushed away, leaving it on her tabletop beside her textbook. Her
personal valuables were zipped up in the inner pockets of her
surfer jacket, and her bullying diary left in Cindy’s safekeeping. Out
in the hall, Mr. Peabody asked where she was going.
“The girls’ room,” she gasped. “Don’t feel too good. That chili I
ate last night…”
“You don’t feel too well,” he corrected. “Since the matter is
urgent, take as long as you need. Poorly prepared food does disrupt
the digestive processes. If you feel ill, perhaps I should excuse you
to go home.”
“Thanks, Mr. Peabody, maybe I’ll try a drink of water first.”
Cindy, disguised as Denny, checked her watch. She peeked
around the corner and glimpsed Mr. Peabody entering the teachers’
lounge. Armed with her instant flash camera, she hurried to his
classroom where, as expected, Woodcock was already pawing
through Sandy’s green bag to find the concert tickets.
“Hey, gang, how’s it goin’?” “Denny” grinned, waving. “Just
dropped by to thank Woodcock for all those awesome stories. Got
any more good scoops, buddy?”

98
Woodcock got an evil leer on his face. “Nothin’ in this bag but
scrap paper and…” he saw something underneath. And…this!” He
showed “Denny” an item wrapped in birthday paper. Taped to the
top of it was a folded birthday card. “Get a load of this,”
Woodcock laughed, opening it. “He started reading out loud. The
last part of the message said:

Dearest Sandy, May you derive many years of reading pleasure
from your Oxford Chain Reference Study Bible. God bless you on
your special day.
Affectionately, Mrs. Whitehall.

No one in class had ever been told Sandy’s real birthday. She
wouldn’t turn seventeen till July 29.
“Haw haw haw!” Hobbleton brayed. “What’ya gonna do ‘bout
that, Wayne?”
Woodcock leered. “This. He pulled something out of his own
backpack.
“Hey, what’s that!” Hobbleton breathed. “Man, that’s awesome,
dude!”
“My rubber band missile launcher,” Woodcock said. “So old
Whitehall’s friends with the giraffe? Too bad Giraffe’s outa the room
but I can still trash her prezzie.”
‘Denny’ picked up his camera. “Just do it, dude, and I’ll put it
in the next Hogwood Squeal for all the world to see.”
“Think we oughta unwrap the thing?” Hobbleton wondered.
‘Denny’ feared he might. “No, don’t bother!” she advised.
“Peabody might get back any second and I want my picture!”
Woodcock hesitated for a moment. The eccentric old man just
might hang out in the teachers’ lounge and smoke his pipe till class
was nearly over. But sometimes he would reappear after just a
couple minutes, hoping to catch the class raising hell so he could
give them detention.
It’s now or never, Woodcock thought. He pulled the spring
action trigger. Faster than a speeding bullet his fat projectile
crashed through the beautiful paper. The class cheered. The whole
room exploded in insults.
“Old lady Whitehall’s a lesbo!”
“Grody old skank!”
“Whitehall’s a dried-up old b**** who can’t get laid!”
“Old Man Peabody’s a perv with broken plumbing!”
“He’s so fat he can’t wipe his own…”
A bedlam of bathroom noises broke out.
“Old man Peabody went out to s**** the giraffe!”
“Old Peacock s****s the giraffe, the elephant, and Whitehall, all
of ‘em in one bed all at the same time!”
“Bet the bed caved in!”

99
“Peacock’s so fat he can’t find it to do it with!”
“Old Lady Whitehall got horizontal with old Peacock and he
cracked her ribs.”
“His thingie’s so tiny he needs a microscope to see it! Tee hee
hee.”
That was the mild stuff. Every other comment was so crude
the air needed fumigating.
“Denny” grinned. It was part of the act. She mustn’t let on how
mad it made her true self, just hearing such filth pouring out of
their vile mouths.
Grinning ear to ear, Woodcock proudly posed for a photo of
himself holding his missile launcher. “Denny” waited a couple
minutes, then peeled the freshly developed picture off the back of
the camera. She stuck it in her backpack.
“Got a surprise for Old Giraffe,” ‘Denny’ snickered. Her back
turned to everyone, she stooped over and reached under the rim of
Sandy’s table. With a magician’s stealth she whisked away the
mini-recorder, slipping it in her backpack. The kids were still
shrieking like wild monkeys so it created a brief distraction. “Denny”
pulled a tiny rubber toy from her bag and stuck it under the
tabletop. “I glued a dead roach under it. Just wait’ll the giraffe
comes back and it falls in her lap! Tee hee hee!”
The class roared. But “Denny” was in no mood to be merciful.
The real Denny had made her name mud in the paper for so long
that it was time to dish the dirt back out. With a sly grin ‘Denny’
ripped the birthday paper off the ‘gift’. She stuck the card and
paper in her bag, careful to leave the fat pencil stuck in the book.
Before Woodcock and Hobbleton had time to add 2 and 2, ‘Denny’
flashed another picture, this time of Mr. Peabody’s torpedoed book.
“The stupid old fossil,” ‘Denny’ cackled. “Smile, Woodcock, this
is a gas. Oops! Better take Giraffe’s junk with me too! “Denny”
swiped the study materials off Sandy’s table, put them in Sandy’s
backpack and ran away with it. The only item left on the table was
the teacher’s vandalized book. The class roared its approval.
Woodcock felt immobilized by shock.
Mr. Peabody didn’t notice “Denny’s” fleeing figure rounding the
corner as he waddled back into the classroom in that split second
before Woodcock had time to hide his dirty deed.
When the elderly gentleman saw the book he felt like crying.
“Woodcock! You nincompoop! You did this to my book, you beastly
cad?”
“It’s layin’ on Girard’s table, ain’t it?” Woodcock shrugged.
“She isn’t even in this room now,” Mr. Peabody said. “Let’s see
who might have borrowed it. Where’s my roster?” He opened his
book cabinet and got the clipboard out, wondering why it lay face
down. He fumbled with his bifocals, cleared his throat, and read
Woodcock’s entry out loud.

100
Woodcock was still pleading innocence when Sandy walked in.
“Mr. Peabody,” she said, breathlessly, “sorry I’m late but I’m feeling
better.”
“What a pleasure to hear that, Miss Girard. Please be seated.”
Feigning shocked surprise, Sandy cried, “So it is true! Mr.
Peabody, on my way back Denny Lofton, editor of the school paper,
passed me and bragged about how he got Wayne Woodcock to
shoot a pencil through your book with a homemade missile
launcher. He taped everything Wayne said and took pictures to put
in the next Hogwood Squeal. Now I think that’s a pretty rotten
thing to do. You’re such an awesome teacher, Mr. Peabody, and
your property should be respected same as everybody else’s. If I
were you, I’d go down to Denny’s office and complain about it.”
Mr. Peabody’s voice quivered with emotion. “Thank you, Miss
Girard. Well, class, at least one person at Hogwood High resists
peer pressure and retains a modicum of personal decorum.”
His shadow loomed large over Woodcock’s table. His voice was
low and menacing. “Woodcock! Kindly display your weapon of mass
destruction. Right now!”
Woodcock shook like a leaf. “Ain’t got no WMD on me, Mr.
Peabody.”
The class tittered while Mr. Peabody ordered Woodcock and
Hobbleton to vacate their chairs and step aside while he searched
their belongings. Woodcock went white when the teacher unzipped
his backpack and found his pencil launcher, created specially for
Sandy out of DIY doodads, lumber scraps and two massive rubber
bands.
Lip curled in satisfaction, the teacher held it up for public view
and said, “Here we have Exhibit A. Now, since criminal allegations
have been made against the editor of the Squeal, I shall ask Miss
Girard and Mr. Woodcock to kindly accompany me to the newspaper
office to verify their accuracy. And because I heard such uproarious
merriment proceeding from this classroom on my walk back, the
entire class, with the sole exception of Miss Girard, is hereby
sentenced to two hours’ detention, effective at the end of this class
period. You shall go home today at 4:50 p.m., not 2:50 p.m. And if
there are any further disruptions you shall go home at 6:30 p.m. I
shall notify the custodian of our necessity to occupy this room after
the dismissal bell. However long this criminal inquiry takes, I expect
to see each and every one of you still in your seats upon my
return.”
A massive groan. They’d just have to sweat it out awhile.
Sandy shuddered as the three of them left the classroom.
Hopefully Miss Franks had all her bases covered. Woodcock made a
silly face at Sandy.
Meanwhile, Cindy, wearing a black afro wig and her Ray Bans,
peeked from behind a tree. At the right moment she darted into

101
the Student Activity Building. Good. The office secretary was out.
And best of all, Denny was out in the reception lobby, slouching
over the counter and watching the chicks go by outside.
“I got a big scoop for ya, Denny,” Cindy said. “Here’s pictures of
Wayne Woodcock ripping up old man Peabody’s favorite book, plus a
cassette of Peabody crying about it.”
Denny grinned and high-fived. He accepted the items.
“Awesome, dude. I’ll look ‘em over after I finish some artwork.
Thanks.”
Cindy opened the door slightly and peeked. In the distance,
beyond greenery which obscured her view of the human traffic, she
saw a few approaching feet. But at least no one saw her. Cindy
rushed out, then yanked her jacket hood over her head. She was
gone barely two minutes when Mr. Peabody walked in with Sandy
and Woodcock. Denny was still kissing the cassette when the
teacher brusquely barked: “Mr. Lofton, I demand a credible
explanation from you…now!”
After Mr. Peabody told him what the matter was, Denny denied
everything. Woodcock protested that Denny had been dressed
differently when he came into Biology. Sandy said Denny looked
pretty much the same to her.
“That’s a lie, Girard!” Denny sneered. “You’re as tall as me and
you could have dressed up to look like me!”
“Mr. Lofton,” Mr. Peabody sniffed, “Miss Girard left the room the
same time as myself, and it takes a great deal of time for one to
don a disguise, do a dramatic skit, then revert back to one’s original
attire. She had no way to predict the duration of my absence from
class. Your conjecture is highly improbable on that basis alone. Not
to mention the fact that when I entered your office I saw you
treating the tape with undue reverence. What do you think is
recorded on it, Mr. Lofton, nursery rhymes?”
“I still say Girard’s lyin’!” Denny retorted.
“You’ve got a right to talk about lying!” Sandy shot back.
“Every issue of your paper prints lies about me. Either I’m a
hermaphrodite or Count Dracula is my ancestor. You’ve got a pretty
lousy track record, Lofton, so you’d better not play games with Mr.
Peabody. He deserves more respect than this.”
“Thus far I place far more credence in the assertions of Miss
Girard than you, a pathological liar who prints a disreputable
publication,” Mr. Peabody said stiffly. “Kindly play the cassette for
me right this minute, if you please, sir.”
Denny protested he had nothing to play it on. At that moment
the secretary re-entered the office, back from a lengthy break.
“You expect me to believe, Mr. Lofton, that you, a newspaper
editor, possess not a single cassette player?” Mr. Peabody
demanded.

102
As Denny hemmed and hawed, The secretary gladly loaned
them her own ghetto blaster. She loved to see Denny be the one to
sweat for a change.
They went into Denny’s private office. The teacher inserted the
tape, then patiently fast-forwarded till he got some meaningful
audio. He heard Woodcock’s mocking laughs and taunts. He heard
the class’s raw insults. “Denny’s” vulgar verbiage made him gasp in
rage. Surprisingly, the voice on the cassette was very similar to the
real Denny’s. Cindy’s matured voice sounded like a teenage boy’s,
even when she wasn’t role-playing. She had the same West Coast
accent. Both were a similar size. Like Denny, Cindy had a long
angular face and prominent jaw. Her youthful profile and
fashionable sunglasses, plus the way she’d camouflaged her curves
and long, smooth neck under her bulky jacket, had helped pull off
the ruse.
“It does not reflect favorably on your personal or professional
integrity to cast negative aspersions on my anatomy, Mr. Lofton,”
Mr. Peabody said tersely.
“Now, the pictures, please,” he said, puffing his pipe. He pointed
at the manila envelope on Denny’s desk entitled “Pencil Shooter
Pics”.
There was nothing Denny could do. He had to surrender them
to Mr. Peabody’s eager hands. Biting the stem of his pipe, he glared
as he examined them. “Mr. Woodcock, that is none other than
yourself posing proudly with your brainchild, and this is none other
than my personal property which you vandalized for the pleasure of
Mr. Dennis J. Lofton, senior editor of a degenerate ragsheet. Puffing
out agitated smoke rings, he tucked the photos in his briefcase.
“Mr. Woodcock, I shall have a word with your father this evening.”
“Oh, please no, Mr. Peabody, my old man’ll kill me!”
“I seriously doubt he’d waste the ammunition on you, boy.”
“Please, Mr. Peabody, I swear it wasn’t me that took the
pictures,” Denny whined. “A white guy in a black Afro just dropped
‘em off.”
“Don’t dare insult my intelligence, Mr. Lofton.” He opened
Denny’s door and called to the secretary: “Miss Harrigan, Where
was this young man during the past hour, and did you see someone
enter, a white chap with a bushy black hairstyle?”
She shrugged. She didn’t owe Denny any favors. “I was out
running an errand, Mr. Peabody, so I can’t say for sure Denny was
here the last hour. I know nothing about a white guy with an Afro
either.”
“Mr. Peabody,” Woodcock pleaded, “Girard wrapped that book
up in birthday paper with a card taped on top sayin’ it was a Bible
from Mrs. Whitehall. Just call her and ask if she gave Girard a Bible
for her birthday.”

103
Oh no, thought Sandy, her thought processes freezing, even as
she struggled to keep a poker face. I’m in deep s***.
Mr. Peabody said stiffly, “Quite impossible, Mr. Woodcock. Mrs.
Whitehall left for Los Angeles just this morning to attend a weekend
church conference. Besides,” he sniffed, “I hold no converse with
that insufferable fanatic. She said Charles Darwin went straight to
hell. And you must be cognizant that the fabled Bible is rendered
irrelevant by the simple fact that the hypothetical wrapping paper, if
it existed at all, enclosed my book, not the Almighty’s book. Now
either Miss Girard’s absence from class was sufficiently long for you
to unwrap her gift paper and switch its alleged contents in order to
frame her, or you fabricated the existence of the paper.”
“But you heard the whole class yellin’ about her birthday
present!” Woodcock objected. “It was on the tape!”
“Part of a class conspiracy to facilitate your moment of fun,
enable you to escape the blame, and implicate an innocent person,
Woodcock. You thought I’d show you leniency just because a
student was the intended target instead of myself. Since my search
yielded no trace of gift wrap or card from Mrs. Whitehall, I am
forced to conclude that must be the case.”
“She’s the one tryin’ to frame me!” Woodcock cried. “Maybe
Girard re-wrapped your book in the paper before the rest of us even
came into class! She knew we’d be tempted to torpedo such a
square book, and that was her way of getting even with us before
we even committed the crime.”
“Aha!” Mr. Peabody said. “You’re hung on your own words.
‘Before we even committed the crime’. Now you’ve just shown your
true colors, Woodcock. That’s the crux of the whole matter. How
could Miss Girard have predicted such vandalism would be
committed against her on this specific day, which would induce her
to take such elaborate measures to prevent the destruction of a
fictitious Bible? My dear Woodcock, it takes much forethought and
time to hatch such a plot and bring it to fruition. Your
countercharge amounts to an assertion that Miss Girard is a fortune
teller who accurately foresaw a specific threat to her property on
this particular school day and mapped out a brilliant strategy which
would not only save herself further humiliation but turn the tables
on you, her persecutor. Short of supernatural precognition of the
phenomenon this is utterly impossible.
“My dear Woodcock,” are you not the same bright fellow who
often referred to Miss Girard as a ‘dumb’ giraffe? I tend to doubt
that an intellectually inferior non-human entity could have pulled
off such a convoluted plot as you describe, knowing I could return
to class any second. As cruel as you’ve been to her throughout this
year, how many other times have you brought heavy artillery to
class, my boy? Or, rather, I should ask Miss Girard. On how many

104
other occasions has Mr. Woodcock used such a cruel contraption
against you?”
“That was the first time, Mr. Peabody.”
“Did he, prior to the event, give you any reason to suspect he
was plotting to do this?”
“No.”
Mr. Peabody sniffed. “Giving the intended victim prior notice of
your intentions would have eliminated the surprise element of the
prank. That simply is not the way you do business, Mr. Woodcock.”
“Miss Girard, did you overhear Mr. Woodcock or anyone else
mention such a plan to impale your study material?”
“No. Nothing ever happens to me at Hogwood High unless it’s
been kept a secret.”
“Mr. Woodcock, I rest my case with empirical data.”
Woodcock was desperate. “Not so fast, Mr. Peabody. Maybe
Girard knows where the wrapping paper and card went. Ask her.”
Sandy happened to be facing the office window while everyone
else was off to one side arguing. Cindy, who had been crouching
beneath the window, smiled and held up a sign: “Your bag’s by the
door.”
“Go ahead, Mr. Peabody, check my bag,” said Sandy. You’ll find
no birthday paper in it, just notebook paper.”
“Your bag…Miss Girard? Where is it? You brought nothing with
you when we came in here, and I don’t remember seeing any class
materials on your table when I returned.”
Sandy’s brows knitted. “Lofton must have stolen my stuff! I bet
he has it. Why don’t you look, Mr. Peabody?”
“We shall. Since I see no unclaimed bag in here, we shall
commence our search with the lobby.”
As soon as they stepped outside, there it was, just inside the
door, like Cindy said.
“One of Mr. Lofton’s henchmen must have suffered a pang of
conscience and returned your bag, Miss Girard,” Mr. Peabody
drawled. “Not everyone is so incorrigible as these two villains.”
“The wrapping paper must be in it!” Denny cried. “She’s setting
me up!”
He shock his head. “Even an army of fools will close ranks
around itself when it smells impending defeat. But Mr. Woodcock,
you and Mr. Lofton are uttering poppycock. When I encountered
Miss Girard in the hall, there was no bag in her hand. Had she been
in collusion with you to destroy my valued text, why would she have
even bothered to gift wrap the item? You yourself testify that it was
wrapped when you launched your missile at it. And after all the
trouble you’ve stirred up for this upstanding young lady, what would
suddenly induce her to disregard all your past atrocities and join
forces with you? Especially when the foul-mouthed manner in which
you insulted her during this extensive time frame is taken into

105
consideration. We’ve already examined that picture of you proudly
posing with your weapon of mass destruction. Not to mention its
discovery in your own bag.”
Woodcock was tongue-tied.
“Another pertinent consideration,” Mr. Peabody drawled, “is the
fact that the tape had nearly expired on Side A before we heard the
first monkey noises from our human zoo. I re-entered the
classroom about 2:40, when the concealed machine would have
recently reached the end of its 45-minute length on Side A and
stopped recording, provided my conjecture is correct that the
machine was surreptitiously started before class commenced. Now,
if Miss Girard had been in collusion with you, Mr. Woodcock, she
might have waited till I left the classroom before pressing the start
button on her concealed recorder.
“When I first entered the classroom this afternoon, I had to
unlock the door as I usually do. My conclusion must, of necessity
be: Mr. Lofton persuaded a school custodian to facilitate his entry
into my previously locked classroom just prior to today’s class
session. Simple logic dictates that he himself planted the recorder
under the table, knowing it could have escaped notice because of
the metal table’s overhanging edge.
“Of significant import is the fact Miss Girard arrived after you
and Mr. Hobbleton, and at the same moment as myself. Once I left
the room, Miss Girard asked to be excused to go to the restroom.
While both of us were absent, Mr. Lofton re-entered the classroom
by stealth, left my unwrapped volume on the table, then
photographed your vindictive vandalism to spite me. He then
hurried back here with evidence of his dirty deed as fast as his
slithering feet could carry him.
“Miss Girard was very sensible. She must have overheard the
foolish commotion in class and stayed out of the room till I returned
so I’d know she was just as innocent as if she’d been absent today.
A wise man foresees the trouble and hides himself.”
Woodcock had to blame somebody. “Mr. Peabody, you gotta
believe me. Lofton ripped off Girard’s gift paper and grinned like a
polecat when he revealed that it was your book I’d speared. He set
me up. He egged me on. He made fun of Girard and said it’d be fun
to wreck her present. I swear…”
Denny looked steamed. “Woodcock, whose side are you on, man?
I didn’t do nothin’. All I do is run a newspaper. Wasn’t even there.”
“Twenty-seven students saw you there,” Mr. Peabody replied.
“And even if they all lie about it, you were in possession of the tape
when I arrived and you were making love to it, Mr. Lofton. Also, we
heard you on the tape, telling Mr. Woodcock to hurry before I got
back. Someone had to have taken these photographs. Miss Girard
was not in the room at the time. My dear Woodcock, don’t you know
that only simpletons ASS-ume that ‘my enemy’s enemy must be my

106
friend?’ Such flawed logic. You’re so naïve about the way the world
operates, my boy. And, Mr. Lofton, you cannot deny the role you
yourself played in this dastardly debacle.”
Lofton’s eyes dilated in frustration. “Then, dammit, I’m gonna
have a voice analysis run on it.”
Sandy’s throat went dry again. Not out of fear for herself, but for
Cindy, whose voice was slightly lower.
A loud banging on Denny’s door. The flustered secretary rushed
in. “I just forgot, Denny. I’ve had a hell of a time ejecting tapes
out of that machine lately. That thing eats ‘em like candy. Better
let me take a look at it before you hit the eject button, so it won’t
get jammed up.”
“Okay,” Denny said. “You better pop it out for me. You know
your own machine better than I do.”
Miss Harrigan removed the tape with ease, then whisked it over
to Mr. Peabody, who took it into his iron grip. She whispered
something in his ear.
His round face reddened with wrath. Before Denny could stop
him he threw the tape on the floor. He stomped on it, twisting his
foot back and forth, making a sickening crunch as he flattened it.
Twisted vinyl strips littered the floor. He picked everything up and
flung it in a cigarette ash can. He struck a match and watched it
melt into a gooey mass, then blew it out.
“How dare you even think of taking that tape to your beer party!
Of all the effrontery!” the old man shouted. “Your name will go
down in utter infamy for perpetrating this outrage, you impudent
little gutter snipe!”
“But, Mr. Peabody,” Denny whined, “I already said I didn’t have a
cassette recorder in this office. I sure don’t have one small enough
to hide under a table.”
Another knock at the door.
“Sorry, Denny, but I overheard you saying you lost your minI-
recorder. I found it under a stack of forms on my desk.”
“Wrong, Miss Harrigan. I don’t even own one of those,” Denny
protested.
“Well, it isn’t my recorder, and it isn’t Sue’s, so I just assumed it
must be yours.”
“Hmmm,” Mr. Peabody smiled smugly. “This machine does
indeed fit the description. See the magnets attached to the back?
Perfect for spying on a flock of vultures picking apart a helpless old
man. Mr. Lofton, I have not the least proclivity to believe you. If
you lie once you’re bound to lie on other occasions.”
“That’s not my machine! I swear it!” Denny protested.
Miss Harrigan discreetly shut the door and returned to her desk.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first set out to
deceive,” Mr. Peabody said. “Miss Girard, I am a gentleman and
thus far, you’ve conducted yourself with the utmost integrity, so I

107
will not search your bag for nonexistent wrapping paper. I have no
pressing motive to stoop to any such invasion of a lady’s privacy.
Mr. Woodcock, up till the present I’ve always given you the benefit
of the doubt whenever Miss Girard made a complaint. But not
today. Even if that whole wretched class vouches for your ridiculous
assertions, I shall henceforth put no further credence in anything
they might say.”
He frowned darkly. “Mr. Woodcock, the evidence is stacked
against you. You did willfully and wantonly employ an instrument of
destruction to deface one of mankind’s greatest literary treasures,
The Origin of Species, a leather-bound volume I have possessed
since my youth. You are hereby permanently excluded from any
classes I conduct now or in the future.
“And as for you, Mr. Lofton, I shall inform Mr. Trent of your
yellow journalism. Chances are you will never again preside over
The Hogwood Squeal or any other printed publication on Planet
Earth.”
“Miss Girard,” I fear that once I’ve dealt with the class today,
there will be hostility aimed in your direction on Monday. Because of
this contemptible contingency our pop quiz must be deferred till
then. I trust you implicitly. In lieu of coming to class on Monday,
would you prefer to take your pop quiz in the library at your own
leisure and just drop it off in my office? I have an extra copy with
me.”
“That would be great, Mr. Peabody.”
Mr. Peabody glared at Denny. “You despicable barbarian! You
just wait till this outrage is brought to Mr. Trent’s attention! The way
you and Woodcock insulted me and my highly esteemed colleague,
as well as your fellow student…”
“Highly esteemed?” Denny mocked. “Didn’t you just spill your
guts about what you really think of old lady Whitehall, Mr. Peabody?
And why is it you didn’t give a damn about ‘Miss Girard’ until she
buttered you up to get you on her side? You only got bent out of
shape when your feelings got hurt!”
“I only told him the truth, Denny!” Sandy yelled. “Maybe Mr.
Peabody isn’t a carbon copy of everybody else. But I look up to him
even if you don’t! He’s a fine man who’s doing his best to help kids
learn!”
Mr. Peabody waved his hand. “Sh-h-h, no need to emote over
this, Miss Girard. You shall forever remain exalted in my
estimation, and my mind is quite decided on the matter. He
glanced at his watch. “My word, Miss Girard, school dismissed half
an hour ago. You must have missed your bus. Do you require
alternative transportation home?”
Sandy knew Cindy wouldn’t leave without her. She smiled shyly.
“No, Mr. Peabody, thanks.”

108
“Then take this extra pop quiz and fill in the answers at your
leisure.” He removed one from his valise. “You’re one of my most
promising students and I trust your honesty implicitly.”
She took it. “Thank you, Mr. Peabody.” She glimpsed Cindy
standing outside, waving at her through the window. “Gotta go
now. ‘Bye, everybody.”
Once she was out the door, Mr. Peabody dressed Denny down in
his typical verbiose manner. He threatened to take legal action
against him if he ever defamed his good name in such a manner
ever again. And Mr. Trent would be notified of the necessity to
dismiss him from his prestigious post at once.
Woodcock was baffled. He hadn’t breathed a word about the
pencil plot to anyone, not even to Hobbleton. Yet Sandy had
masterminded a complex defensive strategy and gotten revenge on
her tormenters to boot. Woodcock reasoned that old man Peabody
couldn’t expel the whole class even if he wanted to. It was worth a
try.
“Please, Mr. Peabody, you can’t throw me out of your class.”
“Could you present one coherent argument against my
disciplinary measure?”
“’Cause there’s others guiltier’n me!”
“Who, pray tell, could possibly exceed your wickedness?”
“Hobbleton was in on it too! He egged me on! Oh, please, Mr.
Peabody, if I flunk eleventh grade my dad’ll ground me till I’m old as
you!”
Mr. Peabody cleared his throat. “Ah, so now the plot thickens.
Anyone else? Name at least nine more culprits and I shall commute
your sentence to two weeks’ suspension, with the option to make
up any missed work before final exams day. And you may not
implicate Miss Girard because, even though you used her table to
target my book, she was not present when the crime transpired.
Mr. Peabody steered Woodcock toward a stone bench just off
the campus’s central walkway. He dug a pen and notebook out of
his briefcase. “There. Let’s tackle this unsavory task like men, Mr.
Woodcock, before we return to our human zoo. Let’s hear the
whole sordid story. Who, besides your chum Mr. Hobbleton, was
involved? At least nine other heads go on the chopping block or you
get no mercy from me.” He looked like he meant business.
Woodcock cried inside as he named the nine people he liked
least in the class, four girls and five boys. If he couldn’t remember
what they’d said or done, he made something up. Anything to
graduate eleventh grade and start the next. But at what price?
Man, I’m in for a big s***storm of grief from those guys, he
thought.
Like a cat that caught the mouse Mr. Peabody tucked the
information in his valise for later referral.

109
Hobbleton, along with others implicated by Woodcock, got
suspended from class till the end of school. They would have to
make Biology up in summer school. Mr. Peabody waved aside their
protestations that others acted worse than they did and the whole
class was guilty.
“In the days of ancient Rome,” he said, “if the whole army
disgraced themselves in battle, a sentence of decimation was
carried out whereby every tenth man was called out of the ranks
and executed for the offense of the whole legion. This is, or was, a
class of 29, of which 28 were guilty to some degree. I punished not
ten out of a hundred, but better than one out of three. Is that not
sufficient retribution for my injured dignity? Why should all 28 pay
for the offense when ten will do the job? Why should I deny myself
the pleasure of educating the remaining students? Case closed.”
Denny reported to Mr. Trent’s office, expecting the worst. But
Mr. Trent just laughed and told him confidentially that he thought
Mr. Peabody was a stuffy old windbag. He told Denny his scoops
were worth reading, and sometimes reporters had to go out on a
limb to land the best ones. Here at Hogwood High Denny was
getting a practical education in Risky Reporting. So for old times’
sake he’d just let it go, if Denny agreed to keep his nose clean from
here on out.
Mr. Trent told Denny he’d heard from a trusted source that
Sandy’s family had mob connections and big trouble could come to
those who harassed her. Hogwood High didn’t need trouble from the
shadowy underworld. So he advised Denny to refrain from any
further stories about Sandy. But he did not expressly forbid creative
writing about Mr. Peabody. Denny looked forward to plastering him
all over this year’s final issues of the Hogwood Squeal. At least the
old guy had destroyed the audio evidence himself.
The two of them laughed and joked like old pals. School had
been out for some time when Denny left the principal’s office. But
big bunches of kids still hung around. He saw a mob rushing
toward the back of the cafeteria, yelling something about
Woodcock. When Denny asked what happened, some girl told him
Hobbleton and some other kids had hogtied Woodcock with bungee
cords, then “canned” him in a dumpster full of smelly garbage.
Denny dug his little camera out of his backpack. When he
reached the alleyway behind the cafeteria he saw kids rocking the
big dumpster back and forth as Woodcock cowered in terror and
howled for help. Campus security, such as it was, finally got there
and dispersed the lynch mob. What a picture Denny got when they
hauled Woodcock’s bruised body out, untied him, and carried him
away for first aid.
Upon hearing of Woodcock’s fate, Mr. Peabody puffed on his pipe
with a twinkle in his eye. Oddly enough, whenever a student was
victimized, he’d usually give bullies “the benefit of the doubt”. But

110
since it was his own ox that got gored by Woodcock’s missile, he’d
“maintained discipline” with a vengeance.
The secretary smiled as she wondered how to spend her $500 tip
for services rendered. Such a nice man, and she didn’t even know
the guy.
Woodcock had just provided the juiciest scoop devilish Denny
covered in ages.

Sandy acted as nonchalant as possible when she went home. Joe
felt pleased to see her acting much calmer, as if her school life were
normal instead of chaotic. She managed to hide her true emotions
at the dinner table, and afterward as the family watched TV
together.
That night, after she said goodnight to little Doris, Sandy curled
up in her bed hugging her old toy, Snuggy Kitty. Inanimate friends,
like faithful pets, never insulted you, never demanded impossible
things of you, never ridiculed you when you failed. In the sanctuary
of her own room Sandy could be herself and reconnect with the
sensitive, gentle soul she’d so unashamedly been as a small child.
Instead of running from foes, she could lie still, remembering all the
fun times she’d had before life got complicated and a war she’d
never wanted to fight forced itself on her. Thankful as she was for
Mrs. Franks’ help, a stray tear escaped her eye as she nestled her
cheek against the softness of the fluffy doll and yearned for a
fantasy world where people don’t crush the weak like savage
animals in order to gain status.

15
Shared Secrets

Saturday, May 4. How pleasant, Cindy thought, having coffee and
Danishes with Madison in her freshly furnished kitchen.
It was almost noon. Madison’s sleepy eyes perked up as she
drank her foaming cappuccino.
“My,” she said, “what a tragedy, that accident, and so needless,
Cindy.”
“Tell me about it,” Cindy grumbled. “Stupid kids. Bad enough
they have to hassle each other, but they only hurt themselves by
bugging the poor driver. Wonderful coffee, Madison. That’s a great
coffee machine.”
“Eye of the Tiger” went off. “Sorry Madison, big bathroom
emergency. Back in a sec.” She raced toward the back of the
apartment, looking right and left and the tune kept on playing.
“First door on the left,” Madison called.
She’s acting awful antsy, Madison thought. And her Walkman
sounds like a broken record. Breathing as quietly as possible, she
tiptoed toward the bathroom. Sorry Cindy, I just gotta know.

111
If only that ambulance hadn’t gone past the apartment, blaring
at full blast, Cindy might have gotten away with it, and could have
spoken more softly. She had to raise her voice to answer her old
teacher’s questions. Scoop-hungry Madison pressed her ear hard
against the bathroom door.
“Yes, Mr. Wakasaki, Little Sandy’s okay. Yes, we changed her
destiny. You said what? I’m losing weight in the hospital and I’d
better eat more? So it might be another week till I’m back in 2012?
Yes, I know Sandy needs me to prevent that stuff from happening.
Thanks for sending reinforcements.”
“You exercise today?” F. Wakasaki demanded, knowing her all
too well.
“I exercise at school,” she replied. “It’s Saturday, my day off.
I’m over at Madison’s.”
“Then when you go home run in place, twenty pushups, fifteen
sit-ups, arm swings with dumbbells, toe touches, slow streteches,
all before bed. Do every day. Need stay strong.”
“Gotcha, Mr. Wakasaki. Will do.”
When Cindy exited the bathroom Madison stood outside,
sheepishly looking at her.
“Madison,” Cindy breathed, “you were spying on me!”
“I don’t do that, not usually,” Madison mumbled. “Guess my
biggest fault is I’m curious. Now, Cindy, please sit down and have
another cup of coffee and we’ll talk this over. Tell me the truth and
I swear I won’t tell a living soul.”
Cindy told her the whole long story. “Both of us hide our arms
for the same reason,” she said. “It’s not nice to talk about, but life
handed me a sour lemon and I came back in time to see if I could
make lemonade out of it…and save Little Sandy the worst of the
bullying as well.”
Madison laughed in spite of herself. “Sorry, Sandy…er…Cindy.
This is a sad, sad situation but what’s funny is you’re only sixteen
years old and you’re still older than me, weird!”
“Mr. Wakasaki would have a cow if he knew you’d found out,”
Cindy said. “I swore I wouldn’t tell. But he’s the one who picked the
wrong time to call from 2012! Mind if I use your phone?”
“Cindy,” Madison grinned, “you showed me your futuristic phone
and believe me, mine won’t connect you with the future. Why don’t
you just use your own?”
“The way this multi-dimensional cell phone communication
seems to work, Madison, is he can call me but I can’t call him. I
don’t know how that man manages it. In our time you need a
special communications satellite to make these itty-bitty cell phones
work.”
“Then how in the world do you expect to reach him on my old-
fashioned phone?”

112
“Because I stay in contact with Past Wakasaki, not just Future
Wakasaki. The younger Mr. Wakasaki works at his Martial Arts
Complex in San Francisco. He really ought to be told, just so he
won’t think I’m hiding something from him.”
Madison shrugged. “Go ahead. It’s Saturday. Cheaper rates. But
hey, why sweat the small stuff when I’m sitting on the scoop of the
century?” She laughed.
P. Wakasaki didn’t act too shocked or annoyed when Cindy
revealed that Madison accidentally found out the truth. “You no
make call,” he said, “you take call. And you no make ambulance go
down road at wrong time. Tell Madison come see me tonight.
Spend night, go home Sunday. We need talk. All of us.”
“Madison,” Cindy said soberly, “Mr. Wakasaki insists you and I
drive to San Francisco this evening and spend the night at their
house. He needs to talk to you since you’re involved in this thing
now. Do you have any other plans?”
“No, Cindy.” Madison shook her head. “Maybe he can help shed
further light on this weird phenomenon. I know this can’t be a
hoax. You showed me your future driver’s license. You showed me
Little Sandy’s notebook and all the tragedies you prevented by
coming back in time. But most of all, I can’t deny you’ve got a
futuristic phone nobody else on Planet Earth has, not even the
richest billionaire.”
“Maybe it’s all for the best,” Cindy said. “Who knows but what I
might need your help before I finally go home.”
“You might need my help?” Madison was incredulous. “Cindy,
you’ve got a platoon of vanishing comrades. You’re ten times
stronger than me. If you need money, Mr. Wakasaki’s there to
bankroll you. What could you need my help for?”
“Everybody needs friends they can trust to be there for them,”
Cindy said. “Don’t sell yourself short, Madison. You’ve got very
special qualities other people only wish they had. The time will
come when I’ll need more than money and karate to get me
through a crisis. You just wait and see.”

Madison was cordially received by the Wakasakis when they arrived
late that afternoon. After they’d all enjoyed an exquisite dinner and
made light conversation in the living room, Mr. Wakasaki said it was
time to do some serious talking. They all retreated back to the
kitchen, which had been cleared of dishes. Sweet incense burned in
a tiny urn. Mrs. Wakasaki served green tea and almond cookies.
At length P. Wakasaki said, “Madison, Whirlpool of Hurt need to
be closed so bad vibrations no spread through time. You savvy?”
“Yes, I do, Mr. Wakasaki. I’ll do everything I can to help Cindy
and Sandy find the Rainbow of Peace time took away from them.”
The Wakasakis joined hands with Cindy and Madison. “You
promise never tell anybody till Sandy-san go home to future?”

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“I promise,” Madison whispered. As much as Madison hungered
for thrilling news stories, she would not jeopardize the safety of her
new friend, or her friend’s younger self. This juicy story would have
to wait.
The next morning Mrs. Wakasaki showed Madison the glories of
her oriental flower garden. As P. Wakasaki translated in his broken
English, she described each rare flowering plant flourishing in the
manicured beds she tended so lovingly each day. Madison admired
the dainty bonsai trees, the sweet honeysuckle, the graceful
cherry trees, Mrs. Wakasaki’s hanging garden of flowering mimosas.
After lunch P. Wakasaki gave Madison a tour of his Martial Arts
Complex. He promised her that once Cindy was safely gone, she
could do an extensive write-up on their gorgeous gardens and all
his educational facilities, and he’d even give her a lengthy interview.
Madison promised to be patient, but told him she’d hold him to his
own promise.

“Such sweet people,” Madison said as they dodged the Sunday
afternoon traffic going home. “No wonder you felt like that place
was your second home.”
“Still,” Cindy said wistfully, “I missed my family all the time I
was there. Especially my sweet little sister Doris. But we took it
one day at a time and the day came when I just knew I’d make it in
life.”
“So you weren’t exaggerating when you said you owned an old-
fashioned PacMan machine,” Madison said.
“No kidding, Madison, I prefer the old machines with the joystick
controls a lot better than the future video games. The most modern
games, you don’t even need to touch the flat screen machine, just
wave your hands at it. The upside is you get 3-D interaction in a lot
of those games, a sort of holographic effect. Those electronic
wonders have special sensors that can detect body movement. You
almost feel like you’re inside the machine, in another world.”
“Awesome,” Madison breathed. “But it sounds a bit lazy to me,
ha!”
“That’s one reason I like the old machines better,” Cindy said.
“There’s an air of romantic nostalgia about them. Makes me feel
young again. And they do encourage activity. Sort of like you get
more exercise with a stick shift car than an automatic.”
“Call me spoiled, I prefer my automatic every time,” Madison
said.
“I like automatic cars better too, Madison,” Cindy admitted.
“Especially if I need to focus all my attention on something other
than changing gears.”
Madison had a surprise for Cindy. “Just got a CB radio system
installed,” she winked. “Complete with a fuzzbuster frequency.
Listen, I’ll try it.”

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She picked up the microphone and said, “Mad Mama Gizmo
truckin’ on I-580 east toward Modesto. Copy? Over.”
Cindy listened, fascinated, as Madison showed her how to
operate the gadget. “I never got into that,” Cindy said, “although
the car I drive has one. You’ll have to show me how to use it before
I go back.”
“They don’t have CB’s in 2012?” Madison wondered.
“Well, you don’t hear so much about them as you do now,” Cindy
said. “In 2012 the cell phone and the Blackberry are much more
popular, though it is dangerous to make a phone call when you
drive. Too distracting. They’ve come up with a whole assortment of
new gadgets and I haven’t mastered them all yet like my kids have.
But I’m a whiz on a laptop computer. Mine even plays movies. Just
like my little phone. But CB Radios have a real romance about
them. I remember my Uncle Chuck driving us down the road in his
18-wheeler using his CB radio, and how much fun he had with it.”
“Sounds like he was really into that,” Madison said. But what’s
weird is what you said about Blackberries. Blackberries are
supposed to be eaten, not communicated with. And to think you
can watch a movie without a TV or movie theater! Must be paradise
where you live, Cindy.”
“Oh, the 21st century does have its drawbacks,” Cindy said. “Gas
gets close to $5.00 a gallon, and you wouldn’t believe how broke
America will be in 2012, trillions of dollars in the hole. The
government will have to borrow money from China to keep on
operating.”
Madison’s eyes widened. “It’s gonna get that bad? You’re
kidding me!”
“Wish I were kidding,” Cindy said. “China will be the emerging
economy while America gets in such a slump teachers will be laid off
left and right. Unemployment will reach 10%. My kids’ generation is
the first generation which expects to have a lower standard of living
than its parents.”
“Terrible!” Madison shook her head. “Will men land on Mars by
2012?”
Cindy shook her head. “Nope. But they will land an unmanned
probe on Mars which will send back good pictures. The space
shuttle program will be shut down. I’m just glad Edgar still has
plenty of work. He’s a lawyer who handles lawsuits, stuff like that.”
Madison pursed her lips. “Good for him, but lawsuits are always
so sad.”
“I just hope Edgar doesn’t sue poor Mr. Wakasaki for my
accident. He’s been so good to me.”
“If Edgar’s half as decent a person as you are, Cindy, that just
won’t happen.”
“He makes living in the future worthwhile. You just won’t believe
what it’s gonna be like someday, Madison. The big banks will lose

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money on the stock market, then the government will bail out the
big banks to the tune of trillions of dollars. But once the banks get
back on their feet they’ll foreclose on the same little people who got
taxed to bail them out.”
“Ooh, Cindy! Don’t scare me like that! I was hoping America
would get better, not worse!”
“The only thing we can do, Madison, is try to make our own little
corner of the universe a bit better, and just try to keep the wolf
away from our own door. Mr. Wakasaki always says that if we can
light just one candle, then the next person and the next and the
next and so on down the line will keep lighting candles till our one
tiny light spreads across this whole land. All of us working together
for the common good can make a huge difference. But only if we
have a huge amount of love and patience.”

16
Size Wise

Monday, May 6. When Cindy and Sandy stopped to pick up Kitty for
school, they were startled to see the normally placid girl race out
her front door wailing at the top of her lungs. Cindy parked the car
on the curb and got out. “What’s wrong, Kitty dear?” she cried. “It
can’t be that bad.”
“It’s worse than bad, Mrs. Franks,” Kitty bawled. “Just now I
heard Stan and Mom arguing in the bedroom about me. He told
Mom if she doesn’t get rid of me they’re through! When I said
something to Stan he called me a fat b**** and Mom didn’t say
nothin’ to him!”
Both Cindy and Sandy hugged Kitty, all of them crying.
“It’s true, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy quavered. “Just yesterday Kitty
told me Stan got on her case about her weight. He says she’s
gross and ugly.”
“And…and…” Kitty gasped.
“And what, Kitty?” Cindy asked, fearing the worst.
“Mom took sides with Stan. She said Stan comes first and if I
can’t get along with him I can just go live with my dad! Boo hoo
hoo! She never let me live with Dad before and now she wants to
get rid of me!”
Cindy hugged Kitty, rubbing her back. She said soothingly, “Oh,
Kitty, you’re the most precious, beautiful person in the whole wide
world. That stupid Stan is a moron! Don’t pay any attention to
what he says. A lot of stepdads are like that, ‘cause they don’t like
other men’s kids. It’s nothing personal!”
“Girls,” Cindy barked, “in the car, now! I’ll take care of this!”
Her breath hot and furious, Cindy stalked to the front door and
banged so hard she almost bent the hinges.

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Naturally Mrs. Hawkins was irate about that. “What the hell…”
She flung open the door, clad only in a black negligee. “Mrs.
Franks, what’s the idea, banging on my door like that!”
“What the hell did you say to Kitty to upset her so much, Mrs.
Hawkins?” Cindy hissed. “She said you don’t want her around
anymore. Is that so?”

Stan moseyed up to the door, a towel around his shoulders from
his shower. “Aw, knock it off!” he said. “What goes on around here
is none of your beeswax, Mrs. Franks.”
“It is when Kitty runs out in the yard crying because you made
fun of her looks and ordered her to leave her own home like you
owned the place!” Cindy said. “Who the hell are you to treat such a
beautiful person that way? If I hadn’t driven Kitty home she might
have gotten hurt in that bus wreck. She sat in the same spot each
and every day, on the right side seat just across from the driver.
That part got smashed like an accordion and if it hadn’t been for
me, Mrs. Hawkins, your child, Sandy’s best friend, would have been
sitting there. I know Kitty cramps Stan’s style when he wants all
your attention, but think about that.”
“You only drive Kitty because I give you permission, Mrs.
Franks,” Mrs. Hawkins retorted frostily. “You make me mad enough
and I’ll take back my permission for you to drive her.”
“So you don’t care how dangerous that bus gets, with all those
kids throwing garbage at her, raising hell and causing wrecks, do
you?”
Mrs. Hawkins sniffed,“If Kitty would lose forty pounds,
everyone would like her, Mrs. Franks. She’s got a great personality.”

117
Cindy shook her head. “A bully is a bully is a bully because he’s
a bully and for no other reason! So you’re saying only skinny Kittys
deserve love?”
“I never said that Mrs. Franks. What I meant is, bullies are
attracted to people who look a certain way, just like flies get
attracted to….” Mrs. Hawkins caught herself short. She didn’t have
the heart to finish her analogy.
“Aha!” Cindy said. “I get your drift. Just like flies get attracted
to dumpsters. Just throw out anybody who doesn’t conform to
society’s concept of beauty. So what if a woman gets raped because
she’s too beautiful and she’s got a fantastic figure? Does that
excuse the rapist? I detect a bit of bias here. No, Hawkins, it
wouldn’t make a dime’s worth of difference if Kitty lost a hundred
pounds. Once you’re the designated victim, you’re always the
designated victim. Kids crucified me for being tall and skinny. They
picked on me for having freckles. Should I have gained weight and
bleached my face to please the bullies? Should I have chopped my
legs shorter to ward bullies off? I guarantee ya, even if every last
girl on earth looked alike, bullies would still find some chick to
torture.
“Mrs. Hawkins, don’t forget, you promised Kitty she could do
whatever she wanted provided she stuck to her diet. She’s done
this, so she gets to ride with me as long as I’m a safe driver.”
Mrs. Hawkins waved her hands and sighed, “All right, all right,
fine. All I ask is, you gotta see where I’m coming from, Mrs.
Franks. If Stan and Kitty are at each other’s throats you can’t take
it out on Stan. This could be my last chance to find true love before
I grow old. If I don’t put Stan first I could lose him to some younger
woman who will. Stan’s an animal in the bedroom and it’s hard to
find somebody like that.”
“An animal in the bedroom who acts like an animal elsewhere
has got a few problems,” Cindy rejoined.
“That’s none of your business, Mrs. Franks!” Mrs. Hawkins
looked miffed.
“It is my business when poor little Kitty gets hurt!” Cindy cried.
Before Kitty and Sandy got within ten yards of Cindy she heard
them tiptoeing across the grass. “Girls! What’d I tell ya? Stay in
the car!”
“No can do, Mrs. Franks,” Kitty said, her voice thick with disgust.
“Yes, mom, you did say I could do what I wanted, and I lost two
pounds this week, so I didn’t cheat on my diet. I’m holding you to
your promise. I choose to go live with my dad! I’m sixteen now and
the judge said I could go back to Dad when I got that old. No more
of this c***. You can stay with Stan till the day you die a lonely,
skinny old woman! I’ll get out of your life for good and you’ll never
have to look at my fat, ugly body ever again.”

