Chapter 15: First Election
Don wanted to pat the twins' back after what they had been through. After the final knighting with the O.K. paddles, the initiation left the twins wracked with shock, each of their eye wide and unflinching, their lips glued in a straight horrified frown, and their tentacles stuck to the floor. Terri shivered, his neck wobbling, while Terry was stiff like a teeter-ball pole.
"MOM, WE'RE DONE!" Scott hollered.
On cue, Ms. Squibbles bust through the basement door, not bothering to flick on the lights. Scott and Art pulled the shocked twins to the center of the basement in front of the flashlight. Realizing that she had a camera in her hands, Don instinctively joined his brothers at the center, also reaching for the twins so to pat their back to assuage their stupor. But then Ms. Squibbles counted to three, driving Don to seize the immobilized twins' shoulders like they were best buds and grin for the photo. The camera flashed. Then she scurried forward in various directions to get close-ups of each face. Photos slid out of the camera slot. The Oozmas First Initiation Ceremony. Scott, Art, Don, in black, and the twins, their faces frozen in horror and pupils reddening and shrinking with each camera flash.
Ms. Squibbles scooped up the pictures and flounced upstairs. Art and Scott had to escort the twins to the living room by dragging them by their hands. Don followed, holding the folds of his cloak so not to trip over it.
Settling the twins on the couch, the Oozmas took their spots: Don on that blue-striped armchair, Scott on a rocking chair, and Art on a flowery circular stool. They took to quietly watching the twins, waiting for a functional movement, to signal that they were fully alive. Scott even had that same goofy smile etched on his face like the moment he first recruited the the twins into Oozma Kappa.
Terry moved first. He lifted his lips and inhaled.
"Um, I read plenty of Gothic novels and..."
Don exchanged glances with Scott and Art, not knowing if Terry meant that he was ok. Perhaps the initiation had purged the twins of their sense of normalcy.
With the calculated itch of an English student who wanted to reluctantly offer an in-class discussion, Terry gradually raised his upper hand. "Yeah, so, um, Gothic novels. Next time," Terry started, "Use a candle or two instead of that flashlight." He swallowed. "Candles bring a spookier atmosphere like in Gothic novels. They're more ancient and more sophisticated symbolism than a flashlight. You would know if you read Gothic novels." Terry's hand remained suspended in the air.
Now it was Terri's turn to ease himself from the shock. Terri lifted his upper hand, ready to add to his brother's input, and now both the twins' upper hands were suspended so stiffly that Don was sure they would make a steady coat-rack.
"Umm, scented candles. Yes, use scented candles." Terri exhaled. "Whoever becomes our next brother, we need to make him feel comfortable and not too scared." Terri gulped some air. "It would calm... their nerves... greatly."
There's a good point right there (even if the subject of Gothic novels was far from relevant). Nice-smelling candles probably would decrease a new Oozma's desire to flee an initiation.
"Brilliant!" Art shouted. "That way, the candle aroma can enhanced our connection to the Universe, thus it will truly recognize us as brothers."
Relaxing themselves into tentative chuckles, the twins simultaneously lowered their stiff hands. Except Terry asked, "Um, guys, can you drop those cloaks off? There're kinda freaking me out, sorry."
Oh right. Their cloaks were still on them. Odd as it was being dark hooded forms on Mrs. Squibbles feminine furniture, Don had to admit to himself that he was getting accustomed to his cloak as he peeled it off.
Scott threw off his ceremonial cloak, revealing a knitted green sweater with the yellow O.K. proudly knitted in, courtesy of his mother. They all admired it enviously, and Don made a mental note to buy himself a few green shirts.
"Now on with the first meeting! Um, anything you guys want to say?"
Terri's head bounced up and down. "Hey Scott, I was wondering, can we can turn this room into our own Party Central? Do you think Ms. Squibbles would allow us to install a disco ball?"
Ms. Squibbles emerged from the kitchen door with a tray of shortbread. "Of course!"
Terri punched his fists in the air. "Yes!"
"But on one condition."
"Don't worry, Missus Squibbles, we won't party too hard and we'll clean up."
"Well yes, but I was going to ask you boys to invite me to your first party."
"Mom!" Scott shouted, flushing. Don and Art could not help snickering.
