Episode 043

Melinda’s Journal

Friday, November 3

Majestic.

Boring.

Inspiring.

Lame.

Magnificent.

Tawdry.

Tasteful.

Lackluster.

Powerful.

During orientation, we were taught to sing the school song. By the time I memorized it, I thought I would never want to sing such a dull, pathetic song ever again. During our first school meeting, when we were told to rise to sing it yet again, I was about to groan out of frustration. Why did we had to sing something so uninspiring?

The first few bars played over the speakers and I prepared to sing halfheartedly. Then, the entire school erupted in song. Such power! Such vivaciousness! I had never felt anything so incredibly awe-inspiring. During those few moments, I felt the entire Hartfield community completely unified.

I soon learned, however, that not everyone feels the same way about the song. Many of my classmates are incapable of feeling the majestic strength generated when over eight hundred people erupt into a fight song. Many of my classmates still feel the song is dull and dated and uninspiring.

How can I share with them the majesty of the song? What can I do to help them feel what I feel? I wish I could find a way to bottle the energy created when we all sing together, and release it onto the football field. Perhaps then, we might have a chance of defeating Wheeler.

Go Hartfield!!

Whomp Wheeler!!

 Melinda’s Story

“So, are you coming to the Whomping Wheeler Whally tonight?” Walter asked as I he removed his sandwich from my lunch tray Friday afternoon.

I raised my eyebrows. “The what?”

Sarah giggled across the table. “The pep rally. Tonight.”

I picked up the pastel purple Daily Docket in the center of the table, scanning until I found what they were talking about.

“This is during study hours.”

Sarah smiled. “Yeah. Isn’t that awesome?”

“But, what is it?”

Walter shook his head. “You know tomorrow is Wheeler Weekend, right?”

I rolled my eyes. Of course I knew that. It’s all anyone had been able to talk about all week. Every sports team was playing against Wheeler tomorrow. I gestured for Walter to continue.

“Well, according to Coach Farnsworth, each year they make a  giant papier-mâché wolf and put it in the middle of the football field. At the pep rally, every athlete on each team gets a turn beating the wolf with the Hartfield Hammer.”

Larry rubbed his hands together. “I can’t wait. It’s gonna be epic.”

Sarah shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I know it’s pretend and everything, but I really don’t like the idea of beating up a poor little wolf. I like wolves.”

Larry raised his eyebrows. “You do?”

Sarah nodded. “Yeah. They’re cute. Especially the puppies. I wanted one when I was little. We ended up getting a dog that looked a lot like a wolf. Her name was Wolfie.”

“You have a dog?”

Sarah shook her head. “Not anymore. She died last summer.”

“I never pictured you as a dog person. You always struck me as a cat person.”

Sarah wrinkled her nose. “I hate cats.”

“I have two: Fluffy and Whiskers.”

I could see the tension building between them and decided to try alleviating some of it. I turned to alter. “So, tell me more about the pep rally.”

“What do you have against cats?” Larry demanded.

Walter raised his voice a little louder than Larry’s. “You should come.”

“They’re just so unfriendly! They want everything to be their way. Dogs are so loyal.”

I glanced at my roommate before answering Walter. “I want to. It sounds like fun.”

“Cats are not unfriendly. They just want to be loved.”

I waited for Larry to finish his outburst. “I have rehearsal tonight. We’ll see what time I get out.”

Sarah surged to her feet. “Well, I’m sorry. I can’t be with a cat lover.”

Larry looked bewildered. “What does that mean?”

“We’re done.”

Sarah picked up her tray and flounced towards the dishroom. I sent an apologetic look to the boys before gathering my own things and following my roommate. I hadn’t eaten much. I grabbed my sandwich before chasing after Sarah. I caught up with her at the main entrance.

“Hey. Wanna talk about it?”

“Not really. He’s a cat person. I’m a dog person. Oil and water. Good to know now before we got too emotionally involved.”

“So, that’s it? You’re breaking up with him because he likes cats?”

“Yes. You got a problem with that?”

I held up my hands in defense. “Nope. Just wanted to make sure I got it right.”

I dropped the subject as we headed to the science center lounge.


That afternoon, I made my way backstage on the theater side of the Art Center. And entered pure chaos. The greenroom was exploding with nose, there were people shouting on the stage, and a large group of young girls were giggling in one of the dressing rooms. For the first time in two months, I had no idea what I was doin or where I was supposed to be.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw my dance partner emerge from the greenroom.

“Hey! Brody!”

He looked in all directions before spotting me. “Hey! What’s up?”

“You tell me. This place is a zoo.”

“It’s dress rehearsal.”

