Pocketful of Kryptonite

[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.

“You alright?”

“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.

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18 responses to “Pocketful of Kryptonite

  1. This story follows on from Comic Superhero, which you can read here http://bit.ly/cB9KGk
    It continues the rivalry between Andrew and Emily. These characters seem to have a life of their own now. I am liking the idea of writing YA fiction; it feels natural for me. But to write it well; that’s a whole other realm.
    Hope I’ve McGuffined correctly.
    This piece is perhaps the longest Fiction Friday piece I’ve written. Thanks for making it to the end.

  2. Glad to see he’s not cheating. I do love comics but I could never cheat just to get one, either!

    I really do hope we’re going to see you joining the #TuesdaySerial folks with this… *hint hint*

  3. Adam,
    I saw this weeks prompt and just couldn’t come up with something that inspired me to write. You, on the other hand, used the prompt very well.

    Your story was long but I suspected that would happen with this prompt. Even with it being longer than most of your pieces, it reads well and flows smoothly.

    The dialog is this piece is excellent. Andrew and Jackson converse well, making the story feel natural.

    Well done.

  4. I liked the dialogue, right up to “I will stand or fall on the work that I have done.” Is this him striking a heroic pose, using the kind of language The Phantom would have used?

  5. Reminds me of the things I would have done to acquire my coveted comic books way back when.
    Good play on the prompt.

  6. Your story has a natural “unfolding” feel. I think you used the McGuffin well.

  7. I like your McGuffin. And I didn’t realize this followed another story, it stands on its own very well. I agree with Tony: that last line is very heroic, and fitting of a (super) hero.

  8. I really enjoyed it. The characters, the fast pace, the dialogue. And an honorable main character. We could use more of those in the real world LOL. Great job!

  9. I love that you returned to these characters. I think you have a real talent for writing YA; you have such a feel for the emotions and characteristics of that age group. And, I understand that YA fiction from a male POV is really in demand right now. I hear an opportunity knocking!

  10. English exams and Phantom comics! Only you could merge the two….

  11. Well McGuffin’ed! It was longer than expected but I think the dialogue carried it forward at a pace. I’d never met these characters before but will be back to see what fate has in store for The Phantom.

  12. laurarachelfox

    I remember these characters from the earlier fiction friday piece. I thought they were “real” then and you have managed to grow them further. I love the dialog. Their conversations could be coming straight from the mouths of some comic lovers I know.

    Great use of the McGuffin. You do have a talent for the YA.

  13. Good to see he took the high road. Nice thing is, prepping those crib sheets was probably a great way to review. I like that the final outcome in unknown.
    ~jon

  14. Is unknown. IS unknown. I really do know how to spell is.
    ~jon

  15. I got so into this, I didn’t notice it was long until I read your comment.
    The ending was great, it’s more important he made the right decision than beat Emily, but I’m also left wanting to know – did he beat her? Please carry this on… would be great if she beat him, then he had to beat her… and on and on…

  16. Andrew is a modern day hero, if what we hear about today’s overabundance of plagiarising students 🙂

    Really enjoyed the dialogue, it flowed really well.

  17. Very good use of the prompt. I’m glad he didn’t cheat. Also, you have a variety of emotions in play: desire and covet, rivalry, temptation, guilt and moral pride. Good story!

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