And we return with your irregularly scheduled Perfectly Normal

Heck... I was going to say something witty, but then I decided to be capable of mercy on myself and all you beautiful people out there – you know who you are. No no not you, Hey put that away. I meant you with the glasses and the bombshell bod. No wait, that's me! (and the author chokes to death on own ego. And there was much rejoicing)

Chapter the fourth: Girls


An Affair to Remember

It would be nice to say that things started to get weird after that Sunday spell casting. It would even be acceptable to postulate that Howell managed to break the mould of utterly normal existence. If one were to stretch it to a breaking point, it would be okay if something, anything out of the normal, everyday cannon could have happened at least once. It progressed to normal to a point above and beyond normal. It was an ordinary that didn't just do it's nine to five shift and then go home to curl up around a cup of cocoa and a nice relaxing evening watching television. Howell experienced Normal as it would be if it were organized by fascists, or his second grade choir teacher (which amounts to the same thing really).

Megan left, the only significant change in his life, even greater than his coronation of double digits. She went to some college the next city over, which Howell never bothered to learn the name of. She would come home, her arms full of books, rattling off slogans from a women's rights pamphlet, and stopped wearing bras. It was always something about liberation or of something or another, and suddenly Megan had ideas about how the world should be run, and about families and children and all sorts of nonsense Howell didn't care to understand. Howell went to school, and filled his head with pluses and minuses, spellings of words and silly facts about butterflies and daisies. The Brutish Americans and the Evil Soviets were threatening something Howell understood to be 'new clear' war. Somebody thought it would be a great idea to land on the moon, and then did it. Howell had thought it an awful waste to go out and land on the moon when they didn't even understand how things on earth worked properly (like his inexplicable magical outburst), especially if they weren't going to build a secret volcano moon base or something. Howell probably would have been more concerned about all of these comings and goings if he know, or understood what communism was and why it was supposed to be so nasty. He never quite grasped why his teacher kept telling him to share while everybody said that the Comune people (who are, arguably, all about sharing) were bad (1). He was also discovered to be smart. Not the kind of smart that helps you on the streets, or the kind of smart that helps you get stickers shaped like smiling apples and demented shooting stars at the tops of your test papers, but the special kind of smart that lets you do not one or the other, though convinces everyone that you have potential. It's the kind of smart that doesn't matter until school is over and done with.

The problem was, as any intelligent person will soon gather, Howell's definition of what was normal had dramatically changed that warm Sunday, Normal was no longer was the status quo. Normal was no longer things that tended to happen, more or less, to everybody at some point in time. Normal had expanded, gone international, merged with mediocre and done a hostile take over of routine. Normal was everything that wasn't Magic, and that was all tall order for normalcy to fulfill, which it had done admirably, with efficiency and a friendly smile. (2)

And Howell hated it.

He had done everything in his power to get that feeling back, the feeling of power given to the powerless. Howell had gone to the library, gone to the bookstore, even stalked his pseudo 'cousins' Jane and Hanna in the hopes that the girls would know more than he (3). He'd even worked up the courage to walk into one of those stores that had pictures of five pointed stars in circles in the window, and funny crystals that always smelled of fragrant smoke, even though he was sure, beyond measure that a pointy pink chunk of transparent rock would not do him any good. He had been grounded for five days for that stunt, and forbidden to ever go back there, which Howell secretly counted as a good thing. The lady behind the counter had been abnormally friendly, had a tattoo of a black cat on her wrist and smelled an awful lot more like the pungent smoke than her store had. She had also tried to hug him, an action that young Howell had deemed thoroughly unacceptable at the time, or at least unacceptable from someone who had yellow teeth.

It was around this time that Howell discovered his love of running. He was not a particularly athletic boy, and did not come from a particularly athletic family. Of course, Megan had played football, but more as a diversion than anything else. She had been good at it, but in the kind of way that Megan was good at everything she did, simply because of that kind of drive that exists in people like her. If Megan had not been good at football, she would not have played, simple as that. Although it seems a strange comparison of the two siblings, it is true that neither did anything by half measures. For both Howell and his semi perfectionist sister, it was everything or nothing at all. Howell had learned early, and learned well that something was not worth doing if you didn't do it well, just as Megan had. This may seem an admirable life philosophy at first until one gets into the little fingerprint details of the thing. In Howell's case especially, it meant that he would instead be a spectacular failure at it. Nothing but a roaring and momentous defeat could satisfy him, proof that not only was the cause hopeless, but that further attempts to make it not so would be futile and ineffective.

