Reposted with grammar edits on 1/1/2010.
Hello HA! fans, it's Azure129 again! I just wanted to give a big thank you to everyone who commented on the last chapter of my first story, "A Walk to Imagine"—you guys are awesome! Anyway, here's a more lengthy story I'm going to be working on involving Arnold getting in touch with his more 'poetic' side courtesy of…you guessed it—Helga! I got the idea from the episode 'Grudge Match' when Arnold made up that golfing poem for Grandpa (which Grandpa described as "the worst, most stupidest poem I've ever heard", lol). It just struck me as such a funny contrast that Helga would have so much talent at poetry and that Arnold…well…wouldn't:). Anyway, I was going to set this pre-confession so we could all have a good laugh about how dense Arnold could be about the fact that all of Helga's poems are about him, but then it occurred to me that if I set it post-confession I could make things get really, REALLY awkward (and quite frankly, you just can't beat awkward, ;).) I'm not even sure how things are going to turn out, so suggestions for what should happen next are more than welcome along with comments, criticisms, etc. All right, that's about it—R & R please:)
Anyone want to pool all our money and just buy this show, already? Oh, well--until that day, it belongs to Viacom, Nickelodeon and Craig Bartlett ;)
A Long Weekend in the Making…
It was just another typical Friday afternoon in the fourth grade classroom of Mr. Simmons at P.S. 118. The kids had already finished their morning lessons of math and science, eaten lunch, and even concluded their history segment—the only thing left was English and, with only fifteen minutes to go until the bell would ring at 3 o'clock, few people were paying attention to what the enthusiastic young educator standing in front of them was saying.
"Alright class, since I won't be seeing you for two full days I have a very special writing assignment to give to everyone—due Monday! Isn't that exciting?!"
At this announcement, the class suddenly turned from staring in unison at the slowly ticking clock to looking at Mr. Simmons with wide-eyed stares accompanied by familiar groans.
Harold Berman, a portly kid who had been sneaking glances at a comic hidden in his desk, was the first to speak up. "AWWW…I hate writing, it always takes so long!" He crossed his arms in front of himself and took a bite out of a candy bar hidden in his shorts pocket.
A skittish looking boy in go-go boots named Sid seconded Harold's comment. "Boy howdy, there goes the whole weekend!" He stretched his arms across his desk, and put his head down with a loud sigh.
"Now class," began Mr. Simmons, realizing that even more students were about to make some kind of complaint, "it won't be that bad. Actually…I'll make you guys a deal!" A few people quit grumbling, giving their teacher the benefit of a doubt. Others went back to watching the clock, hoping that time would run out before Mr. Simmons could officially give them the assignment. He continued. "I was going to assign you a brief book report, but, instead I'll make it a creative writing assignment! This way you won't have to do any research—just write something that's uniquely you. I've got it! How about each of you writes a short poem about something that inspires you? That'll make the assignment go even quicker! What do you say?"
A few small moans and an occasional eye role from his students showed Mr. Simmons that, even though they were still a bit unhappy, his special class found this task a bit more reasonable than the one he had originally intended.
"Good. Now, before the bell rings let me hand back the practice poems we did in class earlier this week. Most of you seem to have really grasped the concept of rhyme and meter, and it was very interesting to see what each of you chose for subject matter—I really learned a lot about your passions and inspirations. Okay, let's see…" Mr. Simmons sat at his desk, fumbling through some papers. Finally, he pulled out a stack and began walking along the rows of desks handing back the pages to their respective authors. "Sheena, very nice use of haiku…Rhonda, excellent use of imagery; I felt like I could actually 'see' the outfit you were describing…Helga," he placed the paper upside down on the feisty pig-tailed girl's desk so no one would be able to see its contents and whispered with a smile, "as always a brilliant job; you should consider giving pointers to some of your other classmates."
He winked at her, but she only returned his compliment by sinking lower in her seat and crossing her arms in front of her chest. With a scowl she grumbled back, "Yeah, yeah," and, with that, she crumpled the paper up and threw it inside of the backpack lying open under her desk, seemingly without a care. Mr. Simmons shook his head, slightly disappointed, and continued down the row of desks.
