Authors: David Lubar
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For my dear friends Jim Vanecek, Ellen Riemschneider, Christopher, and Maryellen. Thanks for a lifetime of wonderful moments and fond memories.
NOT ANOTHER WORD
hate mimes. They're
so annoying. Especially the one who's always doing his act in front of city hall. I see him on the way home from school every day. He's usually on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps, performing stupid mime stuff like pretending to sit in an invisible chair or pulling a rope. Sometimes he's standing on the wide entrance area at the top of the steps, making fun of the way people walk.
“That guy is such a jerk,” I told my friend Brayden as we turned the corner by city hall on a Monday afternoon. I'd never managed to catch the mime doing it, but I was sure he was always mocking me after I'd walked past him.
“I think mimes are kind of cool,” Brayden said. “They're what clowns would be like if clowns weren't creepy. It takes a lot of skill to do those things.”
“You've got to be kidding.” I glared at the mime in his stupid long-sleeved striped shirt, with his white gloves and painted face. “Anybody could do that stuff. Most people just don't want to humiliate themselves.”
“You couldn't do it,” Brayden said.
“Sure I could. Watch me.” I walked toward the mime. As soon as he spotted me, he moonwalked past me, waving. Okay, I didn't know how to moonwalk, but I waited to see what he would do next.
He leaned over like he was resting his arm on a post or something. I did the same thing.
Then he stood up, bent forward, and acted like he was walking into a strong wind.
So did I.
I kept it up for a while. Whatever he didâI did the same thing. People started to watch us and laugh at him. Nobody tossed any money in his hat.
“Come on,” Brayden said. “I'm tired of watching you make a fool out of yourself. Let's get out of here.”
I bent toward him and whispered, “No way. I think I can get rid of him if I keep this up. I'll be doing everyone a favor.”
“You're on your own,” he said. “I'm going home.”
“Fine. But you'll thank me tomorrow.” I realized that this was my mission now. I was going to get rid of the mime. For good. Whatever he did, I'd do the same thing. After a while, I even managed to do a half-decent moonwalk. I was definitely giving him lots of reasons to leave. But I guess he was too stubborn to admit he'd lost.
Then I realized I had another weapon: Just because the mime couldn't talk, that didn't mean I had to keep silent. Whatever I was doing, I yelled it out in a totally obvious way.
“Hey, look at me! I'm trapped in an invisible cube!
“Whoa! I'm walking against the wind. Isn't that amazing?
“Oh, no! I have to carry this really heavy box.”
Everyone who walked by stopped to laugh. I wasn't surprised. I had the sort of face that adults think is cute. It got me out of a lot of trouble. It was amazing the things I could get away with just by flashing a smile.
I'm pretty sure the mime didn't think I was cute. I kept waiting for him to get angry, but he didn't react to me at all for a while. Finally, after another half an hour or so of getting mocked and laughed at, he walked away from city hall with his shoulders slumped.
I followed him down the street. Sure enough, when he reached the next block, he put down his hat and started miming again. So I started mocking him again. I don't know why he thought a new location would make a difference.
He tried moving again a while later. And I followed him again. Nobody had given him a dime the whole time I was making fun of him. This was great. I promised myself I'd do this for as long as it took to get rid of him forever. I really hated mimes, and couldn't imagine why anyone would choose to spend his days like that.
“You've lost,” I told him. “Find some other town. Go annoy some other people.”
He didn't say anything to me, of course. But he obviously had no idea when to quit. He kept trying. I was getting tired and hungry. It was already past dinnertime. And it was growing dark. I figured he'd give up sooner or later.
Eventually, we reached the old bus station. It had been closed down last year after they built the new one, so there was nobody going past us. Nobody had any reason to be here. Even so, the mime kept doing his mime routine.
The streetlights flickered on. I looked around. There wasn't a single person in sight besides the mime and me. A slight tremor of fear rippled through my gut when I realized we were alone. But I was pretty big for my age, and I was a good runner. He wouldn't be able to hurt me. He wasn't a mugger or a gangster. He was a mime, which meant he was probably pretty much a wimp.
“There's nobody watching,” I said while he pretended to reel in a big fish. “Give up.”
He shrugged. “You win.”
The words startled me. I figured he'd never talk.