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Sandy’s face crumpled up. “Kitty…no!” They both started crying
and hugging, hanging onto each other for support.
Cindy made it a huddle. “Oh, my dear, sweet Kitty, my
beautiful, precious friend. You’ve never hurt anyone in your whole
life, and now this.”
Her voice cracking with disgust Cindy yelled, “I hope you can
live with yourself now, Mrs. Hawkins!”
“Another thing I want, Mom!” Kitty hissed, “if Sandy’s dad says
it’s okay, I wanna go stay with her till Dad wires me the bus fare!”
Her mom couldn’t believe it. So unlike her self-effacing,
diffident daughter to get mad enough to speak her mind like that.
“May I please use your telephone, Mrs. Hawkins?” Kitty asked
coolly. Cindy wished Kitty had a cell phone so she wouldn’t put the
stupid woman out.
She’d saved Kitty’s life, Cindy reflected, but there was more than
one way to die. Bullies preferred the slow, killing-by-inches way.
The Humane Society wouldn’t let an animal be tortured that way.
Kitty and Sandy squeezed past Mrs. Hawkins and Stan. Kitty
called her dad in L.A. just when he was leaving for work. When she
told him how Stan had mistreated her, with no objections from her
mom, he was furious. But that changed to sobs of sheer joy when
Kitty asked if he still wanted her back. She was old enough to make
up her own mind now.
So it was settled, the best way anyone could hope for in such a
sorry situation. Kitty’s dad Conrad, a physics professor, had never
stopped loving her. He’d wire her money to fly down, and in her
own name, so her mom couldn’t intercept the Moneygram. When
told about the continued abuse Kitty had suffered at Hogwood High
and on the bus, Conrad choked with rage. He was ready to sue that
rotten school. Kitty hadn’t wanted to worry him, she said, so she
hadn’t told him about it since he’d felt so bad about losing custody
of her four years ago.
Conrad told his daughter he did date occasionally, but
vehemently swore to her that she would always come first. He
owned a huge condo in Malibu with a guest room which would be
her own. And yes, Sandy could come down and stay as long as she
liked, once Kitty got resettled and things got back to some
semblance of normalcy. Best of all, Conrad could provide private
tutoring for his daughter. Kitty could finish eleventh and twelfth
grade without worrying about bullies ever again. When she was
ready her father could provide an excellent college education for
her.
Conrad asked to speak with her mother. Very tersely he told her
he’d take Kitty off her hands permanently, if that would make her
happy. She wouldn’t have to endure Kitty’s presence more than a
day or two more, while he took care of the plane fare and bought
things for her bedroom.

119
“I hope you don’t mind the grocery bill, Mrs. Hawkins said in a
catty tone. She’s put on a few pounds since you saw her the last
time.”
“I’ll love every precious ounce of her,” Conrad said. “If she
overate, you drove her to it. If I couldn’t live with you, she sure
couldn’t! Bye!” He slammed his phone down, seething, but so
ecstatic he could fly.
By now Sandy felt a little calmer. She called her dad at work
and told him everything. Could Kitty stay with them just a day or so
till she flew down to her dad? He agreed, reasoning that it might
minimize Sandy’s moping around the house once Kitty left. When he
called Alice about it, she told him Sandy did need this precious time
with her best friend before she flew south. Kitty could use the
rollaway bed when she came, just like she always did on sleepovers.
“Could I please use your phone as well, Mrs. Hawkins?” Cindy
asked.
“Sure,” she shrugged. “Go ahead. At least after today there
won’t be any further excuse for you to drop by here.”
Cindy phoned the school and said there’d been a family
emergency and asked that Sandy and Kitty’s homeroom to be
notified they’d be late.
“In both families, Mrs. Franks?” the office receptionist asked.
“Yes, believe it or not, in both families.”
Kitty didn’t even look at her mom when she and Sandy hurried
out of the house, still clinging to each other. Reluctantly Kitty’s
pathetic mom agreed it might be a great idea if Mrs. Franks swung
by after work to collect Kitty’s luggage. Once she went to her
Dad’s, the rest of her stuff could be shipped UPS.
“Hey, Mrs. Franks,” Stan breathed, “look at these biceps.” He
flexed his muscles and sucked in his washboard abs. He tried to put
his hands where they weren’t wanted and murmured, “Hey, babe, I
like your sexy…”
Cindy whirled around. A hard knee hit Stan in a strategic
location as she slammed him against the door jamb.
“Ahhh! Damn!” he wailed. “I was only tryin’ to be friendly, you
crazy b****!”
“Cool your hormones, Tarzan!” Cindy snapped. “Last guy who
got fresh with me sings soprano now!”
Mrs. Hawkins swatted him with a magazine. “You dirty rat!
Kitty was right about you! You did flirt with that woman at 7-11!”
“So what if I did?” Stan stormed back. “Shut your fat, ugly
mouth or I’ll…”
He raised his beefy fist. But before he could do anything with it
a hard foot slammed into it. Stan waved it, cursing. To subdue him
completely, Cindy swung at his gut with a flying hammer fist, then
floored him with a neck chop, followed by a spinning roundhouse
kick to the side.

120
“You leave her alone!” she shouted. “Mrs. Hawkins, has he
been threatening you? Tell the truth now.”
Dumbly she nodded. “He said if I didn’t get rid of Kitty, he’d…
he’d kill me!” she sobbed.
Kitty and Sandy overheard. “Oh, Mom, I didn’t know. I’m sorry
I hated you,” Kitty said. She cradled her distraught mom in her
arms while Cindy ordered Stan to leave the house or he’d get some
more.
“I gotta get my junk first,” he grumbled, coughing, cursing,
struggling to stand up straight. Hey, can’t I just leave later,
sweetie?” he asked Mrs. Hawkins.
“Out! Now!” Mrs. Hawkins ordered.
Glaring at Cindy, he complied.
“Okay, Stan,” Mrs. Hawkins said icily. “I’ll go get your stuff now.
Watch the door, Mrs. Franks, and don’t let him back inside.”
Soon a shower of underwear, socks, shirts, pants and shoes flew
out the front door. Muttering curses, Stan went back and forth
picking up his stuff to throw in his car trunk. He scowled at the girls
one last time, then roared away, his tires screeching.
“Oh no, Mom,” Kitty cried, “we just made up, so what’ll we do
now? Dad’s got his heart set on me coming down.”
Sandy’s eyes shone. “You can stay in Modesto now, can’t you,
Kitty?” Cindy touched her arm, pressed her finger to her lips.
“Guess you’d better go then, Kitty,” her mom sighed. “I’ve had
you all to myself all these years. It’s not your fault we split up. No,
baby, it’s all for the best. Can’t be selfish anymore. Besides, I’m
going into therapy ‘cause I don’t always know what I want and that
drove your poor dad crazy. Sometimes what’s best for a person is
what hurts the worst. It’s best for me to be by myself awhile till I
find a few answers. It doesn’t mean you can’t come back to me
sometimes. Both of us love you, honey.”
Kitty hugged her. “Oh Mom, I’m so glad we don’t have to hate
each other anymore. And I will come visit you a lot, maybe bring
you Robert Redford’s autograph if I’m lucky.”
“Ah, sorry if I sounded a little rough, Mrs. Hawkins,” Cindy said.
“Can’t help myself, I love both these girls. Guess I miss my own
kids.”
“No sweat,” Mrs. Hawkins said. “If it hadn’t been for you I never
would have seen Stan for what he is. A self-centered, loud-
mouthed gorilla who steps on women and uses ‘em. I never had
the guts to say ‘boo’ to him till you got here and showed him who
was boss.”
Cindy blushed. “Aw…it was nothin’, really. And as for Stan, time
may not heal all wounds, but time wounds all heels.”
“And he is one,” Mrs. Hawkins muttered.
Cindy surveyed the damage. Not too bad, but a little table had
been overturned and a lamp broken. “Here, Mrs. Hawkins,” she

121
said, opening her purse. “I’ll pay for the lamp. So sorry, but Stan
was threatening to hurt you and I had to stop him.”
Mrs. Hawkins touched her hand. “Don’t worry about that,” she
said. “I was gonna throw that old thing out anyway. All that
matters is we’re all safe.”
“Kitty,” she choked, “as much as I love you, Sandy’s earned
these last few hours with you. So why don’t the three of you swing
by here after school and I’ll help you pack for L.A.? We’ll make a
party of it, girls, and just this once you can break your diet, Kitty.
I’ll send out for cheese pizzas.”
Her face crumpled up as she thought of Stan. “How could that
crumb hurt me like that?”
“C’mere,” Cindy said. She hugged Mrs. Hawkins. “It’s gonna be
all right, don’t worry. You’re way too good for him and he knew it.”
“That’s right, Mom!” Kitty said. “There’s something beautiful in
all of us if we look for it hard enough.”
Everyone was glad the bickering was over. But it made Cindy
uneasy, wondering how any mother could prefer some crude dude
to her own child. If Kitty’s mom only had a change of heart because
lover boy let her down, then Kitty couldn’t count on a stable
relationship with her right now. Clearly the woman needed
professional help and Kitty had needs of her own to consider. Cindy
beckoned Sandy outside for a private word. She took her hand and
whispered gently, “Kitty needs her dad, Sandy, and he needs her, so
their relationship can be healed. And her mom’s not well, you know
that. Kitty needs someone strong to be there for her. So smile,
sweetheart, ‘cause you will see each other again.”

17
Weighty Wisdom

Cindy wrote out an excuse for both girls in case they were late for
their first period classes, attributing the reason to a traffic jam.
At lunch there was a lot of buzzing at the teachers’ tables. Cindy sat
with Ann Foggerty, a substitute teacher, and Coach Ken, who was
saving the other three seats. Cindy felt so famished she attacked a
pile of gooey ravioli, even while wondering if she was doing her
body any favor by eating it. Maybe it contained enough calories, but
the nutrient content of freeze-dried food was doubtful. She’d
dropped four pounds in just a few days and resolved to gain them
back. So when she cleaned her plate she went back for a refill.
She picked up more milk to wash the stuff down. When she got
home she’d whip up a peanut butter shake to tide her over to
dinner.
Ann stared enviously at her svelte frame and poked at her salad.
“Cindy, it just isn’t fair. I eat just one doughnut and gain two

122
pounds. You could eat the whole damn box and stay skinny.
Sometimes I just want to burn my bathroom scale.”
Cindy looked up from her tray. “Scales are for fish, not women.
Ann, you look fantastic. A lot of men like meat on their women. I
have to eat like crazy just to keep from losing.”
Ann smiled languidly. “Lucky you, but some aren’t so lucky.
Hey, did you hear about poor Mr. Peabody?”
“Nope, what about him?”
“He got real mad when the kids poked fun at him last Friday, and
he overheard it outside the classroom. The whole class got two
hours’ detention, and after they did their time he picked ten of the
kids and kicked them out, so the rest would take that as a warning
never to do it again.”
Setting her fork down Cindy said, “That’s awful, Ann.” Better
keep a poker face as if I didn’t know, she thought.
“When the parents of the kids heard they’d gotten kicked out,
they all complained about it to Mr. Trent. Trent called Mr. Peabody
on the carpet for it and ordered him to reinstate those kids or else.
Well, poor old Peabody threatened to sue the school for
‘undermining his inalienable right to maintain discipline in his own
classroom.’
“Trent backed down just a little. Mr. Peabody didn’t have to take
the expelled kids back. I’ve been temporarily hired to teach them till
the end of the school year. But the downside is, Mr. Peabody had
one-third of his pay check slashed for ‘decimating’ one-third of the
class with expulsion.
“Seems Mr. Peabody’s a very proud old man. Rather than giving
Trent the satisfaction of cutting his pay, Peabody told him he was
too good for such a ‘barbaric school full of, and I quote:
‘intransigent, injurious, incorrigible cretins.’ So Peabody just loaded
up all his stuff and just walked out.”
Just walk out, Cindy mused. Must be nice to be able to do that.
“Ann,” Cindy began, “one of the students was cleared of any
involvement in what happened. “Sandy Girard was out of the
classroom the entire time and she didn’t re-enter the room till Mr.
Peabody got back. The other kids resent Sandy for being the only
one not to get in trouble. I saw Sandy in the hall. She told me
about it, said he was afraid they might gang up on her if she went
back to class today. Mr. Peabody advised Sandy to just do her pop
quiz outside class and drop it off in his office instead of going to
today’s class.”
Ann raised her eyebrows. “If she’s not in class today, Cindy, I’ll
have to mark her absent. Sorry.”
“You know, Ann,” said Ken, “I heard from a reliable source that
this particular class is planning a surprise party to welcome the new
‘sub’ to class. If you’re brave enough to go into that den of lions,
more power to ya.”

123
He winked at Cindy and rolled up his eyes. “If you like Super
Glue in your chair, nasty noises, mice in your desk and a spider web
falling from the ceiling, just go for it. It’s just part of the job
description.
“Not only that, Ann, Wayne Woodcock smashed up a dissected
frog and smeared it all over the last substitute teacher’s desk.
Someone overheard him in the hall saying he’s got his Red Hot
Rocket Launcher all ready for you.”
“What’s that?” Ann gulped.
“Just a machine gun made out of a pencil sharpener, with a
firecracker fuse on one end and a hand crank on the other,” Ken
sniffed. “But don’t worry. It doesn’t shoot live ammunition, just a
shower of cinnamon buckshot. “It’s part of Hogwood High’s initiation
process for new substitute teachers.”
“Cindy, tell me Ken’s making some of this up!” Ann frowned.
“Say it isn’t so!”
Cindy shrugged. “Don’t ask me. Ken knows Wayne Woodcock
better than I do.”
Ken shook his head. “Woodcock’s a psycho. When I had him for
P.E. last year he gave me nothing but nonstop hell. Ripped up my
grade book, deflated all my footballs and basketballs, soaped down
the locker room, scratched up my square dance record.”
“Trent heard what happened yesterday,” Ann frowned. “Why’s
he going so easy on Woodcock? Don’t they discipline students
here?”
Ken laughed. “At Hogwood High? You gotta be jokin’! Trent
runs a progressive school. He believes in freedom of expression, not
punishment.”
“What else…has Woodcock done?” Ann breathed, eyes wide in
terror.
“Well, Ann, you can’t imagine the torture he put Mr. Peabody
through. Peabody’s a very strong man, Ann, a stiff-upper-lipper
who never feels sorry for himself. But Peabody freaked out after
Wayne’s buddy Russ Hobbleton hid his pet porcupine under his
desk. Man, that dude got stickers all over his legs. And that was
before Woodcock shot a pencil through his favorite book with a
homemade missile launcher. Last I heard, Peabody’s s****ing
bricks and he’s on tranquilizers. But oh hell, every job’s got its
hazards. Hey, cheer up, Ann, a little stimulation keeps the adrenalin
flowing. At least Biology class won’t be dull.”
Ann jumped out of her seat. “I’m outa here! Damn Mr. Trent!
He told me that job was so easy a monkey could do it! Well, he can
teach it himself!”
“Ann, Ann,” Cindy called, “don’t wimp out on us. You can’t just
run away from a challenge. Mr. Peabody’s counting on you to finish
his class for him.”

124
“To hell with Mr. Peabody,” Ann cried, “and to hell with Hogwood
High!”
Without another word to either of them, she hustled out of the
cafeteria.
Ken laughed. “Guess I won’t have to save these seats anymore.
And Cindy,” he whispered, “don’t worry about the hundred dollars.
“I’m glad to do a favor for a friend.”
“Thanks, Ken,” Cindy whispered in turn. “She flew the coop and
the hog pen both. Now they have to cancel that class.”
Ken looked at her knowingly. “That kid must mean a lot to you if
you’d go to such lengths to protect her.”
Cindy nodded. “I’m her Aunt Cindy. She calls me ‘Mrs. Franks’
at school. I heard what was happening to her and I just had to help
her get through the end of this year.”
“So that’s why you took the job, Cindy?”
She nodded. “Partly. What I’ll do in the fall, who knows?”
His eyes met hers. “I hope you’re still here then,” he said,
sincerely.
“Just…don’t tell Mrs. Bullard,” Cindy said.
“Tell me what!” demanded a shrill voice from over her shoulder.
“I was standing outside the principal’s office yesterday,” Ken
hurriedly said. “I overheard Mr. Trent on the phone apologizing to
his wife for acting like such a jerk. They’re going away on a
romantic jaunt tonight, just the two of them. I never saw a man
that looked so happy, Nancy.”
Mrs. Bullard looked furious. “Why…that..beast!” she breathed.
“Don’t look so happy about it, Franks!” She bent down closer and
whispered. “My Brad’s out on probation and I’m home-schooling
him. So all’s well that ends well. But let me tell you something,
Wonder Woman. I’m watching you, Franks, and one of these days
your luck’s gonna run out, and I’ll pay you back for the twist and
the kick, and all your other little gangland tricks. Just thought I’d
warn you.”
Cindy stood up and stared her straight in the eye. “And I’m
warning you, Bullard. Better keep your kid away from Sandy Girard
or there’ll be hell to pay.” She picked up a metal fork and bent it
into a loop.
Mrs. Bullard stuck up her nose and stalked to the principal’s
office where she started a blazing argument. Mr. Trent denied all her
hysterical accusations, said the coach was only psyching her out for
a laugh. And no, he wouldn’t fire Cindy Franks. She was doing too
good a job with her girls, and this year he was determined to win
that damned Regional Basketball Tournament for the first time in
the history of Hogwood High. And he needed Coach Codgins to
inspire his own players to pick up a trophy or two to display in the
Sports Building.

125
“You won’t do anything to prove your love for me,” Mrs. Bullard
pouted. “You are planning to take your wife on a romantic weekend,
aren’t you?”
“I’m innocent till proven guilty, Nancy!” he yelled. “You’re like
all women! Spiteful, jealous, I can’t even say ‘hello’ to a woman
and you get on my case! After all the great times we’ve had, you
can’t even trust me to be faithful to you!”
“You’re in love with that b**** Cindy Franks!” she accused.
“Why else would you hire her without any references, right off the
street?”
“’Cause she can actually hit the basketball hoop when she
throws at it!” he hollered back. “You’re so short and dumpy you
can’t even…”
Denny Lofton grinned like a polecat. This story was priceless.
His next Hogwood Squeal headline would be a blast. He knelt
behind the shrubbery, his recorder still going.
“You male chauvinist pig!” Mrs. Bullard shot back. “Your belly’s
so big you need a wheelbarrow to shove it around! After this year’s
up, I’m outa here!”
“Fine with me,” he sniffed. “Maybe you shouldn’t even be in the
teaching business with a jailbird son, and…”
Denny heard a loud “OW!” after Mrs. Bullard kicked his shins.
Denny wasn’t quick enough. She whipped around the corner before
he could hide his tape recorder, get up and run off. She slapped the
side of his head.
Sandy didn’t have any Biology to go to that day.
They made a party of Kitty’s departure, as much as they were able
to. Mrs. Hawkins provided all the refreshments, including two giant
“kitchen sink” pizzas from Gorgeous Giorgio’s Pizzeria. Kitty got a
break from her diet, but ate with amazing restraint, knowing she’d
be leaving Sandy soon, and who knows when they’d be together
again.
Staying busy helped. As she cleared out her closet, she gleefully
pointed to the big pile of stuff on the floor which was now two sizes
too big for her.
“I’m so-o-o proud of you, Kitty,” Cindy said. “Not just for your
weight loss but for the progress you’ll make in the future in all the
things you try.”
Her mother kissed her. “I’m proud of ya too, babe. It’s gonna
be lonesome here after you’re gone. But I really was glad to see
Stan go. Guess you could say I lost weight too. All 210 pounds of
that sap!”
Everybody laughed. Soon all Kitty’s suitcases and boxes were
packed. Kitty handed something to Sandy. “I want you to have
this,” she whispered. “Remember when we were little girls, I said
this looked like you?”

126
Kitty’s Strawberry Shortcake doll! “Oh, Kitty,” Sandy breathed,
“I couldn’t….”
“You better take it,” Kitty said, her voice thick with emotion.
“L.A.’s too wild a place for her. She always did like you the best.
Keep it on your bed with Snuggy Kitty.”
Sandy took it. Tears stood in her eyes, and in Cindy’s. “Oh,
Kitty, like, you will write me at least once a week, won’t you?”
“Scout’s honor,” Kitty said. “Might write every day.”
“Wish I could call long distance every day,” Sandy said. “But
hey, we can mail cassette tapes to each other and still talk to each
other that way. That’s cheap.”
Too bad e-mail hasn’t been invented yet, thought Cindy.
While the girls watched videos in Kitty’s room, Cindy got to know
Mrs. Hawkins better. Her own parents had always pressured her to
always look her best, to stay slim, to be attractive to men. Cindy
confessed she’d always been a bit of a tomboy and maybe that’s
why she got into sports and martial arts.
The two had a few things in common. Both liked chick flicks and
long, romantic walks. But right now Mrs. Hawkins would have to
learn to walk alone and respect herself as a worthwhile person so
she wouldn’t choose any more abusers to take walks with.
About 8:00 Conrad called back and was pleased to hear that the
friction in the air was gone. He was gladder still that his ex was
putting Kitty first and allowing her to come stay with him. He’d
booked Kitty’s plane ticket for Wednesday morning, the same time
Sandy would be leaving on her P.E. field trip. Kitty would sleep over
at Sandy’s tonight and Tuesday night.
Kitty lingered at the door a long time as Cindy loaded her luggage in
the trunk of her car. Finally, Kitty waved and walked away from her
mom, accompanied by Sandy, who was both glad and sad. Sandy
was sorry Kitty wouldn’t get to go with her on the field trip, but she
was glad she’d be with her dad. Sandy would see to it that these
final fleeting hours with her friend would be fun.

18
Heavenly Hell

Tues.May 7, 8:55 a.m. Kids cracked jokes about my Kitty, laughed
at me when I cried!! I hate them so much! And Lofton that
sleazebag paper editor said he had more c*** to write on me, and
even if he didn’t he’d make something up. He makes me sick.
Same day, 10:53 a.m. I got kicked in the butt by who else? That
barfbag Bullard. When I got mad he pointed at a big sign somebody
taped to the tail of my jacket: KICK ME! I ripped it off, wadded it
up and threw it in his face but he still laughed with all the other
morons in the hall. Dammit, I hate Hogpen High! Sandy Girard,
signing off

127
Kitty stayed home from school that day to spend a few hours with
her mom before Sandy got home from school. Mrs. Hawkins notified
the school that Kitty was moving to L.A. to be with her dad, and no,
she could not stay in town long enough to complete what little was
left of the school year. The phone conversation ended on an
acrimonious note with Mrs. Hawkins shouting she couldn’t keep her
daughter in that hog pen of a school any longer.
After an early morning conversation with F. Wakasaki, Cindy was
relieved Kitty made that decision. She would have enough to do
watching over Sandy.
As Cindy had instructed her to always do, Sandy checked her
seat for tacks before sitting down in English, her first period class.
The teacher hadn’t arrived yet. Usually the kids were too sleepy at
9 a.m. to get up to much mischief. But they watched Sandy like a
pack of vultures swooping in for the kill. After reading over a sheet
of possible wisecracks Sandy felt prepared.
One loudmouth called, “Hey, giraffe, heard your fat friend’s goin’
away. No wonder her mom didn’t want her. She ran out of elephant
food.”
Sandy grinned and said, “Your mom got tired of tripping on all
your banana skins. That’s why she didn’t want you anymore.”
A snotty girl sneered, “Hawkins was so fat her shadow caused a
nuclear winter!”
Sandy said, “Little brains in little bodies. The bigger the body
the bigger the heart.”
A boy in the back hollered, “She’ll take up three seats when she
flies outa here.”
Sandy grinned. “Her dad loves her enough to rent the whole
plane for her. Isn’t that great?”
“Hell,” one girl yelled, “that b**** is so heavy the plane can’t
take off.”
Gnashing her teeth Sandy said, “Your brain’s so small you need
a microscope to see it.”
Another mocked, “Her old man’ll go broke just buyin’ her
breakfast!”
Sandy shrugged and said, “What’s it to you? It ain’t your
money.”
A girl from the popular clique called, “Now she’s gone you don’t
have any friends here.”
Sandy sniffed and said, “So? It’s your loss, not mine.”
Mrs. Whitehall walked in, looking relaxed and happy.
“Hello, class, I just had the most wonderful time at my Spiritual
Growth Seminar in Northridge, Los Angeles. So sorry I didn’t make
it back Monday. But I feel like I’m on Cloud Nine. Brother Zebedee
Barzillai, the keynote speaker, presented a six-part teaching series
on the topic of ‘Free Forgiveness for All’. No matter what anybody

128
does to you, forgive that individual. Even if the offender never
expresses regret for what he’s done, it’s a sin against God to harbor
any resentment toward that person.”
Sandy raised her hand.
“Yes, Sandy?”
“What if the trouble goes on for years and years and nobody
ever says ‘sorry’? Do you still have to forgive ‘em?”
“Why yes, Sandy, of course.”

“What if somebody teases a girl for being fat and hurts her
feelings so much she jumps off a bridge? Would God forgive that
girl or send her to hell?”
Mrs. Whitehall pursed her lips. “Why, Sandy, no one in their
right mind would ever do such a wicked thing, even out of
desperation.”
“But would God send that person to hell, Mrs. Whitehall?”
“Sandy, please refrain from using such expletives in this class.”
“But that word’s in the Bible, Mrs. Whitehall.”
Kids laughed. One of them hollered, “Ain’t no room in heaven
for giraffes either. The ceiling ain’t high enough.”
“Roderick, mind your wicked tongue!” Mrs. Whitehall said
sharply.
“See what I mean, Mrs. Whitehall?” Sandy lamented. “I know
Roderick ain’t sorry for…”
“Sandy, haven’t I taught you proper grammar by now?” Mrs.
Whitehall moaned. “You meant to say, ‘Roderick isn’t sorry’. Even if

129
Roderick calls you names for the next million years and never
apologizes, you still have to forgive him.”
“One more question, Mrs. Whitehall,” Sandy said. “If God
expects us to forgive without getting any apology, then why would
He send people downstairs for not saying ‘sorry’ for making Him
mad?”
“Ours is not to question,” the teacher said smugly. “Anger is like
fire in the hands of a two-year-old. Only God has the right to be
angry. We just take it on faith that we’re held to a higher standard
of conduct.”
Sandy bit her tongue but shook her head at the contradiction as
the kids had another good laugh.
When class disbanded, Denny Lofton ambushed her with his
news camera. “Aha! Gotcha, giraffe! Man, did I ever get a good
scoop, the way you preached religion at old lady Whitehall!”
“Buzz off, Lofton,” Sandy said with a sidelong sneer.
“Or what, giraffe? Ya gonna call your Martian buddies to make
me?”
“No, but I will!” A dude in a black bandana snuck up on him.
“Gimme that camera or I’ll wrap it around your neck!”
Lofton raced down the hall laughing, though he was plenty
scared.
Mrs. Whitehall exited the room. A couple students gawked at
the stranger in the black leather jacket.
“Sandy!” Mrs. Whitehall said sharply. “Are you affiliated with
some gang?”
“Only when I need protection from too many people I have to
forgive,” Sandy said, before leaving with the guy.
“The giraffe and the space alien make a great couple,” one boy
said. His next comment shocked the socks off Mrs. Whitehall.
“Montgomery!” she scolded the boy widely known as ‘Monty’.
Down the hall, Sandy whispered to Chico, “Two girls I know are
in there talking to Mrs. Whitehall. I need to know what they’re
saying.”
“Why don’t you just walk away, Sandy? Who cares what they
think?”
“Just keep a lookout for a few seconds, Chico. I’ll just be a
minute. Then I’ll tell you what I heard.”
The two loudmouth boys were gone. Stealthily, Sandy crept
down the hall and stood to one side of the door window so she
could hear without being seen.
“Mrs. Whitehall,” Denise queried, “isn’t it awful how some kids
treat each other? What would Jesus do?”
The teacher said smugly, “We aren’t called to preach a social
gospel, Denise, if that’s what you’re implying. This world will be full
of sinners who abuse each other till the end of time. Unless the
Good News costs you something, you can’t be a Christian. If Sandy

130
ever comes to the Lord, she’ll have to give up her anger and bear
suffering patiently like the rest of us.”
“Why couldn’t you give her a straight answer to her question?”
Jolene wanted to know. “It is hard to understand why God would
send people to…that place, but still expect humans to be more
forgiving than He is.”
“The way to life is narrow,” Mrs. Whitehall said. “Unless you’re
willing to have your love and patience tested to its outermost limits,
you can’t get into heaven.”
“Mrs. Whitehall,” Denise whispered, “is it a sin, the way some of
us churchgoers refuse to sit near Sandy in assembly or in the
cafeteria?”
The rigorously religious lady shook her head. “There must be
something fundamentally wrong with Sandy if everyone ostracizes
her like that. Sandy’s a sinner if she doesn’t share our beliefs. So
technically speaking, you’re in the right for refusing to keep
company with her. My Bible says to keep yourself separate from
sinners and not to eat with reprobates.”
“But some of the girls we sit with don’t go to church,” Jolene
said.
“Most of ‘em even say cuss words,” Denise added.
“Sandy must be guilty of some terrible sin she’s hiding from
everyone,” Mrs. Whitehall speculated. “That’s why God is punishing
her so severely. If you’ll read your Bibles you’ll find numerous
examples of God raising up adversaries to torment sinful people.
Some sinners receive all their punishment in the afterlife, if that’s
the good Lord’s will. But a very few begin to reap their richly
deserved punishment in the here and now. Sandy just happens to
be one of those unfortunate souls.”
“So, it wouldn’t make much difference if we sat with her when
everybody else kept away from her,” Jolene shrugged, her
expression vacant. “And, like, if we did they’d hassle us too. So why
make enemies when we don’t need to?”
“Right, Jolene,” Denise said. “Mustn’t give Satan an open door to
harass us by being different. Besides, I promised God that next
year I’d work up the courage to act more like Jesus. God knows the
devil runs this school and we’re outnumbered anyway.”
“Amen to that,” Mrs. Whitehall said. Her eyes darted nervously.
“You must be wise as serpents when you’re on the devil’s territory.
The darkness here is so intense one tiny pinpoint of light won’t
make a hill of beans’ worth of difference. You could remember to
leave a gospel tract on Sandy’s lunch table before she sits down.
That’s an easy way to lead her to Christ. Just don’t let any teacher
catch you doing it. Mr. Trent is especially hostile to our faith.
“To speak of the devil,” the teacher whispered. “There he goes
down the hall. If he catches me violating the separation between

131
church and state, I’ll be standing in the unemployment line before
you know it.”
“Why can’t we just keep our religion in church where it
belongs?” Denise moaned. “There’s a place for everything. Mom
cooks in the kitchen, not the bedroom. The car’s in the garage, not
the house. Religion belongs in church, not the bus or school
cafeteria.”
“Except for saying grace over lunch,” Jolene said. “Even then I
keep my eyes open, my mouth shut, and make it snappy, and no
other kid even knows I prayed. I can do it in two seconds.”
Denise laughed. “I doubt that food’s even worth one second, it’s
so yucky.”
“Denise,” Mrs. Whitehall gently reproved, “unthankfulness is a
sin. But I see your point. No need to make yourself a public
spectacle when you pray. Jesus warned against praying to draw
attention to yourself.
“And as for flaunting your faith in front of others, the Bible does
teach you to be discreet in all your ways,” Mrs. Whitehall added.
“Ecclesiastes 7:16 says it’s self-destructive to act too
sanctimonious. You’ll only end up lonely. Romans 14:22 warns us to
keep our faith strictly between ourselves and God.”
Exasperated, Jolene said, “Don’t we go see God once a week in
His house? Isn’t it enough some of us go to the sweaty jungles of
Africa to preach religion? What more could God want out of us?”
“Well, I do know God doesn’t expect us to cast our pearls before
the swine,” Mrs. Whitehall said.
“And Hogwood High is full of ‘em!” Denise tittered.
Standing outside where they couldn’t see, Sandy picked up most
of their dialogue. She happened to have an REM cassette in her
little Walkman. She fast-forwarded it to “Losing My Religion” and
turned it up full blast so her adversaries could hear it while they
picked her apart in Mrs. Whitehall’s room. Sandy’s face flushed with
contempt for their hypocrisy.
After playing part of it Sandy ran down the hall, cackling like a
triumphant crow.
Mrs. Whitehall was mortified. “Whatever was that?” she gasped.
“Have you ever heard such a wicked laugh? Oh, girls, she must
have overheard.”
“Seems like Sandy and her gang are everywhere these days,”
Denise said.
“Just like satan,” Jolene repined. “Who else would poke fun at
religion?”
Mrs. Whitehall’s eyes darted to and fro. “Doesn’t the Bible warn
us that satan is ever-present, prowling like a hungry lion to devour
decent people?”
Sandy found Chico. She told him everything.

132
“I’m not surprised,” he shrugged. “Religion is a great copout
for cowards, and people like that can make the Bible say anything
they want it to say.”
“Casting pearls before swine,” Sandy murmured. “Was she
calling me a pig, Chico?”
He grinned. “It takes one to know one. Isn’t this place called
Hog Pen High?”

F. Wakasaki held the Broken Rainbow of Peace, staring pensively at
it. The Red Arc of War shines more than before, he thought.

“Eye of the Tiger” went off in Cindy’s bag. Good, she thought, I’m
by the back door, I can duck out where nobody’ll see me. “Mr.
Wakasaki,” she said in answer to a string of curt questions, “yes,
I’m fine, everyone is safe, and we did have a lot of trouble, but
things turned out okay.”
“Good,” he said. “Sandy-san, Bullard be back today after Little
Sandy. You no interfere, I send 3R man do job. There something
you need do for Sandy. I tell you.”
After he gave his instructions Cindy said, “Will do. Thanks, Mr.
Wakasaki, “gotta go. Enemy advancing.” Nimbly she pressed a
button and slipped the phone in her bag.
“Contacting your little alien friends again?” Mrs. Bullard cooed,
eying her with unmitigated malice.
“Nope,” Cindy said. “Just listening to my old-fashioned Sony
Walkman. Wanna see it?” She took her tiny stereo, containing a
new cassette, from her jacket pocket, earphones dangling from it.
“Hmmph,” Mrs. Bullard stuck up her nose. “A kiddie toy. My
Brad’s gonna teach you some respect for the established pecking
order one of these days. Better watch your back around here,
Franks. Accidents can happen, you know.”
“Yeah, they can,” Cindy retorted, eyes flashing. “The worst was
when you popped out of your mother.”
“You b****!” Cindy sensed the frontal attack and automatically
swerved out of the way. Mrs. Bullard lost her balance and tumbled
down the back steps of the Science Building. She lay on the
ground, moaning and rubbing her sore knee.
Cindy offered her hand, but her enemy shrieked, “Get away
from me, you freak!”
Anger boiled up in Cindy. She’d been called a “freak” untold
thousands of times before in her school days. But no, she would not
hit Mrs. Bullard unless physically threatened.
Just then Cindy heard three crow squawks coming from behind.
A pre-agreed signal. She turned her head, looked up in a sycamore
tree. “Mrs. Bullard, before I go, there’s something you need to
see. Up there.”

133
Perched up in the wide limbs of the old tree were three 3R men
making monkey faces at Cindy’s adversary and waving.
Mrs. Bullard forced herself to her feet, shook her fist and swore
at them. They faded away in the bright sunlight.
That was more than she could take. “Yaaah!” she screamed.
She ran to the principal’s office, white as a sheet.
Cindy laughed her head off.
Poor Mr. Trent, all he wanted was a good snooze at his desk after
drafting another of his long-winded, boring speeches.
His door flew open. “Roger!” Mrs. Bullard gasped, “Sandy Girard
and Cindy Franks have got a ghost gang and they’re scaring the
c*** out of everybody!”
Roger barely lifted his droopy eyelids. He guffawed and pulled
his long legs off the desk, shaking with glee.
“It isn’t funny, Roger! These three guys in black caps, they
hung out in the old sycamore tree and made faces at me, then they
vanished!”
Roger waved his hands. “Nancy, Nancy, get a grip on yourself,
woman! Sit down, for Pete’s sake. If it’s PMS or something, we can
fix that right now. I’ve got some aspirin in my drawer.”
Hoarsely Mrs. Bullard shouted and pointed, “Look at my knees!
Cindy Franks pushed me off the back steps, then she got her
invisible men after me! They might come after me when I go to
bed tonight!”
“Oh, I doubt they’d be that desperate,” the principal retorted, a
twinkle in his eye. He looked at her knees. Both were caked in dirt.
One was slightly scratched. “Wait, I’ll get some Bactine.”
“You stupid moron!” Mrs. Bullard yelled, whacking him with a
sheaf of papers. “I don’t need any Bactine! If you don’t do
something about that woman, I will!”
Chico met Little Sandy in the hall on her way to Algebra. “Sandy, he
whispered, “Mrs. Bullard’s on the warpath. More trouble’s coming
after class. So go in the girls’ bathroom and knock on the first stall
you see. Some girl’s waiting for you there to tell you what to do.”
Chico looked around and said, “Shhh. Hurry.” He steered her
toward a nearby restroom and nudged her in. Chico ducked into an
empty classroom and peeped out the door window. Mrs. Bullard, in
a cantankerous mood, walked past, hoping she might encounter
Sandy.
Her mouth dry from suspense, Sandy peeked under the first
stall, which was closed. She saw a pair of striped tennies on the
floor. Lightly she tapped and whispered, “It’s Sandy.”
The door eased open. A girl Sandy’s size pulled her inside and
pressed her finger to her lips.
“My name’s April,” she whispered. “I’m a 3R Radical. I’ll take
your place in the rest of your classes today. You need to switch
clothes with me and head straight for Mrs. Franks’ office.”

134
“But what if Mrs. Bullard sees me?” Sandy wondered. “Won’t
she make trouble?”
“She doesn’t go into Mrs. Franks’ office, ‘cause Mrs. Franks
doesn’t share her office with anybody. Just go to the Sports
Building. Miss Franks will meet you outside her office. She’ll let
you watch TV in there till it’s time to go home.”
April peered at her watch, then remembered to remove it and
put it in her bag. “Hurry, Sandy, let’s get dressed.”
Once Sandy put on April’s clothes she whispered, “April, how
come you look like me? How’d you manage that?”
“Makeup and wig,” April whispered. “My hair’s blond and
straight. I’m wearing green contacts and penciled-in freckles. My
voice is a lot like yours, too. See? I’m even wearing bracelets just
like yours. Mrs. Franks gave me some P.E. clothes too. She said
‘you’ should show up for class as usual.”
“Your tennies look just like mine,” Sandy said wonderingly.
“Yeah, they’re the same brand. Mrs. Franks already gave me
your locker number and combination in the dressing room.”
“Man, you did a great job.” Sandy felt like she was staring at her
own reflection. “Even your teeth look a lot like mine.”
“Temporary touch-ups,” April said. “Hollywood makeup tricks.
I’d better split and hope old man Kingsley doesn’t care if I’m five
minutes late. Oh, yeah, I need your locker number and combination
so I can use your books.”
Sandy scribbled it down for her. “And here’s my notebook paper,”
Sandy said. “And some pens.”
April stuffed them in her green backpack, which resembled
Sandy’s.
“Sandy, are you, like…good in algebra, or are you bad at it?”
“Just so-so, April, so don’t act too smart. But there’ll be history
and biology too, and I probably write different than you do.”
“No sweat, Sandy. Just give me a sample of your writing, and
I’ll come close enough.”
Quickly Sandy wrote some words on a scrap of paper to give
April a chance to practice.
“Oh yeah,” April said, “put this on till you get inside Mrs. Franks’
office.” April tucked Sandy’s red hair under a curly black wig.
“Good luck, April, and thanks,” Sandy said.

Cindy was waiting for Sandy. “In here, quick,” Cindy said. She
pulled the girl into her office and pointed at a cozy cubby hole with
a portable TV sitting atop a desk, where she’d laid out an appetizing
stash of drinks and snacks. The blinds and curtains by the little
niche were securely drawn.
“Use the earphones with the TV, and don’t make too much of a
racket. Stay in here and only go outside if you need to use the
bathroom. And if you do, use this spare key to lock the office behind

135
you so nobody sneaks in here while you’re out.” Cindy gave it to
her. “And even if you must go out, wait till classes are in session.
When I’m gone, I’ll lock the door. See the slide latch I installed?”
Cindy pointed. “Lock that too. And don’t, I repeat, don’t, answer
the door or the phone. Don’t unlock that door for anybody or even
breathe a word to anybody till I get back. No matter who knocks on
that door or what they say. Understand?”
Wide-eyed, Sandy agreed. “Will scary things happen today, Mrs.
Franks?”
“Unfortunately, yes. There’s gonna be one hell of a lot of trouble
today. But you won’t be in it, sweetheart. Don’t worry, we’ll make
sure the good guys win.”

True to her word, April slightly dumbed down her math skills when
she got called on to work a problem on the blackboard. She
deliberately flubbed one factor in the calclation. Mr. Kingsley shook
his head and corrected the problem, saying, “There, Girard, that’s
what you left out. Now both sides of the equation balance. I take it
math isn’t your strong point.”
“It never was, Mr. Kingsley,” April said.
“She’s dumb as mud,” Donna Davis whispered to her girl friend.
Trained to hear the fluttering of a bird wing, April overheard but
she carried herself with dignity back to her seat, unlike the cringing,
insecure Sandy she was impersonating. Mr. Wakasaki had briefed
her on the names of the chief troublemakers in each class, and
what each looked like, information gained from Cindy and Madison’s
meeting with him in Frisco. “At least I can spell ‘cat’ and ‘dog’,” she
sniffed. “Mr. Kingsley, since Davis thinks she’s a genius, let her do
the next one, if you don’t mind. Maybe we can all learn something
from her.”
“No static in my class, Girard,” the teacher said. “But hey, why
not? Davis, up to the board, now.”
Donna Davis barely made ‘D’s’ in Algebra. She gave April a black
look on her way to the blackboard. Mr. Kingsley wrote a quadratic
equation on the board and told her to solve it.
Davis diddled with the chalk and begged the teacher for just
one tiny hint.
Smiling smugly he said, “You need to deduce the value of the
square root of the hypotenuse of the triangle before proceeding to
the next step, and…”
Red-faced and angry, Davis chucked the chalk and hurried to her
seat, to giggles and jeers.
“So you didn’t study the material?” Mr. Kingsley frowned, though
he thought it was funny. “I’ll simply solve the equation myself.”
“I’m gonna get you for that, giraffe,” Davis snarled.
April scrunched her nose at her and pretended to take notes.

136
Though he’d been expelled, Bullard still prowled the halls looking for
his old buddies. His trial date was August 14 and he was out on
bail. He’d been listening outside the door. Just wait’ll old giraffe
comes out, he snickered to himself. He gnashed his teeth in fury as
he looked at his right hand, his broken knuckle bones bandaged up.
After class, Davis grabbed her junk and rushed out quick as she
could and touched base with Bullard out in the hall. Deliberately,
calmly, April packed her bag, staring at the clock. At exactly 10:52
she slowly left the classroom, turned left and walked down the hall,
away from Bullard. She held up her right wrist. One of her wider
bracelets was embedded with a tiny rearview mirror.
He’s coming, she thought. Too bad for him. Trained to study the
bodily motions of opponents, April noted the slight forward motion
of Bullard’s left hip as he readied his right leg for the strike.
Before his foot could reach her, April whirled around clockwise
and slammed her left leg into his right thigh. As he staggered she
grabbed his left wrist and flipped him over her shoulder. Chico, who
had been watching closely, appeared from around the corner and
nabbed Bullard. He flung a furry monkey mask over Bullard’s head,
then grabbed the KICK ME sign meant for Sandy. Chico jerked
Bullard to his feet and taped the sign to the seat of his pants. He
tied a knotted jump rope around Bullard’s neck. Then he marched
Bullard up and down the hall and ordered him to go “ook ook” while
other kids pointed and laughed.
“Now ya know what it feels like, jerk!” Chico growled. His phone
went off. He pulled it out of his coat pocket and said, “Hello, Mr.
Wakasaki.”
“In 52 seconds you return,” F. Wakasaki said.
Time was short. Chico removed the rope from Bullard’s neck.
Then he chased Bullard down the hall and out the back door, all the
while warning him to keep the hell away from Sandy.
Outside, Bullard turned around and shook his bandaged fist at
Chico. He snuck back in. “If they can do it, I can too,” he muttered.
“My hand’s broke but I can still kick the c*** out of ‘em.
Bullard rushed back inside, yelling bloody murder. Hands on hips
Chico stood, grinning at him while kids wondered what he’d do next.
Before Bullard got much closer he vanished.
Big, tough Brad Bullard, the scourge of Hogwood High, ran
looking for his mommy. Kids screamed. Bullard ran across the
campus yelling that he’d seen Martians in Algebra. Breathless,
Bullard entered the Sports Building and located the girl’s health
class his mom taught. He stood outside the door while she showed
girls how to get their very own baby.
“Mrs. Bullard,” one of them said, “a boy’s out there. Like, this is
so embarrassing!”
Mrs. Bullard rolled up her eyes. “Relax, Susan. It’s only Brad.
Nothing embarrasses that kid. Excuse me.”

137
“Brad!” she whispered. “What are you doing here, boy? You
know you’re on probation.”
“An alien attacked me, Mom!” he shrieked. “Sandy Girard’s
buddy! Then he disappeared right in front of me!”
Grimacing, he rubbed his thigh.
“Are you hurt, Brad?” his mom asked, worriedly.
“Naw,” he choked. But he shook like a leaf. Tears trickled from
his eyes.
“Girls,” his mother called to the class, “just keep watching the
film strip. My son’s been hurt and I need to see how bad it is.”
The girls exchanged puzzled glances. “That dude’s not even
supposed to be here,” one whispered.
“Wonder if the cops shot Brad,” said another.
“No, some space alien did!” another tittered.
Inside her office, Mrs. Bullard ordered Brad to pull down his
pants. When he protested, she gave him a towel to cover himself.
She was shocked by the big black bruise and gasped, “Did Sandy
Girard do this?”
Bullard hung his head. “Yeah, mom. She jumped me for no
reason.
“Not only that, the alien strung a noose around my neck and
made me go ‘ook ook’ all the way down the hall. I could’a died!”
He pulled the mask and jump rope from his backpack and gave
them to her.
“That nasty little b****!” Mrs. Bullard breathed. “You just take
a cab home and put an ice pack on it, Brad. I’ll fix that girl’s
wagon!”

