It had been the weekend of all weekends and I knew, as I walked into the cafeteria for breakfast this particular Monday morning, that I had the idea to top all ideas and stories. Never mind I had lost Deck Three of of my Monsters decks last week. My idea was so good it didn’t matter. Kinda. Well, it was the fact that I lost the deck that gave me the idea: I was going to start a private investigation company. I even created a little business card.
I’m Abe Table and my friends and I always tell stories at Monday morning breakfast to see who has the best one this week. Mine was an idea, not really a story, but it was the best and I couldn’t wait.
Neither could Ray Medina, my best friend.
“I didn’t hear from you this weekend. You guys go somewhere?” he said as we got in line for hot breakfast tots and french toast sticks.
His hair was all slicked back like he’d just won a soccer match and they were going to take team photos.
“No,” I answered, which wasn’t all the way true, but we didn’t go anywhere like what he was talking about. You know, out of town or whatever. But I did save up to buy Monster Deck 7.
He was nodding his head. Uh-oh. Here it came. He was going to lower the boom. “Well,” he said slow-like, “you just wait til we sit down. You won’t believe what happened to me.” He smiled like he just swallowed a goldfish in front of a classroom of girls.
“Ahh!” Liz Strong shouted as she pinched my back.
I jumped like a shotgun had gone off! “What in the world…Liz… ‘Why you gotta be so rude’?” I asked. She knew I was the jumpiest of our little group.
“Cuz you two ding-a-lings aren’t going to believe what I saw this weekend.”
“Let me guess: Your poor pet centipede finally left you for a decent owner?” You had to play a little rough with Liz or she’d run you over. But, that’s why we liked her. Comes in handy sometimes.
We all got our breakfasts and settled in to our usual place: the third table by the drink machines and the gym door. Our friends, Pick and Gravy, joined us like always. They rounded out our little group. And they had no idea how my idea was going to change their lives!
I reached my hand into the back pocket of my jeans and smiled. For all they knew I was going to show them a crisp $100 bill. I was nervous and just as I grabbed the little card in my pocket, the thing that would affect us all, Ray started.
“Okay, you guys, this is crazy. We went to visit my cousin at college, up at State, this weekend and we had to go to his work on campus for him to pick up his paycheck.” Ray had a way of talking that commanded attention. He made me think of the older kid in that movie The Sandlot. He was holding out a french toast stick like a ballpoint pen. I almost laughed. If he had a little paper hat on, he could have been taking orders for the Frosty Freeze… except he was writing things in maple syrup.
“So, we are sitting in the car, my mom, dad and aunt and I, when this big U-Haul truck pulls up. These two guys get out and whatnot, but I’m not paying attention because I’m counting my health on Monster Deck 4.
“‘Roll up the window, Jorge,’ my mom says to my dad.” Ray used a high pitched voice.
“You better let me do that, Ray, or you’ll hurt something,” Liz said.
“No, Liz, you’re not going to believe this,” Ray said without missing a beat. The boy was positively focused. In fact, I’d rarely seen him this intense, this serious. I was beginning to doubt whether my story was going to top his. “These guys throw open the door and started carrying these bags out. It took two of them to get a bag – they were like shower curtains stuffed with pillows.”
“Really, Ray?” Pick said. “We’re not going to believe some guys were taking furniture into a building on a college campus?”
“Come on, Ray,” Liz added. “You can’t give us that and expect we are gonna go nuts and stuff.”
Inside, I was eating pizza and chocolate! This was great! Ray’s story was being shot down before he even finished. I was going to have the news of the morning after all. Then, Ray stopped the whole table like a time freeze or something. If the whole cafeteria had heard him, they’d all have stopped. If the electricity had heard him, it would have stopped too.
“They were hauling dead bodies,” he said.
He looked at all of us, swinging his head around and eying us as if daring us to doubt him. We all looked at him like he just fell through the roof from the moon.
“Yep. Dead.” He waited for the effect. Waited. Waited.
And I knew my little story was doomed. No way I was gonna top that.
Ray could tell a story. That’s for sure. He wrapped it in gold paper and put a bow on it. “Now, it’s not really what you think,” he said, “but it is still really creepy: they were cadavers for the lab. You know, the dead people that donate their body to science to be examined and all.”
Nobody said anything. That might have been creepier. We all wanted to say a thousand things, but I don’t think anyone wanted to give poor ol’ Ray the heebee jeebees and jinx his dreams. You could have some pretty scary dreams after something like that.
We didn’t have much time left for breakfast, so I decided to put my card on the table. Literally. I pulled the little card out of my back pocket and set it down in front of me. It said Monster Investigations with an over-sized M and monstery looking letters. Underneath it said, “Your surefire source for solving BIG problems.” I made it and thought our little group could solve problems for people. Like finding my Monster Deck 3.
Liz, next to me, said, “What? What’s that, Abe?”
“I never thought you’d ask, Lizzie,” I said. “Welcome to Monster Investigations – our new private investigators group. This is going to be the best thing we’ve ever done. We’re going to solve problems for people. You know, big ones that need to be investigated. Like the stuff we’ve faced this year.
“You mean like all the stuff that turned out to not be real?” Gravy said.
“Or the stuff you thought was a surefire problem and turned out not to be anything? Like the werewolf Harrison?” Pick said.
Ray would speak reason. I was sure. “Look, Abe, we can’t be investigators when we have trouble solving our own problems. That’s not going to work.”
I knew Ray’s story was going to kill my idea. It felt like my heart had been used for home plate. No umpire was sweeping it off, either.
“Hey, people,” Liz said, “Have a heart. We have all been through this stuff together… sort of. We do have experience going through things that needed solving, you know?”
“Who are you and what did you do with Liz?” I asked. This didn’t sound like the Liz I knew. Weird.
Just then the bell rang and the cafeteria jumped to life with the masses moving toward the single hallway that led to our lockers. Ugh. A sixth grader could get stepped on in there too. For real. We moved out and dumped our trays. I put the little card back in my pocket and felt kinda stupid for thinking such a ridiculous idea.