Ava-Kane

About a week after I first saw Monsters University back in 2013, I was on the lookout for Oozma Kappa origin stories and even the dvd/blu-ray release would yield little to no results on that. I even recall tweeting to Dan Scanlon if there was anything on it but no response.

Naturally, I looked to the fanfictions and found none.

So eventually, I had my own headcanons and took it upon myself to make it. It is currently on Fanfiction.Net though I often do place it in other fan forums to gain reception.

Also, this is also perhaps one of the few fanfictions out there that focuses on Don Carlton, such an underrated character. [Winking_zps1d9118ce]

So I am going to post this fanfiction here by chapter installments. Constructive Criticism is appreciated.

 I had Ech0-73 complete a commission book cover/illustration for this fanfiction.

[more_than_ok__commission_by_ech0_73-d8gb68u] 

THE PREMISE: 

In the wake of his failed Scare exam, downsized salesmonsters and middle-aged M.U. student Don Carlton loses his confidence but clings onto optimism. As he tries to come to terms with his losses and his life choices, he encounters fellow ex-Scare student Scott Squibbles and his single mother Sheri, resulting in the founding of Oozma Kappa.

So stay tuned. The First Chapter will come.

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PIX-R.113
Sounds interesting. [Winking_zps1d9118ce] I agree Don is a underrated character.
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Vellerie
I'll read this at some point, sounds interesting! I love all the OK and side characters [smile] there's so much to delve into with them!
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Ava-Kane
...if you work hard and never give up, everything will always work out, ... It's not always true,"

-Dan Scanlon in the Art of Monsters University


Chapter 1: The Mature Student

In the dark of the classroom, Don Carlton was neither surprised nor pleased to hear the students' collective sighs of relief.

It had became glaringly clear that this Scott will be the first (likely among the worst) failure of the Exam. The kid's abysmal performance gave them something to out-perform, to out-score. And failing or not, they just had to perform better than him to place themselves above gossip-worthy shame.

He shook his head. Don had outgrown such selfish student mentality and felt sympathy rather than relieved superiority for the kid. He recognized the sighs of relief because he had sat through exam presentations in the past and shamefully used to be guilty of that subtle deed. Still, it was awful to have a front-row view of the kid's humiliation, having diligently selected the front-row seat for maximum attention to Derek.

It was pragmatic, but guilt-inducing to evaluate the kid's performance (after all, he had yet to be Derek's "victim"). The kid's face was simply too benign to fire up the Scare stimulator. He could probably blare a load roar, but even that wouldn't be adequate. It did not help that he was a small generic form of a two-armed, two-legged blob of harmless peach color with a non-threatening blue sweater and cap. If the kid was taller or more robust, he would have had the advantage of towering over the bedside and casting a shadow.

This Scott had to be Derek's seventh "victim" (a term Derek jokingly called his examinees in a casual conversation).

That kid was now blaring out a feeble roar. His posture seemed like a parody of beginner Scarers. His movements were inhibited, stunted even, not out of caution and stealth, rather, paralyzed by anxiety.

His results were feeble, his breathing focused but unprojected. He was slow to answer oral questions, even if the answers were correct (it was said that you were graded on the speed of your answers). He stammered, a faltering Scaring presence.

Above them, Don could imagine Hardscrabble shaking her head, a shadowy presence up on the balcony, presiding over every student's progress.

At his final demonstration, the kid took a deep breath. But his jump was ill-timed and his howl came out inhibited and wavering.

The dummy had its final scream, corresponding with a weak beam of energy on the scream meter.

Everyone went dead silent, as if to absorb the fulfillment of the kid's failure, and the wispy panting of the kid became the only sound in the auditorium.

"Thank you, Mr. Squibbles." But the disappointment was evident.

The kid sprung down from the stage, scurried up the stairs pass the onlookers, and burst through the exit, letting in a momentary glare of the sunlight, right when Don turned his head to receive the sun beams into his eyes, before he could make out the kid's expression.

By the time Don turned his attention to Derek, Derek was shaking his head. It was unprofessional to comfort a failed student or even make your sympathies overtly known (something Knight lamented to Don once). From all the stories, he knew that Derek had witnessed and overseen the failures of others over and over.

The frantic, graceless exit of the kid attracted pointing in the crowd. They gestured toward the doors, as if the kid's presence remained.

"If I fail, at least I'll be better than that kid," one whispered.

Derek picked up the student papers.

There was an uncharacteristically lengthly pause before the calling of the next name, the "Eight Victim." Derek tended to be more immediate when calling.

"Carlton."

It was stern but said with that subtle edge of affection.

"Don Carlton. You're next."

Don was not quite a favorite, a "teacher's pet," of Derek (that title belonged to his classmate Javier, according to gossips), but they had conversations that did not involve academic complaints. Sometimes they talked after class, when Derek was through with answering the younger students' questions.

Wearing his best salesman grin, Don Carlton did not bother with his usual greeting to Derek as he stepped up to the Scare stimulator before the eyes of his fellow (younger) Scare classmates.

"I'm a five year old who's shy of adult strangers," Derek's voice rang with the edge of gruff, impartial authority, withholding all favoritism for Don. This was a tricky question.

All the Fall semester Scare knowledge jogged through his head. "That would be the Lingering Stare followed by a Bellowing Roar." Nailed it.

"Demonstrate."

Wouldn't it be productive, to have the test done in a private room? In the actual Scaring field, no one was there to really supervise you. Or judge you.

Don re-straightened his spectacles and rubbed his tentacles arms on his blue shirt to minimize the stickiness of his suction pads of his tentacles arms, a trait of his Cephlopodian heritage.

Then he creaked open the simulator door, pulling his tentacle off the door knob as he shut the door.

Tricky question, but the performance required simple techniques: soft human-like breathing, subtle for atmosphere, downplaying the volume of his breath to not wake the child but to rouse its auditory-based subconscious suspicion.

He crouched down and creeped forward.

Pop. Pop, pop, pop...

Oh darn.

His darn sucker pads, popping noise. That's when he noticed he was sweaty.

... pop, pop, pop...

At the very least, it could contribute to noise atmosphere. But would it be appropriate for this kid? But he had to set his sights on the dummy. He can't think too much now. Just let instinct take its course.

His soft breathing was controlled, giving him ample air in his lungs, even if he was wary that his suckers popped louder over his breath.

He made it to the bedside. Now to rise up, cast his shadow for a few seconds, and...

His back snapped.

Don's uncalculated cry of anguish startled the dummy, which sprung up with its obligatory artificial scream, causing the meter to beam feebly.

Students whispered in their seats.

If only I was as young and sprightly as these youths are...

"Don-, Mr. Carlton, are you all right?" Concern rang in Professor Knight's gruff voice.

Durn my old back.

"I'm fine, Dere-, um, Professor, sir!" Don reassured him.

Professor Knight shot a look toward the high balcony of the classroom where Dean Hardscrabble stood. Risking a glance at her, Don could discern the silhouetted nod of her head, and felt blessed that Hardscrabble would consent to a rare act of academic mercy.

But there was also shame. Was his case so severe that it inspired her pity?

With that, Prof. Knight ordered, "Mr. Carlton, please re-demonstrate the technique."

He tried to brush off the noise of snickering in the dark crowd. Top row. A mellon-headed purple monster from a top row chuckled audibly as if he could not believe the display before him.

Then Don understood, if a Scarer couldn't do this before a judging crowd, then a Scarcer couldn't do it in an isolated environment.

Focus, old Donny.

Plagued by his creaking back, Don exited the child's bedroom, reentered, crept near the bed (with his suckers still popping with extraneous noise), rose over the dummy, and belted out another roar at the dummy, which jolted up with a scream and fired up a longer, therefore improved beam from the meter.

Don could barely process what happened afterwards. His Exam proceeded as Prof. Knight shot up three, no maybe four, maybe five, dang, lost count, questions. He could not remember the oncoming questions or his answers. He could not remember his proceeding roars, howls, crackles against the dummy, but he remembered every dose of pain tearing through his shoulder with every demonstration.

And in the intervals between his lackluster performance, he tried to ignore the stifled fits of snickering in the auditorium.


That evening, Professor Knight slapped the results outside his office.

Don J. Carlton – Oral Questions: Passed—Scare Energy Average: "46/100"—Demonstration: Failed

His back still throbbing, Don sustained the grin on his face, as a salesman did, moving from customer to customer after unsuccessful sale to the next potential client. He slipped through the crowd of rowdy Scare students, gathered around to see their Exam results.

He spied Professor Knight crossing through the crowd from the corner of his eye. Despite their casual relationship, Don didn't want to make eye contact. But he did, feeling some pang of politeness.

To his relief, Derek gave him a friendly nod to acknowledge how grateful he was to have one nice student, who spoke to the faculty staff like old friends and equals, unlike the youngsters who vented about deadlines and intensive work. Then Derek vanished into his office, as if Don was an afterthought.

Whistling a tune to alleviate disappointment, Don stepped outside the School of Scaring, the sun pouring its warmth on him. He had to rest again, so he settled himself on the stone steps of the School, and scooted aside to give space for students skipping down the steps, boasting of a new semester to look forward to.

Then, that familiar peach glob-like monster in a M.U. sweater trotted down the steps, when his foot slipped at the edge, and he would have tumbled down if weren't for Don, who disregarded his aching back and snatched the kid's back-collar. By jerking the neck-collar, the kid's cap flew off and tumbled down the steps, revealing a tuff of brown hair next to an angled white horn (the matching pair was missing).

"Thanks," the kid mumbled as Don pried his tentacles off the kid's collar. The kid had five docile eyes and a doltish face. He must be the sort of shrinking violet who tucked himself in the back and corners of the classrooms, not to commit mischief, but to hide from the eyes and vulnerability to the Professor's questions. The kid wobbled, his lips quivering, muttered another thanks, and then turned away.

"You ok, sonny?"

With his head facing the gravel, the kid descended down the steps toward his fallen hat like a pebble sinking in a pond. "Just a hiccup." More like the choke of a sob.

At the bottom of the steps, a female monster in a flowery-dress, similar in appearance to the kid, but the size larger and golden curls draping her forehead with two horns protruding from her head, ran toward the steps and scooped up the kid's hat. He could smell the pungency of her flowery perfume.

"Sweeettie! Let's celeeeebrate!" She bellowed as she stuck the hat back on the kid's head and swept him into a suffocating embrace.

"Moooom," His voice, muffled against her clasp, broke out. She released him, astonished by his outburst. "I didn't make it. Stop it." So it was not the fall that hurt the student.

The kid's grief provoked a tighter squeeze from his mother. "Oh dear. Oh dear. I'm so sorry, sweetie." With the his head buried on the side of his mother, they strolled off together. It was rare to see young college folks blessed with parental warmth.

He thought of his Ma, settled in downtown Montropolis, unaware that her son had redeclared (and failed) the Scaring Major. Ma. What would she say if she knew?

The thought fired a jolt of pain on his shoulder blades. Throwing his hand to his shoulder, he decided to walk off the pain. So he staggered pass Scare students, chatting about the upcoming winter break.

He took refuge in the university café for a bite. He heard the cajoling of young mons, including frats boys in their fiery gold jackets, gathered around small tables with chairs they snatched from vacant tables, sharing gossip and conspiring future victories in upcoming competitions.

After making his purchase, he set down a plate with a little tart and a cup of hot chocolate and seated himself in front of the window. Though he normally enjoyed the pleasure of a sweet tart, it felt like shards against his throat.

Now the youth and the frat boys were conspiring about future victories in the upcoming Scare Games. Don typically enjoyed some safe, old-fashioned eavesdropping on student gossip, but he was in no mood for Scaring-related topics.

He turned his glance to the window.

His eye caught a blue poster on the glass.

"Propose Your Own Fraternity/Sorority"

Adjusting his glasses, he examined the smaller text below the bold text: "visit Office of Greek Life and see Claire Wheeler or Brock Pearson for procedures."

Interesting. In his college, well, earlier college days, he had a curiosity about frat culture. What did they do? What warranted their special treatment and status? How much good were they capable of doing? At the time, he had already hung around his own circle of friends and found that he had little interest in the idea. Say, speaking of old friends…

While buried in his Scare studies last week, Don had received a barrage of phone messages from old co-workers, wishing him happy birthday, a day of secondary importance to the Scare Finales (how lovely, they remembered!). Don stared down at his tart, his overdue birthday treat for the five decades and two years he lived. With the holidays ahead of him, he had time to get in touch with old pals. He had meant to chat with them, but resisted, knowing that he would get caught up in hours of nostalgic talk that should be saved for studying. He had been calling his Ma more often than he did with his friends.

He bit into the tart, gulped down his drink to wash the crumbs down, and picked up the remaining tart with a napkin.

On his way to the library, he passed by two familiar figures sitting at the curb of a campus road. It was the fallen Scare student again, licking half-melted chocolate ice cream cone with his mother next to him. He knew he wasn't mistaken because of that familiar odor of perfume emitting from the mom.

The little guy mumbled something too low to be heard.

"It's ok," she responded, her inflection like a soothing tune, "take your time, Scottie. There are opportunities other than Scaring."

"But mom, that was my one dream." He faintly lapped up his cone. "So now what?"

Swallowing the last of his tart, Don Carlton asked himself that same question.


A/N

ARTISTIC LICENSES:

- At the time the first version of the first chapter was written, I was not aware that Don's actual birthday is set on April according to his trading card. I consciously choose not to edit this out of this chapter.

- Checking in with a re-viewing of the film and the actual screenplay, the Exam for each student were done in one go on the Scare stimulation. In this chapter, each Scare student have multiple goes.

ALLUSIONS/SOURCES/INSPIRATION

- Spot the homage to Pete Docter's Up (and thus a homage to Scott's voice actor Peter Sohn)!

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Pixar Post - T.J.
Wow, this took some time and it's pretty cool that you wanted to know and read more about the OK gang so you wrote it yourself after you didn't find anything else out there!

