The Un-Game

Dear Friend of Laura Freedman,

This letter is to inform you that, due to the complexity of this therapeutic juncture, Bridges Psychiatric Wellness SolutionsTM has deemed it best to isolate our client from outside stimuli.   All mail for Laura Freedman will be returned to sender until further notice.  Thank you for your concern.

Spirit Engaged,

Andrew Schaffer, Outreach Coordinator

From:  janthepiratespy@hotmail.com

To:  lfreedman@anderson.edu

Subject: ?!?

Dear Ms. Freedman,

I am e-mailing you because maybe you will get a chance to sneak away from a nurse and look at your e-mail.  They are not giving you my letters because you are apparently on lockdown.  God, what did you do, assault an orderly? Jesus.   I looked at the Bridges website again and I have to say the place creeps me out.   First of all, who signs anything “Spirit Engaged”?   Second, the section on electro-shock therapy says “To ameliorate the stress of temporary memory loss, Bridges staff eliminates potentially stressful stimuli.”  Which I am thinking means you are getting electro-shock therapy.  God.  I didn’t think they even did that anymore.   Does your hair stick out crazy all over the place?  I hope you’re okay.   I really hope you’re okay.

Your Friend,

Janice

From:  janthepiratespy@hotmail.com

To:  lfreedman@anderson.edu

Subject: RE: ?!?

Dear Ms. Freedman,

I guess they are not letting you check your e-mail.  Who knows, maybe they don’t even have computers there.  Maybe it’s “excessive stimuli.”  Ha ha.  Well guess who is teaching our English class this year?   El Corporal.   Yes.  Mrs. Hinojosa liked the way he licked us into shape, so she hired him full-time.  We are learning lots of literature under this totalitarian regime, if learning lots of literature means filling out worksheets while El Corporal paces the room, bristling.  I have to admit, though, it’s kind of cool to see him shut down the cocky kids like Juan and Adam.   Even Juan looked nervous when El Corporal made him stay during lunch hour for a “conversation.”   I was lounging on the grass, drawing a yeti on my jeans, when Juan stumbled out of the classroom.  He looked like he’d been through a wind tunnel.

“Did he get you with the bullwhip, Juan?”

“He made me clean out the hamster cages.”

“What does that have to do with you throwing a stapler at Timon?”

“He accused me of ‘inciting irresponsible reproductive activity among rodents.’”

“You put Kojax in Tulip’s cage?”

“I wouldn’t have done it if I knew that bitch would eat her babies.”

“Dude, you deserved what you got.”

Juan looked me over.   “Janice.  Way to get boobs this summer.”

I flipped him the bird.   I was about to let that punctuate our conversation, but then I thought, hey.   You know what would serve my dad right?  If he heard I was hanging around with losers, such as Juan, who has been in my class since kinder.  Back then he had a head like a T-Rex, and he brought his toys crashing down on my head without reason.  My dad hated him.

“What are you doing right now?”

“Ditching PE and taking you to the lake?”

“The last time I hung out with you, Juan, you cut the hair off all my troll dolls.”

“Aw, Janice, come on.  You’re too old to play with dolls, anyway.”

So I went to the lake with Juan.   On the way we stopped and got slurpees and when we got to the lake we poured rum in them and they were cold and good as we sat on the hood of his car.   When you get to know Juan, it’s surprising.   Beneath the cocky asshole exterior, there is a sticky marshmallow interior.  We reminisced about old times, like when Adam Sandoval choked on a golf ball in second grade and the janitor saved him.  Juan told me that his dad had always wanted him to be a doctor.  He worked double shifts at the Discount Mattress Outlet to save for Juan’s college, until the night he had a heart attack while stacking kings.  They found him the next morning, hands over his heart. Dead.

“You should be a doctor, though, J.  You were always smart and stuff.  You could be one of those pretty doctors like on TV.”

“Not if I keep failing.”

“You do good in school.”

“Um, El Corporal’s PE class?”

“Smart people suck at sports.  It’s like, one of those inverse scenarios.”

“Wow.  It’s like you were almost paying attention in math.”

“You probably just suck at push-ups because you have brains in your arms instead of muscles.”  Juan drew a diagram in the mud with a stick.  “Actually, your boobs are probably all filled with brains, too,” he said, adding two wiggly lumps to his diagram.

“If I have brains in my arms, how am I about to punch in your face?”

“You’re the doctor.”  Juan flicked the stick into the lake.  “Don’t ask me.”

Don’t worry, Ms. Freedman.  I’m not stupid enough to get knocked up like Christina Sackburn-Reyes.   I just want to hang out with dino-head enough to freak out my dad.

Xo

Janice

Kathleen Founds has a BA from Stanford and an MFA from Syracuse. She has worked as a drop-out prevention counselor at a South Texas middle school, organized an after-school program (“The Inner Beauty Parlor”) for teen girls in inner-city Syracuse, and taught English and Creative Writing at a technical school in the Ohio cornfields. “The Un-Game” is a chapter from her novel-in-stories, When Mystical Creatures Attack!