Part 16: An unexpected turn
“May I use your cell?” Nina asked. It was lunchtime.
“Uhm…but only for a second!” Patsy answered hesitating.
“What are you doing?” the mongoose asked.
“Texting Clam, of course!” She retorted “It’s luckily his cell number is so easy to remember.”
“Done!” Nina said after a few seconds “I asked him if he wants to meet.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Patsy asked a bit warily.
“I don’t care!” the giraffe responded snappish “Now more than ever! She’s not considered of me either!”
At the flat share:
Clam pulled his phone out.
“Who is it Clam?” Lazlo asked.
“Oh please Lazlo! Like we didn’t know already!” Raj interposed sharply.
“Nina wants to meet.” Clam answered.
“It looks like Clam has again got something better to do than waste his time with us Lazlo!”
The elephant said provokingly.
“Maybe Raj is jealous??” Clam riposted.
“Ha!” Raj burst out derisively “Would you please tell Clam, that I can perfectly do without befriending my enemies, since, unlike him, I’m not off my head?!”
“I’m Raj! I’m the hub of the universe! Everything revolves around ME! When I’m not the centre of the attention I’m starting to cry like a little girl because I don’t care about anything and I think of nothing but MYSELF!”
Clam mocked Raj by imitating him. He turned red with anger.
“WOW CLAM! Was that a FULL sentence???” He shouted waspish.
The rhino snarled, got up immediately and left.
“Clam, wait!” Lazlo shouted after him. SLAM! He sighed, resting his head on his palms.
“He can go and jump in a lake!!” Raj snarled “It’s not my fault that he raises a quarrel every time!”
Lazlo averted his eyes in annoyance.
“What’s he saying?” Patsy asked.
“He’s coming.” Nina replied contented, creasing her face into a smile.
“Great! What do I do in the meantime? Ruby’ll be in the car repair shop all day.” The mongoose complained.
“Why don’t you join us? I’m sure Clam won’t mind it.” Nina said encouragingly.
“OK.” She answered, shrugging. It was still better than sitting around inside all day by herself.
After all, Nina was now able to build lots of useful stuff with Clam’s help.
Circa half an hour later the doorbell rang.
“Hey Clam!” Nina greeted happily.
“Hi Nina.” He greeted back, but not as friendly as usual.
“Patsy will join us for today. That’s okay, isn’t it?” the giraffe asked.
“Sure!” Clam replied.
“What exactly…is that?” Patsy asked, eying the green-brownish glob suspiciously, not sure if she should be scared or disgusted by it. She was keeping a good distance.
“Bubble gum.” Nina responded.
“Oh!” Patsy uttered with relief “what’s it doing?”
“Nothing. It’s just bubble gum.”
“Oh!” She reached out to taste it before she stopped “You did this one together with Clam, right?”
Patsy asked warily.
The pink haired girl put a piece of it into her mouth.
“UGH! Is that…ONION?!” She shouted grossed out, screwing her face up.
“Yes. Clam chose the flavor.” The giraffe said banteringly. The mongoose shuddered in disgust.
“And what’s that?” Patsy asked.
“A motor operated by orgone energy. It absorbs the – “the mongoose moaned in annoyance.
“Can’t you build something useful?? Such as…” She pondered “a Makeup-O-Mat! Or…a HAIRTYL-O-MAT!!” Patsy shouted enthusiastic “Like that thing you built back at camp! Only this time it would actually work!”
“Mh…” Nina considered “shouldn’t be a problem. Right Clam?...Clam?”
She looked at Clam, who was sitting on one of their machines, scowling.
“Are you okay Clam?” the giraffe asked sympathetically.
“Conflict with Raj.” He answered and heaved a sigh.
“How come?” Patsy questioned.
“Ah, stupid Raj! Thinks of nothing but himself! Flames Clam just because he meets Nina!”
The boy railed against his friend angrily and looked down.
“Reminds me of someone…” Nina responded while she was rolling her eyes “Gretchen doesn’t like us meeting up as well! She even broke my cell phone so we can’t text anymore! And I was going to apologize to her! Is it my fault that she’s unable to talk about her feelings?! She could have told me that – “ the girl interrupted herself. She blushed a little. Now she had said a bit too much
“Anyway…” she tried to remedy the situation.