A few notes (since you mentioned constructive criticism)...I won't call it all criticism though - some are notes I really liked too!
  1. The cover you asked Ech0-73 to do is great! That's great that another friend/fan was able to help out to contribute to your project.
  2. I was a little thrown at first when you started talking about Derek right off the bat without including any description. I was thinking, "who is Derek" and then it hit me that it was the Professor Derek Knight. Sure, we know who Derek is as fans of the movie, but in my experience there should always be a brief note about who the character is and their role. That's just a thought though - it doesn't mean I'm right - just what I was thinking.
  3. I really enjoyed how descriptive you get throughout the chapter! You used a lot of really descriptive phrases that helped me picture the feeling, setting or character! For instance, I liked the line when you mentioned Scott's "wispy breath" being the only sound that could be heard...or, when you mentioned that it was a conscious choice for Derek to withhold all favoritism for Don!
  4. I would probably not use "the kid" too much. I'd rather reference his as Scott more often. Also, when referencing a character's inner monolog, like when you said, "focus old Donny", I'd probably write it something like, "Focus, old Donny - Don thought to himself". Again, I know it's fan fiction so it doesn't have to follow all the rules of writing - just my thought! [Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40]
  5. I really liked the line "Don didn't want to make eye contact. But he did, feeling some pang of politeness". I thought it was really true to Don's character and added a great level of personality to him!
  6. You ended the chapter really well - with a nice hook that sets up where you're going in the next chapter!

Overall, great work and keep it up. 

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Ava-Kane
Pixar Post - T.J. wrote:
Wow, this took some time and it's pretty cool that you wanted to know and read more about the OK gang so you wrote it yourself after you didn't find anything else out there!

A few notes (since you mentioned constructive criticism)...I won't call it all criticism though - some are notes I really liked too!
  1. The cover you asked Ech0-73 to do is great! That's great that another friend/fan was able to help out to contribute to your project.
  2. I was a little thrown at first when you started talking about Derek right off the bat without including any description. I was thinking, "who is Derek" and then it hit me that it was the Professor Derek Knight. Sure, we know who Derek is as fans of the movie, but in my experience there should always be a brief note about who the character is and their role. That's just a thought though - it doesn't mean I'm right - just what I was thinking.
  3. I really enjoyed how descriptive you get throughout the chapter! You used a lot of really descriptive phrases that helped me picture the feeling, setting or character! For instance, I liked the line when you mentioned Scott's "wispy breath" being the only sound that could be heard...or, when you mentioned that it was a conscious choice for Derek to withhold all favoritism for Don!
  4. I would probably not use "the kid" too much. I'd rather reference his as Scott more often. Also, when referencing a character's inner monolog, like when you said, "focus old Donny", I'd probably write it something like, "Focus, old Donny - Don thought to himself". Again, I know it's fan fiction so it doesn't have to follow all the rules of writing - just my thought! [Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40]
  5. I really liked the line "Don didn't want to make eye contact. But he did, feeling some pang of politeness". I thought it was really true to Don's character and added a great level of personality to him!
  6. You ended the chapter really well - with a nice hook that sets up where you're going in the next chapter!

Overall, great work and keep it up. 



Thank you so much.[Heart_zps6b0c45a5][Heart_zps6b0c45a5][Heart_zps6b0c45a5] You don't know how grateful I am to receive a review, especially one so soon and one with specific pointers and compliments. Now I can easily track what I done right and what I can improve on. Those are very rare to find on the Fanfiction site these days.

As with the "Derek," I actually did debated with myself whether I wanted to first refer the character as "Derek" or the more familiar title "Prof. Knight." After a while, I knew this story would remain close to Don's head, so naturally Don would predominantly view the character as "Derek" rather than "Prof. Knight." I went with mostly calling him Derek from the character's first appearance and decided to let the context building have the reader know who Derek is. On the other hand, perhaps I should have referred him as the Prof. much sooner.

Thanks!
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Ava-Kane

REQUEST FROM AUTHOR

As a little experiment for me, play this somber tune as you read this chapter. I was listening to that tune and thought, huh, it fits this chapter's tone perfectly. Let me know how this experiment works.

It's optional, but I wanted to give it a shot.


Chapter 2: Outdated Diploma

It's not too late, they were probably telling themselves.

The library computer lab was filled with students improvising the contents of term papers, probably due an hour away. The dark circles under their eyes marked the stress of finals week as their eyes scurried over their research articles and studies as their hands or tentacles flipped through pages.

Of all the students who pulled off their "all-nighters," Don considered himself the worse procrastinator. Over 30 years late working for a lost dream. It wasn't too late, Don had told himself. It wasn't too late. That was what all these young students told themselves as they engrossed themselves in their distractions instead of their assignments and studies. And as long as they staggered through with a passing grade, the only consequence to them was the stress of the rush, not the academic consequences. They were telling themselves they could still come out with As, or Bs, or a barely passing C as a consolation prize. Don could only wish the best for them all, hoping that they would learn not to underestimate the consequences of any sort of stress. But having been familiar with the mentality around him, there remained the likely chance that they will learn the hard way that there was heavier stress in trying to prevent, or avoid, stress.

At least Don no longer had to worry about classes that demanded physical exertion like Scaring. He could at least sit back, relax, and explore the computers.

Click.

Ah, the mysterious and terrifying world of computers just might outdo the thrill of opening the doors of the human dimension.

At least this process would save him a trip to the academic advisor office, which probably had a long line of students awaiting info about their classes.

He clicked onto the Internet browser, a pixel fuzz of an icon on the screen, onto something new, something bursting with data and wonders in its pixel world, with the unknown behind each click. According to his Computer Basics instructor, this something called the Internet was a rising innovation, and the University sought to apply this innovation for the greater academic good of its students, starting in the library computer lab.

Hovering his mitt-like hand over the keys, his thumb twitched toward 'D,' only to accidentally press 'D' and 'F' simultaneously. Thank gosh for Backspace.

Darn mitt hands. If only he was blessed with many fingers.

After some clicking, Don finally opened a link on M. U. net and tapped on the correct keys to log onto his college profile.

Major: Undeclared
Minor: Computer Science

So within a few hours after the exam, the Program had already revoked his status as a Scaring major. The University truly was experimenting quickly with this Internet.

Click. Remove minor. Click. Scroll down all the choice of majors. Computer Science. Select. Click. Thank you for selecting major. The Academic Office will review your selection.

Click. That repetitive sound marked his certain future, 2 or 3 years after he would march out of M.U., for the second time in his life, straight toward another job, with programming and software to look forward to.


Don's bus always passed by a familiar sight, a large company building with the steely words "Oozmanian Industry." Through the hundred of windows, he could see the shape of the young employees, in their offices, with phones latched onto their ears, musing about sales and purchases to clients.

Don recalled how one-by-one, old co-workers, pals like Pete, Andrew, Dan, and more were laid off. So Don had faced his job loss with neither surprise nor grief. It had taken Don two days to clean out his office for the next salesmonster, hired for youthful and fresh talent. No hard feelings, just the way of the world, inviting progress from the old. After studying his employment options, Don had resolved not to go back to sales, at least, not full-time. And so the door closed on his life of three decades, and it was time to find another door. And he had thought that he could discover this metaphorical new door back at his alma mater, Monsters University.

As the Don's former workplace faded from view, he shook off these thoughts so not to miss his stop.

Finally, the bus reached Dark Avenue.

On the doorstep of apartment 1200, he discovered a small parcel.

Don collected it and entered his room, a snug spacing of four rooms- bathroom, kitchen, living room of three chairs and a sofa, bedroom.

He entered his bedroom, set his parcel on the desk, and started flipping through second-hand Scaring textbooks and smoothed the creases of page corners to make them more desirable and buyable to Scare students.

Don adjusted the crooked frame above his desk that exhibited his diploma, 30 years old document with fancy bold words.

Monsters University
Don Joel Carlton
Bachelors of Business

The frame was grimed with dust that snaked its way onto the glass casing of the document, dulling the cream-white parchment.

Now to tidy up the rest of his desk.

Don rummaged through his old paperwork on his desk, sorting them into files. Among the scraps, he dug up a copy, or perhaps a draft, of his application to Monsters University. He squeezed it in his hand, about to crumble it when a certain, amusing detail caught his eye.

Major: "Computer Scie-"

...it stopped mid-writing, slashed out by the swish of his pen, which then wrote the following, un-slashed, words "Scaring."

Don crumbled the application, which conveniently stuck to a sucker, scraping his palm on the recycle bin's ledge so the paper could fall in.

As he resumed his cleaning, Don picked up the last piece of paper, creased and worn, with faded pencil writing.

…he looked after my every dreams. It is up to me now to carry on his legacy by holding on to the spirit he passed down to me...

He found the one-year old draft of a eulogy for the late William Carlton, composed by his surviving only son, who was now filing the eulogy tenderly to minimalize creases.

Then he glanced at a photo on the wall of his father, who bore an appearance like his son's, but green with brown spots and a woolen sweater.

He found himself staring down at the parcel.

From Ma' Carlton

Happy Birthday, sonny.

It contained a black-and-white photo in a cherrywood frame. Pa, staring straight into the camera, was seated on the grass. A young Don, on all fours, facing away from the camera as if he wanted to escape off-frame. But Pa's firm hand and sucker pads on his shoulder prevented him from crawling away.

It was Ma's favorite picture. He remembered that his Pa had called out, "Anne! Donnie got distracted by a field mouse and didn't hold still, take a'nother!"

But Ma had protested, "No, no, no, I love this one."

They had another photo shoot at Pa's insistence, then Pa took a look at the one with Don crawling away and said, "Yer right, I like this one the best."

Don placed the picture face-down. He knew Ma only meant to cheer him up, but he didn't want to think of Pa.

Don heaved himself onto his bed and reached for the phone. He carefully dialed the numbers so not to stick his suckers to the buttons. First call was to Andrew, probably too busy because he did not pick up, so Don left a message ("hope to catch an ole' chat with ya!"). Then Pete, greeted old pal Don with a pleasant twenty second conversation that consisted of howdy, sorry Don, about to enter my fourth job interview of the week, good wishes and good bye.

Only ole' Dan made time for a real conversation. "Don! It's great to hear from you again. How's school?"

"Swell! How's work?"

"Work? I've found work! They were hiring over in Fright Town. It's enough to get by and bring home the bread. So how are them computers?"

"Oh, they're dandy, Dan." Actually, the computers were complicated. "Ima gonna actually take Computer Science as full-time now. One semester in the Scaring Program and they dropped me off."

A pause.

"Say, yer takin', I mean, yer took Scaring?"

Don suddenly realized this was the first time he ever told a friend about his Scaring pursuits.

"Oh yeah!" He threw in a chuckle to show that he was aware how odd that idea was. "Forgot to tell ya' about mai crazy idea. Joined the Scare Program. Didn't work out for me. Had to make myself more relevant to the job market and conquer these computers head-on."

"Sorry to hear that, Don."

Pause.

Don felt as hopeless and shameful as that kid on the curb. "Listen Dan, I hate to ask this sort of advice. I know you don't got all the answers... but... yer got any suggestions what I could do besides schoolwork?"

"Hmmmm." Dan sounded forlorn. "You could take up a hobby. Like writing or sketching?"

Hobbies. Don used to have time for these. "Weeeell, does skimming over Scare textbooks count as one?"

A chuckle. "Well, let me let you on a secret. Yer a bachelor, free to do whatever to yer heart's content. Yer don't got a wife to judge yer mid-life crisis. You could save up for a car and bankrupt yerself. Take up skateboarding and injure yourself and squander yer insurance. Or pottery class. At yer own risk."

They laughed. That was what Don needed.

"I got no interest in big risky stuff," Dan continued. "I got my wife. My kids. And my writing. Yer want to find something to do? Sample yer opportunities. Sample hobbies."

Wise words. Good ole' Dan. It was pretty obvious advice, but it was soothing to hear someone give it to you.

Then the phone produced the noise of chattering children, prompting Don to inquire, "now how's your missus and the tykes?"

"Wonderful! We just attended the seventh grade graduation of my Pammy!" Through the phone speaker, something slammed and crashed, likely noise from the mischievous antics of children. "No Fanny, daddy has the phone now, you have to wait to talk to your friend. Put that down Vanny! And stop pulling your Vanny's hair, Sammy! Yes Mammy dear, I'll wash the dishes tonight. Janny, watch out for that, don't touch tha- Oh, sorry Don, gotta go. Keep in touch and good wishes to you." And Dan hung up.

Don let the phone slip off his suction pad and swing like a pendulum toward the floor. Staring at the ceiling, he absorbed the emptiness of his apartment.

Pragmatically, he realized that he should probably finish unpacking his Oozmanian Industry boxes of dusty desk supplies, but his arms, even his suckers, felt too dull to make contact with any objects, even small desk supplies.

He wanted to lie down and not think. But old habits died hard. He could not repress the ideas wandering his head.

Out of a desire to share a conversation with someone, Don fancied the idea of asking Derek Knight if he would have a beer with him as buddies. After all, even the austere Prof. Knight was no exception to the professors Don liked to engage in casual conversations with ("How's yer day? How's yer family?"), that is, if he wasn't occupied with younger students begging for due date extensions. But Don reminded himself of the unspoken boundaries between teachers and students. As a middle-aged adult, he did relate well to them, but the teachers, especially Knight, were often too occupied with the student's academic matters to develop close friendships with them. The professors were just nice acquaintances that offered an occasional chat.

And there was his future to consider at M.U. What else could he do on campus while he tried to engross himself in computers? Shouldn't he experience something new? There ought to be plenty of campus activities. He was at least fond of attending college sports events, especially with its free admission for students, but now he yearned to be part of something, anything significant. He resolved to no longer be the bystander of the great college experience.

Yes, he'll find a hobby. And he'll call Dan about it once he found that hobby. And maybe Ma, if he thought she'll approve.

Football. He liked watching it. Why not try it? It was once his fantasy to be part of his high school team. Even auditioned a few times to no avail. But now, it was a silly thought to humor himself. He was too old and hadn't the build.

Debate team. Something his Pa once encouraged him to join. Don enjoyed speech, but he just couldn't see himself ready for worldly issues. He could remember the Debate team's advertisement at the stands. Happiness? Theoretical? Depression? A construct? Even the subject of elitism? Can elitism be justified? There he go again, humoring himself.

