We left the gang gathering their wits at a neighborhood corner, a few blocks down from THE YARD OF NO RETURN, from which they had just escaped. Paul was barely calm enough to start telling his part of the story…
“Paul, what are you talking about?” Ada was confused, and getting a little annoyed that she was confused. “What do you mean Mrs Ratchman is fighting with the dogs? That pig is fighting with the dogs… and where did the pig come from?”
“That’s what I’ve been asking this whole time! Seriously Man,” Mark said, “Where did you get the pig?”
The gang stared intently at Paul. Paul was a terrible liar in general, and considering the day they already had, Ada knew that there was no way he was lying now. Paul was shuffling back and forth on his feet, which he always did when he was gathering his thoughts to try to explain something that was not easy to explain.
“So, I had a great idea about how to distract the dogs so Mark and Chris—”
“Dude, don’t call me Chris, it’s The Eagle.” The Eagle interrupted.
“Oh, okay, so Mark and Eagle could—”
“The,” The Eagle corrected, “The. Eagle.”
Paul looked blankly at him for a moment, then continued, “Right, so you two could get yourselves down from the tree and not get eaten. I needed to get back into the classroom. When I got there I saw that Mrs Ratchman was still at her desk sleeping, even through all sirens and fire alarms, and everything. Man, and she was snoring like crazy. I guess the sound of her snoring was keeping her from hearing all the other sounds which kept her asleep, which I get, because sometimes my dad snores really loud like that and…”
“Paul!” Ada yelled. It was rare that she yell, but she really had run out of patience. “What were you going to do and WHERE DID THE PIG COME FROM???”
“Okay!” said Paul, a little wounded from Ada’s tone of voice. “So, I had to get past her desk to… to get the bin with all the lunches in it.”
Mark frowned, “Wait..WHAT?!”
“So you really were taking a lunch break?” The Eagle asked.
“No, I needed to get to the bin with all the lunches in it because I was going to feed the dogs all the lunches… so they would, you know…be our friends..and not..eat us..” He started this sentence off with far more confidence than he ended with.
There was a long pause.
“Okay. Confirmed. That IS the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” Mark said, putting his hands up as if this settled a long argument.
Lyle quickly came to his friend’s defense and said, “What was your big idea? Scare them away with bad words and crying?”
Mark was not defeated so easily. “Oh, look who’s making fun of people now Mr. Don’t-Call-Him-A-Pig.”
“You called me a pig?” Paul asked.
Lyle looked offended. “No, I didn’t call you a pig. I saw you and the pig, and they just thought…”
Ada sighed, “Not the point Lyle! Paul, keep talking.”
“I knew I had to be really sneaky so I didn’t wake up Mrs. Ratchman, and was even walking on the sides of my feet like they said that ninjas learned to do in this show I watched a few weeks ago,” his voice was cracking as he talked and he seemed unable to make eye contact with anything but the sidewalk.
“The one on the History Channel?” The Eagle asked.
“Um, yeah,” Paul said, not breaking eye contact with the ground. The Eagle gave a small head nod of approval. He loved the History Channel.
“Mrs. Ratchman was snoring really loudly, so I knew she was really sleeping because sometimes my dad snores like that and nothing can wake him up,” he took a few breaths now. “I grabbed the bin, and turned to leave the room as fast and quietly as I could, which was really hard because I had the whole crate of lunches in my hands, but when I turned around…”
Paul sniffed and his feet started shuffling faster. “Mrs Ratchman was standing behind me, totally awake. She looked really different…she looked crazy, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t move. Then she turned ugly.”
“Wait, I thought you said she looked different,” Mark couldn’t resist the chance to throw down a good insult.
Out of the corner of her eye, Ada caught The Eagle giving Mark a small elbow jab to shut him up, then she shifted her attention back to Paul.
Paul looked at Mark. “Not ugly like she normally looks. She had these warts on her face, okay, MORE warts on her face than usual and her hair was standing up all crazy, and she was…green.”
“Green?” Ada asked, not unkindly.
“Well, greenish anyway. It wasn’t a normal skin color.”
“That’s how all the grownups looked after that big party the other night,” Mark offered.
Paul was determined to tell his story. “She pulled out what I thought was a ruler, but it was like, a wand or something. She looked right at me and yelled, ‘Lunch time Paul?’ and the wand charged up bright pink.” He had everyone’s attention now. “She said, ‘How about some bacon?!’ and shot something pink at me. It was like lightning.”
“I didn’t think, I just grabbed Hector’s lunchbox, ‘cuz, you know, it’s old school and metal and all, it seemed like the closest thing I could use to shield the lighting coming at me… I held it up in front of me, and then…I don’t know. I guess it bounced off of Hector’s lunchbox and back on to Mrs Ratchman. Next thing I knew, there was this squealing sound and there was a really angry pig where Mrs Rachtman was just standing, and I knew it was her because…” He looked for the words to finish. “Because who else would it be?”
