Ahir, Ahir Shaheen, Angelica, Arnulf, Ash House, baseball, Chicago, Cloud, Cloudius, Daphne, field hockey, Leonard Harris, Lulu Bates, Lyceum, Lyceum of the Lake Winds, magic, Natalie, Rachel, Tom Hexane, wizard
“Man, that sucked big time,” Leonard Harris said to Daphne and Spiny and Arnulf as they sat eating lunch in the cafeteria on Monday. “Except for the spell battle.”
“Good use of kno eur, Leonard,” said Arnulf.
“It’s a cheapy.” They sat eating french fries and sipping two percent milk. “So,” said Leonard, “I heard some people were looking for something they thought you had.”
“What now?” asked Arnulf. “Who and what?” asked Daphne.
“I don’t know a thing,” said Leonard. “I just heard you had some sort of thing and some folks tried to get it from you or something.” He waved a fry. “You know,” he said in a voice so low the molecules between them could hardly be bothered to transmit it. “Ash House folks.”
“We are Ash House folks,” said Arnulf.
“I know that,” said Leonard. “Other folks want to steal from—ahh, forget about it.”
“Listen,” said Daphne, giving Arnulf a look. “Anything you hear, we can use. We really appreciate the heads up.”
“So it’s not gonna be a problem? The school’s not gonna shut down or blow up?”
Arnulf and Daphne looked at each other. “No,” said Daphne, “we’re pretty sure that’s not gonna happen. Don’t you trust us?”
“More than anybody else, that’s for sure,” said Leonard.
The next Saturday, the ninth of April, the Zephs hosted the Marquette Dragons. The Marquette team dominated, and the player who dominated was a lanky fifteen-year-old girl named Mary Margaret Wertz. She played third base and her arms almost reached to second base; she never hit anything short of the warning track; and her obnoxious but baseball-aware chatter kept the rest of the team on the ball. The Dragons won the first game 17 to 11, and polished off the nightcap 19 to 2. In between, the Zephyrs let Marquette stay close in field hockey before pulling away in the last ten minutes to win ten to six.
“I think we could go undefeated,” said Keisha Case, backup first baseman and field hockey goalie, as they ate a late dinner in the caf.
“Yeah, and the baseball team’s got a perfect record too,” said Daphne.
“Easy for you to win,” said Arnulf. “Mary Margaret doesn’t play field hockey.”
“No,” said Angelica, coming over. “She’s a one sport athelete.”
“Pity if something happened to her,” said Arnulf.
“What were you thinking?” asked Daphne. “She’s also a third year. I know she knows the stone fig spell.”
“What’s a stone fig between friends,” said Arnulf. “Especially if one is a backup utility infield outfielder. Who can’t hit and can’t run fast.”
The next day the Zephs took the portal to Milwaukee, where Marquette managed to commandeer County Stadium. The Dragons wasted no time in jumping all over Daphne, in her rotation as starting pitcher. By the sixth inning, when Coach Whelp let her sit down in favor of the calm third year Sara Stills, they were down 13-4. Without Daphne in the lineup, the Zephs scored no more runs, and the Drags coasted to a 17-4 victory.
Elizabeth McNing was slotted to pitch the second game. She gave up a single, two walks and then a home run to Mary Margaret Wertz in the first inning. With no one out, the lanky Wertz was jogging the base paths, insulting each and every infielder she passed. Leonard Harris at second watched stonefaced as she muttered the n-word; Melissa Kleene, the shortstop, spat in her path, and Lulu Bates, at third, tried insulting her back.
Arnulf was standing near the third base coach, who was paying no attention. As Wertz turned for home, Arnulf said, not loud but not in any kind of whisper either, “Pfft yrk glg…”
Wertz looked up at him. She hit the brakes: perhaps she knew the spell and instinctively tried to avoid it. She would have been better off running on through. “Kno e—ewww!” she said.
“Need some air?” he said quietly. Then he repeated the spell, which he was in good practice on. Lulu smiled and backed off into left field, where Josh Hubble joined her to observe the result. Mary Margaret seemed to want to back up toward second.
“Hey Ump,” called the manager from the Marquette dugout, “what are you going to do about this?”
“Aww, it’s just a three worder,” said the third base umpire, who didn’t recognize the spell, and who, luckily for both him and Arnulf, had lost the power of smell in a spell battle long ago. Meanwhile, the audience, which happened to include a lot of Lake Winds supporters on the third base side of County Stadium, found the whole thing amusing as long as the wind continued to blow from the third base side.
“Pfft yrk glg,” said Arn again, as Wertz tried to find a way past him within the base paths. The stench was reaching saturation already. “Want one more? I’ll turn around,” he said, turning and bending over to aim at her. “Pfft—!”
“Trt si mng gfl!” she croaked out.
“Thanks,” said Arnulf, turning stiff as stone. In a moment he was grey granite.
Arn didn’t came awake in a dim place. He was wet. A dark face was before him. No, it was just Leonard; the place was the hall behind the dugout; Leonard had been pouring a potion over him.
“Destone potion,” said Arnulf. Leonard put his finger over his mouth.
There were voices from up the hall in the locker room. It was Lulu Bates and several other people. They were arguing in low voices.
“I’m telling you to cool it,” Lulu was saying. “Use your brain, Lizzie.”
“Shut up, Lulu,” Elizabeth McNing replied. “Or you’ll—!” Her whisper was too loud to be a whisper but still too low for a decent threat. Sound definitely carried back here.
“Cool it everybody,” Dave Andrews was saying. “Just tell us what you think you’re doing. Maybe we can actually not work at, you know, cross purposes for once.”
“Like we trust you even a little, Dave,” said Josh Hubble, pronouncing Dave like it was an insult.
“What. Are you. Looking for,” said Lulu.
“Nothing,” insisted McNing.
“Then why. Are you. In his locker. Confused?” McNing didn’t reply. “So what, you think they let him take things like whatever it is to away games?”
“He’s a frickin’ statue,” said McNing. “It’s our chance to just, you know, see.”
“You don’t even know what it is, do you?” Josh put in.
“So scared,” said Lulu. “Of all the, you know, secrets you Mac people know.”
“Shut up about Mac people,” said McNing. “If you could see straight you’d be a Mac person too.”
“Do I have to stand here and drip?” asked Arnulf in a low voice.
“Come on,” said Leonard, “back to the dugout.” He dragged Arnulf around a corner and he could see the daylight from the field. “They gonna find anything, pal?” Leonard asked.
“My dirty underwear and socks,” said Arnulf.
“You changed here??”
“No, it’s just a defense.”
“You thought someone would be rifling your locker? Man, you guys are devious.”
“Let’s just say that we’re all kinda used to it by now.” He wiped his face: the potion was a little greasy. “We win?”
“Yeah. Game’s been over for an hour. Everyone else is back at the Lyceum already: I came back with the destone potion from Coach. Good job there, by the way. Without Mary Mack or whatever, they couldn’t hit anything Willow threw at them. Yours truly got a triple and three singles. Dapher hit a homer in the fourth, yeah, Josh down there hit one in the eighth. Final score was like ten to five.”
“And you came back and they were—?”
“Ransacking your locker, yeah.”
“So, thanks, man,” said Arnulf. “Uh, this mean we’re on the same side?”
“With magic farts as your specialty, I don’t want to be on the other side,” said Leonard. He grinned. “And then there’s your girlfriend. I definitely don’t want to be on the wrong side of her. You ready to go back? Anything you need from your locker?”
“No,” said Arnulf, “though I’m gonna miss some of those socks, they’ve been with me for years.”