Drama. A more realistic pursuit compared to the other options. He had noted that audition posters often called for authentic actors age 40-60 to little success. He had viewed productions (student discount, non-costly source of entertainment) of the Theater department and wondered why young folks tended to portray older characters with their young voices and false beards and wigs attempting to replicate adult's voice. He had some flexibility in improv and scripted performance (they were crucial skills in sales). Yes, he probably had a shot at getting a role. But he had to be realistic. Computer Science probably would not permit the time flexibility for this commitment.

Like a last-minute job opportunity, Don considered that Frat/Sorority Poster in the café.

Despite his scarcity of knowledge about Greek Life, he could not shake off curiosity. With years of computers ahead of him, it could give him something else to do. Tomorrow, he will venture out into a neighborhood into his part-time job of door-to-door selling, and after that, he will visit the Greek Life Office.

He'll risk odd glances from campus folks. But it was better than normal.

It wasn't too late to sample opportunity.


A/N

Allusions/Sources/Inspiration

- I was conflicted on whether I could feature the Internet in this story, especially in the supposed late 80s when it wasn't too much in use. But this IS the monster world, not the human world. So here is the appearance of M. U. edu.

- And little note, William Carlton's appearance is based on Pixar's early sketches of Don Carlton at in the "Art of Monsters University" book.

Don Carlton (c) Pixar

Dan, Pete, Andrew (c) Me (and take a lucky guess who they are named after)

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Ava-Kane

Chapter 3: The Kid, Scott

He reminded himself that if he had lost the speed, then he would just have to perfect his technique.

"Feelin' unprepared when applying to them colleges? You're in luck! At Japlan, we supply the M.A.T, Monsters Aptitude Test practice books, containing over thousands of practice questions. It comes in sets too, ranging from Arithmetic, English, Science, and even History. And if you order the entire pack, I'll throw in TWO packs of numbur two pencils for free!"

In his sharpest shirt, coat, hat, and a spiffing leather book bag, Don had recited this a hundred times today in front of many houses while presenting a sample thousand-page M.A.T book, printed by Japlan. He often rehearsed the pitch in front of the mirror in his living room where he practiced his Scare face thousands of times.

The routine was simple, adjustable, yet somehow ineffectual. Ring the doorbell, wait for potential customer, show off sample M.A.T book, and recite lines. Japlan provided a script, insisted that he'ld adhere to it as their employee, but an experienced salesmonster knew better than to trust the script entirely. There had to be revisions and ad-libs here and then.

He spent the most time perfecting that final line, "thank you for your time," a courteous surrender to the politely declining customer or the freshly-slammed door, while tipping his hat, despite no one being present to witness his polite gesture. He had nothing against them. The "customer was always right" maxim also applied to customers who refused the products.

He remembered how he looked forward being thanked, that is, in his younger days, for offering great deals and products of Oozmanian Industry.

He will bring the best out of this Japlan product as he had done for the textiles of Oozmanian Industry. He will find something the customer would enjoy in this oversized, flimsy, probably overpriced exam book. But no matter how much he tweaked his pitch and mannerisms, softened or raised his voice, flattered the homeowner, or complimented the product, he could not sway the potential customers as he did in his earlier days.

After facing many slammed doors, onwards to the next house.

There were a few more houses to try, and then he could walk to M.U., conveniently a few blocks away, and visit the Greek Office.

He reached a humble white two-story house and noticed a peach blobbly-like clay figure, in a blue cap and sweater, at the porch and staring into a book.

Don targeted the figure, ready to deliver the pitch, but then the familiarity of the kid's face struck him. A pale benign face, a head missing a matching horn with the other, not as some deformity, but just some tough-luck of birth appearance.

"Oh, um, hi, sir?" Setting his book aside, the kid rose from his chair to inspect Don, who tipped his hat. He was just as mildly astonished as Don was with the chance encounter.

"You're the guy who saved my life at Scaring School." A pause, one of lulled gratitude. "Name's Scott Squibbles."

Don was glad for a potential buyer and even moreso for a conversation. "Don. Don Carlton, we sat in the same classroom for quite a while and we have finally and properly met."

"So, could I interest you in some fine-quality M.A.T. Exam books?"

"Eh, don't know, um, Mister Carlton, don't really have a major now. Ask my mom." Scott gestured toward the door.

"Will do."

But before Don could knock, the door swung open, forcing him to jump back, revealing Scott's mother, donning a flowery-blue dress, an odor of honeysuckle perfume, and hair curled into about twenty rollers as she lugged a sign in one arm and clutched hammer in the other.

"Scottie, what have I told you about talking to strangers?!" Kicking the door shut, she raised the sign above her curls, her hand twitching...

Don dropped his wares, whipped out a business card like a shield before her face, and, gathering whatever panicky dignity he could summon, shouted "Don Carlton! Sales! Mature student of M.U.!" Anything to grab her trust and not drop that sign on him.

"Mom! That's just Mister Carlton! He's just a classmate from Scaring School!" Save the kid's life, he got his life saved by the kid.

"Oh, well, carry on," she lowered the sign down. "Apologieeees, wasn't really gonna hit you, mister. Just my maternal instincts," she sang as she trailed over on her lawn and placed the sign down.

Catching his breath, Don stuck his business card back in his pocket and scooped up his bag and sample Test book, wrinkled and battered from the fall, and called after her, "Oh! M'am, I would like to interest you and your son in some-"

"Nooooooot interesteeeeed," she sang at the top of her lungs as she jabbed the sign into the dirt.

Dang it. He thought he had a better chance selling a book if he could make a brief acquaintance with the son of the lady of the house. Ah well.

"Well! Thank you for your time, missus!" he called. He started down the path toward the sidewalk. Onwards to the next house.

But by the time he was halfway across the Squibbles's sidewalk, he supposed he heard Scott mutter, "Wait, mister?"

So not to miss what the kid was saying, Don walked back to the porch. "Say what, sonny?"

"Um,"

Scott was putting effort into starting a conversation.

"Out of curiosity, did you make it in, um, Mister Carlton? The Scaring Program?" His five-eyes gleamed with the childlike desire to find something to admire.

Don nearly bit his lip to keep his smile up. "Oh no, sonny, if you watched mai performance yesterday, you would know that my ole' back gave way. Gotta turn to Computers now, where my back will be seated and rested, and my hands and brain would just have to do all the work. At least my fiasco told me that my destiny lies in those terrifying Computers, heh, heh" As trained salesman, Don was taught to claim certainty over the most uncertain aspects of things. This product ouggta work, even if he did not test it.

"Oh yeah, you were that guy, Mister Carlton. Other students like to whisper about you."

Don could feel the flushing in his cheeks. He shouldn't be surprised. Mature students in Scare School stuck out like sore thumbs. But to be infamous for a simple, dreadful back crack...

"It wasn't your fault. It was no one's fault but your back."

"Blame mai age for it, sonny." Applying a bit of humor oughta quell the awkwardness. "And please, call me Don."

His smile must have faltered. Might have even fell. He couldn't feel his own expression anymore unless he looked in the mirror. The kid had noticed his dismay. He couldn't hide it from the kid.

He knew the kid knew because the kid added, "It's nothing compared to what happened to me." He slumped back, his pupils rolling up to look at Don.

Before Don could counter that he tried his best, the kid dramatically went about. "It's like my roar got stuck in my throat... or maybe I could use bigger lungs... maybe it's because I was born missing a horn..." He rubbed the area where a matching horn was absent. The kid looked up to Don's eyes between the listing of vents, so Don suspected the kid overdramatized to reduce his own discomfort over the innocently insensitive comment rather than to indulge his own woes.

Poor kid.

"...Other than that, how would I explain this to grandma and grandpa?"

"Cheer up, sonny. I'm sure your grandfolks will understand. You got a little setback."

Scott sighed, as if he wanted to drive the subject off his mind.

"Sooooo," the kid started in a manner who prolonged that Don recognized it as the symptoms of a new topic. "when you gonna graduate, Mister Carlton?"

"Hm, probably about 2 years from now and it's off to the full-time workforce. And you, sonny?"

"Ehhhh, I need a new major, so I don't know." the kid pulled his cap over his eyes as he slumped down. Then a dreamy look crossed his downtrodden face. "I sure would love to graduate, like my mom. I remembered her graduation when I was little, so I can't wait for the day when she comes to watch my graduation."

Don chuckled. "I can't wait for my own Ma to come to my second graduation. Trust me sonny, yer graduation would be yer proudest day. Just work hard and everything will work out. Why, at my graduation, I was happier than a field mouse with cheese." A fib. But Don figured, folks were so attuned to the way a salesman talked, that they would be aware that everything that flew out of their mouth was about 70% hyperbole. The technique was to pretend to believe in the hyperbole (It works 99% of the time!) than revert to mental and personal realism (truthfully it works 65% of the time) when the pitch was over with.

But Don was believing less in hyperbole techniques.

His graduation was a proud day. But he didn't mention the doubt as he walked across the stage, receiving a diploma he suddenly had second thoughts about.

"Who knows," the kid muttered, "When I'll graduate..."

SLAM!

Scott's mother started hammering the sign into her lawn.

"Better be…" Slam! "going," Slam! "sonny."

"Bye, Mister Carlton," Slam!

Slam! "Call me," Slam! "Don, sonny!" Slam!

Slam! Slam! Slam! "See you around, Don!" Slam!

Don tipped his hat to Miss Squibbles, who paid no attention to his gesture and continued slamming the ROOMS FOR RENT sign deeper into the earth.

The slam receded as he proceeded further into the neighborhood onto an additional zero M.A.T books sold.

By the time that headache-inducing whamming faded, Don silently wished Scott well. The kid was blessed with more time to find his place in the world.


A/N

Originally, I had Don sell coupon books until it occurred to me that something like Exam Books would make more comedic sense in context.

It was a chance for me to wonder what employment Don had during the events of M.U. There was the implication that he was no longer in textile job, and I had to wonder what employment he had to turn to that still involved "SALES."

Allusions/Sources/Inspiration

- The promotional Monsters University site refer to "MAT" exams.

It's corny, but yes, Japlan is the monster equivalent of Kaplan, the company that sells Exam preparation tools.

Scott, Don, Ms. Squibbles (c) Pixar

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Ava-Kane

Author's Note

As always, constructive criticism is appreciated. [Winking_zps1d9118ce][Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40][Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40][Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40]

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Chapter 4: Don's Pitch

Those two students at their desks made him feel older. The Greek Life Office was not as welcoming as he hoped.

The girl, a sullen gray three-eyed girl with fin-like ponytail, had that skeptical look, reminiscent of Hardscrabble's expression.

A purple bird boy sat at his own desk, a comic in his hand. He was more welcoming, a bright grin playing at his beak, but even then Don felt intimidated by his enthusiasm.

"Hullo there..." The desk name plague read Greek Life President Claire Wheeler. "Miss Wheeler. Saw yer poster and thought, hey, why don't I start one of them fraternities?"

They stared at him as if they could not believe that mature student was capable of interest in Greek Life.

It seemed it took time for the bird, Vice President Brock Pearson according to his desk tag, to process Don's question because he slowly placed down the comic and surveyed old Don until he asked, "Oh? You got a gimmick, sir?" Somehow, without raising his voice, a block of enthusiasm and energy flew out his beak.

"Um, sorry?" If only the library had a dictionary in stock with all the terminologies and slangs of the young folks. Oh those darn funny youths.

Glaring at her bombastic companion, Claire served as the interpreter, "What does your proposed frat stand for?"

"Mature students."

Claire lifted a brow. "Sure thing, may I see your I.D.?"

He handed her a faded, yellowed, flimsy plastic card with the black-and-white photo of Don, his head a mop of fin-hair and his size slightly less (understatement) robust, and his mustache thiner. Claire looked up from the card, to old Don's face, skeptically, as if the resemblance between old and young Don meant nothing.

"Opps, looks like I handed in my I.D. from years ago. I carry around that ole' trinket for good luck." He waved the card around and laughed to provoke a smile from her. He liked the challenge of making sullen customers crack a grin.

Instead, she responded with a dull "Haw, haw," and a roll of her eyes. "Your current student I.D. please?"

After she verified his true I.D.-the photo of the most recent Don with thinning hair-she tossed him a packet of paperwork. "Just turn in your proposal right now, and you can deal with the rest of the paperwork later. And when you completed all that paperwork along with your group, check in with us."

Then Brock inquired, "Got your group already?"

"Sorry?"

"Um, usually, you already have the friends, they fill out paperwork, then you start a frat and recruit some more. So it's just you?"

"Yup, it's just me. Well, I thought I might find friends through starting a frat, so I won't have to chat with the fessors' anymore for a social life," Don responded, chuckling. "It's a way for me to create a clique of geezers."

The girl rolled her eyes. "In that case, it's best we give you an on-campus recruitment permit right now," informed Claire.

With the eyes of a meticulous customer on the edge of a significant purchase, Don examined the fine print and made a mental checklist. He needed four members to legitimize a fraternity (multiple-headed body counted as one). Gather their signatures and contact info, find housing, and get members registered here. Also, there was the financial and housing paperwork... And lastly, there was a printed note regarding Housing space in the Frat/Sorority Row area. All occupied with the recent addition of Omega Howl. And even if there was available space, Frat Housing on the Row required sponsorship.

Housing. His apartment on Dark Avenue would not do.

"Young lady, how would I find da' available housing?"

At "young lady," Claire sighed at Don's innocent patronizing. "Since Frat Housing on Frat Row has been full since the recent addition of Omega Howl, you would have to search elsewhere for housing. You could search the nearby neighborhoods, like the commuters houses, and sponsor the housing yourself, and ideally, when you gather your potential members, they could contribute to paying for the housing. Granted, they have to be close proximity to campus."

The search for housing wouldn't be nigh impossible... but it was far from possible. Still, he came all this way, read the paperwork... he could not give it up. There could be a slim chance of success... He'll worry about housing later.

Don set his focus on the "Proposed Name." Desperate for an idea, he looked to the wall, noticing photos of frat and sororities, from old-timely black and white to the brighter updated and current, with their proudly posed members. Eta Hiss Hiss (HSS) (was that Hardscrabble?), Roar Omega Roar (ROR), Jaws Theta Kappa (JOK)… all creative names and with initials of proud intimidation. Frats and sororities seem to pride themselves on the abruptness of names, easier to flaunt, and simpler for admirers to pronounce.

