This month's three words were:
Team Strategy Sports
She held her breath as Luca raised his hand to answer Mr. Morris's question. Truth be told, she did this every time Luca raised his hand, a part of her waiting for him to be wrong. Even just once.
"1.451," Luca answered, putting a small piece of paper back inside his Trapper Keeper.
"Very good, Luca," Mr. Morris said.
Janie let out her breath. Of course, he was right.
She watched Luca carefully, hoping to pick up on whatever it was that made him so special. Sure, he wasn't your classic kind of handsome, but she always found herself lost in his deep green eyes. They reminded her of the Caribbean, and his skin reminded her of damp sand: sun-kissed and warm. Okay, maybe he was a classic kind of handsome, it was just masked by his extremely awkward personality. I mean, what seventeen year old still has a Trapper Keeper? Who keeps something like that despite the harassment?
Mr. Morris wrote another problem on the board; this one much more complicated than the last. Janie watched Luca pull another document from his Trapper Keeper along with a fine tip pen. He only spent a few seconds writing before his hand shot into the air.
Janie held her breath again, but only for a moment. Of course, he was right again. He was always right.
The bell rang unexpectedly, making Janie jump and fumble her pencil. Had it been forty minutes already? Janie ripped her gaze away from Luca to grab her things. When she looked up again, Luca was gone. Not that it mattered, Janie knew Luca’s schedule like the back of her hand. He was headed to Team Strategy Sports. She only knew this because it was the one time of day where Luca endured the most torment. For as talented as Luca was in the classroom, he was that much worse on a field or court. He only took the class because his dad thought it would toughen him up a bit, a notion that Luca didn’t much care for. Knowing that you’re joining a class filled with all of the people who endlessly bully you wasn’t exactly Luca’s ideal situation.
Janie waited until after the second bell rang, wanting to be sure everyone was out of the hallway before she slipped into the boy’s locker room. She couldn’t help herself. She had been keeping an eye on Luca for months. Today, she decided she was going to crack his mysterious code.
She willed her toes to carry her lightly, barely making a sound on the concrete tiles. She caught Luca’s reflection in the bathroom mirror and decided she had invaded his privacy enough. Luca peaked around the lockers surrounding his own, confirming for himself that no one else was there before pulling his Trapper Keeper out of his bookbag.
“Lacrosse today, Sausage,” he whispered. “How the hell am I going to play Lacrosse?”
A loose piece of paper appeared at the opening of the Trapper Keeper, as if the Trapper Keeper were responding to his question. Janie blinked and rubbed her eyes. Surely, the document had been there the whole time. Luca, however, pulled it out of the Trapper Keeper as if it held the answers to becoming a world-class lacrosse player.
“Dammit, Sausage,” Luca yelled, crumbling the paper into his fist and striking the locker with the heel of his palm. “These tips won’t work! I thought you were supposed to protect me. I’m going to go out there and make a fool of myself today.”
The Trapper Keeper vibrated as if shaking with laughter. It stopped abruptly and grew in size until it was almost the size of a bowling ball.
“What’s this?” Luca asked, reaching into the Trapper Keeper’s depths. His hands emerged with a white lacrosse helmet as the Trapper Keeper erupted into another fit of jolly vibrations. Janie suppressed a small giggle herself, though she wasn’t sure if it was the comical interaction or her disbelief that drove her reaction. “Very funny, Sausage. Now you’re just making me late for no reason.”
As Janie made her way to history class, she wondered if she had imagined the whole thing or maybe somehow fell through a black hole into some kind of alternate reality. What she had just witnessed was either impossibly magical or the trappings of a schizophrenic lunatic. But she saw the helmet herself…
While Ms. Henderson nodded off during her own lecture on the Revolutionary War, Janie plotted her next move. Stealing the Trapper Keeper didn’t seem like an option, not if she didn’t want to start a fight or get in trouble with the school. Confronting Luca didn’t seem like the best idea either, though. If he was crazy, there was no telling how he might respond.
Janie’s thoughts were still focused on developing a plan when she stumbled into the middle of a fight in the hallway after class.
“But there you go acting like a fuck-up, yet again,” Brock was shouting. “And ON MY TEAM!”
Brock shoved Luca to the ground violently, sending his Trapper Keeper flying from his hands and skidding to a halt at Janie’s feet.
“Uh oh, fellas. Now he’s lost his most prized possession,” Brock mocked, moving slowly towards Janie. “Maybe if he never sees it again, he’ll actually become a man.”
Brock lunged for the Trapper Keeper, but Janie scooped it off the ground and clutched it tightly to her body.
“Don’t even think about it,” Janie warned, a low growl developing in her chest.
“Are you growling at me, freak?” Brock scoffed as the Trapper Keeper began to vibrate viciously against Janie’s body.
The Trapper Keeper continued to shake wildly, forcing itself from Janie’s grasp and releasing a deep and ferocious growl. It slid across the floor to Luca’s side, turning to face Luca’s attacker. A set of sharp, white teeth emerged from the Trapper Keeper’s opening, followed by the long snout of a black German Shepherd.
“Sausage,” Luca whispered while the Trapper Keeper twisted and bent to allow the large dog to shake free of its grasp, “please, don’t hurt anyone.”
“This boy harmed you first,” Sausage replied, keeping her jowls in a permanent growl. “I am and always have been whatever you needed most. Today, it’s to make this boy pay for what he’s done.”
Brock stood motionless as he watched the large dog speak intelligently to Luca. Then, like Sirius Black from Harry Potter, the dog pounced.
“Sausage!” Luca cried, but all he could see were flashes. A set of teeth sinking into a high school bully and the shrinking presence of a faithful dog, both quickly disappearing into the depths of an old, black Trapper Keeper.