JAKE AND THE DYNAMO
CHAPTER 27: MONDAY
Dana put on her uniform, complete with the safety pins in her collar, the pen in her pocket, and the untied tie. While she stood sullenly by the front door, Mil gave her several kisses and tousled her ratty hair. She endured it with a silent scowl.
“Oh dear, Mommy didn’t get to make your lunch today,” Mil said, tutting. “I guess you’ll have to eat the school lunch … well, I suppose it’s all right. It’s only one day.”
Mil bit her lip. “Just … I don’t know, just try not to eat anything that looks over-processed.”
Dana made a faint growling noise.
“Like, no ketchup. It’s full of corn syrup. And no chicken nuggets or anything. There’s no part of a chicken called the ‘nugget.’”
Dana rolled her eyes. “Can I go now?”
“Of course, sweetie. Walk with Jake, okay?”
Dana grumbled again.
Jake’s mother kissed his cheek and straightened his collar. Ralph stood by silently, but stood as close as he could to Mil.
Once the kids were outside on the porch and had shut the door, Ralph rounded on Jake and grabbed his shoulders. “Oh, man! That was amazing!”
He held his hands before his face and turned them back and forth as if unsure they were his. “I am never washing these again!”
“You wouldn’t anyway.”
Who was that?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean? The living goddess in your house, dude! Dang, I never knew before that freckles could look that hot.”
Jake sighed. “That was Millie Volt. I already told you—”
“Dude, dude, duuude.” Ralph punched his shoulder. “You get all the smokin’ babes! What it is with you, man?”
“Ralph, you’re talking about Dana’s mom.”
Ralph rubbed his chin and nodded. “That’s right, she’s a mom. Is she looking to have more kids? Cuz I would seriously love to help her with that.”
“Would you shut up?” Jake waved a hand toward Dana, who, with her satchel slung over her shoulder, was watching them with a silent glower.
“You suck,” Dana said.
“Oh, hey, no offense,” Ralph replied as he turned toward her. “It’s just that your mama is one hot mama. But I’m sure you get that a lot.”
Dana ground her teeth.
“Ralph,” said Jake as he clapped a hand on Ralph’s shoulder, “since you’re being an idiot, why don’t you just go to school? Me an’ Dana gotta take off.”
“Well, we’re gonna be goin’ the same direction for about—”
“Why don’t you just go a different route today?”
The words came out more fiercely than he intended. Ralph stared at him for half a minute, and his easy grin slipped a notch. “Yeah … yeah, okay. I will.”
Shoulders slumping, Ralph turned and started up the walk. Jake watched him as he walked away. A faint breeze rustled the trees, and brown leaves pattered onto the walk under Ralph’s feet.
Jake twisted his mouth for a moment and finally shrugged before he turned and headed toward the grade school.
Dana didn’t move.
“C’mon, twerp,” he called. “You don’t wanna be late.”
“You suck, too,” Dana replied.
“Yeah, I know. C’mon.”
“I’m not walking with you.”
“Yes you are.”
“Shut up. I hate you.”
“Sheesh, you just had a good meal. Can’t you be even a little happy? C’mon.”
She clenched her fists by her sides, and tears formed in her eyes. Her hands shook. After a moment, she launched herself forward and marched past him. She tried to knock him aside with her shoulder, but all she did was lose her balance and stagger. She recovered and kept marching.
He followed, staying a few steps behind.
“Stop following me!” she shouted.
“We really are going the same direction this time.”
“I hate you!”
She took off running, so he ran, too, and easily kept pace. With a loud clop of Mary Janes against concrete, she stopped instantly. He overtook her by a few paces, but then stopped as well. He turned to watch her, arms crossed.
Hands clenched, she stood on the sidewalk and stared down at her shoes. Her shoulders heaved up and down as she fumed.
“Dana, look, I know you’re sore, so let me—”
“C’mon, Dana, I’ll explain—”
Her head snapped up, and her eyes flashed. “I don’t need you to explain, jerk! I caught you having a special kind of sleepover with Sukeban Tsubasa!”
“Okay, first of all, neither of us was sleeping—”
She squeezed her eyes shut and shuddered. “Ewwww!”