Don's brain skimmed for a term that would fit the name. Greek terms. Greek words. There's Omega, Theta, Kappa… yes. Kappa. Sound nice on the tongue. That's a K.

What else, what else? Oozmanian Industry. Be nice to pay tribute to mai old company. Oozma works.

Oozma Kappa. O.K. Okay.

The initials lacked creativity, but it would do.

Tapping into his marketing experience, the name was not attractive to the masses. It was too simple. Sure, fraternity and sororities like ROR and HSS thrived on their puns of their initials, but OK was the connotation of "average." When a grade school teacher, or even a professor said, "ok," it was an attempt to hide disappointment, a euphemism for mediocrity.

On the pros side, it described the imagined fraternity. Humble and simple. Probably suitable for the demographic of mature students, who had outgrown the pleasures of extracurricular activities.

And Don could not imagine adding another letter in these initials. It looked and felt... complete within itself. Like something that assured him, you'll be all right, you're fine.

"Oozma Kappa. OK." Claire muttered. He nearly expected this dull reaction. "You're all good sir. Just do the rest. And here's your permit to recruit on campus." She handed him a card. "Feel free to borrow some tables and chairs in the office if you need a stand. Probably best to do it now by the end of the next Finales Week, as Dean Hardscrabble won't be in her office during the break."

"Dean Harescrabble?"

"Um, yeah, she takes part in what fraternity or sorority comes through since the School of Scaring is affiliated with us and funds most of the Greek Life activities around here." My, he never realized the Scare headmistresses was involved in that stuff.

"All righty, then. I'm set to round em' up in no time."

Claire rolled her eyes at his enthusiasm, as if to suggest, oh those darn old folks and the way they talked.


Brock Pearson kindly sent a request to a printing club to design and print out OK posters (no charge!).

The result was quick... but averagely adequate to put it in the best words.

Calling all mature students.

Join O.K.!

Contact Don Carlton at -

But because he had yet to select their frat colors (he wanted future members to pick the colors), the posters came out in black-white printer paper dullness. But it would do and he found himself stapling posters to kiosks, high and low, so that mons of all sizes could see them.

A frugal fellow, he skimmed for discount products at the M.U. stores.

Despite lacking quality provisions - colorful flyers, printed posters, brochures - he had a burst of confidence. He was ready to stand outside and recruit. As long as he had a convincing pitch with charisma, he could round em' up.

Soon, he set out with a large white poster (purchased from an MU store), and wrote O.K. with green permanent market (borrowed from the Greek Life Office). He then set it up at the library and stood there with a clipboard, pen, and blank sheet of paper for signatures. Knowing that plenty of students passed by the library, he ought to catch one of the older students.

He mentally rehearsed his "Pledge to O.K." speech, occasionally doing speedy whispers (his moustache did tend to conceal subtle lip movement so he would look less crazy).

And as he did in his office days, Don made mental notes of everyday progress.


Tuesday:

Plenty of students passed him by at the library entrance. But not an old face in sight.

Never had a chance to say his "Pledge to O.K." speech, but did earn odd glances from passing students.

On occasion, some verbal feedback: "shut up, pops" was the most memorable one.


Wednesday:

He still kept watch on the crowd of young students exiting and entering the library, skimming for an older face. The only one who took interest was a campus officer who asked if Don had an on-campus recruitment permit, then left him alone.

There were drawbacks to shouting "Join Oozma Kappa" constantly. Despite the clear admittance, "mature students welcomed," young passerbys acted as if Don was speaking to them.

At the very least, he updated his pitch from "matured students welcomed" to "know any mature students? Pals with mature students? Let them know of this opportunity!"

Feedback: "No thanks," "not interested," "no way, gramps."


Thursday:

Staggering progress. Managed to encounter the elusive mature students of M.U. (granted, tending to be the age range of 30s-40s), but they politely declined interest. Unlike Don, they were wrapped in family matters, one of them recently engaged, and another a newlywed who was expecting hatchlings.

Feedback: "Oh, that's nice! I would like that! But my new wife wouldn't." "Does Housing come with an environment appropriate for rearing up kids?"

And then his stint outside got cut short by a storm, forcing Don to pack up, return his items to the Greek Life Office, then shelter himself in the library, skimming through Computer Science textbooks.


Friday:

The skies were darkening.

Derek Knight passed by. A brief exchange of hellos. Don asked if he knew any mature students around. Sorry Don, you're among the rare few mature student that ever enrolled in my classes. He wished him the greatest of luck as if he wanted to say that on the day Don flunked the Exam.

On top of that, he sold zero Exam books on his morning door-to-door endeavors that week.

Under the cool sprinkle of rain droplets, Don found himself packing the table, poster, and that crazy idea. Should he even bother next week with recruitment?

Don learned not to always expect positive outcomes, but this crazy frat idea was one of the few times he felt he had some solid direction in his college life. If he succeeded, it was like getting a sales pitch executed and lauded.

If he would bother next week, he needed strategy-adjustment to appeal straight to his demographic of middle aged (or order) adults.

Maybe he was looking for too much in common. The middle-aged, elder demographic rarely wandered the campus. There was a scarcity of mature students, let alone bachelor mature students. Perhaps he should clarify that his planned-fraternity did not mind extending to "married" mature students, until realism immediately kicked in: what family guy would commit to Greek Life unless he had a mid-life crisis?

There were only two sort of mature students: married and with family with too little time, or unmarried, with too much (often squandered) time on his hands.

Shaking his head, he reached for the O.K. poster.

Should he even bother again?

He could expand membership qualifications. Welcome the youth into a mature-students-intended frat? But truth to be told, he was more comfortable with the idea of people his age. In turn, the youth wouldn't be comfortable with joining an old guy's frat. It would be on their terms, "uncool."

By the time he had the poster in his hand, he had determined to march to the Greek Life office, cancel his frat proposal, and tear down the OK posters.

Then he found himself face-to-face with a peach blob-like monster.

In spite of the inherent benign-nature of the kid's expression, the sudden presence started Don. "S-scott?"

"Oh, sorry to startle you, Mister Carl-, um, I mean, Don." The kid paused. "Is that your name? I'm sorry, I forget."

"Yup... Scott? That's yer name, correct?"

"Yup. I was just leaving the library, saw you, thought I'll say hi. Been doing ok?"


Don Carlton, Scott, Claire, Brock, Hardscrabble (c) Pixar

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Ava-Kane

Author's Note

As always, constructive criticism is appreciated. [Winking_zps1d9118ce][Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40][Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40][Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40] 
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Chapter 5: Scott's Pitch

"Just swell, sonny. It's nice to bump into you, Scott." Nice to have a recognizable face willingly socializing with him.

"What are ya doing?" The kid pointed at the poster tucked under his arm.

"Tryin' to start myself a frat." He tapped his finger on the O.K. poster.

"O.K.," the kid read. A flicker of intrigue shined in his eyes. "What's it for?"

"For geezers students like me. I know, it's like starting a retirement home on campus. I don't see a lot of students mai age around this campus, and that's a way for me to find these kind of students and befriend them. Wanted a little side project for the next year to keep me busy." Don chuckled. "But no one but them fessors' are mai age around this campus."

"Gee, sorry to hear that," The kid's eyes fell to the ground. "Frats sound like fun. But no one would even take me. Mom suggested I join that new Omega Howl group, but they turned me down. Don't got the build for it apparently. But it's not a loss, I'm just happy with where I am, at home… with my mom."

"Oh. You'll find yer place."

"Well, my place is my house," Scott muttered, trying to fish out pride in that assertion. "Well, technically, it's my mom house, being that she pays for it. But that's my place." At least Scott had some certainty about his place.

"Nuthin' wrong with yer mum keeping you company. Nuthin' wrong with keeping your mum company."

The kid chuckled tentatively, wanting to change the subject. "Say, if you can't find any old folks, why not invite younger students?" He suggested.

"I got nuthin' in common with young folks. Besides, I already told the Greek Life Office that a group of 'mature students' was my 'gimmick' for my frat." Don wagged his hands like quotation marks to signify that "gimmick" was still a foreign term to him. "I wunder, should I trouble maiself with another proposal? And not sure if I could, or should, extend to anyone else other than fellas mai age. Aside from that, Ima at a loss about getting housing."

"You could find something in common you have with the younger students. For example, Ima young student, what do we got in common?" In an attempt to spat out an idea, Scott went, "um, we... attend the same school, wear the color blue sometimes…"

"Trust me, sonny, what we got in common won't gel together." Ok, he could bring up their failure in the Scare Program, which they discussed once together, but he wanted to avert conversational awkwardness.

But then an idea melded its way through Don's mind.

"Well, good luck with your frat thing. Hope you find guys for it. See ya." And Scott started off.

But then that idea in Don's head nudged at him. "Wait." Scott turned around. "Just wanna say good luck in findin' yer major." Scott nodded and started walking off, fading into the distance on campus.

The idea nudged again. He called for Scott, disappearing among the blur of students, so Don stopped himself and scratched his head in wonder at his random idea. But then the idea started to push again. And he could not neglect this idea as salesmen never missed the chance of a million-dollar pitch.

The idea was bashing down, as if the Squibbles lady hammered the "Rooms for Rent" sign right onto his skull.

Don dashed straight into the campus crowd, skimming for that peach blob.

Jeez! That kid vanished so fast! Like the swiftest field mouse!

Fortunately, he caught sight of a blue capped head wandering off and ran after the blue cap.

His hand fell on Scott's back. A startled Scott turned around, his back caught in a few of Don's suction cups. He was perplexed by the sudden fervor in Don.

"Wait, Scott," He yanked his suckers off him. "Whoops, sorry." He was sorry about the sporadic, undignified way of catching his attention.

"You're an ex-Scaring major." It was wrong that these words came out first.

"Huh?"

"Oh, sorry to startle ya, but what I wanted to say is that, yer an ex-Scaring major."

A frowning Scott nodded.

"...and there're many ex-Scare students here that could use a brotherhood. They might need support for their setback."

Scott stared blankly, his doltish face trying to process that idea.

"I was just thinkin' now, you said you wanted to be a part of a frat, well, you could start one all by yerself."

Scott stared down, pondering the words. Then his face lit up. "That would be... cool. But how?"

"Has your ma' rented out her rooms?"

"No, but why ask that?"

"Cause' frats need housing. And your house is potential housing right there, and potential tenants for yer ma' too."

A grin widened on Scott's face. "Mom would like that." Then his face fell. "But how do I start a frat? And what if I don't find anybody?

"First things first, it's off to da' Greek Life Office. I've got some time. I'll show yer where it is."


By the time Don and Scott reached the Office of Greek Life, Brock Pearson was just gallivanting out of the office, leaving the Claire Wheeler girl, muttering about how that bird brain left her with a desk mess, sorting some files.

"Ummm," Scott started.

"Make it quick. The Office is closing," Claire ordered as she straightened out some pencils and pen in a cup.

"Ummm-"

Don jumped in, "This fella here would like to start a frat."

Claire rolled her eyes, pulled out a proposal form, and muttered brief instructions. "I would appreciate it if you guys hurried."

Scott began tapping on the proposal, trying to jolt up a name.

"Ah, findin' an ideal name," Don remarked.

"Kappa, Slugma, Theta… Scott's lips pondered those blur of words as Claire drummed her fingers on the desk. Then, Scott chomped on the end of the pen to jog his thoughts into an idea. Now the pen had dent marks.

At that sight, Don threw the kid a freebie: "How a-bout you just take my name, Oozma Kappa. I wanted to make a new name anyway. I have all winter break to think up another name for my own frat anyway."

"But that's your name."

"You sure sir? That name would go to his frat, then," Claire stated.

"I don't mind. I'll submit another posal' later." But once the words left his lips, he realized that once he passed the name to Scott, his idea, his "Oozma Kappa," his hypothetical frat of geezers, will descend into the final stage of hopelessness, a failed pitch that landed in the garbage.

"Besides, it ain't copyrighted, Scott." He chuckled. "Oozma Kappa is yours now."

Scott hesitated, but at the sound of Claire's tapping fingers, he then scribbled "Oozma Kappa." And Don was glad that at least the Oozma Kappa name got recycled into good use.

Then Scott read "gimmick section" (no doubt typed by Brock) in labored syllables, as if he didn't understand the term "gimmick."

Scott repeated Don's suggestion as he wrote down the words, "To support failed Scare students." Ok, a little blunt and there was probably a nicer way of describing the gimmick, but it was what Scott went with. And thus the proposal was handed in.

Suddenly, Claire shoved a bunch of additional paperwork, financial forms, housing standards, guidelines, the recruitment permit, and all, before Scott, who began flipping through them like a panicky high school student procrastinating in the night.


As light rain sprinkled down, the was a light thunder in the sky. Students and staff walked around briskly, some clutching their umbrellas, ready to pop them out at any moment. The weather was not bothersome enough when the two exited the Office.

Scott flipped open a page of the packet. "It's like getting a pop Final Exam," Scott joked sheepishly. "But boy, if I get this frat started, then I'll actually have something fun to do with friends." Then a sigh. "It's a good time for me to find friends, make friends."

Then the ink begin to smear under a rain droplet, so Scott tucked the packet into his sweater.

Another thunder in the sky.

"I hope you find your fella's for yer frat."

Then Scott turned to Don.

"Say, do you want to, um..."

"Sorry?"

"You're an ex-Scaring student. Why don't you join?" Now an inspired grin formed on the kid's face, his five eyes blinking with anticipation. "My mom's house is nice."

He liked the kid, but as darn nice as it was to receive an invitation, Don was wary of the generational gap between him and Scott. "Scott, yer do know that I have a home life and it would bring me trouble leaving and packing up mai apartment."

But with the excuse out, it struck Don as self-contradictory, since he was willing to leave his apartment life if he was going to house with his yet-to-exist geezer fraternity.

And the contradiction did occur to Scott. "But weren't you trying to start a frat before?"

"Well, I doubt now that would ever get started."

"Then don't stop trying," Scott pleaded. "Or maybe if your plan doesn't work out, my frat will take you, I'll take you," Scott pleaded, "And you're the one who gave me the name Oozma Kappa, so you're kinda like an O.K. guy already."