Howell failed his first real science class this way, having decided that beans were (and, to allow the liberty of a direct quotation) " Dumb", the boy had managed a feat of horticulture previously unknown in his sixth grade class. The assignment had been, classically to grow a plant and to document, with as much care and awkward spelling as their eleven year old hands could excrete, its lifespan, the shape of its leaves, and of course, the presence (or lack thereof) of beans. Howell had, with great enthusiasm, watched the little seed wrapped up in wet tissue, and waited impatiently for it to grow little threadlike roots or at least some sign that the brownish lump contained anything more exciting than dirt, or possibly lunch. When such telltale indications of life failed to appear at the rate he was expecting (Ie. Right away) , Howell unconsciously decided that he would fail his assignment. Not only fail, but fail with such sedulous aplomb that it should be held up as an example of awfulness for years to come. (4)

The first thing he had done was to gather soil not from, as his teacher had recommended, a gardening center, but the loosely trampled dirt of the school's playground. He split his seed and planted it upside down, over watered it, under watered it, only exposed it to moonlight, hid it in his desk for a week along with a mouldy sandwich and above all, absolutely refused all types of fertilizer available to him. By the end of the project, Howell proudly displayed the result (and his log, which consisted of a series of badly drawn comic book characters attempting to alternately save and destroy the world from an evil plant named Narcoleptic, which was a word he had stolen from one of Megan's text books) to his teacher. Howell was pleased with it. Any fool could fail to grow a plant, but it took some doing to make a plant grow backwards. The Bean (which now deserved capital letters) was nearly as pale as his teacher's face, and had grown down in two twisted stalks. If plants could have coughed, this one would have done so with great consumptive wheezes similar to the ones Mr. Widdles was now prone to emitting at semi random and alarming intervals. It probably would have developed a fever, or at least would have complained incessantly of the pain in its proverbial plant hip, brought on by the damp or some such. He called it the project of The Bean and had received the worst grade that the teacher could have given without administering a zero (which Howell also considered to be too easy). Surprisingly, Howell had gotten points for his log, which the teacher had noted (In purple pen) as 'very creative'. She was an english teacher at heart, and was not really a woman cut out for the exciting and highly arresting world of science. Howell began his own highly lucrative career in failing science class. He did chemistry backwards and treated weather like biology. He called insects mammals, wrote rhymes instead of equations, and on every answer, for every test when teacher would ask: " How does this work" Howell would simply put down " I dunno, Magic?" or " Elves, Gnomes, and fairy dust" and once "Santa Clause"(5). He made quite a show of it, proudly displaying his audacious test scores and oddball answers to the accolades of his class. He proved that he could do things by doing them so spectacularly wrong that he very nearly passed.

In the intervening four years that lie as yet meticulously un - described in this work, as mentioned earlier. Howell had discovered the joy of running. He had not, as a matter of fact, learned it in an elementary school track and field class. After all, Howell was notoriously lazy when it came to things that he didn't quite care about, or didn't quite want to do, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, and other domestic type activities. He didn't learn it from playing team sports either. He wasn't very good at team sports, especially the 'team' capacity of the sport. If Howell had to do anything, he would naturally have to be superior through his completely unassailable logic. So the boy was always a shameless hog of glory at all opportunities. He never made a good goalie, but was an enthusiastic forward and winger when encouraged to play football, rugby or baseball (despite that baseball is an entirely different sport). In any case, Howell did not learn his love or funning from sports, or indeed from school at all. Instead, Howell had learned it from Megan.

