"…And for those formal affairs, a full-length toga is a fashionable yet sensible choice…Remember to bring an appropriate host gift; an amphora of fine Delian wine would certainly be.... " Edd closed the book with a sigh. By the third read through in as many days, Etiquette Protocols For The Athenian Aristocrat seemed less an influential masterpiece of a manners guide, and more a sterile, outdated text that failed to breathe the same degree of life and excitement into the subject that more modern publications did.
He skimmed over bookshelves that had been reordered six times in the past three days, but saw nothing new since the last time he'd looked. Carefully re-shelving Protocols in the 'Societal Customs: Manners: Classics' section, he sat down on his bed and looked around.
No doubt about it, his room was immaculate even by his standards. Every single mote of dust had been eliminated with the help of very fine tweezers and a magnifying glass. His shirts were so thoroughly ironed that they were now wrinkle-free even at a molecular level (as he'd confirmed with a quick look through his microscope). Jim's needles were all arranged on a north-south axis, and each and every one of his ants had been given a careful bath in the disinfecting insect spray he had formulated. It was marvelously comforting to be at the epicenter of such hygienic order, but it left him with little else to do. Edd leaned back against the headboard and considered his options.
His eyes fell on his label maker, and he brightened momentarily before remembering he had run out of things to label late yesterday afternoon. Even his labels had labels now.
"Perhaps a little experimentation is what I need!" He considered his chemistry set, but quickly changed his mind. Earlier that morning he'd achieved a working invisibility potion, but when the heady rush of success had worn off he'd started imagining all the things Eddy would want to do with it. Badly shaken, he'd immediately poured it down the (now-invisible) drain and destroyed all evidence of its existence. No sense risking another perilous success like that one again so soon.
He sighed once more. "Curse consequential punishment." If only he hadn't given in so easily to Eddy's ludicrously doomed plan to free Ed. Three days of grounding hadn't seemed like much at first, but now, after 72 hours of leaving his room only to carry out the chores his parents still left sticky-noted all around the house, he…
He blinked. Had it really been 72 hours? Pulling a calendar out of a nearby drawer (labeled 'Calendar Containment Receptacle,' with a second label attached to the first that read, 'Calendar Containment Receptacle Identifying Tag'), he checked the date and gave a little yip of joy. His three days were up! He was free to enter the world of the living once more!
He jumped off his bed and ran for the door. It would be wonderful to see his friends again – no doubt Eddy had some delightfully preposterous new scam he'd be dying to pull, and Ed would be full of wild tales of whatever little fantasy world his mind was currently inhabiting, and…
Slowing to a stop, he slumped forward slightly. Neither Ed nor Eddy had received as light a sentence as he had – they both had several more days to go before being allowed back outside.
Very well, then, he'd just have to come up with something to do on his own – at least he had the whole wide neighborhood to explore now. And who knew, perhaps he could even take advantage of this time away from his, well, irrepressibly mischievous comrades to strengthen his acquaintance with some of the other cul-de-sac inhabitants…
He resumed running. A few days of independence almost sounded like fun, actually.
"Man, this stinks." Eddy lay on his bed glaring up at his disco ball. Three days of being stuck inside with no suckers to scam - and he still had four whole days left! You'd think he'd been caught trying to kill someone.
He glanced over at the makeshift walkie-talkie still coiled up beneath his window. It had lain silent since the first day of his grounding, ever since Sarah had nearly given him a concussion with her little wire-yanking stunt. The memory made him scowl – he wished he'd thought of that. It would have been so much funnier if he hadn't been the butt of the joke along with Ed and Double-D.
He considered trying to call his friends on the headset now, but eventually discarded the idea. Ed had probably eaten his headset days ago, and Sock-head was no doubt still too traumatized by Sarah's stupid trick to even go near his. Eddy snorted. Twitchy little coward.
He glanced at the headset again. Okay, so maybe that was being a little hard on Double-D. He might be as jittery and yappy as a sled-load of Chihuahuas, but give him a straw and an old towel and he'd build you a working space shuttle in half an hour. And he'd think it was FUN! It was amazing.
Eddy sighed. It was just too bad he couldn't sell that brainpower…
His scalp started to get that tingly feeling it always got just before an all-star idea hit. "That's IT!" Eddy leapt to his feet. "Ed's House of Answers!" A few signs, one booth, and Double-D's cooperation were all he needed – at a quarter per answer, he'd be rolling in dough by suppertime! Eddy snickered. It would even be a breeze to talk ol' Sock-head into this one – he always jumped at the chance to show off all those useless facts crammed away in his head.
He ran over to his door and yanked…to no effect. "What's with this stupid door?" He tried again, but it remained shut fast. Then he remembered.
"Rrrrgh!" He banged his head against the wall. The door was locked and barred from the outside. Five stinking little escape attempts, and his parents had to go all Alcatraz on him.
He could happily have killed someone at that moment.