The last statement, "O.K. guy," somehow was moving. But he shook his head and started walking off.

"Well, hope to catch ya' later 'round campus. Better get out of the rain." He hoped that was a farewell. "Listen, I wish ya' well."

But Scott followed him to chatter about the possibilities, the brotherly fun they could have, the games and parties to indulge in, and all the exciting antics to commit… oh, all the buddy stuff they could do together, not knowing, having neither marketing education or experience to realize that this sort of pitch should mostly appeal to his age demographic of young adults to late-twenties.

Don was no stranger to haggling and bartering with pushy clients. If a client overstepped his or her boundaries in bartering and pressed an impossible deal, Don was trained to resort to an outright refusal. A flat "no" was all the situation needed.

But Scott was just a naïve youth with innocent intentions. All Don could do was apologize repeatedly for the crime of declining an offer.

Don stopped at a bus stop at a M.U. entrance, neither brushing off nor latching onto the kid's company.

"That's lovely, Sonny. But someone else might like that better than I." He had no indecency to ask him to halt the pitch.

"...You'll get a nice place to stay at my house..."

Then Don found himself strolling about a half a mile to another bus stop at another entrance way. He knew that, logically, he could just await for a bus to take him away, but he hadn't thought of a way to adamantly decline the kid's offer without a rude departure. He would rather humor the kid than escape the rain.

He had walked half-a-mile when he realized he was actively avoiding eye contact with the kid, limiting his glances at him. Why? Maybe because of that nearly transfixed, uncanny stare. Innocent, yet fascinating that one would rather think about it than actually look into it.

"...I mean, if it's because you think you're too old for this, then don't worry, I'll take you anyway... Besides, I'm supposed to be too old to build forts but that doesn't stop me..." Good, the kid was acknowledging that his frat won't discriminate. Skillful stroke of positivity in the pitch. "It doesn't matter if you're old or young..."

He hoped that by the third venture to the bus stop, he could tire out Scott, so he could just drop the subject, walk home, and be off to find his frat members. But alas, Scott was the salesman with his foot in the door.

"… Besides, you might like the housing. Why don't you come with me and take a look. We're just about near my neighborhood. Mom and I like to show off our rooms to potential tenants."

Well, the bus didn't seem to be pulling up anytime soon. Fate must be delaying it. He might as well.

Don rose his hands in affectionate surrender. "Sonny, yer a persistent lad and I admire that in a fella. Look, I will just say I will not take up on your nice offer. That offer should be saved for the nice young gentlemen who will become yer brothers someday, but… I'll have a look at yer humble lil' home. Just because yer persistent like the young salesmen of ole' Oozmanian Industry. So I'll sample that offer, just for you."

Scott beamed like a sales intern who reeled in the interest of an unsuspecting customer.

It was odd to reward the kid's persistence like that, agree to sample a look at at the offer and establish that you were gonna refuse it politely. At least the moment evoked such fond memories, of clients who expected to decline products until Don could quell their doubts and convince them of its usefulness. Besides, sampling something and declaring that it was not for you could be the more ideal refusal. After all, Don had several clients who seemed to be deep in interest of a product, but then summoned the courage to outright refuse it. It would sound counterproductive to Oozmanian Industry goals, but Don would respect the customer's decision. And that usually marked the end of the relationship between salesman and client.

He had to humor Scott.

"Wait 'till you see the house. It's nice, and what else can I say? It's my mom's. It's home!"


A/N

Early ideas of this chapter involved Don being the one to change his own gimmick and openly recruit Scott into the revised Oozma Kappa rather than handing an idea to Scott and later giving in to Scott's recruitment.

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Ava-Kane

Chapter 6: The Squibbles

The Squibbles household was not really a place where he would want to live.

"What do you think?"

The kid did not overhype the loveliness. The flowery wallpapers, lacy dollies, tea sets, and worn-out yet freshened furniture designed according to a lady's quaint taste, but nonetheless, pleasant. Lovely. Humble. Nostalgic.

It was more of a nice house to visit rather than to live in.

He did want to compliment, "lovely home" but Scott could misinterpret it as an agreement to stay.

"What's with that lil' house of cushions over there in da' sittin' room?" It stood draped in multi-colored fabrics and pillows above an armchair.

"Oh. That." Scott wringed his hands embarrassment. "That's my fortress. I get really bored." Scott walked toward it and kicked it down, and all the cushions tumbled down into a lonely little pile.

Then Scott headed to the door under the stairs, and threw open the door only to be blasted by Heavy Metal, pumped to maximum volume, prompting him to slam the door.

"Mom's cleaning the basement, just proceed with caution."

As they fastened their hands over their ears, Scott gradually opened the door and they stepped down into a large room with laundry machines and walls lined with shelves with knick-knacks. Don peered over the rail to see Ms. Squibbles, her hair curled into rollers, reaching into a shelf at the corner of a wall as she piled books into her arms as she swished her hips to the music from the radio near her foot.

"Mooommmmmm!"

"WHAT?!" she squawked. Then she eyed Don. "Scoooooott? I've told you not to let strangers into the house!" Recalling the sign incident, Don checked if she had any potential weapons in her hand.

"Mom, he's interested in a room!"

"Oh! Well, lemme speak to him then!"

Less worried about getting attacked by Ms. Squibbles, Don made his way down, pushing his hands into his ears as the music screamed louder and louder with every step down.

Ms. Squibbles kept swishing her hips and yanking out another album.

"Here, I'll help you with those missus!" He reached out to lift off a few books off her arms, but it involved removing his hands from his ears and his eardrums braced themselves for full blast of Heavy Metal.

"I'm fine!"

Perhaps the Heavy Metal screwed with his coordination or Ms. Squibbles grooved too much because Don collided into the armful of albums, causing some of them to spill out the contents of the Squibbles's precious memories.

Ms. Squibbles kicked the radio switch off, making the radio topple over, which was an immediate relief for Don's Heavy Metal headache.

"I am so sorry, missus!" The music still buzzing in his brain, Don knelt down, and then, resourcefully poked his suction cups onto the fallen photos his hand to gather them.

"Accidents happen!" She bellowed. That music must have distorted her hearing.

She sunk to the floor and started gathering the photos. "At least I can look at my lil' baby Squishy while I'm at it." She swiped a photo and showed Don a random snapshot: of an infant mold of clay, no arms, no legs, with five curious eyes staring into the camera.

"Ah! MOM!" cried Scott as he knelt to the ground, rapidly picking up the photos to hide his shame from Don.

Each individual snapshots that Don picked up was a little too irresistible to not glance over.

An entertaining photo was of a toddler Scott, eyes shut tight at the flash of the camera, with a fist full of his mom's diploma, in the arms of a younger Ms. Squibbles, vibrant as she was currently, yet an edge of weariness in her eyes, who donned a slumping graduation cap and navy-blue gown.

"Aw Mom," moaned Scott, who was clutching his head from a Heavy Metal headache and batting the photos at his mother's hand like a cat. "Stop showing off my baby pictures!"

"Okay, dear." One-by-one, she pried the photos off Don's sticky arm and scooped the rest off the floor. "Now, you needed to speak to me, Mr.-…"

"Carlton." He pulled out a business card and handed it to her. "But Mr. Carlton is my father, may his soul rest in peace. Call me Don." Requesting folks to call you by your first name provided a sense of relatable trust, an initiation of a relationship.

"And yer the Missus Squibbles," he added, knowing that to assert someone surname name and title was to improve that trust. The irony was to let them call you by first name but call them by surname and title.

"That I am!" She hooted.

And then Don, realizing Scott's matter, decided to mention, "Oh! But first things first, yer boy would like to speak to you."

So Scott, flashing a toothy grin, dumped his frat paperwork in front of his mother. "Mom, mom, I wanna' start my own fraternity!"

Ms. Squibbles plucked the last of the photos off Don's suckers. "Oh! That's wonderful sweetie! Do I have to sign for parent permission?"

"Not really. I just wanna ask you if it's ok if this house could be a frat house. Mom, mom, it means tenants!" Scott answered.

To assist Scott, Don couldn't help but to add, "M'am, consider you and yer son lucky. The proximity of this house to M.U. qualifies as potential housin' for a frat." Don was about to get back on his feet when a familiar pain creaked within the muscles of his back and he planted himself firmly back on the ground.

Still sitting on the floor, Ms. Squibbles surveyed the paperwork. She flipped through the pages, reached the final page, closed the packet, and then skimmed the first pages again. Then she took a pencil off the shelf and underlined some of the text. Then she shut the packet, reopened it, flipped through, double-underlined some more text, and then-

"Mom? You done?" With him barely as tall as his kneeling mother, he eye-leveled with his mom, and his little hands squeezed his blue M.U. hat in anticipation.

"I've decided…"

Scott leaned over. "Yes?"

"Mmmmm."

Now Don could not help but to clench in fists in anticipation.

"Yes?"

"Yes," she said.

"Yes what?"

"I'll love to house in a frat here for you Scott. Just so you can make some little friends like in Scouts. But-"

"But what?"

"Scott, do you have your friends ready for housing?"

Don recognized that expression, one his Pa and Ma gave him. Accommodating, happy to support and agree, yet abiding by pragmatism. Optimistic with an edge of realism.

"Would they be willing to pay rent?"

Scott bowed his head down. "Oh, I'm looking for the frien- well, members to join."

As she filled out the housing paperwork, she toned down the perkiness into a mildly cheery but more serious expression. "Scotty, I would prefer you would gather your friends by the end of the month. There's already one fella' vaguely interested in one of our rooms and I will have to turn him down. And we might have more people interested in our rooms if you take too long to do this. As property owner, I can provide housing, but I would not be allowed to rent off to non-students. Please do this as soon as possible."

She gave Scott the finished paperwork, and Scott nodded like the good little Scout he was.

With a grin, Don staggered to his feet, only for something to snap through the muscles of his back, causing him to utter, "Ow, omph, sorry bad back."

The injury let out familiar crack of disgrace as from his final Scare Exam.

Ms. Squibbles sprung to her feet, and her hand flew out, striking Don's shoulder, and turned him around, his back facing toward her. Then, the tip of her hand jabbed a shoulder blade. Don bent over instinctively to avoid another blow only to feel the bump of her thump hitting the tip of his shoulder. The edge of her palm threw out about three or four thumps between his shoulder blades, then one final thumb jab onto the shoulder area nearest to his neck. In the rapid moment, Don gasped, tried to steady his legs to dash off, nearly called to Scott for help, but the blows had stunned his energy and snatched his breath away so he could not holler anything.

Then in a swift movement of hands, she finally jerked him around so he could face her once again. The final blow was on his chest, aligning him into a straight posture.

The muscles of his back begin to lighten and the pain receded.

Ms. Squibbles's deft movement of her hands somehow cured his back pain.

Don began to chortle.

"Um, Don?" Scott muttered.

All that energy he nearly exhausted to holler for help burst into laughter. He clutched his chest and had to hold onto the shelf to support himself. He still had the lucidity to realize how unprofessional and ridiculous he looked and could see Scott's agape expression in the corner of peripheral vision. Corpsing, the act of unscripted laughter, was a big crime when presenting yourself, but the moment seemed the throttle him.

A high, womanly laughter pitched in.

Ms. Squibbles had joined in, with her voice flipping uppity and up.

And then Scott complimented the moment by forcing out "hahahahaheh heh heh…- wait, what are we laughing about?"

Don swallowed some of his laughter to finally say, "How do I… Hah HAH… ever thank ya' m'am? But for a moment, ha heh heh, I thought you ambushed me."

She sang, "Nursing studies." She cut off her laughter to remark, "Learned that therapeutic technique. That back of yours needs plenty of good exercise and relaxing. It seems that you have a lot of stress knotted up and bunching up your health, your back in particular."

Weary, Don leaned against the shelf. "I'm sorry m'am, it appears we've forgotten to discuss something." He peeled off his glasses and wiped a little tear in his eye. "I was busy tryin' to help Scott that I almost forgot that I came to check out one of yer rooms. Scott here has been beggin' me to join his frat and Ima considering it." Again, he had to humor Scott. Just take a look at a room, and leave. But he considered himself quite happy that he had came here.

"Ohhhhh," she hooted, perhaps naïve to the rare occurrence of a mature student taking interest in frats. "Getting into college activities I see? Well, Scott, I have to clean up these books, so show this gentleman the single-bedroom."

Don extended his tentacle-hand, and she reached for it, then his suction cups tightened on her palm, so he pulled off his suction cups with a pops and muttered an apology. "Sorry. Drat my cephalopod heritage, not that I ain't proud of it."

Once he pried his hand off. "It has been a pleasure meeting ya', missus. Glad to drop by and admire yer lovely home."


"It's a good thing mom hadn't found anyone yet to rent out these spaces," remarked Scott as he led Don up the stairs. "We had tenants come and go and with the semesters starting and ending. I try to help mom advertise these rooms out to M.U. students."

"Smart lady, lad. Especially with a home this close the da' campus."

"Well, this is the only single guest bedroom available, and it has small shower closet, since you are cephalopodian-heritage and have aquatic needs. And you're first, so first come first serve." Scott led Don to a door at the end of a hallway.

It revealed an uncovered mattress ("you have to bring the cover, blanket, and pillow yourself"). Next to the bed, sat a desk with a bare light bulb hanging over it. Small, but not cramped, just snug.

"There's scarcely a difference from mai apartment."

He sighed. He had been set on refusing. But the more he was around this house, the more he was considering the offer.

"Is that a bad thing? Mom and I could tidy the room to your liking."

"Well, it's just a bed, a little room and desk. Quite snug." Mildly tired, Don settled down on the mattress, testing it. It bounced with a firm surface, adequate to rest a weary back. Then, he surveyed the room, the white wall, bits of paint peeling, some fresh floral curtains, and a small closet. It seemed big enough to contain his important possessions and files.

This would mean leaving his stuff behind and getting two places to sleep. He'll have a weekday home here. And a weekend home at his apartment.

But he had been set on a stricter saving mode ("Frugality" as Pa defined it). Leftover spending money was saved for any surprise or unanticipated bills (likely tuition-related) in the future.