Joe Girard laughed when Mrs. Bullard called him at work and told
him about Sandy and the space alien.
“I don’t see what’s so funny, Mr. Girard. My Brad came to school
with a hand bandaged from a fight with Mrs. Franks. Then Sandy
kicks him for no reason. Then her space alien friend puts that
monkey mask and KICK ME sign on him and marches him down the
hall to humiliate him. Then Brad saw him disappear.”
“Calm yourself, Mrs. Bullard,” Joe said. “Maybe it’s just your
feminine hormones or something.”
“Your daughter karate-kicked my son and threw him on the
floor,” Mrs. Bullard insisted.
“It must’a been some other Sandy,” Joe said, peeved. Our
Sandy’s so puny she couldn’t even kick a habit. She’s scared of her
own shadow. And it takes years to be a karate expert. Sandy hasn’t
been to any karate classes. And there’s no aliens except in comic
books! Have you thought of seeing a good shrink, Mrs. Bullard?”
“Mr. Girard,” Mrs. Bullard growled, “you better watch your step
with me. I’m nothing to be toyed with.”

138
“Neither am I!” Joe shouted. “If Sandy kicked Brad, good for
her! It’s high time somebody gave that lousy punk kid of yours a
good kick in the pants. Seems like you guys can dish it out but ya
can’t take it. If somebody’d gotten tough with Brad years ago,
maybe he wouldn’t go around picking on girls and picking fights
with skinny P.E. teachers. And maybe Brad wouldn’t be a menace
to society costing us taxpayers money in the county jail!”
Mrs. Bullard screamed “Shut up!” over the phone. She slammed
it down. She knew one thing. Ever since Cindy Franks came to
Hogwood High, things had gotten better for Sandy and worse for
Brad. Somehow, and soon, she’d make that woman pay.

19
Bungling Brutes

Mrs. Bullard gnashed her teeth. She was mad at Joe, but even
madder at herself for forgetting that Joe was a sorehead who had
an ax to grind with her. Ever since Brad got in trouble with the law,
she’d lost a bit of prestige in society, so who was she to go around
griping to other parents about their kids? Not that people held a
very high opinion of her to begin with.
Mrs. Bullard didn’t know it, but half an hour before she came in
to work, Carlos had haggled with the school custodian to persuade
him to open her office. They’d finally settled on a hundred bucks,
with the understanding no one would ever be told about it. Carlos
had a good alibi for wanting to go in. He told the janitor that he
wanted to leave Mrs. Bullard “a bunch of roses from a secret
admirer” and write her a love letter on behalf of the admirer who
lacked skill in that area. Seeing no harm in it, the custodian gladly
pocketed the cash and let Carlos in, even showed him a nice spot to
put the flowers. The custodian left after telling Carlos to go do his
thing, saying he’d be back in twenty minutes to relock the door
before Mrs. Bullard came in for the day. He thought it was funny
Mrs. Bullard might have a toy boy.
Not only had Carlos left a beautiful bouquet for Cindy’s
archenemy, he’d wiretapped her phone and planted a sensitive radio
transmitter bug deep inside one of the roses. The printed note
instructed her to wait till lunch time and her anonymous admirer
would come to her table and reveal himself.
Naturally Mrs. Bullard thought the flowers must be from ex-
flame Roger, but she wouldn’t throw them away just yet. Maybe
someone else sent them. But now she had business to tend to. She
dialed a bar she frequented after work.
After quick negotiations, the deal was done. Buster and Boris,
two of their beefiest bouncers, would be more than happy to rough
Mrs. Franks up for a grand apiece. Not bad for five minutes’ work.

139
“Great,” she grinned like a shark smelling blood. “Have them
report to Mrs. Bullard’s office in the Sports Building, at a quarter to
twelve. ‘Bye.”
The two goons-for-hire were very punctual. Buster and Boris
were built like sumo wrestlers on steriods, their heads shaved bald
and their faces unsmiling. Their T-shirts stretched across broad,
well-fed bellies. Their arms were as massive as Mrs. Bullard’s
thighs and their fists were the size of grapefruits.
“Mrs. Franks gets out of a special meeting in the principal’s
office in a few minutes,” Mrs. Bullard said. “She usually stops by
her office to check her answering machine before she heads for the
lunch room. She’ll be crossing the parking lot heading for the main
doorway by the gym. Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. You do
your dirty work first, then I cough up the cash.”
Buster wanted to make sure he’d heard his short client correctly,
the fat rolls on the nape of his bull neck bulging as he leaned over.
“We don’t operate that way, little lady,” he growled. “First the
money, then the fun. Ain’t that right, Boris?”
“Yeah, Buster. We gotta eat too, Mrs. Bullard. Now where’s the
dough?”
His bloodshot eyes, glazed with pent-up aggression, terrified her.
Meekly she dug in her purse and produced the cash, withdrawn the
day before.
Boris swiped it out of her hand. “Thanks. Buster, we got us a
job to do. Nice doin’ business with ya, little lady.”
As the two brutes plodded down the hall. Mrs. Bullard clapped
and yelled, “Yes! Now for my date with my secret admirer.”
Outside in the pickup provided by P. Wakasaki, Chico listened in on
his low frequency radio receiver. Like Cindy, he was unable to
transmit calls on his cell phone, just receive them from their
mysterious teacher. So he used a walkie-talkie to communicate with
his buddies, who were perched over the roof overhang waiting for
his signal.

Good, Cindy thought, meeting’s over. Mr. Trent thought Bullard
was crazy for accusing me of being a space alien. And he won’t get
rid of me. Crisis is past. Now I’ve gotta get back to the office and
see Little Sandy.
She had crossed most of the parking lot and wasn’t far from the
door when the two goons stumbled out, bellowing threats at her. At
first she was terrified. She could probably beat one big behemoth,
but two 400-pounders at the same time? Just then she heard three
crow squawks and lost her fear completely.
Hands on hips she said coolly, “Hey, you lowlifes, this is my
dream and this time the bad guys ain’t gonna win.”
When the pair crossed the threshold of the building, swoop! A
huge fishing net dropped over them. As they cussed and thrashed

140
around inside the net, Cindy rushed to tighten the drawstring
around them. Carlos and Kenji leaped off the entry’s slanted red
tile roof and encircled them with bungee cords.
Chico drove the pickup to the door. Straining and groaning, the
3R Gang managed to load the massive brutes into the truck bed.
“Where you guys takin’ us?” Boris worried.
“Where you can’t cause no more trouble.”
“You ain’t gonna call the cops are you?” Boris wondered.
“Can’t involve the police,” Carlos said. “We’re aliens from a
different dimension. Don’t need no funny publicity.”
“Oh,” said Cindy, “we forgot something, Chico.”
“What?”
“The money Mrs. Bullard paid ‘em. Shouldn’t we take it back?”
“No, it might get these guys in a bad mood if we take it and
then don’t sick the cops on ‘em. We wanna make friends with you
guys, don’t we, Cindy?”
“Aw, why not?” she shrugged.
“Gee, that’s awful decent of you guys,” Buster grinned.
“But you guys have gotta learn, no gain without pain,” Chico
said. “Sandy, go back inside and make sure the other Sandy’s
okay.”
“Will do,” Cindy said.
Chico and Carlos got in the truck cab. Carlos turned around,
winked and said, “You guys got a date with Snort.”
“Who the hell is Snort?” Buster hollered. “Is he your boss?”
“You’ll find out!” Carlos yelled back.
A dirt road led up to the school’s massive greenhouse, a 4H Club
project. A little further up Snort rolled around in his big hog wallow,
trying to keep cool.
Out the corner of his eye Chico spotted the gardener’s
wheelbarrow.
The 3R Men dumped the villains, one by one, into the
wheelbarrow, rolled it over the gravel, grimacing, then tipped it
over into in Snort’s hog pen, shoving them out, still hogtied. The
pig squealed and splashed. He was thrilled to have company. He
slurped on Boris’ fat face.
“You want dirty money, ya gotta get down and dirty to earn it,”
Chico said. After school, we’ll tip off the caretaker, and he’ll come
and let you out.”
“We’ll get you for this, you dirty rotten punks,” Boris spat.
“Gee, I thought you guys wuz our friends,” Buster pouted.
“Better not try nothin’,” Carlos growled back. “We got your little
chitchat with Mrs. Bullard on audiotape. “You bother Cindy or
anybody else around here ever again, we just might change our
mind about goin’ to the cops with the evidence.”

141
“You really oughta know we’re part of a big San Francisco gang,”
Chico said. “The Rainbow Rangers. We don’t take no c*** off of
nobody.”

Cindy rushed to her office, unlocked the door. She found Sandy
huddled in the little alcove where she’d been watching TV and
hiding. She looked scared.
“Sandy!” Cindy gasped. “What’s wrong, baby?” She hugged
her.
“Oh, Mrs. Franks, I tried to be brave. It was all I could do not to
breathe a word when Mrs. Bullard came pounding on your door. I
heard her yelling she knew I was in here. She yelled that she was
gonna kill you and then…” Sandy broke down and cried.
“Then what, Sandy?” Cindy held her and patted her on the back.
“There, there, it’s okay. Just tell me.”
“Then she’d send her hit squad to the store to go get my dad!
But I did what you said and I didn’t even call him or say anything to
anybody!”
“You did right, Sandy. Mrs. Bullard did try to hurt me. But
Chico and his 3R pals took care of them. They won’t be bothering
us, or your dad, ever again.”
“Should we call the cops, Mrs. Franks?”
“Naw, those guys got their dirty money. That’s all they wanted,
and they know the 3R Gang will be back if they try anything again.
I brought some ham hoagies, they’re right here in my bag. Wanna
watch MTV while we eat ‘em?”
“I’m stoked to the max,” Sandy said. “Sounds great. Wonder
how April’s making out, being me for the day.”

As Sandy always did unless Kitty was with her, April sat alone in the
lunch room, while most of the other tables were crowded with
yakking kids. A bleak sadness penetrated deep inside. April felt for
the girl who’d suffered this undeserved cruelty so many months on
end. She looked up. Her 3R pals joined her, to the chagrin of the
other kids who hated to see their psychological warfare thwarted.
“There’s Girard’s ghost gang,” someone whispered.
Chico overheard the whispers and didn’t want to create a scene.
Before anyone could start one, April left with her friends. Chico
paused at the door and told the others to wait for him. There was
something else to do. He went up to the teachers’ tables where
Mrs. Bullard sat fuming, as she watched Mr. Trent flirting with a
younger teacher in the food service line.
She noticed his black bandana and gasped. “Mrs. Bullard,” Chico
said, “Comrade Chico at your service. I hope you enjoyed the
flowers.”
“You…sent those flowers? I thought you worked for Cindy
Franks!”

142
“Not for her, with her! Those two goons you hired to rough up
Cindy. Well, they welshed on their side of the bargain. They had
better things to do than hurt a skinny woman. Like going to the fat
man’s shop to get some new threads.”
“Which shop did those creeps go to?” Mrs. Bullard demanded.
“The Pig Men’s ‘Snort’s Wear’ Shop. They’re wallowing in self-
pity right now. Maybe they could use a little company.” Chico bent
lower and whispered, “And don’t you dare go to the police, ‘cause
we got your phone call on audiotape. One false move, Mrs. Bullard,
and you’ll end up in the clink with your rotten son.”
Ashen, Mrs. Bullard sprang up, nearly knocking the table over.
Chico ran outside laughing. He and his pals piled in the pickup to
go grab a bite of lunch at the Happy Hippie Organic Eatery. All
expenses were paid by P. Wakasaki. F. Wakasaki, who had sent
them on this mission, had taught them “healthy food make healthy
warrior and seven days at burger joint make one weak.”
Out of breath, Mrs. Bullard banged on Cindy’s office door. Cindy hid
Sandy from view and opened the door a crack. “Yeah?” Cindy said
gruffly.
“Franks, that Sandy Girard brought a gang into the lunch room
to hassle me a minute ago. She drove off with them in a pickup
truck. Just thought I’d let you know.”
“Mrs. Bullard,” Cindy said, stiffly, “Hogwood High has an open
campus policy. So long as Sandy returns in time for her next class
she can eat her lunch on the moon as far as this school is
concerned. I seriously doubt a shy, sweet girl like Sandy is rough
enough to boss a gang around.”
There was a loud thump. “What’s that?” Mrs. Bullard cried.
Cindy sighed. “It’s okay, Sandy, you can come out. What
happened?”
“Sorry, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy said sheepishly, her mouth stuffed
with bread. “I’m all elbows today. I accidentally knocked over your
flower vase.”
“That’s okay, Sandy. Ya see, Mrs. Bullard? Sandy didn’t drive off
in any pickup truck. She’s right here. She’s having trouble in
Algebra and worried she might flunk her final, so I’m helping her
during lunch.”
“Then who was that redhead who drove off with those weird-
looking guys?”
“Some new girl, her name’s Tina Lewis, I think. What’s it to
you?”
Mrs. Bullard’s brow darkened. “Okay, Franks, I’m foiled this
time. But just you wait, your little game’s gonna be up soon.”
Fuming, Mrs. Bullard stormed out of the Sports Building and
went to check the pig pen where Snort was enjoying his company.
“What the hell…” she cried, aghast. “Who did this to you guys?”

143
The two thugs, still tangled up in the fish net and bound with
bungee cords, were close to tears. “A tall lanky brunette and some
guys with black headbands. Can ya get us out, Mrs. Bullard? This
place stinks like hell.”
Groaning, and with extreme difficulty, she helped them out.
They collapsed on the ground, still hog-tied. She got out her nail
file and picked at their restraints till she freed them, all the while
grumbling about damage to her fingernails.
The devilish duo staggered to their feet and said, “Thanks,
lady.”
“Now what about my money?” she demanded. Selfish as she
was, that was her only reason for freeing them.
“Your money?” Buster retorted. “What money?”
“Did that gang get it or not?” Mrs. Bullard shrieked.
“Nope, they let us keep it in exchange for us not botherin’ ‘em
no more,” Boris replied. “Pretty fair deal to me. They don’t wanna
involve the cops though they got loads of evidence on us. Phone
must’a been tapped.”
“Then who’s got my money?” Mrs. Bullard yelled. “It didn’t just
vanish into some black hole, for Pete’s sake!”
“We got the dough, lady, and we deserve it after bein’ thrown in
this dirty pig pen, don’tcha think?” Boris said, menacingly.
“Give it back!” she wailed. “You didn’t do the job, you don’t get
paid!”
“Not on yer life, lady,” Buster grinned.
“You stupid klutzes let some skinny b**** outwit you! You’re
such clumsy morons no wonder you couldn’t catch her! You grody
gorillas!”
“You’re lucky we’re gentlemen and don’t like to hit women,”
Boris snarled.
Mrs. Bullard had longed for her Romeo to come sweep her off
her feet today. She got swept up off the ground, twirled around
Boris’ big bullet head and tossed into the hog pen. The two goons
went back to the bar laughing while Mrs. Bullard wept over her
financial losses.
Mrs. Bullard gnashed her teeth and vowed to take revenge on
Cindy when she least suspected it.

By 2 p.m. the penultimate issue of The Hogwood Squeal was being
passed out, hot off the presses. Sandy barely escaped making the
headline, which read: “Woodcock’s Walloping”. It went into lurid
detail on all the hell the kids put him through for squealing on them
to Mr. Peabody, who also featured in the issue under a smaller
heading: “Peabody Packs it In”. The third feature on the front page
read: “Girard’s Ghost Guard?” Was it really true Sandy Girard had
vanishing bodyguards following her? Was Hogwood High haunted,

144
and how long would it be before these weird apparitions made
international news?
Sandy gushed her thanks to Cindy for all she and her friends had
done to protect her, but promised she wouldn’t breathe a word to
her family about April, or the events at school.
Cindy stared wistfully as she left Sandy at her old family home
with Kitty, whom they’d picked up at her mom’s. She remembered
all the great sleepovers they’d had together, all the videos they’d
watched, all the funny stories they’d swapped. But it was so
comforting, just knowing Kitty had a future and she would be
spending this last precious night with her younger self. As for Cindy,
she would get to spend two whole days of quality time with Little
Sandy.

Madison was all excited about going with Cindy the next day to
cover the field trip. The two women sipped cappuccino, glad that
Cindy would get some time away from that turbulent school.
“Mr. Wakasaki, and my notebook, they both tell me the same
thing, Madison,” Cindy said. “I won’t be needing any job here much
longer. But it won’t be easy for me to say goodbye to you, just like
it’ll hard for Little Sandy to say goodbye to Kitty tomorrow
morning.”
Madison clasped Cindy’s arm. “Cindy, whatever happens in the
coming days, you can count on me. Any help you need, I’ll gladly
give.”
“Ah, Madison…” Cindy hesitated. “I hadn’t thought about that,
but all I’ve got is a 2011 license on me. Mr. Wakasaki let me borrow
his car for my mission, but we’ll need something bigger to transport
the ten girls who decided to go. You wouldn’t mind being
responsible for renting a mini-bus and being our driver on the trip,
would you? Of course, I’ll pay the rental fee and the gas.”
“I knew there’d a catch!” Madison laughed. “You’re right, it
would be very, very risky for you to assume responsibility for
driving all those kids on a premature license. But if I drove you
guys, I’d be up the creek without a paddle if something happened.”
“Mr. Wakasaki would look out for you, Madison. He considers you
one of us now. If you decide to drive us, then you were destined to
play that part in our mission. And I’ll let you do a story on the trip,
so long as you don’t spill the beans about me being a time traveler,
at least not yet.”
“Deal!” Madison high-fived Cindy. “And while we’re on the trip,
Cindy, I’ll give you a refresher course on the good old-fashioned CB
radio.”
When Cindy returned to her apartment, she recognized Chico’s
borrowed pickup truck outside, clearly visible in the deepening
dusk. She parked her car in the garage and then ran to meet him.
He hopped out and walked her to the door.

145
“Sandy,” he whispered, “Mr. Wakasaki asked me to install a fresh
battery in your phone. Just to make sure it doesn’t go out on you
while you’re still here.”
“Thanks, Chico. C’mon in, I was gonna make some herb tea.
You like it?”
“Sure do.”
She showed him to the little kitchen table, got the tea kettle
going, set out some cookies and rummaged her shelf for the Spicy
Peach tea Chico requested.
“Sandy,” he said, as he tinkered with her phone, “I really oughta
yell you, you won’t be here much longer. Mr. Wakasaki senses that
it won’t be long before you wake up.”
“That’s wonderful, Chico!” she smiled. “I just hope I’ve done
enough for Little Sandy.”
“You’ll do even more,” Chico said. “Tomorrow’s the school trip,
isn’t it?”
“Yeah. It’ll be make or break time. It’s supposed to be a happy
time to remember, but I just get the feeling there’ll be no
breakthrough without a battle.”
Before Cindy went to bed, she heard from P. Wakasaki. “You no
worry, Sandy-san. I talk to Hok Sun Lo, old friend. If anybody call
Bonsai Center he say plumbing break, place flooded and you hold
seminar in Santa Cruz instead. Su Wan Koto meet you at Monster
Murdock Arcade. Sayonara.”

20
PacMan Power

Wednesday, May 8. “I’m so glad you’re doing the driving,” Cindy
told Madison. All those complicated routes we have to string
together to reach San Jose. Man, I can’t wait. Those girls will be so
excited.”
“All ten of them,” Madison said. “Cindy, you’re hiding something
from me. So what’s in San Jose that would get the girls so excited?
Only old fogies get a buzz out of museums.”
“Well, there’s always the Flea Market, Madison. You could write a
story about all the homemade preserves and hippie junk there.”
“I don’t know about that, Cindy. But as you said, never a dull
moment with you.”
Cindy patted her hand luggage. “There. Everything’s in it.”
“Even your phone?” Madison wondered. “If you forget that, your
future teacher would have a cow if he couldn’t touch base with you.”
“Yeah, Madison, I always keep it on me. I might not get back to
him if I don’t take good care of it.”
“If…ah…you drop the phone when you go back to 2012, could I
have it?” Madison wondered.

146
“Sure, Madison. You couldn’t use it for calls but you could play a
hell of a lot of games on it. Takes great pictures too. And what a
story it would make!”
“Okay, it’s a deal,” Madison said. “I keep my lip zipped about
the phone and everything and in exchange I get to keep the phone
if you drop it on your way back…provided I’m on the scene, of
course.
“In any case,” she hastened to add, you and Little Sandy mean
the world to me and your secret’s safe with me.”
“It’s more than I could ever have hoped for, Madison, to find a
friend like you when I came back to what was a barfout year for
me.”
Cindy’s face clouded over. “What’s wrong?” Madison asked.
“In this dimension I experience all Little Sandy’s emotions,
Madison. About now Kitty and Sandy are at the airport and Sandy’s
saying goodbye to her. Oh, Madison! Sandy’s afraid she’ll never
see Kitty again. Sob!” Cindy covered her face with her hands.
“Come here, Cindy.” Madison hugged her. “It’ll be all right.
Trust me. Time is on your side and on Little Sandy’s side. Yes, it is
a good thing I’m doing the driving for this trip. Your mind will be
too preoccupied to focus on the road.
“There, there,” Madison soothed. “What I really wonder, Cindy,
is why do the field trip in the middle of the week instead of Friday,
which isn’t a school night?”
“Didn’t you see the notebook, Madison?” Cindy said. Friday the
10 will be a crunch point in Sandy’s life. She makes up her mind
th

whether she goes to Frisco or finds some other answer in life. Mr.
Wakasaki said Wednesday and Thursday were the right days for the
trip. Nothing bad was recorded for those two days. I remember in
the other dimension those two days at school weren’t bad enough
to make any entries in my notebook. What I really think happened
was my enemies were lulling me into a false sense of security so I’d
be caught off guard when they gave me the business on Friday.”
“Like a cat toys with a mouse,” Madison said, sympathetically.
“That’s the way they did me too sometimes. I could go three or
four days without something being said or done to upset me at
school. And then, bam! Something would get thrown at me or I’d
be shoved or some gang of boys would call me “Fat-ison” in the
cafeteria as I was getting my lunch.”
Cindy frowned. “You? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.
You’ve got a great figure, Madison. Who says all women have to
look like a stick of gum? Whoever said that to you was a big fat
moron.”
Madison rolled up her eyes. “A few years ago I ran into Jerry
Foster, the guy who teased me in school. He was sweeping the floor
at some supermarket. We said ‘hi’ to each other for old times’ sake.”
“Did you mention the bullying?” Cindy asked.

147
“Nah, it was enough just to look at Jerry,” Madison giggled.
“After all that teasing about my alleged weight problem, he’d
become a big man in the world, all 400 pounds of him!”
“The wheels of justice grind slowly, but surely,” Cindy said.
As planned, Joe delivered Sandy to Cindy’s door on his way to
work. Feeling as she did, Cindy knew what to expect. “Come in,
Sandy,” she said gently, with a look of tender empathy. “Here, just
leave all your things by the door. Thank you, Mr. Girard, for taking
the time to bring her here.”
“No problem,” Joe said. He looked a bit haggard, probably from
witnessing Sandy and Kitty’s emotional parting. Sandy looked glum
though she struggled to act cheerful.
“It’s a bit rough on those two girls, sayin’ goodbye,” Joe said in
an offhand way, “but Sandy’ll get over it.”
“She just needs time,” Cindy replied. “Well, you have a good
day, Mr. Girard.”
“See ya soon, Sandy.” He waved and hurried back to his car.
“Sandy,” said Cindy, “You haven’t eaten this morning, have
you?”
“Didn’t feel like it, Mrs. Franks,” the girl murmured.
“Sandy, I know this hasn’t been the best morning for you, but
please have something before we leave. We’ll both feel better if you
do. Would you at least have a bowl of strawberries with a bit of
sweet yogurt?”
“Okay, thanks,” Sandy said. She sat down at the kitchen table
while Cindy got it ready.
“Don’t worry, Madison,” Cindy said. “We’ve still got plenty of
time.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Madison said, glancing at her watch.
“Well, Sandy, it’s so wonderful to see you again.” She touched her
lightly on the back.
“Thanks, Ms. Reynolds,” Sandy said. “I hated to see Kitty go,
but I guess it was the best thing for her. Her dad loves her like
crazy, but all these years her mom wouldn’t let him see her. I’m
real happy for him.”
“It makes me happy to hear you’re happy for him,” Madison
said.
“Me too,” Cindy agreed. “Keep your chin up, Sandy. You’ll be
rewarded for having such a grown-up attitude. People who want
others to be happy are the happiest people of all. Now let’s go
collect those other girls waiting at school.”

They drove up the Sports Building parking lot. The other nine girls
were waiting by the entry with their overnight bags. One by one
they stepped on board. As Cindy looked at the assorted crew who
still weren’t sure what sort of day was in store for them, she smiled

148
to see the jelly bracelets, colorful, mismatched clothes, ponytails
and crimped hair she remembered so well.
There wasn’t much else to see as the mini-bus followed a
convoluted course on several roads to get from Modesto to the main
southbound freeways they must take. Once the group got past the
sprawling suburbs they got a real whiff of nature. Car exhaust
fumes gave way to the aroma of fertilizer baking in the bright sun.
Dull-eyed cows lazily munched their cud and switched their tails to
ward off flies. Row after row of green crops and droning tractors
gave way to rolling vineyards which produced world famous wines.
“Oh, please, Mrs. Franks, can’t we stop at that winery?” a blond
freshman girl sitting behind the front passenger seat wondered,
pointing at an exit sign.
“Sorry, Claire, your parents would kill us if we did that. You’re
all underage, and I don’t drink myself.”
“Well, I do drink!” Madison made a playful pout as she studied
the road signs.
“Now Madison,” Cindy laughed, “what would we do with a
carload of drunks? Hey, girls, I got bubble gum. Who wants
some?”
“I do! I do! Me too!” came the collective cry from the back.
“Is it sugarless?” Madison asked.
“Oh, Madison!” Cindy cajoled, “life’s too short to sweat the small
stuff. Here, have some.”
They had a little contest to see who could blow the biggest
bubble. Everyone laughed when Mrs. Franks blew hers bigger and
bigger and bigger, then BLAM! It blew up in her face and she had to
wipe it off her face and hair.
Cindy peeked over her shoulder. Sandy was showing the other
girls some card tricks. Good, she thought, Sandy’s getting some
positive social interaction.
“How long till lunch, Mrs. Franks?” Sandy called, after two hours
on the road.
“Not long,” Cindy said. “It’s barely eleven. Hungry, Sandy?”
“When am I not hungry, Mrs. Franks?”
Cindy got a kick out of that. She still ate like a horse, but not
like a herd of horses.
Soon they saw the first exit for San Jose. “Which of these exits
do I take, Cindy?” Madison asked. “You’ll have to direct me now.”
“I’ll keep an eye out and let you know, Madison. It’ll be awhile.
Relax.”
As they rolled down I-680 one exit after another went by. Cindy
shook her head when Madison asked if they should get off yet.
They passed exits for the northern outskirts, the suburbs, the
business district.
Cindy checked some directions scribbled on a little piece of
paper. “Exit 12 up ahead! Turn off on that one, Madison!”

149
“Okay, Cindy,” Madison said, “now what?”
“Keep to your right as we approach that fork in the road. We
need to merge onto Mission Boulevard/ State Route 262 South.”
“Got it, Cindy. There, we’re on it. What else do we do?”
“Get in the left lane and drive one mile so we can get onto I-
880 South. We’ll take that twelve and a half miles, then we’ll see a
turnoff for 17 South. We take that the rest of the way.”
“Are you sure, Cindy? We’re leaving San Jose behind.”
Cindy cackled. “That’s the idea, Madison. Can’t get to the
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk without leaving San Jose behind, can
we?”
Cheers erupted in the van. Madison gave Cindy a sidelong grin.
“You sneaky little schemer, I knew you were up to something. Are
you sure Mr. Wakasaki’s paying for this little jaunt?”
Cindy shrugged. “Well, Hogwood High sure as hell ain’t payin’
for it. Yay!” Cindy punched the air. “Let’s go ride that big roller
coaster! Let’s go get some cotton candy! Let’s go kick Blinky’s butt
on the PacMan machine!”
More deafening cheers.
“Cindy,” Madison whispered, “are you sure you want me to cover
this story?”

Cindy nodded. “It’s all part of our alternative destiny,” she
whispered back.
There were further cheers when the girls saw their luxurious hotel.
Three adjoining rooms were rented, with four staying in each.
Sandy and Madison each shared a room with three girls while four
girls occupied the other room.

150
“I can’t wait, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy said. “I’ve only been to Santa
Cruz once and I’ve missed it ever since. Man, that was some
awesome lunch.”
“Ropin’ Rustler does make the best barbecue, doesn’t it,
Sandy?” Cindy agreed. “Bet you’ll still find room for Enqrique’s
Pizzaria tonight.”
“Enrique’s!” Autumn shouted. “My favorite! We ate there
before! Man, I’m stoked to the max! Like, the music there is so-o-
o bad! Thanks, Mrs. Franks!”
Cindy looked puzzled. “The music’s bad? Then why look so
happy?”
Sandy grinned. “She means she’s stoked on goin’ there ‘cause
the music is to die for, Mrs. Franks.”
“Oh…I see!” Cindy remembered. These were the 80’s and the
badder something was, the better.
As prearranged, the group met up with Su Wan Koto on the
Boardwalk, outside Monster Murdock’s Arcade. Su Wan, a slender
Chinese woman in her mid-30’s wore a black-belted white gi and
tennies. She smiled slightly and bowed.
“We welcome you all to our Physical Agility Workshop,” she said.
“My name is Su Wan Koto. I come from western China. I studied
physical education in Shanghai and at universities in California and
Washington. I teach fitness classes and martial arts at the Wakasaki
Martial Arts Center in San Francisco.
Su Wan fought to keep a straight face. “Mr. Hok Sun Lo offers
his sincerest apologies, but regrettably, he could not host our
seminar at his Bonsai Learning Center. Water pipes burst and
flooded the entire building. No other venue was available on such
short notice, so we chose this alternative site for our project. We
are so sorry for the inconvenience.”
The girls grinned at each other. They didn’t mind at all.
Little Sandy scratched her head, wondering why that woman’s
voice and face seemed so familiar. Su Wan registered somewhere
in Sandy’s brain, but Sandy couldn’t remember ever meeting her
before in her life. Little did Sandy know what a vital part Su Wan
would play in her future martial arts training.
“Now!” Su Wan said briskly. “We get down to business. We are
here to encourage and cultivate more graceful, agile movement in
your sports activities. Exercise can be boring or it can be fun. Hold
out your arms.”
She led them through a routine of alternately pushing out their
right and left arms, in as streamlined a motion as possible.
“That’s it!” Su Wan cried. Move your shoulder muscles out with
your arm. Feel the motion flow from your hips all the way up your
shoulder, then up to your forearm, then your wrist and your hand.
That’s it, direct the outflow of energy through your arms as you
extend them toward your target in one uninterrupted fluid motion.

151
“Think of a fish swimming,” she said. “A fish does not jerk. It
flows like liquid light through the water. Easy, keep your eyes on
your goal, not on your arm.”
“When you feel yourself flowing in harmony with your arm and
know its ways, you don’t need to look down at it and take your eyes
off the game,” Su Wan added. “Very good, girls.”
“That concludes the theory segment of this course,” she said
with mock solemnity. “Now we put the lesson into practice. As you
enter the arcade, Mrs. Franks will hand each of you a roll of
quarters. Good luck, girls.”

Meanwhile, Madison snapped several pictures and spoke into a
microphone, to be transcribed later on her portable typewriter.
Monster Murdock’s, a big cavern of fun with kitsch décor, was
lined with posters of 50’s movie stars and rock groups. It was a riot
of buzzers, bleeps, jingles and flashing lights. Dozens of brightly
colored machines lined the walls. The rambling floor was covered
with antique soda fountain tables where people could chill out with a
Coke and a smoke, in these days before smoking was banned in
public places. There weren’t that many teenagers in the arcade
when Cindy’s group entered, since school was still in session. But
there were a number of older players and tourists shoving the
joysticks, punching the air when they scored and groaning when
their little electronic heroes got gobbled up.
Sandy and Cindy played doubles on the Ms. PacMan machine.
As Madison explored the arcade jotting notes, Sherry, Dawn, Maria,
Amber, Autumn, Claire, Karen, Allegra and Gloria fanned out to play
other machines, among them PacMan, Frogger, Bat Man, Spider
Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Demolition Derby,
Kung Fu, Cop Car Chase and Hillbilly Hell. The object of that
particular game was to help the poor hillbilly fill as many
moonshine jugs as possible before the “revenoor” found his still
and blew it up.
Cindy cheered as loudly for Sandy as she did for herself, which
made Sandy think she was just being a good sport. Cindy reached
the juniors in Ms. PacMan three times and Sandy twice. Then they
went their separate ways and played on other machines. Sandy
smiled when she overheard Cindy cheering about her frog escaping
the hungry crocodile in Frogger. She was just a big kid at heart.
The girls spent hours in the arcade till Cindy regrouped everyone
and asked them if they wanted to go on a few rides in the
amusement park before they went to “go gobble some pizza”.
Nobody objected to that.
Sandy got some peanut brittle. I wish she’d cut down on that
sugary junk, Cindy thought. She remembered all the tooth trouble
she’d had as a kid.

152
Oh, heck, she mused. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Sandy
doesn’t get carnival food every day. I won’t be a party pooper.
We’re here to have fun, not act like our own mother.
The girls begged and pleaded with Madison to get her on the
Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.
“Not on your life,” Madison whimpered. “I’m scared of heights.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Cindy cajoled. “I’ll get on it with ya.”
Madison’s eyes dilated with fright even before the thing started
running. The girls took bets on whether she’d throw up on the ride.
“No, I don’t think she will,” said Karen, a short girl with black
hair. “She didn’t eat much lunch.”
“Only had a salad,” Sherry said. “Must be on a diet like my
mom.”
Madison’s knuckles clamped hard around the metal frame in
front of her seat.. Cindy looked unfazed. She’d survived far worse.
Sandy and Autumn Forrester sat behind them in the same car.
“Here we go!” Sandy cried. “Hey, Ms. Reynolds, isn’t this fun?
Nothin’ to it.”
Sandy screamed the loudest of them all. When she staggered
out, stunned, she was white as a sheet. Madison looked green at
the gills.
“Oh…man!” Sandy moaned. “Isn’t there an easier ride to get
on?”
“There’s the Haunted Castle!” Maria suggested. She tugged
Sandy’s reluctant hand and they headed for the ride.
“I’m goin’ on the Cave Train!” Amber shouted.
“I want on the Double Shot!” Dawn cried. “Maybe I’ll puke!”
“Gross!” Gloria squealed. “Barfout to the max!”
Off they ran to get their adrenalin rush on the rides. Cindy
nudged Madison and pointed. “Hey look at that dude up on the
roller coaster. He’s sitting by Claire.”
Madison took her binoculars out of her tote bag and stared long
and hard. “Yeah, he’s one of those surfer dudes, you know, the
kind with the designer jacket, bedroom eyes and sun-bleached
hair. Kind’a cute if you ask me.”
When Claire got off the ride, Cindy asked who the dude was.
“Just a boy I met in the arcade,” Claire said, quite innocently.
“What’s his name?”
“Alex.”
“Who’s that, your mother?” Alex moaned. “I’ve got something to
show you if you wanna walk with me behind that tree over there.”
Cindy stalked over to him. “Alex, you’re gonna sail up to the
moon if you try that again. Yes, I am her mom. And I break boards
for fun, if you get my drift.”
The kid stuck out his lower lip, stuck his hands in his pockets,
shrugged and walked away, muttering “almost.”
“Mrs. Franks!” Claire pouted. “He only wanted to be friends!”

153
“Claire,” said Cindy, “while you’re with me I’m responsible to
keep you safe. There’s plenty of other boys in this world, and they
don’t all take you behind a tree for your first date. Trust me. Some
fellows only want one thing, and they’re not worth the worry.”
“Oh, well, Mrs. Franks,” Claire sighed. “How can I stay mad at
you? Nobody else cares enough to bother bringing us here.”
“Glad you see it my way, kid,” Cindy said with a wry smile.
“Hey, you wanna go on the Haunted Castle? My treat.”
As they rode past a collection of blood-curdling terrors, Cindy
had a blast. She screeched back at the unearthly, terrifying noises
in the cave. Claire laughed and said she could get a job as a cave
monster if she ever got fired from Hogwood High.
If only she knew, Cindy thought. “Piece of cake, Claire. After
working at Hogwood High, being a monster would be easy-peasy!”
Afterward, Cindy met up with Sandy again and they rode the
Cave Train ride. Even Madison got on the Carousel. Everyone rode
the rides till Mrs. Franks ran out of the petty cash allocated for that
day’s Boardwalk activities.

That night the girls ate the yummiest pizza west of the Great
Divide. Enrique’s pizzas were hand-stretched from a choice of
sourdough, traditional or whole wheat doughs. Before being baked
in a wood-fired oven, they were covered with special Italian
cheeses, including buffalo mozzarella, then spread with pesto or
sun-dried tomato sauce and an endless choice of zesty toppings.
Sandy ate and ate till she could hold no more. The other girls
looked at her enviously. They wondered how she stayed so skinny
all the time.
The Brownie Cheesecake Sundae was to die for. Chunks of
fudgey brownie and ricotta cheesecake were nestled on a mound of
French vanilla ice cream, then topped with raspberries, chocolate
syrup and whipped cream. Sandy and Cindy had that. Some of the
others opted for Chocolate Mousse Heaven, billows of chocolatey
whipped cream flecked with white chocolate bits and laced with
amaretto. It was light as a cloud. Even Madison cheated on her
diet. Just this once.
Even the music was a cut above what could be expected in a
casual eaterie. Time Rhyme, a local band, performed from a circular
stage in the middle of the dining room. The three guitarists and one
keyboard player, all in their twenties, wore punk rock threads and
chunky jewelry. Tattoos covered their bare arms. Their pink-tipped
Mohawks turned the girls on. The drummer, an older guy with a
gray beard and ponytail, wore sunglasses and a baseball cap. The
odd man out, he sat quietly in the back while the other four
swiveled and jumped, belting out the lyrics of their signature song:
“Time-trippin’ Good Time Girl.”

154
You got me on needles and pins
I don’t know if I’ll see you again
I gave you all the love I could give
But you said your future’s with him
Don’t go down that tunnel of love
He will hurt you cause he ain’t the one
Time with him will bring you pain
You’re runnin’ in circles, better break away
Come inside my wonderful world
Time-trippin’ good time girl.

The girls swayed and squealed as the lead guitarist played some
fancy riffs on the chord progression, modulating higher and higher .
Time Rhyme sang two more verses before performing their own
versions of popular rock tunes. Cindy’s girls screamed and waved
their arms to the music. They requested one encore after another
and the band, who’d expected a dull, quiet Wednesday night, gladly
obliged.
After Mojo Cody, the lead vocalist, reintroduced his band, they
took their final bow and invited people to come meet them, and if
anyone wanted more of their music, or their tour dates, they were
stacked on a table by the door. Cindy’s girls rushed to get Time
Rhyme’s cassettes and autographs before they left for the hotel.
“Oh, wasn’t Mojo awesome to the max!” Claire sighed.
“O-o-o!” Dawn giggled, in utter ecstasy. “He’s the penultimate!
Those skin-tight pants, those dreamy eyes! The gnarly tattoos!”
“The way he looked at me when I got his autograph!” Amber
sighed.
“I hope Mojo doesn’t have a girl friend already!” Claire cried.
Cindy smiled. How easily, and often, teenagers fell in love.
Thursday, May 9. The girls enjoyed a gourmet breakfast in the hotel
lounge, consisting of buttery, flaky pastries, creamy hot chocolate
and fancy omelettes created to order by chefs working on a
portable grill in full view of the diners.
After everyone had eaten, there was time for another quick
jaunt to the Boardwalk for more fun. Madison and Cindy agreed
they had to leave town fairly early, to beat the rush hour traffic on
the freeways.
When they got to Monster Murdock’s Cindy glanced at her
watch. “It’s just after eleven now,” she told the girls. “If you don’t
mind having a late lunch you can spend the next three hours either
in the arcade or on the rides, your choice. I expect to see all of
you back here in front of this arcade by two. When we’re finished
here we’ll go get a bite to eat. Then we need to be on our way
home. Any questions? Yes, Claire.”
“Mrs. Franks, we’re havin’ so much fun, why can’t we just go
home later?”

155
“Yeah! Yeah!” other girls cried.
“Because it’s a school night and your parents would have a cow
if I brought you guys home too late. And if we wait too late to get
on those freeways, that traffic will get so thick a snake can’t crawl
through it!”
The girls laughed, then scattered to go do their thing.
Cindy and Madison lingered awhile on the wooden walkway,
staring out at the ocean and taking deep whiffs of the salt sea
breeze. Golden sunlight sparkled on the water. In the distance they
could see windsurfing boats pulling people on skis. Tourists in loud
clothes milled about, ambling toward the shops and other
attractions.
“I just love the West Coast,” Cindy said, wistfully.
“It’s more of a hip scene than Modesto,” Madison conceded.
“Not that I’m much of a swinger, but I do let my hair down on my
days off.”
“Call me a square,” Cindy said, “but I’m a nature lover. I love
the squawks of seagulls flying over the horizon, those big fat sea
lions that bark at you on the pier, begging for scraps.”
“Aha!” I caught you there, Cindy,” Madison said. “You think it’s
cute for an animal to be fat and lazy but it’s a big deal for human
beings to be that way.”
“Well, I’m supposed to think like that,” Cindy laughed. “If I
looked like a sea lion I’d be a poor advertisement for a fitness
trainer, wouldn’t I?”
“Wonder how the girls are doing,” Madison said.
“Let’s go in there and get a soda and then maybe we’ll zap a few
monsters too,” Cindy said.

“Mr. Wakasaki,” a girl’s voice said over a pay phone, “it’s me, Su
Wan. You wanted me to call you back about now.”
Since Su Wan and P. Wakasaki could not speak each other’s
native tongue, they conversed in English. “Su Wan, good you call,”
P. Wakasaki said. “I hear from Future Wakasaki. He see trouble
today. You go Monster Murdock Arcade now, see Sandy-san.
“Will do, Mr. Wakasaki.”

“Ah, that tasted good,” Cindy said, sipping the last of her lemonade.
Madison pouted. “Wouldn’t a tall, cool wine cooler be absolutely
heavenly right now. But oh well, gotta be good so I can stay sober
for navigating all those freeways.”
“Poor, poor Madison,” Cindy teased. “How’s your story comin’?
Write anymore yet?”
“Some. What I’ve got so far would make a great human interest
story. Local teacher defies stuffy school principal so girls can skip
school and have fun. If your goal is to get fired, that should do the
trick. Just hope I don’t get fired too.”

156
“Whatever happens, Madison, Mr. Wakasaki will take care of us.
He promised. After all, he’s the one in charge of this mission.”
“Mrs. Franks!” Sandy called. “Autumn wanted to go on the
rides, so I need a partner for this game! Wanna come?”
“Coming, Sandy!” Cindy called back. She touched Madison’s
arm and whispered, “Don’t worry about me, I’m not destined to
keep this job anyway.”
Madison sighed. Too bad I have to keep quiet about the real
story, she thought. Aside from the fact Cindy’s defying school policy
to take the girls out of school for fun, what’s so newsworthy about
this trip anyway?

“Eye of the Tiger” went off. Only Cindy detected it, there were so
many clashing noises in the arcade. “Be there in a minute, Sandy!”
Cindy called. “Gotta go to the bathroom!”
Luckily there were restrooms on the premises. Cindy sped
through a set of double doors and found the ladies’ room. She
answered the call on the third ring, just as she was entering, and
before she found an empty stall.
“Yes, Mr. Wakasaki?” she breathed. “It’s a good thing you
waited till I was in the noisy arcade. If you’d called while we were
on the freeway yesterday, there would have been questions.”
“Sandy-san,” he said, “danger come today. I sense it.”
“What should I do, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“You know what to do when it come. Soon you be back here.
Be brave. Help come when you need it. Sayonara.”
When she got out of the stall, two women looked curiously at
her. “Who’s in there with you, lady? We heard you talking.”
“Just playing my Nintendo, ladies. Nothing special. ‘Bye.”
Cindy gave them a weird “none-of-your-business” blink and hurried
to find Sandy.
While Cindy played Space Invaders in the back of the building
with Sandy, Madison sat alone at the little table, worrying that the
boss had given her two days off from the office to get this scoop
and she had so little actual news to take back with her.
Madison sniffed something strong. No, it couldn’t be. Liquor
was prohibited here. She followed the smell and looked up into a
very scary face. A man in rumpled, dirty clothes towered above her,
one of the biggest guys Madison had ever seen. His stubbly chin
spread in an evil leer. Before she could react he laid his massive
paw on her shoulder. He set his half-empty whiskey bottle on the
table.
“Hey, honey, you look lonesome. I’m lonesome too and I…want
you!” He put both his beefy arms around her slender shoulders.
“Cindy! Help!” Madison screamed with all her might.
Cindy forced her way through the arcade crowd and hopped on
the creep’s back before he could finish yanking off Madison’s top.