"Invite me, or else, you might miss out on 'door jamming'."
"What is this 'door jamming' you speak of?" Terri inquired. "Is it a legendary dance move?"
"Invite me to your first party and maybe if we have the resources, I'll show ya' how its done." Three of her eyes winked as she set down the plate of cookies on the sitting room table before the boys. "I'll be the life of the party like in my sorority days." And she disappeared into the kitchen.
Taking a cookie from the plate, Scott cleared his throat like a professor trying to subdue a noisy class. "So we..." Scott glanced a tentatively around. "...are all gathered here today, and apparently there's something we need to do. That Greek Life Office wants to know our office positions. We need a President. Let's start nominating someone."
Art bounced up and down, "Can't we nominate the intangible force of the Universe? I nominate the Universe!"
However, Art's nomination was immediately shot down by the funny looks on the Oozmas' face. "I doubt it," replied Scott, to which Art pouted.
Terri perked up. "I nominate Terry! And I can list a hundred reasons why he'll make the best president. This one time, when I got a scratch on a tentacle, he put a band-aid over it..." Terry flushed, rolling his eye at Terri's brothery bias. "...He watched over me, he has never left me, oh, and this one time, when I got lost in the mall, he helped me find mom, and he helps me get As in dancing even though he despises it most of the time..."
All while Terri was droning on, Don could only think, Scott Squibbles. Don would nominate that kid. The kid possessed the suitable qualities: the amiability, a considerate heart, respect for his mother. Yet, he held himself back from voicing that nomination, wary of the fact that he spent little time with the twins and Art. Thus, it was better to hold back his potentially bias nomination. He had to allow the rest of the other nominations unfold.
"... Terry is always there for me, and... and... well, that's the gist of it."
Terry sighed, relieved that Terri ran out of his good qualities to boast about.
Scott muttered, "So we got Terry as our possible President. Say, what says you Terry?"
With a faint grin, Terry proclaimed, "How about Mr. Carlton? He's the oldest, and he has proven to be the wisest." Scott and Art nodded along.
Don laughed. Such nice boys. "Oh no no, boys, that's flattering. But I nominate young Mr. Squibbles, da' founder of Oozma Kappa."
The founder of Oozma Kappa (in name as M.U. records would state), Scott Squibbles laughed. "Really? Yeah I did the paperwork. But I didn't really found O.K. Rather, I found you, Don. You started it. You suggested it. You brought me to that Office of Greek Life."
Terry jumped in, "Scott told us everything." Terry rubbed his chin, trying to recall something. "I believe it was at...- oh yes, it was our get-together at the arcade weeks ago, when it closed, Scott told us about how Oozma Kappa came about. How you came up with this. How you set up the housing here. How you helped Scott find us." Then followed a contemplative pause.
What came out of Terry's mouth next, didn't sound relevant, at first.
Terry remarked, "Is it true?" His eye gleamed. "That you tried to start Oozma Kappa for old guys like you?"
If Don was his Marketing professor, he would have identified the wording of Terry's inquiry as containing (unintentionally) offensive connotation, one that would turn away the demographic of college-age students. Being that Terry was an English major, he could have said "mature students" in place of "old guys." Don immediately and silently chided himself for nitpicking Terry's speaking technique, but he couldn't help but to hang onto that small detail of "old guys" and the manner in how Terry uttered the question.
Until Terry asked that question, Don had not recalled his attempts to start a frat by the name of Oozma Kappa. That particular memory had shrunk into obscure trivia in the back of Don's head since Don had been focusing on grooming Scott Squibble's Oozma Kappa. Don Carlton's Oozma Kappa was long buried.
But to Terry, that notion that Oozma Kappa originated out of Mr. Carlton's proposal of a frat for geezers, "old folks," was something legendary. To that college-kid, that origin story served as dignified fact and thus worth resurrecting in memory.
Stunned in his thoughts, the salesmonsters stared back at Terry's smiling face, realizing that the guy needed an answer, a confirmation that the aforementioned piece of historical trivia of Oozma Kappa was true. The old salesmonster nodded.
"Anyway, I nominate Mr. Carlton," Terry straightened out, committed to his choice.
Terri pondered it before calling, "I second that."