Two places to sleep would be a luxury.

And being that he would be a frat member, he suspected that the inexpensive price (compared to his apartment's) and the convenient proximity to his school would be at the expense of quietness and space. Frat boys, his "brothers," would be running around, disturbing the peace.

But there ought to be the pros to the cons.

But the more Don thought back to his own empty little apartment, with only photos as company, the more Don wanted to throw his back against the bare mattress and sleep the nights away to the noise of the pestering young folks and housematies scurrying around.

But minor dissatisfaction with his own living quarters shouldn't be a reason why he should spend a few hundred dollars a month on a tight room. Not like it was going to save him much bus fare.

Don was thinking of a nice way to decline only to be astonished by the sudden close presence of Scott, now seated next to him.

"Um, Don. I'm not making you stay."

But the kid's eyes couldn't contain that forlornness.

"I guess we can just meet on campus for a talk." Scott bit his lips, as if he was holding back something else.

That was what the kid wanted. Somebody to talk to. But the kid was this desperate to interact with a geezer like him? But Scott's naive spirit indicated that he didn't know his own desperation. And the kid probably thought that convincing a classmate to live under his roof would increase his prospects of a close companion.

"Sonny, Ima glad to report that da' pros outweigh the cons." Don smiled. "Why should I let an offer like this pass? I'll take it. I'll be an Oozma to get this room." Frugality can wait. But Don reminded himself he would have to work extra shifts and sell more Exam books for financial security.

And my, when that kid smiles. Really smiles. Those dimples bulged as thick as the bubbles of road-bumps.


It had started to rain outside, much to Don's surprise. He had only been in the house for no more than twenty minutes and the skies had darkened.

The mother of the house, Mrs. Squibbles, implored him to stay, offering hot cocoa. He knew she only wanted to be hospitable, but he did not want to impose.

"I've got paperwork to do."

She tried handing off an umbrella to him. "I'm of Celophodian heritage, water don't bother me." Half-true. The chills would.

Scott threw him an affectionate punch on the arm. "See? What did I tell ya'? First brother here! Now I just have to find others!"

And Don realized that Scott should not be alone in this task.

"Scott, if we want to git this done, we've got one week to round up some Oozmas before da' Winter Break, startin' Monday."

With a chuckle, he put his hand over the daintily-afflicted area where Scott struck him, sensing that this would not be the last time a Squibbles's hand would strike him.

He nodded at Scott and the mother, and he was off into the chill of the rain.


A/N

Writing this chapter, I was thinking of a way to resolve Don's severe back issues brought up in Chapter 1 as we all know Don will become a successful Scarer one day. It was also at this point where I had to think about Ms. Squibbles's occupation other than a stay-at-home mom. Then it came to me that Ms. Squibbles's existence could cure Don's issue. Where would she acquire these skills? I made her an M.U. Nurse, an occupation that gave the Squibbles a source of income and thus an explanation to how Ms. Squibbles could pay for a house. After all, it was written in mind that Scott Squibbles's father has a complete absence, emotionally and financially.

Another early idea involved Don and Scott catching up with a jogging Ms. Squibbles and trying to catch their breath all while telling her of their housing proposal. Then I set the chapter mostly in the household in order to get Don closer to the housing deal so he could realistically be recruited into O.K.

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Ava-Kane

Chapter 7: Eye Lockin'

Today had to be good.

This Monday marked the last week Finals and the first day of (Scott's) recruitment for Oozma Kappa. Don set up the booth and readied the clipboard, signs, paper, and pen in his hand. Now to acquire the recruits. Scott should be here at any minute now. Say, something was breathing behind him- yipes.

Don spun around to discover Scott, wearing an eager grin, in close proximity. "Hey Don! I'm ready to go."

Ms. Squibbles stood nearby, attired in blue with a name tag of "Nurse Squibbles" and nurse hat sitting on her curls. "Just dropping off my lil' trooper. Also, Mister Carlton, I need to talk to you about move-in."

"Oh, I was a-thinkin' I'll settle in last weekend of the M.U. holidays. Maybe on a Saturday. And I would also need to stop by to drop off some of my stuff at yer home sometimes. It might take a few days as I need to walk there."

"Wait, you don't have a car? Then I'll just hafta to drive you to your home, help you load in some stuff, and transport em' to your new home."

Don waved his hands in refusal. "No need, missus, I'll be taking a bus." The fact that he woke up with an un-cracked back today reminded him that the missus had already done plenty.

"But since you paid the rent in advance last Friday, I should."

"I'll be a-thinking a-bout it then."

"Well, when you decide, just let me know! Anyway, got anyone yet?"

"No one yet." He showed them the clipboard paper, blank, save for "Don J. Carlton" and "Scott Squibbles." Scott's face fell a bit.

"Such a shame," She commented, "Now, how a-bout I give you a boost?" She hopped onto a nearby bench, hollered, and not so inconspicuously pointed at the O.K. stand. "Heeeelllloooo! There's a lovely frat hereeeee for interested boooys!" Her hollers attracted the awkward stares of several campus students and professors, many of whom shrugged off as if it was just another loony or obsolete cause or organization on campus.

Flushing with sweat and embarrassment, Scott dashed to the bench and tugged at his mother's arm. "Mom! This is a frat! And I don't think ladies advertise frats!"

Don chuckled, startled at watching this, yet appreciative of her efforts and audacity. "We'll take it from here, missus, but we appreciate it anyway," Don added.

She hopped down the bench. "Suit yourselves boys!" She giggled as she walked off. "Besides, got a patient who's always trying to climb the Aviation School and some poor cephalopodian fella' with a case of hydro-glemia. See ya!" And she was off to the M.U. infirmary.

After her departure, Don resumed the difficult task. He extended his hand out to passing students. "Oozma Kappa, a frat for ex-Scaring majors. Interested? Fine housing, fine opportunities. Your life in Greek Life can start here!"

Meanwhile, Scott copied Don's gestures, extending his small arms like trying to grab for a handshake, but the poor undeclared major just scurried around trying to catch a passerby, whipping out his shaking hand, and then uttering a sentence and request cut short by his edge of nervousness ("Please, joooin Oozma Ka-. Please jo-. Please."). As a result, passerbys brushed by him.

So Don pulled Scott aside. "Now Scott, remember how persistent yer were with me? Just do what yer did before. And keep approaching them as you kept approaching me. I knew ya' as da' sort of fella' who kept that foot wedged in a closing door. Now what happened?"

"Got tense." Scott bit his lip. "Why else did I study Scaring? If I could do the scaring, I wouldn't be so nervous around anything or anyone."

"Don't sweat it Scott, there's a new major out there for you. One to teach ya' the confidence you need."

"Well what Major would you suggest?"

"Ima not the best to say."

"Anything?"

"Computer Science?"

"Why would I want to take Computer Science?" The kid scratched his head.

"Just something relevant to the job market if yer consider it. But never mind that. How a-bout them drama players?"

"Stage fright."

"Public relations?"

"Don't talk well with others."

"Scott, if there's anything you would hafta remind yerself, college IS a place for learning things like that. Try what yer don't like and maybe you'll come to love it."

"I know, that's why I'm trying to sample all the classes I can know what I want besides Scaring."

"Swell plan, but back to the task. Scott, lemme tell ya' something. In my early days, when I met with clients and customers and all that jazz, I make eye contact. I lock my eyes with theirs. Eye contact is a method of hookin' in the customer. It keeps the conversation, bolsters yer confidence, and most importantly, establishes a trust between the salesman and yer customer."

"Ok, trust."

"Pick one of them students, set yer sights on them, and approach. As a matter of fact, try that pair of potential members walkin' toward us!" Don pointed to the slender orange-yellow long-necked two-headed monsters, each with circular heads with one eye, and two arms at each side, walking on their stripped tentacles with their bickering voices increasing in volume as they headed closer.

"Our schedule clashing… over exertion of physical activities… too much boring lectures... well, too much choreography..." was the all Don could hear of their conversation. It was important to eavesdrop, catch those keywords ("overexertion, schedules clashing, lectures"), in order to assess your customer's interest and preferences.

The taller head, from a distance remarked, "Also, we need a job. But schedule doesn't permit-" The "need a job" was a keyword. This, these, is, are, one, no two students who wanted to minimize financial issues.

Scott peered over. "Say, it's those two from my English class."

This prompted Don to nudge Scott.

"Don, why don't you go to them? You know how to do this better than I."

Don pushed Scott forward. "Scott, young folks would rather listen to a classmatey than a geezer like me. Just smile and ask em'. Eye contact, stare straight into them eyes like yer aiming a pistol. And smile so they trust ya'. If they say no, then onto the next customer."

Scott stretched the corners of his lips into a grin that spread from cheek-to-cheek and locked his eyes on the twins but barely inched a move toward them. Though his head followed the pair of potential recruits, it seemed that Scott was so firmly planted to the ground that he would have allowed the twins to pass by.

As they glided closer, the twins remained too immersed in their quarrel to question the presence of a small student setting his sights on them.

But then the shorter head of the twins felt that hard stare of the benign Scott. It drew him out of his argument and led him to reciprocate Scott's stare as he walked on and his taller brother blathered on. Then the taller brother, noting that his conjoined companion had suddenly diverted his attention elsewhere, also double-taked at Scott's goofy expression. Their tentacle legs nearly stopped in their tracks for an approximate three seconds. Then they shrugged and walked, well, tried to walk on, but they glanced back, seemingly resisting something dragging them back, unable to shake off the five-eyes tracking their every movement.

As the twins disappeared out of conversational-reach, Scott cranked his neck and head to the side so that his eyes stuck to the twins, almost uncannily like an owl watching its prey.

And suddenly, as if Scott's lingering stare was some sort of invisible string reeling them in, they slithered backwards to where Scott stood, gazed straight at him, and the doubled-horned taller head felt obligated to inquire, "Um, may I, or we, help you?"


A/N

And thus the prototype signature expression of Scott Squibbles, but at the time, that face was used for fraternity recruitment instead of acquiring Scream energy.

As always, constructive criticism welcomed.

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Ava-Kane

Chapter 8: Two Heads, One Body

Having just reeled in a pair of potential recruits by the power of uncanny glaring, Scott tried to compose himself, his lips quivering. "Um, hi, I know you from English class. We never spoke, cause' you're always on the front, and I sit in the back."

"Ohhhh, um, I knew I've seen you somewhere," remarked the smaller head.

The taller head retorted, "if you have a question about the final paper, then you're screwed because that was due yesterday."

Scott forced a wider grin. "Um, no, I turned that in already, I, well, we are trying to form a fraternity, a frat, for..." Scott turned to Don, who waved his hands to coach him. "Those who failed the Scaring Program. We're recruiting for Oozma Kappa. I was wondering, did you get kicked out of the Scaring Program?"

There was no way this would sound appealing to even the most fitting potential members.

"Oh, um, thanks for reminding us of our failure two semesters ago," muttered the taller head as he shot a glare at his conjoined smaller counterpart, who did not look so moved.

At least Scott essentially guessed right about the student(s) status as failed Scaring major(s). Progress, all right.

"Well, this frat is for Scare student failures… like me! And Don, too. But um," Scott threw another glance at Don, who was waving his tentacles urgently to drop the negativity in the pitch. "And Don is helping me out and he's the only brother so far to have joined this group." Scott pointed to Don, and the twins gave Don that familiar skeptical look that doubted the existence of middle-aged students.

Knowing that he must act before the twin's skepticism dissolved into disinterest, Don stepped up. "Well, Greek Life might be, will be, nice for you fellas. And pledging to Oozma Kappa will bring that Greek Life to you. Great for resumes. Also, you probably haul alotta academic weight, so Greek Life could relieve ya' of that stress. Get your own study room. Good fellas like Scott to study around with."

Then, a grin formed upon the smaller, singled-horn head. "Greek Life, hm? A frat that actually will take us? We're sold!" he yelped in an uppity, jovial voice that accentuated his brother's sullen voice. His upper hand reached for the pen on Don's clip board, only for the other hand of his brother's slapped it away.

The taller head loomed over the smaller and hissed, "We? It's just you. With some of our tuition blown away by our attempt at the Scaring School, and perhaps your silly dancing pursuits, we're already in a load of a financial mess. You could have just shared the English major with me cause' the school would have charged us as one. Not to mention the housing bills, eh, with those insanely expensive dorms we got stuck with. There're always fees involved in frat life."

"What? Oh, back to that argument again? I have my own life and I'm just as much entitled to my own career choices as you are!" griped the smaller head. "And besides, you didn't protest when I tried to get us in that new Omega Howl group."

"Because I wasn't worried that they would accept you in."

Then Scott jumped in, "Wait? You tried to join Omega Howl? I was rejected by them too! So we have another thing in common, we're rejects of the Scare Program and Omega Howl!"

The smaller head chuckled tensely at Scott's innocent bluntness. The taller head huffed a sigh.

That was when Don came to Scott's rescue. "Wait, young man, well, men, you mention about yer housing bills issues? Why Oozma Kappa housing is more than O.K., less than them costly dorms here. It's close to M.U. Feels like home. Just ask Scott! It's his house!" Technically, the house owned by a quaint middle-aged lady, but that sort of info wouldn't attract these young folks.

Now this perked up the taller head. "Oh yeah, housing, heh?" The words curled at his lips with an edge of suspicion and intrigue. With a glance at the info on the clipboard, his lips slurred out inaudible calculations. "That's less than our housing here per semester, and the house is close to campus. If we sign up now, we wouldn't have to pay the housing fee for next semester. Also, Greek Life. Good for a resume, and we might actually have a social calendar, for once." His hand pulled up the pen and signed his name. Then, the other head took it and scribbled his name.

Scott clenched his excited fists as Don read the names, Terry (neat printed writing that could be mistaken as fancy computer front) and Terri (nice cursive writing) with the surname of Perry. The addition of a third (well, technically fourth too) name on the pledge paper pleased Don. "Ah Terry and… Terri with an 'i', we look forward to having ya. So ya' joined for the swell housing deal, but I guarantee that you'll stay for the fun! But we must note, we need one more member to kick this frat off the ground, so I can't guarantee this will start soon enough."