Naturally, Helga G. Pataki would have liked to thank her teacher for his encouragement, especially since she got so little from the other adults in her life. However, she did have a 'reputation' to maintain, and it simply wouldn't do to have her fellow classmates know that the toughest among them had a talent at possibly the softest and most sensitive art form; poetry. All she could hope was that no one had heard what Mr. Simmons had said to her before leaving her desk to attend to the next student. 'Oh well…' she thought to herself. With a sigh Helga turned around to count down the minutes on the clock herself, though not before sneaking a glance at her muse—the reason she felt so inclined to write as much and as well as she did. He was a young boy with a wide head and soft yellow hair whom Mr. Simmons was currently approaching.
Mr. Simmons stopped alongside Arnold's desk with a concerned look and gave a small sigh. "Arnold…may I speak with you after class?"
Arnold briefly turned up a corner of the paper now lying face down in his desk and blinked in surprise at the grade he saw. "Um…sure Mr. Simmons."
Just as the last student received their assignment back, the bell signaling the weekend rang throughout the small classroom. Instantly, the entire group of fourth graders grabbed their belongings and raced into the rapidly filling hallways of P.S. 118. The entire group that was, except for the lone Football Headed boy now sitting in front of his teacher's desk, awaiting an explanation about the mark he had just received. It wasn't that he had failed or anything—Arnold always did his best to do a thorough job on his homework, and he always handed it in on time—but a C+ just wasn't a common grade for him.
Suddenly, Arnold heard a loud 'thump' from behind him, almost like something heavy had fallen. He quickly turned his head around only to see Helga G. Pataki trying to pick up several textbooks that had fallen through the bottom of her suddenly broken backpack. Under normal circumstances, Arnold would have jumped up and helped any of his classmates in such a situation. Yet, he hesitated a moment before going over.
He had just felt…well…awkward around Helga ever since last month when he and his best friend Gerald Johanssen had saved the neighborhood from being torn down…or, more specifically, ever since Helga had told him a very unforgettable secret on top of the FTi building just minutes before their adventure had finally ended. As a result, for the past few weeks he had hung out with her in groups, even spoken to her on occasion during the daily barrage of insults she gave him, but at all costs he avoided having to be alone with her. He didn't want to be insensitive…he just didn't know what to say.
'Still, maybe she did just make it all up. Maybe it was just all in the 'heat of the moment,' or some kind of joke or something. Anyway, I'm probably just overreacting. I mean REALLY—Helga G. Pataki in love with me?' Arnold had been trying for weeks to convince himself that all those things she had said—what were her exact words: 'stalking you night and day, building shrines to you'—weren't true. Yet, deep down he couldn't deny that there had been a sincerity to her confession. Arnold knew that he had seen a side of Helga that he had only suspected was there before—she was a decent person, not just some self-centered bully. If she would risk so much just to help him save everything he cared about, was it so crazy to believe that maybe she could have genuine feelings for him...to accept that maybe the girl standing in front of him might actually…
Arnold had begun to get lost in these thoughts, but suddenly he snapped back to reality. He realized with surprise that he had begun smiling as this idea had entered his mind, and shook his head with a start. 'This is crazy… why can't I just let this go?'
Arnold focused his attention back on Helga's scattered books and sighed as his good nature took over once again. No matter what the circumstances he simply could not ignore a friend in need and, finally, he walked over to Helga's desk and began to gather up a stray notebook or two. At first, his admirer didn't seem to notice his presence—her face remained blank, as though she was thinking about something other than the task at hand. But suddenly she noticed that several of the items she was about to pick up were already off of the floor, and she looked up in curiosity only to see the not-so-secret object of her affections quietly helping her, though he hadn't made eye contact yet.
Needless to say, Helga had also felt a little uncomfortable around her beloved ever since her confession. The way she had just 'blurted it out'—somehow it felt all wrong…And then taking it back? She wished she could do it over again, but there was no turning back: Arnold had heard her secret and nothing would ever change that.
'I guess I'm just lucky he bought that whole 'heat of the moment' excuse…it seems almost too good to be true…' She just wished this tension between them could be broken; it was like just being alone together begged some kind of response from him to what she had said, regardless of whether Arnold thought it was the truth or not.
Taking a quick glance around the classroom to make sure her other classmates were gone, Helga swallowed hard and suddenly stuttered, "Oh…um, th-thank you A-Arnold," in as sincere a voice as she could muster.
