The first thing Byron did in the morning was to grab his bat and carry it everywhere as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. He held it as he changed out of his pajamas. He carried it to the bathroom. He even set it across his lap as he sat down at the dining table. A plate of toast and a glass of milk was set in front of him, and he beamed up at his mom. She smiled right back at him, and he took it as she was proud of him for taking her lesson to heart.
Reba just happened to be in a good mood after talking with Ethel and Mandy earlier. Getting together and talking with the girls was something she hadn’t done in years. She never realized how much she missed it. With Mandy living close by, it wasn’t like she didn’t have anyone to talk to, but it just wasn’t the same when the gang was still around. She wondered how everyone else was doing. Maybe they should try tracking them down and having a get together.
It would be difficult considering none of them had shared contact information. Ethel was proof of that as they hadn’t seen or heard from each other in years. Their group hadn’t been small either. At its height, they had about 100 members, and that was excluding members that had left before her or had only been with them briefly. Reba considered asking Ethel to get her husband to help. He had plenty of resources as a hero. She would bring it up the next time they met and had time.
Seeing that his mom was distracted, Byron grabbed his finished plate and glass as he got out of his chair and headed for the sink. He had to leave his bat behind since he didn’t have free hands. Raising his arms up, he managed to slide them onto the counter. He huffed. Byron couldn’t wait to grow taller. It always hurt his arms trying to reach the counter top without the stepping stool. Said stepping stool was missing from the kitchen. Without it, he couldn’t do the dishes.
Well, he would just have to let his mom wash them. His eyes turned to the clock hanging on the wall and saw it was about time for him to leave. He needed to get going. Heading back to the dining room, he was stopped by his mother who was holding out his bat towards him. An eyebrow was raised, and her lips were stretched into a thin line.
“Byron, what did I just say last night?”
He wilted, and his eyes stared at her feet. “To keep the bat with me at all times.”
“And did you?”
“No...” he trailed off. Forcing himself to look his mom in the eyes, he said, “but I had no way to carry it and the dishes.”
“That’s no excuse. What should you have done then?”
“I should have made two trips so I could carry my bat,” he finally said after a brief moment of thinking.
“Well, that’s one way, but you could have asked me for help.”
“But didn’t you say I needed to learn to be independent?”
He remembered the first time he learned to wash the dishes. His mom had been stuck between making him do things around the house and keeping him safe from any possible dangers. The kitchen was apparently one of the most dangerous places in the house. From the sharp objects like knives to the hot stuff like a boiling pot or running stove, it was a death trap for the careless which he wasn’t. The incident from yesterday didn’t count.
Aunt Mandy had talked about all the times he had caused his mom to freak out when he was still a baby crawling around and thought the kitchen was an interesting place to play around in. There had been a few close calls like how he had tugged on one of the towels tied to the handle of the oven and somehow managed to open it by throwing all his weight onto it. His mom had grabbed him before he could decide that the oven would be a nice place to take a nap.
It wasn’t his fault he was a curious baby. He heard plenty of stories about all the trouble Andy had caused, and those were a lot worse than his own. Maybe it was because Andy was a naga. He didn’t crawl nor have to learn how to walk. He could slither everywhere he wanted. His favorite story was how Andy somehow managed to sneak past his parents to sunbathe on the roof. The exact details weren’t clear since only Andy would know what happened and he had been a baby then.
Anyway, at the time, he wasn’t sure what to feel about cleaning after himself. Actually, he hadn’t understood what was going on. He had only been four after all. His mom had always done everything for him like putting him to bed, brush his teeth, tie his shoes, and basically everything. Well, not everything. By then, he had learned how to go to the bathroom by himself and had been quite proud of it too. It had made his mom so happy.
His mom ended up settling for letting him in the kitchen so he could learn how to be safe and to keep him from falling behind his peers. As long as it made his mom happy, he went along with it. The end result was an absolute mess, but they had a lot of fun, and he wanted to do it again. In hindsight, his mom probably did that on purpose to get him to want to clean the dishes.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.” Byron was going to disagree, but thought better of it. His mom obviously knew better than him. “If you’re in trouble, you better ask for help and not try to handle it all on your own.”
“Good. Now you better get going or you’ll be late for school.”
“‘kay. Bye mom.”
Without waiting to hear her reply, he grabbed the bat from her and his prepared lunch that had been in her other hand. When he went to put on his backpack, he struggled until his mom came to rescue. Giving her a goodbye kiss, he internally grimaced. Speeding out the front door, he saw Andy waiting for him. He was also carrying his bat with him. Upon seeing him, Andy waved at him.
With one last look back and a final wave, he joined Andy as they headed for school. Andy was quick to complain about what happened after he had gone home. Aunt Mandy had chewed him out for acting up right before they left. While he had avoided getting grounded again-the reason was because Aunt Mandy expected Andy to walk with him to school-he did get assigned some punishment. He was going to be denied his favorite foods for a few days.
If Byron had been denied his macaroni, he would have cried. Andy just huffed and ranted, but there was nothing he could do about it. It wasn’t like he could cook or buy the stuff himself. His allowance had been taken away, and he wasn’t going to get it back. He would have to earn it back by working for it. Even if he had money, he still wouldn’t be able to buy it. The adults would give him weird looks if he tried to buy a live jellyfish.