The grinning shorter head, Terri, exclaimed, "sure thing!"

The taller head grinned too, but it was more of an obligated, polite grin, one clearly urged by parental guidance ("C'mon, smile to Don," his pal Dan would insist to his more sullen children) or social courtesy rather than pure sincerity. "Hey, sorry sir, but we can't stick around for long, we're rehearsing for Terri's final. Thanks, Mr..."

"Carlton. But do call me Don if ya' like."

Scott called out, "Thank you... brothers! It means a lot! We'll update you on the latest Oozma news and happenings!" The Terri head chuckled while Terry head rolled his eye, slightly amused. Then, Terry started to move off.

But as the twins went away, Terri's side of the body kept pulling back toward Don and Scott. "You got our phone number, bros, so call us when the frat starts, all right?" Terri called out as he was dragged away by his brother's side of the body.

"See ya, sir. And wish us luck on our Dance final!"

"Good day to you, Scott, and to you, Mr. Carlton." The older head said.

Scott waved, and as they disappeared, Scott bent down on his little knees weary from sustaining a conversation with two folks.

"I did it. You helped a whole lot," he seemed so breathless from interacting with folks that his laugh grew tired. "But I actually did it."

And perhaps it was the buried unknown paternal instinct in Don that compelled him to grab Scott, and rubbed his knuckles onto the top of Scott's cap. "Yer done it, son of a gun! We got two, well, technically one body. But we only need one more to go!"

He wished the twins had time to stick around, just so they could get to know each other better. But knowing will have to wait.


A/N

Allusions/Sources/Inspiration

- What's ironic was that in the original draft, Terri had the neat-printed writing while Terry had the cursive writing (cause I figured English majors were more sophisticated). But then I found a page sample of the Fearbook on Amazon, saw their handwriting, and realized it was the opposite.

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Ava-Kane

Chapter 9: The Ties and ART of Brotherhood

Don concluded that Scott wasn't incapable of natural communication, but he lacked the spark to maintain a smooth consistency in communication that would make him immediately socially relatable. It didn't make him less likable to Don, but less approachable to the population.

Although Scott's uncanny stare had successfully acquired two recruits, he had unfortunately relied solely on that eye contact strategy which resulted in more odd glances. So Don advised Scott to adjust to another communication strategy: Don't force the smile, just talk. Don't think too hard, it's all about instinct.

Scott would (sincerely attempt to) carry the advice out, approaching passerby with stammers spilling from his nervous grin.

Since the recruitment of the twins, Scott and Don alternated between locations over the next few days, from the path of the library, even in front of the Scaring School, and then finally, Don and Scott eventually agreed to try the Frat and Sorority Row where all the Houses stood.

If only they could afford grander housing. He averted his eyes from the fancy architecture of the scarlet Roar Omega Roar House, scolding himself for not appreciating Ms. Squibbles's simple abode enough.

Scott was busy with a Final that Thursday morning and had yet to join Don at the O.K. booth. So Don was left to wander around the booth for three hours calling out at potential recruits.

Next time, he should give away something like treats, baked goods perhaps, or even balloons, things of affordable cost to attract them. Not the most exquisite idea, but it would be better than nothing.

Now when would Scott be done with that Final?

Then he spotted a familiar slender figure of two heads heading toward him. As the twins marched up toward Don, both perspiring in the sun and lugging a duffel bag. Terry glugged down the last of the water from his bottle then tossed his empty bottle at a public trash can, but missed.

Don, happy to become more acquainted with the twins, greeted them. "Why if it isn't a pair of future Oozmas!" He would have shook both of their hands if weren't for their exhaustion. "What brings you here, fellas?"

"I'm sorry, sir, what's your name again?" Terri wiped the sweat off his forehead.

"It's Don Carlton."

"Mr. Carlton…"

"Oh please, call me Don."

"… Scott ran into us this morning and told us you haven't gotten any members since we signed up. So Scott asked us if we could help and since we're done with our, well, my dancing final, we could help out."

"We can't chance on losing our housing benefit if O.K. starts too late into the next semester," added Terry. Persistence to keep something when the benefit had the chance of waning. Don admired that.

"Well, then! So nice of you to help out."

Despite their breathy and exhausted voices, the twins proved more adept at approaching passerby than Scott. Terry's lower voice blended in seamlessly with Terri's more uppity voice. They applied an adequate use of hand gestures when calling out to students. They waved in unison or they they took turns like it was choreographed. Sometimes one would extend his hands, and the other would speak. They wouldn't make bad salesmen themselves.

Then after several attempts, the twins collapsed on their tentacles onto the edge of the pavement.

"Um, boys, yer up for this? You lookin' quite tired."

Terri had to swallow some air to answer. "That's all right Mister Car,..." He coughed. "Sir, we, um, I just had a dance final. I barely got an A- and Terry just followed my moves."

"Hey, I'll handle it from here."

Someone brushed by Don, and instinctively, he turned and came after the fella', hoping to seize an opportune moment. Don strolled up to the purple melon-headed double-horned on his way to who knows where. "Wanna join Oozma Kap-…" But then Don noticed the fellow already wore a crimson frat sweater, with ROR embroidered on the front. "Whoops, already a frat fella', never mind sir. Have a nice day."

The frat fella' greeted Don's comment with a smug smile, shaking his head at the Perry twins. And then he gave a snide chuckle and he continued on his way.

That laughter. That snideness.

He was one of those anonymous faces who could barely contain his chuckles over his Exam fiasco.

Monsters like these shouldn't phase Don much. Years of sales had brought him to encounter rather disdainful behavior from potential customers.

Yet, it was like a car accident you couldn't look away from. It took the protective hand of the twins, Terry's hands, to divert his attention from the strutting jock.

"Heh, it's that Worthington fella'," Terry spat out these words. "He's the recently elected President of Roar Omega Roar. Comes from a long line of great scarers. The valedictorian of his high school. Saw his performance at his entrance Scaring entrance course. A favorite of Prof. Knight and a tough student."

"I think I've seen him at my Exam."

"Yeah, ROR guys always like to watch rookies Exams to see who's fit."

"Why, the Worthington is quite an accomplished fella'," Don commented. But he had one little quibble he dared not mention out loud: if only the fella's character were not so poor. "And I hope that in Oozma Kappa, ya'll work to become even more of the accomplished fella's ya' already are."

Terry frowned. "Remind me, what's the... gimmick of Oozma Kappa?"

There they go again, those terminologies of the youth. "Gimmick? As Scott pointed out before, we welcome former Scare Students."

Terry rose his singular brow. He must be the sort of customer that never failed for euphemisms and was unafraid of pointing out the product's shortcomings to the seller. He knew well that "former" actually meant "failed."

"Mr. Carlton, that wouldn't sound very 'accomplished' to all these folks." He gestured toward the passing students. "Mr., I really do hate to point it out, but students are attracted to frats and sorority that are known for strengths. And not just general strengths, more like specialized strengths. Roar Omega Roar is elite," He gestured toward the ROR House. "Slugma Slugma Kappa is athleticism." Gestured toward the pastel EEK House. "And Eta Hiss Hiss, is, um, doom and gloom while persevering, I think." Point to the grayed HSS House.

"And so Scott came up with this?" As Terry droned on, Terri was gritting his teeth.

The mocking way Terry spoke of Scott made Don grit his teeth to maintain his smile. "Actually, I gave Scott the idea. But Scott has done quite much better job executing the plan than me."

"Oh, the idea has idea has potential. But if there's any… constructive criticism," Terry replied as the good English major he was, "we need to advertise the strengths of Oozma Kappa. Yeah, we joined for the housing deal cause' we're desperate, but where's the strength? It appears we are about..."

"Togetherness," chimed Terri.

"Well, yes... But that's too generic. So does other frats."

"Simpleness. Humble goodness," replied Don.

But a dissatisfied Terry uttered, "I think these kids out there view us as failures. They look pass the 'simpleness' and 'humility.'"

At his brother's bluntness, Terri buried his face in his hand. Don didn't blame Terri, but at the same time, he had to acknowledge that Terry's input mattered. Even if he was the member in the board room who seemed like he wanted to provoke an argument by voicing out the flaws of someone else's plans, his input might be useful.

Don gently refuted, "But failure ain't da' point, the point is to rise above that failure."

"Mr. Carlton, but is this fraternity about the failure or finding consolation for failure? Because frankly, though the latter sounds better, neither are attractive gimmicks."

Don sustained his usual salesman smile. Yet, he had never expected to be so condescended down to by a young folk, especially by one who called him by the proper mister-surname.

Finally, Terri stated, "Terry, cut it out, stop pushing the guy."

"Oh, all right. But I can get keep getting pushed by you?"

"Look, I know you're still stressed from the dance routine," A pause. "And about last yea-…"

"I've told you to forget it."

"You haven't."

"Maybe because I had to live that you were the one who messed up, you stumbled as our faces slammed against the floor, even though I knew how to do it right. You screwed it up right in front of the class, that Worthington fella', the Professor, and not to mention the Dean. And I took the rap too. Your screw up was my screw up."

Terri's head sunk down. "Terry, stop, I just had horrible stage fright, it was one year ago. I thought you've forgiven me."

"Of course I have. But you're right, I haven't forgotten it. Now I have to go along with your dancing pursuits so you can make a good grade. And I have to stiffin' up my body, ignore all my aches in my body, and learn your routine with ya, so you can get your As in Dancing class. And all at the expense of our future in Scaring."

Terry inhaled, exhaled huffs of air, while Terri's lips wobbled, and both of them refused to face the other.

Don did not dare approach them in caution that he could provoke their frustration and possibly irritate them into revoking their Oozma Kappa pledge. He felt frozen on the spot, a pang of helplessness. He had faced many bickering multiple-headed customers before, but Oozmanian Industry never trained him to intervene in personal family squabbles. Not to mention, a scarcity of policies that dealt with multiple-headed clients.

He wanted to resume recruitment, but now he needed the break, deciding it would be best to start over once the twins regained their energy.

Then Don fancied he felt the huff of a breath on the back of his shirt. Oh, Scott, always sneaking behi- waaiitthat was not Scott. He flinched away at the bizarre face just a few inches away from him.

There stood another monster, purple with stripes of lighter purple, with a slinky arch body with two small arms hanging below the face and wide lips like putty and gapped teeth, all complimented by the idle pair of eyes that wandered off into space.

And there was Scott, next to the odd fellow. "I got someone!" He exclaimed like a young eager Scout who earned three patches. "Hey, you know how mom mentioned a fella' who's been trying to climb the aviation school? Turns out mom told him about us and he's interested! And he's an ex-Scare student himself."

At this chance, Don seized the fella's hand, quite a relax hand that wobbled around, for a hearty handshake.

Even when the potential recruit made eye-contact, his eyes stared into space, almost hypnotized by the galaxies in Don's eyes. "Hey," it said in a scraggily voice. "This little dude's mom says there's housing. Months ago, I have been evicted from my dorm, and although sleeping in sewers can be exciting, I would like a roof over my head. Also, Greek Life might be rad for me. I tried getting Omega Howl's attention sometimes, but I guess I'm too good for them." That would be the third Omega Howl reject to join.

But Don felt uneasy upon the the fella's candid admittance of his shady background. But he felt better, when the fellow, without hesitation, eagerly signed his name on the pledge sheet. Ah well, Oozmas welcomed anybody. They shouldn't discriminate. It had the old, the young, the double-headed, and now the checked-past one.

Checking the signature, Don inquired, "Art? Short for Arthur?"

"Nope! Just Art!"

You don't happen to have a surname do you?"

"Nope! Just Art!"

"Also, we need to register you up. You would hafta come with us right now."

"Nope! Just Art! Opps, not the question. Yup, I'll love me a first outing with my new bros!" A fully willing potential member. Jackpot.

Scott jumped up and down. "We got four guys Don! We gotta get to Greek Life office now!"

But he stopped mid-jump and joy when he took notice of the twins, on the ground and glum, refusing to look at each other, and Don was reminded of their dreary bicker.

"Don, did something happen?"

Without disclosing the full details of their aforementioned Scaring fiasco, Don whispered to Scott about the twin's argument and requested Scott to let the twins cool down before they could proceed.

But then the furry fella', Art, began approaching the twins as if they were a shiny museum exhibition. Don wanted to signal the fella' to give the twins their space. At the sight of a purple arch monster approaching them, the twins nearly scurried back on the pavement.

The fella' dangled out a green string that was twice the length of his arm. "My lucky string, use these to make friendship bracelets and you will relearn the meaning of brohood." He flung the string at Terri. It fluttered idly in the wind as it hooked around Terri's wrist.

The twins shot Art an awkward, yet amused look, questioning why this random guy, who passed out friendship bracelets, thought he could resolve their personal problems. So the twins resumed turning their heads away from each other.

"Um, hey, I'm the new member guys. I just wanted to give you a sudden frat gift. Also, I think we're bros now."

"Another brother," muttered Terry as he surveyed Art.

Terri, fiddling with the green string curled around his fingers, replied, "Yes, another brother, Terry, but you'll manage right?"

"Yeah, if I had put up with you for 19 years, I can manage with this one."

"You bet you can!" exclaimed Art.

Don and and Scott chuckled.

The twins did too, but weakly. They still needed time, but they were at least ready to move on.

Oozma Kappa was ready for legitimization. "Well, come along boys, you all gotta' git registered now."

So as they packed up their posters and clipboard to head off to the Office of Greek Life, Don stated, "Now Scott, I hafta remind ya' we haven't picked out some team colors yet." Then Don thought of Art's friendship offering of the little green yarn. "I was a-thinking, green might suit us."

"Oh! And gold to go with the green!" Scott said.

Green and gold it is, as Scott took note of that on the paperwork.

Don felt relieved that it was one less thing to deal with.


"You actually did it," Claire Wheeler muttered as she double-checked the paperwork, flipping through the pledge signatures, the color agreement, the housing agreements (with Ms. Squibbles's signatures with little hearts dotting her 'i's), and all down to the signature agreeing to terms and guidelines. Then the Oozmas each individually completed their paperwork (though it took time for Claire to sort through Art's background check). She stapled every paperwork together and scribbled the approval signature of the Greek Life President, accompanied by the Vice President Pearson's.

