This is the first of a series of shorts that will hopefully eventually connect together into a longer story. The prompt for this one: “In retrospect, something like an astronaut might have been more impressive.” Enjoy!
Dr Jeremy Tabition, to say the least, was not amused.
Nobody ever enjoyed the dunk tank, he knew. It was only through some cruel whim of the school board that it happened every year, and despite the fact that it was one of the best fund raisers the school had, for once in his life he would like to be able to enjoy himself on Halloween as a normal, dry human being. With a special emphasis on dry.
But of course, as a teacher, he had to make sacrifices, and these included, among others, sacrificing his enjoyment of the relatively warm, but a little windy fall day in favor of sitting above a tank of water, dreading the moment one of the ragged baseballs finally hit the target hard enough to dunk him.
He fidgeted atop the plank, trying to keep up a smile as he watched another student hand over their two dollars for the three tries at dunking Dr. Tabs. Smiling was difficult at this point, as he was already soaked, and it was only through the miracles of waterproof makeup that he still resembled Frankenstein's monster rather than a melted bucket of paint.
In retrospect, something like an astronaut may have been more impressive. And smarter, too; a suit that could survive the vacuum of space might have made the water that he'd made Gabe swear he hadn't iced slightly more survivable. Maybe not more enjoyable, but Jeremy would take what he could get.
This whole situation might not have been so bad if it had actually been his turn, he mused as a ball narrowly whizzed by the target, hitting the plastic backdrop with a bang that made him flinch. It was supposed to be the turn of Brian Branch, the math teacher. Brian had always tried to get out of the dunk tank altogether, but thanks to Gabe's rigorous daily disinfecting of his classroom for the three weeks prior, along with Jeremy's insistence that he get vaccinated for everything from tuberculosis to malaria this year, Brian would not be calling in sick with pneumonia this year. Or the flu. Or a sudden allergy to water. Not that they'd bought that one the first time, but still. Brian Branch, this year, at least, had no excuse.
Except this year, they simply couldn't find the man.
He wasn't answering his cell phone, or his house phone. Nobody had seen him, not even Trudy, though Jeremy suspected she was covering for him. Gabe's hurried search had turned up nothing, and it had come down to a game of rock paper scissors as to who would take the math teacher's spot until he could be found.
And he should've known that Arnold would pick paper. He always picked paper. It was like the English teacher was obsessed with it or something.
So despite having already served one of his two slots as target, Dr Jeremy Tabition was stuck here, smiling in the way of a man that wants to murder something and dreading the approach of the sadistic gym teacher Dave Clemmence to the front of the line. If there's one thing Tabs could say in his favor, possibly the only one, it was that the man could throw a ball.
“Get me out of here,” he whispered to Gabe as the janitor, dressed as a cowboy complete with lasso, came by to collect the balls. “I can't take it anymore.”
“You've got ten minutes left before it's Arnold's turn,” Gabe whispered back, with a sympathetic look. “And if we find Brian, we'll make him take your other turn.”
“Right.” Jeremy snorted. “Sorry, but he's probably at the soda fountain, you know.”
“I told you, I looked there.” Gabe turned back to the next person in line. “Oh, hey, Mr. Meeps! Nice Watson costume.”
“I'm Winston Churchhill, actually.” The older man looked vaguely resigned, as if he'd already corrected half the town on this point, which he had. He handed over his two dollars, and received the three battered baseballs in return. “I don't suppose you could tell me when I could come back to dunk Brian,” he remarked as he wound up for the pitch.
“That would be whenever we find him.” Gabe watched as the ball slammed into the backing, two inches above the target.
“He's missing?” Oliver Meeps shook out his arm and took the second ball in hand.
“He's hiding,” responded Dr. Tabs, his voice echoing from inside the dunk tank. “I don't suppose you've seen him.”
“He's down at the soda fountain.” Oliver let loose another fast pitch, this one slightly to the left. “Tch, out of practice...”
“I told you!” Jeremy crowed. “Trudy's covering for him!”
“I looked there!” Gabe looked chagrined as he handed Oliver the last ball. Oliver went through a few warmup swings, and Gabe took another step back. “Is he in disguise or something?”
“Who isn't?” asked Dr Tabs, keeping a wary eye on the substitute as he wound up for the third time. “He's probably... Agh!” The ball found its mark, and the chemistry teacher plummeted into the water. The clear plastic tank gave a clear view of the shocked expression on the green-painted face, and by the time Jeremy surfaced, Oliver was laughing hysterically. “Good grief, man, where'd you learn to throw?” Gabe reset the tank's seat and helped Jeremy pull himself back up, trying to stifle a smile.
“Hah!” Oliver looked triumphant at his victory. “Still got it.”
“Ok, fine, good shot.” Tabs wrung the water out of the sleeve of his tattered Frankenstein shirt. “Hey, would you mind dragging Brian over here? This was supposed to be his timeslot, and he's got another one in an hour.”
“You sure? I mean, it'd be a waste of waterproof makeup...” Gabe said, laughing, before the teacher cut him off.
“Alright, I'll get him.” Oliver picked up his cane again, still laughing. “Try to stay dry!”
“Gee, thanks.” Jeremy sulked on the plastic seat as the next person stepped up to dunk Frankenstein.
He should've been an astronaut.