“Well, yeah, but it’s nuts. I have no idea where to go.”

“Well, right now, everyone is just looking around. I think the little kids are exploring the dressing rooms. Tomorrow, that’s gonna be for company. Greenroom is for upcoming numbers. We’re someplace called the black box. The little kids are in some rehearsal room.”

“What little kids?”

“Intermediate ballet. They’re the party scene at the beginning. And, one of them is Clara, I guess.”

“I didn’t realize that.”

Brody nodded. “Come on. Let’s go find a seat.”

I followed him into the theater, where there was slightly less chaos, though no less noise. He led me to a row marked advanced tap. The front row, labeled intermediate ballet, held a row of tween I assumed were Brody’s party guests. Behind them were advanced ballet and advanced jazz. Behind me, three empty rows were marked company.

It took nearly twenty minutes for the theater to fill and another five for  Madám Cherí to call the room to call the room to order. Eventually, the room silenced.

“Good afternoon. I know everyone is excited, but we have a lot to accomplish this weekend! We will be doing a run through this evening and two full dress rehearsals tomorrow. Pablo? Where are you?”

Mr. Pablo appeared from the wings. “Sí?”

“Pablo. I want Mother Ginger in full costume tonight, but the gingerbread children not.”

I had no idea what she meant, but Mr. Pablo must have because he replied “Got it!” before disappearing backstage.

Madám Cherí returned her attention to us. “For tonight only, you will be called when it is your turn to be backstage, approximately two numbers before your performance. You will wait in the greenroom until Serena tells you it is time to be in the wings. When your number is completed, you may SILENTLY return to your seats. We will pause during tonight’s intermission in order to review the first act. You MUST stay until the final curtain.”

As much as I wanted to attend the rally, I didn’t mind staying. I wanted to see the show, even if it wasn’t in full costume.

Madam Cheri wasn’t finished. “Tomorrow, we will meet here briefly before going to your assigned dressing areas. You will be in full costume and we will do two full dress rehearsals, each with a short intermission. Between the rehearsals, we will again meet here for a brief discussion. Are there any questions? Yes, Addie?”

A young girl in the front row, who looked about ten to Melinda, spoke up. “My mom wants to know what time she should pick me up tonight.”

“We will not know until we are done, but I am hoping for about nine. Any other questions?”

Well, so much for attending the Whomping Wheeler Whally. I mentally crossed my fingers for a productive rehearsal that would end early.


The rehearsal was not quick. The opening act, with the young dancers as party guests, needed to be performed several times. Brody explained that they were actually two classes who had not danced together before. As a result, many of them had trouble finding their marks.

Eventually, the party guests left and I watched Clara and Fritz break the nutcracker toy. Clara returned to the stage alone and the Nutcracker came to life. Watching the company performers was mesmerizing. I especially liked the Mouse King. I’ve only watched a few ballets and male ballet dancers always fascinated me. I was impressed by his grace and strength.

After Clara and the Nutcracker entered the forest to dance with the snowflakes, the curtain closed and Madám Cherí returned to the stage. A moment later, the company dancers returned to their seats behind me.

Madám Cherí commented on each of the scenes, although she had little to say, since most of her critiques had been voiced during their performances. She soon announced they would begin the second act. I was able to watch some of the sweets dance before my class was called to the greenroom.

After one more number, Miss Serena told sent us into the wings. We found Mr. Pablo dressed as Mother Ginger, wearing a powder blue bodice and blonde wig. At the moment, he looked pretty silly, but I figured that with some makeup, he would actually look like a fairy godmother.

His powder blue and white skirt was constructed of a series of hoops of increasing size as it billowed out beneath him.  Although we had been practicing for several weeks, this was the first time we were using the full Mother Ginger costume. Until now, we had been rehearsing with a hoop.

I took my place beneath the skirt and Livvy flicked a switch on a small light that had been sewn into the dress. A pale blue light, like the one that had illuminated backstage, helped us see in the darkness.

The music changed. Livvy whispered, “Now!”

Just as we had rehearsed, the eight of us remained crouched under the skirt as Mr. Pablo danced along the white line on the stage. It was a lot harder to find our mark when we couldn’t see the theater. When he reached a small arrow I knew pointed towards the audience, Livvy switched off the light and we crowded a little closer.

Mr. Pablo turned in a circle. The dress swirled around us and he thankfully did not step on any of us. A moment later, the front of the skirt lifted enough for two of the boys to crawl out. It lowered, but I had seen the routine enough to picture them dancing to the front of the stage. The skirt lifted twice more until Livvy and I were the last two remaining. She whispered to me.

“Ready?”

“I think so.”

“I’m nervous.”