He pulled a rag from his pocket and started wiping the thick makeup from his face. “You got what you wanted. You'll never see me again.” His voice was deep but soft. Something about it made my nerves tingle.
“Great.” I backed away a step. He was too calm. I'd trashed his whole act for hours, and he wasn't angry.
He looked at the rag, which was now covered with the white face paint. “SPF one thousand,” he said.
“Total sun protection. It's the only way I can go out during the dayâwith paint on my face and my lips firmly sealed, since the inside of my mouth is just as vulnerable as my skin. Oh, let's not forget the special protective lenses.” He reached toward his eyes and popped something into his palm. His pupils were dark slits now. The whites of his eyes were shot through with blood vessels. His face was nearly as pale as the makeup he'd removed.
“I know my little hobby is silly, and not very sophisticated, but it is so very much better than spending all day in a coffin, waiting for the sun to set. And so perfect for finding the sort of victim that nobody will miss very much. People who hate mimes are often unpleasant and annoying creatures themselves. They are obnoxious little weasels who think they are important and superior.”
He flashed a smile at meâbut not the closed-lipped stupid mime smile he'd used all day. He opened his mouth for this smile, showing four long, sharp fangs. Vampire fangs.
In an eyeblink, before I could even turn away from him and start to run, he closed the distance between us and grabbed my shoulders in a crushing grip. He bent his head toward my neck. I could smell damp earth on his clothes and stale blood on his breath.
I opened my mouth to scream, but terror closed my throat and no sound came out.
“Who's the mime now?” he whispered as I thrashed in silence.
GET OUT OF GYM FOR FREE
“All right, you toads
âline up!” Mr. Odzman screamed.
“What's he so angry about?” I asked.
“I heard he's always like that,” my friend Curtis said.
“This is going to stink.” I got in line in front of the bleachers with the rest of the class. It was the first period of the first day of middle school, and we had gym. I figured the gym teacher would be tough, but he looked like he was about to bite off someone's head and spit it onto the floor. Maybe after sucking out the eyeballs.
“I know what you worms are thinking,” he said. “You're thinking gym is going to be awful. But you're wrong. It's going to be worse than awful.”
He paused to stare at each of us, one by one. As his eyes met mine, I felt all my organs contract into fleshy spheres. Even my lungs constricted. For a moment, I couldn't remember how to breathe.
“But you're wrong about something else, too,” he said. “It won't be bad for all of you. One of you is going to get a break. Whoever wins the free-for-all gets to skip gym for the whole year. Sound good?”
We all nodded. It's hard to nod and tremble at the same time.
“Free-for-all?” Curtis asked. “I wonder what the rules are?”
We found out a couple seconds later.
Mr. Odzman walked over to the door that led to the locker room. “Last man standing gets out of gym. I'll be back in ten minutes to see who the winner is.”
He stepped through the opening and pulled the door closed. I heard a bolt slide into place.
Last man standing?
I looked at Curtis. “He's got to be kidding.”
There was something dangerous in his eyes. I leaped back as Curtis swung a fist at my head. His knuckles flew past my jaw. All around me, kids had exploded into action, punching or tackling whoever was nearest.
I didn't have time to watch any of that. Curtis staggered toward me, thrown off balance by his missed punch. Without thinking, I bent over and rammed my head into his stomach. He grunted and toppled over. I started to straighten up, but I felt a sharp pain in my back. Maybe using my head as a weapon wasn't the best idea.
Groaning at the pain, I straightened up all the way. Curtis managed to stand, too, but only briefly. Someone flew past me and tackled him. They both went down with a thud. I spun around, trying to spot any attackers.
The fight didn't last long. I got knocked down real hard from behind and twisted my knee. I couldn't get up.
Hiram Soames, who's been lifting weights since he was five and shaving since he was seven, won the battle. He was the only person standing when Mr. Odzman came back in.
“Very good,” he told Hiram. “You get out of gym for the year. As for the rest of you, I'll see you next week. Unless you're too injured to come to class. You don't need a doctor's note. I'll take your word for it.”
I staggered to my feet and tried to take a step. I felt like someone was using my knee as a knife holder. My back ached, too. I had a feeling it would be weeks before I could walk without pain. All around me, kids were limping, groaning, and moaning. A couple of them were sobbing or whimpering. I saw a broken retainer, two nickels, three pennies, and a ripped pair of boxer shorts on the floor.