[Fiction] Friday Challenge #164 for July 16th, 2010
Use a McGuffin in your story.
McGuffin: An object or person in a movie that has no use other than to drive the narrative forward. (originally coined by Alfred Hitchcock)
examples: The Maltese Falcon in the movie of the same name; the suitcase in Pulp Fiction
Andrew punched out a quick text to Jackson, See you at the comic store in half an hour, yelled out a farewell to his mother and plugged in his headphones. After finishing his English and Biology homework he decided a Saturday afternoon off wouldn’t hurt. The walk to the store would help refresh his mind.
Ever since his hubristic triumph over Emily Lewis, he kept his head down. She threw him the evil eye every once in a while and Andrew couldn’t help wondering when she would make good on her promise to get even.
Walking into the store he pulled the headphones and waved at Phat Albert, the Yoda of the comic book store, behind the counter. Albert’s physique did not resemble his name sake, but the unfortunate adjective had been ascribed. To compensate, he insisted on the “ph” instead of the “f.”
“Hey Andrew,” he said. “I’ve got something that you might be interested in.”
Albert turned to a cupboard behind the counter, unlocked it and pulled out a mylar pocket and placed it on the counter.
“Here we have an autographed edition of The Phantom, signed by none other than Sy Barry. I know he’s your favourite Phantom artist, so I thought you’d like first look.”
Andrew held the object like Indiana Jones holding a mystical relic for the first time. There was Sy’s moniker in black texta across the front cover.
“Where’d you get it and more importantly, how much?” said Andrew.
“Picked it up at comicon last week and yours for only $200.”
Jackson bounded into the store and up to the counter. “What’cha got there? Oh man, that’s awesome. You gonna get it?”
“Haven’t quite got the cash. I could ask Mum and Dad for a loan, but I was also saving for our end of year trip. Thanks, Phat Albert, but just can’t do it now. It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.”
Andrew and Jackson wandered the store for a while before heading out for some food. A watchful pair of eyes observed their departure.
On Monday morning, the duo headed in to English. Mrs Motherwell pronounced that she had some good news.
“You will be having an assessment task for our current text, ‘Hamlet’ and you can keep your groans to yourself. It’s four weeks away so there is plenty of time to be prepared. It will be an in class essay.”
Andrew dared a glance towards Emily. She turned, caught his eye and smiled.
“That’s the smile of something that wants to eat your heart out,” said Jackson.
Emily reached into her folder and pulled out a plastic envelope. Andrew’s eyes widened in disbelief as he saw the autographed Phantom comic.
“Where the hell did you get that!” said Andrew.
“Andrew, would you please refrain from calling out in class.”
“Sorry Miss,” said Andrew as he watched Emily return the comic to her folder.
As soon as class ended, Andrew confronted Emily. “How did you afford the comic?”
“Is this important to you? I’m sorry. Let me play the world’s smallest violin for you.”
“But you don’t even read comics. Why would you buy that?”
“I said I’d get even with you.”
Andrew became desperate. “I will pay whatever you want for it. Name your price.”
“I’m not interested in your cash, Andrew. What would you be willing to do for this precious possession?”
Andrew hesitated, knowing his options were limited, but he would have done almost anything. Emily sprung her trap.
“I tell you what. Next English test, winner takes all. If you beat me, you can buy it from me. If I beat you, I get to line my budgie cage with your precious comic.”
Andrew fumed inwardly and hung his head. “Deal. But you’ve got to promise to keep it safe.”
“I won’t promise anything, but I’ll take good care of it. Time’s ticking.”
Emily turned and walked away, her hair streaming like a cape.
Andrew and Jackson convened an emergency session at Jackson’s room.
“A game of Halo might get your mind off things,” said Jackson.
Andrew began to play but couldn’t focus. “I can’t believe she’d do such a thing. Now it’s even more important that I do better than her.”
Jackson paused the game and put down his controller. “So what are you going to do?”
“I have no idea, except to study my butt off and hope for the best. But I so want that comic.”
“Would you ever cheat? I don’t think you would, and I’m not suggesting that you should. But everyone has something they are willing to give a whole lot for.”
“I couldn’t. A mark of ‘zero’ on a paper is not worth a comic book. Even if it is autographed by Sy Barry. I’m going to go home. Catch you later.”
That evening, Andrew sat as his desk and tried to complete his homework. Each time he looked at his boxes of comics, he thought of the one he didn’t have. He pushed the thought aside and stuck his nose back into his books.
At school, Emily was almost unbearable. She would remind Andrew of their deal, tapping at her watch. Andrew tried not to react, but it was hard. He turned his attention to revising his notes for the English essay.
In the back of his mind, Jackson’s comment on cheating popped up. He refuted the idea as the coward’s path, the way of least resistance. The more he entertained the thought, the more logical and reasonable it seemed. It wouldn’t be hard to avoid being caught. He thought of ways of slipping his notes into class. After all, one small action to reap a bounty. An autographed Phantom, signed by his favourite artist. It was worth the risk.
The night before the English test, Andrew finalised his notes and packed them into his folder. He lay in his bed and tried to sleep, but it eluded him. He hadn’t even told Jackson of his plan to cheat. Jackson would have been appalled at the very thought. He did his best to clear his head and sleep.
The next morning Jackson sensed his friend’s unease as they waited in the schoolyard.
“Mate, take these and throw them in the bin.”
“What are they?”
“My notes. I was going to take them in with me and use them. I wrestled with this all last night, but I just can’t do it. No comic is worth cheating. I will stand or fall on the work that I have done.”
Andrew handed over his notes to Jackson and watched his friend tear them in half and drop them in the bin.