“It’s just a rehearsal. No different than class.” I tried to sound more confident than I felt. My stomach was in knots.

The skirt lifted again and we crawled into the bright light. My performance was nearly flawless. When we were done, we crawled back under the skirt and Mr. Pablo danced off the stage.

In the wings, Mr. Pablo lifted it and we all breathed sighs of relief as we crawled out. He spoke in a loud whisper. “That was excellent, chicos. Go ahead back to your seats. I’ll talk to you after the run through.”

We were one of the final numbers in the show. I returned to my seat in time to see the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I watched in awe as the principal dancer and her partner moved together with such fluidity. Soon, the candy canes that had performed the Russian Dance returned to usher everyone off the stage, except for a sleeping Clara, who awakened holding the toy nutcracker.

The curtain closed and again Madám Cherí stood on the stage. She had just finished critiquing the advanced ballet and jazz classes as the company members entered the room.

“Advanced Tap. Your performance, where is Pablo? Pablo?”

“Sí!” Mr. Pablo again appeared from the wings. He still wore the bodice and wig, without the skirt and looked even more ridiculous than he had earlier. I did my best not to giggle, but some of the tweens in the front row weren’t as successful.

Madám Cherí ignored them as she turned to Mr. Pablo. “Get over here. You are part of this class!” He followed her instructions as she turned back to my class. “Your performance was excellent. It appears that practicing here has been beneficial. When you are under the skirt, please try to be more fluid in your motion. You will have more practice tomorrow. We want Pablo to appear as if he is gliding, not starting and stopping. You know his dance. Be sure to stay clear of his feet as he is moving. Also, be sure not to stand too tall; we don’t want Mother Ginger’s skirt to appear lumpy.”

Madám Cherí went on to critique the company before asking for any questions. We were all silent. I had a feeling everyone was thinking the same question as me.

Can we go home yet?


Finally, after what felt like ages, we were dismissed. I had just enough time to run to my dorm for a quick shower. But, I didn’t have enough time for dinner at the dining hall.

I was one of the last people to place an order at the MAC Attack before the counter closed. I carried my burger basket and milkshake out to the varsity football field and searched for my friends.

Both sets of bleachers were full, but Dre had texted telling all us non-athletes, as she dubbed us, where she was sitting. The lights on the field illuminated the bleachers nicely and I had no trouble finding her on the far side of the visiting bleachers. She was sitting in the front row with some of my other friends, but there wasn’t enough room for me.

I plopped myself on the ground in front of them as Natalie smiled at me. “Hey. Where you been?”

I took a long drink from my milkshake. “Rehearsal.”

“Oh. Yeah. We had a sub in tap today because of that. Miss Serena’s helping, right?”

“Yeah. She’s the . . . I think it’s the stage manager. The one who makes sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be.”

“How’d it go?”

I popped a fry in my mouth. “Fine. I’m hoping to watch the dress rehearsal at least once tomorrow. I’d love to see it with costumes. But, I think it’s going to be great.”

“Well, I can’t wait to see it. Oh, I think they’re starting.”

Natalie gestured towards the field. On my way to the MAC, I was so focused on my grumbling stomach, I didn’t see the Wheeler wolf. Then I was so focused on finding my friends, I completely ignored it.

Now that I was looking at the monstrosity, I wasn’t sure how I could have missed it. It lay on a large tarp on the fifty-yard line and stood probably five times larger than a normal wolf. It had grey fur with a white belly and was wearing a green shirt. No. A green shirt had been painted on it.

When I heard the opening bars to the school song, I jumped to my feet with the rest of the school. Unlike at our school meetings, it felt like everyone sang from the bottom of their heart. Not for the first time, I was truly awestruck by the majestic melody. This was a fight song. This song would help lead Hartfield to victory!

I didn’t want the song to end, but it transitioned into another fight song. We all remained standing as the pep squad literally tumbled onto the field. After some handsprings and flips and other acrobatic feats, Brian from my art class broke away from the squad. He grabbed a microphone from the wolf—where had that been hiding?—and began to rally the crowd.

“Are we ready to win?”

I shouted with my classmates. “Yes!”

“What are we going to do?”

“Whomp Wheeler!”

“That’s right. And, let’s hear it for our teams. We have water polo!”

The crowd erupted as the water polo teams rushed in from behind the MAC. A boy and girl in the front, probably the varsity captains, each had a large black hammer. No. Mallets. Each player was wearing their black and gold warm up suits and many had painted their faces in the school colors. Some had even dyed their hair black or gold or even both colors. They each took a swing at the legs of the giant wolf and handed the mallet to the next player. The crowd never stopped cheering.