To be precise, Howell did not learn it directly from Megan in the conventional sense, but instead through Megan's involvement with the pink shirt – dog butt boy scout that had moved in to the next door house. As if by some miracle (for a given definition of miraculous) it had managed to turn out that Megan was able to charm her way into corralling all of that boisterous brown eyed charm together to make 'The Dork' (and Howell had decreed that he required the capital letters when the title was given to him) her boyfriend. But, to the Jenkins children's mutual, silent horror, he was exactly as dull and boring as he seemed to be. He liked football, but it was practically the only thing he could talk about with any authority outside of schoolwork. He was nearly as studious as Megan, but the girl quickly learned that conversations about right wingers and cellular biology tended to wax tedious, and had the romantic nutritional content of soggy cat food (6). So when Howell finally gathered up the panache to bolt, and ran for real in the heart thumping, chest heaving, muscles on fire resulting in the buildup of lactic acid (etc.), it was because of the utter horrific boredom brought on by the cookie pedlar's conversational skills (or lack thereof). He then, of course, had to run in order to escape Megan's remotely justified anger, who may have also been running just as hard to escape. It was when Howell turned that first street corner that he realized that running meant escape, and that escape meant freedom. He marveled at how it had never occurred to him before that running was such a sublime method of ditching things that he didn't like to do, such as involved chats about cellular respiration and nuclear mitosis. In later years, Howell would also learn that he didn't like being tackled round the waist and be brought face down in to the muddy grass (except under VERY specific circumstances). He learned this very well, and as a result figured out that running very fast was an extremely effective method of having this not happen to him on a regular basis, which of course was of great use to him in sport like endeavors.

Hiding was almost as useful a skill as running was, as Howell soon learned that one fateful day, but of course it sometimes meant that adults could find you too soon due to that unique ability to see over tall things and move heavy things that are otherwise outside a child's range of strength, even a child of Howell's considerable (if you allowed him to tell it) talents. Running and hiding was found to be an even more effective combination than either activity alone, as it took grown up type persons out of their typical comfort zone into unknown territory, and it bought him time through distance.

This action of running and hiding, hiding and running earned Howell illustrious titles in the school yard at recess, as the boy was known as the undisputed master of hide and seek. The absolute utter terror of hiding oneself in a small dark and smelling-of-rotten-apple-cores space coupled with the dread anticipation of discovery by the unfortunate child afflicted with the curse of "it" was an excellent incentive to trigger Howell's ability to run at improbable speeds away from the afflicted "it" upon their inevitable unveiling of his place of concealment. For some of the children, it escalated into a bizarre game, one not of "Hide and Go Seek", but instead one of "Pretend to hide and then go find Howell". This was a game of indistinct rules and uncertain boundaries, the main pleasure of which came from finding and foiling the miniature Houdini's cleverest hiding spots. Howell had naturally soaked up the adulations of his compatriots in hiding, possibly the only reason he kept playing.

The other thing that Howell soon learned to run away from was girls. As it turned out, little Howell was almost as irresistible to the female species as he later thought himself to be. Howell learned this fact early, and learned to bask in the attention it provided him with. No matter that some of the boys on the playground muttered behind their hands about how all of his friends were girls. It no longer seemed to bother him that they were. After all even an alarming tendency to giggle in corners didn't reduce their ability to play with him, even though they didn't think that worms were nearly as cool as he did. Or spiders. Howell could not understand what was so disgusting about spiders. He had near forgotten the incident in his attic some four years ago in light of the stupendously momentous event that had occurred that Sunday under the the trees of the little copse behind the ice cream shop, and when he saw one of the little garden creatures eating a mosquito, he thought it to be terribly clever. He hated mosquitoes and flies. Things that crawled, dug, wriggled and even jumped made sense to him, after all, he crawled, dug, wriggled and jumped all the time. They followed predictable patterns of movement, like ones that were entirely confined to the ground, like him (Except when they jumped of course). But there were some little creatures that could fly, and apparently fly for no good reason, just sort of hovering there near your ear and they buzzed oh the-horrible-buzzing-oh-my-god-get-it-off-me -it's-in-my-ear-in-my-EAR-Help-help-get-the-fly-swatter – sort of way. And some of them stung. It had taken one bee sting for Howell to avoid the subject of flying insects entirely (not to mention the supremely irritating itchy little red bumps left by that annoying of all cousins, the mosquito). Here was a creature that specialized in catching the things and eating them for dinner, and it hardly had to do any work at all, just sit around on its gossamer web and wait for something dumb to fly into it. Howell had some sort of vague recollection that the making of the web was probably a chore, but what he saw was a fat, happy little arachnid who let its dinner fly in fresh every morning. Spiders never had to go grocery shopping, never had to cook dinner or kick people out of the kitchen or anything at all. He thought it was a remarkably appealing lifestyle. The whole rest of the world worked for him while the spider just hid out of sight in some comfortably dank little corner, happy as a (if you'll excuse the terrible cliché) clam (7).