Don cut in, "Now, now, now, nuthin' official yet. Scott's yer founder and he gathered most of ya'll. I just helped him. He's been making time to spend with ya." There were more practical reasons. "And he's closer to all yer age, so he would know you better than I do. So, again, I nominate Sco-, Mr. Squibbles. Anyone? We'll vote it now."
Don raised his hand, declaring, "Scott."
Not even Scott raised his hand. He just took an deep breath and announced, "All in favor of Don being our President?"
As Don lowered his hand, the twins rose their hands in unison, Scott shot up his hand and it trembled like an eager student ready to answer a barrage of Professor's questions, and finally, Art raised both of his hands as if he believed it would count for two or to maximize his utmost sincerity of the vote. Unanimous (with the exception of Don's vote).
They gazed at him like children gawking at Scarers trading cards, their hands frozen in the air.
They threw down their hands and applauded. With every clasp of the palms increasing in volume, Don felt like he had just delivered a million-dollar sales pitch.
Then Don detected another set of hands clapping. He turned to the kitchen door to see the Missus. She had been standing by the kitchen door, witnessing the election. Million-dollars sales pitch? Nah, make that a billion-dollars pitch.
When the applauding finally died down, Don remarked, "I don't have to accept a new Oath do I? Or git a Ceremony?" Don laughed at his quibble.
And as his first act as the newly-inducted President of Oozma Kappa, Don decided to get to know the Oozmas he barely spent time with.
"First things first, I'll get to know ya'. Art?" Don knew the least about this Art fella', considering he was recruited somewhat as a last resort, so it would be most productive to start with him. "Tell me about yerself. Yer life at and outside school." At this, Art shut his eyes, wrapped his limbs in meditation, and spun on his flowery stool. Don figured the fella' was just processing what to say.
Ceasing to twirl around, Art opened his eyes. "Oh, well, I know you Don and you other guys are my bros now, but I'm not sure I'm ready to share everything with you."
Don reassured, "Oh, you could have a crime record and we would still like ya' just the same."
"Oh, wow, that's so nice of you. In that case..." Art bowed his head down. "My real name is Brad Stanton. I beg you not to judge me, but I owe my new brothers the truth." He inhaled, exhaled, commanding the living room into quietness, before solemnly confessing, "In the past, I killed a monster…"
Stares fell upon Art's downtrodden face.
"…with my extra toe. Thus, along with my old identity, I had that toe surgically removed to forget my past. But I can never bring that guy back. I can never take back what I've done." The room froze, eyes on Art, who slumped down, his limbs brushing the carpet.
The shortbread cookie in Scott's fist crumbled, Terri clung to Terry's neck, Terry slipped back into his post-initiation catatonic state, Ms. Squibbles's five eyes widened, and Don wanted the armchair to swallow him. The ticking of the clock paced in their ears as it dawned on them that they will reside under the same roof with that suspect on the flowery cushion
Art sprung up. "HAHA, gotcha! I totally should have taken a picture of your faces! Or even better, you guys were so still, I could have sketched you all. HAHAHAHAHHAHA!" He puffed out in laughter and spun on the cushion.
Not even the reassurance that it was a joke alleviated the awkwardness. With Art's laughter bellowing over the uncomfortably speechless Oozmas, Don, as the new O.K. President, decided that he should quell the situation. So Don forced out chuckle in an attempt to lighten the moment. Then everyone else, Scott, then to Terri, than Terry, Ms. Squibbles followed suite, not because they found it humorous but because they were at a loss at how to react. Then the comedy of joke sunk in and their uneasy chuckles escalated into laughter, blending in with Art's chortling.
When Don finally composed himself, he inquired, "All right." He wiped a tear off his eye. "Tell us yer real story, Art, I take it that's still yer name. Where were yer before M.U.?"
His putty-like lips stretched into its wide grin. "Legally, they told me I do not have to answer that." His eyes rolled off into space.
Quick, another question. "So, what are yer doing at the University now?"
"Ok, I always wanted to play the guitar, rock on, and catch on fire..."