157
Cindy grabbed him round the head with her left arm, covering his
eyes and cutting off his vision. She tightened her right arm around
his throat to restrict his breathing, all the while jabbing him in the
back with her bony knees. She knew she could kill the brute if she
applied too much pressure to his neck. As much as she loathed him,
she must be careful. So she squeezed him just enough to make
him choke for breath, to weaken his grip on Madison.
Pale with fright, Madison slipped out of his grasp and hurried
away. Cindy hopped off the guy’s back and stood facing him,
studying his body language to predict his next likely move. Players
left their video games and stood at a distance, cheering on the
skinny martial artist battling an opponent at least three times her
size.
The leering drunk picked up his whiskey bottle and swung it
clumsily at Cindy, who saw it coming. Lightning quick, she swerved
away, pivoted and kicked him hard in his fat flank. He keeled over.
She floored him with a two-fisted hammer punch to the back of the
shoulders.
People were still cheering when his buddy, an even larger lout,
wandered in and swiped Cindy’s bag from Madison’s deserted table.
Cindy saw him but the first drunk was coming at her with a knife.
Safety first. She picked up a chair to ward off the attack, still
worried about her stolen bag, when she heard a loud warrior whoop
outside the arcade and the sound of sharp slaps.
The drunk swore at Cindy, waving the knife. Cindy jabbed the
chair legs at the drunk’s chest to drive him back. He waved his
knife up and down but kept hurting his fat fist on the wrought iron
chair legs.
Seeing how slow and ungainly his movements were, Cindy
decided to end the stalemate. She flung the chair at him to distract
him. As he staggered back and the chair flew to one side of him,
she took a flying leap toward his upper chest and kicked him hard.
He was so well-padded there was less chance of doing him
permanent harm, Cindy reasoned. The massive man fell on his
back.
Cindy rushed to help Su Wan, who had retrieved her bag and
flung it back in the arcade for her. Her opponent had moved the
fight from the walkway into the arcade, as he went to try to retrieve
Cindy’s bag. Su Wan fought like a wild tiger. She had tried to
subdue the man with kicks and punches, but he was so wired on
crack he had no sense of fear. Cindy saw the guy’s hand slip toward
his pocket. She pulled an apple from her own pocket which she’d
intended to munch on earlier. She flung it hard at his digging hand,
breaking the guy’s wrist before he could pull out his weapon.
Before he could turn around to see who’d done it, Su Wan was
working on him again, beating him senseless. Cindy joined in the

158
battle. They worked him over and flung him out of the arcade.
Cindy gave him two hard chops to keep him down.
Meanwhile, the first drunk got up and staggered toward Cindy,
whose back was turned. His eyes bulged with hatred. As the crowd
yelled and roared, he snuck up on her with a chair. Cindy saw his
creeping shadow, smelled his approaching breath. She spun around
and swerved in the nick of time. She picked up her own chair and
played sword fight with the drunk’s chair till he tired of the game.
He kept bellowing at her.
“Shut up!” Cindy yelled. “Go home and sleep it off!”
“Ya-a-ah!” he roared. He hurled the chair at some player who
called him stupid. Cindy picked up one of the small metal tables and
charged the drunk, jabbing it at him. Disoriented, he stumbled and
fell onto a Bat Man machine which was still in play. He hit the
joystick and scored a few points. Cindy kicked his blubbery paunch
to knock the breath out of him. She karate chopped his upper arm
a couple times so he’d be so preoccupied with the extra pain he
wouldn’t attack again.
When the drunk’s buddy staggered up off the walkway and tried
to slug Su Wan, she dodged the blow and kicked him in the armpit.
As he reeled and clutched the site of his pain, she floored him with
a whirling butt kick. She landed another hard blow to keep him
down.
Cindy’s part of the arcade looked like the aftermath of a Wild
West barroom brawl. The irate manager came in, complaining
about the damage. Cindy didn’t have much ready cash left on her,
but she knew a bribe was the only way to keep the cops out of this.
“Here’s money for the damage,” Su Wan said, very thankful for
Mr. Wakasaki’s foresight and generosity in funding his own missions.
She handed the man $3000. “Don’t call the cops. Those drunks
tried to hurt my friends. “I had to protect them.”
Su Wan was actually claiming all the responsibility and covering
the costs! Cindy was so grateful Mr. Wakasaki had somehow
foreseen this scrape she’d land in. More than ever, she was
thankful for the friends life had sent her way.
Cindy rounded up seven of the girls. As people ran after them
asking questions, they hurried to the amusement park rides, yelling
for Dawn and Amber. They were found just in the nick of time. The
giant roller coaster pulled to a stop. Cindy yelled that they had to
leave in a hurry.
“What?” Amber cried. “I thought we had ten more minutes!”
“It’s an emergency! Let’s go now!” Cindy called.
Grumbling, the girls hopped off, protesting they still had ride
money to blow.
Cindy hurried the girls down the Boardwalk, made them run to
the mini-bus, and soon they on the road again.

159
The owner was barely mollified by the money as he surveyed the
wreck left by the fight. Su Wan whispered something in his ear
about her influential boss and slipped him an extra grand. “Sure,
why not?” the guy shrugged. “No skin off my back.”
“Okay, everybody!” he called to the players. “Don’t want nobody
tellin’ the cops whodunnit! Just say two drunks stumbled in and
fought each other! Got that?”
“Why?” one man called.
“’Cause cops don’t always get their facts straight. They might
think it’s my fault, then they’ll shut me down and you can’t come
here no more to shoot no more space aliens!”
Su Wan darted out the door and merged into the surging crowd
roaming the Boardwalk. When the cops finally arrived, the owner
pointed at the drunks and said they’d forced their way into his
arcade and beat the c*** out of each other. And oh, what a crying
shame it was how respectable folks couldn’t eat their little monsters
in peace.

All the way home Cindy was showered with compliments: “You
really kicked butt, Mrs. Franks. You sure are cool for a teacher!
Yeah, you’re real rad!”
“How’d you beat those guys anyway?” Amber asked. “Like, they
were massive!”
“Couldn’t’a done it without Su Wan’s help. And they did
outweigh me by two or three pounds,” Cindy said. “But bigger isn’t
always better. Their size was more of a built-in disadvantage.
Another thing in my favor was they were drunk as skunks and could
barely see straight. Still , if I hadn’t moved as quick as I did, all
they would’a had to do was sit on me to turn me into a grease spot.
Big fellas can’t move very fast. In the Game of Survival, ya gotta be
quick.”
“Cindy, you’re my hero,” Madison said.
Blushing, Cindy said, “Heroes happen because there’s villains
out there to create the need for them.”
Madison was all stoked about the story she had for the Modesto
Messenger.

21
A War of Words

Fri., May 10, about 1:55 p.m. This is it!!! I can’t stand one more
day at this c****y school!!!!!!! I don’t give a damn if I don’t finish
this year! When we came in from P.E. volleyball Linda Costello
poured red ants down the back of my sweatshirt. She laughed as
she ran off with the jar. Ambulance had to rush me to the hospital
cause I blew up like a balloon. I had to take shots to get the
swelling down while those a******s laughed at me! All Costello got

160
was a lecture never to do it again. The stinking pigs, I don’t need
no dirty diploma from Hogpen High, and they know where they can
shove it. I wouldn’t even use it for toilet paper!!!!!!! Sandy Girard,
signing off

At promptly 6:45 “Eye of the Tiger” went off in Cindy’s sports bag,
kept under her bed within easy reach. She yawned and groaned,
but realized this call must be extremely important, since only F.
Wakasaki could reach her on her cell phone. By the third ring, she
had it out of the bag and answered it.
His face was grave and his tone serious. “Sandy-san, this morning
you get fired from job. When you take Little Sandy school today, no
let her go any classes. I send April be Sandy. I need know Linda
Costello locker number and combination where she keep P.E. stuff.”
Cindy opened her bleary eyes wider and said, “That’s against my
professional principles, Mr. Wakasaki, but I guess we can’t help it. I
read the notebook and I know what’ll happen today. Isn’t it enough
to just keep Sandy out of school any way I can?”
“Need teach bad girl lesson, and I teacher,” F. Wakasaki said.
“You know number and combination?”
“Yeah,” Cindy sighed. “but I need to look it up. Can you hold on
just a minute, Mr. Wakasaki?” She put the phone down, dug some
record books out of her bag and flipped through one frantically, glad
she’d been meticulous enough to bring all those details home with
her.
She picked the phone back up. “Mr. Wakasaki, you there? I see
your face. Good. Linda’s locker number in the girls’ dressing room
is number 158. And her combination is 35-23-37. Got that?”
“Yes, Sandy-san. Locker number 158, combination 35-23-37.
You no worry. Spend day with Little Sandy. We take care of rest.
And Sandy-san?”
“Yes, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“This last day 3R gang be in 1985. Time warp weaker. Their
mission almost done. They got work do here in 2012.”
Cindy swallowed hard. “I’ll do the best I can then, Mr.
Wakasaki. Thanks.”
See you soon, Sandy-san. Sayonara.”

On the way to school, Sandy noticed Cindy’s grim expression.
“Anything wrong, Mrs. Franks?”
“Today will be the last day the 3R Radicals will be around to help
us. But they will take care of a big problem. Their intelligence
indicates that big trouble’s in store for you after P.E. Mr. Wakasaki,
my boss, said you need to stay out of all your classes today. Too
much negative stuff going on. April will take your place again, just
for today.”
What happens to me after today? Sandy thought, glumly.

161
Cindy pressed her hand. “You don’t need to worry any, honey.
We’ll get you through this school year, and you’ll go on to the next,
and you’re gonna be a big success in life. You’ll be loved by all the
people that matter.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy whispered, “for everything. I
had more fun those last two days than I’ve had in years. I’ll always
remember those awesome hours we played PacMan and Frogger
and rode the Big Dipper Roller Coaster, the Cave Train and the
Haunted Castle. And all the cotton candy we ate. If I live to be a
hundred I’ll never be any happier.”
Cindy smiled tremulously. She squeezed Sandy’s shoulders.
“Man, did I ever have fun too. I even reached the juniors in Ms.
PacMan and hit top speed in Demolition Derby! Now if that wasn’t a
blast, nothin’ was.”
“And I zapped a zillion aliens in Space Invaders!” Sandy
laughed.
“And I even caught the crook in Spider Man!” Cindy laughed in
turn.
“Do I…uh…skip home room too, Mrs. Franks?” Sandy wondered.
“Yeah, we’d better follow orders exactly if this day’s gonna turn
out like we both want. What I want you to do is wear a black wig
I’ll give you, then I’ll drop you off at the public library till I get fired
this morning and leave. After that I’ll come get you. Just make sure
all your red hair’s tucked tight underneath the wig.” Cindy took it
out of her glove compartment and handed it to the girl. “After I pick
you up, we’ll go kill some time till school lets out. Then I’ll take you
home as usual and tonight I’ll speak with your dad and see if I can
keep on driving you to school.”
“But won’t you need to go to some other job, Mrs. Franks, like,
to make a living?”
“I’ve got enough to live on for now, Sandy. I can go job-hunting
after you’re safely out of eleventh grade. And I’ll make damned
sure somebody’s always there watching your back to keep you safe.
Don’t you worry.”

Cindy didn’t bat an eye when Mr. Trent paged her to his office that
morning, looking like he wanted to throttle her.
“Cindy,” he began stiffly, “you told us you were taking those girls
on an educational expedition to San Jose! What’s the idea, going to
the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk?”
Cindy shrugged. One fib’s as good as another, she thought.
“Dunno, Mr. Trent. The minibus’s steering wheel got stuck when we
reached the first San Jose exit. Wouldn’t come unstuck till we
passed San Jose altogether. Couldn’t just stop in the middle of the
freeway. Hadda keep going.”
“That’s one whopper of a half-a**** excuse!” Mr. Trent cried.
“You had that planned all along, didn’t you?”

162
“Well, didn’t you! Stop grinning at me like that! This is dead
serious!”
Cindy waved her hands. “Chill, Mr. Trent! It’s a woman’s
prerogative to change her mind, isn’t it?”
He didn’t look amused. “I think we need a better explanation
than that tired old line.”
“Mr. Trent, when I first came here, I swore I’d give these girls a
thorough education, not just in the mechanics of how to play sports
and do repetitious exercises, but an education in sportsmanship. In
all my classes there’s always been one or two girls who end up on
the bottom of the heap when teams are chosen. And when we do
dance routines, nobody wants to be their partner. I’ve watched all
my girls, and nobody is much worse than anybody else. If nobody
wants anything to do with a girl in class, it’s got much more to do
with social rejection than a girl’s lack of ability. In my book, that
constitutes poor sportsmanship. Well, I turned the tables on those
bigshots who thought they’d stick a thorn in somebody else’s hide.
I chose those rejected girls to go with me and have a real good time
they’d remember all the rest of their lives. And if it made the other
girls jealous, tough beans! They had their chance to be picked last
and they passed it up. The first shall be last and the last shall be
first, as some wise man said.”
“But Mrs. Franks, our field trips are about education, not
revenge!”
“Oh, but those girls did get an education, Mr. Trent. The video
games helped them improve their poise, self-confidence, hand-eye
coordination, revved up their motor skills. Video games sharpen
their reflexes too. Why, that joystick’s like a magic wand, the way it
makes those little couch potatoes jump around and move their
muscles. As for all the wild rides, they kept the girls’ adrenalin
flowing and taught them to shift their weight in their seats so they
would flow with the G-forces instead of fighting them. Isn’t P.E.
supposed to develop a child’s physical agility, Mr. Trent?”
“Still, you broke our rules. You took those girls to a location
other than the one stipulated on the permission slips.”
Cindy shook her head. “Uh-uh, no I didn’t. The fine print said
that the course would be taught outdoors if weather permitted, and
the venue was subject to last-minute change. Mr. Hok Sun Lo
notified us that his learning center got flooded when plumbing pipes
burst. Couldn’t hold it in there. Besides, the weather in Santa Cruz
was marvelous and the rides were outdoors, weren’t they?”
“Aha!” Mr. Trent cried. “But the video games were in an arcade,
not outside.”
“Mr Trent, before we set foot in Monster Murdock’s Arcade we all
stood outside on the Boardwalk and Su Wan Koto, our aerobics
instructor, gave the girls a crash course in how to move a joystick
the right way while keeping your eye on the video monster instead

163
of on your arm. She taught the girls how to make a smooth motion
with your arm, then swerve right and left before Pinky and Blinky
could gobble PacMan up. The theory part of the course could be
taught outside but it had to be practiced inside.”
“But why waste valuable school time on video games when
they’ll have all summer to go to Santa Cruz and play? For that
matter, they could go to any convenience store in town and play
those games.”
“Ah, but there’s only one Santa Cruz, Mr. Trent. Anybody can go
have fun after school’s over and the place is so crowded you have to
take a number. This way, the girls could play those damn machines
as long as they wanted without a whole line of kids hollering for
them to hurry up. Not to mention getting back on the big
rollercoaster and all the other scary rides without a long wait.”
Mr. Trent shook his head in disbelief. Unfazed, Cindy said, “I
don’t see what the problem is, Mr. Trent. The money for that trip
didn’t come out of the school budget. It was provided by a highly
respected businessman who likes to sponsor such events.”
The principal moaned. “Do you know how bad it makes Hogwood
High stink in the press, the way you and that Chinese woman beat
up those two guys in the arcade? Madam, you started a brawl in
what had been a family-friendly establishment. Tables got kicked
over. Drinks got spilled on the floor. The kids screamed for more.
Did you know you’re all over the newspapers? One headline reads:
Hogwood High Teacher Slam-Dunks Drunks.
Cindy chuckled. “Madison’s sure got a way with words, don’t
she?
“Seriously, Mr. Trent, look. I didn’t invite those bozos to come
in and attack Madison. They tried to hit on me too. Can’t people
fight back or do they have to just stand there and take it?”
“But you never should have been there to begin with. If the
originally planned seminar got cancelled because of a flood you
should have brought the girls back to school. You misled us.”
“Oh, but I never promised to do that, Mr. Trent. I promised those
girls a field trip and they got one!”
Mr. Trent waved his hands. “Let’s just forget the girls for a
moment. This is serious! Instead of letting the police deal with
those attackers, you took the law in your own hands.”
“What was I supposed to do, Mr. Trent, just let those bums do
their thing while we waited half an hour for the cops to come and
pull ‘em off Madison? I didn’t start the fight, those damn drunks
did!”
“Funny how you and your entourage split before the cops even
showed up.”
“Didn’t need no cops. Those creeps didn’t have no manners so
Su Wan and me taught ‘em some. That’s what teachers do, teach.”

164
He got in her face. “Well, you won’t be teaching here anymore.
You’re fired. Now go clean out your office and leave these premises
at once!”
Staring coldly at him, Cindy said, “Now you see here, bud, I’ve
never been fired from any decent job in my life, and this ain’t gonna
be the first time. I quit! I make a few rejected girls happy and all
you do is nitpick about it!”
The principal frowned. “You really don’t get it do you, Cindy?
Anything could have gone wrong on that trip. What if one of those
girl’s parents had to contact her in an emergency, and there she
goes cruisin’ off to Santa Cruz! We have the safety of our pupils to
consider.”
Cindy moved in for the counter-attack. Putting on her most
melodramatic face, she choked and gagged, sniffled, then cackled
so long and hard her ribs ached and the tears trickled from her
eyes. The madder Mr. Trent looked, the louder she laughed.
“What the hell’s so freakin’ funny!” he yelled. “Don’t you give a
damn about the safety of the pupils of Hogwood High? Stop it!”
“It’s just…gasp…you’re the last one who oughta talk about school
safety!” Cindy pointed. “Hah! Hah! Hah! Whee, that’s funny!”
“Woman, have you flipped your wig, saying I don’t care whether
pupils are safe? You explain to me what that means right now!”
Feet wide apart, hands on hips she shouted, “That’s a no-
brainer, buster! Every time a kid comes in this office and complains
about getting punched and kicked and roughed up, you make
excuses for the bullies and say it’s none of your beeswax! You don’t
give a damn about their safety, and they’re pupils too!”
Mr. Trent got as close as he dared. “What the hell are you
talking about? You better have facts and names to back up your
allegations, madam!”
“Okay,” Cindy shouted, “I’ll provide a few facts! When I was a
kid you ignored everything those scumbag bullies did to me. Year
after year, month after stinking month. Brad Bullard shoved me in
the dirt, pushed me, got ink on my clothes, called me ‘giraffe’.
Wayne Woodcock attacked me in biology class, got other kids to
laugh at me, shot pencils at me. I got threatened on the school bus.
And you, Mr. high-and-mighty, just laughed when I begged you to
help me. There you go hollering about feeling embarrassed for the
school and you didn’t give two s***s when those girls stripped my
clothes off in the dressing room and made fun of my body. And
Brad Bullard said he put ‘em up to it. But when I told you I saw you
bite your lip! You thought it was funny! I know you did!”
“That’s crazy and you know it!” Mr. Trent yelled. “I’ve only been
working here six years. You aren’t much younger than I am! This
whole damned school is only eight years old! When did you go to
high school anyway?”

165
“I left here in 1985! Twenty-seven years ago, and without a
freakin’ diploma, because scumbag bullies made me run away to
San Francisco!” Cindy yelled back. I came back in time to give you
a piece of my mind so I could finally have peace in my life after
remembering how much I hated Hog Pen High so many years for
what they did to me! You see these arms?”
She peeled some of the beaded bracelets back. “I didn’t get
operated on for ‘muscular dysmorphia’! That stupid disease doesn’t
even exist! Those b*****s in the locker room, and Bullard, drove
me to do this, then my poor family tried to cover it up! But it’s
those blasted Bullards that oughta be ashamed, not me!”
“Shhh, shhh,” Mr. Trent soothed. “Sit down, Cindy, right here.
That’s it. We can get you a doctor if you need one. I’ve got
tranquilizers, I take ‘em myself the way those teenage b******s
drive me crazy. Here, Cindy, if it makes you feel better, here’s some
severance pay. He cleaned out the office kitty. Here’s $648, cash
under the table.” He folded it and pressed it into her hand. “See?
I’m not such an ornery devil. You’re taking out all your hidden
frustrations out on me. We all snap sometimes and say things we
don’t really mean. I understand.”
She stuck it in her bag. “Thanks, and don’t worry about Sandy.
She’s got another ride home. Know what? I really do believe, Mr.
Trent, you’re such a horse’s a** you wouldn’t give a damn what
those dirtbags did to Madison. The only time you get mad is if
you’re in the line of fire when the s*** hits the fan!”
Cindy’s eyes glimpsed a familiar face through a gap in the
shrubbery outside the office window. “Oh, Roger!” she cried, her
voice cracking in agony. “You’re dumping me? Boo hoo hoo! I can’t
believe you’re chasing some blond bimbo, after all the good times
we had together, right here in this office!”
“What the hell are you talking about, you crazy woman? After
me paying you all that money…”
Before she walked out the door, Cindy turned around and yelled,
shaking her fist. “You didn’t pay me nothin’ I didn’t earn a million
times over! After the way you let me down when I was just a kid!”
The office door slammed behind her so hard one of the hinges
broke.
Who else would be eavesdropping outside, but Mrs. Bullard?
“What’s the matter, Franks? Under the weather today?”
“Yeah, guess you could say that. That louse broke my heart,
sniff! Two-timin’ Trent! You’re rid of me. I’m history. You two
lovebirds deserve each other. Have a wonderful rest of your life! So
long, Bullard!”
As she walked toward her office Cindy thought, Oh, s***, what
have I done? Stupid me, I blew my cover! Now he’ll think I’m
wacko and call my dad to tell Little Sandy to keep away from the
crazy lady. But hey, what the hell? That made me feel great!

166
Mrs. Bullard rushed in with both barrels blazing. “You creep!
Can’t control your hormones! You used that bag of bones to make
me jealous! And now you find some blond b**** to turn you on!
Not only that, you and Franks have been making hay since you
were kids! Buster, you just wait till I tell your wife! You’ve turned
Hogwood High into a whorehouse!”
Helplessly he listened to her tirade, afraid to fire his beloved
Nancy after he’d already gotten rid of his best P.E. teacher. Like it or
not he had to keep her. Unless he found a temporary substitute,
she’d have to do her own work till the end of school, and Cindy’s as
well.
Cindy finally got her revenge on Mr. Trent. She had a laugh
attack as she overheard the deafening din from his office.

22
Awkward Goodbyes

As all hell broke loose in the principal’s office and the secretary ran
off to tell the librarian, Cindy unlocked her own office, then her
lockers. Furiously she flung her stuff in a cardboard box. Papers,
manuals, records, tapes, sweatshirts, exercise gear. She found
pamphlets and brochures from the Wakasaki Workout Center and
stuffed them in her bag. She inspected the place top to bottom.
Finally, satisfied she’d cleared everything out, she locked up. With
her bulging sports bag slung over her shoulder and two boxes piled
high in her slender arms, she headed back to the principal’s office to
drop off her office key and attendance records.
“Hey, let me help you with that junk,” a familiar voice said,
kindly.
It was Coach Codgins, her old lunchmate.
“Thanks,” Cindy said, tremulously, setting it all down. “You can
take the big box if you want. Evidently Mr. Trent thought I wasn’t
up to snuff. Guess I created too much excitement around here. But
old Bullard’s over the moon. She got her lover boy back, ‘cause he
made her happy by getting rid of me.”
“A very bad decision, I think,” Ken frowned. “One that’ll cost
him the Regional Tournament. The way I see it, that trip did those
girls no harm and you had no choice but to fight off Madison’s
attackers. What the hell, she could have been attacked anywhere,
even on this crazy campus.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Cindy rolled up her eyes.
“Cindy,” Ken said kindly, “If I had your powers I would’a done
the same. All I’ve got to beat the bad guys off with is regular
muscles.”
“Well, they’re helping a lot now,” Cindy laughed.

167
“Cindy, maybe I can talk Trent into letting you stay. This really
is a rash decision on his part. Every human being makes mistakes,
even if I don’t think you made any.”
“Maybe I did make a few, Ken. He said some stupid things to
me so I said some stupid things back. Now the guy thinks I’m off
my rocker.”
Ken laughed. “Join the club. If I had a nickel for every time
somebody called me crazy, I’d be a zillionaire.”
“A great one, Ken!” Cindy cackled. “But I really can’t stay. I’m
needed somewhere else. Somewhere far from here. You wouldn’t
understand.”
“Try me.”
“It’s a big mess, Ken. Edgar and me, well, we lived in our own
separate worlds, but he misses me and I miss him, and I’ve got to
go back to San Francisco to rebuild my life with him.”
“Thought you said Edgar was in West Germany, Cindy.”
“He moves around a lot, and his business brought him back to
Frisco.”
In no time Cindy’s trunk was loaded. Ken lingered awhile
leaning on the car hood, staring into her eyes, his throat tight with
emotion. “Cindy, it’ll really hurt like hell to see you go. You don’t
know how I feel…”
Cindy held up her hand. “It hurts me to have to disappoint you,
Ken, and you’ve been such a wonderful friend to me. But I’ve got a
family who needs me like crazy. I’m going back tomorrow. I’m
sorry.”
Sobbing inside, Ken tore himself away and ran back toward the
Sports Building, wishing he’d met her in a different time and a
different place.
It was 1:24 p.m. The custodian high-fived Carlos when he flashed
two more hundreds at him. “Hey, Dude, ya wanna do more
business with me?”
“Yeah,” Carlos said, pointing to two more flower bouquets in a
fancy bag. “These here flowers are from two buddies of mine. One
bunch has to go to the girls’ locker room. This one guy wants the
girl to find ‘em in the locker room when all the other girls are in
there, just so everybody’ll know how he feels about her. And the
other bunch of flowers are from Mr. Trent for Mrs. Bullard. I wrote
that last love note ‘cause he’s no good at stuff like that.”
“Are they sweet on each other now?” the janitor asked.
“Not really. She’s still mad at him. He’s still tryin’ to soften her
up and win her back. So if you could let me into the locker room
first, then after that, into Mrs. Bullard’s office it sure would help.”
“No skin off my back,” the custodian shrugged, pocketing the
bribe. “Hey, man, tell ya what. The locker room’s open, but I’ll
keep on the lookout for ya so no women’ll see ya in there and
report ya. They don’t like no guys sneakin’ in the girls’ locker room,

168
but, hey, you’re one awesome dude, so I’ll keep my trap shut about
it. Hurry, while nobody’s in there. And when you’re done, I’ll let ya
into Mrs. Bullard’s office and keep a lookout. Wow, this is my lucky
day! Hope ya deliver more flowers for these lovely ladies! Ya don’t
know how hard I have to bust my butt around here to earn that
kind’a cash. Thanks, buddy.”
“Don’t mention it,” Carlos said. “Just look the other way. I’ll
need a few minutes in there, thanks.”
Carlos almost choked on laughter he struggled to suppress. He
found Linda Costello’s locker and fiddled with its combination lock
till it popped open. He found a brown paper sack wrapped around
something round. He grabbed the bag and looked inside. It took his
breath away. Thousands of tiny red ants crawled up and down in a
jar. Carlos shuddered to think how those ants would have hurt
Sandy if 3R hadn’t intervened.
There they are, he thought. That notebook was dead on. Carlos
made sure the cap was on tight and put the ants in his backpack.
He left the guilty girl a note:
SORRY LINDA. THE MARTIAN ANTEATER WUZ HERE, LEFT THESE
FOR YOU.
Carlos put the flowers inside and shut the locker. Soon he was
in Mrs. Bullard’s office again. He taped a preprinted message on
the jar label:
DEAR MRS. BULLARD, JUST A PREZZIE TO WELCOME OUR NEW
P.E.TEACHER. LOVE, LINDA COSTELLO.
Carlos’ cell phone went off. It was F. Wakasaki, who reminded
him to check the blinds for spy bugs, as he’d read an entry in
Sandy’s diary which said Mrs. Bullard’s bugged blinds had caught
someone invading her office on this very day.
She hadn’t done a good job of concealing it. Carlos’ eagle eye
spotted the tiny transmitter attached to a slat, barely visible. He
ripped it off and squashed it under his shoe. Then he heard light
footsteps. He slid behind a filing cabinet.
He heard voices.
“Hi, Sam, I left my whistle in there. Better go get it.”
“Better not go in yet, Mrs. Bullard.”
“And why not?”
“’Cause I just waxed your floor and you don’t wanna track it up.
Give it at least half an hour and it oughta be dry by then.”
“Whatever, I’ll just borrow one from Coach Codgins. I see him
right now. ‘Bye.”
Carlos sighed with relief. He could easily have fought her off,
but Mr. Wakasaki’s orders would have been foiled. He peeked out
the door’s metal-latticed vertical side window. No one in sight.
Carlos took a jar of honey out of his backpack and smeared it in
strategic areas of the office. He set the jar of ants on Mrs. Bullard’s
desk, then turned the opening away from himself before quickly

169
removing the cap. He checked his hands and sleeves to make sure
none got on him. “Adios, amigos,” Carlos giggled. “it’s payback
time.”
Quickly he split and closed the door behind him. He waved to
the custodian. “Thanks, bud.”
“Anytime, pal. Sure beats minimum wage.”
Right before Sandy’s P.E. class got underway, Autumn abjectly
approached April while other girls looked on. “Ah, Sandy, got
somethin’ I gotta tell ya.”
“What’s up, Autumn?”
Self-consciously Autumn whispered, “I can’t be friends with you
no more.”
“And why not!” April shouted. She didn’t care who heard.
Linda Costello and her equally snobby girl friends did a double
take at that. The real Sandy would have quietly slipped away and
cried a little, just accepted the fact she was a worthless nobody.
April wasn’t finished. “After all Mrs. Franks taught us, Autumn,
this is a fine way to thank her! We played cards in the minibus. We
went on rides together! What the hell have I done to you that you
don’t think I ain’t good enough to hang around with you anymore?”
she demanded shrilly. “Is it because of those dweebs?” she pointed
at Linda Costello and her smirking girl friends.
Tears trickled down Autumn’s face. “Yes,” she whispered. “They
said they’d beat me up if I kept hanging with you, Sandy. Like, I’m
so totally sorry,” she whispered.
April glared at Costello and her pals. “If any of you snot-nosed
b*****s lay one finger on Autumn, you’ll get a kick up your a**!”
She found a volleyball and punched it so hard it sped across the
gym like a speeding bullet.
“Something’s weird about Girard today,” one of her enemies said.
“It sure as hell looks like her,” said another.
“Can we still be friends?” April asked Autumn. “Don’t have to if
you don’t want to.”
“Friends forever,” Autumn said. “Why should I let them order
me around?”
Mrs. Bullard came in to take roll and get P.E. started. Her fight
with lover boy Trent had left her in a sour mood. “I’ve got a little
surprise for you,” she said with a scary grin. “Mrs. Franks has just
been fired for malpractice. So I’ll be running this little show from
now on. So let’s get going! Now!” She clapped her hands.
After a few warmup stretches, Mrs. Bullard ran the girls ragged
with extra situps, leg lifts, pushups, squat thrusts. Their sore
muscles screamed out in protest. One girl doubled over in agony.
Mrs. Bullard taunted her for being a weak wimp, then ordered her to
go sit on the bleachers and observe everyone else.
“Our President is waging a war on fat,” she smiled smugly.
“Your easy days are over! Before this year’s over, each one of you

170
better lose at least three pounds or you’ll have to settle for a ‘C’
grade. Move it, move it, move it! One-two, three-four, five-six,
seven-eight! Faster, fatsos!” She clapped her hands.
She started a record, made them sing, “Go, you chicken fat, go!”
A big doctor’s scale stood at the far side of the gym. After class,
each girl’s weight would be measured and meticulously recorded. I
don’t know why she’d want me to lose any, skinny April thought.
Good thing Sandy’s gone.
As if to rub salt in their wounds, Mrs. Bullard stood idly by
munching a Mars bar while her class strained and sweated at their
exercises. Her two-sizes-too-small shorts stretched across her
meaty thighs.
“Rumor has it that Mrs. Franks took some of you to Santa Cruz
to chase ghosts and aliens with a joystick,” Mrs. Bullard said. “But
that don’t cut it with me. I believe in zapping Fat Man, not PacMan.
Unless P.E. makes you hurt it doesn’t work! Keep moving! Hustle!”

After she popped the last of the candy in her mouth she yelled,
“Girard! You didn’t go all the way down to the floor when you did
that last pushup. Give me twenty more!”
“Mrs. Bullard,” April asked, “If I can back-flip my way clear
across the gym, would you excuse me from doing them?”
“Did I hear you right, Girard? Go ahead. If you can do that, I’ll
let you skip the extra pushups.”
She blew her whistle so hard it could wake the dead. “Girls,
listen up! Girard’s such a great gymnast she wants to show
everybody how to jump backwards across the gym. I told her if she
does that, she doesn’t have to do any more pushups today. Okay,
Girard, let’s see your stuff, girl!”

171
April drew a few deep breaths, swung her arms to warm up,
assumed the correct posture, then effortlessly flipped backwards
across the gym, twirling in the air and landing smoothly each time.
Then she did forward flips back across, finishing with a cartwheel
and a lovely ballet stance. Almost everyone clapped except
Costello’s crowd and Mrs. Bullard.
“More, Girard, more!” they yelled.
April started some walking handstands. She didn’t get far
before two bobby pins fell from her head and her big red hair fell
off. Everyone saw her shiny flaxen hair, pinned to her scalp, stray
strands escaping and falling in her face.
“I thought so!” Mrs. Bullard sneered evilly. “The real Girard
knew I’d be teaching this class today and ditched it. Who the hell
are you?”
April jumped to her feet. “Her cousin April. I didn’t want to see
Sandy get hurt. The PacMan Gang ordered Sandy not to come to
class today. She was only obeying orders.”
“Well, orders or no orders, she’s gonna get hurt now,” Mrs.
Bullard said. “Nothing like flunking P.E. for the whole year. Get
down on your knees, April, and lick my shoes, and maybe, just
maybe, I’ll pass your cousin with a ‘D’.”
April looked at the others, who wondered what she’d do.
Instead of giving in, April stood her ground and cried, “Girls, this
woman’s got no right to force any of you to exercise your guts out.
She can’t force you to lose weight, no matter what size you are. Are
you sick of taking c*** from Mrs. Bullard? JUST WALK OUT!”
“Just walk out! Just walk out!” the girls chanted. Swinging
their arms, they marched back to the locker room, with fifteen
minutes’ class time left.

“No, no, no!” Mrs. Bullard yelled. “Come back here right now!
That’s an order! I’ll flunk every last one of you!” They paid no
attention.

172
“You make any trouble for Sandy, April warned Mrs. Bullard,
“and I’ll notify every newspaper on the West Coast about your child
abuse. I’ve got lots of witnesses too. And by the way, Mrs. Bullard,
we keep tabs on all the stores Brad shoplifts from. Better watch
your step.”
“I’m not scared of you, or your little alien allies,” Mrs. Bullard
hissed.
April smiled and walked over to the big doctor’s scale in the
corner of the gym. She flung it down and stomped on its metal
post, bending it. Mrs. Bullard heard the crunch of breaking glass.
“That’s what I think of bullies,” April said. She unzipped one
shoe and pulled out three bills, then stuffed the rest back in. She
pressed £300 into Mrs. Bullard’s hand. There, Mrs. Bullard, my boss
said to give you that for the damage, so don’t go crying to the cops
over some stupid scale. Better leave Sandy alone too. There’s more
of me where I came from. And just in case you’re thinking of
blowing my cover today or squealing to Sandy’s dad again, better
not, or you’ll hear from my comrades in San Francisco. Come hell
or high water I’m gonna get Sandy through this day.”

23
Rough Ramifications

Furious from being humiliated by two people in just one day, Mrs.
Bullard went back to her office, muttering murder. She’d have to
take her wrath out on somebody else, not that mysterious girl with
mystery friends in high places. Since Cindy Franks showed up, her
life had been sheer hell. And it hadn’t got much better since she’d
left.
“Nobody’s gonna be the P.E. queen bee but me,” she mumbled.
When she unlocked her office door and went in she nearly
fainted.
Down the hallway, the custodian heard a piercing scream.
Leisurely he sauntered by and peeked in. Ants were crawling all
over Mrs. Bullard’s desk, her book shelf, her curtains, her walls. A
tiny metal contraption lay next to a waste can, squashed. Mrs.
Bullard was hysterical.
When she saw the custodian she erupted. She screamed at him
for lying about waxing the floor. She’d see to it he got fired today,
then dragged into court for being an accessory to a Watergate-style
break-in, and he’d be locked up in the state pen for the next 500
years.
He yelled back that she couldn’t prove a thing and that was a fine
way to thank Mr. Trent for all the flowers he sent. He’d sent her a
jar of rare honey and it must have gotten knocked over and
attracted ants. And it must be her own fault he’d wanted to send
the flowers because she was so gorgeous she made all other women

173
look ugly as sin. No man on earth could resist her obvious charms.
Not only that, he’d ask her out himself if he wasn’t just a two-bit
janitor.
She relented. She didn’t normally get so many compliments in
one day. To pacify her he forked over one of his hundreds and kept
the other. In return she agreed to let him off the hook and
attribute the ants to natural causes. The school district had plenty
of cash to call in an exterminator.
Still steaming, she rushed to the girls’ dressing room where
Linda Costello was sobbing that somebody had broken into her
locker and stolen one of her most precious possessions. Most of the
other girls showered plenty of sympathy on her and congratulated
her on getting the flowers. That only made Costello cry harder. She
couldn’t tell anyone what was missing.
The dressing room door banged open. Mrs. Bullard rushed in,
yelling, “Costello, you are officially expelled from my class! And I’m
taking this note to Mr. Trent, so he’ll probably kick you out of
Hogwood High for good! How dare you do this to me, pouring red
ants and honey all over my office! It’s hard as hell to get rid of
those damn things! Pack up your stinking c*** and get out!”
Dejectedly Costello did as she was told, all the while crying, “But
I never told anyone about the ants, not even my best friends! They
were for Sandy Girard, not you, Mrs. Bullard!”
“Tough luck, kid! They never got to their intended destination,
did they? A likely story. You’ve always hated my guts, Costello, but
this time you’ve gone too far! I’d slap you silly for this, girl, but I
don’t want to end up in jail. Now get out of my face before I go
ballistic!”
“Where’s April?” Mrs. Bullard shouted. “She doesn’t even belong
in my class. She must know about the ants.”
Glenda, a P.E. team captain, shook her head. “We don’t know
where she’s at, Mrs. Bullard. She grabbed her junk out of here and
went to change somewhere else. Guess she knew you were
coming.”
“Man, ain’t it weird!” another said. “Those alien infiltrators know
everything.”
After Mrs. Bullard left the dressing room like a fire-breathing
dragon, the other girls gathered around Autumn and Maria and
griped about how they’d got an all-expenses paid trip to Santa Cruz
Beach Boardwalk while they’d had to stay at school and suffer
through Mrs. Bullard’s class.
“It wasn’t our doing,” Autumn shrugged. “Lacy and Glenda chose
us for the trip fair and square.”
“Maybe next time you’ll get picked last and find out how it feels,”
Maria told one girl who told Autumn to shut up.

174
April went to biology, Sandy’s last class of the day. When the
substitute teacher entered the room, April took Sandy’s familiar old
place, the front center table where she sat alone. Now that Mr.
Peabody had quit, his split-up class had been reunified. One kid
after another glared at her, holding a grudge for the way
Woodcock’s pencil plot had backfired.
April wasn’t unduly scared. But she did realize she was vastly
outnumbered in this hostile environment. The silence was
deafening.
When everyone was inside and the door was shut, Chico and
Kenji stationed themselves outside the room, secretly bugged
between classes when the teacher of the last class forgot to lock up.
Comrade Carlos was on his way.
They saw Woodcock occupying his old seat behind “Sandy”.
Woodcock looked peeved, probably because his old buddy
Hobbleton hated him for getting him in trouble with old man
Peabody and so he no longer sat with him. The underside of Sandy’s
table was fitted with a tiny, high-tech bug which could magnify and
transmit the faintest whisper from within a five-foot radius.
Chico and Kenji overheard the teacher saying she needed to step
outside for a few minutes. April tensed up, but didn’t want to seem
scared. If they ganged up on her she could scream for her
comrades. And until she left the campus, she would remain on high
alert.
The two 3R Men hid around the corner till the teacher was safely
out of sight, all the while picking up plenty of audio through their
ear bugs. They eased back toward the door. Chico withdrew
something from his bag.
“Kids say she’s a space alien out to get us. Get her…now…the
dirty b****,” the 3R Men heard a hoarse whisper.
In the classroom, April’s own ear bug picked up their sinister
whispers. She saw a long, narrow shadow lengthening over her
open book, then rearing backward.
Trained to react in split seconds, she veered sharply to the right
and jumped up. Before the Coke bottle could crash through the
empty space her head had occupied, the door banged open and a
softball slammed into Woodcock’s armpit, throwing him off balance
like a bowling pin. He fell down in the aisle, almost landing on
another boy. The bottle rolled out of his grasp and across the floor.
April rushed to grab the evidence. She pushed away the kids who
tried to seize the bottle and hide the evidence of their foul play from
the teacher.
While Chico was throwing the ball, Kenji had snapped an instant
flash picture of Woodcock poised to strike. It all happened so fast
Woodcock had no time to lower his weapon. Chico removed a mini-
cassette recorder concealed under papers in a trash can. He
handed it to Kenji, who stuffed it in his backpack.

175
Woodcock’s armpit was a searing mass of raw pain. But to save
face, he squared off against Chico, flailing his fist defiantly.
Disgusted that Woodcock was too chicken to fight fair when he
picked on girls, Chico used a simple Judo flip and boot in the butt to
subdue the bully. Woodcock wallowed in pain. No one offered any
sympathy. The other kids could be very capricious in their loyalty.
They only loved winners, not losers. Most thought it was funny to
see Woodcock cry.
“We got our evidence,” Chico said. “Let’s get out of this
garbage dump.”
April started crying, as Sandy would have done. They saw the
teacher returning from the bathroom.
“What’s the matter, Sandy? What happened?” she asked. Miss
Kirby had already heard rumors about all the hell-raising at
Hogwood High and already regretted taking the temporary job here.
“Wayne…Woodcock!” she gasped. “Tried to hit me over the head
with this Coke bottle. Only thing that saved me was I saw his
shadow creep up behind me and I jumped out of the way in time.
Boo hoo hoo!”
“A Coke bottle attack?” Miss Kirby said sharply. “How did you
take the bottle away from him, Sandy?”
“He tripped on some junk whiie he tried to hit me, fell on the
floor, and the bottle rolled out of his hand. I picked it up before
anybody else could.”
“I didn’t trip on nothin’!” Woodcock insisted. “Girard’s buddies
threw a baseball at me and made me fall, and here it is. Ain’t that
so, Hobbleton?” He looked at his former friend, hoping for support.
“No, teacher,” Hobbleton called from the back. “Woodcock was
throwin’ that ball around for fun while you were out. It dropped outa
his hand and he tripped on it.”
“Did Wayne try to strike Sandy Girard with a Coke bottle?”
Silence. Most of the kids couldn’t decide what the majority
considered a cooler thing to do: get Woodcock in serious trouble or
continue to torment Sandy.
“Well, did he?”
“She ain’t even the real Girard!” one girl accused. “That ho-
bag’s an actress!”
“Shush, class!” Miss Kirby called, holding up her hands. “Wayne,
I don’t care if your intended victim was Santa Claus. Regardless of
who you tried to hurt with a Coke bottle you need to be reported to
the police, if this is true.”
Chico approached her and said, “We got evidence on Woodcock,
ma’am.”
“Who are you boys?” she asked.
“After school we go to Rainbow Scouts meetings,” Chico said.
“Our mission is to do a good deed each day to make the world a

176
better place. We watched Woodcock sneak up on Sandy. We took a
picture.”
“And I’ve got audio evidence on my mini-recorder,” Carlos
added.
“I saw it too,” Kenji said.
The teacher saw and heard what Woodcock and his few loyal
pals were denying. She ordered Woodcock and everyone who had
covered up for him to get out of her class and stay out because she
refused to teach wild animals.
“Now I’ve seen everything!” Miss Kirby scolded. “I’d heard that
Hogpen High is Modesto’s meanest school, but I didn’t believe it till
now. Wayne Woodcock could have killed Sandy Girard!”
“Hey, teach, that spaz over there called our school a garbage
dump,” Woodcock’s pal Hank drawled.
“Your school can be whatever you make of it,” Miss Kirby said,
frostily. “If you want it to be a garbage dump, you’ll act like
garbage to turn it into one.”
“We’re gonna tell Mr. Trent what you said,” one girl called.
“Yeah, yeah!” other kids yelled. “We’re gonna get you in big
trouble, lady!”
“Be afraid. Be very afraid, dirty Kirby!” one boy called, making a
scary face at the substitute teacher.
“Can I go now?” April sobbed. “I’m too upset to stay anymore
today.”
“I don’t blame you for leaving, Sandy,” the teacher said. “I’m
leaving too. If those morons don’t want to learn, that’s their
problem.” She picked up her grade book and texts and walked out,
leaving the class in an uproar of kids blasting their Walkmans and
break-dancing, smashing things, jumping over furniture and
roughhousing, yelling insults and flinging paper planes.
“That was mighty brave of you to do that, ma’am,” Carlos said
out in the hall.
“What? Walking out?”
“Callling those kids ‘animals’ and ‘morons’. Someday it’ll be
politically incorrect to call people what they act like.”
“Whatever ‘politically incorrect’ means, it sounds pretty
ominous,” Miss Kirby replied. “Well, it was nice meeting you guys,
but I’d better go tell Mr. Trent he can teach this psychotic class
himself if he thinks it’s so easy. Goodbye.”
After she turned the corner Chico got a call from F. Wakasaki.
“In few seconds you come back,” he said. “Mission accomplished?”
“Yes, Mr. Wakasaki, all taken care of.”
Ticked off about their expulsion, Wayne Woodcock and his
toadies pointed at the departing 3R Gang and yelled, “There’s the
space aliens! Go get ‘em!”

177
Woodcock’s gang ran like mad, fists flying in rage. When they
got within a few feet of the 3R Gang, Chico was ready. He emptied
a small bag onto the floor. “Prezzies!” he called.
“Ya-a-a!” Sandy’s persecutors yelled, slipping on marbles and
landing on their backs with a thud. Woodcock’s brain exploded with
pain. Falling on the marbles only made his armpit feel worse.
Two of the kids sat up, shook their heads and stared as the 3R
Gang vanished before they could run out the back door of the
Science Building. The terrified kids yelled that they’d seen the aliens
beam back up to their spacecraft.
Mr. Mooney, a physiology teacher from Alabama, caught
Woodcock’s gang running like chickens with their heads cut off. “All
right, y’all!” he yelled. “This ain’t no kindergarten! Y’all guys pick
up them marbles or I’ll tell Mr. Trent!”
“Mr. Mooney!” Woodcock ranted. “We saw four kids disappear!
They’re from another planet!”
“Wayne Woodcock!” Mr. Mooney called. “Ain’t you been in
enough trouble, boy? If I did half of what you done when I was a
kid, they’d’a paddled the soup outa me. But from the looks of you,
boy, somebody already wore you out real good.”

F. Wakasaki was pleased to get his warriors back. “Good job, he
said. Broken Rainbow of Peace say peace come soon. You come
house eat, discuss mission. You prove bravery. Valiant warriors.
We see Sandy-san very soon.”
After a delicious meal, F. Wakasaki asked his four time travelers
to stand in a line before him. He presented each of them with a
special award he’d had specially crafted for them: The Broken
Rainbow Warrior Belt. Made of black silk, it was trimmed with
delicate gold thread and embroidered with the Broken Rainbow of
Peace logo. He tied the belt around each waist, exchanging bows
with the 3R warriors. They would treasure it the rest of their lives as
a tribute to their courage in going back to fight dangerous dragons
of the past.

Later that evening, the 3R Gang went over to Kenji’s to chill out and
reflect on all they’d gone through in 1985. April, though a proficient
martial artist, was still badly shaken from her brief encounters with
the evil Wayne Woodcock. “Just to think I could hardly stand two
days of that rotten place, and poor Sandy was jailed in that torture
chamber for years. Sorry, guys, didn’t mean to freak out on you.
Had to cry so they’d think I was poor weak Sandy.”
“Hey, April, crying’s okay,” said Chico. “We’re still human.” They
all had a group hug.
“I didn’t see that coming, though I felt strong negative vibes in
there,” April said. “That incident wasn’t even recorded in Sandy’s
notebook.”