As the final boy and girl attacked the structure, Brian again yelled into the microphone. “Let’s hear it for water polo!!” The two teams stood in the end zone further away from the MAC and waved as the crowd cheered them on.

“We have soccer!” Again, all the players from all the soccer teams rushed onto the field in their warm ups, faces and hair painted. I had trouble recognizing Forrest with his gold hair and black face paint, until Natalie pointed him out. The players took turns beating on the giant wolf and went to stand with the water polo team.

My friends and I cheered for Leif and the rest of the cross country teams as they gleefully attacked the mammoth wolf. When the field hockey teams came out, we shouted loudly as Sarah, Jade, Jessi, and Xandra took their turns clobbering the structure.

Finally, it was time for the football teams to be introduced. For all the other sports, Brian had introduced the sport and all the thirds, JV and Varsity teams had come out together—boys and girls—except for field hockey, which were only girls. However, for football, Brian reversed his tactic. First, he introduced the JV team, and my friends and I shouted loudly as Larry and Walter attacked the wolf. When the Varsity team came out, the crowd shouted even louder.

The cheering created an incredible energy. It was amazing. When the final player had his turn with the hammer, I realized the wolf had begun to fall down. What would happen to it after the pep rally?

My question was quickly answered. A muscular man with dark skin and a dark goatee walked onto the field wearing jeans and a black and gold Hartfield jacket. When he turned his back, I saw large gold letters across his back declaring he was the Athletic Director. In his hands was a large stick with a fire blazing on one end.

Brian began another cheer, with the rest of the pep squad lining the bleachers on both sides of the field. “Go Hartfield! Whomp Wheeler! Go Hartfield! Whomp Wheeler!”

We repeated this until I thought I might burst from all energy and excitement. That was the moment the athletic director lit the wolf on fire! The cheering and screaming grew even louder. Brian led the school in one more chorus of the school song as all the teams circled the inferno.

I had no idea what materials had been used to build the wolf, but it didn’t burn very long. Soon, it was a smoldering heap. My friends had trickled away and I realized I was standing alone. With a sigh, I collected the trash from my dinner and tossed it in one of the receptacles on my way back to the dorms.

When I crossed the street at the four-way intersection, I headed along the driveway towards Stanton. As I passed the humanities building, I heard someone calling my name. I turned in a complete circle before she noticing Pat behind me. He flashed me that famous smile.

“Hey, third former. What’cha up to?”

“I was heading over to Stanton.”

“Sick. Me, too.”

To my horror, he crooked his arm in mine, leading the way towards Stanton. It felt strange and I was uncomfortable with the attention. As I slowly moved my arm away from his, he apologized.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s just . . . It’s weird. And, I can’t explain it.”

“Because I’m famous?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. You’re a fifth former. And, you’re Walter’s brother.”

Pat shrugged a shoulder and gestured I should go up the steps ahead of him.  I turned to him in the common room.

“So, where were you last week? I figured, after our marathon, you’d be joining our club.”

He followed me down the hall. “I was going to. But, I received a text suggesting it would be a bad idea.”

I groaned. “I wish I had gotten that text. Mr. Peters paused the show literally every five minutes.” I climbed over the baby gate without knocking. “Did you get to watch it anyway?”

Pat nodded. “I caught it online Saturday night.”

We had to wait for Walter, but the rally had let out before study hours were officially over. By the time he arrived, we still had just enough time to enjoy our show.

Unlike our marathon, I didn’t point things out as I saw them. I didn’t want to spoil the show for anyone. Plus, part of me liked the fact that I seemed to see things no one else did.

But sometimes, I couldn’t help myself. At one point in the movie, Walter told Pat my antidote theory.

“Melinda said that Molly was only pretending to be infected. She thinks Doc is going to make an antidote from Molly’s blood.”

I smiled. “Oh, he already did. Didn’t you see him put it aside? It was right before he got infected.”

“WHAT?” Everyone looked at me in shock. It was priceless.

Mr. Price shook his head. “Doc isn’t infected.”

I giggled. How did they miss it? “Dax got him. Just watch. You’ll see.”

Of course, I was right. A few scenes later, there were some more obvious clues that the doctor had been infected. I resisted the urge to say I told you so when everyone started swearing at the screen.

As study hours ended, Pat walked me and Mr. Price to our dorm, since it was on the way to his. He sent me a curious look.

“So, if Doc is infected, who’s going to give out the antidote?”

“Molly.” I had no idea how I knew the answer. But, I was confident I was right.

Mr. Price frowned at me. “I’m starting to think you read spoilers.”

I giggled. “Nah. I’m just really observant.”