Arnold stood perfectly still, holding the few items he'd picked up in his arms, and then smiled and replied, "Um, sure Helga." For a moment their eyes met, but then the two ten-year-olds quickly turned away from each other and began to nervously clear their throats and stare awkwardly at the floor. Suddenly, both noticed a small crumpled paper at their feet that had apparently fallen out of Helga's backpack along with all of her schoolbooks. Having fewer things in his hands, Arnold decided to reach down to retrieve it. Helga, however, remembering what exactly was on that paper, rapidly made a grab for it not realizing Arnold's intentions.
"OUCH!" both fourth graders yelled in unison. Their heads had just slammed together, hurling them in opposite directions to the floor.
Helga's books scattered again (along with several of Arnold's this time). Helga quickly shook her head and, taking advantage of Arnold's distraction with rubbing the small lump now forming on his forehead, casually reached out her hand to snatch up the crumpled poetry assignment. However, Arnold hadn't forgotten his mission and, while one hand held the bruise now forming on one of his temples, the other still attempted to grab the paper ball.
At the unexpected feeling of their hands touching the eyes of both children suddenly widened. Arnold and Helga instantly jumped back from each other.
Arnold stood, no longer concerned with the injury to his oddly shaped head, and felt his cheeks redden. "Um…sorry, Helga." He began to pick up the few items that had fallen from his own backpack.
Helga quickly gathered together the books around her feet, stood, and with a slight blush replied, "Um...just…forget about it, Football Head." She walked past him toward the doorway as fast as she could, startled by her obvious reaction to his touch and a bit shocked by his own reaction to hers. 'What's up with him? Is he really that freaked out by me? Ugh, he must think I'm a total loon from all that stuff I said to him on top of that building. Crimeny Helga—it was bad enough when he just didn't like you, but now he thinks you're completely crazy too!'
Lost in her thoughts, Helga almost dropped her books yet again as she just missed colliding with Mr. Simmons who was now reentering his fourth grade classroom. "Oh Helga, good; I'm glad you're still here. You're just the person I had in mind!"
"Huh?" Helga exclaimed, still a little startled.
"Both of you please, sit down," he said, motioning toward Arnold and Helga. Both grabbed seats in the front row near Mr. Simmons' desk, Helga still very confused by what her teacher had meant with his strange greeting to her.
Mr. Simmons stood in front of his desk and gave a brief sigh before beginning. "Arnold, I want to talk to you about the poem you submitted in our practice workshop last week—the one I handed back today."
Arnold pulled the graded page from his pants pocket and said in a slightly dejected voice, "I thought so."
Curious, Helga glanced over and noticed the grade on Arnold's paper with surprise. 'Ouch…what could have been so bad about his poem?' she wondered.
"Arnold," continued his teacher, "you're one of my most special students, and you shouldn't let this bother you. Keep in mind that poetry is a very, how should I put this…subjective art form. In other words, it's not that you did a bad job on you're homework, it's just that I don't think you have a firm grasp on some of the fundamentals. For example," he took the paper from Arnold and scanned it, "It doesn't really seem like you were inspired by anything, you're just telling a narrative story in rhyme."
Arnold looked up at his teacher, slightly confused. "But I thought a poem could be about anything; what's wrong with talking about what happened to me and Gerald during the FTi scandal?"
Mr. Simmons smiled and looked back at his student. "It's not that something like that couldn't work as a poem, but I would like you to write more about how something makes you feel rather than just what happened; a genuine human reaction to a person, a thing, an event…anything that makes you want to write, that compels you to write." The teacher then turned to the pig tailed girl sitting to his left and gave her a large grin. "A muse is what you'd call it, right, Helga?"
Helga had been looking on curiously, still not understanding why she was here and feeling almost outside of the conversation between her beloved and her teacher. This sudden recognition of her presence surprised her a little, but she quickly resumed her usual defensive attitude and with a classic scowl responded, "Hey, 'you're' the teacher!" Still, Helga didn't like him putting her on the spot like that, and especially in front of Arnold. 'Why does he have to make such a big deal about the fact that he likes my poems?'