Byron didn’t get how a naga like Andy loved jellyfish. He figured that he would like mice like a snake or at least prefer cows. Nope. It was sea food or more specifically jellyfish that was Andy’s favorite. He once asked why that was, and the answer he got was confusing. Andy simply said he liked how the jellyfish seemed to have a tingly, electric taste. How did jellyfish have an electric taste? He didn’t voice this question to him.
They soon found themselves in front of the school, and Byron couldn’t help noticing everyone’s reactions. All the other kids were staring at them while the teachers seemed to completely ignore them. He wondered why everyone was acting so strangely. Well, the teachers ignoring them wasn’t all that unusual, but that usually happened when they were off doing something. They had just arrived, and the teachers watching the entrance were purposely avoiding looking at them.
He turned to ask Andy except he had already started walking off without him when he stopped to look around. Running after him, he decided it couldn’t be that important. They would find out eventually. Everyone in their path parted to avoid Andy’s swinging bat as they made their way to their classroom. The rest of the day turned out to be very normal.
None of the teachers said anything about their bats like their moms promised. Some of the other kids looked pretty scared or at least more scared than usual. Others looked like they wanted to ask about the bats only to be stopped by others. There were no surprises like a stranger coming onto campus or a sudden villain attack though Andy looked disappointed at not getting a chance to try out his bat. Byron did feel a bit disappointed too, but that changed as they were leaving school.
“Of all days, why did today have to be a boring one?” asked Andy as they made their way home.
“Isn’t it a good thing we don’t have to use our bats? Our moms would have been pretty mad if they found out we had to defend ourselves.”
“Nah. They wouldn’t be mad.”
Byron wasn’t so sure about that. He still remembered when he first met Cylde and his mom. Both their moms hadn’t appreciated the villains that had decided to attack them out of the blue. If Aunt Mandy had been there, he had no doubt that she would have reacted the same no matter how much the two of them fought. He was broken out of his thoughts when he collided into something.
The person he bumped into turned to snarl, “Watch where you’re going brats.”
“Sorry,” he said as he back away. For some reason, he felt like he had seen the stranger before.
“Hold on. You’re that kid from before.”
So they did meet before, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember who the stranger was and from where. Byron looked to Andy for help. All he got was a confused and annoyed expression. Andy had no idea who the stranger was either. Well, stranger had seen better days. One arm was currently in a cast while the other was holding onto a crutch. One of his legs was also in a cast. His face was covered in bandages.
“You’re going to pay for what you did to me and my gang.”
“You’re welcome to try it weirdo,” said Andy as he raised his bat in front of him.
The stranger laughed. “You think that little thing is going to save you.”
Andy swung the bat, but it didn’t even reach him. Instead, it was stopped by an invisible force inches away from the stranger’s body. When Andy tried to pull away, the bat refused to move. What had the stranger done?
“Nice try you runt. Didn’t your mommy tell you it’s wrong to attack strangers?”
“Not if they’re a creep.”
Giving up on the bat, he let it go and chose to strike at him with his tail. It was met with the same result, and he was no unable to move. No matter how much he struggled he was frozen stiff. He couldn’t even move his eyes or blink. Byron’s eyes widened as he recognized that ability. One of the villains Ethel had beaten up when they first met had the ability to freeze things in place, but it only worked on one object at a time. Why the villain didn’t just freeze Andy in the first place came to mind.
“You should have run while you had the chance. I wonder how your mothers will react when they see your broken bodies.”
In a desperate attempt to save his friend, Byron threw his own bat at him. Even though he was bad at aiming, the short distance between him and his target and the size of said target made sure he wouldn’t miss. It hit the villain’s cast, and he cried out in pain before Andy’s tail struck. Apparently, the villain had chosen to keep Andy frozen, but couldn’t move fast enough to dodge the incoming bat. With his concentration broken, Andy was free to take his anger out on him.
Byron quickly gathered their bats before stopping Andy. He didn’t want his friend to be frozen again even if he had a way to break him free. That’s when they heard the sirens. The police were coming. Either they were just pasting by or someone had called the police. That was good. The police could deal with the villain. They should be heading home before their moms got worried and came out to look for them.
They didn’t get very far when a police car drove up to them, and the policeman asked them to stop. Listening to the police was important, but their moms’ words were the law. Pretending they didn’t hear, they continued on. This time a police officer walked up to them and stopped them in their tracks. Why was a policeman bothering them? They didn’t do anything wrong.
“Boys, I’m going to have to take you to the police station.”
“Why the hell should we?” Byron winced at how disrespectful Andy was being to the police officer.
“Because there have been reports of two children attacking an injured man, and you two appear to be leaving the crime scene.”
“Are you stupid? We did nothing wrong?”
“Unfortunately, I still have to ask you to come with me. Your parents will be notified.”
Byron’s eyes widened as he saw Andy do something you should never do. He attacked the police officer. Everyone knew you shouldn’t attack a police officer. Even their moms never did that. They always left the scene as soon as possible. Andy’s attack failed when the police officer easily caught the bat in one hand. He wasn’t impressed or amused by what just happened.
“You’re definitely coming with me.”
Andy hissed and struggled as more than one police officer tackled him to subdue him. All Byron could do was watch his friend get handcuffed and shoved into the back of the police car. Since he hadn’t acted violently, one the police officers simply let him enter the back of a different without any handcuffs. He wondered if their moms already knew what was going on. They were going to be so mad. So much for being not grounded.