Guy sighed, gazing up at the classroom clock, silently willing it to go faster. Even by a couple seconds instead of one steady, rhythmic beat. But the obstinate device refused; in fact, it seemed even slower than usual. He gripped the edge of his desk in anticipation, silently berating himself to just calm down. Class would be over in five minutes, after all, right? And what was five minutes to him in a class like old Mr. Clout’s?

An eternity, that’s what, he thought gloomily. Oh, Wren… If only she had come to school the past several days,  he wouldn’t have to spend his days solely fretting about her. Not that she wasn’t important to him, no, but he had the average life of a student to fulfill. Not to mention his new responsibilities as a Junk Collecting group Secondary Leader. He just barely disguised a sigh as a cough, just as old Clout passed by. “Staying up too late again, eh, Mr. Rithers?” the older teacher wheezed. “That kind of behavior will only make you worn out and ill, and make you miss school– or at least not pay attention.” He rapped his ruler on Guy’s desk– Guy could’ve sworn that the geezer was the lone soul of a teacher that still did that sort of thing.

“Yes, sir, sorry, sir– must’ve just lowered my eyelids for a second.” There was one or two soft snickers from the back of the room, ones just barely under Clout’s radar. Guy knew without looking over his shoulder that it was Max and Clare. He let the snickers and whispers roll smoothly off; he was better than that, and he knew it.

As Clout turned away and headed back up the aisle of desks to resume giving his lecture on the importance of physics in everyday structure, Guy resumed resisting the urge to comb his fingers through his bangs agitatedly. He hoped Wren was okay. I should try to get my mind off her… the more I think about her, the slower time goes. He tried to think about Clout’s lecture, but, when that nearly caused him to nod off, he decided to focus on, instead, the missions and duties of being a “Secondary  Leader”. All that he knew about being a Secondary Leader was that, while he was technically in charge of the group, the REAL Leader was actually God Himself– which was funny, considering he had doubts about God, about whether He’d help them. Not that a miracle or even some divine revelation wouldn’t be nice in situations like this, where he had no clue where to even start…

Junk Collectors are resourceful– they use what they have around them to turn one man’s junk into another’s treasure. The voice in his head had hit him smack-dab, out of the blue. It sounded like his own head-voice, but… in conjunction with another? He risked a quick, cursory glance around him to see if anyone else had spoken to him, but when seeing no one, sat back slightly, dazed and bewildered. Fortunately, Clout’s back was turned to him, writing things on the blackboard. One man’s junk is another’s treasure, huh….

Suddenly, it hit him faster than a bullet. If Junk Collectors, any and all Junk Collectors, were supposed to be resourceful, that didn’t just mean when they were out in a junkyard collecting valuables to turn into something amazing or useful. Nor did it mean that they solely had to keep their eyes peeled for other potential J.C.s. It meant they should use any and every situation to their advantage, to apply it to Junk Collecting somehow. He sat up straight. Physics? Of course, it made sense now. Physics was the study of how things moved, what they were made of, the things’ energy and force, motion through time and even space…

Clout’s lecture suddenly didn’t seem nearly quite so boring.

With renewed resolve, Guy picked up his pen and began taking notes like he never had before. I can’t wait to tell Kodi… and even Wren.


“C’mon, Jake, open up!” Guy banged on the door. “You can’t help your sister by letting her hole up in her room like Gollum for the rest of her life!” It had be three hours since Clout’s class had ended. It had been two since Guy had arrived at Wren’s house, bolt-locked front door and all. Guy was beginning to regret the whole, “breaking-and-entering” thing he and Kodi had done the first time they’d visited.

Jake’s eyes, hazel like his sister’s, finally peered through the door. “Whaddaya want?” he said. “She said no visitors, y’know.”

“I don’t care. This isn’t healthy for her, and you know it.” Guy squinted up at the taller figure. “And besides, since when did YOU, of all people, become her little MAN-SERVANT?”

Jake grunted. “I’m just trying to help out.”

“You can help her by letting me in.”

“And how do I know you’re not the cause of all this? After all, she was fine– depressed a bit, but still fine– until you and that kid showed up.”

“You can’t blame us; all we did was go along with what she wanted. How were we supposed to know it’d make her turn out like that? You can’t seriously believe THAT was planned!”

“Who is it, Jake?” Wren’s voice, soft and almost mild, emanated from the other side of the door. “No one,” Guy heard Jake say quickly.

“Wren, it’s me,” said Guy. “There’s something I need to show you, you and Kodi. Can I come in, please?”

He sensed her hesitation, but after a minute the door unlatched, and Wren peered through. She looked haggardly; dark circles were beneath her cautious, clever hazel eyes, lines around her face, complete with bed-head. “What do you want?” she said warily, as if she had not heard the first time.

“I’ve come with some new info about what we’re supposed to do as Junk Collectors– lemme in, and I’ll show you.” He held up his bag.

“No.” She started to close the door. “I’m not interested in Junk Collecting now, or ever. You can save your breath for something more important.”

“Look,” he pleaded, “I know we didn’t find them, but maybe we’ll find some other trace of them while–”

She swung about. “You really don’t get it, do you?” she half-snarled. “The Junk Collector was my one, my only chance to find my friends! But he died before I could learn ANYTHING!” She stomped down so hard on the wooden floor that Guy was afraid she’d bust through. “All because you had to go wasting time by asking him what this so-called “Junk Collecting” was! We could’ve found out where they were, how they were, and how we could get to them in the time you wasted!” She stopped, panting hard, and paused to wipe spit from her lips, tears from her eyes. “So no, Guy. My answer is no. I don’t care if that twerp anointed or elected me as a group member; I’m through. If I can’t find them, I might as well just shut myself up to die in a hole.”

“Is that what they would’ve wanted?” Guy blurted. “Phoebe and Charlotte, I mean. Would they have wanted you to just toss in the towel, give up on them? Would they have passed up the chance for an adventure of a lifetime?”

“Shut up!” She spun to face him, tears streaming steadily from her eyes like two miniature waterfalls. “I’m not going to hear more of this. You can’t make me.” And with that, she slammed the door in his face.

To Be Continued…


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