“No, wait, sorry. That came out wrong. Y’know, I was really hoping you’d barge back in last night to help me—”
“You are such a pervert!” She stuck a pinky in her mouth and tore off the end of her fingernail with her teeth. “You only did this cuz I’m s’posed to fight her, didn’t you? Didn’t you?”
He reached for her, but she skittered away from him. “I saw everything! You were in bed, and you had your dirty, nasty, ugly, stinky hands all over her bathing suit areas!”
“My hands aren’t ugly!”
“I’m gonna tell on you to your girlfriend!”
“She wouldn’t believe you anyway, so—”
Fists clenched at her sides and muttering under her breath, she stomped past him.
He sighed. “Dana—”
“I said shut up! I don’t wanna talk to you! Ever! I don’t want you near me! I don’t want you to look at me! I don’t even want you to think about me with your nasty pervert brain! I hate you! I’m gonna hate you forever and ever and—”
He grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. She slapped his hands away, but he grabbed her again. Her eyes went wide and glistened with that familiar look of fear.
“Look,” he hissed, shaking her, “remember when you an’ me were in the closet? Miss Percy came in, an’ she thought one thing was goin’ on, but it was actually somethin’ else, right? This was like that, okay?”
Her eyes widened further, and her lower lip trembled. “So you were raping her?”
“I didn’t rape you!”
He looked up and across the street to see Mr. Yeboah out watering his crocuses. The old, rail-thin man, slightly hunched, was frozen in place, the hose in his hands spraying a glittering arc of water. He stared with his mouth hanging open.
“Uh, hey, Mr. Yeboah,” Jake shouted. “Just a couple o’ crazy kids here, having a crazy conversation … and totally not a reason to call the cops.”
Dana shoved him off and continued toward the school. He walked after.
“Don’t follow me!” she screamed.
“I can’t help it!”
“Well, then stay back! You have to stay back now, one whole block!”
“I sit next to you, you know.”
“And you’re moving into my house.”
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” She put her hands over her ears and, with her sharp elbows waving back and forth in the air, ran at top speed.
“Dana, stop! You’re gonna—!”
She tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and sprawled face-first onto the concrete. Her satchel skidded away, burst open, and spread pencils and notebooks across a nearby lawn.
Jake ran to her side and hunkered down beside her. Facedown, with her hands stretched out, she wept.
“C’mon, Dana, let me help you—”
His fingers brushed her wrist, but she shrieked and rolled away as if he’d stung her.
“Don’t touch me!” She had a bloody scratch across her nose, and she held her wrist as if he’d injured it. “Don’t ever touch me! I don’t want you to touch me ever again!” Her tears ran faster, and her chest heaved. “I hate you. I really, really hate you.” She shook her head and bit into her lip so hard that blood seeped out. “I hate you so, so much!”
He reached toward her again, but paused when she whimpered and shrank back.
She meant what she was saying. She was terrified.
When he realized that, something in his stomach shriveled, leaving a hollow space behind.
She struggled to get her pencils and crumpled papers back into her satchel, and she didn’t bother to close it. After they entered the school, she roughly barged into the classroom, and the satchel tipped in her hands, spilling its contents again.
“Ah, Dana.” Jake crouched beside her in the doorway to help her pick up, but she punched his shoulders and then tried to push him away. It was a weak push, but because he was balanced on his heels, it was enough to knock him onto his backside.
“I don’t need your help!” she screamed.
“You’re blocking the door.”
“Just let me—”
He grabbed up a handful of papers and stuffed them into her satchel whether she liked it or not. She snatched those same papers, threw them back onto the floor, climbed to her feet, and ran huffily toward her desk.
He followed. She turned on him again. “Stay away!”
“I can’t! I sit—”
“Find another desk!”
Most of the other students were already in class, and they now stared, open-mouthed. Rikka, the little dark-haired girl, ground her teeth and alternately clenched and unclenched her tiny hands.
“Dana,” said Jake, “you’re gonna have to calm down.”
With a loud thud, Rikka jumped onto her desk. The other kids gasped. Janice waved her hands and hissed, “No, Rikka!”
Precariously balanced and wobbling dangerously, Rikka shouted at the ceiling, “I can’t take it anymore! I can’t just stand by and watch! Jake Blatowski!” As she jabbed a finger toward him, her desk rocked on its metal legs.
