Chapter 1 - Of Oranges and Neil

 Neil Richard Patchwork, like many of his generation, was what he liked to call a very unhappy, happy man.  His life was full of small but vital events, many of which he, if asked, would have no idea what they were.  He was a English teacher with Saint Angelus Academy, on the verge of quitting.  He had done nothing special with his life, except perhaps, live it.  He had an English accent, but was born in America to a poet and an artist, whose real life jobs were never discussed.  Neil had found that aspect freeing, if not a little odd, and carried that tradition with him wherever he went.

“Patchy,” his father would say, a sly grin crossing his lips, “Life is meant to be lived and savored like a fine wine, not cooped up in an office wishing you could do more with it.”  Since that day, Neil had always dreaded working as a teacher.  The pay was good, and he had his summers off, but something was wrong.  He didn’t feel alive, dragging through life, waiting for his next meal. 

Neil’s routine was simple.  Wake up in the morning around six, get dressed, walk to the bus stop, get on the bus at 6:30, get to St. Angelus at 7, and go to the cafeteria and read a book off his Kindle until 8.  He would then go upstairs using the elevator and sit in his classroom, alone until the class began.  He would teach English to his students from 9 to 12:30 and then go down for a spot of lunch at the local diner, usually buying himself a sandwich and chips.  He would then return to classes with a cup of café mocha and down it slowly as he started losing his mind from teaching “Hamlet” for the fifty-thousandth time.  It wasn’t that Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech was boring, but when you repeated it every year the same way on the same date, time and style, it became dull beyond belief.  It was like swearing, which Neil swore off, because saying "Fangirls you!" ended up being much more offensive when you heard it.

There were of course benefits to being a teacher.  A 9 to 4 job with benefits that made his friends jealous of him and the feeling he was doing something right by teaching the people of the future.  How his students would learn to live by Shakespeare’s sonnets, Mark Twain novels and Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird was anyone’s guess and Neil wasn’t sure they learned anything from it beyond a first rate education in how to, as Neil called it, "beestinger" your way through classes, but it was a job, and he needed money.

Neil’s troubles began one afternoon in January last year, when he met a girl in his English class.  While he didn’t show unfair treatment of her, his other students noticed a connection they seemed to have.  Autumn “Raven” Layne was eighteen, with shoulder length hair that curled ever so slightly.  Her blue eyes gazed at Neil, or so he thought, every time he didn’t seem to be paying attention.  She was 5’4 and everything about her seemed to be average to the common passerby.  Neil however saw a mind of wit and intelligence that others lacked.  When he retired, hopefully soon, perhaps he would ask her if she’d like to have some coffee.

Neil had been debating his affection for Autumn for a long time.  It had bothered him that he had felt anything for a student of his, but he had finally come to the conclusion that he only deeply cared about her, and her well-being and nothing more.  It was easier that way, to bottle up caring like it was a potion you could sell in restaurants.  “Hello! Please buy Neil Patchwork’s emotions.  They taste sweet!”

He had remembered the first time he fell in love, like a cat crawling on a thin wire to a crunchy rat.  It was with a girl that utterly fangirled him over, not literally, but in the heart wrenching words that every man never wants to hear:  “I’m just not into you that way.  Sorry.”  Would Autumn do the same to him?  He wasn’t sure, and wasn’t sure he wanted to know.  So instead of asking her, he imagined events that he wished could occur while he was on his lunch break.

“Autumn! What a surprise! You’re here!  Well I was just going to go to the uh, the,” Neil come on, this is your fantasy and you can’t even think of what to say?  He breathed deeply, staring up at the sky.  “No, I guess not.”  He heard a splat and a voice which sounded like it was smothered in helium.

 “The next round thing that splats, Loki says, will guide us to our destination!”  Neil ignored the voice.  He was too obsessed with his fantasy about Autumn “Raven” Layne to worry about things splatting. 

They would go to the bar and, drink milk or something, because she was 18 and he was 27, and oh dear god that wasn’t a good thought because now he felt dirty for thinking of her drinking milk because it was white.  Did she like white milk?  Perhaps she enjoyed the strawberry variety over the chocolate one.  “Chocolate is so passé anyway”, he thought, “Besides, it might be genetically modified! When did chocolate came from cows!  Is there an elusive chocolate cow, or is the milk genetically modified to accept said chocolate!” Neil would have continued this odd and rambling sequence of thoughts but was interrupted by the splatter of an orange hitting his face.

If you have never had the fortune of having orange entrails splattered on your face and wish to partake in this unique experience like Mr. Patchwork, please do the following.  One, please take an orange from a tropical tree or perhaps from the bag of oranges your mother, (or you, I’m not judging you or your produce buying capacity) bought from your fine distributor of oranges.  Two, take said orange and throw it at high speed to a friend or relative who is holding a heavy object.  Three, have your friend or relative hit the orange as hard as possible back at your face.  The resulting impact should smother you in delicious orange juice and pulp.

Neil wiped the orange off his face and looked towards the direction it came from.  A small hunchbacked man standing only 5 feet tall gazed at him through bloodshot eyes.  Neil thought he looked like a witch doctor that came out of a book of fairy-tales.  “Maybe he is,” Neil thought, and then dismissed it.  At that moment, the man spoke, a finger pointing up at the bits of orange that Neil hadn’t removed from his face.

“You seem to have something on your face.”  Neil looked at him dumbfounded.

“Yes, I suppose that I do, because you, Mr.”, What was he going to say next?  He mused for a second, and found the words.  “Obvious Orange Hitting Bathtub Swimmer, put it there!” 

“Well,” the man grinned, moving closer to Neil, the stranger’s finger pointed in Neil’s face.  “Your face was in the way of my orange! What’s an orange kind fleshbag?”

“What in God’s name is a Fleshbag!”  Neil looked at the man, who soon was joined by what Neil supposed was his ugly cousin.

“An orange,” the other strange looking old man said, “I believe, comes from lemons!”

"Oh for fangirls sake forget it!" 

The End

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