However, Helga's dismissive reply wasn't enough to dampen Mr. Simmons' spirits this time, and his grin only widened as he turned his attention back to Arnold. "Arnold, I think you could use some help from a more experienced student to discover the 'special' poet within yourself, and that's why I'd like to assign you a tutor."
Arnold had been paying careful attention to his enthusiastic teacher's comments, and nodded in understanding at Mr. Simmons' conclusion. "I guess that would be okay." It made sense; he was having some trouble, so why not get one of his more skilled classmates to help him out? He briefly remembered the time he had tutored Torvald in math; it had been hard at first but, in the end, all the effort had been worthwhile and Torvald had actually improved a lot as a student. Yet, Arnold, always a little dense, hadn't yet put together whom Mr. Simmons had in mind to help him out…
"Wonderful!" Mr. Simmons clapped his hands together and quickly turned his attention back to Helga, who had turned a little pale as she realized what her teacher was thinking. "And here's where you come in Helga—I'd think you'd make the perfect poetry tutor for Arnold!"
Helga knew that if she hadn't already been sitting, her legs would have given out from under her at this announcement. Her mouth opened slightly in shock and she blinked a couple of times, attempting to find a way to respond to this absolutely impossible request. "Uh…I…I…I don't think there's any need for that Mr. Simmons." She laughed nervously and tugged at her collar to help alleviate the cold sweat now forming on her neck. "Besides, I-I'm really busy, and anyway I…I don't have any experience teaching. Heh, heh…heh…" Normally, Helga G. Pataki would have jumped at the chance to spend time with her beloved, but how was she supposed to help him find his inspiration when he was her inspiration? To make things worse, he already knew (thanks to her confession) that anything she might write would be about him. The very idea of having to discuss her poetry with him not only brought the color back to her cheeks, but turned them bright scarlet. If she could barely spend a few seconds alone with him without the situation turning completely awkward, how could she be expected to share her most personal thoughts with Arnold FOR A WHOLE WEEKEND?!
Mr. Simmons gave her a hopeful smile. "Please, Helga? It would just be for this weekend's assignment, I'm sure the two of you would only have to get together a couple of times. And as for experience, well, you may not be a teacher Helga but you're sister was one of the best assistants I've ever worked with and I'm sure she'd be happy to help you if you have any problems. What do you say?"
During this little exchange between Helga and his teacher, Arnold had been sitting with his wide chin resting on his hand, and wondering to himself why his teacher would pick Helga G. Pataki to help him write poetry. 'He must be really impressed with what she writes to recommend her for something like this. I wonder what she's written abou-' Suddenly, Arnold's eyes widened and he swallowed hard as another small snippet of what Helga had said to him on the FTi building resurfaced in his brain… 'Who else do you think has been stalking you night and day, building shrines to you…filling volumes of books with poems about you?!'
"NO WAY!" It was the first thought the disbelieving fourth grader had and now, unfortunately, it was the first thing he blurted out before he could stop himself. Both Mr. Simmons and Helga abruptly turned to stare at him after this outburst, and Arnold felt himself blush slightly as the realization of what he had just said slowly sunk in.
"Uh…" he cleared his throat a little, "I mean…Mr. Simmons, I really don't think you need to bother Helga. I'm sure I can just get help from Gerald or Phoebe or someone. You don't have to put her through the trouble of tutoring me, especially if she's busy with something else."
Listening to Arnold, Helga knew he must be feeling just as uncomfortable with all of this as she was and hoped that, between the two of them, they'd be able to make Mr. Simmons forget about this whole little project. She looked pleadingly at her teacher. "There you are, Mr. Simmons; I don't want to help Arnold and Arnold doesn't want help—it all works out nice and neat. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some appointments in my office down the hall so I'll just be going."
With a convincing smile, Helga grabbed her books and began to make her way to the door. However, she was stopped by one final argument from Mr. Simmons. "Helga, you know, Arnold isn't the only one who needs to improve his grade in this area."
Helga's one free hand was already on the knob of the classroom door, but she suddenly stopped and turned back to her teacher with a questioning glance. "Huh?"
He sighed. "You need some improvement too, Helga."
Helga raised an eyebrow at him. "But I thought you said I was a 'skilled student?' "
Mr. Simmons' face became more serious. "You are Helga; at writing the actual poems. But your participation is very poor: you never volunteer to read your works in class, you never seem to take any interest in reviewing the assignments or understanding your grades, and you say almost nothing at all during any of our writing workshops. As it stands, I won't be able to give you more than C in creative writing too."