“Told what?” Clam asked, wondering why she stopped. The giraffe looked at the mongoose in a beseeching manner. Patsy had to suppress her chuckle again.
“Nevermind!” the mongoose said quickly and giggled.
“Both fickle!” Clam said angrily. Lucky for Nina, his head was in the conflict with Raj.
“Being mad doesn’t help. But it might cheer you up to build something!” Patsy said, thrilled by the idea of her very own Hairstyl-O-Mat.
“You can say that again!” Nina agreed with his statement “They’re just like volcanoes: You never know when they’re going to erupt!”
“Something like a Hairstyl-O-Mat for example!!” the mongoose chipped in.
“Good idea Clam!” Nina laughed “We can fire it at them!”
“Such a HAIRSTYL-O-MAT would be quite AWESOME!!” Patsy urged them, almost screaming now.
“All right!” Nina shouted annoyed “as I said, it shouldn’t be hard.”
Gretchen stretched herself. She sat up and looked around.
The heavy feeling was still there. Before she left to breakfast, she touched her cheeks to make sure that – nevermind.
The alligator peeked into the living room. Everything was quite. She entered the kitchen. Gretchen seemed to be alone. Feeling relieved, she prepared her breakfast and sat down at the kitchen table.
Gretchen took a bite from her sandwich. The bite felt like a foreign object. It tasted of…nothing.
Something was very wrong. She continued chewing in a slow manner, checking the ingredients she used. Everything was in order…
Gretchen got up and went to the window to open it. She felt like she needed some fresh air.
From there her eye lighted on the garage, which was located obliquely underneath the kitchen. The garage gate stood a crack open. She could hear voices and one of them was definitely male.
She was filled with a pretty awful feeling. It was kinda hard to swallow the food with that lump in her throat.
She remained at the window for a moment. Next she walked to the bath room to get ready.
“When will you have finished??” Patsy asked eagerly.
“We’ve only just finished the construction plan Patsy!” Nina retorted slightly bugged “I think it may take us…” she faced Clam while pondering.
“An hour.” He said.
“Quite. An hour, or so.” The giraffe agreed.
“All these things!” Nina thought aloud with an undercurrent of mesmerization in her voice “a real gold mine!” She pulled an old floor lamp out of a scrapheap “We sure can use that!”
Gretchen stepped outside. On her left was the garage, in which there was hissing and banging.
She was filled with acrimony. For a moment she was just standing on the tread of that little stairway, starring at the garage grimly. Despite yesterday she carried the axe.
Gretchen went downstairs gradually, holding the stare. The reptilian girl passed the garage to get to the little wood, but stopped right in the middle.
Her eyes rested on the crack between the garage and the gate.
Gretchen approached it soft-footed, ignoring the spreading tension within.
‘Why are you nervous?? There’s nobody in there you couldn’t fight.’ Her ego said snooty, ‘except maybe…?’ She shook her head and looked through.
The first thing she saw was Clam using a welding torch. She narrowed her eyes to slits.
Gretchen eyed him contemptuously. She had to control herself not to blow a raspberry again.
The heavy emptiness started to spread again.
Being bored of waiting, Patsy looked around, watching the two constructing the machine.
She flashed a grin all of the sudden. The mongoose walked over to the rhino.
“Hey Clam?” She asked with her distinctively charming voice “May I ask you something?”
Clam stopped welding, folding up his mask to face her as confirmation.
Raj was right on one point: Patsy was a little weird.
“Say…” she giggled “what do you think of Gretchen?”
This made Gretchen gasp. Her heart stood still. She covered her mouth quickly, hoping that they didn’t hear her.
What was Patsy doing??? She wasn’t going to…! She wouldn’t dare to do that…!
Gretchen kept watching through the crack.
There was a huge question mark on Clam’s face.
His eyes were popping out of his head. He didn’t even know what to do with her question.
“I mean in general!” She giggled again “I mean: Do you like her?” the girl asked using that charming voice again.
Gretchen was strung to breaking point.