178
“Know why?” Chico said, thoughtfully.
“Why, Chico? You got any idea?” April wondered.
“Remember what Mr. Wakasaki said about taking a Time Tangent
to exit off the Circle of Time?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
“What this means, guys, is this. “The only way off a circle is a
tangent, where you stop going round in a circle and make a quick,
clean exit off that circle. Remember when we were little kids riding
a merry-go-round in the park? Now just imagine that thing never
stopped going round and round and you couldn’t stop it. The only
way off would have been to jump off the circle in a straight line
away from the merry-go-round. This is the point in time where we
helped Sandy jump off her own merry-go-round. The Coke bottle
attack didn’t happen to the Sandy who wrote the notebook because
when she wrote it she didn’t defeat Woodcock. Woodcock got mad
at us for making him look bad in front of his pals when we foiled the
Pencil Plot. But hey, he’s the one that wanted to stir up a
s***storm of trouble, and it was either him or Sandy. We made him
madder, but we altered destiny so much that Little Sandy, when she
grows up, won’t have to go full circle again and repeat this same
cycle where she’ll have the accident, go back in time to help
another Little Sandy, who’ll then grow up to help another Sandy and
on and on and on. Sandy will live a whole new wonderful tomorrow
and she’ll know she finally broke free of her Whirlpool of Hurt.”

24
Who Am I?

Earlier that day, Cindy had swung by the public library to get Sandy.
She found her relaxing in a chair leafing through some magazines
and travel books. The girl’s face brightened when she saw the
woman who’d been so good to her.
“Everything’s okay, Sandy,” Cindy whispered. “April’s doing a
fine job. Wanna go to the arcade and work up an appetite for
lunch?”
“You bet, Mrs. Franks.” They walked past the librarian, who
noticed the strong resemblance and wondered if they were mother
and daughter.
“You get fired, Mrs. Franks?” Sandy asked, as they got in the
car.
“Yeah, just as expected. Don’t worry. Couldn’t stand the place
anyway.”
“But what’ll you do for money now you’ve got no job?”
“I’ve got a bunch saved up. Hey, don’t worry. Let’s go have
some fun at the Moon Rock Arcade.”
They killed a couple hours on the flashing, bleeping machines
and went through plenty of quarters. Cindy reached the juniors

179
again in Ms. PacMan. She beat Sandy in Demolition Derby, but
Sandy was victorious in Donkey Kong.
Mrs. Franks is having a blast, for someone who just got fired,
Sandy thought.
They went out to Mama Capelli’s for antipasto and ravioli. Both
were ravenous, though Cindy finished first. She smiled. Sandy had
another half-inch to grow.
To kill more time they stopped for super-size fudge brownie
sundaes. When they finished the last bite, they sighed in
contentment. Their perpetual hunger pangs were quelled for
awhile.
“We’ve still got a couple hours before you’re supposed to get out
of school,” Cindy said. “Wanna go see a movie matinee?”
“Or we could go feed the ducks at Paddington Pond,” Sandy
suggested. “There’s stuff I wanna talk about.”
“Fine,” Cindy said. “Let’s go buy some stale bread. Maybe we’ll
do the movies some other time.” But she wasn’t too sure about
that.
As all hell broke loose at Hogwood High in the wake of the P.E.
break-ins, Cindy and Sandy strolled through a serene, flower-dotted
park, carrying bread for the birds. Paddington Pond lay just over a
quaint stone bridge, beyond a distant thicket of trees. They must
first cross a vast meadow which was often used by kids to play ball.
Halfway across, “Eye of the Tiger” went off in Cindy’s purse.
Nervously she peered all around her. No one else was in their
immediate vicinity, but the nearest tree where she might hide to
privately answer the call was too far away. No sense in running
today.
Sighing, she dug the phone out and answered it on the spot.
“Hello, Mr. Wakasaki, we’ve got a bit of a problem here.”
“Things go wrong at school?” F. Wakasaki asked.
“No, they went just fine. I took Sandy away from school like
you wanted me to. But we’re walking in the park, an area where
there’s no trees. There was nowhere I could go to answer your call
privately. Is it okay if I tell Sandy who I am?”
“Yes, Sandy-san, it time truth come out. Better you tell than
another. Tomorrow no 3R people there to help. You fight alone till
you go San Francisco see young Wakasaki.”
“But what’s gonna happen?” Cindy cried. “Mr. Wakasaki, don’t
leave me in the lurch like this!”
“You do fine, Sandy-san. I trust you. You know what do.
Sayonara.”
When Cindy turned around and saw Sandy’s startled face, she
said, “Guess I better tell you everything. If you want to hear it,
that is.”
“What’s that thing you talked on?” Sandy asked, breathlessly.

180
“A cell phone, Sandy. They won’t be widely used for a few more
years. This one’s a 353XL Dreamscape Cellular Phone, with
Broadband Internet connection and all sorts of other advanced
apps…uh, that’s short for ‘applications’. It stores movies and
photographs. You can play games on this phone, though I like the
old-fashioned arcade machines best. Only thing is, the Internet’s
still in the experimental stage. So I can’t do much with it here.”
“Who were you talking to, Mrs. Franks?”
“My martial arts teacher, Mr. Wakasaki. He lives in San
Francisco. Both now and in the year 2012.”
Sandy sucked in her breath. “Then what they said about you is
true, Mrs. Franks, you really are an alien, from a scientifically
advanced civilization.”
Cindy shook her head. “Not exactly. Just a regular girl caught
in a time warp. I had some unfinished business, Sandy. Back in
the 80’s I got driven out of Hogwood High by nasty bullies. I
couldn’t rest till I had the last word.”
“Bullies, Mrs. Franks?” Sandy was in a daze. “What were their
names?”
“Wayne Woodcock, Kirsten Crabtree, Linda Costello, and worst of
all, Brad Bullard.
Cindy steered Sandy toward a bench. The girl look like she’d
seen a ghost. “Guess you better sit down, honey. I don’t know if
you wanna hear any more. It’s so weird you wouldn’t believe it
anyway.”
“Go ahead,” Sandy said, “I’m all ears.”
“I really am from the future, Sandy. As wacko as that sounds,
it’s true.”
Overawed, Sandy asked, “How’d you get here? In some time
machine?”
“Not exactly. I had an accident in the gym where I work. I hit
my head hard and got knocked out cold. I got hurled into a
different dimension of the same reality, only it’s 27 years sooner
than my own. But I know you’re just as real as me. Mr. Wakasaki,
the guy I work for, knows all about it. He says I came back in time
to help you seal up the Whirlpool of Hurt so bad vibes wouldn’t
spread through time and space like ripples across troubled water. I
know all about your notebook and I have my own copy. Wanna see
it?”
She fumbled in her oversized shoulder bag and got it out.
Sandy cried out in shock. “My notebook!” She opened it, nearly
fainting when she saw its pages, yellowed with time.
“Oh, no, Mrs. Franks! Yours says Kitty gets killed in a bus wreck
on April 30. Hey, wait’ll I get my own book!”
Sandy got hers out of her backpack, found the spot and read
what she’d written just a few days before.

181
Cindy’s aged notebook sparkled in the brilliant sunlight. The
page where that terrible entry was made had faded and reappeared
as a new message:

Tuesday, April 30, 1985: Almost got run over by a pig today, but
thank God Kitty and I didn’t have to ride that grotty bus. Bullard
just had to find somebody else to crucify. Yolanda Tillerman got
picked to be the new DBV (Designated Bus Victim), poor thing. The
whole school’s buzzing about it. Bullard and buddies got up to lob
spitballs at her. Then some guy in a funny black head band and
biker jacket rushed up to protect her. He yelled that he’d cream the
next guy who threw anything at her. His tiny Nintendo played some
music and he talked into the thing. Weird. Bullard asked to see it.
When the guy said no Bullard said he’d rip his ears off if he didn’t
fork it over. Then the guy told Bullard to buzz off and shoved him in
the gut with his boot. Kids screamed and cussed at the guy for
flooring Bullard. The bus driver yelled at them to knock it off. The
weird kid sat down with his toy. Some kids said they saw light
flashing out of it while Bullard raised hell on the bus. The guy
holding it held it up to his eye and made it flash again when
Bullard’s buddy took a swing at the bus driver. Then he stuck the
thing in his jacket. Poor driver got so rattled by the racket, the bus
crashed into a white van at Parabola and Ventura. The guy with the
toy threw himself over Yolanda to protect her. Don’t think he got
hurt, seemed to expect it. Then he just disappeared! But nobody
believes the kids. The teachers said they’re just lying to cover their
own tails so they don’t get blamed for the accident. Anyhow, six
kids and the bus driver landed in the hospital. He got two broken
legs. Made the TV news, but nobody mentioned any guy that
disappeared. I am SO relieved Yolanda didn’t get hurt. Stupid
Bullard got his gut kicked by the guy in the bandana, but he
bragged how he didn’t get hurt. Bullard just keeps coming back for
more. Signing off, Sandy Girard.
Wednesday, May 1, 1985: YAY! Can’t believe my luck. Bullard’s
history!. So-o-o weird what happened! Had assembly. As usual,
Kitty and me sat alone while the rest of the kids made sure all the
seats around us were empty. Or at least we started to sit alone.
Two guys wearing black jackets and bandanas sat next to us and
handed us some Skittles. They were so-o-o cool! When some kids
kicked the back of our seats and threw paper wads one of the guys
got up and banged real hard on the back of a seat with his fist, and
told them to f*** off! As long As those guys were there they were
too scared to bug us. Unbelievable what happened next. Mr. Trent
got up to talk. Gave a long song and dance about how terrible the
accident was, like he could care! Thank God me and Kitty didn’t get
on that bus!!!! Trent didn’t say too much before everyone noticed a
TV picture playing on his podium. Looked like a movie but nobody

182
saw a projector! There was even audio to go with that video! We
watched Bullard doing all his dirty work on the bus, heard
everything he said, or at least the kids closest to the front did. Mr.
Trent came down to watch it too! When it was over the guy in the
funny headband got up from the second row, stuck his Nintendo in
his pocket and ran off. Before anybody could catch him, he
disappeared! Awesome! So everybody knows Bullard caused the
wreck. Bullard got expelled for good and his mom threw a fit! She
was so mad she took it out on her P.E. girls. Made ‘em all do 50
pushups and run a mile. She’s So-o-o scary. Not only that, they all
said I’ve got my own gang! Signing off, Sandy Girard.

“There’s one part in my book which just might change if all goes
well,” Cindy told Sandy. “So maybe it’s best if you don’t read the
part of my book you haven’t even lived yet.”
“Okay, Mrs. Franks, if that’s what you want. Like, this is all so
bizarre!”
“I came back in time to protect you…myself,” Cindy said, as
Sandy stared at her in mute shock. “I can show you proof. Pull
your bracelets up. My scars look just like yours.”
They did look the same. The cruel marks matched on both sets
of arms. Cindy’s arms were more tanned and a bit bigger than
Sandy’s, but that was from maturity and hard training in the gym.
Sandy touched Cindy’s forearm. “Man, it feels like iron,” she
breathed.
“All lean meat,” Cindy grinned. “I’m half an inch taller than you
and a few pounds heavier. But both of us are lucky to have high
metabolisms. When I follow Mr. Wakasaki’s workout program and
eat a high-energy diet of complex carbs, organic produce and
protein, every pound added is all muscle, no fat.”
“Like, this is so spooky,” Sandy breathed, sagging and open-
mouthed. “Got more proof?”
Cindy demonstrated all the various functions of her cell phone,
except the Internet. She played a couple of 21 st-century hits,
showed her various video game apps. “Would you like to see your
future family, Sandy?” she smiled, her fingers moving fast. “That’s
your future husband.”
Sandy was amazed. “He’s okay-looking for an old guy. What’s
his name?”
“Edgar Franklestone. I changed my name to ‘Franks’ while I was
here to hide my true identity.”
“Franklestone?” Sandy giggled. “No offense, but do people ever
call him ‘Frankenstein’?”
“Some kids used to call my kids that,” Cindy said. “But the
novelty wore off when Jake and Jasmine figured out how to play
their own name games.”
“What sort of name is ‘Franklestone’?”

183
“Anglicized German, I think. Edgar isn’t much into genealogy.”
“But you told my folks he went to West Germany to see
relatives.”
“I had to steer them away from questions I couldn’t answer
without revealing my true identity, Sandy. ‘Cause I knew they
wouldn’t believe me.”
“Edgar…is he good to you, Mrs. Franks?”
“The best. Edgar treats me like a queen. He’s my very best
friend in all the world. When I need somebody to lean on, Edgar’s
always there. Our house gets noisy but we make time for each
other. We take long romantic walks along the pier. We talk, mostly
about nothing in particular.”
Sandy smiled, a wistful look in her eyes. “Isn’t that what love,
and friendship, should be all about, Mrs. Franks? Just being real
with each other instead of like, at Hogwood High, where kids act
like airheads to get in the coolest cliques? Love means not trying to
change each other, just wanting to be together.
“Mrs. Franks, your kids…are they uh…popular?”
“They’ll always be popular with the people that count, Sandy. If
you mean, do Jake and Jasmine hang out with a billion big shot
celebrities, well, no. But both of them have awesome pals they run
around with. I’ve always told them that it’s quality, not quantity,
that matters in life. If you’re into quantity, you can always find a
billion pieces of gravel in your yard. Diamonds are much harder to
find and there’s not so many of them. And that’s what I’ve got in
Edgar and our children.”
Sandy was fascinated by the photos of her future children.
Cindy told her many things about their growing-up years, all the fun
she had raising them.
“I scanned their baby pictures and uploaded them to Photo
Barrel,” she said.
Sandy looked dumbfounded. “What’s that?”
“A web site where you can store your pictures online. Oh, heck,
you don’t know what ‘online’ and ‘web site’ mean either, and I can’t
show you, ‘cause the Internet is barely off the drawing board.
“Look,” Cindy said softly. “My baby, and yours. Baby Jake, just
two months old.”
“He’s beautiful, Mrs. Franks,” Sandy breathed. “Looks just like
his dad, doesn’t he?”
“Yep, he’s got big soulful eyes, just like Edgar. Here’s him, taking
his first steps, Sandy. Just look at the joy on his tiny face. And
here’s baby Jasmine, our younger one, with Brandy, our schnauzer.
She was about two.”
“She’s a doll,” Sandy said. “Looks just like us, doesn’t she?”
“She turned out to be a blond,” Cindy said. “When I left my own
time she was 14 and I was 43. Everybody has big hair in 1985.

184
Someday everybody will straighten their hair like the 60’s.
Everybody but me, I was the holdout. Curls suit me better.”
“Your hair’s a different color than mine,” Sandy said.
“Straight out of a bottle, part of my disguise. It’s really your
color, just one or two grays I doctor up every few weeks.”
“Now I know why Chico didn’t want to go out with me,” Sandy
said. “He didn’t want to steal Edgar’s girl. Is Chico from the future
too?”
“Yep. But don’t tell anyone. I told Mr. Wakasaki I needed help
battling your…our..bullies, since there were so many of them, and I
couldn’t be everywhere at once. Chico won’t be born for eight more
years, believe it or not.”
Sandy laughed. “Talk about robbing the cradle. Stress me out to
the max!”
“The 3R Gang, the Right to Respect Radicals, had to go home for
good, Sandy. Mr. Wakasaki told me their time warp’s been closed
forever. Guess you’ll miss those guys.”
Thunderstruck, Sandy said, “Man, you can’t mean it! They won’t
be back here to help me get through school?”
Cindy shook her head. “But I’ll be here awhile longer, Sandy. I
still feel a strong sense of mission. Before the 3R men vanished,
Chico fitted my cell phone with a fresh battery, so it’ll last a good
while longer.”
“But Mr. Trent kicked you out of school, Mrs. Franks. How will
you still be around to watch my back?”
“Same way I did when I first got here. Lots of disguises and be
sneaky as a cat in a fish shop. Know what, Sandy? I can feel your
fear a mile away. Whenever something’s wrong I’ll be there. I
know your school schedule. I can almost see every step you take
down those halls, ‘cause they used to be my steps.”
“It’s not that the 3R men didn’t want to stick around for you,”
Cindy said. “There’s other important work to do to help kids all over
this nation and maybe even all around the world. Someday we’re
gonna ride motorbikes from one end of America to another and
campaign against bullying. We want to get a Ban the Bully law
passed by Congress. That law would make bullying a federal crime
punishable by expulsion on the third verified offense. Severe
physical assault or character assassination would be prosecuted as a
criminal felony in a court of law.”
Sandy’s head drooped.
Cindy patted her shoulder. “Aren’t you glad about it, Sandy?
Thought you’d be thrilled to hear that.”
“Sure I’m glad, Mrs. Franks. But, like, it hacks me off that it’s
gonna take till the 21 st-century for kids to get the right to be safe
from bullies.”
“People are so pea-brained,” Cindy grumbled. “Can’t get ‘em to
see sense. Just as useless as trying to get a TV picture on a radio.

185
Remember how long it took black people to win their civil rights?
What a long, hard struggle. All those marches for umpteen years,
all the opposition and hatred they faced from racist Neanderthals.
People just don’t care about social justice unless it’s their own neck
in the noose. But Sandy, I get a strong feeling you’re gonna be one
of those mover and shakers who changes the course of history.”
Sandy giggled. “Mrs. Franks, it just ain’t, cool to brag about
yourself.”
“I’m just giving myself a pep talk too,” Cindy said. “Hey, wanna
see more pics of our family?” She smiled.
“Sure, why not?” Sandy was bedazzled by these glimpses into
her future.
Cindy scrolled to another image. “There’s Jake, sitting in the
cockpit of a Cessna. He wants to take flying lessons, and of course,
his dad’s nervous about that. There’s Jasmine in her leggings and
miniskirt, quite the lady of fashion, unlike her jungle gym mom.”
“Do…they get picked on, Mrs. Franks?” Sandy asked, hesitantly.
“If calling me ‘Sandy’ makes you feel creepy, Sandy, why don’t
you just call me ‘Cindy’ whenever we’re alone together? And I’m
happy to tell you no, neither Jake nor Jasmine ever had problems
with bullying in school. All the kids found out where their mom
works and what she does. Jake and Jasmine didn’t delve deep into
martial arts like I did, but they did learn some basic self-defense
techniques. Softer stuff like judo. They learned how to defend
themselves by taking advantage of an enemy’s weaknesses and
mistakes. As in all martial arts disciplines, judo students are taught
never to fight out of verbal provocation and to avoid physical
conflict whenever possible. Better to just get away from an
aggressor. It might look like you’re being chicken when you do
that, but that’s a lot better than risking injury to yourself or your
opponent when you don’t have to.”
Sandy thoughtfully replied, “Makes sense. Never pick a fight but
if one’s forced on you, be prepared. Hey,” she frowned, “the weird
thing about all this is we’re gonna end up running around in circles.”
“How’s that, Sandy?”
“If all this is true, then when I grow up, I’ll go back in time to
help myself and have to fight Woodcock and Bullard, and the Sandy
I help will grow up to come back in time to fight those creeps and
so on and so on, just like holding a hand mirror up by your face and
staring into another mirror, where you see backward reflections that
stretch out into infinity. It goes on and on, without any end,
spooky!”
“Not necessarily, Sandy. Mr. Wakasaki said we’d be sealing up
the Whirlpool of Hurt and all its negative ramifications, and to my
mind, this is just a different dimension of the same reality. I get
the feeling that you’ll take a tangent off the Circle of Time at that
point and you’ll avoid that accident in the gym that made me conk

186
out. Mr. Wakasaki told me all about it. When you do triple flips,
always make sure the floor is clean. And hopefully, your gym floor
won’t get cleaned by Maude, the dirtiest cleaning lady in the
universe.”
“She’s really grody huh, Cindy?” Sandy thought it was funny.
“To the max! Snort the hog keeps house better than she does!”
Cindy laughed. “Maude never changes her mop water. It’s got
greasy roaches floating in it. She swabs that mess onto floors,
leaves half the job undone, then knocks off early so she can go
meet her date at a bar.”
“Barfout to the max,” Sandy said. “Hope Mr. Wakasaki fired
her.”
“Wow, did he ever! She got so mad she took a swipe at him.
Then he chased her out of the building, yelling and swatting her
with the dirty mop!”
Sandy slapped her knee and howled, then sobered. “Sorry,
Cindy. It was her fault you’re here with me today.”
“I had to come, Sandy. For my sake and yours.”
“It’s a good thing Mr. Wakasaki didn’t care that you told me.”
“Maybe that’s what he wanted all along, Sandy. How can I lie
to myself? I couldn’t betray your trust by feeding you a line of bull.”
Sandy nodded. “I know you’ve got a futuristic mini-phone
nobody else does, Cindy. But this time travel stuff is wacko to the
max, the very idea there’s two of me here! But like, how else could
you have saved me from all the things in that book, my book, which
you brought back from the future?”
Cindy grinned. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We
succeeded in altering events, to give you the chance in life you
deserve. Sometimes truth is weirder than fiction. Scientists don’t
have all the answers. Reality is a diamond with many different
facets and I just found myself in another facet of the same reality.
Or, you could say, a different dimension.”
“That’s awesome,” Sandy breathed. “And I can’t thank you and
the 3R Gang enough. Her face fell. “But what’ll I do for a ride home
after today, Cindy? You’ll be gone and I can’t ride that lousy bus
anymore.”
“I know that, dear. I’ll come by and see your dad again. I’m still
here, aren’t I? As for that other stuff we talked about, let’s keep it
under our hat. He wouldn’t understand, would he?”
“Nope. If it’s not in a science book it’s impossible.”
“Cindy,” said Sandy, “I meant to give you something. I got this
for you the other day. Hope you like it.” She fumbled around in her
backpack and took out a Native American bracelet. A band woven of
many rows of miniscule black, red, yellow and white beads, with
repeating designs shaped like dancing black birds. It was tied to the
wrist by leather strips, from which hung a few downy feathers.

187
“It’s called a “bravery bracelet,” Sandy said, sliding it up Cindy’s
wrist. “From which tribe, I forgot.”
“From our tribe, Sandy, to celebrate the things we fight for. You
and I, we have great taste. Hey, I need to give you something too.
I want you to have this money to keep with you in case you get in
trouble.” She dug it out of her purse. “Here’s $500. Hide it
someplace no one’ll find it. Don’t spend it unless you get in a jam
and really need it.”
The girl’s eyes went round when she saw the money. She’d
never, ever held so much in her hand in her whole lifetime. “Cindy…
are you sure?”
“Never been surer of anything in my life.”
“I know just the place,” Sandy said. She folded the bills tightly,
then unzipped her two shoe pouches and hid the money there.
“I won’t breathe a word about this to Dad,” she whispered.
“Wanna go feed those ducks?” Cindy asked. “The pond’s just
ahead.”
The murky pond, overgrown with reeds, sparkled in the early
afternoon sun. Fat ducks of various species swam round in great
flotillas, splashing their heads and squawking over their young.
Sandy laughed at one Mallard duck which snorted out its beak while
bobbing for a big bread crust.
“You throw so much farther than I can, Cindy,” she said. “Some
of my bread flies back in my face.”
F. Wakasaki stood by Sandy’s bed, looking at her immobile face.
Lightly he clasped her wrist. Had he felt a slight stirring, or just
imagined it?
Hope you see it soon, Sandy-san, he thought. Brave warrior
fight hard.

Unlike Cindy’s former employer, Madison’s boss had been positively
thrilled with the newspaper story about the trip to Santa Cruz,
which read:

Hogwood High heroine Cindy Franks earns kudos for her innovative
method of encouraging the development of motor skills in the
young. “Make Exercise Fun” is Mrs. Franks’ motto. On Wednesday
Mrs. Franks took specially selected girls from her P.E. classes on a
two-day field trip to put that theory into practice. The original
venue for the field trip, the Bonsai Learning Center in San Jose, was
cancelled due to burst water pipes causing mass flooding in the
building. Not wanting to disappoint the girls, sponsors of the event
chose another location: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Su Wan
Koto, martial arts/aerobics instructor, taught the girls the art of
moving their forearms in one rapid, fluid motion, in harmony with
their other muscle groups. After a brief lecture and demonstration,
the girls entered Monster Murdock’s Arcade and put Su Wan’s

188
theory into practice as they had hours of fun exercising with a
joystick, zapping PacMan monsters and dodging hungry alligators in
Frogger.
The field trip reached a dramatic climax when Cindy Franks
proved that you must keep your body strong and agile so you can
draw on that strength in times of crisis. Drawing on her Tae Kwon
Do training, the brave Heroine of Hogwood High fended off
“Brutus”, an aggressive, 400-pound drunk, who attacked this
reporter, seated at a table minding her own business. When the
assailant’s equally inebriated buddy “Bubba” entered the arcade to
fight Mrs. Franks, Su Wan Koto arrived on the scene and bravely
joined in the fray, using clever defensive tactics to distract Bubba
while Mrs. Franks continued her battle with Brutus until she
subdued him. Following their decisive defeat, the assailants were
too incoherent to divulge their actual names to this reporter. And so
this reporter was saved to go on reporting for the Modesto
Messenger another day. “Way to go, Cindy and Su Wan! What a
wonderful example you two set for women everywhere!”

Madison profusedly apologized to Cindy for writing the article
that got her fired. But Cindy reassured her friend she’d done an
excellent job reporting the event, and she couldn’t be more pleased
with the article (and the picture of the slam-dunked drunks).
Besides, Cindy told her, getting fired from that job was her destiny.
And even if she didn’t go home right away, P. Wakasaki had other
work lined up for her in San Francisco.

25
The Daddy of All Battles

About 3:30, Cindy pulled up in front of the Girards’ to drop off
Sandy. “I still want to drive you every day,” Cindy told the girl, who
was reluctant to leave her car. “When I get home I’ll call your dad.”
“Oh, Cindy,” Sandy cried, “I will see you again, won’t I?”
“I promise you will, and soon. How could it be otherwise? Keep
smilin’, Sandy. Come Monday, things will be just fine. I’ll see you
later. Love ya, dear.”
Heavy-hearted, Cindy shoved her shift stick and drove off. She
sensed her hardest battles were yet to come.

Joe Girard had just finished dealing with an elderly lady who griped
about bugs eating her hydrangeas. The woman had moaned that if
the plant were from better stock it wouldn’t have attracted the
pests. Joe had retorted that he only sourced the hardiest plants
from reputable distributors and she shouldn’t have sprayed sugar
water on the plant to feed it. That got Joe a lot of nasty stares from
customers who castigated him for picking on a poor old lady. After

189
ten minutes of verbal crossfire, Joe had double-refunded her money
just to get her out of his store.
Now that she was gone, business was a bit slow, but at least it
was quieter in the store. “Women!” he muttered. “Right or wrong,
they get all the sympathy.”
His phone rang. “Jungle Joe’s Greenhouse,” he said.
“Mr. Girard,” Cindy began, “this is Mrs. Franks. It’s about
Sandy.”
“What about her?”
“I need to discuss our arrangements about her ride. My
situation has changed.”
Joe nodded. “Heard ya got fired, too bad. Hard school to teach
at.”
“I still want to transport Sandy to and from school, Mr. Girard.”
Some customers were walking in.
“Mrs. Franks, I wanted to talk to you, too. This isn’t the time or
the place. Could I swing by your place after work so we could talk
privately about this?”
“Sure, Mr. Girard. Remember my address?”
“Sure do, Mystic Circle, 9B, that guest house behind Wally’s
place. Got it, see ya after work, around 5:30. ‘Bye, Mrs. Franks.”
It’s crunch time, Cindy thought, as she paced the floor like a
restless tiger. If he refuses to let me take Sandy to school, she’ll
freak out and who knows what she’ll do? Being left alone and
unprotected is not an option for her. Not after all that’s happened.
Her doorbell rang. As nonchalantly as she could, Cindy
answered the door. “Oh, hello, Mr. Girard, please come in. I had
coffee perking. Like some?”
“Why not?” he said, mopping the sweat off his brow. “Man, I
had one helluva rough day. Cantankerous customers. But oh, hell,
ya gotta make a living. Sorry about you losin’ your job. That’s
rough.”
“Well, I was there on a trial basis. They found out I was
overqualified for the position. They needed someone more basic…”
“Don’t pussyfoot around with me, Mrs. Franks!” Joe cried. “The
whole town knows why you got kicked out of Hogwood High. It’s in
the headlines. You slam-dunked two drunks, with the help of a
Chinese woman. You guys sent tables flyin’, spilled drinks, kids
were screamin’…”
“Mr. Girard,” Cindy retorted, “I’m the last person who enjoys
violence. What was I supposed to do, let those two drunks rip
Madison’s clothes off in front of all those kids? I know some men
think any woman who gets that treatment is asking for it somehow,
but with my training, I couldn’t just stand there and let those
scumbags finish what they started!”
“Guess not,” he said, dully. Mr. Girard was unaware that the
principal had castigated Cindy for taking the kids to a fun place

190
instead of just bringing them back to school. Because of Madison’s
tactful reporting Joe thought that the setting of the field trip had
been changed because of a flood at the Bonsai Learning Center, and
it was someone else’s idea to hold the event at the Santa Cruz
Beach Boardwalk. Joe thought Cindy had been fired only because
she’d been involved in a fight.
“Women are very vulnerable in a world like this,” Cindy said.
“Especially beautiful women like Madison.”
“She isn’t the only beautiful lady in Modesto,” Joe said, with an
amorous look that startled Cindy.
“Let’s stop pretending, Cindy,” he said, reaching for her hand.
“You said you’re in a trial separation. That’s just a nice word for
‘divorced’. You’re a woman with a past running away from
something and I’m running away from a woman who doesn’t
deserve me.”
What a blow for Cindy. “Wrong on both counts,” Mr. Girard. “Your
wife’s the sweetest, most wonderful woman on earth and you’re the
one who doesn’t deserve her. And, I’m a woman with a future, not
just a past.”
“Your future’s with me, Cindy,” he breathed hotly. “I saw the
way you looked at me when you joined us for dinner that night.”
“Mr. Girard, I’m warning you…” Cindy backed away, fire in her
eyes.
“Just Joe,” he murmured. He grabbed her round her tiny waist.
He wouldn’t let go. Cindy cursed herself for lowering her guard. Her
arms were pinned to her sides, but she must use what she had. She
swung her long legs up off the floor, way up past Joe’s body. She
thrust her weight forward to throw him off balance. He crashed on
his back, thinking she was playing with him. Cindy seized her
chance when he instinctively flung out his arms to cushion his fall
on the hardwood floor. In that split second she slammed him in the
solar plexus to sober him up. He grabbed his chest, rolled over and
yelled.
Cindy sprang up. She felt sick all over.
“Eye of the Tiger” went off. Cindy rushed to her bag to get the
cell phone. “Mr. Wakasaki,” she breathed.
“Sandy-san, everything okay? You sad?” F. Wakasaki wondered.
“Oh, everything’s just peachy here, Mr. Wakasaki. My own dad
just tried to hit on me and I had to fight him off. Ugliest fight I’ve
had here...oh, damn…”
“I sorry hear that, Sandy-san. Time warp do warped things.
Doctor do everything he can. Your mission almost over. Still more
to do.”
“Mr. Wakasaki,” Cindy breathed, “thanks for sending the 3R
Gang. How’d you manage that?”
“I no tell or it no work, Sandy-san. Someday when you back,
maybe. Sayonara.” He faded from the screen.

191
“Your…dad?” Joe groaned, still gasping.
“Yes, you’re my dad! What do you think this is?” She held out
her palm-sized phone. Do they make phones like this in the year
1985? Phones that show the other person you’re talking to?
Phones that can play music?” Cindy scrolled and picked out
“Burning Heart” by Survivor, played often in her gym classes. She
played a bit of it, then silenced it.
“That was Tojo Wakasaki, my martial arts instructor from the
year 2012, Dad. I had an accident in his gym, got knocked out.
I’m still lying in a coma. I got hurled into a parallel dimension of
the same reality, one 27 years behind my own. My name is Sandy
Girard Franklestone. I’m happily married to Edgar, a San Francisco
attorney. We have two beautiful children, Jake and Jasmine. Your
grandchildren.”
“Can I see that phone?” Joe groaned, still in pain.
“No, Dad, it’s my lifeline to the future. No one holds it but me. I
guard it with my life. If it breaks I break. But I will show you your
own grandchildren.” She knelt down beside him, her guard still up.
“See? The screen is nothing but blank glass. I manipulate a virtual
keypad and choose what I want off it.” Her fingers flew. “There,
that’s me standing by the harbor with Edgar, Jake and Jasmine.”
“Or, if you prefer, there’s one digital video I didn’t upload to You
Tube yet, just stored on my phone.” Cindy’s phone had another
feature. It could project a 40-inch image onto any surface. She
aimed it at a bare white wall. Open-mouthed, Joe watched the
family touring Yosemite National Park. He heard their banter, saw
Jasmine approach and wave.
“Can any portable brick phone of this day and age do that,
Dad?”
“I guess not,” he mumbled. “But you can’t be Sandy. Your hair’s
darker. Your freckles are gone.”
“Professionally styled and colored, Dad. My makeup conceals
uneven skin tones. I changed my name to ‘Cindy’ to hide my
identity.”
Cindy pulled another item from her bag. “This is the Jumpin’
Jock Nutrition Manual I wrote in the future!” She pointed. “See the
publishing date? April, 2010.”
“That could have been forged at some print shop,” Joe said.
“What other proof do you have?”
“You and Sandy share a secret nobody else in the family knows.
“You told her you had a nightmare when you were a little boy. You
fell into a deep dark hole full of monsters. Above your head you
saw a ladder to climb out but you couldn’t reach it. While the
monsters laughed you cried till you woke up. You never told anyone
else in your whole life about that dream.”
“My Sandy wouldn’t’a told you stuff like that,” Joe said. “What’s
my favorite food?”

192
“Boston clam chowder. And you can’t stand any other kind of
seafood.”
Joe hung his head and shook it. “Wow, and everybody knows
you got the same kind of scars as Sandy. Bein’ a P.E. teacher, you
couldn’t hide your arms.”
“They are the same scars, Dad. Brad Bullard put them there.
Even Mr. Wakasaki said so.
“I won’t be around much longer, Dad. He said I’ll have to go
soon. But I’d better warn you right now. Stop smoking, eat less fat
in your diet and get more exercise. In eight years you’ll suffer a
massive coronary if you don’t.”
“Will I die?” Joe asked, dismally.
“I believe the answer to that question is open-ended. I stared
at you over dinner that night because every second with your loved
ones is precious when life is so uncertain.”
“Don’t know if I can bring myself to believe in this,” Joe groaned.
“In the first place, it’s crazy. In the second place, nobody in their
right mind would want to come back to fight a losing battle.”
“It doesn’t have to be lost, Dad. Others need me to win it for
them, and even if I don’t I’ll go down fighting like any warrior with a
sense of honor.”
“Whoever you are…Cindy…Joe said brokenly, I’m so sorry for
being a jerk. Midlife crisis, but that’s a lousy excuse. I can’t risk
losing the love my wife’s given me all these years.”
“Then don’t. Let’s forget this thing ever happened. Don’t ever
give Little Sandy any reason to doubt your love for Mom and the
home you two spent years building together. It takes a real man to
be loyal to those who have stood by him through thick and thin. I’d
rather die than betray Edgar, even in my dreams.”
“What’ll you do now, Cindy…since you lost your job?”
“Go back, but only when I get pulled back through the time
warp. Don’t worry about me, Dad. Something will turn up. It’s
Little Sandy I’m worried about. You will take her out of that rotten
school, won’t you?”
He sighed, shifted his eyes. “A Girard is no quitter. You took
care of Bullard and the other bullies. They must be too scared to
say ‘boo’ to her anymore.”
“Don’t ASS-ume anything, Dad!” Cindy whirled around to face
him. “You don’t understand how mean and evil those kids are. I
beat Bullard, but other Bullards are out there looking for some
sweet gentle soul to destroy. Little Sandy is still paying for what
others enabled bullies to put her through for so many months. She
feels like she’s going to a war zone whenever she goes to school.
She shrivels up inside of herself, struggling to protect her tender
heart from getting stepped on. Only when she’s absolutely sure
you won’t hurt her will she open up to you and smile. You’re

193
seriously considering throwing my younger self back to the sharks?
Is that what I came back in time for?”
He stood there, unsure of how to defend himself.
“Why do you think I’m here?” Cindy demanded, her voice rising.
“My subconscious sent me here. All my life I’ve struggled to forget
the c****y way I got treated at Hog Pen High. Years passed but I
couldn’t go on with my life because my war never got won. For 27
years I lived with that feeling, in my dreams and in my waking
hours. Always feeling cheated because I ran away from Hog Pen
High like a scared rat, with the bad guy patting himself on the back
for being the one to decide I’d never get my diploma there. I got a
better one from Mr. Wakasaki’s academy, one I can hang on my wall
with pride. But still I never overcame the dishonor of an un-won
war. I was so obsessed with taking the victor’s crown from the bully
that time refused to go forward anymore and turned in on itself. I
came back to save myself, Sandy, the scared little teenager I used
to be. Yeah, to save myself, not just from Bullard but grownup
enablers who let him get away with murder!”

Joe was stung. “This is insane! Go back where you came from!
You’re a psychic who tricked that information out of Sandy! And all
your futuristic phone proves is you must be a Russian agent who
came to spy on Modesto! People don’t time travel! That’s a load of
c*** out of cheap comic books!”
Cindy wagged her finger at him. “Now you see here, Dad!
You’re in denial! You’re not mad at me, you’re mad at yourself! You
tried to cheat on Mom and you feel guilty as hell! You just hurt me a
hell of a lot worse than Bullard ever did! And as for the reason I
came back here, you want to get along with everybody at any cost,
even if it’s me, Sandy who ends up paying the price! I had to turn

194
on the charm to get your permission for Little Sandy to feel safe
coming home from school. You, her own father, should be the last
one to throw her to the lions! Haven’t I suffered enough, Dad? Just
look at my freakin’ arms!” Cindy slid her bracelets up, exposing
long stretches of scarred skin.
“You’re a space alien who created somebody else’s older body
in a lab!” Joe persisted. “And Mr. Walkman is your boss contacting
you from some flying saucer!”
“That’s Wakasaki, Dad!” Cindy shouted, struggling to be heard
over his wild protestations. “I’ve had to pull a lot of strings to get
this far but I don’t commit identity theft! It’s not that you can’t
believe, you won’t believe, ‘cause it takes guts to go against the
flow. Pardon my French, Dad, but any dog t*** can float
downstream with everybody else who’s too chicken to make waves.
You just wanna fade into the woodwork and be like everybody
else.”
“That’s a cheap shot, callin’ a guy a dog t***!” Joe bellowed
back.
“I didn’t call you that and you know it!”
“I offered a lot of times to take Sandy to a shrink and get her
straightened out!” Joe yelled. “I didn’t make her go, ‘cause she was
too ashamed and I didn’t want to embarrass her! That could’a put a
stop to all this trouble!”
Cindy laughed and slapped her knee. “Yeah, right, Dad! What
planet are you on? After all the c*** those kids put poor Sandy
through, why should she be dragged through the mud even more?
Once those kids found out she saw a boogerman shrink with a
butterfly net, they would’a tore into her even worse!”
“Let Sandy pull herself up by her own bootstraps!” Joe hollered.
“Nobody coddled me when I got home from ‘Nam! I had to work
my butt off to make a go of the greenhouse!”
Cindy was in a fighting mood, but this time she didn’t use her
fists. “Dad! When will it sink into your thick skull? Bullying isn’t a
tiny bump in the road of life, it’s a slippery slope! Any dirt farmer
will tell you, s*** stinks and it sticks! And so does snow, once it
rolls down a hill! Brad Bullard, Wayne Woodcock and all those
other cockroaches at Hog Pen High shoved my inner child off a
snowy cliff! I kept rolling and rolling down that slippery slope,
accumulating more and more c*** as they insulted me, hit me,
shoved me, ostracized me for being THE Designated Victim of Hog
Pen High! I could no more stop myself from rolling faster and faster
down to the bottom than if it had been a real ski slope you could
see with your own two eyeballs! No, you can’t stop your own slide
down when others keep on greasing that slippery slope with abuse
once you’re already rolling! You just roll down faster, faster faster,
terrified because you know you’re gonna hit that ground hard and
fall apart! So why the hell do parents expect their bullied child to

195
go out and conquer the world after they’ve been marinated in all
that stinking s*** for so many years? Talk about positive
reinforcement! You can choose to let your child suffer the tortures of
hell, but you can’t choose the outcome of allowing that to happen! I
can count on just one hand the number of people who gave a damn
and put the pieces back together for me after I got ripped apart in
that shark pool school and was too broken to put myself back
together again.
“The ugly truth, Dad, is this. You let me go through all that!
You wouldn’t have let anybody torture our dog like that! You put on
my bruised, broken back the responsibility of winning an un-
winnable battle! You heaped on me the blame for all the ridicule,
mental cruelty, character assassination and criminal assault those
scumbags committed against me! Yes, Dad, ‘bully’ is just a mealy-
mouthed name for ‘criminal’! Emotional rapist! Mugger! Pervert!
Assailant! Torturer! The Constitution even protects criminals from
cruel and unusual punishment! So why can’t innocent kids be
protected too!”
As Joe struggled to piece an answer together, Cindy pressed her
point: “As if being repeatedly kicked when I was down wasn’t
enough, I got victimized twice. First by them, then by you! Far
easier to wash your hands of the whole lousy mess and go into
denial and say it’ll all come out in the wash, or ‘mind over matter.’
Yeah, just hide your head under the covers and hope all those bad
bullies turn to beautiful butterflies! You fought for your country in
Viet Nam! But you’re ashamed to fight for your own scared, skinny
little daughter who’s expected to ward off a whole gang of follow-
the-leader scumbags all by her lonesome! You don’t deserve to be
my dad!”
“Shut up!” Joe yelled. “And don’t call me ‘Dad’, ‘cause you’re
right, I ain’t your dad! Keep away from my daughter or I’ll send the
F.B.I. to throw a butterfly net over your head and haul you away!
And no, I ain’t scared of you! You can’t kung fu chop the whole
world!”
Joe fled Cindy’s apartment, hobbling from pain, shaking head to
toe, barely able to drive away. Cindy cried as she watched him go,
feared she’d never see him again. Today was Friday, May 10.
Tomorrow Little Sandy was destined to run away from home. Cindy
couldn’t force her younger self to stay at Hogwood High, but she
could try to gently steer her away from danger.
As for her dad, Cindy’s hopes for him were sinking in the West.
How many times did she have to drive the same points home over
and over again? Joe Girard was too proud a man to admit failure in
any area of his life.
He was gone. Cindy called Madison. “Madison?” she choked.
“You’ll never guess what happened…sob!”

196
“Cindy, you sound like you’re crying. What’s wrong? Is Sandy
hurt?”
“No, but I’m afraid she will be. Can I come over and talk?”
“I’ve got a better idea,” Madison said, gently. “You’re too upset
to drive. I’ll come right over and bring a big bottle of red wine.”
“Mr. Wakasaki taught me not to drink,” Cindy sniffed.
“Just tonight, just this once, Cindy. It’ll wear off by morning, I
promise, and it’ll make you feel better. I’ll take a cab so I don’t
have to drink and drive home.”
Madison took one look at Cindy and knew something was up. This
martial artist, who had beaten so many other bad problems, looked
utterly dejected and crushed. “Whatever happened must be awful
bad, Cindy. You look like you’ve been run through the wringer. I
brought two bottles. I’ll get the glasses.”
“Have as much as you want, Madison. But I might have to fight
again tomorrow, so I’ll just have a tiny bit, since I’m not used to
drinking.”
“Oh, I’m used to it, Cindy, ever since Tristan cheated on me with
a cheap hooker. Men are such rats!” She poured a tall glass of rose′
for herself, half a glass for Cindy. As Cindy slouched dejectedly at
the table, Madison set it in front of her.
“Y’know, Madison, I haven’t touched this stuff since I was
sixteen. Amazing, isn’t it?”
Madison laughed. “If what you tell me is true, you are only
sixteen! And here’s me serving alcohol to somebody else’s
teenager! Hope the cops don’t catch me!”
Bad as she felt, Cindy couldn’t help but laugh at that one.
“Now you take a good long sip and tell ‘Aunt Madison’ your
troubles.”
“First things first,” Cindy said, covering her glass with her hand.
The whole shocking story came out, as she dabbed at her eyes with
a Kleenex.
“Talk about an Oedipus complex,” Madison said. “Your own dad
hitting on you and you had to fight the guy off. But the worst of it
is, he said he wasn’t happy with your mom, who sounds so
wonderful. Oh, Cindy, I’m so sorry!”
“Oh well, karate can’t solve every problem,” Cindy shrugged.
“But my mission isn’t done yet. According to the notebook, Little
Sandy will be at the Trailblazer Bus Station around 4:30 buying her
ticket to Frisco.”
“Where’d she get the money for it, Cindy?” Madison had her
suspicions.
“From me.” Cindy looked unapologetic.
Madison’s eyes widened. “From you? You actually gave a minor
money to help her run away from home?”
“Yeah, but she would’a gone anyway. I remember I saved up
several allowances in case I decided to make a run for it.”

197
“But you made it even easier for her to go!”
“Ordinarily, Madison, I wouldn’t dream of doing that. But
that’s me you’re talking about. What’s mine is hers too and I wasn’t
about to let Little Sandy run away without money to use in an
emergency. And that poor kid’s so desperate she’d run even if she
didn’t have a plug nickel. Far better she ride the bus than hitch. I
already checked the schedule. Her bus leaves at 4:40 a.m.
“I expect you will try to stop her, Cindy,” Madison said.
“You bet your boots I will.”
“But what’ll you do when you take that poor scared kid back
home?”
Cindy shook her head. “No sense forcing myself to go home,
Madison. It would only postpone the inevitable and possibly make
things even worse for Little Sandy’s destiny in this dimension. But I
will drag my dead body out of bed in time to go try to protect her.”
Madison took Cindy’s glass away. She set the wine bottles firmly
back in her bag. “No more of this for either of us. Good thing you
didn’t have any! We need to keep our wits sharp! Cindy, if you’re
going to San Francisco I’m going too!”
“Are you driving us, Madison?”
“I can’t take responsibility for transporting a runaway minor,
Cindy. You’ll have to drive yourself away from your own danger.
But I could drive ahead of you on the route to San Francisco and
radio you to keep you posted on any dangers I hear about on the
bandwidth.”
“Hmmm,” Cindy frowned. “Other people could hack our
conversations, couldn’t they?”
“Yeah, Cindy, they could. Hey, what’s ‘hacking’?
“Oh, you never heard that one,” Cindy said. “It means to spy on
other people’s secret sites in cyberspace. That’s computer jargon.”
Madison blinked. “Right! High-tech espionage, you’re trying to
say. But since CB Radio is a community affair, we could shroud our
communiqués in a veil of mystery.”
“Great input, Madison. Just in case we need to stop somewhere
on our route, let’s come up with code names for the little towns
we’ll pass on I-580.”
So they agreed Tracy would be “Sleepy Hollow” and Livermore
would be “Heart City”. The Bullards would be “The Buzzards.” Cops
were, of course, “smokies.”
Cindy’s wall phone rang. “Hello, b****!” The voice sounded
familiar.
“Oh, what do you want this time, Bullard!” Cindy barked.
“Roger and me, we heard Kenny-boy running up the parking lot
crying like a baby about how you’re running home to hubby
tomorrow.” Mrs. Bullard sang, “If you’re goin’ to San Francisco”,
then abruptly hung up.