So observant, in fact, that I saw my roommate making out with Larry in the corner of the common room as I went inside. Rolling my eyes, I snuck up behind them and gave a small cough.

Their sheepish looks made me giggle. “It’s study hours.”

“I’ll text you in the morning,” Larry whispered as he kissed Sarah one more time.

Sarah followed me upstairs. “So, Larry and I are back together.”

“Yeah, I figured that.”

“I was being stupid.”

I happened to agree, but thought it best to keep it to myself.

Melinda’s Journal

Saturday, November 4

Ballet, Jazz and Tap

Marzipan and Chocolate

Dancing Gingerbread

Pat’s Story

I have never been a huge fan of pep rallys. But, I felt obligated to attend the Whomping Wheeler Whally Friday night to cheer for Chloe and my brother. Frank refused to join me, deciding to camp out in the robotics lab instead. The bleachers were pretty full, but I managed to squeeze into a spot in the back of the visitors section. As I did, I saw Melinda walking past me with some sort of basket dinner from the MAC Attack. She seated herself right on the ground in front of her friends not far from where I was sitting.

A few minutes later, the school song began to play and I rose with the rest of my classmates. After singing loudly, the pep squad flipped their way to the stands and began leading the crowd in some rousing choruses of Go Hartfield! Whomp Wheeler! One of my classmates, Brian something-or-other, grabbed a microphone from underneath the gigantic Wheeler Wolf and began introducing the teams.

I knew I was supposed to be joining in the cheers, but I was mesmerized watching Melinda. She seemed to be truly enjoying herself as she screamed with everyone else.

Eventually, the athletic director torched the wolf and it burned to the ground. The crowd slowly trickled away. I remained where I was, texting Chloe if she wanted me to wait for her. She replied that her soccer team was having some sort of party in one of the senior houses to psych themselves for tomorrow’s game. With a shrug, I headed back to my dorm.

I crossed the four-way intersection and noticed a figure just ahead of me. Instead of cutting across the baseball field, the person was walking along the sidewalk and up the driveway. I immediately recognized Melinda and called out to her. She was so adorable. She actually turned a complete circle before she saw me smiling at her.

“Hey, third former. What’cha up to?”

“I was heading over to Stanton.”

Of course she was. It was time for NeoGenesis. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten. I took her arm in mine.

“Sick. Me, too.”

As I led her towards the dorm, I felt her stiffen beside me. I wasn’t surprised when she slowly withdrew her arm. I quickly apologized.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s just . . . it’s weird. And, I can’t explain it.”

“Because I’m famous?”

Melinda wrinkled her nose. “Not at all. You’re a fifth former. And, you’re Walter’s brother.”

I shrugged a shoulder and extended my arm, indicating I would follow her up the Stanton steps. For some reason, this was one of the few dormitories that had its main entrance on the second floor instead of the first. She was waiting for me in the common room.

“So, where were you last week? I figured, after our marathon, you’d be joining our club.”

We headed down the corridor to Peters’s apartment. “I was going to, but I received a text suggesting it would be a bad idea.”

Melinda gave the most adorable groan and told me about how miserable last week’s meeting had been before asking if I had managed to watch the episode. When I assured her I had, Peters started cuing up the episode he had DVRd. A few minutes later, Walter and Mr. Price joined us.

The last time I had watched NeoGenesis with Melinda, she was pointing out all sorts of things I had missed, but I figured that was because she had seen the episodes before. About halfway through tonight’s episode, while Peters was fast forwarding through the commercials, Walter turned to Melinda.

“Okay. You were right that Molly wasn’t infected. But, I’m still not convinced about the antidote.”

I was confused. I turned to my brother. “What are you talking about? What antidote?

“Melinda said that Molly was only pretending to be infected. She thinks Doc is going to make an antidote from Molly’s blood.”

Melinda smiled. “Oh. He already did. Didn’t you see him put it aside? It was right before he got infected.”

“WHAT?” Peters, Price, Walter, and I all turned to her, open-mouthed and wide-eyed. Where did she get that from?

Price shook his head. “Doc isn’t infected.”

Melinda giggled. “Dax got him. Just watch. You’ll see.”

Sure enough, about ten minutes later, the doctor was eating a raw steak, which apparently everyone who was infected with this strange parasite seemed to want to do. After the show, I walked Melinda and Mr. Price back to their dorm, since it was on the way to my own. I looked at Melinda as we stepped outside.

“So, if Doc is infected, who’s going to give out the antidote?”

“Molly.” She sounded strangely confident.

Price gave her a wary look. “I’m starting to think you read spoilers.”

Melinda giggled as she shook her head. “Nah. I’m just really observant.”