Clam was really unable to cope with this. He couldn’t handle it if someone confronted him with something he didn’t understand in general, which was perhaps down to the fact that he was autistic. Perhaps it was just because of Patsy’s manner. He turned red, which didn’t happen very often.
The mongoose girl chuckled. She was visibly amused by his reaction.
In the meantime, Nina wasn’t getting any of that. She was way too fascinated by Ruby’s scrap, through which she was rummaging.
“So that’s a yes?” Patsy said, coming closer “You had this huge crush on her back at camp, didn’t you?? You even followed her to acorn flats!” She said laughingly.
The tug-o-war experience popped into his mind immediately. Suddenly he was able to remember it clearly again:
Lazlo: “Clam, buddy! Are you alright??”
Raj: “Clam! Speak to us!”
Gretchen: “You keep that mutant…whatever he is as far away from me as possible!”
Lazlo: “Wow, wow! Stop it right there buddy! You need to get that bump looked at.”
Raj: “Yes Clam, we’re this way. You’re walking to that…that…thing!”
Lazlo: ”Come on Clam. Let’s see Nurse Leslie.”
Nurse Leslie: “…Your buddies’ real problem is slightly more complicated. He’s well… in love.”
Lazlo: “But who’s he in love with?”
Nurse Leslie: “Well, we need a culture for that…Mh…he’s in love with some prehistoric mutated dinosaur.”
Lazlo: “Let me see… That’s Gretchen!”
Clam’s stomach felt like it was brimming with wobbly jelly. Patsy was right.
This information simply got lost in his subconscious through the second collision. Besides, he was old enough by now to know that people didn’t fall in love because of a head bump…
He always had had a soft spot for her in some way. There was something about her…Clam didn’t know what it was though.
Gretchen was glued to the garage gate literally. The tension was almost unbearable.
Why wasn’t he answering?!
‘Say NO you idiot! Say NO. SAY NO!’ She conjured.
“Too much jelly!” Clam burst out swamped, holding his stomach.
The fuses inside his head were just about to burn out. He felt giddy. Patsy looked a little confused at him.
Gretchen turned around and pressed back against the wall as if she were on a high building and scared of falling.
She was standing there bug-eyed, gazing into the distance.
Gretchen was in a complete turmoil. In fact she was so confused, that she just scrammed into the woods and left the axe behind.
“Hey Clam!” Nina shouted as she pulled another thing out of the scrapheap “Look! We could use that as – “
“Patsy!” she interrupted herself “if you want us to finish this today you’ll have to stop distracting us from work!” Nina looked a little askance at her friend.
“What…have you done with him?!” the giraffe asked dumbfounded, watching the small, staggering guy. Patsy dissolved into giggles.
In the flat share, by evening:
“Aren’t you well Clam?” Lazlo asked worried as he looked at Clam, who sat on the couch like a sack of flour.
“Sore head…” He moaned.
“Try my jello!” Joana tried to cheer him up.
The rhino peered hard at the dessert and hiccupped. Next he covered his mouth with his hand and ran out.
“Here comes the airplane!!” the mouse shouted buoyantly and stuffed the spoon into Raj’s mouth instead, who was visibly startled. He too hiccupped and rushed out.
“Am I really such a bad cook??” she whined.
“No, no Of course not!” Mina shouted alarmed.
“What happened???” Philip hollered confused, dashing into the room. He was just on the phone with his little sister. That phone call had been about the first time of the whole day he hadn’t spent with his girlfriend. Except the times he went to the toilet, naturally.
“I’m a BAD cook!” She cried, being in a desperate state.
“What?! NO! See?!?” He contradicted her forcefully and swallowed the whole jelly in one piece.
“See?! Very…HICCUP! Delicious!”
Joana’s under lip was still shivering.
“Who said that?!” he asked abrasively.
“I g-gave C-Clam and Raj – “
“RAJ.” Philip growled in a deep voice, in a manner as if he was possessed by demons.
He held his girlfriend tight, gazing into space hate-filled. His eyelid started to twitch again.
Mina and Lazlo were slightly worried about it. Luckily he thwarted himself.
“Come!” Philip said “I want more of your jello!” and pulled her behind him back into kitchen.