198
“Omygosh!” Cindy breathed. “Me and my big fat mouth! Bullard
knows I’m going to Frisco! Not that I’m scared of her, but she
might sick goons on me again. Just as well we’re leaving at the
crack of dawn! Thank God it’ll be Saturday and the traffic won’t be
too bad at that hour!”
“She sounds like a real psycho who might pull some nasty tricks,
Cindy, so I’m scared for you,” Madison breathed. “Since you didn’t
drink a drop, why don’t you pack what you need, then drive both of
us back to my place and spend the night? I’ll set my clock for 3
a.m. We’ll have to get up with the chickens to save Little Sandy.”

26
Desperation

Friday, oh, I mean Saturday! morning, 3:43 a.m. May 11, 1985
Had big blowout with dad last nite. He called me a big baby for not
wanting to stick it out a few more weeks and finish eleventh grade.
I got mad, ran away from dinner table, hid in my room, good thing
I’ve got a bunch of mars bars and snickers in my bag, plus
emergency cash. Oh hell it’s my problem not his. He fought in Viet
Nam and got hurt there, says I gotta stay in the line of fire like he
did, even if I’m a girl. Well I fight too but I can’t win, there’s
nobody on my side and if I stay at that damn school I could be
dead next week. Dad gets up before everybody else. He’s a light
sleeper so I better sneak down the tree ladder when I make my
getaway. Got 2 notes to write. Sandy Girard, signing off
…I already miss Doris the best sis, the best friend a girl ever had.
Left her a note. I told her to stay strong and take care of that
awesome neon pink sweater I never wore at school, and never to
wear it at school because it was too good for Hogpen High. I told
Doris to always take good care of my Snuggy Kitty Bed Pet, cos I
love her so much I want her to keep Snuggy Kitty to remember me
always. She can have my sticker collection and my cassettes and
my stereo too, cos I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. As for dad
I went easy on him. Note said I ran away to make his life easier
cos all I ever did was make him ashamed of me cos I couldn’t fight
the whole damned school. At least I had enough guts to get out of
dad’s life and be one less thing for him to worry about. Now he can
be real proud of me for thinking of others and being unselfish and I
told him so. He thinks I ran away somewhere else, and I’m not
telling. Sandy Girard, signing off.

Earlier that evening, at the Girard dinner table, a terrible argument
had taken place. Sandy pleaded with her dad to allow Mrs. Franks to
keep driving her to school.

199
“NO!” Joe yelled. “She’s never to show her face around here
ever again!”
“Even after all the times she saved my neck at Hog Pen High?”
Sandy cried. “That’s a fine way to thank her!”
“No way!” Joe insisted. “You’re getting too dependent on that
woman!”
“She’s the only friend I’ve got left!” Sandy cried.
“Then something’s wrong with you!” Joe pointed an accusing
finger at her.
“Cindy doesn’t think so!” Sandy shouted. “She makes me feel
good about myself and you don’t!”
“So now it’s ‘Cindy’, huh?” Joe retorted. “I tell ya, Sandy, the
woman’s loony! The stuff she said to me was so crazy I refuse to
repeat it! No wonder Mr. Trent fired her!”
“Dad! Don’t make me go back to that skuzzy school!” Sandy
pleaded.
“If I fought in Viet Nam and got shot at there, you can go to that
damn school and get an education!” Joe shouted. “That woman
can’t protect you from life! It ain’t normal to ride to school with a
teacher. Come Monday morning, you’re gonna get on that bus like
any other kid! Quit actin’ like a crybaby! Grow up!”
Sandy ran up to her room, sobbing and very upset. The
perpetually hungry teenager was way too worried to eat. Doris
guessed why. She toyed with her fork and asked to be excused too.
But Rusty was used to his dad’s yelling. He let it go in one ear and
out the other. Even when his parents got in a nasty argument at the
table, he wolfed down more rolls and spaghetti, impervious to the
animosity in the air.
While Joe and Alice argued, Doris snuck in the kitchen and
grabbed a bag of cookies, then ran up to her room to see her sister.
Doris found her sprawled out on her bed, her face buried in a
pillow. “Sandy, please don’t cry,” she begged. “You’ll make me cry
too.”
“C’mere,” Sandy said. She took Doris in her arms, held her
tight, caressed her hair, hoped the little girl couldn’t read her mind.
“Shhh, it’s okay, Doris. Dad and me, we just had a spat. Don’t
worry. Everything’ll be okay.
“Hey, what’d ya bring me? Oreos, my favorite. Let’s watch a
little TV and munch on ‘em. What d’ya say?”
“I’m stoked,” Doris grinned. “Want me to go down for milk?”
“No, Doris, better not. They’re still yelling down there. I got
two Capri Suns in my backpack. Here, I’ll get ‘em out.
Alice came up later, brought the girls a sandwich and milk,
though Joe grumbled that if they were hungry they should have
eaten at the table.
“Sandy,” she pleaded, “your dad, he had a hard day at the store.
Please don’t be mad at him. The suppliers were late, some tomato

200
plants died, some lady embarrassed your dad in front of other
customers.”
“Poor dad,” Sandy mumbled.
Her mom patted her hand. “Everything will be better
tomorrow,” she said.
“Hopefully, Mom,” Sandy sighed. Tomorrow. Little did her mom
know. “Thanks for bringing these up.”
“Doris,” Alice said with a sly grin, “I better take the rest of these
cookies away so you won’t get sick on them. And girls, I know it’s
Friday night, but do try to get to bed by eleven or so. Goodnight.”
Deliberately, Sandy kept Doris awake as long as she could, so
that when she did fall asleep, it would be hard to wake her up. They
watched an old Western on Sandy’s portable TV. By midnight, little
Doris’ eyes drooped. She slumped over on her pile of pillows.
Gently, tenderly, Sandy pulled the covers over Doris and tucked
her in. She took her own Snuggy Kitty Bed Pet and wrapped her
little sister’s arms around it.
I’ve gotta stay awake, Sandy thought. She turned out the lights,
except for a tiny night light next to her bed. She kept a close watch
on her clock radio. Earplugs in, she played her Walkman as loud as
she dared, just to stay awake.
At two, Sandy suspected her parents must be sound asleep. She
turned on her little nightstand lamp, which gave sufficient light to
pack her bags by. She wouldn’t take everything, just her precious
notebook, jacket, a few clothes, her Walkman, her photo I.D. and
the money hidden in her shoes. It didn’t take her long to get
dressed and packed. She wore jeans, an army jacket and a baseball
cap so nobody would hassle her for being a girl alone out in the
dark.
Just yesterday, Sandy had called Kitty while her parents were
out of the house, and Kitty’s dad was at still at work. She’d told
Kitty it was great to hear she was being home-schooled and things
were working out with her dad. When Kitty asked Sandy how she
felt about continuing to go to Hogwood High, Sandy had shared her
dream of someday fleeing to San Francisco to get away from her old
Modesto foes. There was a certain place in Golden Gate Park where
you could go meditate to find direction in life. Kitty had sworn never
to tell a soul.
At least I don’t have to hock my stuff, Sandy thought. She
knew she wouldn’t have time to do it anyway. No, she’d far rather
leave her dearest treasures for her sweet little sister, who had been
such a friend to her all these years. Hastily Sandy wrote a note for
the little girl to find in the morning, then finished a few last minute
chores.

In the soft lamplight Sandy gazed upon the sleeping face of her
little sister one last time. Her mouth quivered with bittersweet

201
emotions. Even at the risk of waking her up Sandy tiptoed over and
kissed her soft bangs. Her chest heaving with sobs, she strapped
on her heavy green backpack, then opened the wide upstairs
window, hoping its creaks wouldn’t wake Doris. The cool breeze felt
refreshing on Sandy’s face.
Sandy climbed out onto a wide bough of the old sycamore tree
and carefully crept across, then climbed down the tree ladder, the
one she’d used as a little tomboy girl to reach her treehouse. Sandy
opened the backyard gate and went around the side of the house.
Sandy knew questions would be asked if she found a pay phone
and called a cab at this weird hour. Hopefully, their garage wasn’t
locked. If it was, she would need a cab. It was way too far to walk.
It wasn’t locked. Sandy hoisted the door and got out her ten-
speed bike for the ride to the bus depot. With grim determination
she pedaled, sticking to brightly lit thoroughfares. Sandy’s
silhouette, dark against the first faint streaks of breaking dawn,
appeared to be that of a tall boy. No one honked or harassed her.
Finally she reached the downtown area, then pedaled around till
she found the Trailblazer depot. She locked her bike on a rack, then
went inside to buy her one-way bus ticket. Surely if she built a new
life for herself in the big city she’d never annoy her dad again. Most
importantly, she’d be out of the reach of that hated Hog Pen High.
She’d get a job at some burger joint, rent a cheap room
somewhere, find some sort of peace.
She got the ticket, warily watching to make sure no weirdos
watched her zipping her shoe. She slumped down on a bench to
wait for the bus to load. Video machines bleeped and played jingles.
People roamed the floor like zombies, sipping lousy coffee from
Styrofoam cups and struggling to stay awake. Already Sandy
missed Cindy so bad it hurt. Ever since Cindy left her life she’d felt
so much weaker, sadder and hopeless.
“All aboard!” came the announcement on the loudspeaker. All
who were going west to the Bay Area must pass through Door 6.
Dizzy from anxiety, sleeplessness and mild hunger, Sandy was
nearly overcome by the exhaust fumes of the groaning buses
revving up in their lanes. One passenger after another stepped
aboard. Her foot barely touched the bottom step when a loud cry
pierced the air: “Sandy, stop!”
Gasping, Sandy turned around. Yes, it was Cindy, hair
disheveled, no makeup on, eyes wild with anxiety.
“Sandy, please don’t go!” Cindy yelled. “I can help!”
The girl ran toward the exit door, beyond which no non-
passengers could pass. Sandy told the ticket puncher she’d changed
her mind and went back inside. Cindy grabbed her and hugged her
tight. “Oh, Cindy, Cindy,” Sandy cried. “Dad hates me. We had the
awfulest fight!”

202
Cindy was crying too. Madison’s alarm clock never went off and
some intuitive sense of danger had woken her in the nick of time.
She led Sandy away from the door. “No, no, sweetheart,” she
whispered brokenly, “your dad doesn’t hate you. But you can’t go
back to that stinking school. And if I take you back those kids will
only hurt you some more and make you run away again. I’ll take
you to somebody who can help. Did you check any luggage on the
bus?”
“No, Cindy, my backpack’s all I took.”
“Good, let’s go.”
“Cindy, my bike…”
Cindy definitely didn’t want that sticking out of her trunk. “No,
Sandy, it might be best to leave it for now. I’ll buy you another one
just like it. We’ve gotta go. Mr. Wakasaki’s expecting us. You had
any breakfast yet?”
“No, Cindy, I’m starving.”
“We’ll wait till we’re way out of town, then we’ll stop at some
truck stop,” Cindy said. “I’ll treat. You still have that money I gave
you?”
“Yes, Cindy. I didn’t spend any of it.”
“Good girl. Since you insist on going to San Francisco and I’m
heading there anyway, we might as well go together.”
Joe Girard usually slept a bit later on Saturdays and just let his
assistant manager open the store. But he felt so awful inside he
woke up by five. Now that he was awake, his conscience was eating
him alive. He took a sneak peek in the girls’ room. Doris was still
asleep but Sandy’s bed was empty! Her drawers had been opened.
Clothes were strewn everywhere. The window was wide open!
Maybe Joe was mistaken, and all the girls wanted was fresh air.
He checked the bathroom, the kitchen, then went back up to
Sandy’s room and went inside for a closer look. There, on her
nightstand were two notes. One was for him:

Dear Dad,
Sorry for all the years I gave you nothing but grief. It would be so
much easier if I just split, then you could finally stop worrying
about me hating to go to Hog Pen High. Finally I can feel proud of
myself for thinking of others for a change. Your life will be so much
nicer now without me in it to cause you so much worry. I’m scared
that if I stay I won’t be able to hack it for one more day let alone
another whole year, and if I act scared you’ll make me go to that
booby hatch you talked about. This way its better for us both.
Besides, the Bullards are out to get you and it’s really me they’re
after, so it’s best if I leave town so you can be safe.
I missed Kitty so much I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Tell everybody I’ll never stop loving them even if I never see them
again.

203
Love, Sandy

Beads of sweat standing on his forehead, Joe raced downstairs to
the telephone to call Kitty’s dad. Conrad Hawkins gave a groggy
hello, then was jarred to alertness by the news of Sandy’s
disappearance. He woke Kitty and started grilling her before she
was even fully awake.
“Are you sure you know nothing about Sandy running away?” he
demanded sternly. “Don’t lie to me, Kitty! A lot of people could get
hurt if you don’t tell.”
“But I swore I wouldn’t…”
“Kitty, please! Sandy’s folks are out of their minds with worry!
Is she coming down here?”
Kitty shook her head.
“Kitty!” Conrad cried. “Do you know where she went? Please!
Sandy could get hurt if we don’t find her!”
What could poor Kitty do? She hummed “If you’re going to San
Francisco”.
“San Francisco, Kitty?” Conrad asked, gesturing.
Dumbly she nodded.
“Now, Kitty. Do you know the exact location?”
Kitty barked like a dog.
“Bark….park!” Conrad shouted. “Golden Gate Park?”
Again she nodded.
“Know where in the park, Kitty?”
Kitty pointed at the chain around her dad’s neck.
“Chain? What chain, Kitty?”
“Color,” Kitty said.
“Gold!” he shouted. “Gold…golden…”
Kitty pointed at a paper bag.
“Gold bag,” Conrad said. “Kitty, this doesn’t make sense!”
Kitty touched the fingertips of both hands together, forming a
concave triangle. She hummed “China Town”.
“A bag…a pagoda!” Conrad breathed. “The Golden Pagoda,
Kitty?”
She nodded, hating herself for betraying Sandy’s secret.
“Looks like we’ve hit pay dirt, Mr. Girard. Go to the Golden
Pagoda in Golden Gate Park. There you’ll find your daughter. And
please call me back to let us know when you find her. Thanks, Kitty.
Don’t feel bad you told, even with charades. Safety takes priority
over secrets.”
“Oh no,” Joe moaned. “A pagoda! Sandy ran off to join some
weird cult.”
“Don’t jump to conclusions, Mr. Girard,” Conrad said. “The
Golden Pagoda is a big tourist spot in Frisco, or at least that’s what
someone told me. She’s just gone there to clear her head, that’s
all.”

204
Alice stumbled down the stairs in her bathrobe, bleary-eyed but
agitated. She could barely control herself when she found out Sandy
had run away, but sighed with relief when she found out that Kitty
had divulged Sandy’s destination. “Should we call the police, Joe?”
“Not yet,” he said. “Sandy’s scared of cops and might run away
from ‘em. I’ll go look for her myself. But if I absolutely have to, I’ll
get the cops’ help. Since she can’t drive, she probably emptied her
piggy bank to buy a bus ticket. I’ll go check.”
“Hey, what’s that in your hand?” Alice cried, pointing.
“Nothin’,” Joe mumbled, greatly abashed. He crumpled it up.
“Give that to me, Joe!” Alice demanded. “Now!”
Sighing, he dropped it into her hand.
He studied her face as she straightened it out enough to read it,
not once but twice, to make sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks.
Her brow furrowed.
“You idiot!” Alice yelled. “After all Sandy’s suffered, you’d say
that to her? What kind of a monster are you…you beast! Boo hoo
hoo!”
He reached out for her. “Don’t you dare touch me!” Alice flung
his arm away. “All these years you call our sweet Sandy a baby for
crying about the abuse! And she ends up running away to keep the
Bullards off your back! I hope you can live with yourself! You’re a
fine one to talk about courage, after you refused to sue that c****y
school for letting Sandy suffer all that, and now that those Bullards
know they can get away with anything, they’re threatening to hurt
us all!
“Alice, I…” Joe pleaded.
“Just hear me out, Joe! I’ve bottled this up for fifteen years and
more! Ever since Sandy was old enough to walk you threw it in her
face how brave you were to take that shrapnel in Viet Nam, so she
should be too ashamed to complain about taking any c***! But
what about the shrapnel you forced Sandy to take all these years at
Hog Pen High, Joe? I told you a long time ago to challenge the
school board so Sandy could transfer to another high school. All
you said was, ‘Alice, you can’t fight city hall. If Sandy’s scared
there, she’ll be scared someplace else.’ Even when Sandy hurt
herself, all you said was, ‘Grow up, you baby! I suffered more than
you did! See the scars on my leg?’
“Well, Joe, the scars on her soul weren’t enough to make you
happy, so Sandy went and got herself some scars of her own to
earn your respect! Why did you punish my baby for what they did to
you in Viet Nam, Joe? Did it make you feel more powerful to put
that emotional burden on somebody who couldn’t fight back? Yeah,
look at the big strong man who makes his own daughter pay for the
sins of others!”

205
“That’s a cheap shot, Alice!” Joe yelled. “While you sit home
watchin’ soap operas all day, I bust my a** at that damn store
takin’ c*** off of cranky customers, just to put food on your table
and clothes on your back! And this is the lousy thanks I get!”
Alice wagged her finger at him. “So I don’t get to speak my
mind because you’re the almighty bread winner! What about the
work I do, Joe? I wash, I iron, I cook, I shop, I clean, I clip
coupons and mend clothes to help save money. The only ‘soap
opera’ around here is the one you stir up. Well, Mr. Breadwinner, if
my contribution isn’t enough to earn me the right to defend my own
daughter, I’ll go out and get a damn job and pay for my own food
and clothes!”
“Aw, Alice!” Joe pleaded, backing away, hands lifted defensively.
“Don’t be mean to me! Ya know I didn’t mean it that way!”
Alice’s nostrils flared. “Yeah, right, Joe! Self-centered to the
end, and it’s Sandy who might be in danger now, all because of
you!”
Wild-eyed, Joe sputtered, “It can’t have been me, Alice!
Teenagers go through that ‘run away from home’ stage…”.
“Oh, no, you don’t! Don’t give me that ‘everybody does it’ line.
Sandy wouldn’t have run away for no reason. You’re dodging
responsibility, Joe. You said something to scare her away from us.
You were there when Sandy said she felt blessed with a good
home, and now you had to ruin it for her! Either you bring my baby
back, or I’m leaving you, Joe Girard!”
They didn’t notice Doris racing down the stairs, waving her own
note. She’d heard everything. “Mom! Daddy! Please stop it! My
sister’s gone!” She burst into tears. “Please stop it! Boo hoo hoo!
I love both of you!”
“Oh baby,” Alice cried, taking her in her arms, “we’re so sorry.”
“My Sandy’s gone!” Doris sobbed.
Tearfully she showed her parents the note Sandy had left for
her:

Dear Doris, I’ve gone away for a while. Please stay strong for me.
Take care of that awesome neon pink sweater I never wore at
school, because it’s all yours now. Even if you are too little for it.
Don’t ever wear it at school because it was too good for Hogpen
High. I left Snuggy Kitty for you too, to be your very own. Take
good care of it, cos I love you so-o-o much I want you to keep
Snuggy Kitty to remember me always. You can have my sticker
collection and my cassettes and my stereo too, cos I don’t know if
I’ll ever see you again anytime soon. I left my piggy bank for you
too. I earned other money for my bus fare.
All my love, your sister Sandy

206
“I don’t want Sandy’s stuff!” Doris blubbered. “I want my big
sister! Daddy, are the Bullards gonna come after us?”
“Shhhh,” Joe said soothingly, as both parents hugged her. “Not
on your life, honey. They’re too chicken to show their ugly face
around here. We’ll get Sandy back for you. Doris, did Sandy act…
ah…different than usual before you two hit the sack?”
“No, Daddy,” she cried. “We had fun together. We ate cookies
and watched TV. She told me not to worry. Sandy said all you two
had was a little spat.”
“No need to check Sandy’s piggy bank,” Joe said. “She admitted
she didn’t take the money out of it and she used some other money.
Wonder where she got it. I don’t remember Sandy babysitting or
doing any after school job.”
“Cindy Franks, perhaps?” Alice frowned. “She seemed so nice, so
normal.”
“There was something odd about that woman,” Joe said, “but
she definitely didn’t seem like the criminal type, just generous to a
fault. Besides, Sandy was planning this all along. She even told
Kitty she was going, and exactly where. So I’ll drive up to Golden
Gate Park and look for her. But how did she get to the bus station?
The girls’ bedroom window was open, Alice, so she must have
climbed down the tree so she wouldn’t wake us.”
“And she wouldn’t have come downstairs to use the phone to
call a cab for the same reason,” Alice said. “Wonder if her bike’s
gone. Go check the garage, Joe.”
He found it was gone. “It’s about five miles to the bus station,”
Joe said. “But Sandy pedals fast and at least she didn’t hitch there.
“Alice, it’s still real early. So around 7:30 would you call Zack
and tell him I won’t be in today? Just say there was some family
emergency. And ask Zack to call Don, that part-time kid, to see if
he can come in today. If they can’t hack it without me, to hell with
the store. They can just close up for the day.”
“All right, Joe, I’ll do that for you,” Alice nodded, dully.
“I want my Sandy back!” Doris wailed. “Oh, Daddy, let me go
with you!”
Joe looked at Alice. She said, “Oh, Joe, it might be dangerous…”
Doris cried all the harder. Joe sighed, “Okay, go get your clothes
on and you can come too, Doris. I can’t leave you here like this.
Just try not to wake Rusty.”
The little girl hurried upstairs to get dressed. She fixed her hair,
tied on her shoes, put on a sweater, then got Snuggy Kitty to take
to her big sister.
While she was still upstairs, Joe looked up Mrs. Bullard’s phone
number. “There’s an ‘N.Z. Bullard on Crocus Street,” he said. “I’ll
try it. All they can do is bite my head off if it’s the wrong number.”

207
The phone rang and rang. The answering machine went off:
“Nancy Bullard speaking. At this time I’m unable to come to the
phone, but if you’d like…”
Joe hung up. “That’s her voice. Not home, but mustn’t jump to
conclusions.”
Doris tiptoed past Rusty’s room. She heard the boy snoring,
sound asleep, oblivious to the crisis. Doris scampered downstairs,
her little mind in an uproar.
“Doris,” her mother said, “have some cereal before you go.”
“I’m not hungry, Mom.”
“Doris, do as your mother says,” Joe said. “Sandy wouldn’t want
you goin’ hungry.”
“What about you, Daddy?”
“Oh, all right,” he sighed and sat at the table with Doris.
“I’d better get you some strong coffee to wake you up so you
can drive, Joe,” Alice said. “What do you feel like eating?”
“Nothin’ much, dear, just one of them apple Danishes. He
munched it while Doris ate her Lucky Charms, wondering if her big
sister had anything to eat.
“First thing we do,” Joe told Alice, “is find out when that blasted
bus left and where its stops will be. Unless it left hours ago, we can
catch her at one of those places before she even gets to San
Francisco.”
“It doesn’t take that long to get there,” Alice fretted. “Sandy
must have checked on bus schedules before yesterday in case she
decided to go through with this, but we don’t have any idea when
that bus leaves. Oh, Joe, do be careful, and please find her for us.
Dear, please, let’s put our differences behind us. We need each
other now more than ever. Let’s not fight ever again.”
She was so sweet and sensible. Joe’s conscience bit at him
more than ever.

27
Perilous Road to Destiny

As Cindy and Sandy exited onto State Route 99, Sandy worried that
the police might be on the lookout for tall redheaded girls. “I can’t
let them take me back, Cindy. Do you still have those wigs?”
“This is so wrong!” Cindy moaned, gripping the steering wheel
harder. “But I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If you were any
other kid, I’d rather be shot than help you escape. But I’d rather die
than send you back to those mean kids. Yes, Sandy, in the back
seat you’ll see a great big plastic shopping bag with wigs in it. Pick
out the black one for yourself and the blond Afro for me.”
They exited and stopped the car long enough to put the wigs on
properly. “There, we don’t look like ourselves anymore,” Cindy said.

208
They drove a few miles north on 99. Cindy glanced at Sandy’s
somber, but resolute face, so battle-worn and weary for sixteen.
“Sandy,” she sighed, “you must feel so sad, that you actually had to
run off like that so your dad wouldn’t force you to go to Hog Pen
High. Sometimes when we’re sad we don’t feel like eating. But we’d
better eat anyway, just to keep our strength up. We’ll take this one
minute at a time, but we will find an answer to our problem. Just up
the road I see an exit for Way-Out Waffles. Let’s go have
something before we both pass out.”
Seated in a booth, Sandy and Cindy ordered the All You Can Eat
Early Bird Special. After they were served, two waitresses stared
from a counter, watching them gobble up two platters each of
waffles, toast, sausages, bacon, eggs and hash browns.
“They sure are getting their $3.99 worth, aren’t they?” one
whispered.
“How could any woman eat like that,” her friend whispered
back. “If they order more, the manager might throw ‘em out so he
doesn’t run out of food.”
“Cindy,” Sandy whispered, lowering her mug of hot chocolate.
“See? Way over there, just outside the window.”
Standing outside in the partially visible foyer, and looking as if
he were waiting for someone, was a familiar-looking figure. Cindy
and Sandy saw him mainly from the back, through breaks in the
potted plants, though they glimpsed a side view of him now and
then. They recognized his black-tipped, light brown woodpecker
haircut.
As he shifted toward the glass door opening onto the main
dining room, Sandy whispered to Cindy about the dude’s gray T-
shirt. “Hogwood High, Home of the Hamhocks” was printed on the
back, and his right hand was bandaged! There were no further
doubts.
It couldn’t be, Cindy thought. She didn’t wait for the waitress to
bring their bill. She laid a twenty on the table and steered Sandy
toward the back entrance, near where their car was parked.
“Good thing we didn’t park out front,” Cindy whispered. “In the
car. Quick. If that’s him, there’ll be others with him. We don’t need
the hassle.”
“My stars, what a big tipper,” a shocked waitress said out loud.
“Those skinny gals split in a hurry. They ate like vultures, but they
must be rich.”
I know two skinny b*****s who splash money around and eat
all day. Yeah, it’s gotta be them, Brad Bullard thought.
Cindy’s CB radio crackled to life. “Breaker, breaker. Mad Mama
Gizmo to Red Bird Bouncer. Copy, Red Bird Bouncer?”
Cindy picked up the mike and responded, “Copy, Mad Mama
Gizmo. What’s your 20?”

209
“Truckin’ to Heart City, on I-580 West. Catch ya there. Buzzards
on your backside. Beat a retreat. Copy?”
“Affirmative, Mad Mama. Will do. 10-4. Over.” Gritting her teeth,
Cindy set the frequency to her fuzzbuster setting. She heard
nothing alarming. Maybe Bullard’s mom was leery of contacting the
cops, so that was in her favor.
“Anything wrong, Cindy?” Sandy worried.
“Nope, not really. We’ll be okay as long as we don’t slow down.
Mrs. Bullard is trying to act cute, but she’s gotta watch her step
with Brad on probation. He’s not even supposed to leave the
county.”
The early morning sun grew brighter. After taking brief exits
onto connecting roads, Cindy saw signs for the main interstate to
Frisco. She sensed something ominous but had to keep going. No
sooner had she merged onto I-580 W than she spotted a truckload
of teenage boys waiting on the grassy knoll by the exit overpass.
One kid in the truck bed waved what looked like a pair of
binoculars. “Red Rainbow Camaro!” Cindy heard him yell. The
whole truckload hollered “Let’s go!”
“Stupid me,” Cindy groaned, driving as fast as she dared. “I
know there’s other red Camaros on the road, but why the hell didn’t
I scrape that stupid bumper sticker off? They spotted it.”
“But Cindy,” Sandy said, “we changed our hair color.”
“I know, Sandy, but that kid by the door in the restaurant. He
must’ve been Brad Bullard, and his mom can’t be far behind with
her cronies. Let’s get a move on. Hope the cops don’t catch me
speeding!”

Joe glanced over at little Doris. Her seat belt strained against her
drooping little body as her head bobbed against a pillow, her arms
still clutching Snuggy Kitty. As he looked in her trusting little face he
resolved then and there he’d do more to earn that trust in the
future.

“You know what to do,” Mrs. Bullard hissed at her young thugs over
the CB radio. “When you pass Mrs. Franks’ car, light the pot bomb
and toss it in her window. Once it detonates, the cops will detect it
and she’ll be arrested for possession. She’ll drive like a drunk after
she breathes it in. Do your job and you get a grand apiece. But let
me down and so help me, I’ll get you kicked out of school.”

Cindy’s cell phone played its tune. Cindy knew she had to answer
it, though she was speeding at 80 mph, and couldn’t stop on the
side of the road. Sandy shuddered. She hoped Cindy wouldn’t get
them in a wreck. Eyes darting back and forth, Cindy held the phone
to her ear and spoke, hoping no cop would ask about the gadget if
she got caught.

210
“Mr. Wakasaki,” she breathed, “Bullard found out where we’re
going. She sent a truckload of goons after us. We’re on I-580 West,
toward Frisco. Can’t stop and fight ‘em all, they might take Little
Sandy hostage.”
“Remember all I teach you, Sandy-san,” F. Wakasaki answered,
coolly and calmly. “One eye on trail, other eye on tiger in tree.
Flight better than fight. But fight when nowhere left to run.”
“Thanks, Mr. Wakasaki, catch ya later!” Oh, damn, Cindy
thought. He’s in the future, he can’t help us. I’m in deep s***
now. Smokies on our tail and I got an early bird license.
Cindy’s sensitive ear could hear faraway sirens. “Damn stick
shift! Stick? Hey, that’s it, Sandy!” cried Cindy, pocketing the little
phone. “Do as I say! There’s a long red stick in my sports bag!
Hurry! Open it! Dig down to the bottom! Quick!”
Sandy burrowed through the bag frantically. “Got it, Cindy!
What now?”
This is dangerous but it’s either them or us, Cindy thought,
gritting her teeth and changing gears. Good thing the traffic’s still
light.
“Sandy, stick your head out the left window! Aim the wide end of
the stick at that truckful of boys behind us! Hold the big fat button
down and keep aiming it at the driver’s face, even if he switches
lanes! Don’t let go of it!”
Sandy did what she was told. The goons in the truck were
throwing garbage and soda cans out the window and making
monkey noises. “Whoo-ee! Yah! We’re gonna kill you b*****s!”
“They’re trying to pass us, Cindy!” Sandy cried.
“Just keep shining it at them, Sandy!” Cindy yelled. “If the
driver can’t see us, we can get away. I’ll step on it!”
Barney, a chain-smoking dimwit, sprawled in the truckbed and lit
up another joint. Totally chilled out, he grinned stupidly and tossed
the burning butt onto the bomb his pal Kris was holding, ready to
hurl at Cindy. The other three guys were busy raising hell, so they
didn’t see the butt fly by. Kris, desperate to use the bathroom,
rolled his eyes to the side of the road, looking for an exit. He felt his
hand burn.
“You a******!” Kris yelled, throwing the bomb down. “Oh s***!
I wet my pants!”
The bomb blew up, spraying pungent marijuana fumes all over
the guys in the truckbed. Chad, the driver, turned his head toward
Cindy’s car, which was in the right lane. The laser light made eye
contact.
Blinded by a pulsating, piercing beam from the right, Chad
blinked hard, but kept on going, zigzagging like a drunk. As they
approached the San Joaquin River, he spun out of control, unable to
see the bridge Cindy was already crossing. But maddened by hatred
for Cindy and driven by Mrs. Bullard’s bounty on her head, Chad

211
drove full speed ahead though his eyes were still blurry. His truck
slid across the right lane, then finally rammed into a wide sign,
slicing off its top. Its sharp metal posts twisted under the vehicle,
sawing through the fuel line. The truck jolted, then swerved sharply,
slamming against the bridge’s concrete embankment. Chad’s
buddies in the back jerked against the sides of the truck, yelling.
Chad hurtled into Arnie’s lap. The gang escaped with a few scrapes
and bruises, but they were hopping mad.
Enraged that Chad let the girls escape, Kris staggered out of the
truck bed and flung open the shattered driver’s door, all bent up like
an accordion. Kris threatened to rip Chad’s head off if he didn’t rev
up the engine again.
“You just try, you spasticated barf bag!” Chad growled, wiping
blood off his nose. He forced the bent-up driver’s door all the way
open and hobbled out. He coughed and gagged from leaking gas
fumes. He squared off against Kris, fists knotted.
“Dammit!” Dick yelled from the truck bed. “Git goin’, Chad!
Can’t ya hear the stinkin’ fuzz comin’?”
Chad snorted. Eyes wild, he clambered back behind the now-
useless steering wheel. His fists gripped it. His stomach was tied up
in knots.
“Stress me out the door!” he wailed, fumbling frantically with the
car key. “Stupid piece of c*** won’t turn over!”
The siren reached a deafening pitch, then died down. A patrol
car with two cops pulled up next to the pickup. Guns drawn, they
hopped out. While one of them warned the other punks not to
make a move, the larger cop confronted Chad.
“Just hold it right there, hotshot! You know it’s against the law to
litter the freeways! What kind of pigs are you guys, anyway?”
He smelled the leaking gas, but his keen nose detected
something more. “So we got us a little freakout goin’ back here,
eh? No wonder that car was speeding, running away from a gang of
crazy potheads headed for Frisco.” The officer found the remnants
of the pot bomb, with the fuse still sticking out. He sniffed at it. He
stuffed the evidence in a plastic bag and labeled it.
“Tryin’ to blow yourselves up, eh? And lookie here, beer bottles
you didn’t throw out. You’re all under arrest for possession, highway
littering, reckless driving, and tailgating under the influence.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to remain silent…”
The truck’s CB radio crackled. After a few “Breaker breaker’s”
for Chopperbopper from Bulltwinkles, the other officer started his
portable cassette recorder. He picked up the mike and listened:
“Breaker, breaker, Bulltwinkles back! Copy, Chopperbopper?”
“Copy, Bulltwinkles,” the cop answered in a fake voice. “What’s
your 20? Over.”

212
“That Gulf station at Fifth and Main in Tracy. Your voice sounds
funny, Chopperbopper.”
“Got a cold, Bulltwinkles. We gotta rendezvous. Need bread for
gas. Can you hang tight there? Over!”
“But I already gave you guys twenty bucks for gas!”
“We’re growin’ boys, Bulltwinkles, hadda eat. Copy?”
“Oh…all…right! But did you throw that bomb in Mrs. Franks’
window like I wanted? I hate that b**** and I want her out of
action for good.”
“Yeah, Bulltwinkles. We’ll make road pizza outa her. Promise.
Copy?”
“She still driving west on I-580? Over.”
“Affirmative, Bulltwinkles. Over.”
“Then call the cops. Tell ‘em a red Camero with a rainbow
bumper sticker is headed for Frisco carrying a kidnapped 16-year-
old girl, Sandy Girard. Once the cops smell that pot all over Cindy
Franks, she’ll get busted for possession and kidnapping both. Copy,
Chopperbopper?”
“Copy, Bulltwinkles. Ten four. Over and out.”
The cop stopped his recorder. “Looks like you tried to frame
somebody with pot. But the joke’s on you,” the larger cop said.
The gang members, cuffed and under guard, waited for extra
patrol cars to come to take them to the county jail. The cops
radioed headquarters that a bunch of juvenile joy riders high on pot
had crashed their Ford pickup on the embankment of the San
Joaquin River Bridge, heading west toward Tracy on I-580. They
were coming in to be booked on multiple charges, including pot
possession. Their accomplice, an older woman, was waiting on
them at the Gulf Station at Fifth and Main in Tracy.

Cindy’s voice shook as she radioed her friend. “Mad Mama Gizmo,
Redbird Bouncer calling Mad Mama Gizmo. Copy?”
“Copy, Redbird Bouncer,” responded a crackling voice. “What’s
your 20?”
“Headed west on I-580, past Sleepy Hollow. Bullard sent goons
to scare us off the road. Crashed their truck. Downloading cop
radio. They’re okay. Cops got ‘em. Over.”
“Copy, Redbird Bouncer. You get away okay?” Madison wondered,
What the hell is ‘downloading’?
“Affirmative, Mad Mama Gizmo. Over.”
“Copy. Redbird Bouncer. Meet me at Big Bob’s Auto Shop in
Heart City. Take the first Heart City exit and drive north a quarter
mile. Copy?”
“Affirmative, Mad Mama Gizmo. One quarter mile north off the
first Heart City exit. Touch base at Big Bob’s Auto Shop.”
Madison had sobering news for Cindy when they met. She got in
Cindy’s car and said in a low voice, “I listened in on my fuzzbuster

213
frequency, same as you did. It seems Nancy Bullard’s gang tried to
throw a pot bomb in your window. She squealed on you to the
cops, said you’re wanted for kidnapping Sandy. They’re looking for a
red Camaro with a rainbow sticker. Tell you what. Let’s swap cars.
You can let me take your nonessentials home with me. I’ll keep
them for you for the time being and either mail them to you later or
bring them to you myself.”
“I’ve got a bunch of old teaching junk, and some of my clothes
you can just send on later, Madison,” Cindy said. “Sandy didn’t
bring much. We can manage her stuff, and I’ll keep my purse and
sports bag.”
Noticing Sandy’s forlorn expression, Madison asked, “Think
you’ll get things worked out with your dad, honey? I’m sure he
really does love you and wants you back.”
“I can’t go back to him yet,” Sandy moaned. “He’ll make me go
back to that cruddy school and I’ll only go through the same c***
again. Why is he so mean?” She wailed.
“I know someone who can help you,” Cindy said, “and as for
your dad, don’t make any hasty decisions. He spoke in the heat of
the moment. I’m sure he loves you, sweetie.”
“You should’a heard some of the stuff he said, Cindy. He scared
me so much I ran away. And don’t try and make me go back or I’ll
do it again!”
Cindy shook her head. “Nobody’s gonna make you do anything
you don’t want to do, Sandy. But I couldn’t let you ride that bus
and wander around Frisco on your own.
“Madison,” Cindy fretted, “you really shouldn’t be helping us.
You could get in trouble.”
“What are friends for?” Madison said. “You came back in time to
save yourself, and I won’t let any cop stand in your way. Here’s my
keys. You know…that sign says Big Bob Auto paints cars. Just give
me your keys and I’ll get your car painted black and he can scrape
that rainbow bumper sticker off too. Then I can just drive yours, to
get the cops off your tail. When you get to Frisco, just ditch my
own car somewhere so the cops can’t trace it back to me. I know
you’re going back to your own world and won’t need it much longer.
I’ll just bring yours back to Mr. Wakasaki when things calm down.”
Cindy’s phone went off. Cindy made sure the windows were up.
“What happening now, Sandy-san?” F. Wakasaki demanded.
“You okay?”
“So far, Mr. Wakasaki. Bullard’s gang chased us but we
managed to get away. They wrecked their truck but lived through it
and the cops have ‘em now.”
“Good, Sandy-san. Where you now?”
“Livermore, at an auto shop. That car your younger self loaned
us, we need to paint it black so the cops won’t find me. Think he’ll
mind us getting it painted?”

214
“I no mind, so he won’t.”
“I’m in a hurry, so I might have to switch cars with Madison. Is
that okay? She says she can bring your car back later when things
cool down. But I’d have to ditch her car somewhere in Frisco so the
cops wouldn’t connect her with me.”
“I know place,” F. Wakasaki said. “You drive Madison car to
Spaceman’s Garage, by Pelican Pier. He no ask I.D. card, nothing.
For fifty dollars he keep car in garage whole week. Tell Spaceman it
Tojo Wakasaki car. He know Tojo. He believe you. Young Wakasaki
come get car for Madison, keep till she come back. And when you
done take bus Golden Gate Park. He tell me on phone he go there
today. Time warp close soon.”
“Do we go to the Golden Pagoda, Mr. Wakasaki?” Cindy began,
but he was gone.
“Don’t put yourself in more danger just to take care of my car,
Cindy,” Madison said. “Just make sure you and Sandy are safe.
That’s all I care about.”
They all got out of Cindy’s car. Cindy took out all their
belongings and switched keys so she could drive Madison’s green
Opel. Cindy gave her a longing look, tears standing in her eyes.
“You’re the kind of best friend I should have had years ago. But I
guess Hogwood High wasn’t made for people with hearts.”
“No waterworks now, Cindy…uh, I mean, Sandy,” Madison
whispered, taking her hand. “We’ll see each other again someday.
I just know we will.”
They had a group hug. Cindy gave Madison money for the paint
job and wished her luck. The two Sandys hopped in Madison’s
vehicle, waved and hurried off the exit ramp, continuing toward San
Francisco.
Madison drove Cindy’s car into the garage and told the mechanic
to paint it and scrape off the rainbow sticker.
“Lady,” the mechanic protested, “that’s a pretty car, why’d ya
want me to paint it and scrape off that pretty sticker?”
“Listen, bud,” Madison said, “I’m grown up enough to know what
I want. Besides, red cars get more speeding tickets and I’m almost
broke from paying them. And my tastes have changed. I hate
rainbows! ”

28
Exits and New Beginnings

Joe and Doris were stunned to see the wreckage at the San Joaquin
River. Cops had cordoned off the right westbound lane and were
directing traffic. The teenage thugs were still at the scene, awaiting
an ambulance.
Joe slowed down and asked one of the cops, “Officer, what
happened here? Who got hurt?”

215
“Just a bunch of punk kids high on pot, ran off the road, nothin’
unusual,” the cop shrugged. “Just proceed nice and easy, and no
speeding.”
“Hey,” one of the kids hollered, “there’s Giraffe’s old man. Hey,
dude, we’re gonna git ya yet!”
“Hold it, there!” the cop shouted at Joe. “Pull over here in this
spot and let the rest of the traffic through. Mister, we might need to
subpoena you as a character witness for the prosecution. Do you
know any of these guys?”
“Not personally, officer, but my poor daughter did. They picked
on her for three damned years at her lousy school, and today they
chased her and one of her teachers out of town. These punks
threatened to kill both her and Mrs. Franks if they didn’t get outa
town. So did Mrs. Bullard, a teacher at Hog Pen, uh, I mean,
Hogwood High. That woman called us several times and said she’d
make us suffer. The teacher they threatened was leavin’ for Frisco
anyhow, since she felt like her job was way too dangerous. Mrs.
Franks spotted Sandy on the road and picked her up so she
wouldn’t hitchhike to Frisco. She called us at the house and told us
why Sandy ran away, and instead of asking her to bring Sandy back
to Modesto we told her she could take Sandy to Frisco to go stay
with her…ah, Aunt Millie, till it’s safe to come back to Modesto. My
daughter ran away to keep the Bullard gang off our back, ‘cause
Sandy was afraid we’d be in the line of fire if they came after her.
I’m goin’ over to my sister’s to try and talk to Sandy.”
“We’ve already put out an APB on Cindy Franks, suspecting her
of kidnaping your daughter, Mr. Girard,” the lawman said. “But I’ll
radio my colleagues and tell them Cindy Franks is in the clear
because you gave her your permission to drive your daughter to
San Francisco to visit relatives.”
“Thanks, officer.”
The policeman did just that. Soon the APB was lifted off Sandy
and Cindy.
Still, Joe wondered if he’d only created more trouble for himself
by coloring the facts. The officer asked him to wait a minute and
maybe he could help him get in touch with Sandy’s Aunt Millie to
verify that Sandy was okay. Joe chewed his nails. Then he heard a
loud roar, saw a motorcycle pull up. Brad Bullard waved his
bandaged fist defiantly at Joe.
“Hey, old man Girard!” he yelled. “I’m gonna kill that kid of
yours and that b**** Franks too! You just wait!”
“We’ll have to leave, Doris,” Joe said. “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”
He started the engine and roared away, but the cops suspected
why. They’d heard Bullard threaten Joe and thought he must be
fleeing the scene to protect his other child. How could Joe be
blamed?

216
“Maybe the guy thinks that psychopath is carryin’ a gun and
that’s why he took off like a shot,” one officer said to the other.
“Just radio for more help. I’ve gotta chase that punk down before
somebody gets hurt. Good. I hear the ambulance comin’ now.”
The patrol car raced down the road after Bullard, who’d pinched
somebody’s motorcycle outside a convenience store when keys were
carelessly left in the ignition. Bullard’s mom had just been picked up
by the cops for questioning about the violent threats she’d made
over the CB, and her precious Brad had deserted her to save his
own neck. He figured his hard-as-nails mother could fend for
herself.
Raw rancor stirred in Bullard’s gut. He hated Girard more than
ever. She wasn’t an easy target anymore. Now she was making him
pay for his free fun he’d had in the past. Not only had she and her
pals pulled every trick in the book to get him expelled, but Girard’s
P.E. teacher had broken his hand with her chest. To top it all off,
Girard’s alien gang members had thrown him in a dirty pig pen and
made him the laughingstock of Hogwood High! And now his own
gang of toadies had been nabbed by the cops.
As Bullard gnashed his teeth and cursed “old lady Franks” for
defending Sandy with martial arts, he reflected on his own earlier
attempt to learn karate to build himself into an even scarier bully
and “crank up his Terror Quotient”. But it turned out martial arts
wasn’t Brad’s bag. Bullard shied away from discomfort. Not other
people’s, but his own. Once Bullard got a couple of bruises in his
first class session, he’d decided it wasn’t worth the pain. Neither did
his sensi, who ordered him to get out because of foul-mouthed
disrespect shown toward both teacher and classmates. Brad figured
there were easier ways to get a tough rep. Pick on loners,
especially girls and smaller boys. Surround yourself with hero-
worshipping goons who need somebody to look up to, “shock
absorbers” willing to bear the brunt of what little discomfort unfair
fights could bring his way.
Cindy Franks had paid the price in pain and sweat to make
herself strong and now Bullard was reaping woeful dividends for his
own cowardice and cruelty.
Furious that Girard was winning for a change, Bullard swore he’d
either run Girard’s dad off the road or trap him on some dead end
street and work him over with his one good hand while his other kid
watched.

