Name: Ann Braden
Title: Sciencetastic SuperGirls
Genre: Light Sci-Fi
On the whiteboard, the large block letters spelling MR. TROLP slant toward the floor at what’s got to be a 40° angle. In two seconds flat, I’m plotting the angle on my Predictor of Sub Effectiveness Graph, and it only takes a quick glance to confirm we haven’t seen this kind of downward drift since the sub who only walked on her tiptoes. We’re definitely galloping straight into art-teacher-comes-up-from-the-classroom-below-us-to-deliver-a-lecture territory again. Unfortunately, further analysis is cut short when I look up to see Mr. Trolp leaning across the lectern, staring right at me.
His eyebrows are twitching. “You never know who’s going to be out to get you in life.”
Really? This is how he’s starting class? It wasn’t even worth taking the graph out. Anyone could tell you the art teacher’s going to show up.
“You’ve got to stay on your toes. Always looking behind you.”
I flip my notebook shut. OK. He’s even loonier than the tiptoe lady, and she spent half the class talking about leprechauns. Look at someone else, Mr. Trolp. I get it. I’ll be on my toes. Look at someone else, so they can benefit from this juicy morsel of very-important-advice-instead-of-actually-having-English-class.
“It could happen anytime – next Tuesday, for example – when you think everything is going fine.”
Jeff Harkiss tips back in his chair, his hat perched on top of his head so he can claim he’s not actually wearing it. “Just start the DVD, dude.”
There’s always a first time to agree with Jeff Harkiss.
Mr. Trolp sticks his jaw out and opens the DVD case on the front table. Finally. But then he’s back to the lectern, staring me down again, with the DVD around his finger like a hostage. “It’s like dark energy.”
Right. Even Jeff Harkiss puts all four legs of his chair on the floor for this one.
“You think you know what the universe is like, and then BAM!” Mr. Trolp smacks the lectern. “You find out most of it is made up of this invisible stuff that we didn’t even know existed. And while that stuff has been forcing the universe to expand faster and faster, you’ve just been sitting around, twiddling your thumbs.”
Ben Michelson looks up from his drawing. “Like the Big Bang?”
Mr. Trolp at last turns away from me to fix his stare on Ben. “More like the Big Rip.”
I sigh and can’t help but mutter under my breath, “Except that the universe has somehow managed to go for 13.75 billion years without ripping apart.” The man’s making it up like a wackadoodle.
“Except,” Mr. Trolp says loudly, looking back at me.
For crying out loud.
“Except dark energy didn’t exist for the first 4 billion years.” He lowers his voice, and his mouth turns up in a sneer. “But since then it’s been popping into existence pretty damn fast. You don’t end up as seventy-three percent of the universe without a fight, now do you, Julia A. Peterson?”
There’s a whole load of things I want to say back to that, like “How do you know my name?” for starters, and “Why on Mars do you keep looking at me?” while I’m at it. But since more than anything I want him to get on with class, I keep my eyes glued to my desk where long ago someone had tried to carve out IDK but gave up halfway through the K. Seventy-three percent. That’s like thinking you know what the earth’s like and then finding out there’s this little thing called oceans. How have I not heard of this stuff? Sixty-seven meetings of the Sciencetastic SuperGirls, two freakin’ physicists for parents, and it hasn’t come up once? I dig my pencil into the groove of the D in the desk. Whatever. There’s no chance it’s true because this guy’s clueless. Everyone knows energy doesn’t just pop into existence. But no way am I going to be the one to explain to him how E=MC2 applies to the conservation of energy – not with him staring me down and twitching like a rabid spider.
I look at the clock. One hour and thirty-seven minutes until the next Sciencetastic SuperGirls meeting. I sure know what I’m going to propose for today’s agenda.
When the lights go off, I look back up front and am relieved to see the DVD has been rescued from its hostage situation and inserted into the safety of the DVD player. But Mr. Trolp is still on the loose, and damned if he isn’t circling around the back of the room toward my desk. Pretend you don’t see him. Focus on the movie. My, what fascinating opening credits these are. Truly awe-inspiring. But even though I am obviously engrossed by the beginning of this B-grade version of the Time Traveler, he still stops right next to me. And soon that nervy, rabid spider has leaned closer and is growling in my ear, “Not without a fight, Julia A. Peterson. Not without a fight.”
Like a complete and utter wackadoodle.
Then, as though his mission is complete, he circles back around and settles down at Mrs. Hamshaw’s computer. Because after thoroughly freaking people out, it’s always good to check your e-mail.
* * *
Maddy puts on as solemn a face as you can have when you’ve got a pink pen stuck behind your ear. “As president of the Sciencetastic SuperGirls, I hereby call the Sciencetastic SuperGirls to order. Now for the oath.”
The four of us, sitting around our corner table in the deserted cafeteria, repeat together: “I will pursue the truth that is science, and I will not be distracted by the boys in that other, way lame science club.” We all put the appropriate emphasis on “way.”
“OK, SuperGirls.” Maddy says, “Let’s get to business. Caroline, what’s on our agenda?” Since Caroline has just popped an entire mini doughnut into her mouth, she slides a piece of paper over to Maddy. I bite my tongue to keep from interrupting protocol as Maddy looks it over, tapping the pink pen against her temple.
“Tessa, how’s ‘Assignment: Get Dry Ice’ coming along?” Maddy asks as the pen migrates to her mouth.
Across the table, Tessa takes a bite of her snackycake and shakes her head. “It’s a no go. Too expensive if you include shipping. We only have $13.75 in our budget.”
Maddy mutters “snazzifrass Swedish fish” under her breath and draws a pink box around ‘Acquire dry ice.’
“Anyway,” Tessa continues, “I still don’t see why we don’t first do my question about how to make a fireball with common household cleaners. If we’re going to go dangerous, we might as well go big.”
“And it’s free,” Maddy says, nodding. “That okay with you, Caroline? The dry ice was originally your question.”
Caroline nods as the last mini doughnut disappears into her mouth and proceeds to wipe the remaining powder from her fingers with the corner of her napkin.
Maddy looks at me. “Sound good to you, Julia?”
The opening I’ve been waiting for. I look at each of them. “Something’s come up. Something we need to look into.”
“Whatever it is, we can do it after the fireball,” Tessa says. “Everything’s more fun when your eyebrows have been singed off.”