And so followed Art's questionably "true" anecdotes and insights, involving a vent about the conspiracies of the government, a treatise on guitar playing, tips on conducting the perfect hippie protest, the joy and happiness of finding peace within oneself, a story about how he always tried to master a mediation technique that would let him become as omniscient at the Universe, a lecture about their spiritual place and energy in the Universe. The Oozmas had nearly gobbled up all of Ms. Squibbles cookies by the time Art finished his lecture on the tranquility of the New Age and its benefits.
When Art started on the subject of the urban conditions of the underprivileged, Don had to stop him. "Woah, Art, don't take up the entire day. I would like to git to know da' Terries now. Mr. Perrys, Terries, tell me about yerselves. I know one's an writer." Terry smiled. "Da' other is a dancer." Terri grinned. "Got special hobbies ya' two do together?"
The twins beamed. "Close up magic."
Terri dramatically waved his hand, and out of thin air, Terri yanked out a deck of cards, much to the awe of Scott and Art.
Having lived with suckers that stuck to everything, Don could hardly contain his good-natured envy for such deftness of their hands. "Magic, eh?"
"Yup, we studied the sleight of the hands." A shuffle. "Pick a card Don."
Ace of Heart. Lonely Ace.
Concealing it from the twins' view, Don stuck the card back in the deck and much shuffling ensued. "Now tell me, why magic?"
Terry glanced contemplatively at Terri.
"Terri and I had some... issues in our childhood. I guess we weren't the sort of multiple- headed monsters who moved well."
"We got Multiple-Head Dis-conjunction Disorder to be precise," Terri clarified.
Terry glared at the interruption. "Yeah, um." The honest acknowledgment was difficult. "We grappled with controlling our whole body. It's like each side of our body doesn't agree with each other. We studied the sleight of the hand to learn to adjust ourselves in sync and with perfect coordination." Their hands swung and shuffled the cards, and with a pat of Terri's hand, the cards disappeared. But then a few cards slipped out of Terri's sleeves.
With a sigh, Terry added, "Yeah, we're still trying to perfect it."
But to be fair, Don couldn't trace when they slipped the cards into their sleeves. That was an accomplishment.
The twins reshuffled and Don picked a new card. Seven of Hearts. Stick it back into the deck. The twins shuffled with speedy artistry, hand upon each other's hand. Don nearly forgot that each head controlled their separate set of arms. With such graceful movement, Don believed that they were one.
Terry continued, "There's a payoff to magic. Whatever we make disappear must come back. And wa-lah. The audience is stunned."
Finally, after much shuffling that Don could hardly follow, Terri presented the card.
"Is this your card, Mister Carlton?"
Correct. Seven of Hearts.
Don had figured that the trick involved slipping the card inside one of their sleeves, but it did not undermine the deftness of their hand motions. "Now how did ya'...-"
Then an affectionate punch bopped his arm. Ms. Squibbles had sneaked her way next to him.
"Sorry to interrupt, but I almost forgot to hand you boys your photos of your lil' ceremony."
She handed Don one of those photo. After passing out a few copies, she settled on the couch next to the twins, which was nearest to Don, who remained on the blue armchair. Same spot they talked over a cup of cocoa weeks ago.
After thanking Ms. Squibbles (and flushing at the sight of their shocked selves captured in the photos), the twins resumed their quibbles about magic and were starting another card trick, offering a deck to Art.
From the corner of his eye, Don could see Ms. Squibbles grinning.
"...So anyway, so you see, Mr. Carlton. There's a payoff in magic. It takes a little something magicians call..." Terri's fingers waggled dramatically along with Terry's words. "Misdirection."
Don replied, "I git it. Misdirection, brings one somewhere they don't expect. That way, so we can appreciate the payoff when it comes." The twins beamed, figuring that Mr. Carlton enjoyed their magic craft.
"And we appreciate it especially cause' it's unexpected." Blissfully surrounded by his new Oozma brothers, the newly-inducted O.K. President winked at Sheri.
Anyone willing to guess the symbolism of the cards Don draws?
And beyond this story's epilogue, there will be follow-ups coming along. A few one-shots and a multi-chaptered sequel/prequel.
I will request constructive criticism. What did you find to be the most strongest scenes/aspects of this fanfiction (and why), what scenes were the weakest, and whatever I can improve on. Or, speak about your curiosities about some plot aspects or unexplored territory in this story. This is a time for me to go back and fix writing errors in previous chapters.