Joe stepped on it and blended in with other traffic headed for Frisco.
It was later now, so the traffic was denser. It helped that his car
was pastel brown and didn’t stick out from the rest.
But it wasn’t long before Joe saw Bullard coming on his left,
speeding up and zipping ahead of traffic in the right lane to gain on
him. Suddenly the car directly behind Joe moved to the left lane,

217
leaving an opening for Bullard, who moved in to tail him. Bullard
waved a knife in his left hand and yelled threats at Joe.
Joe’s eyes darted, studying his rearview mirror. He asked Doris if
he could get in the right lane. She said “Yes, but better hurry.” Joe
speeded up and merged onto the ramp. Bullard, breathing hatred,
tried to ignore the lingering pain in his bandaged, broken right hand
as he recklessly veered in front of a semi truck to chase Joe on the
ramp. Before Bullard could merge into the exit traffic his rear tire
got bumped by the truck, whose driver frantically slammed on his
brakes. Bullard’s tire blew out. The motorbike spun out of control.
Bullard landed on the grass verge of the exit ramp, bruised up but
alive. Bullard was lucky. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Cindy and Sandy drew closer to San Francisco. The traffic
thickened. The CB radio warned of smokies catching speeders
ahead. They heard about a brown 1983 Ford convertible being
chased by a teenager who’d stolen a motorcycle.
“Ohmygosh!” Sandy cried. “Dad!”
She let out a shuddering sigh when the radio reported the
convertible safely exited off I-580. Cindy and Sandy felt even
better when they heard that Bullard had survived his brush with the
truck, but was now in police custody, getting medical attention. As
much as the two Sandys disliked him, they didn’t want anybody to
die.
“Our dad’s okay!” Sandy cried. “He came after me, but I can’t
go back to the reason I ran away. Cindy, if we’re supposed to talk to
Mr. Wakasaki, why don’t we just go to his house instead of to the
park?”
“Sandy, it’s always best to just do what Mr. Wakasaki says if
you’re on one of his missions. He’s always got his reasons.”
“Wonder if Mr. Wakasaki’s gonna call you on that phone again,”
Sandy said.
“I doubt it, Sandy. He said the time warp’s about to close up.
We’ll head for Golden Gate Park. If he doesn’t show up anytime
soon, I’ll call his younger self on a normal phone and see if he’s
home.”
“You sure do have an awesome phone, Cindy.”
“It’s downright miraculous, Sandy. Someday you’ll use one of
these phones all the time, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived
without one. Only thing, if you take it out with you, anybody can
interrupt you at any time, no matter where you are. These days
people have to actually catch you at home to interrupt you.”
“Who invented it, Cindy?”
“Who knows? Technology just evolves. Nothing ever stays the
same.”

218
After stopping for directions half a dozen times Cindy located
Pelican Pier, an unkempt wooded area haunted by hippies. A few of
them helped Cindy find the garage F. Wakasaki spoke of. It sat on
an overgrown vacant lot full of herb planters and metal sculptures
built of discarded junk . As they drove further up the weedy gravel
road, they noticed a rugged shelter constructed of corrugated tin
and scrap lumber. Chickens ran around a weathered old outhouse.
Near that was a primitive outdoor shower where big metal drums
collected rainwater.
Spaceman, a dreadlocked hippie in a rainbow robe and sandals,
came outside, grinning. When Cindy told him Mr. Wakasaki asked
her to deliver this car for a couple days’ storage, he didn’t ask for
any proof of ownership. Spaceman pocketed the fifty bucks, then
cleared away some clutter in the old tin-roofed garage so they could
drive the car in. He told Cindy he knew Mr. Wakasaki well, said the
guy had “good karma”. He could pick up the car whenever he felt
like it. He invited Sandy and Cindy in for wheat grass tea, but they
declined, saying they had to go meet someone. Spaceman scribbled
a receipt on a scrap paper, handed it to Cindy, then told them where
to catch the bus to the park.
Sandy laughed, despite the grim situation. “Oh, Cindy, Madison
would have a cow if she saw where her car ended up. But
Spaceman was a nice guy.”
“At least he makes a colorful memory,” Cindy said, as they kept
an eye out for their stop. “Wish we’d had more time to visit those
guys. Hope they don’t paint paisleys all over Madison’s car. She’d
really freak out.”

Cindy and Sandy located a bike rental near the entry to the park.
They hopped onto ten-speeds and began the ride down the long,
winding paths which led to the hillock where the Golden Pagoda
towered over an idyllic flower-dotted meadow. Cindy had her sports
bag strapped to her back, which Sandy thought was peculiar. She
could have simply fastened it to the bike rack on her rear tire.
“Wonder if Mr. Wakasaki’s around somewhere,” Cindy said,
nodding toward the quaint brick path up to the shrine. She heard a
crackling noise under her wheel, then felt a repetitious thud under
her rear tire. “Oh no!” she cried. “I got a flat!”
They both dismounted to look at it. Suddenly they heard
someone shouting in the distance, far behind them. They glimpsed
Joe, followed by a policeman.
Cindy felt a strange fizzing in her body cells. She pressed
Sandy’s hand. “Sandy!” she cried. “I feel it! It’s almost time!
Gotta run!”
Like a graceful deer she bounded away, backpack and all.
Bewildered and scared, Sandy ran after her for all she was worth.
“Cindy! Oh, Cindy! Don’t go yet! Take me with you!”

219
“Stop! You’re a key witness for the prosecution in the Brad
Bullard case!” the cop yelled. “Stop! You know about Brad Bullard!”
A strong breeze rustled through the trees. Sea gulls squawked.
Sirens blared in the distance. All Cindy could hear, ringing and
reverberating in her swirling consciousness was Brad Bullard, the
name she’d tried all her life to forget. And the cops were chasing
her! Fearing they might interrogate her about her origin, Cindy ran
harder, harder, Sandy still following.
Bullard! Bullard! Bullard! Came the reverberating sound which
pounded with every pulse beat she could feel in her parched, thirsty
throat. That awful name echoed through the convoluted corridors
of Cindy’s conflict-ridden life. What have the desperate got left to
lose if they’ve already died a thousand deaths?
Driven far more than a rushing rage to finally defeat him than
any fear of the pursuing cop, Cindy kept on running toward a
distant hedge, about four feet high but very thick. If it stopped her
she would still make her last stand against that fear the bullies
instilled in her for so long. She mustered every last ounce of her
strength to hurl herself over that hedge to try to reach the other
side.
Closer, closer. Having gained momentum from hard running,
Cindy braced her long, lithe legs for a leopard lunge over the dense
bush. Releasing a burst of raw power, she shot upward, as if she
had springs in her feet. Her feet had barely cleared the grass when
the cop fired a warning shot into the air. Before the leaping figure
rose any higher they all witnessed something amazing. Time stood
still. Cindy froze in mid-air. She dissolved into pixilated pulsations
of rainbow light, then merged into the mellow sunshine sparkling on
the shrubbery. She had gone home.
The bewildered cop shook head to toe. “All I wanted to do was
subpoena a witness! I didn’t mean to kill nobody,” he cried.
“Relax, officer,” Joe said. “You didn’t kill Cindy…or was that
Sandy? She just went back to her own dimension, that’s all.”
“No wonder I’m seein’ things, workin’ back-to-back shifts!” the
cop moaned. “Oh, what am I gonna do? If I write that in my report
they’ll think I’m nuts!”
Joe looked up at the sky. “Cindy, wherever you are, please
forgive me. I was wrong. I believed you. I was too chicken to
admit it. I’ll always be your dad.”
Far ahead of them, Little Sandy screamed. “Cindy! Cindy!
Where’d you go? Take me, too!”
The wino was so plastered he saw only the girl, who, from his
perspective, appeared to be alone. He jumped out of the hollowed-
out bush where he slept under a tarp. She saw him approaching
her, wielding a knife. She screamed.
He felt a rock bounce off his knife hand, heard a loud crunch.
Pain exploded in his brain. He keeled over from agonizing pain.

220
Suddenly a small oriental man in a white gi sprang out of the
bushes and jump-kicked him in the back, sending him flying. The
little martial artist noticed something in the grass next to the hedge.
He kicked it behind a clump of weeds under the bushes, hoping no
one saw him do it.
The policeman arrived and told him to leave the drunk alone,
that he’d take over. He inspected the guy’s hand and said it was
broken.
“Guess you had no choice, the way I see it,” the cop said to the
girl’s rescuer. “He was pulling a knife on this young lady.”
He slapped a cuff on the criminal’s uninjured left hand. The cop
radioed for an ambulance.
“Excellent work, mister,” the cop said to P. Wakasaki. “Who are
you?”
“Tojo Wakasaki, martial arts instructor.”
“Since you’re an eye witness and helped apprehend this girl’s
assailant, I’ll need you to make a statement down at the station
later, Mr. Wakasaki. And we’d better forget the part where that
woman disappears.”
The little man grinned. That was more than he’d hoped for. “I
be happy to help, officer. Bad man get what he deserve.”
P. Wakasaki gave the cop his number. The cop said he could
come by the station in the evening at his convenience.
Joe, his voice thick with emotion, said, “How can I ever thank
you, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“Take good care of Little Sandy,” P. Wakasaki said.
“Huh? How the hell do you know her name?”
“Cindy tell. Sandy need help, Mr. Girard. Big bad bullies bother
her.”

29
Bridges to a New Reality

Joe cried as he confronted Sandy. “Why did you do this to us? We
were worried sick!”
‘I ran away ‘cause it was the best thing for everybody, Dad.
That’s why I had to go someplace you’d never find me.”
“What the hell kind of a crazy thing is that for you to say? How
do you love somebody by running away from them?”
“You said I embarrassed you, Dad. Running away was the
hardest thing I ever did in my life. But I loved you enough to get
out of your life so I’d never be around to make you mad again. You
went to Viet Nam but I wasn’t brave enough to go to school. This
was the bravest thing I could do.”
“Oh, dear god, what a stupid idiot I’ve been! You’d come here,
no money, no place to stay, no way to take care of yourself, just to
make things easier for me? Don’t you know what hell I’ve been

221
through, worrying if you’re safe and have enough to eat?” For the
first time since he was a little boy on the wrong end of his dad’s
belt, Joe Girard sank to his knees, sobbing as if his heart would
break.
“I love you, Dad,” Sandy choked. “And you’re wrong about me
being broke. Cindy gave me $500. Not to spend on junk, but to use
in case I got in a jam. But she definitely did not tell me to run away.
I snuck out of the house while you guys were sleeping. Climbed
down the tree ladder, rode my bike to the bus station, where it still
is. Cindy stopped me just as I was getting on the bus. I made her
promise not to make me go back home. Not because I don’t love
you guys, but because with her gone, those kids at Hogwood High
would’ve killed me. Anyplace on earth was safer than that school.”
Joe nodded dully. “Caught between hell and high water, I guess.
What else could you have done, with a mean old guy like me makin’
you go back into the lion’s den without somebody to protect you?
Cindy knew she couldn’t stop you runnin’ away again even if she
drove you back. All she could do was watch over you while you ran
away from what was hurting you.”
“Dad, I can’t go back to Hogwood High, not even to make you
happy. I can’t even go back to Modesto or those kids might do
worse to me. Cindy went back to her own world. We all watched
her vanish. She won’t be around anymore to keep the bullies off
my back. And you can’t be there every day to protect me. I’m sick
of kids and teachers picking on me for being tall and skinny. Why
can’t I be just like everybody else?”
“Because you’re special, sweetheart. You aren’t everybody else.
You’re my little girl and you’ve got a heart. Those morons don’t
have hearts. So they break somebody else’s heart. What can I do
or say, Sandy, to convince you to come home? I didn’t come here to
yell at you and shove you into the car. Maybe if we sold the
business and moved, made a fresh start somewhere else…”
P. Wakasaki approached, carrying a black sports bag. “Mr.
Girard,” he said, “I have answer. I help people all ages learn protect
themselves. Run good boarding school for young people Sandy’s
age. Teachers help Sandy finish school. Fully accredited. You like
come see?”
Joe hesitated, “What about…bullies?”
Wakasaki anticipated the question. “No worry, Mr. Girard.
“School brand new, only 38 other students. All from good homes.
First time, bad kid clean toilets, scrub floors two weeks. Next time,
they disgraced before whole school and warrior belt taken away.
Next time they go home, no come back. Strike three, they out.”
“Sounds great to me,” Joe said. “Why don’t all schools start a
‘Three Strikes You’re Out’ anti-bullying policy?”
“Because they stupid schools,” Wakasaki said, philosophically.
“What can smart kid learn in stupid hog pen school?”

222
“Not much and nothing good,” Sandy laughed. Joe joined in.
“Let’s go see what you have here, Mr. Wakasaki,” he said. “I’m
curious.”
Sandy hugged her little sister, who said, “Why did you run away
from us, Sandy? Don’t you know we love you?”
“Oh, Doris,” Sandy sighed, “you’re the wonderfulest sister any
girl could ever want and I love you more than anything. I’m sorry I
ran away but I didn’t run away from you. I ran away from monsters
at school. Everything’ll be okay now.”
“I brought your Snuggy Kitty,” Doris said.
“That was so-o-o sweet of you, Doris,” Sandy smiled. “Only
problem is, I might be going to a martial arts school and that’s no
place for Snuggy Kitty. Snuggy Kitty is a toy of peace, not a toy of
war. She belongs in our own home, and whenever I’m there we’ll
enjoy her together.”
Sandy rode in the back seat with Doris, her arm still around her.
“So let’s go take a look at Wakasaki’s school, Sandy,” her dad said.
Maybe you’ll like that place better. Though heaven knows what we’ll
do without ya around the house. Who else will be there to fight with
Rusty over the last pork chop?”
That was just her dad’s macho way of saying he cared, Sandy
realized. She chuckled, glad the school battles were over, glad for
all the victories won and the prospect of a better tomorrow.
Joe was impressed with what he saw. He liked the spotless dorms
and dining room, the athletic field and gym, as well as the brightly
painted classrooms, equipped with the latest in learning technology.
He met the school’s academic staff, who reassured him they were
fully accredited. Joe was briefed on their Modular Progress
Program, and how it allowed each child to progress in an
individually modified learning curriculum at his/her own pace.
Once they finished touring the complex, P. Wakasaki invited Joe
and Sandy for lunch at his own home.
“Always take shoes off,” P. Wakasaki said, as they entered the
lovely little cottage.
Joe thought removing his shoes on entry was strange, but
complied. Sandy and Doris did the same. P. Wakasaki hurried to
find them guest slippers. He apologized that they might be a tight
fit.
Mrs. Wakasaki, clad in traditional Japanese dress, came from the
kitchen, hands folded. She smiled politely and bowed. Joe and the
girls did likewise.
“Mrs. Wakasaki no speak much English,” P. Wakasaki said. “She
from Yokohama, like me.”
“You guys are coming through just fine,” Joe said, in a rare
moment of enlightenment. “You’re communicating in all the ways
that matter.”

223
Mr. Wakasaki showed them into their pleasant living room.
Doris, who knew little else but Western culture, gawked in
fascination at the pretty paper lanterns, the alabaster peacock
figurines and the decorative rice screens which partitioned sections
of the house. Mrs. Wakasaki said something to her husband. He
winked at Sandy and Joe, sensing they needed a moment alone.
“Wife wish to show little Doris her art collection,” P. Wakasaki
said. “If she want see it, I translate for wife.”
Doris grinned at her dad. “Sure,” he smiled, “why not? Just
don’t break anything.”
Sandy took her dad aside, speaking softly so Doris couldn’t
hear: “Dad, in case you’re wondering, Cindy wasn’t a criminal. She
didn’t want to hurt Brad Bullard’s gang, but they kept yelling they
wanted to kill us. His mom was behind it too. She used the CB
radio to warn them she’d get them thrown out of school if they
didn’t hurt me and Cindy.”
“Thank God you’re safe,” Joe said, shaking his head. “I always
knew that woman was a psycho, just like her kid.”
“Cindy was afraid to drive too fast, Dad, ‘cause all she had was a
21 -century license on her, and she didn’t want to get stopped by
st

cops. But Bullard’s gang kept on chasing us in that truck and they
were gaining on us. They kept changing lanes, trying to freak Cindy
out and cause an accident. But she stayed cool as a cucumber.
Still, they stayed on our tail, yelling bloody murder at us, and we
had to speed up, right before we reached the river. That’s when we
heard the cops coming. We got so desperate, Cindy told me to dig
this long thing out of her sports bag. It sort of looked like a
flashlight, but she told me later it was a ‘laser light’ she’d taken off
her own son in the year 2012, believe it or not. She’d meant to
hock it before she came back in time but it was still in her bag. She
told me to shine it at those creeps. It blinded the driver and he
couldn’t drive straight anymore. That was an awful dangerous thing
to do. But we had no choice. It was either them or us.”
“Guess you guys couldn’t help it then,” Sandy. “Those thugs
could choose their actions but they couldn’t choose the
consequences. Even if Cindy did know martial arts, she couldn’t
fight off a whole truckload of those rotten bums. She had to protect
you.”
“And she did, Dad. She did everything she could for me.”
“I know she did, Sandy, and I was wrong about her. And about
Brad Bullard.”
With a playful grin Sandy said, “Surely, Dad, you didn’t think
Bullard was an angel, so how were you wrong about him?”
“No, what I meant is, I had no idea how dangerous that kid was
till I got in the line of fire myself. He’s a psycho monster!”
Sandy sobered. “I feel kind’a bad about that, Dad. If I hadn’t
run off, you wouldn’t have had to find out the hard way.”

224
“No, Sandy, don’t blame yourself,” Joe said. “You didn’t make
your own misery. Others made it for you. I wish I had believed all
you said about Bullard before all this happened. You didn’t tell Brad
Bullard to chase my car when I went to Frisco after you. People get
in the habit of makin’ all kinds of excuses for bullies, finding
somebody else to blame. Which brings me back to my point: You
never would’a run off in the first place if it hadn’t been for Bullard
and his buddies. In every way Bullard’s gotta take the blame, not
you.”
“I think his mom had a lot to do with it, Dad. Madison kept us
posted on things over the CB radio. She got on her fuzz buster
frequency and found out his mom sicked Bullard’s truckload of
goons on us. They threatened bloody murder. How could Cindy
and I know whether those thugs really would murder us?”
“Crazy, loony woman,” Joe sighed. “And all these years I made
you ride that damn bus and go to that hog pen school, just takin’ it
for granted that the bullies wouldn’t do anything real bad to you,
and you’d pull through somehow. Boy, I fouled up big time. After all
I said to you, how can you ever forgive me?”
They had a big bear hug. “Takes a real man to admit he ain’t
always right,” Sandy said. “Let’s start all over, Dad, okay?”
Tears stood in the big man’s eyes. “You bet we will, Sandy.”
Doris returned from the Wakasakis’ tiny art gallery, beaming.
“You and Sandy’ll have to see it too, Daddy,” she gushed. “You
should see the birds and flowers made of folded paper, they’re
totally awesome! Look what Mrs. Wakasaki gave me to take home!”
Proudly she held it out for Joe and Sandy to see.
“Well if that ain’t something!” Joe said, nodding his approval at
Mrs. Wakasaki. It was an origami bouquet of various flower
varieties, crafted of bits of folded paper of many colors, arranged in
a delicate porcelain pot.
“Who’d ever think you could do so much with paper!” Joe said,
wonderingly.
“Beauty hide in humble places,” P. Wakasaki said. “Wise
workman dig it out.”
The meal was scrumptious. As light background music played,
everyone sat on cushions on the floor and ate off a low teakwood
table. Joe had no problems with the spoon for the dainty dish of
shrimp soup, but couldn’t quite manage the chopsticks. Obligingly,
Mrs. Wakasaki brought a fork so Joe could eat his sesame noodles.
Little Doris nibbled on the spiced chicken and spring rolls.
“Sandy-san, she use chopsticks good,” P. Wakasaki commented.
“Hungry too.”
“Sandy’s always hungry,” Joe chuckled. “Sure you’ll be able to
feed her enough?”
“Warrior work up appetite,” Wakasaki answered. “But we got
plenty noodles and rice.”

225
They finished the meal with dainty cups of green tea. “I got gift
for Sandy,” P. Wakasaki said. He went to his little home office and
came back with something that took Sandy’s breath away: Cindy’s
sports bag!
“Other Sandy-san leave it for you, Sandy-san. Open it.”
Sandy found both bullying notebooks in the bag. The timeworn
old notebook matched the new, for history had been altered through
intervention across the time warp. Both notebooks carried the same
inscription on the final page:

It takes no guts to start a war.
But lots of guts to finish it.
Every war’s got a way to win it.
The winners look for it till they find it.
Those who throw s*** into the wind of the future
Get it blown back in their face.
There’s a long road ahead
But at least I’m free to walk it now.
Mission accomplished.
Sandy Girard Franklestone signing off.

Sandy cherished that message about the warrior she was destined
to become.
“This is so weird,” Joe couldn’t stop muttering. “We’ve got
Cindy’s sports manual, her sweatshirt, strange vitamin pills that
haven’t even been invented yet. But where’s her futuristic phone?”
P. Wakasaki just sat there and smiled. “Appreciate what you
have. Maybe Sandy-san still need it in future.”
“Speaking of appreciation, Dad, Cindy wanted me to tell you
something,” Sandy said.
“What’s that, Sandy?”
“She wants you always to remember that Mom is a treasure.
You’ll never find anyone else on earth as wonderful as her. Real
friends are hard to find in a world like this, and if you’re always
there for each other, you guys will make it.”
Joe patted Sandy’s arm. “Cindy sure knew what she was talking
about. And thanks to her, there’s hope for all of us.”
“Sandy-san,” P. Wakasaki said, “I need one notebook for warrior
work. One you wrote. You keep other.”
“Let him have it,” Joe advised. “We owe him that much.”
Haltingly, Sandy parted with the notebook she’d penned for so
many months. “Please take good care of it for me, Mr. Wakasaki.”
“It great honor accept this, Sandy-san. Much appreciated.” He
bowed.
“Oh, Mr. Wakasaki,” Sandy remembered, “you’ll find Madison’s
car at Spaceman’s Garage, near the Pelican Pier. Madison promised
to bring yours back later.”

226
“Spaceman’s Garage!” Joe guffawed. “Now I’ve heard
everything! What’s in it, flying saucers?”
“I know, I know, Sandy-san. If I find you, I find car,” P. Wakasaki
said.

Joe was advised to take Sandy home to say goodbye to her family
and come back in two days, bringing any necessary personal items.
If they waited too long, Joe might weaken and change his mind, P.
Wakasaki told him.
“I don’t think I will,” Joe quavered. “I love Sandy too much to
subject her to the kind of education she got at that crummy old hog
pen school.”
“She come home Christmas,” P. Wakasaki said. “By then she be
stronger.”
“Uh, what about room and board, and tuition?” Joe wondered.
“No problem, Mr. Girard. If unable pay room and board,
student can do few hours dishes, cleaning, yard work, stuff like
that. I charge only $1500 year room and board. Tuition $5000
year. But if too much Sandy get free tuition if she teach two years
at center after she graduate.”
“I could do that, Dad,” Sandy said.
Joe nodded. “I guess you could, Sandy. I think if we cut a few
corners at home, I could cough up the cash for your room and
board. The way you eat, we’re getting a bargain here.”
“I’ve still got the five hundred Cindy gave me,” Sandy said.
“No, no,” Joe waved his hands. “I pay for this school. Put that
away for your university education. You’re gonna go far in life, kid.”
Before they left, Mrs. Wakasaki presented Joe with a gift to take
home to his wife: a cluster of variegated violets arranged in a
skillfully painted porcelain vase.
“Thank you, Mrs. Wakasaki,” Joe said, very pleased. “These are
prettier than anything we have in our store. Alice will love ‘em.”

30
Conflicts and Resolutions

Driving home, Joe and Sandy talked to each other, not at each
other, for the first time in their lives. Joe realized that each
moment with his daughter was precious, and this time he wouldn’t
blow it. Doris smiled contentedly in the back seat, just a bit sad her
big sister was going to boarding school.
“Sandy,” Joe began, “I want you to know I did my best to keep
the cops away from Cindy. I told ‘em she was taking you to see your
Aunt Millie in Frisco because Brad Bullard’s gang was chasin’ you
both and she was only tryin’ to protect you.”
Sandy grinned. “Thanks, Dad. Even if I don’t have any Aunt
Millie in Frisco. So why did that cop chase her anyhow?”

227
“Brad Bullard was up to his neck in trouble with the law,” Joe
replied. “Could face years in the state pen. That cop wanted Cindy
to testify at his trial because Bullard’s gang threatened her, poor
thing.”
“Aw, Cindy’s not so poor, Dad. She did win the war.”
Alice went wild with joy when her lost daughter walked through the
door. Rusty looked up from his TV remote and said, “Glad you made
it back.”
“We’ve got something for you, Alice,” Joe said.
Alice accepted the pretty plant. “Oh, Joe, these are lovely, and
such a beautiful vase! Where’d you get this? Did you stop by the
greenhouse?”
“This nice Japanese lady we visited, she grows things all over
her yard, and she wanted you to have it,” Joe said. “We spent most
of this day talkin’ to her husband. About something real important.”
That night, Sandy’s parents had one of their blow-up arguments.
“Martial arts are so unladylike!” Alice protested. “They’ll turn
her into a freak!”
“It’s a luxury to be a lady, one Sandy can’t afford!” Joe yelled
back “Sometimes real life won’t let women be dainty little dress-up
dolls. Sometimes women have to be tough too, even if they’d rather
leave that sort of stuff to the men. We men can’t always be around
to protect you women!”
“But she’s only a baby! You can’t let her leave us!” Alice
pleaded.
“It’s the only way, Alice! If we force Sandy to stay here, she’ll
only get hurt and we’ll lose her for good! Mr. Wakasaki wants to
help her. If we don’t give her this chance to get strong, heaven
knows what’ll become of her.”
After two hours of tears, silent hostility and counter-accusations,
Alice did what she knew she had to do and signed her permission on
the registration forms. Sandy was now a student of the Wakasaki
Martial Arts Academy.
Upstairs in their room, Sandy consoled her sister and said, “It’ll be
all right, Doris. Underneath all the yelling and screaming, deep-
down they still love each other.”

Two days later, there were tears when Sandy said goodbye to Doris.
“Take good care of Snuggy Kitty, the goldfish and my precious
Pepper,” she said.
“I’ll write you every day,” Doris sniffed. She gave Sandy two of
her jelly bracelets, which Sandy added to the long string of
ornaments on her arm.
“Don’t cry, Doris,” Joe said, struggling not to cry himself. “Mr.
Wakasaki said in a few weeks we can go see Sandy in Frisco. We
can call her every night. And when she’s strong enough she can
come back here all the time.”

228
And Sandy did get stronger. About a year later, three Hogwood High
students spotted her on the street. Sandy was walking tall and
proud instead of self-consciously ducking her head to make herself
look shorter.
“Hey, giraffe!” one girl called. “Is it true you’re going to a
dummy school now and your fat friend can’t go to school at all?”
“There’s the old coat hanger that eats like a dump truck.”
“Man, what a grody spaz.”
“Mrs. Franks was a space alien from the planet Uranus. Ha ha
ha!”
“That ho-bag’s not here to protect you anymore. We’re gonna
get ya!”
As she had been taught, Sandy ignored their catcalls, but stayed
alert to any physical threat.
The group of girls got ticked off about their insults not sinking
in. They trailed after Sandy, yelling that they wanted her new
jacket. Sandy knew that if she complied they’d only see it as a sign
of submission and demand even more the next time. Sandy fled.
They yelled, “See Sandy run! Run, giraffe, run!”
She threaded through a thick crowd meandering down the
sidewalk and took a right down a vacant lot between two buildings.
Some people in the crowd moved and the girls spotted one of her
fleeing feet. They had her trapped for sure. There was no way of
escape.
“We gotcha now,” Kirsten Crabtree, Sandy’s old arch-enemy
taunted, as they strutted down the dark alley, their sinister shadows
lengthening against the brick walls. “Girl, we’re gonna tear you up
and then we’re gonna take all your stuff.”
“Don’t make me do this,” Sandy said coolly, her back against the
wall. “You’ll only get hurt bad.”
“That b**** is just bluffing, Kirsten,” Andrea said. “Get her.”
Kirsten yanked at Sandy’s LA Gear surfer jacket, only to get a
hard gut punch which sent her to her knees. At the same time
Sandy’s left leg shot out and slammed Kirsten’s friend Andrea to the
pavement. When Kirsten lunged at Sandy again, flailing her tiny
fists, Sandy grabbed one of them and whirled her around, throwing
her at Roxanne, Kirsten’s other pal. Both of them fell down.
Before Sandy could flee, Andrea staggered back up and charged
Sandy. Andrea was too close for Sandy to kick so Sandy stomped
the girl’s instep, sending the girl howling. She fell down, rolling
around in agony.
Meanwhile, Roxanne, who was wearing tennies like the others,
had gotten back up. She tried to kick Sandy, who anticipated that
attack. Sandy swerved, causing Roxanne to ram her foot hard
against the brick wall. She yelled and danced around, grasping her
toes.

229
Sandy knew she was outnumbered, but could tell by looking at
these girls that they were habitual dieters not naturally thin like
herself, and their atrophied arms and legs were considerably weaker
than her own. Many months of intensive training had hardened
Sandy’s lean muscles and given her catlike reflexes.
She didn’t want to do them permanent damage or hurt her own
hand by striking a bony area. These girls didn’t have much meat on
them. So Sandy delivered a spinning butt kick before Roxanne could
turn around from the wall. The girl fell on top of a black garbage
bag, moaning. Kirsten Crabtree, still rubbing her belly, staggered
and swore she’d bust Sandy in the chops. Sandy flipped her over in
a swift judo move, stunning her. Infuriated, Andrea, hobbling on her
uninjured foot, stooped to pick up a brick. A very bad move.
Before she could lift it, Sandy pivoted like lightning and sent her
soaring from the rear. Andrea landed in a pile of dog poop.
Now all three attackers were disabled enough to enable Sandy
to run away. This wasn’t cowardice, just common sense. Sandy no
longer felt she had to justify her existence to anyone, especially
stupid bullies. Wakasaki had wisely taught Sandy to try to resolve
disputes without fighting and to never start a fight. But when others
forced her to fight, she must finish that fight with a minimum of
damage to the opponent.
“No, I didn’t learn much at Hog Pen High,” she said, before
sprinting away from the pity party on the pavement.
“I saw and heard everything,” an approaching cop said.
“You won’t run me in, will you officer?” Sandy asked. “They all
ganged up on me.”
“Seems you had no choice,” he said. “Several eye witnesses
saw those girls chase you in there and corner you. You gave ‘em
plenty of warning and they mugged you anyway, just to steal your
stuff. That’s assault and grand larceny. I wouldn’t want my own
daughter ganged up on in the street. You’ve got the right to self-
defense, and you three have the right to remain silent,” he said to
the girls. On your feet! Now!”
“My foot’s broke,” Andrea moaned. “I can’t stand up.”
“My belly aches,” Kirsten wailed.
“I won’t say where I got it,” Roxanne cried.
“Maybe next time you girls will think twice before mugging a
stranger on the street!” the cop scolded. “After we get you patched
up in E.R., you’re goin’ in to the station. And this young lady can
come along to press charges against you.”

31
Surprises in the Present

F. Wakasaki discerned the fluttering of an eyelash, the quivering of
the wide lips on the slightly thinner face. The hard-knuckled hand

230
on the coverlet twitched its bony fingers. F. Wakasaki heard a low
murmur. The head turned slightly sideways.
The old warrior peeked out in the corridor. The kids were
coming. “Jake, Jasmine!” he whispered as loud as he could. “You
must come now!”
“Anything wrong, Mr. Wakasaki?” Jasmine asked, anxiously.
“We’d better go in, Dad,” Jake told his father. “Something’s up.”
“Okay, kids, but don’t make too much noise.”
“Your mom wake up very soon,” F. Wakasaki said to the kids, as
he pointed in amazement at the twitching figure on the bed.
“She is moving now,” Jake said, wonderingly. “Keep your fingers
crossed.”
“Know what I think?” F. Wakasaki winked mischievously, pointing
to his ear. “Your mom, she just need audio stimulation. Too quiet in
here.”
Jake got it. He gave Jasmine a knowing grin.
“Jake!” Jasmine accused. “You drank out of the milk jug this
morning!”
“Did not!”
“Did too!”
“Well at least I don’t pick my nose at the table!”
“You stink!”
“Well so do you!”
“Shut up!” Jasmine screeched.
“Mom!” Jake yelped. “She’s picking on me!”
“Hey, what’s that racket in here!” Edgar opened the door. “Mr.
Wakasaki, why aren’t you…”
“Knock it off, kids,” Sandy moaned, groggily. Slowly she
opened her eyes, looked everywhere. “Hey, how’d I get back here?
I had one hell of a ride to the other side. So awesome to see
everybody again.
“C’mere, champ,” she said to Jake, instinctively reaching out to
him, restraining herself only when she felt the tug of the drip in her
arm. “You too, Jasmine and Edgar. You too, Mr. Wakasaki. I’m so-
o-o stoked to be back. Like, I missed you guys like crazy.”
“Oh, Mom,” said Jasmine, “I’m so happy you’re awake now.”
Jake and Jasmine looked at each other. “What’s ‘stoked’?” Jake
asked.
Edgar said, “Don’t try to hug us, dear, there’s a needle in your
arm.”
“What for?”
“To feed you, I guess,” Edgar said, “though it didn’t do much
good, did it?”
“Man, it sure didn’t! Stress me out the door! Boy, am I
starved!”
Jasmine giggled. “Mom’s talking awfully weird.”

231
“Edgar, honey!” Sandy cried. “How I missed ya, baby. I went
back to 1985 but you weren’t there.”
“Sandy,” he chuckled, “we didn’t even meet till 1992. So who
was with you, sweetheart?”
“People I knew long ago. All sorts of characters, both nice and
nasty.”
“Tell us what happened in your dream!” Jake and Jasmine
begged.
“Can’t do that on an empty tummy,” Sandy said. “I’m hollow as
the Grand Canyon. I need a great big turkey hero with a shake.
Can you get it for me?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” Edgar said. “For you, anything. I’ll ask the
doctor first.”
“Ask me what?” Dr. Crumley said, walking in, his stethoscope
dangling from his neck. “What’s this? Sandy! You’re awake! This
is a miracle!”
“And he made the miracle,” Edgar pointed at F. Wakasaki.
The old man bowed modestly. “It Sandy-san. She fight her way
back.”
“What we needed to know, doctor,” said Edgar breathlessly, “is
whether it’s okay for Sandy to have a sandwich and milkshake to
get her strength back. She’s positively starving.”
“Sandy,” Dr. Crumley said pleasantly, “I see you’ve regained
consciousness. But first things first. Let’s examine you, then we’ll
discuss your lunch.”
He asked Sandy to open her mouth. He asked her to swallow a
few drops of water, which she easily did. He shone a light down her
passageways, checked and nodded. “This is real progress. We did a
brain scan on you and our one concern was possible loss of memory
and motor function. You appear to have regained all your faculties,
though parts of your memory might take awhile to fully return.
We’ve had you on glucose for the past few days. No need for the
drip now that you’re fully conscious and able to eat.”
He paged a nurse and asked her to remove Sandy’s I.V.
“Steady now,” said the doctor. Sandy made a face as the
needle was slipped out of her vein. The nurse sterilized the site and
applied a pressure bandage.
Dr. Crumley studied her thin, wan face. “Sandy, I know you’re so
hungry you could eat all of London and Paris. But when your
sandwich comes, take it nice and slow, don’t gobble and be sure to
sip water between bites. If you can’t finish your food just leave a bit
of it. I know you’re way too hungry to live off Jello, but if it must be
a sandwich, you should start off with soft bread and soft fillings.
We can get you a pimiento cheese and some milk. Would you like
that?”
“That’ll do in a pinch,” Sandy said.

232
“Good. I’ll stand here a few minutes and watch you eat to make
sure you can chew okay and get it down without problems. When
you feel a bit better you can progress to chewier foods. As things
stand now, we’ll probably release you in a couple days after another
evaluation. But you’ll have to ease back into physical activity to let
your muscles get acclimated to movement again. So no more triple
flips for a few months.”
“Okay, doc, just single flips. Right now I’ve got a story to finish.
But better eat first. I bet I lost ten pounds and I need to gain every
blessed ounce back!”
“Oh, well,” the doctor laughed, “can’t turn a tiger into a couch
potato. Just let Edgar spoil you at home and don’t do anything
crazy.”
“Oh, doc?”
“Yeah?”
“When can I have my bracelets back? I feel naked without
‘em.”
“Soon, Sandy. They were removed as a safety precaution, and to
enable drips to be placed in your arms. But it was hard to find a
vein, with all that scar tissue.”
“They’re battle scars, doc.”
“Too bad you had to fight those battles, Sandy,” said the doctor
sadly. “After your release I’ll check you again in two weeks to
monitor your recuperation and see if physical therapy is needed.
Oh, good, your lunch is here. After you eat, I’ll need to scoot and
go check on a bariatric case in Room 287.”
After her light lunch, Sandy said, “Wow, I had one whopper of a
dream!”
“Ready to tell it, hon?” Edgar asked, softly. “If you’re tired,
maybe…”
“Tired?” Sandy laughed. “I’ve had enough sleep. My stars, I
need the exercise. So let’s get started.”
Wakasaki politely offered to leave to allow them their privacy,
but Edgar and Sandy both insisted that he stay a while longer, to
listen to her adventures.
Sandy summarized the main action as concisely as she could,
though it would take a long time to tell the whole story. Still, her
description of people, places and events was so vivid, it was hard
to believe it had only happened in her head.
“Mom, Jasmine breathed, “Jake and I had no idea you took so
much c*** at school. Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Your dad knew about it,” Sandy sighed. “But we didn’t want to
worry you kids about it. I tried to bury it all, but it just caught up
with me. That’s what my dream was all about. I went back to the
1980’s and, oh, heck! You guys’ll never believe me when I say it
seemed as real as me being here with you now!”

233
“Sandy-san,” Mr. Wakasaki said, “cops find your bag. Outside
doughnut shop. Thief only want money. He throw everything out of
it. Cell phone wrapped in sweat shirt, so he no see. Throw under
bushes. Big rain shower wet phone. It get rusty. Store manager
find your stuff next day.”
“This your phone, Sandy-san. Wakasaki handed it to her. “Long-
life battery dead. See? It look dirty, rusty here. No worry. I buy
new one. You choose.”
Sandy peered closely at the tiny Dreamscape Cell Phone. It
looked rough around the edges, timeworn and useless. A day in
the dewy grass did this to a modern phone? Sandy wondered. Is
he telling me the truth? She bit her tongue and kept quiet about
that.
“That’s awful nice of you, Mr. Wakasaki, but you don’t have to do
that.”
“Oh no, I insist,” he said. “Want another Dreamscape Phone?”
“Nah, there’s this new Nokia I had my eye on. Thanks. O-o-oh,
what’s this?” Sandy’s eyes shifted to her bedside table. She picked
up a familiar-looking item.
“It bravery bracelet. For you, Sandy-san,” Wakasaki replied. “I
see it in tourist shop. Think of you.”
“Looks just like the one in my dream,” said Sandy, wonderingly.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Wakasaki.”
“Something else for you, Sandy-san,” Wakasaki said. He opened
her sports bag, on the floor by a chair.
“I find, I keep for you,” he said, placing something in her eager
hands.
“My notebook!” Sandy breathed. “The one I hid in the house
where the kids would never see it! But do you have both
notebooks, Mr. Wakasaki?”
“Only one notebook,” he said. “Look different now. You read.”
Yes, it was her old spiral notebook, containing all the various
dates when atrocities happened, described in detail. Only this time
Sandy was the victor, not the vanquished victim.
Even the old paper looked crisp and brand new. Sandy halfway
suspected that Mr. Wakasaki had heard her mumbling in her long
sleep and had pulled some ingenious switcheroo with fresh new
paper and altered entries, to make it appear she had penned the
various comments. But oddly enough, this was her handwriting in
the book, and her spidery signature which closed each entry.
“Know what?” Edgar said, thoughtfully. That Right to Respect
organization doesn’t sound like a bad idea, does it, Mr. Wakasaki?”
Wakasaki’s cell phone went off. After reading a short text
message he gave three loud crow calls.
“Ah, here they are!” Wakasaki announced, as his teenage gang
entered: eight boys and two girls, all clad in black leather jackets

234
and black bandanas embroidered with the 3R Broken Rainbow logo.
Sandy vaguely recognized some of the faces.
“Mr. Wakasaki,” Sandy breathed, “how did you know about the
3R Gang?”
“I read renovated notebook,” he said. “Old warrior have long
memory.” He had a sly grin on his face. Old warriors don’t tell all
secrets.
The gang members went up to Sandy’s bed, shook her hand and
welcomed her to their fellowship of fighters against bullying and
disrespect.
When they discussed some special project Wakasaki proposed,
Jasmine playfully chided, “Oh, mom, you’ve always been a tomboy.”
“Not all the time,” Sandy said. “If we’re gonna hit the road on
speaking tours we all need to look our prettiest. Why don’t you and
me take a whole day to rummage through the mall? We could
have lunch at Charlie’s, maybe get our hair done, then look at a few
outfits.”
“Can’t wait!” Jasmine cried. “Mom, you’re the greatest!”
“What about me?” Jake pouted. “Don’t you wanna do anything
with me, Mom?”
She ruffled his hair. “Of course, champ, you can tag along, pick
stuff out too.”
“And what about me, Sandy?” Edgar chimed in.
“Oh, all right! Okay, we’ll make it a family excursion. But you
and Jake can go look for man junk while us girls get all dolled up.”
Wakasaki smiled and bowed, said he had to leave and would call
them soon. The 3R Gang followed him out so the family could have
this time with each other.
Doris, now 35, walked in, with a gift-wrapped box for Sandy.
The medium-sized blond couldn’t hide her elation at seeing her
older sister on the mend.
“Open it,” Doris beamed. “You’ll be surprised.”
Sandy tore the paper off, then shut her eyes tight. She lifted
the box lid, felt something soft and cuddly. It smelt of lavender.
“Will ya look at that!” Sandy cried. “My old Snuggy Kitty, my
little pal who went with me through hell and high water in my
dream!” She brushed the fluffy toy against her cheek. “Oh, Doris,
thank you for taking such good care of her! So very well preserved
for her age, too!”
“Like you!” Doris teased, good-naturedly.
Edgar smiled. “Sandy, Doris and her kids have stayed with us
all this time to help out. She’s only gone home to see her hubby on
my days off, believe it or not.”
Love shone in Sandy’s eyes. “Oh, Doris, how can I ever thank
you for all you’ve done, all the help you’ve been with Edgar and the
kids?”

235
“Sandy, really, what are sisters for? If it’d been me, you would’a
done the same for me. I know it!”
“You and me, we make a great team, don’t we Doris?” Sandy
smiled. “If only you knew what we went through together in my
dream.”
Doris winked. “Who’s to say I wasn’t really there, Sandy? And
oh, I forgot to tell you. Mom and Dad, they called and said they’d
come see you before long. Both of them send their love. They’ll be
so thrilled to hear how much better you’re getting.”
“How’s Rusty?” Sandy asked. “Haven’t heard from him in ages.”
Doris shook her head. “Belinda called me the other day. She
said she and Rusty are having problems. Seems like Rusty’s
always watching ball games or surfing on the Web. Belinda feels
‘emotionally isolated’ from Rusty and hopes their marriage can be
saved. She just can’t get him to listen to her, poor thing.”
“So sad,” Sandy lamented. “Half the world’s troubles could be
solved if only people would start listening to each other and start
feeling each other’s pain.”

As Sandy made a speedy recovery at home, the kids couldn’t stop
asking her questions about her mysterious time trip back to 1985.
“Wow, Mom,” Jake said, “did you ever have an adventure!”
“Way more adventures than any sane person would want,”
Sandy laughed. “My trip to Dreamland wasn’t all sweetness and
roses. Well, there were a few roses, but it was the thorns that
made all the fights.”
“What I don’t get,” Jasmine said, “was how Brad Bullard took a
licking and came back for seconds time after time.”
“Even if it was only a dream,” Sandy said, “that happens all the
time. Bullies are self-destructive. When bullies destroy something
beautiful in another person, they destroy everything decent in
themselves. A mean old shark is driven by its need to tear other
living creatures apart. Even if you give a shark a good licking to
teach it a lesson, it’ll never learn to be nice. A shark will keep on
acting like a shark till the day it dies.”
Jake stuck out his lip in a pout. “Wished I’d been there. Man,
I’d’a creamed Brad Bullard, Mom, even if I can’t fight as good as
you.” Sturdy and broad-shouldered, he swiveled back and forth,
swinging his fists.
“Naw, Jake, I kind’a get the feeling Brad Bullard is gonna get a
taste of his own cookin’ one of these days, if he hasn’t already.
They say time heals all wounds, but it also wounds all heels.”
Jasmine sprang up from the kitchen table, where she’d been
surfing the net on her cell phone. “Hey, Mom! Look! You gotta see
this news link!”
Sandy couldn’t believe her eyes. “Wow! Will ya look at that!
Bradford Alfonso Bullard, 44, native of Modesto, Hogwood High

236
School dropout, got nabbed by cops when he held up a regional
branch of the Buckboard Bank! There’s his picture and everything,
still waving his pistol! Man, he’s still as ugly as sin!”
“He’ll be an old, old man if they ever let him out of the pokey,”
Jake said.
Jasmine shook her head. “Once a loser, always a loser, huh,
Mom?”
“Could be, but big bad Brad chose that path for himself, I
didn’t,” Sandy shrugged. “Which reminds me. I feel like a good old
fashioned PacMan game! Anybody wanna play doubles with me?”
Jasmine finished a quick text message and pocketed her phone.
“Might as well, Mom. As you say, it is exercise.”
Down in the den, Sandy whooped and cackled as ghost after
ghost got gobbled up. Jake hollered down the stairs about how he
was hungry for dinner, distracting Sandy so that Pinky ate one of
her men. “Oh, well,” she sighed. “His number was up anyway.”
“Mom,” Jasmine wondered, “does it help your game to imagine
the ghost is Brad Bullard?”
Sandy scrunched her nose. “Jazz, we’re down here to have fun,
not yak about old ‘Brat Buzzard-face’. Hey, that’s a way, move that
arm, quick! That’s a way!
“Yay!” Sandy leaped and clapped as Jasmine marveled at her
mom’s childlike enthusiasm. “Now ain’t that funner than a lazy old
touch screen game?”
Jazz grinned. “Could be, Mom, but it’s still stone age
technology.”

32
Learning to Love Yourself

When all the lighthearted laughter died down and she was alone
with her thoughts, Sandy reflected what a bummer it was that
because her trip to the past was only a dream, Kitty really had
gotten killed on that damn bus and she’d never see her again. After
the accident, Sandy had gone into such denial about it, she hadn’t
even wanted to attend Kitty’s funeral. Sandy had often brought
flowers to the grave plot and held imaginary conversations with her
departed friend. But Kitty’s tight-lipped mom had never wanted to
talk to anyone about it afterwards.
Had Sandy’s dream been only a fleeting fantasy, or had her
wounded inner child somehow crossed time and space in her quest
for final validation of her own self-worth? Is reality itself a rainbow
of many colors? Could there possibly be, within even the weakest
being, a solitary, but strident voice in the wilderness which cries out
for fair play in a world where evil is tolerated and hushed up, a
voice which cannot be silenced because of long-buried unfinished
business?