Helga's eyes narrowed in frustration and she returned to her empty desk in the front row, realizing that she had been beaten. Big Bob would never let her live down a C, especially since Olga had just sent them all copies of her latest straight A+ report card along with laminated prints of the official letter stating she had made the Dean's List for the seventh semester in a row.
Helga sighed; there was no way she could imagine using her abilities one-on-one to help Arnold find 'his own special inspiration', but she absolutely WOULD NOT do anything to reveal to the entire fourth grade that Helga G. Pataki was the class poet laureate. 'And at least if I go along with Simmons on this I'll get to spend some time with Arnold. Besides, it's better that just he knows about my poetry than our entire class. And maybe I won't even have to actually show him anything I've written…I could just discuss techniques with him for a few hours or something. This might not be so bad.' In short, she could spend one awkward weekend with Arnold or an unbearable adolescence being taunted by her classmates for her 'sensitivity.'
However, before she could answer, Arnold suddenly announced out from across the room, "I'll do it if it's okay with Helga."
Helga stared at him questioningly, but Arnold only looked at Mr. Simmons who smiled and replied, "Excellent, Arnold! If you do well on this assignment, I'll replace your C+ with whatever new grade you earn." He turned back to his other student. "Well, what do you say, Helga?"
Helga merely nodded with a blank expression on her face, too confused to respond any other way.
While Helga had been considering the consequences of being a Pataki with a less-than-perfect GPA, Arnold had been doing some thinking of his own. 'Why doesn't Helga want to tutor me?' The thought nagged at him all the while Mr. Simmons was convincing Helga of her stake in all this. 'I mean, I know why I don't want her to—if there's even a chance that all of her poems are somehow about me…well, I just don't think I could face her. But, if her poems aren't about me, then why would she seem so nervous?' After a minute of going back and forth in his mind like this, Arnold had finally come to a conclusion. 'If I let her tutor me and all that stuff about 'loving' me is a lie then all that'll happen is we'll both get a better grade…' He had let out a small sigh at this point. '…And if I'm wrong and she really has been writing about me…well, then at least I'll know for sure what the truth is once and for all.'
"Good, it's all settled then!" Mr. Simmons happily exclaimed, and went back to his desk as his two students gathered together their things and headed toward the door to finally start their weekend.
"Oh, Arnold, can you stay for one more minute?" called Mr. Simmons as the two students prepared to head through the open door.
Arnold and Helga looked at each other with blank stares for a moment, then Helga shrugged her shoulders and with a casual, "Catch you later Football Head," walked into the hallway and out of sight of the P.S. 118 classroom.
Arnold approached Mr. Simmons' desk with a questioning look, wondering what other news his teacher could possibly have for him.
Mr. Simmons leaned against his desk. "Arnold, I'm really glad you and Helga agreed to do this. She really does need the experience just as much as you do, and not just for your grades. I think you two can learn a lot from each other…" He smiled. "Just…be patient with her."
Arnold raised an eyebrow at his teacher.
"What I mean is, give her time to show you what she's capable of, Arnold—I guarantee you'll be surprised." Mr. Simmons winked.
Arnold nodded his head, and headed for the door again. "I'll try. Goodbye Mr. Simmons."
"Have a good weekend Arnold," he waved to his finally departing student, "and I expect to see something 'special' from both of you come Monday!"
Arnold took a deep breath as he headed through the now deserted halls of P.S. 118. If there was one thing he already knew without a doubt it was that Helga G. Pataki could be surprising.
Well, that's about all for now...Will Helga show Arnold her poems?! Can Arnold spend an entire weekend with Helga under the circumstances without being put in an incredibly...revealing...situation—possibly for them both?! Why am I asking you guys when I'm the one who's supposed to be writing the fanfic :) ? Well, that's because I'm more than open to any of your suggestions, of course! I already have a pretty good idea of what the main focus of the next chapter is gonna be; I figure I'll do one for Friday afternoon, one for Saturday, one for Sunday, and one for Monday morning when we finally see the fruits of Helga's labor ;) Otherwise, I'll know what happens as I'm writing it and not a moment before. Please R&R!