Comic Superhero Episode 5: A Pyrrhic Victory

Previously in Comic Superhero…

At the end of the test, Andrew tried to distract himself with nonsense over lunch with his friends.  The discussion turned to the ongoing rivalry between Andrew and Emily.  Andrew hated himself for almost cheating and was embarrassed when it was suggested that he had a crush on Emily.  Time for the papers to be returned…

Everyday Andrew fretted over his results.  He was over at Jackson’s house one Saturday afternoon playing computer games.

“When do you think we’ll get our tests back?  I’m not sure I’ve done all that well,” Andrew said lying on the floor of Jackson’s bedroom, game controller in hand.

It had begun to grow on Jackson’s nerves.  “Would you stop being such a whinger?  Mrs Motherwell said we’d have them back within two weeks.  And you know she’s good on her word, so we’ll probably get them back on Monday.  So quit obsessing about it.”

“But it’s a Phantom comic signed by Sy Barry,” said Andrew.

“Yeah I know that.”

“What’s the one thing you would obsess over?  Come on, be honest.”

Jackson paused, weighing his options carefully.  Andrew watched him scan the room with his eyes; the television, boxes of comics, X-Box, framed movie posters, stereo system, Wii.  Jackson finally came to a conclusion.  “I’d obsess over an autographed ‘Watchmen’ graphic novel.”

“What would you do to get it?”

“Well I wouldn’t cheat.”  The comment stung Andrew.  Jackson hadn’t been impressed with Andrew’s confession and had made his feelings well and truly known.  Andrew thought he detected a hint of bitterness.

“I’m sorry,” said Jackson.  “That was uncalled for.  I just can’t get that you would have done it.”

“You would have had a price.  You weren’t been tested like I was.”

“Does that matter?”

“Yes, it does.”

Andrew returned his attention to the game, indicating the conversation was over.  The boys continued playing and didn’t discuss the matter any further.

Sitting at his desk later that evening a barrage of questions threw Andrew off from doing his homework.  What if he had failed to beat Emily?  What had prompted him to think it was ok to cheat?  Had Emily cheated?  He doubted it.  She was talented enough to beat him.  Even Emily had asked if all this fuss and bother over a comic book was worth it.  Andrew flung his pen across the desk, rubbing his face into his hands, thankful he hadn’t gone through with it.

Monday morning was overcast and a light drizzle kept everyone subdued under umbrellas and raincoats.  Andrew found it difficult to concentrate in class all day.  Even Mr Angus, their placid Modern History teacher, handed out a reprimand.  Andrew flicked between his timetable and the clock, wishing English, the last lesson of the day, would come around.

At the door to their classroom Andrew and Emily came face to face.  Andrew hoped his anxiety wasn’t showing because Emily simply broke into a smile and walked into the room.  He hated her.  It festered in his stomach.  It was the smug attitude that caught him unawares.  Ever since the humiliation of beating her last time, she was able to hold sway over him, making him dance to her black music.

Andrew felt his heart amp up in intensity.

“You ready for this, mate?” asked Jackson.

“No.  Not one bit.”

Sitting at their desks, Andrew and Jackson unpacked and waited.

“Would you quit jiggling your legs.  You keep making the table rock,” Jackson said.  “It’s like you’ve got ADD or something.”

Mrs. Motherwell entered and began handing out the marked test papers and the inevitable comparison of marks began.  Around the class came the prayers of petition, exclamations of surprise, groans of broken souls and whoops of jubilation.

“Jackson, make sure I don’t see my paper.”  Andrew kept his eyes focused solely on Emily.  His heartbeat pounded in his ears.  To his left, Jackson accepted his paper form Mrs. Motherwell, mumbled an expletive and turned it face down on the table.

“Here’s yours Andrew,” said Mrs. Motherwell, moving off and handing Emily her paper.

“Thanks, Miss.”  He handed it to Jackson without looking.  “Don’t tell me.”

Emily looked over at Andrew, her paper clutched to her chest.  Her face was stone, impassive.

“She’d be good at poker with a face like that,” said Jackson as Emily slid her paper face down onto the desk.

Midst the noise of the classroom Andrew took his paper from Jackson and came across to Emily.  He put his paper face down on the table and Emily did the same.

“Are you ready to lose, Andrew?” asked Emily.  “I hope that all this struggle was worth it for you.  Over the last few weeks, you’ve been a little testy.”  She raised her eyebrows at her joke.  “I have nothing to lose, but for you, it’s everything.  Any last words?”

Andrew shook his head.

“Bianca, would you please turn over my paper,” said Emily.  Bianca reached across and flipped it over.  The mark stood out like a bloodstain: 18/20.  His mouth went dry and his palms sprung a leak.  This was going to be tough to beat.

“Jackson.  Turn it over.”  Andrew looked Emily in the eye.  He heard the rustle of paper and looked down.  19/20.

Andrew wanted to leap into the air, but kept himself in check.  He felt a sense of justice and jubilation.

“That comic’s mine now,” he said snatching his paper back off the desk.  “We’ll do the hand over at Phat Albert’s comic shop.  If you don’t know where it is, I’m sure Joshua will show you.”

“No need for sarcasm, Andrew,” said Emily.

“Saturday, midday.”  Like a triumphant Caesar, Andrew went back to his seat.

“Jackson, how’d you do?”

“OK.”  Jackson looked down at his paper before stuffing it into his school bag.  For the rest of the lesson he sat in silence.  Andrew tried to get his friend to talk without success.

As the bell went for the end of the day, Jackson hurried out.  Andrew caught him in the corridor.

“What’s going on?”

Jackson turned, anger in his expression.  “I busted a gut for this test and the best I could manage was thirteen out of twenty.  You sail through, Mr Quiet Achiever, without having to do anything.”

“I worked hard for that test.”

“Yeah, but you even considered cheating.”  Jackson held his thumb and forefinger millimetres apart.  “You came that close to doing it.”

“But I didn’t do it.”

“Big deal.  The fact that you even thought about it makes the comic blood money.  You became so obsessed with it that you were going to do the one thing that you know you shouldn’t have.”

Jackson turned his back and stormed off.  Andrew could only watch his best mate walk away.

5 responses to “Comic Superhero Episode 5: A Pyrrhic Victory

  1. Excellently written. It’s like stepping back in time here. Most kids think us overacheivers never bust our buns studying just like everyone else. My best friend and I have gone through this as well. This feels very real to me. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Will Emily keep her word?

  2. I still think Emily cheated.

    My only criticism is that theoretically, Jackson has more of a reason to cheat, and if he feels in competition with Andrew, he would be more likely to. He clearly didn’t with 13/20, but his anger seems displaced. Who, or what, is Jackson really cross about?

    • That’s the focus of next week’s episode 🙂 Jackson may take the moral high ground here, but there are strange things afoot. The comic is significant to Andrew giving him the impetus to cheat and not Jackson. Even though they share a love of comics, it is Andrew who is faced with the dilemma. Dark times lie ahead.

  3. Fetching an autographed Watchmen actually isn’t too hard. Moore does conventions and signs plenty of things. He’s supposedly very friendly to fans, only grumpy to people in the industry who want rights to his stuff. Maybe he can sojourn to get a copy signed as penance to his angry buddy.

    Not sure why Jackson cites Andrew considering as an indictment. That only shows how tough the test was, doesn’t it?

  4. Why is Jackson up in arms about the cheating… for weeks he’s let this fester. I can’t wait (and I won’t have to…) to see what his deal is.

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