Poor Patti Plink. When last we saw her, the bus had just dropped her off for her first day of school, and she was a bit puzzled about the other kids. What’s happened to her since then? You’ll just have to read on. But first you may want to refresh your memory or catch up. I’ll make it easy for you, since it’s, like, a holiday ‘n’ all, and I know you’re busy building delicate ships in a bottle of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Mariiiiiia. So here: Part 1 and Part 2.
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Patti’s first instinct was to fly away, the way she always did whenever she felt uncomfortable or like hightailing it away from the mischief she was always getting into at home. She stooped to bend her knees for takeoff and cringed. She’d forgotten about the backpack her mom had secured to her back. It pinched her where her wings had been, and she was not used to so much weight. Her wings were so light and easy to store. And easy to use. She was even more sure now than she was before that her mother’s idea to make her look like everyone else wasn’t such a good one.
Besides, she didn’t look like everyone else. These kids in the school yard, milling around with their parents, didn’t look anything like the version of her that her mother had created. She’d been prepared for a rainbow of kids, like those she saw in her textbooks and which her mother encouraged her to color in her coloring books. (“Here, why don’t you try Burnt Sienna for this little girl,” Mom said, replacing the worn-down, paper-peeled peach crayon in Patti’s hand with the fresh brown one.) But these kids? No.
The most normal-looking one was a boy with a fish where his left arm should be. His jacket sleeve was cut off just below the shoulder to accommodate it. At the end of the fish-arm was the fish-head. Patti knew it wasn’t polite to stare, but she couldn’t help herself. The fish returned her stare. The boy blinked enough for the three of them. When he opened his mouth as if to speak, the fish’s mouth opened too. And so did Patti’s (though not in synch). Would the boy talk through the fish-mouth-hand, Patti wondered? If so, would he sound like a boy or a fish? How could she tell the difference? She’d never heard either.
She opened her own mouth to say something, but words failed her. Her mouth stayed open, however, as a small, rudimentary hand extended from the fish’s mouth and presented Patti with a small card. “In Cod We Trust,” it said. Patti could read, after all. Homeschooling may have been for the birds, but at least it taught her something.
To make up for her lack of manners (staring is so wrong!), Patti reached for the card. It wasn’t at all slimy, as she feared. And either was the little fish-mouth-hand, when she shook it in greeting and thanks.