“Don’t!” Janice whispered. “For Dynamo’s sake!”
Jake was leaning over Dana, but now looked up. “What? What did you say?”
“How could you?” Rikka shrieked.
“How could I what?”
“Everybody!” she cried, waving her arms as her desk creaked. “I caught Jake cheating!”
“So did I,” Dana snarled under her breath.
“Cheating on a test?” the fat boy with the dark circles under his eyes said from the back of the classroom.
“Worse!” yelled Rikka. “Much worse! I caught him cheating on Magical Girl Pretty Dynamo!”
The children gasped again. Jake slapped a hand to his face.
Rikka turned her accusing index finger on Dana. “I was in New Beijing having a nice dinner with my family. And that’s when I saw! I saw him there! He was on a date with Dana Volt!”
All around the room, kids jumped out of their seats. Girls booed and hissed. Boys giggled. Jake rolled his eyes.
“Am I the only one who’s seen it?” Rikka cried, clenching her fists and talking to the ceiling as if moaning out a heartfelt prayer. “Am I the only one who’s seen the way she’s insinuated herself into his life, into his heart? She seduced him with her creepy red hair!”
Now she windmilled her arms as if she were trying to fly, and the desk released a low groan, its flimsy legs bowing. “She’s a witch! A witch, I tell you! And not the good kind of witch that fights monsters, but the bad kind of witch that steals boyfriends from witches who fight monsters!”
The fat boy jumped up from his seat, his belly jiggling as he pumped a fist in the air. “Burn the witch!”
Whoa. This is getting out of hand.
Rikka leapt from her desk and landed flat-footed on the floor. She ran to Jake, grabbed his shirtfront, and yelled in his face. “Don’t you remember, Jake?”
“Don’t you remember what it was like when you and Pretty Dynamo first fell in love?”
She tried to shake him, but all she did was stretch out his shirt. “Remember, Jake! Remember how it was when you saw her for the first time, back when you were a bodybuilding Spanish billionaire and she was an impoverished governess with a physical disability!”
“I think you’ve been reading too many romance novels—”
“You have to remember, Jake!” She pounded her fists on his chest. “Pretty Dynamo is your waifu!”
“Jake!” Miss Percy’s tremulous voice came from the doorway. Everyone turned to stare at her. She stood there, hands on the doorframe, as two tears ran from behind her thick spectacles. “With Dana Volt again? How could you?”
“Ah, not you, too, Miss Percy—”
“Don’t you remember what happened between us?”
Again, as one, the children gasped.
Jake glanced around the room and then muttered out of one side of his mouth, “We agreed to forget about that—”
Miss Percy stepped into the room and put her hands to her heart. “Don’t you remember? How, on that rooftop, when it seemed all the world was crashing down around us, we for one brief moment gave in to forbidden desires? Our two bodies lay entwined as one in fiery passion—”
The students clapped their hands to their mouths. Jake clenched a fist and smacked it repeatedly against his forehead. Dana crossed her arms and glared green murder at him.
“I knew then,” Miss Percy whispered, “that something, something intense and primal, had passed between—”
“Miss Percy!” Jake shouted. “Nothing happened! We were just trying to get away from that robot dinosaur!”
“Oh yes,” she whispered, turning from him. “But as I lay trembling like a flower in your overwhelmingly masculine embrace—”
“—I finally, at long last, knew what it was to be held by a man, though I knew also that you were ruining me for marriage—”
“Oh, for the love of—”
Dana stood up and viciously kicked over her chair. As it tumbled to the floor with a loud clang, the room quieted again.
“Forget all that!” she yelled. “That’s nothin’! I just caught Jake in bed with Magical Girl Sukeban Tsubasa!”
The chatter started up again, now ten times louder. In the front of the room, Janice and Rikka were in each other’s arms, and Janice was sobbing. “Jake’s gonna die!” she blubbered. “My mom said if you do stuff like that, you get AIDS!”
Miss Percy sighed. “Well, maybe I should make this a teachable moment. Students, I think this might be a good time to show you … the hygiene video.”
“Sweet Princess in a sailor suit!” Jake shouted. “Anything but the hygiene video!”
Miss Percy walked toward the front of the room, but a loud boom rocked her off her feet, and she tumbled hard to the floor.