“I knew she was a witch! Didn’t I tell you she was a witch?” Mark asked The Eagle.
“I don’t think those were your exact words,” The Eagle returned.
“Well, she WAS a witch, now she’s a pig, according to Paul. And whether or not she actually is the pig, that pig is soon-to-be dog food!”
Ada looked at Mark and frowned, “Not funny Mark. Besides, just because you just hate Mrs. Ratchman doesn’t mean she should get eaten by dogs.”
Mark frowned back at Ada, “What?! She hates me!” Mark yelled back. “What about that math lesson when she used my mouth as an example for teaching us ratios?”
Mrs. Ratchman had asked the class how many times a day Mark opened his mouth, and of those times how often he got in trouble. The answers were 100 and 100, which meant that there was a one to one ratio.
“That was a good lesson,” The Eagle said thoughtfully, “Your mouth and how much it gets you in trouble was a perfect example. It gave me something I could really relate to.”
Leela got frustrated with both Mark and The Eagle. “You guys,” she said, “that’s not the point. The point is Paul says he thinks the pig is Mrs Ratchman, and Mrs. Ratchman is a witch.”
“Or she probably looks like a witch all the time, and she just rubbed her makeup off while she was sleeping at her desk,” Mark said, unable to stop himself.
Ada finally lost her temper, “Mark!” she yelled.
Mark clicked his tongue and said, slightly more sheepishly, “Seriously though, is Mrs Ratchman really a witch who really turned into a pig? Do you really know that?” Mark asked, turning to Leela. “Like one hundred percent know that? When was the last time you ever got close enough to look at her carefully?”
“Well, I haven’t but…we did see Paul get chased out of the classroom by a pig, and that pig is now fighting with those scary dogs in that scary yard you landed in!” Leela said in a slightly accusing tone.
“Then you can’t be one hundred percent sure,” Mark said with satisfaction.
Lyle picked up where Leela left off. “Well, I’m one hundred percent sure there’s a pig running around back there, and that it’s one hundred percent weird because there was zero percent angry pigs in our classroom when we left.”
Paul looked around at everyone slightly desperately, “You guys believe me right? I’m telling you, Ratchman turned into a pig in front of my very eyes! Well, actually my eyes were closed because I was bracing for impact and I had Hector’s lunchbox in front of my face, but I FELT the lightning hit the lunchbox and bounce off of it. I HEARD her scream, and then that scream sort of morphed into a kinda pig squeal…” Paul’s voice trailed off and he looked at his feet again.
Ada piped in, “You guys, I’m just gonna say it. You know Paul can’t lie. You know that.” She didn’t want Mark messing with Paul’s story anymore. They had to figure out what was going on. Things were always a bit weird in Storybrooke, but this week’s events had been off-the-charts weird. All of it starting with Zemelda Rottentooth’s death…
“So…” Paul asked shyly, “You guys believe me, right?”
Everyone in the group looked at Paul and said yes, they believed him. Mark said it last, but he said it. From that moment on, Ada knew Paul would do anything for them.
Ada’s thought was disrupted by an alert coming from her phone. It was the bad alert tone. The one that meant…
“Really, now?” She said to herself. Then to the group, “I have to go. You don’t have to come with me, but you probably shouldn’t stay here.” Ada said hurriedly.
“What’s up?” The Eagle asked, nodding towards Ada.
Ada pulled out her phone which had a video feed showing her house. It was on fire.
“Your dad exploded the house again?” Lyle asked, appearing on Ada’s left side.
“Not yet. It’s only on fire now and so he probably hasn’t noticed. It looks like it’s just a small fire, but…no, make that a medium sized fire. I should…”
Just then there was a massive roaring, followed by an evil, greasy laugh that thundered from the nearby school grounds. The Eagle stopped suddenly and put up a fist like he had seen in so many army movies. Mark, Ada, Lyle, Leela and Paul didn’t exactly know what that fist sign was supposed to mean, but they had all stopped talking and fell silent anyway. The sound of that evil laugh had been enough to stop them all in their tracks.
That laugh could belong to one thing and one thing only. And hearing it again could mean only one thing. The former Lunch Lady, Mrs Barr who had turned into a food monster only hours earlier, had somehow survived the cafeteria kitchen explosion. Her laugh spelled trouble for everyone.
Will Ada’s house explode again? Will the gang have to face off with the Mrs Barr-food-monster again? Find out in the next Chapter of Surviving Storybrooke!
Kelly Raine is an artist, writer, and educator. He teaches children and likes the idea he is pitching in to make the world slightly better. He wears a lot of black and wakes up very, very early.
© Kelly Raine, 2018 All Rights Reserved.