John wanted to go with the Italians. He’d made his mind up to go with them, even. They were the next group heading in, and the sooner he could get into the pyramid, the better. But there’s a difference between wanting to do something and actually doing it. John wasn’t a trained spy. He didn’t even have much experience lying about finishing his homework.
The problem was, any time John tried to do anything the least bit nefarious, his ears turned red. Not a slight red, either. A bright, blushing red that he could feel pointing a big arrow at his face that said “GUILTY” in neon flashing letters. That’s how it felt, anyway. And as soon as John headed over to the Italians, his ears started doing their trick, and he ended up turning aside at the last moment, pretending to check out the architecture of the entryway instead of actually going in.
So he stood there, watching the Italians chitter chatter there way into the pyramid, all the while wishing he were braver. It wasn’t a pretty five minutes for his ego.
But it did make him much more motivated to go in with the next group: the French.
John swallowed his doubts and his fears, held his chin high, and made a beeline to the boy he’d noticed in the group. The one who had seemed so friendly and open. If he could find someone to cover for him, John was sure he’d have an easier time making into the pyramid. It wasn’t until he was standing in front of the strange boy that John realized he didn’t actually have a plan for what to say to him.
“Pourquoi vos oreilles si rouge?” the boy asked.
John didn’t speak any French. “Uh–I–that is–do you–” He stammered, trying to find something to say. Anything to say.
The boy looked over at some of the other kids in the group, then called out, “Venez voir ce garçon américain. Ses oreilles ressemblent à des panneaux d’arrêt. Ils sont pratiquement néon.”
In a flash, the other kids had gathered around John, all of them speaking in quick French, and none of them making any effort to actually communicate with him. John might not have spoken French, but he was fluent in Bully, and these kids were giving off some major “we’re making fun of you” vibes. Laughing and pointing and snickering. None of it nice. John had never been out of America before. He certainly had no experience being surrounded by a group of people all speaking in a foreign language. He wished he knew what they were saying, though part of him wondered if that would only make this worse.
John’s ears were burning brighter than they’d ever burned before. “English?” he said at last. “Do any of you speak English?”
“What time is it?” the first boy asked him. When had John thought he seemed like he must be nice?
“Which way to the toilet?” another kid asked.
“Is your name Brad Pitt?” The questions and comments in English picked up the pace, coming from every corner now. John was regretting his choice to be brave and try to make a new friend.
Then a girl’s voice spoke out from behind him. “Quel est le problème avec vous tous des idiots? Étiez-vous tout élevé par une meute de bouffons sauvages?”
The boys quieted at once, staring behind John with their mouths hanging open. John turned to see the German girl standing there–the one he had thought was so good looking.
The one with the dimple.
The girl said some more things in French, the words flowing off her tongue so easily. The boys didn’t have a chance. They protested a few times, and one or two made efforts to talk back to the girl, but she was having none of it. Once again, John wished he could understand what she was saying, mainly so he could take some notes on how to handle a situation like that in the future.
At last, the pack of boys headed off, leaving John alone with the girl. “Why do you do that?” she asked him in accented English.
“Let yourself be pushed around by strangers.”
John shrugged, uncomfortable. “I didn’t let them. They were just being mean.”
She snorted in derision. “They are only mean because you allowed them to be. You must show people like that who is in control. Make them fear you, because they are only afraid themselves.”
John tried to think of something to say to that. Something she’d find witty and interesting. Something to salvage his self-esteem. But as usual, he tried too hard and took too long. The girl spoke before he came up with anything.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” she asked him.
Once again, John froze. What was he supposed to do? He could tell her the truth, or he could try to lie, and hope his ears didn’t give him away. It was clear he wasn’t going to get in with the French, even though that had been his original choice. Was there still a way to salvage things with the Germans? But how?
Make a Choice
Is John going for the truth or a lie? When you vote this time, feel free to put in a nomination for what sort of a lie he should tell, or how he should broach telling the truth. I’m thinking this would be more fun if you all had some more input into the direction the story is going beyond a simple popular vote. I’m also noticing that the story seems to be spinning its wheels a bit. Some of that is no doubt due to the 1,000 words per week pace. I have a goal to get things going more quickly, but each week it just doesn’t seem to come together. Feel free to offer suggestions! I’d like this story to be as much yours as it is mine.
Thanks for all the votes so far!