Another boom. Dust dropped from the ceiling. Janice started crying again.
“Shelter!” Miss Percy cried as she struggled to regain her feet. “Everyone to the shelter! Follow the same procedures as in a monster drill, children!”
The children weren’t following procedures. They were crying, yelling, panicking. Rikka clutched Janice’s hands and turned wide, dark eyes on Jake in a silent plea.
A fluorescent light fixture came loose from the ceiling. It dropped into the center of the room with a deafening crash, scattering shards of sharp glass. Janice screamed as a thin gash appeared in her left cheek.
Now the children ducked under their desks. Miss Percy, steadying herself on the edge of her own desk, finally dragged herself upright. Her thick glasses sat askew on her thin nose, and tears coursed down her face. “No, children! Not an earthquake drill! Monster drill! To the shelter, single file, please! Please!”
The pen in Dana’s pocket buzzed. She slapped a hand to it.
Jake pushed past her desk and threw open the window, which looked out toward the school’s front lawn. Rows of houses and trees still full of red and orange leaves obscured much of the view, but Jake could look straight up a street for several blocks. In the distance, barely visible above the high elms and oaks, he caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a yellow fin, such as an exotic fish might have on its back, pointing into the air. It bobbed up and down as if attached to some enormous creature taking slow and heavy steps. Beyond the fin, he saw a billow of oily, black smoke.
“It’s a kaiju attack,” Jake said over the shouting and crying. “Must be Monday.”
Dana burst out of the door and into the hall. Jake was right behind. “I don’t need you,” she hissed over her shoulder.
“You get me anyway.”
Miss Percy, staggering in her high-heels, stumbled into the hall after them. “The shelter’s the other way!” she cried. “Children—!”
“I gotta use the bathroom!” Dana called without looking back.
“There’s a bathroom in the shelter!”
Dana pushed through the door into the girls’ lavatory. Jake followed, though he heard Miss Percy scream shrilly, “Jake, you can’t go in the girls’ room!”
Once inside, Jake noticed that the bathroom didn’t look much different from the boys’, except there were no urinals and the soap dispensers weren’t broken. Otherwise, it was just as dingy and smelled just as bad. The rubbish bin was overflowing with crumpled paper towels. Grimy, exposed pipes jutted from the ceiling, and a rust stain stretched down one wall.
Jake wondered for a moment why school buildings’ interiors always featured cheap paint, fluorescent lights, and exposed pipes and wires. Maybe it was to keep students docile by making them depressed.
Dana stood in the middle of the room, right in a large water stain that filled a depression in the epoxy-coated concrete floor. She had her back to him, so he was looking at her mess of tangled, flame-colored hair.
“Get out,” she said.
“I’m guarding the door so no one comes in,” he answered, and he shoved one of his clogs up against the door to make sure no one could barge through it. “Hurry up.”
She grunted and put her pen to her mouth. “The moon shines her light on both good and bad.”
She listened for a moment before she said, “But the sun is a harsh mistress. What have we got, boss?”
Again, she listened for a few seconds.
“Yeah, I’m in the area. But I’m ground-bound ’til the end of the week.”
Silence for almost half a minute.
“I’ll do what I can. Dynamo over and out.”
She put the pen back in her pocket and stuck her hand in the air. “You better not look.”
“I won’t,” Jake replied.
He dropped his eyes as she shouted, “Shock my heart!”
Flashes of electricity snapped against the sinks and made their fixtures hum. Surrounded by brilliant light, she lifted into the air.
“By the power of Zeus, Thor, and Raijin, release the energies within my soul! Electrifying the world with love and friendship—and making evildoers feel the wattage of justice—I am Magical Girl Pretty Dynamo!”
Pretty Dynamo stood before him, fists on her hips and her defiant, lopsided grin on her face.
“Hey, Dynamo,” said Jake. “Feels like I haven’t seen you in a while.”
Without a word, she strode toward him, grabbed him by the collar, dragged him to a sink, and shoved his head in it. She turned on the faucet full-blast.
As the water poured through his hair and down over his face, he gasped, and then he choked. He kicked and flailed, but to no avail. Her arm was like iron. He managed to find her left knee with his right fist, but hitting her only bruised his knuckles. She shoved his face down farther.