In any case, having been distracted by yet another highly informative anecdote, it is time to get back to the subject at hand: Girls. Howell had a lot of female friends, or rather, they were friends with him. He probably was unaware, but the attraction was not due to his devastating eleven year old looks and charm. No, in fact it was Hair. He had wonderful hair, which probably came from his refusal to submit to the ministrations of so called kiddy shampoos, and instead stole Megan's more potent formulas to administer to his locks. He generally emerged from the bathroom smelling faintly of hyacinths, though to be fair, he usually indulged in baths rather than showers.

It is unclear if Megan knew the extent to which Howell abused her products, as the empty bottles were always discretely replaced by some unknown, mysterious person, rather like Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy. The Pomade Fairy, perhaps, or Shampoo Clause. Of course, Howell was just as carefully scruffy as any eleven year old in his class, as it was true that most of them were just now catching on to the idea of regular and frequent hygiene as a means of attracting the opposite sex, or indeed any person at all. Some of the lucky ones, (or unlucky, depending on your perspective) had already begun to notice that most pungent of bodily scents that starts to permeate clothing at a certain age without the assistance of regular baths, on themselves, and on others. Howell figured that he would much rather smell of flowers (despite easily dismissed protestations of it being feminine) and began to implement his own rigorous hygienic routine. This reminded Howell of another thing that he had decided was never going to happen to him – acne. If he could assert that he was never going to be Old People, then he could certainly apply his force of will into the prevention of pimples. Faces adorned with little red bumps were going to be something that happened to other people, in a similar vein to alien abductions and expensive dental procedures.

Now, eleven is a terribly awkward age for any boy to have a girlfriend, no matter how good they happened to smell, let alone five girlfriends, which was exactly how many Howell had, or at least how many he considered himself to have. Eleven, being just on the cusp of imminent maturity, tottering painfully on the lone between messy childhood and awkward puberty, meant that Howell was completely unsure of what his role was in his multitudinous relationships. He knew not if he should be trying to kiss them, or chase them into the big mud puddle that lay just off the school grounds, which the staff had never really managed to get rid of completely. It might be useful to clarify that Howell's definition of Girlfriend was about as ambiguous as his ideas of what one did with a girlfriend, and thus hovered somewhere in between " A female friend" and " Girl with which one is obligated to spend time with and potentially participate in non-platonic activities with", though admittedly his own definition contained less vocabulary and considerably more grumbling. Since Howell had five girlfriends ( which this author has been so studiously avoiding talking about), he figured that he was ahead of the game. There is of course the question of why Howell's five girlfriends were relevant to the plot, and the truth is probably that it was not so much significant as who these girls were. Karen was a sweet girl overfond of fluttering her eyelashes, eager to giggle and even more overfond of gifts. Olivia was more than a bit mysterious and quite less fond of giggling. She was a troublemaker. Jeanne was probably the smartest and had a charming accent, while Adel was the proudest, the most eager to grow up and the quickest to discount girlish fantasies. The last, of course, was Gwenda Emerson.

So it was on one fine school day in the dead of autumn that Gwenda, after four years of waiting, finally got her revenge. She had tried before this, oh make no mistake, she had tried. She was a megalomaniac girl genius (8) (for a given definition of such) after all, and her life and actions were to be defined by the malicious nature of her revenge. But she had been previously unsuccessful, as methods of sabotage relating to his academics were pointless. Whether it was that he was too good at them, or that he did not quite care, her efforts were about as successful as throwing pudding at a brick wall to bring it down (which, incidentally, she also tried once, Howell's head having been in the vicinity of the wall when the pudding was thrown. It didn't work quite so well, and left her with no desert, so she didn't try it again), But this plan would work. It was practically foolproof, to use yet another inevitable cliché. Perhaps a more appropriate (and less often used) term for it would be " Poka -Yoke" (Or the less kind, Baka – Yoke), a term developed by Japanese car developer Toyota, so as to make sure that people could not, say, put their car keys in upside down, leave the car when it is most likely to roll backwards down a hill without proper supervision, or allow the doors to open on an otherwise moving vehicle. As useful as this sounds, it is also somewhat anachronistic for the current setting, being 1972 and Wales, which is nowhere near east asia.(9)