237
Little did Sandy know her old teacher had actually directed her
battle strategies as he stood by her hospital bed in those few
fleeting moments he had with her. What part the Broken Rainbow of
Peace had played in her victories, well, that was wide open to
speculation because Mr. Wakasaki thought it best to keep its deep
mysteries locked within his own soul.
One day, while Edgar and the kids were out, Sandy answered the
door. A full-figured, stunning brunette stood before her. She wore
an eye-catching red dress, accented with a gold belt. Her lovely
brown hair was styled in soft waves. She smiled broadly when she
saw Sandy.
“Oh, my, it can’t be!” Sandy breathed, as she studied the well-
remembered features of her old friend, who looked like she’d taken
great care of herself.
“Yes, Sandy, it’s Kitty, and this is my husband Todd. Can we
come in? We heard what happened to you and I just had to find you
again.”
Speechless at first, Sandy sputtered, “Of course you can come
in! I thought you were…”
“Dead?” Kitty laughed.
Sandy could hardly believe this was the same Kitty. When they
were kids it had been hard to get more than a few words out of her
at a time. Now she was a veritable chatterbox.
“So you thought I’d died, Sandy? So did everybody after some
anonymous conspirator bribed the press to say I’d been killed. They
even held a fake funeral for me, closed casket of course.”
Sandy wiped away a tear. “Oh, Kitty, I nearly went crazy when I
thought you’d died. How could you do that to me?”
“Oh, Sandy,” Kitty cried, “please don’t be mad at me! I was so
scared of Stan I felt like I’d even sell my soul to get away from him.
And it wasn’t my idea, it was my dad’s. You don’t know how it hurt
that I couldn’t let anybody know I was still alive. Stan was so mean
and cruel he couldn’t stand for me to be happy. If I hadn’t left
Modesto he would have kept on hurting me.”
“Sorry, Kitty,” Sandy said. “That was selfish of me to say that.
People get squeezed so bad they do things they don’t want to do.
I’ve never been mad at you before and I won’t start now. But Stan
never…you, know…, did he?”
“Oh no, Sandy, thank God for that. The one advantage of being
big was Stan said I grossed him out so much no man would want
me. So he never hit on me. Except for those times he shoved me
and said to get out of his way.”
“Poor Kitty,” Todd choked. “Some stepfathers are so mean.
And he wasn’t even an official stepfather. Just a live-in lover for a
weak woman who was afraid to take charge of her own life.”

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“Love like that a woman can do without, Todd,” said Sandy. “It’s
a good thing Stan kept his distance. But still, his verbal abuse must
have been unbearable.”
Kitty nodded, tears welling in her eyes. “Sure was, Sandy.
When my dad left, it was just me and Mom for awhile and we got on
great. Then Stan wormed his way into our house. Mom was putty
in his hand. He’d make a few snide comments now and then to
make her feel inferior. Oh, he wasn’t obviously cruel to Mom, just
enough to give her the impression she was so unworthy of him she
should get down on her knees and thank her lucky stars he’d even
look at her. Once Stan broke her in Mom lived strictly by his rules.
He brainwashed her to the point I thought she didn’t even love me
anymore. She paid all the bills but he ruled the roost. If there ever
was a hell I was in it.”
“Did you get hurt in the bus wreck, Kitty?” Sandy asked.
“Yeah, but not as bad as some of the others. I got a twisted
ankle. My dad was in town at the time and heard a rumor about the
wreck the same day it happened. He rushed to the hospital and
when he found out about the hell I went through on that bus he was
furious with mom, not just the school. He paid my doctor bills and
took me straight to the airport with him, crutches and all. Just so
Mom wouldn’t worry, Daddy phoned her after we got to L.A. I told
her I was with my dad and old enough to choose to live with him
and I couldn’t stand Stan. She threatened to send Stan down after
me. Well, Daddy fast-tracked a passport for me, and both of us
hopped on a plane to Hong Kong, where Daddy had another job
lined up.”
“Did your mom mind?” Sandy asked, still numb from the sight of
her.
“I doubt she did. I guess Mom was so embarrassed about me
wanting to leave her that she just went along with the death hoax.
Her boy friend sure didn’t mind me being gone, though he wished
he could take me away from Dad just to have me to kick around
again. Mean as that creep was, he probably wished I really had
died, just so he could have Mom all to himself. Funny how she and
Stan split up not long after that, but then that’s another sad story
and we won’t go into that right now.”
“Why…didn’t you write? Oh, Kitty!”
“Because Daddy worried my mom might track us down and send
Stan to make me come back, even though I was sixteen and had
the legal right to pick who I wanted to live with. Even grown kids
can be hounded by stalkers or abused in other ways. I was so
scared of Stan that I was afraid to send any letters to Modesto. Oh,
Sandy, I’m so sorry we drifted apart like that.”
Sandy bear-hugged her and her strangely silent husband,
remembering not to do it too hard because of her strength.

239
“There is a little good news, Sandy. Me and Mom, well, we
finally settled our differences and buried the hatchet. She realized
she’d been a fool to love Stan more than me.”
“That’s really great, Kitty. Stories can have happy endings after
all. And the best thing is you’re here with me after all these years.
Now my happiness is complete!”
Kitty’s eyes glowed. “So is mine, Sandy. I had two wonderful
men in my life to make me feel special. The first one was my dad,
of course, and the other one my wonderful Todd. Daddy taught me
to eat healthy but not to fight my own body, and to work with it
instead of against it. I did lose some weight but I’ve made peace
with the fact I’ll never look like a skeleton till the day I die. Oops!”
She clapped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry for the way that
came out, Sandy!”
“I think you’re absolutely gorgeous, honey,” Todd hastened to
say, giving Kitty a peck on the cheek. I found the woman of my
dreams when I met you.”
“So did I,” Edgar said to Sandy. “You’re the woman of my
dreams and I wouldn’t change anything about you, either,” he said.
What a wonderful reunion Sandy had with her old friend that
evening as they sent out for Chinese and reminisced over old family
photo albums.
Kitty told Sandy they’d lived all over the country and just
recently moved to San Francisco, to Sandy’s surprise and delight.
Jasmine grinned and said to Jake, “Mom’s got old friends coming
out of the woodwork. Who knows who she’ll meet next?”
Of course Sandy forgave Kitty for going along with the cover-up.
She’d been downtrodden and ill-treated for so long, every last
vestige of courage had been sucked out of her. The survival instinct
in human beings is so strong it will go to elaborate lengths to keep
the enemy away. Even if part of you must die so the rest of you can
live.
On their way home, Kitty said to Todd, “I couldn’t tell Sandy the
whole story. She’d think I was nuts.”

Considerable time had passed since Kitty’s visit, but Sandy couldn’t
feel fitter than she did this morning as she and her fellow 3R
Radicals sat on their Harley-Davidsons, posing for news cameras.
They were finally setting out on their much-publicized “Right to
Respect-Ban the Bully Motorcyle Cavalcade Across America”.
The Franklestones were all excited about their nationwide
campaign to promote the Ban the Bully Bill, which would make
school bullying a hate crime punishable by permanent expulsion
from school after a third verifiable offense committed after two
formally issued warnings. Bullying would also be punishable by
expulsion if serious physical harm resulted from a first bullying
incident. Persistent bullies would forfeit all right to free public

240
education. Victims would have the right to sue the school district
for emotional or physical damages, if it could be proven in a court of
law that protracted, destructive bullying was enabled or abetted by
willful negligence of school staff. Any teacher or staff member who
willfully and persistently intimidated or abused a vulnerable student
would be suspended or fired without severance pay, with the degree
of punishment to be determined by the seriousness and duration of
the offense. What’s more, teachers found to be complicit in the
verbal or physical harassment of a pupil would forfeit all seniority
rights, which would make it more difficult for them to land another
teaching job elsewhere.

Giddy with excitement, Sandy waved to banner-carrying friends,
relatives and neighbors gathered on their front lawn to see them
off. The 3R Radicals would take several weeks to travel coast to
coast, covering a hundred or so miles per day and stopping for
speeches in schools and other public venues. Mr. Wakasaki and
other wealthy supporters would sponsor the trip to promote the
public welfare. Edgar and the kids would follow Sandy and the other
3R Radicals in a black RV painted with the 3R Broken Rainbow of
Peace logo. The cyclists’ black helmets, bearing the same emblem,
proclaimed their dream: The Right to Respect.

33
Willfully Blind or Willing to Help

Another town, another dressing room. As Sandy sat in front of the
brightly lit mirror heat-waving her big mane of hair, she heard a rap
on the door. “C’mon in,” she said.
Sandy saw the woman’s reflection in her mirror before she
turned around. A gray-haired lady in her late sixties, dressed in a
powder blue suit, hovered over her, with a hesitant smile.
“I don’t suppose you remember me, Mrs. Franklestone, but I
recognized you.”
“Not too hard to do,” Sandy said. “Tall skinny redhead with a
soft heart and a hard kick.” She swiveled around and studied the
woman’s grim face. “Oh, yes, I remember you. You’re my high
school English teacher, Mrs. Whitehall. How’d you get in with all the
paparazzi blocking my door?”
“I told them I used to teach at Hogwood High. I suppose they
let me in since I look harmless enough.”
“Pull up a chair, Mrs. Whitehall. You can just call me ‘Sandy’ like
you used to. I’ve got a few minutes if you wanna chat. The school
band’s playing half an hour to get the crowd warmed up. Care for
some herb tea?”
“No thank you, Sandy, I’ve just had dinner.”
“Are you retired now, Mrs. Whitehall?”

241
“Yes, I started drawing my pension years ago. I was forced to
retire early due to nervous strain. Sandy, every day I thank the
good Lord I don’t have to teach anymore. My husband got a
promotion at work, and the extra income enabled me to resign
when working conditions became unbearable. My, but children are
so rude these days.”
Sandy’s face fell. “Oh I’ve known that most of my life. Know
why they were rude to you too?”
“Why?”
“Mrs. Whitehall, are you still a religious woman?”
“If you mean whether I still serve Jesus, yes, I’m still a Christian
woman.”
“Ever hear this old saying: ‘Give the devil an inch and he’ll grab
a mile’?”
“I agree with you on that one, Sandy, but what does that have
to do with today’s epidemic of disrespect toward teachers?”
“Years ago, when Brad Bullard and his pals picked on me in your
class you told me it was no big deal. When they teased Kitty about
her weight and drove her to tears you ‘tactfully’ told her life would
get better if she stuck to her diet. As if only skinny people are
entitled to humane treatment! When we complained to the
principal he laughed. You people just said it was all part of growing
up, a normal rite of passage. Case closed. But when you get a taste
of what I went through, you ran out of that school like the devil
himself was chasing you with a pitchfork. Why is it a worse sin to
torture grown-ups than kids?”
Ignoring Sandy’s question, Mrs. Whitehall smiled smugly and
said in a creamy voice, “Sandy, you know why I came by to see
you, don’t you?”
“Not to discuss the weather, I suppose.”
Mrs. Whitehall patted Sandy’s hand. “Sandy, you and I are both
growing older. You’d better make your peace with God. Tomorrow
may be too late.”
A wry grin worked at Sandy’s mouth. “Yeah, sure, I’ve heard it
all before, Mrs. Whitehall. Save the whole damn world for Jesus!
You’re right, it is too late. It was too late a long time ago. Too late
to save just one girl, Sandy Girard, from hell right here on this
earth.”
“Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said reproachfully, “I’m concerned about
the fact you turned to that heathen Mr. Wakasaki for help instead of
Jesus.”
Sandy breathed hard and put her powder puff down. “Mrs.
Whitehall, Jesus, if He exists at all, is away up there in heaven and
I’m stuck down here on this earth. When I was a scared sixteen-
year-old girl, I had only three people in my army: Me, myself and I.
If Jesus does anything in this earth, the only hands He’s got are the
hands on the ends of your two arms. I’ve done some research, Mrs.

242
Whitehall. A sizable percentage of Americans claim they believe
the Bible. Statistical probability tells you at least 25% of kids at
Hogwood High must have been churchgoing Christians. Now. How
many of them stood up for me when I was tripped up in the hall,
lampooned in the school paper, shoved and kicked, pinched and
punched, terrorized on the school bus? Not a damn one of ‘em sat
with me and poor little Kitty in the cafeteria. And when she wasn’t
around anymore, I sat all by my lonesome. The day I got laughed
out of school after some girls humiliated me in the locker room, I
was barely fourteen. I took my anger out on these poor little
things.” She bared her forearms. Mrs. Whitehall cried out in shock
when she saw the scars which covered the wiry forearms rippling
with lean muscles hardened by frequent karate practice. She
muttered something about sin under her breath.
Sandy’s voice shook. “My parents were embarrassed about it,
told me to tell everyone I’d had surgery for ‘muscular dysmorphia’
to straighten out twisted muscles in my arms, which was allegedly a
rare inherited condition. Ha! The doctor who stitched me up cooked
up the alibi, said for us to tell ‘respectable folks’ that tall tale to
avoid speculation that it was a crazy suicide attempt. But I don’t
think the kids at school bought that baloney. They knew. You can’t
fool kids.”
“Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said, “you ought to know it’s a terrible
sin to even consider suicide. What on earth made you do it?”
“I couldn’t run from my troubles and I wasn’t big enough to
fight back. And taking more of the same wasn’t an option anymore.
Part of it was because of Christians who didn’t love Jesus enough to
cross the slimeballs who picked on me. Excuse my French, Mrs.
Whitehall. I happen to know love is an action verb, and you don’t
always find love in those religious cans called churches. Oh! I
forgot. You called Mr. Wakasaki a heathen because he taught me
how to fight violent criminals. Are you saying it’s better if I just
stand still and let some rapist in the alleyway attack me, possibly
infect me with AIDS or do worse to me?”
Mrs. Whitehall coughed and blushed. “I never said it was wrong
to defend yourself against violence, Sandy. But Jesus taught us to
love our enemies and forgive all who transgress against us. If they
hit you on the right cheek offer your left one as well.”

243
Sandy laughed bitterly. “My, but it’s easy to be a good sport
about somebody else’s suffering, isn’t it? All you’ll get for turning
your cheek is your teeth knocked out. And what does a bully learn
from patience except he can get away with wiping his dirty feet on a
wimpy doormat who won’t fight back?”
“You can’t benefit from anything our Savior taught unless you
try it, Sandy. The way of our Savior is the path of peace toward all
men. Karate is of the devil, even if you think it temporarily solves
your problems. Better to build bridges with your enemy than build
walls.”
Sandy felt slightly exasperated. “It may escape your notice, Mrs.
Whitehall, but some people don’t want peace, and you can’t shove it
down their throat. And why would anybody be dumb enough to
build bridges with terrorists who plant demolitions in their life and
would blow those bridges up? And as for me resorting to martial
arts, you fine Christians chose that path for me. One day I swore I’d
be damned if I stayed and took more abuse. So what other option
did I have if churchgoing ‘Christian’ kids didn’t give a damn what
happened to me?”
“Sandy, your language…” Mrs. Whitehall pursed her lips.
“Hogwood High taught me every cuss word I know! What about
all the cuss words I got called in school? That whole school’s one big
cuss word.”
Mrs. Whitehall raised her eyebrows. “Sandy, don’t you call your
organization ‘Right to Respect’? And here you are, showing
disrespect for your own school!”
Sandy laughed. “My school? What a sick joke! I got driven out
of it not once, but twice, and didn’t even get to graduate from ‘my
school!’. And as for respect, it’s earned. Once you trample on my

244
respect you lose the right to your own. I respect a dirty hog more
than Hogwood High. At least hogs don’t call people names.”
“But Sandy, didn’t you respect anything about Hogwood High, at
least a few of the teachers?”
“Oh, a couple of ‘em were nice. One in particular I remember
spoke out against bullying. A Cindy Franks…”
Mrs. Whitehall frowned. “That might have been her name,
though I don’t remember very clearly. But if that’s the same one
I’m thinking of, that woman didn’t even last two weeks! She flouted
Mr. Trent’s authority and took a few girls to Santa Cruz to play video
games when it was supposed to have been an educational
expedition!”
“What good is ‘authority’ when it tolerates evil?” Sandy
retorted. “At least Mrs. Franks made me feel good about myself! At
least she treated me like a human being with feelings! When did
any one of you ‘authority figures’ ever do jack diddly squat to stop
those kids who picked on my sweet friend Kitty Hawkins and called
her a fat a**?” Sandy gnashed her teeth.
Color drained from the elderly lady’s face. “Sandy, if you’d only
try the way of patience and reconciliation. Jesus was always meek
and gentle.”
“No thanks, I’d rather keep all my skinny bones in one piece,
and it takes two to make peace, not just one. Hey, wasn’t gentle
Jesus the same dude who chased crooks out the church house with
a whip? Why should I let some bully violate the temple of my own
body?”
“Ah, Sandy, but Jesus also said ‘blessed are you when men curse
you…”
“Well, you can keep that kind of ‘blessing’ to yourself, sister!
Now you’ve painted yourself in a corner for sure. If you seriously
believe suffering’s a blessing, then why didn’t you just go on
teaching, Mrs. Whitehall? If you earn Brownie points with God by
getting slapped around, you should have stayed on the job. I think
you’re contradicting yourself here.”
The old lady knitted her brow. “I simply could not remain in an
environment where students refuse to learn, Sandy. That’s an insult
to my professional prowess. Jesus did say ‘Don’t cast your pearls
before swine.’
“You’re right on that score,” Sandy said. “That’s why I ran away
from school. I was too much of a precious pearl to let Hog Pen High
kids trample me anymore.”
“That’s Hogwood High, Sandy.” Mrs. Whitehall looked miffed.
“Whatever. Same difference.” Sandy shrugged.
“I’m still concerned about why you turned to Mr. Wakasaki
instead of praying to God for help.”
“Drowners can’t be too choosy about which hand they grab to
keep from sinking if only one hand’s stuck out, Mrs. Whitehall. As I

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said before, God has no hands in this world except your own. He
might want to help but phony baloney religious folks tie His hands.
My only option was to fight my own battles. Right after I went home
at Christmas time, I got accosted by three girls from Hog Pen High.
They wanted my jacket. All they saw was the weak worm they
drove out of school. Thought I’d be a pushover. But I used my
hard-learned skills to defend myself. Then I ran off to avoid further
conflict.”
“Why didn’t you just give them the jacket, Sandy?”
“Wasn’t it enough they stole my dignity? At least let me keep my
jacket, for Pete’s sake.”
“But surrendering the jacket would have been better than
fighting, don’t you think?”
“Listen, Mrs. Whitehall. This isn’t just about a jacket. I don’t do
‘surrender’ no more. Bullies smell weakness like sharks smell blood.
I had to draw a line in the sand, right then and there, or they would
have been back for more.”
“But God deplores violence…”
“Haven’t you ever read your own Bible, Mrs. Whitehall? What
about God nuking Sodom and Gomorrah, stuff like that? God got
tough when He had to.”
“But it’s a sin to resort to violence to protect your property,
Sandy.”
“The only property I was protecting was my personal dignity,
warning those scumbags to back off. Now if you think I enjoy
kicking butts, you’re breaking that commandment, ‘Judge not lest
ye be judged’.”
“Why, I never…” Mrs. Whitehall looked disgusted.
“No, you never did, Mrs. Whitehall. You never did one kind,
constructive thing to convince me to believe in a wimpy watered-
down religion which passively tolerates evil and allows it to flourish
in society. What was that part of the Bible which talks about the salt
losing its flavor so it can’t preserve anything anymore? You
Christians claim to be the pros from Dover, the salt of the earth.
But look how rotten our schools are because you let criminals get
away with murder.”
“Don’t put the whole onus of this failure on us, Sandy. A
teaspoon of salt can’t preserve a ton of rotting meat. Schools
would fall apart even if no Christian teachers taught in them, and
the law prohibits us from sharing our faith…”
Sandy interrupted, “Funny how you guys brag about America
being a Christian nation. Oh yeah, you crave all the honor and glory
which comes with that but none of the responsibility. You’d rather
spout platitudes than live your alleged beliefs. I hate to tell you, but
sometimes you have to fight the bad to protect the good and you
teachers, Christian and otherwise, refused to do that. All you do is
stonewall the truth away and whitewash your own failure to live by

246
that Book you always quote. Are you even dimly aware of what I
went through? It wasn’t just the bruises and filthy insults that drove
me out of town. Brad Bullard and his gang kept saying, ‘Go stretch
your neck with a rope, giraffe’. And, ‘Why don’t you and your fat
a** friend just gas yourselves?”
Mrs. Whitehall felt it would be beneath her dignity to own up to
collective guilt so conveniently buried and forgotten so long ago.
“I’m sorry you had to hear such unkind comments, Sandy. But
surely those children were only joking.”
Sandy gave her a steely stare. “So what if I’d taken their advice
and attempted suicide again? What if I’d died? Where would I be
today? Hell?”
Mrs. Whitehall lowered her eyes, nodded.
“Let’s explore other possible spinoff ramifications which could
have happened, Mrs. Whitehall. What if those ‘children’ had driven
me to kill myself? No law in the land would convict them because it
was allegedly my personal choice to die. Let’s say the bullies drove
me to suicide, then got religion and prayed to Jesus for forgiveness.
I’d be down in hell shoveling coal, so where would they go?”
“Heaven,” Mrs. Whitehall whispered, looking away.
Sandy laughed bitterly. “We discussed this before if my
memory serves me right, but you sidestepped the question and I
never got an answer. What you’re telling me is, the poor victim fries
in hell while those who sent her down there get to dance with St.
Peter at the Pearly Gates! Don’t take me for an idiot, Mrs.
Whitehall. I have issues with any religion where its adherents hear
no evil, see no evil, and let the devil torture people in school, then
they not only damn the sacrificial victim to hell but reward the
terror technicians with heaven! Now I might look dumb, but I ain’t
that stupid!”
“I never said you were stupid, Sandy. All I mean is, it’s far
better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
“That’s the trouble with you Christians,” Sandy retorted. “You
don’t do the stuff in your own Book, just resort to tired, worn-out
clichés. Not only do you refuse to curse the darkness, you wet nurse
it so much it grows and grows like fungus till it snuffs out that one
tiny candle you sing and shout about. But the real truth is, you
can’t love good without hating evil. You’d far rather see kids kill
themselves than frown at the criminals who drive them to it. It’s
okay for innocent kids to die but oh, no, we mustn’t tell somebody
they’re rotten and evil for promoting suicide. That might be too
politically incorrect!
“Another minor point, Mrs. Whitehall. While Hogwood High
Christians kissed up to the sinners, I got driven out of school for
being an odd-sized apple, not once but twice! If a girl isn’t between
five-four and five-nine, she’s treated like a freak! If she’s got a little
too much meat on her bones like Kitty, she’s a big sack of garbage.

247
If Dad hadn’t shelled out for a private tutor to help me finish ninth
grade, I would have had to go back to that stinking school with
both arms still in bandages! How many Hogwood High kids,
Christian or otherwise, called or visited to see if I was all right?
Yah, that’s Christian charity for you!”
Mrs. Whitehall’s face was pale. Her heart beat fast. “You’ve
grown hard, Sandy. You used to be such a sweet girl,” she said
weakly. “What happened?”
“Other people beat the sweet out of me, I guess. Soft people get
stepped on like worms. Only tough cookies survive in a world like
this. That’s why you couldn’t teach in a shark pool and I couldn’t
learn in one.”
“Oh, Sandy, if only you’d turn that hurt over to God. He really
does exist.”
“You people never did prove that to me. If God’s so powerful
why didn’t He make those ‘Christian’ kids treat me any better?”
“God can’t force anyone to do what is right, Sandy. It has to be
their own freewill choice.”
“Yeah, freewill and choices, Mrs. Whitehall. Wish I’d had a choice
about what happened to me in that school. It was the ‘Christian’
kids who made the freewill choice to go along with the bullies. Oh,
they reassured themselves they weren’t doing anything bad, just
pretending everything was peachy.”
“But we were praying for you, Sandy,” the teacher meekly
protested.
Sandy coughed. “Yeah, right! Sure you were! Like that time I
stood outside the door while Denise and Jolene speculated that it
must be my fault those creeps were picking on me. Does the ‘boils
of Job’ ring a bell with you, since you know the Bible so well?”
“Job got his boils for being rebellious against God, Sandy. And
that’s how you got your bullies.”
Sandy almost choked on her frustration from listening to so much
stupidity. She got up from her seat, found an empty cardboard box.
She boxed the box over and over, flipping it in the air. Mrs.
Whitehall cringed.
“Now I feel better,” Sandy said, reseating herself before the
mirror.
“Sandy, no need to be angry,” Mrs. Whitehall said meekly.
“Let me tell you something, Mrs. Whitehall,” Sandy breathed
hotly, as the little woman stared at her in disbelief and fright. “I
didn’t like being blamed for my own hurt and humiliation when I
was at Hogwood High, and I still resent the insinuation that I
brought that hell on myself. Bullies bully because they’re bullies,
and it’s always the bullies’ fault! When a burglar robs a home,
people don’t blame the homeowner for owning lots of nice things
that attracted the burglar. But when bullies stole my dignity I got

248
blamed because there must have been something about me that
attracted the bullies!”
“We weren’t trying to be mean, Sandy, we only said there’s never
an effect without a cause,” Mrs. Whitehall said. Proverbs 26:2 says
there’s a cause behind every curse that comes on you.”
Sandy cackled, angrily. “Yeah, guess you could say that, Mrs.
Whitehall. Bullies were my curse and my cross to bear, and what
caused the bullies was sheer carelessness.”
“Glad you see it my way, Sandy,” the little lady smiled smugly.
“It takes a big woman to admit she was careless and brought
misery on herself.”
“Oh, no, Mrs. Whitehall, I never said it was my carelessness
which brought misery into my life. It was somebody else’s
carelessness.”
“Whose?”
“Brad Bullard and Wayne Woodcock’s mothers would be very
big-hearted to admit they were careless the night they forgot their
birth control and conceived those creeps, wouldn’t they? Ha! Ha!
Ha! Gotcha there!”
It was almost too much for the old lady’s heart. “Oh, Sandy, it’s
not very feminine to act the way you do.”
Sandy smirked and shrugged. “And it’s not very safe to be other
than what I am. Oh, I could have been a dainty, soft-spoken
powder puff. But the bullies wouldn’t let me be that way. I had to
fight for my right to survive. Better a live tiger than a dead kitten.
“Survival was my goal in a world eager to destroy me. On top of
all the rotten treatment I got, I got voted Least Likely to Succeed by
the student body. And if it hadn’t been for Mr. Wakasaki helping me
believe in myself, it would have been as stupid to expect me to
succeed as to expect a hobbled horse to win the Kentucky Derby.”
“True success is measured by how much you love the unlovely,
Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said, piously.
“Haw haw haw!” Sandy laughed. “Tell that to all those fine
churchgoers who wouldn’t associate with me in school, just ‘cause I
wasn’t ‘unlovely’ enough for them to love! One day Jolene and
Denise melted into the crowd when I came close, didn’t even want
to look at me. Just hid behind the bullies who threw stuff at me and
called me a giraffe. And you talk to me about love. Ha!”
“Oh, Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall pleaded, “please don’t be bitter.
Jesus was with you while you suffered all that. You just didn’t see
Him.”
“You’ve just answered your own question, Mrs. Whitehall. I
didn’t see that Jesus of love you’re always singing about. So why
didn’t I? Were those kids so scared of the bullies they kept Christ
hidden away till they were ready to take him out of His box for one
hour on Sunday?”

249
Mrs. Whitehall patted her arm. “You have to realize, they’re
only human, just like you, Sandy. People do get scared.”
Sandy laughed bitterly. “Let’s see if I’ve got this straight, Mrs.
Whitehall. Church people sing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ and Jesus
is allegedly their general. What other army on earth hides under
the bed and just hopes the big bad boogerman will go away if they
sing enough sweet songs at it? What other army on earth is so
ashamed of their own general as church people are of Jesus, once
church is all over and they’re back out in the real world?”
“Those children were immature, Sandy, you must understand
that. The devil is responsible for all the wickedness in this world.”
“Yeah, Mrs. Whitehall, when you foul up, blame the boogerman!
How handy! At least he’s good for something!”
“Sandy!” Mrs. Whitehall’s eyes widened. “Satan is an ever-
present threat in this world and he is everywhere! Don’t take him
lightly!”
“Yeah, he’s easy to spot. You see the devil in Mr. Wakasaki,”
Sandy said. “But I saw him every single day in those rotten kids
that bullied me on the bus.”
“Who bullied me,” her old teacher corrected.
“I deliberately said ‘that’. Those kids acted like savage animals,
so to me, they’re less than human. They referred to me as an ‘it’ so
why shouldn’t I dehumanize those unwanted ghosts of my past?
That way it hurts less.”
“You’re better than that, Sandy.”
Sandy chuckled. “That’s news by me. Aren’t you the same one
who called me a sinner?”
Mr. Whitehall said ruefully, “Oh, Sandy, Satan is making you so
bitter. You ought to love those poor children. They need love, not
hate.”
“So did I, Mrs. Whitehall. But nobody thought of that at Hogwood
High, not even Christians. And as for the devil, if he really exists,
those kids were his tools. Do you love the knife that’s carving your
soul into tiny pieces, even if it’s a little knife?”
“Perhaps their parents didn’t understand them, Sandy…”
“Let’s get back to square one, Mrs. Whitehall. For now forget
the devil’s kids. Let’s concentrate on God’s alleged kids. Now If I’d
taken my own life God wouldn’t have understood I was just an
immature kid. He’d have sent me to hell for it. Right?”
Grimly she nodded.
“Not once in my life, Mrs. Whitehall, have I ever claimed to be
anything but an imperfect human being who tries to learn from my
mistakes and do right by other people. If I kick somebody else, it’s
only to defend against attack. But those ‘Christians’ at Hogwood
High probably bragged in church about how they’d go to the
furthest reaches of Africa and die for Jesus. But they were too
ashamed to live for Him at school. If they weren’t kicking me when

250
I was down they were condoning it or ignoring it. Why wouldn’t
God hold them at least as accountable as someone like me, who
doesn’t even claim to be perfect?”
Mrs. Whitehall looked at her pleadingly. “If only I could find the
right words to convince you…”
“That’s all your religion is, Mrs. Whitehall, only words. Now I’m
not a religious gal, but I do believe words are just so much hot air
unless you live ‘em. I read the Bible of your life every single day. I
couldn’t take what you said seriously if you didn’t take me seriously
as a valuable person. Mr. Wakasaki always knew I was worth
something even if others didn’t. Heathen is as heathen does. Who
was there for me when I was all alone in the world and needed
help? Not one of you goody-two-shoes Christians defended my
dignity when I got humiliated in the cafeteria and the locker room.
Wouldn’t give a plug nickel for any of ya. Not one of you holier-
than-thou churchgoers raised one whimper of protest about bullying
at Hogwood High. You just turned a blind eye and let the devil do
his dirty work! Now I might be no Bible expert, Mrs. Whitehall, but
what was that Jesus said about loving your neighbor as yourself? If
you’d been on the receiving end instead of the observing end,
wouldn’t you have wanted someone to protect you by throwing
those bums out of school?”
Mrs. Whitehall laughed nervously. “Sandy, you’re missing my
point. Violence is morally unacceptable.”
“Well then, why is it okay for the bullies to be violent, Mrs.
Whitehall? Why are they treated with kid gloves? Is school staff too
afraid to get tough with them?”
“We always tried to let students settle their differences among
themselves, Sandy. Adolescents need to learn the art of give and
take.”
“Funny how I was always the one who did all the taking. C***,
that is” Sandy fumed.
The genteel lady lightly waved her hand. “No need for profanity,
Sandy. So many times it was your word against theirs, and we had
to be impartial in enforcing discipline.”
“Yeah, right, Mrs. Whitehall, impartiality. Ain’t that the
damnedest disciplinary policy any school ever came up with?
Impartiality. Ignore that mounting mountain of evidence against
the bullies. That wimpy policy has caused multiple thousands of
health and safety violations in schools nationwide. If I have my way,
bullying victims will start bringing loco parentis lawsuits against
negligent schools. A loco parentis violation could result from the
refusal of school officials to restrain or suspend aggressive pupils
who are known to inflict physical or emotional injuries on a targeted
victim. To willfully condone bullying is, inherently, a health and
safety violation which must be made prosecutable by law.”
“What do you mean by ‘loco parentis’, Sandy?”

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“Loco parentis means ‘in place of the parent’. By law in most
states, children are required, or rather, forced, to attend school
between the ages of 6 and 16. In some states kids go to preschool
when they’re four and kindergarten when they’re five. So bullying
could start even in the formative years of a child’s life. Timid or
weak children, or even children too sweet to be considered ‘cool’ are
forced by law to interact with rude, surly, hostile kids who may want
to beat them up. Even animals have more health and safety rights
than vulnerable children.
“Once a kid gets dropped off at school, the teacher and other
school authorities assume legal responsibility for the safety and
well-being of the child, in the parent’s place. Now. What if little
Susie got badly beaten up day after day in her own home? If state
welfare officials found out about it, wouldn’t they probably arrest
the parents for failure to ensure the well-being of that child?
Wouldn’t they even remove that child from its own home for his or
her own protection?”
“Oh, I suppose,” Mrs. Whitehall muttered. “But you managed to
survive.”
“Oh I survived, just barely, but too many other kids killed
themselves to get away from your ‘impartial discipline’. Funny, but I
remember one girl getting expelled just for drawing a provocative
picture and showing it to other students. And all that time big bad
Bullard and his buddies got away with verbal and physical assault.
Why is a drawing of a naked body a worse sin than attacking
another student’s body? Why is character assassination, emotional
torture and criminal assault tolerated in our schools while racy
artwork is a hanging offense?”
Mrs. Whitehall raised her nose. “But surely that Wakasaki
fellow is no solution to your dilemma. He taught you to break bones
instead of building bridges. He taught you to form fists with your
hands instead of using them to reach out in love.”
“Mr. Wakasaki taught me to avoid fights and get away from
enemies. But I couldn’t do that at Hogwood High or on that
stinking school bus,” Sandy retorted. “He also taught me to fight
off enemies by inflicting minimal damage whenever they forced a
fight on me I didn’t want. Can’t say the same for the bullies, Mrs.
Whitehall. They did the worst they thought they could get away
with!”
“You must keep things in proper perspective, Sandy. Chances
are those bullies matured out of their bad behavioral patterns.
Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them went on to get married
and build happy homes and families.”
“Hooray for them, Mrs. Whitehall. Bullies get to forget and go
on and have a happy life after leaving their victims’ self-esteem
down in the toilet. They get off the hook while their victims are
sentenced to a lifetime of picking up the broken pieces of their

252
hearts and struggling to feel good about themselves again. So
where’s the justice in that?”
“Sandy, it’s selfish of you to want justice instead of showing
mercy, and…”
“Well, doesn’t your Bible teach there’s gonna be a Judgment Day
for sinners? If God wants the scales of justice to be balanced then
why shouldn’t I?”
Mrs. Whitehall kept pressing her point. “My word, Sandy, is that
what Wakasaki taught you, to begrudge your enemies their
happiness in life?”
“Well, isn’t that what they did to me when they robbed me of
happiness at Hogwood High? They begrudged me even basic
human dignity.”
“But Sandy, you’ll find in the pages of Scripture…”
Sandy threw a wad of Kleenex on her grooming stand.
“Hogwash! That’s just a cop-out and it won’t cut it with me! Don’t
use the Good Book to whitewash the unforgivable sin you people
committed against me! If it wasn’t for Mr. Wakasaki I’d probably be
dead right now. So far as I’m concerned, if you truly believe
something you’ll live it. Jesus taught love, or at least that’s what
people say. So where was your Christian love when I needed it!”
Sandy said indignantly, her voice raw.
“Sandy,” the older woman said soothingly, “you know I love you,
but I must warn you against Satan’s way of fighting evil. It will only
lead you to a worse hell than you ever experienced on earth.”
“All I know is you forced me to choose between two hells,”
Sandy hissed. “And as for love, love is as love does. It’s easy to
love Jesus so long as He doesn’t make you unpopular. All I ever got
from the ‘Christians’ at your school was a cold shoulder and funny
looks. What’s a worse sin, Mrs. Whitehall, being too cowardly to
protect lonely kids from hell on earth, or fighting to save yourself
from the hell you’re already in?”
“You’re calling me a coward, Sandy?”
“Doesn’t matter what I say. The biggest danger is lying to
yourself about yourself.”
A rap on the door. “Mrs. Franklestone! They’re ready for you!”
“Be out in a minute!” Sandy hollered back. My zipper’s stuck!
Play another number!”
“Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said piously, “I told you a long time ago
to bear patiently with suffering. It builds character. Don’t let it
make you bitter.”
“Well, I’m not so sure it shouldn’t make you bitter,” Sandy said.
“One day I burnt a bunch of cookies on the bottom. Tasted so sour
the birds wouldn’t eat ‘em. If I get burnt by too many people for too
long, chances are I’ll taste bitter too.”

253
Mrs. Whitehall fumbled with her purse. “Ah, Sandy, that’s partly
what I’m here about. You’re on a campaign to stir up lynch mobs
against bullies. That’s not the way of forgiveness.”
“Here we go again.” Sandy rolled up her eyes. “No use goin’
round and round again and beatin’ a dead horse. Mrs. Whitehall,
I’m a member of a social activist organization, not a lynch mob. We
campaign for the protection of vulnerable individuals and groups
from injustice, whether that injustice is perpetrated by one bully or
an army of bullies. I get a sneaky suspicion you oppose our
campaign to get Congress to pass a Ban the Bully Bill. Am I right?”
“Yes, Sandy, but I oppose it because it would also offer
protection to gays and enable them to live that decadent lifestyle at
school.”
“Run that by me again?” Sandy blinked at her.
“If gays are included in the protection provided by such
legislation they’ll only proliferate in our schools because they have
nothing to fear.”
Sandy looked disgusted. Her jaw quivered. “I’m honestly
struggling to see where you’re coming from, Mrs. Whitehall. Me,
I’m married to a man and wouldn’t have it any other way. But laws
should protect everybody from crazy Neanderthal lynch mobs.
You’re saying gays ought to get beaten up in school as punishment
for being that way? Do I read you right?”
“I didn’t say that, Sandy. But if gay students felt no social
pressure against that terrible lifestyle…”
“Social pressure!” Sandy snorted. “Does God save anybody
with social pressure and bullying? If God operates that way, sister,
you can count me out.”
“Oh, Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall pleaded, “Mr. Wakasaki worships
dragons and devils. He’ll only lead you down to hell!”
“Mr. Wakasaki worships no one,” Sandy said. “He just tries to be
a better guy than he was the day before. He doesn’t wave some
Bible around to save souls. He just meditates on how he can
spread love and good will and do more to help his neighbor. And if
you’re so all-fired concerned about me roasting in hell, why didn’t
you save me from the biggest hell of all: that big toilet called Hog
Pen High School?”
The old teacher sucked in her breath. “Sandy, must you resort to
such metaphors? How dare you insult our school! I can’t believe
you said that! Our school turns out the finest citizens…”
“That’s a big crock of horse****, Mrs Whitehall, and I said what
I said because I meant it! That rotten school churned out lowlife
criminals, not saints. Snort the Hog had a better soul than most of
the kids there. And what’s more, it’s not ‘our’ school, it’s your
school! A torture chamber where bullies took a s*** on my self-
esteem day in and day out!”

254
A choking cry of horror gripped Mrs. Whitehall’s throat. She felt
too weak to get up to go. “Sandy,” she gasped, “who taught you
such vile swear words?”
“Hog Pen High did. Marinate a kid in a social sewer and it takes
forever to shake off the smell of the place! Just to achieve some
sort of closure not once but three times I wrote letters to Hogwood
High. I told them that since I’d been publicly humiliated there so
many years ago, they needed to publicly apologize to me. But all
three times my letters went unacknowledged. No apology for
putting me through years of hell which caused self-harm,
depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares. The fourth
time, I phoned that rotten school and warned them they wouldn’t
be allowed to bury their guilt like cat c*** I told them that either I
got that apology or I’d do unto them as they did unto me and name
and shame their school all over the nation on my Right to Respect-
Ban the Bully Campaign. And I told them if they threatened me
with a libel suit, I possess written records of the abuse I suffered
there. In my last year there I started recording every major
incident, every date meticulously, just so I could state my case
someday in a court of law and not have to rely on the subjective
evidence of memories. Edgar, my husband, persuaded me not to
even bother suing Hog Pen High. Said Mr. Wakasaki had restored
my self-esteem, that the school had probably forgotten about it
anyway, we didn’t need their dirty money, and I hadn’t been hurt
career-wise because of the bullying.”
Mrs. Whitehall shrugged. “All any defense attorney would claim
is you fabricated those records later in life just to filch money out of
the school district.”
“That’s a dirty lie!” Sandy pulled the old notebook out of her
stack of notes. “Here’s my evidence. All any forensic expert would
have to do is run a carbon-14 analysis to verify its authenticity. And
my handwriting’s still the same today.”
Mrs. Whitehall waved her hands. “Sandy, Sandy, it’s so un-
Christian to desire revenge.”
“I’m not talkin’ about revenge, Mrs. Whitehall, just basic justice.”
“But it happened so long ago…”
“God doesn’t look at it that way, if what you’ve said about hell is
true. Every time you got a minute alone with somebody, you
threatened them with fire and brimstone if they didn’t convert to
your religion. And if God does send sinners to hell, then what about
the guys who threw Christians to the lions? Will there be a
judgment day for them?”
“Yes, but…”
“Now I’d say throwing people into a big blast furnace for trillions
of years is a form of revenge. Even if it isn’t, it sure does feel like
revenge! Those Christians who got thrown to the lions, that
happened 2,000 years ago, Mrs. Whitehall. Now if God’s gonna fry

255
Nero’s fanny in hell forever for what he did that long ago, surely
He’ll have something to say to bullies who are still driving kids to
their deaths in the 21st century. Which brings me to this pertinent
point: “Am I better than God? If He wants justice for the way
people make Him mad, why shouldn’t bullied kids want it too?
“By the way, Mrs. Whitehall, see how old my notebook looks?”
Steamed, Sandy quickly flipped through a few pages, pointing.
“There. Ya see? Tripped in the hall, made me sprain my ankle.
Ganged up on in the locker room, just like that earlier incident
which caused these scars on my arms. Now…” Sandy turned to
Wednesday, April 24, 1985, the day her dream alter ego fended off
Brad Bullard.
The transformation of the latter part of her notebook was still
there, just as she’d seen it in the hospital. The events of her dream
were recorded instead of the original atrocities. All pages covering
April 24 to the end looked brand new, as if freshly written pages
had replaced old ones in her notebook.
She couldn’t get enough of looking at it. Mr. Wakasaki was a
very clever old man, but there were no signs of tampering. Maybe
the boundary between dreams and reality had criss-crossed in a
weird warpature of time and space!
“Sandy, you’ve grown quiet. You look like you’d seen a ghost,”
Mrs. Whitehall said. “Would you like me to open the Good Book and
lead you to salvation?”
“No, but I am ready to show you that part where Mr. Wakasaki
saved me from satan’s little helpers.”
“But he can’t save you from hell!” the lady protested.
“He’s already saved me from hell! The hell you and other
‘Christians’ helped create for me when you enabled bullies to do
satan’s work unopposed. So who are you to take the moral high
ground and try to turn me into just another Bible-totin’ hypocrite
who turns a blind eye while kids die!”
Mrs. Whitehall looked shell-shocked. Sandy continued, “We’re
all the byproduct of our life experiences. I am what I am today
largely thanks to you and every other ‘Christian’ who ostracized me
when I fought my own war alone and needed a friend. So don’t
come barging in here blaming me for being a freedom fighter who’s
on a nationwide Right to Respect-Ban the Bully Campaign. All we’re
trying to do is save innocent kids from paying for your sins.”
Another knock on Sandy’s door. “Mrs. Franklestone, we need
you to come as soon as possible. The crowd is getting restless.”
“I’m all revved up and rarin’ to go, Jack!” Sandy shouted,
scooping up her notes. “Sorry, Mrs. Whitehall, gotta go.”
They both left the dressing room. Sandy looked gorgeous in
her burgundy gown, intricately patterned with delicate beadwork.
Gossamer sleeves swept down to her long silver and turquoise
bracelets, which only enhanced her beauty. Around her waist she

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proudly wore her Broken Rainbow Warrior Belt. She locked the
door, then turned away without a further word to the woman.
Cherishing her dream, she walked out onto the stage, beaming her
sunniest smile.
Mrs. Whitehall silently wept. Too little, too late.

Stopping at a news conference in L.A., Sandy stood, transfixed,
staring at an older woman she vaguely recognized, whose name she
struggled to remember. The lady, who wore a press badge, snapped
her picture twice. She held out her hand, waving. Sandy called for
her to come closer so they could talk.
“I’m Madison Reynolds, Sandy, or at least I was a Reynolds till I
heard my biological clock ticking and married Jim Phelps, that mean
old boss I told you I left back in those days when I was still
struggling to climb the corporate ladder. We moved here years ago,
and I’m still on the stump covering new stories. Don’t you
remember me, Sandy? I interviewed you once and got to know you
quite well. We got to be good friends years ago, but then I left the
Bay Area and moved all over the place. I should have kept in touch
better than I did. But then again, I’m a terrible one for keeping
track of people. Do you remember me at all?
“From long ago and far away,” Sandy said wistfully. “The old
brain’s been a bit foggy since I fell. But it’s all coming back, slowly
but surely.
“Did you ever have kids, Madison?” Sandy wondered.
“We had one. A girl. We called her ‘Cindy’.”
Sandy’s eyes twinkled. “Any special reason or just like the
name?”
“I don’t know, Sandy. The name just has a nice ring to it. She’s
25 now. Believe it or not, even though I tried to push Cindy into
news reporting, she ended up being a P.E. teacher in, of all places,
Modesto.”
Breathlessly Sandy asked, “Hogwood High?”
Madison laughed. “Just wait’ll I tell her, Sandy! She teaches at
Dogwood High! That school was getting bad press from being called
‘Hog Pen High’. So they changed the name after Snort the Hog
went to that big sty in the sky. They planted some dogwood
saplings, and that’s their new mascot.”
Sandy laughed. “Different label, same contents. But those trees
won’t make much of a garbage disposal for the lousy food their
cafeteria churns out.”
“Could fertilize the trees with it,” Madison laughed in turn.
“Hey, Madison, we’ve got loads to talk about and you just might
help me get more of my memory back. So why don’t you and Jim
go out with us for a snack after the press conference, to give us a
chance to renew our friendship?”

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“I’m stoked on that,” Madison said, loudly enough to be heard
above the cacophony of frantic voices and flashing news cameras.
“Oh, Sandy, it’s so-o-o awesome how we’ve found each other
again!”
“Oh, Madison,” Sandy breathed, clasping her hand. “Thank you
so much for coming to help make every Little Sandy’s dream come
true.”

The End

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