Don grinned. "Well, boys, there's our first accomplishment together."

Claire pressed her button on the phone as she handed back the paperwork to Scott. "Well, housing is in order, you are all qualified as an official frat. Now just take that to the Dean Hardscrabble. I'm giving her a call to her office to let you know that you're coming to see her."

Scott clutched the paperwork like a security blanket. Having faced Hardscrabble before on the Scream stimulator have not improved his relations with her.

So Don put his hand on Scott's shoulder. "Scott, why don't I take it to her?"


Waiting was long. There were no books to pursue through in the waiting room of her Office. But no one felt like talking in fear that it would disturb the atmosphere of the Scare school. Or worse, Hardscrabble could barge in and reprimand them.

The twins still had that sour look. They fiddled with the string, like two inattentive students surviving a droning lecture, desperately itching for amusement.

Then Terri's hands began toying with the string. Slowly his upper and lower hand began stretching it around as if he was attempting shapes.

And then, Terry, still not facing his brother, reached for the string gradually. Terri did not protest. And soon, with the artistry of their hands and fingers movement, the string unraveled into diamonds within squares, squares within triangles, then triangles morphing into rectangles and then a star. With the careful essence of rehearsals and habits, their hands waved and flapped the string in unison.

Don whistled as Scott watched, mesmerized. Meanwhile, Art watched as if he prophecized the destined reconciliation.

Then Don noticed their exchange of smiles, Terry's slight mischievous grin and Terri's widening beam. Their hands resuming their performance, they glanced at Scott, Don, and Art, their audience, and continued their act.

The twins then weaved a star. They let the star hover for a few seconds...

Then the office doors creaked opened so eerily.

Don wouldn't be surprised if Hardscrabble did this deliberately (Scarers always do emphasize Noise Atmosphere).

The other Oozma clenched up in her presence. Terri concealed the string out of sight with Terry being swiftly sure to deftly untangle the string on his finger so Terri could hide it. Scott's teeth tightened into a mildly audible chatter. Art slumped back in his seat, seemingly relaxed rather than startled.

"I may see you in my office now," said the sternly womanly voice.

"It's just me, Hardscrabble."

"Ah, Mr. Carlton, pleasure to meet again."

It not appear like she was pleased, but that she sounded amiable enough.


A/N

Originally, Art was just going to meet Oozma, and then, bam, he joined them, but being that this was Art, I had to write him a much more substantial introduction. So... friendship bracelet. Yeah. Also, it allowed me to give the origin story of the color choice for O.K.

Another Headcanon that came randomly was the idea that each Oozma, save for Don, were trying to get into Omega Howl. Quite honestly, it didn't make for much gag at all, just a little trivia that got made up on the spot and I thought, oh, what if Art and the Perry twins were trying to get in. In some ways, I felt like addressing Omega Howl's existence as fans noted that only one or two Omega Howl brothers showed up in the movie.

And yup, Johnny Worthington's cameo here. Enjoy it while it last readers! I would write him an origin story, but other fanfiction writers are doing the job for me. There're probably even more Roar Omega Roar origin stories than Oozma Kappa origin stories. Not sure why, but I attribute it to the obsession with antagonists these days.

Do Review! Constructive Criticism needed.

Don Carlton, Scott Squibbles, Sheri Squibbles, Art, the Perry twins, Johnny Worthington, Claire, Brock, Hardscrabble (c) Pixar

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Ava-Kane

[more_than_ok__commission_by_ech0_73-d8gb68u] 


Chapter 10: The Sorority Alumna

Perhaps it was Dean Hardscrabble's nocturnal heritage that prompted her to shroud her office in minimal light, that faint natural sunlight pouring from the window through the darkness like a single stage spotlight. Or maybe it was to affirm her credibility as a Scarer.

Don had the sudden intuition that Hardscrabble had no fondness for salesmen, because when he flipped out his business card out of simple habit, she responded, "Mr. Carlton, if you are engaged in your selling activities, I'll have you know it's a campus misdemeanor to advertise and sell non-campus-approved products."

"My apologies." And just when Don was about to stick his card back into his pocket, he spotted "OOZMANIAN INDUSTRY" in hard-black text. He reminded himself to print out new cards without his now-former company name.

Dean Hardscrabble went on, "Well, good day sir. I called you here to discuss your petition, regarding your request to return to the Scare Program. Mr. Carlton, your record states that almost 30 years ago, you dropped-out of the Program and moved onto a Marketing major. The school's rules have changed. We rarely accept drop-outs back in order to discourage students from shirking their commitments. Too often they pledge to a high-risk field and abandon that pledge. You must answer me, why should you be among the few exceptions?"

"I considered that ole' standards could apply to me now since I was a student in da' 50s."

"Mr. Carlton, the old does not always apply to the new. I will stand by the new rules."

"I willingly retook da' pre-Scare application exam this year, aced it, and Ima willing to improve my Scare knowledge. I'll take on the new if I hafta."

Her fingernails drummed onto her desk, her tapping almost ominous and yawning in the acoustics of her office. "Mr. Carlton, many students make the same promise shortly before breaking it."

And for a moment, Don swore that Dean Hardscrabble saw into the young 18 year old freshman, who trailed into the entrance Scaring Program, naive to the grueling work ahead of him and overconfident that he could ace everything. "And it's too my understanding that you were one of these students. According to records, you made no more than a C, and then you cited 'Workload and Personal Matters' as a reason for dropping Scaring over 30 years ago."

He had not remembered putting that down until she had reminded him. And Don had wanted to say, "Oh, my late Pa' Carlton convinced me." But it wouldn't have sounded appropriate. And the "Personal Matters" had referred to the personal matter of Pa talking him out of Scaring ("sonny, I think yer suited to something else besides Scaring").

"The 'Workload' is the most common reasons for dropping out with students underestimating the difficulty and danger of the field. But I am curious about the circumstances of these 'Personal Matters?'"

Don wanted to bring up Pa Carlton, but it would come off as a pity story. And pity stories would sound like excuses. Pity stories were excuses.

Don leaned a few inches forward, rested his elbows on her desk, then laid his chin on his hands. A salesman's technique. Leaning the right amount forward would command the listener to consider the speaker's words.

"Listen Dean Harescrabble, you pegged me down. Yes, I was a fool in mai early youth. Droppin' out was a mistake. But for now, I implore you to see if I have da' spark of potential that ya' always look for. Perhaps in those thirty years, I have grown up enough to handle the Scaring field." He lowered the pitch of his typically animated voice into something graver, not too much to seem that he was over-adjusting himself, but enough to have her take him more seriously.

The way her brows rose were deliberate, intimidating yet fascinating. Her eyes were neither disapproving nor agreeable, yet it carried some essence of cold amusement and resolve.

Don realized that she had figured his calculated gesture.

And she respected that subtle endeavor.

She craned inches forward to scrutinize Don. The eyes of the instructor and the salesman met like a match, and they exchanged character studies as taught by their expertise's training. The record-breaking Scarer inspected Don for a capable Scarer. Meanwhile, Don studied the headmistress like a new customer, inferring her preferences based on the mannerisms and demeanor. In her stone face, he gathered that the her taste tended to be narrow, precise, and of high expectations.

And Don knew that his task would be to inspire the Dean to expand and open her judgments.

She delivered her verdict: "While you are not made of the conventional Scarer build, it would be unfair to deny your potential for the field. You are one of those who does not look scary but you can be scary. And while I do not recommend this for you as the best path for the job market, you have the right to enroll this upcoming semester based on your recent written pre-Test score. It seems I can veto your enrollment, but I cannot veto your determination. We can make an exception for you."

"Mr. Carlton, you are not without potential." It was worded as a compliment, yet it sounded patronizing, as if she intended her expectations to haunt him.

If Don had the spirit of the young M.U. student he was, he would have whooped in joy at this accomplishment. But not the current ole' Don, who knew that the challenge was just about to start. "Many thanks." His nod bent at a deliberate bow, as if in reverence. "As yer new student for next semester, I guarantee that I'll be the finest surprise you'll ever see." He permitted himself to loosen up and raise his hand in a comical but serious salesman's pledge.

"I'll be overseeing your performance at the end of the semester. I make very clear distinctions between surprises and exceptions." Her voice with condescending caution.

And he will wonder, if she had tried intimidating him out of the Scaring field for his own good.


Uncanny, how she carried the exact same severe expression from their last office meeting months earlier, like walking into a memory.

Her disdain for salesmen had not changed.

That salesman habit tingling again, Don whipped out his business card. "Don Carlton, former student of yer Program, and it's a pleasure meetin' you again."

"Then I'll remind you that non-campus-approved selling is not permitted here." She glared at the SALES on the cards.

Apologizing, he withdrew his card.

With the voice of a concerned yet stern mother, she inquired, "Mr. Carlton, if I may ask, is your back doing fine?" She meant it kindly (possibly a tad snidely) but Don still couldn't shake off the uncomfortable memory.

"Dandy as ever." Don extended the paperwork, which she peeled off from his suction cups. Even if he possessed twice the charisma in his younger days, he could never cajole an amused expression out of the Hardscrabble.

Skimming over the signatures and paperwork, Dean Hardscrabble bore a stare that pierced the smug expressions of the most prideful students. Her lips mouthed the names, Scott Squibbles, Terry & Terri Perry, and… Art (Don noted her subtle sigh). At some point of their lives, they all stood on a child-bedroom simulator under Hardscrabble's watchful eyes, reciting answers and demonstrating techniques.

As she continued reading, Don passed the time by studying Hardscrabble like a potential customer. But he found nothing new in her. No flinch in her stern demeanor. She made silence intense.

It won't hurt to strike up a conversation.

"I wonder, Dean, yer fond of them frats and sororities?"

She did not raise her head, keeping her sight on the paperwork, but Don could note the mild raising of her brows from the angle of her bent head. More amused that someone bothered with starting a conversation.

"Oh, I was a former sorority girl." And she finally lifted her head for a glance at the wall.

Don also turned his head to the wall where he spied a black-and-white photo of the young Abigail Hardscrabble, an Eta Hiss Hiss sister (now alumna) standing in the foreground of her sisters. The young Abigail had a straight mouth and dull eyes, donning trendy dark attire, almost like the Claire girl, except there was the distinct sorority pride in her eyes. But what stuck out wasn't that she was the tallest, but that she was the sole grinning member, a rebel in her own group.

He had been so adjusted to Dean Hardscrabble's authoritative presence that he had forgotten that she had a history as a student. He and Abigail were a generation or two apart, but he understood that she had aspirations and a desire for belonging. What did it take for her to belong to that sorority? Did she love it? She must have been fond of it enough to have those photos. Does she call them? No, do they call her or leave her messages?

"May I ask how young Mr. Squibbles came up with the idea of this fraternity?" Her voice bore an edge of amused intrigue.

"Well, it started with my idea. A pretty desperate one. Start a frat for failed Scare students." Suddenly, Don regretted the wording. Former, not failed. Former Scare students, not failed Scare students. "It's not the best idea, probably an average one, and I thought it suited Scott more than me."

But he chided himself quickly. Scott did not deserve to be thought of as low. What connotations did he meant by "average"? What did he mean to do when he passed that "desperate, average" idea to Scott, thinking it could cheer him? What did he meant, when he acknowledged the idea "wasn't the best and average" but it suited Scott? Didn't Scott deserve better?

"Not to say that, young Scott here should be thought of someone average, he's of exceptional character. I allowed Scott to move onto the idea, and next thing I knew, I was on it too."

"Then may I ask you how did you come upon this idea of such a group, Mr. Carlton?"

So Don started, "Well, ma'am, with young men getting thrown out of the Program, some are frightened out of their wits a-bout what to do next. Thought these boys… and me, might need a place that could encourage them as they find their new paths." A raspy edge escaped his throat, as stifled as Scott's attempts to choke back sobs the day he stumbled down the Scare School steps.

He felt embarrassed. Like he was confessing a pity story.

The Founder of the Scare Games threw another glance at the Eta Hiss Hiss photo on the wall, then she looked to the Founding-Father-to-be of O.K. Her years as a Scaring examiner must have built up immunity to the pity stories of her many students, who looked for excuses to be considered exceptions.

Her fingernails tapped on the brass of her pen.

It was difficult to tell if there was sympathy or mockery in Hardscrabble's stone face, but Don was certain he detected pity. Pity, you are just among the many respectable students who weren't fit to scare. I can't afford to show my pity. What you will do next after the pursuit of Scaring is your concern alone.

"Mr. Carlton, please tell your members this, particularly to young Mr. Squibbles, do not over-exert yourself out over your setback with the Scare Program." She gave a deliberate nod. "I wish your fraternity the best."

With that, Abigail, a former sorority girl, signed the papers.

There was no smile. But her words sounded genuine.

Departing from her shadowy office, he wore not a salesman's grin, but a customer's grin of a wise purchase. He didn't believe that he would be so grateful to obtain Abigail Hardscrabble's autograph.

As he held the forms, inscribed with Hardscrabble's signature, the way he showed off his business card, Art slapped Scott a high-five and even Terry cracked a smile as Terri pumped his fists in the air with the green string twined around his fingers.


A/N

The scene here is what inspired the illustration cover. It can also be found on the Deviantart page of Ech073. It was a commission I requested and she's done a wonderful job on the shading and atmosphere.

This is the first chapter that reveals that Don DID in fact participated the Scaring Program in his youth. Originally, by the time the first few chapters were posted, this was NOT the case before. I wrote the beginning chapters in mind that Don never attended the Scaring Program and ventured straight into a Marketing major. But then I toyed with the idea that maybe young Don did attend the Scaring Program, but dropped out, and moved onto the Marketing major to show that he did have a taste of the school and wasn't ready for all its difficulties. As a result, it gave more impact to Don's regrets. Luckily, since the first chapters didn't really indicate that Don 
never attended the Scaring Program as a youth, I was able to fit in this piece of headcanon in this chapter and work with it for later chapters. I never straight on clarified the exact circumstances of Don's college youth, so I used that vagueness to an advantage.

Allusions/Sources/Inspiration

- Word of a Pixar writer is that Hardscrabble was part of HSS. Wonder if Pixar got any sketches.

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