It was one fine and lovely school day, quite near to the end of the year. Birds were chirping. Fluffy white clouds drifted lazily across the sky, with a 20 chance of light showers later that afternoon. Gwenda corralled all of Howell's multitudinous "girlfriends" to the edge of the field to engage them in a vigorous game of Frisbee. Howell, of course, was promptly chosen to be the piggy in the middle, playfully attempting to catch the brightly coloured disk, and impressing with his feats of physical dexterity. Everything was going according to plan, and now all that little Gwenda needed was a slight breeze. Then, like a daintily drifting plastic angel, the multi hued toy lodged itself high in in the gently waving branches of a tree, much to her delight. What type of tree it was, Gwenda could have cared less, save that it had lots of large, lovely climbing branches. She promptly tore after it in a most unladylike fashion, and almost as promptly "fell" and "twisted her ankle". The twisted ankle excuse was a good one, passed on through generations of "frail" women in her family. One soon came to find that a lot of things were associated with quotation marks in Gwenda Emerson's family.

" I have twisted my ankle and cannot get up!" she exclaimed with aplomb, resembling a silent film star.

" Crybaby. I'll get it for you," replied the ever practical, and ever predictable Adel. Most importantly, the reliable Adel, who promptly began her epic struggle against the tree, possibility of perilous scraped knees disregarded. One might now wonder just how this was a diabolical plan at all, as Howell was not even involved yet, having been distracted by Jeanne's discovery of a ladybug.

" Oh, Howell, I don't think that Adel can see the frisbee. Why don't you go stand underneath the tree and help her look!" the ever devious Emerson squealed girlishly, still gesturing as if she were in the 1920s. The nature of the plan was probably now becoming clear, especially since one was to take into account Adel's convenient choice of attire that day, an item of clothing that could only be defined as a skirt(10).

The results were quite cataclysmal, as one might expect, including a plethora of extremely awkward moments, which it would not be in proper decorum to describe here. Which is why, of course, they now will be.

It's pretty unfortunate for our intrepid prepubescent hero that no one else heard the dastardly comment eschewed from the mouth of sweet little Gwenda, for he promptly trotted underneath the tree and dutifully looked up in a manner that was (most likely) entirely innocent.

" To your left Adel," He remarked helpfully and in an instructive manner. People liked it when he was helpful. Adel, with razor wire concentration, shifted to the left, allowing her ground bound assistant a glimpse of something white and garlanded with flowers, and Howell, being at one of the awkward in between ages (Ie. Everything from eleven to about nineteen) blushed redder than a fox with a sunburn. He hand never really blushed seriously before – never really had the need to blush in his memory, even though arguably he had not the complexion for it., being of the sort of lucky person who never seems to sun burn, just tans darker and darker as the day goes by, much to the envy of the newly made lobsters around them.

" Howell's looking up Adel's Skirt! Howell's looking up Adel's skirt!" Came the fire engine cry from the malicious blonde Madonna in a manner all should have predicted by this point. It was a classic ploy, to name Howell the pervert so that she herself, could be the noble soul who "saved" her poor comrade from his miscreant ways.

" What!" came Adel's anguished cry, twinned with Howell's own exclamation of: " Huh?" The captive audience gasp at the audacity of Adel's acute peril, and Howell's seemingly avaricious and atypical behaviour towards their admirable Adel, as the author's alliterative powers abruptly ran aground.

Howell, having still managed his personal growth in the pattern of the typical male, began to sputter franticly in red faced embarrassment, protesting his innocence with as much skill as he could muster (which wasn't very much at this point in time, being as he was, inexperienced in the art of the girlfriend cop out speech) as the poor tree-bound girl above in struggled on her branch to get the illusive disk in addition to protecting her modesty. In some ways, mature, responsible Adel was the prime target for the machinations of Gwenda Emerson, as she was becoming aware of her own self and others reaction to it. If big girls didn't let boys ever see up their skirts, then you could bet against hell and high water that Adel would be right in there with the primly crossed legs and offensive modesty (11). Which is why, of course, for all of her wriggling, Adel promptly, and with great fuss, fell out of the tree. It might me noted now by the observant place keeper that Howell had note yet moved , leaving him in perfect position to intercept and be fell upon by seventy-six pounds (12) of shrieking girl child.