The water poured into the sink faster than it could drain, so it soon covered his mouth and nose. He swung his arms as his lungs burned.
After a minute, she pulled him out, and he sputtered as he gulped air. Water from his face poured into his shirt.
She shoved him under again. The metal faucet tore into his scalp.
This time, she held him under for what seemed like an eternity. Eyes squeezed shut and lungs blazing in his chest, he squirmed in vain as the lip of the ceramic sink pressed up into his Adam’s apple.
Finally, she let go. He fell to the floor retching and gasping. Blood from his forehead trickled into his eyes.
“Jerk,” she said as she shut off the water. She turned her back on him and walked toward the door.
“Why, you little—!” He launched himself from the floor and slammed his shoulder into her spine, just below her armor plate. He caught her by surprise: she flew forward, smacking her face hard into the plaster wall beside the heavy fire door. Big shards of plaster tumbled to the concrete.
“Big mistake,” she hissed.
Something invisible pounded his shoulder like a brick and overwhelmed him with instant, intense pain. He dropped as his muscles seized up.
“You forget I’m electrified?” she shouted as she grabbed his shirtfront, picked him up, and threw him into a wall. He hit it hard enough to knock the wind from his lungs.
She held him there, fingers dug into his shirt, but he heard her metal boots slip against the slick floor. She had strength, but no leverage.
He ached everywhere and could hardly breathe, but he kicked off from the wall and tackled her. She stuck one leg back and slid on the edges of her feet, keeping herself upright as he shoved her backwards. Once she hit the wall opposite, she had both the strength and the leverage.
He made the mistake of trying for a right hook, which would have fractured his knuckles if he’d connected. She stepped in close and raised her left hand to the back of her neck to block, and his bicep bounced off her vambrace. She put her right hand to his chin—but she didn’t hit hard enough to break his neck and kill him, nor did she go for the obvious groin strike. Instead, she caught the back of his right heel with a boot and slammed him into the floor. His head cracked against the concrete, and white spots flashed in his eyes.
On top of him, she rammed a metal vambrace against his throat.
“One twitch!” she snarled. “One little twitch, and I’ll crush your windpipe! I can kill you! You understand that? I can kill you!”
He grabbed her arm, but couldn’t budge it. Nonetheless, he found his voice and wheezed, “Like you killed your father?”
The rage disappeared from her face, and, for the briefest moment, that intense fear replaced it. She released him.
“Get in the shelter,” she muttered as she turned to the door. “Get in the shelter, Jake, and get out of my life.”
She kicked. The door burst from its hinges, falling into the hallway with a loud boom.
In the hall, Miss Percy jumped back and shrieked. Clutching her heart, she took several deep breaths and said, “Oh, Pretty Dynamo! Thank the Princess it’s you! Did you see a little red-haired girl just now? She went in there a minute ago.”
Dynamo stood in the doorway, mouth hanging open. “Um …”
“She’s about your height,” Miss Percy explained. “And has about your build. And she’s pale, like you. She’s always running off during monster attacks, and I haven’t the slightest idea why!”
“Nope,” said Dynamo. “Haven’t seen her.”
“Oh dear. I guess I’ll keep looking.”
Jake rose from the floor and, water still dripping from his face, stood woozily behind Dynamo’s shoulder.
“Jake,” Miss Percy demanded, “where’s Dana?”
Jake rubbed his throat and rasped, “I think she went to the shelter already. You should go, too, Miss Percy.”
Miss Percy clucked her tongue. “That girl! Honestly! What a time for a bathroom break! And she didn’t even raise her hand for a hall pass!”
A chill ran down Jake’s spine when he looked over Miss Percy’s shoulder. Behind her, crawling on the ceiling, were two wasps the size of large dogs, their slick abdomens striped yellow and black. Their antennae twitched as they turned their huge, compound eyes toward the bathroom door. Their thick, scissors-like mandibles split open, revealing fleshy, vaguely human mouths full of pointy white teeth that made Jake’s skin crawl.
“Zzzzzere zzzey are!” one of the wasps buzzed. “Pretty Dynamo and zzzzzuh Barfing Boy! Get zzzzem!”
Jake swallowed down the lump in his throat. “Mondays,” he muttered. “Nothing good ever happens on Mondays.”