It was Howell's absolute worst nightmare situation. Adel was embarrassed, He was embarrassed, and it looked like people were going to start yelling at him very soon. He hated being embarrassed almost more than he hated being yelled at by people, especially by girls (this having nothing to do, you understand, with the constant nagging of his sister, which she inherited from his mother through a provident genetic twist). The moment the first little mouth opened, he was forcibly reminded of an other horrible occasion when Megan had discovered that he had taken a pair of scissors to Megan's socks to make puppets with. Even his father had gotten in on the scolding that time, complaining huffily in his staid and stable voice over the prohibitive cost of new socks. Admittedly, this was not the response his mother and sister had envisioned from the token "male authority figure" of the household, but it was at least better than his usual reaction of going to sit in the car, or out on the porch -- basically any place where the yelling wasn't.

So, Howell wished hard with his entire being that all of the bad things would go away. He wished so hard that he even forgot about the magic that always fizzled angrily at the back of his brain. He hoped harder than he had hoped for toys at Christmas and for chocolate pudding at lunch time instead of granola. This is of course why the recalcitrant magic took this exact opportunity to finally, once and for all, actually work.

The yelling stopped. So did the crying, and curiously enough, the maniacal chuckling that he hadn't noticed until that moment. Many things seemed to have stopped actually, including the wind and Adel's frantic struggling and kicking above him. In fact, it seemed rather as if the entire world had halted and was now holding its breath, waiting for the bang. Howell wriggled his way out from under his friend's eerily still from, feeling as though his eyes were going to fall out of his head. He rather hoped that they weren't, given how odd Howell felt at that moment. He trotted up to the nearest girl, Karen, who was looking out, eyes wide and unblinking, her mouth formed into a perfect rosy 'O' shape. He waved his and out in front of her face to no visible reaction, and then proceeded along the only logical course of action of snapping, hand clapping, and of course, making funny faces. The other girls responded in kind, that is to say, not at all.

The peculiar nature of time stops (or extreme decelerations of regularly scheduled time flow) is that it leaves one essentially completely alone, leaving actions with no consequences, or theoretically, no chance of discovery. This, as everyone knows, makes one prone to do incredibly stupid things that one would otherwise never ever ever ever ever ... ever consider doing while sober or in the company of others. While some stupid things, like dancing in your underwear to Frank Sinatra songs are mostly harmless and potentially explainable to hapless passerby, things like going out and robbing the Bank of England, or what Howell was caught doing, are basically not.

" Excuse me young man, but you appear to be drawing on that young lady's face," came the polished voice from behind him, " And in Ectoplasm too, tch!" Howell froze like a Hawaiian in Alaska during wintertime, his magic marker poised against the forehead of his recently discovered tormentor, who, even in her current time frozen state, seemed to have recovered remarkably fast from her "twisted ankle".

" Whadyou want?" Howell asked back in his best tone, his heart beating at what must have seemed like 44 407 centimeters per second (13).

" What a mess this is, stopping time. Tch!" The man continued, punctuating his sentence with that odd little noise. He was very well dressed in a colourful sort of suit, and exceptionally tall. He had a little note pad and a quill pen, which he used to punctuate his speech with at randomized intervals. He also kept scribbling down little notes with dry scratching noises.

" I only wanted to stop the yelling! I don't like being yelled at!" Howell shouted, not noticing that his marker had disappointed into thin air.

" A serious offence, a serious offence," He shook his head, even though Howell could not see his face at all. He got an indistinct impression of something beak-like about it, before the man began to speak up again, " We'll just have to pit this straight then won't we! Tch!" Howell was starting to really dislike this person. He gave off the air that his coat and trousers were some kind of official uniform which gave him leave to push Howell around. But, on the other hand, Howell's mind had to consider, it rather appeared as if time actually had stopped for everybody else but him, and though it left him in a unique and definitely unusual situation, it wasn't precisely a favourable one. What was the point of doing something unusual if nobody knew about it? He conveniently left off the part in which he reminded himself that he had no real idea or remedy of his own for the literal timelessness around him.

" Stop the yelling indeed! Tch!" Said the suited man with the now supremely irritating punctuation. He seemed completely incapable of ending his sentences without an exclamation point or that little noise, which he was now emitting with alarming regularity as he sauntered around the place, making little notations with his overlarge quill, " You are one to be watched for sure..." He muttered, placing his hand carelessly on the top of Howell's head, which he resented immensely. One would notice that adults often did things like this with children (14), either not remembering the irritation, or the more likely cause, a sub conscience desire to get back for all the times it happened to them. After all, no one wants or needs that constant reminder of one's inferior height. " Let that teach you to go messing with the laws of Time my boy! You have absolutely no idea what at terrible hassle it is to to sort this kind of thing out! Tch! Why the anachronisms alone!" This was said to the air somewhere to the left of and behind Howell. He wasn't entirely sure that this person actually knew where or who he was. He continued to wander around, mumbling vaguely, with the occasional twitch inducing punctuation of his peculiar little sound. He was starting to remind Howell of a preening rooster , scratching at the dirt, his head bobbing up and down to look at things. The fact that he still wiggled around that ridiculously oversized feather quill pen did not help Howell to dispel the impression. He turned around again, and waved his hand somewhere to the right and about four feet above Howell's head, " That should wear off in about a month my boy" He muttered.

" What!" exclaimed Howell, having finally found his voice again, " What will wear off in a month? Who are you?"

" All done!" The man exclaimed, and he looked exceptionally pleased with himself. He seemed to sort of preen over the majesty of his own work. He seemed to have forgotten that Howell was still there.

" Hey! Tell me what's going on!" Howell yelled again, reaching for his colourful sleeve.

But it was too late, as these things typically go. The man had abruptly and with little fuss disappeared into thin air. With about as much hassle, things started moving again. Karen's rosy 'O' of a mouth began to open and close. Jeanne began to gesticulate wildly, angry looking sounds clearly coming from her own mouth. But the strange thing was that Jeanne's charmingly accented tones could not be heard at all. Neither, for that matter could the various collected shouts and giggles of the girls around him, all of whom were obviously making them, if the movement of mouths was any indication. The breeze was quite perfectly ruffling the leaves of the trees around him, but made about as much noise as a dead mouse. The sounds – all sounds were curiously and mildly nefariously missing, like the last muffin in the tray, or the remainder of ice cream in the tub that you had just seen ten minutes ago. His own voice too seemed to be mysteriously and mildly nefariously absent. He tried it again, to make sure that the first try was just a silly fluke. It wasn't. He did another test for good measure, in case the first to trials were wrong, or had been interfered with in some way, which he was really starting to hope was true. He bopped his head with his hand, cleaned the wax out of his ears in cartoonish anticipation of sound, praying that such actions would actually help. But, the more he bopped, blew, and cleaned in classic human denial, the clearer it became.

Howell Jenkins had gone deaf.

(1) It's probably all quite a bit more complicated than this. Most likely. One would hope.

(2) Or, at least that's how Normal's PR and marketing departments would have you believe. Customer service is very important to Normal international (est. 1887) .

(3) Not that it's possible for someone to know more than Howell of course. It was obviously just a fluke that was clearly well on its way to being rectified. Howell considered himself to be master of all knowledge, a title that comes with being a boy, a boy like Howell, and a boy like Howell around his age.

(4) Howell was, and will always be a great hog of glory, even if it's the wrong kind. Under different circumstances, Howell probably could have been class valedictorian.

(5) He was right about one of these things, but no one, especially Howell ever needed to know that.

(6) Incidentally, cat food has a very high nutritional content if you happen to be a cat. Most human type people find it a little bit on the mentally repulsive side, so the chances of of finding the benefits of the consumption of feline cuisine for Homo Sapiens was going to be a slim one.

(7) Happy as a clam that is of course not currently sitting at the bottom of your bouillabaisse being dug out by a spoon. Perspective is important when considering relative animal happiness.

(8) Incidentally, also the name of a stellar web comic about mad scientists

(9) See? Facts can be fun! This tidbit was brought to you by the letter 'M', a division of Normal International, preventing anachronisms since 1829!

(10) This was not quite as coincidental as it may have seemed. It was a Wednesday after all.

(11) As opposed to defensive modesty, Adel's particular brand involved pre-emptive attack as a means of defending her honour, with explosive and varyingly painful results. An attempt will now be made not to comment on girls and skirt peeping prospects.

(12) Or about 5.4 stone.

(13) A thousand miles per hour of course.

(14) Also very short people. Everyone thinks it's cute until they start losing leg function due to spontaneous and violent kneecap attack.

AN: I'm going to get so much heck for this... In any case, commentary is always welcome (and appreciated!), and as always, thanks for reading!

P.S. I'm keeping a progress report of this story at the top of my profile page now, and under its heading on my profile. If you want to see how the next chapter is coming, you can always check it there.

P.P.S. I got to use the word 'anachronisms' three times in this chapter. It was a highly exciting prospect.