Chapter 2:

The Birth of the Great Pun Detective! (Part 2)

Pun Detectives!

“If you’re so bored,” said Greg, “then why don’t you do something to make things less boring?”

“Like what?”

As soon as I’d asked, I knew I shouldn’t have. I should have just let his comment slide. Should have let it go. Should have just moved on and never so much as thought about it again.

But. Of course. I didn’t.

I could practically hear the hamster wheels that no doubt powered Greg’s brain spinning as fast as they could, blowing smoke and squeaking wildly in search of an idea. Then his face squirelled into a smile that meant he’d come up with a good one. A good one that spelled bad news for me, I bet.

“Why don’t you ask a girl out?”


“You heard me. Ask a girl out. Right here, right now.”

He was serious. He was really, totally, completely serious.

But he had another thing coming. I couldn’t even talk to girls, usually, let alone ask one out.

“Nuh-uh,” I said, jamming vaguely minty bread and ham into my mouth. “No way.”

“Oh, come on. It’ll be entertaining.”

“Yeah, for you guys, as I get shot down by a cruise missile of rejection. No thanks.”

“Come on, dude. What’s the worst that could happen?” Evan said. The corners of his mouth were turned ever so slightly upward into a smirk that I sincerely wanted to wipe off his face. I could hear the rattle of explosions and gunfire coming from his phone as he no doubt sprayed wave after wave of the Ganymedian robot scourge with suppressing fire.

Easy for you to say, I thought. I was pretty sure Evan had never asked a girl out in his life. Same went for Greg.

Same went for me.

“Don’t be such a chickenwuss,” said Greg. He paused. Nice try. Just because I slept like Marty McFly that one time and came to school the next day with a cramp that could fell an elephant didn’t mean I was going to take that kind of bait. When he realized this, he continued. “Asking a girl out is easy. All you have to do is walk up to her and say, ‘Will you go out with me?’”

“Yeah. Or,” Evan decided to add for some reason, “‘I’ve loved you since I first laid eyes on you! Please marry me!!’”

With two whole exclamation marks, huh?

The two of them just kept tossing bad idea after bad idea back and forth after that. Less “how to ask a girl out,” more “ways to turn Wallace into a public laughing stock.” Bringing her flowers. Wearing a suit. That kind of thing.

But it didn’t stop there. Oh no. Of course it didn’t. Why, oh why, would things ever go my way? Before I knew it, talk of my impending invitation and the one unlucky winner who was going to receive it had spread to the furthest reaches of the cafeteria.

“Huh? Wallace is gonna ask someone out?”

“Wallace? Like, that Wallace?”

“No way.”

You get the picture.

It started with the nerd group over to our right. Apparently they’d got wind of Greg and Evan’s insistence that I was going to ask someone out. And things just got worse from there. The rest of the cafeteria was like kindling just waiting to be ignited. And my name was the spark.

Not a minute later, it was fire.

What started as a murmur here and whisper there and a low but constant and insistent giggle (at my expense I might add) everywhere grew and grew until finally the entire room had swelled into a chant.

An annoying one.

“Wall-ace, Wall-ace, Wall-ace!”

And at the same time, the peanut gallery, eager to see me crash and burn, came to life with condescending comment after condescending comment, disguised poorly as good advice. Because of course.

“Go for it, dude!”

“What are you doing just sitting there, man? Hurry it up.”

He’s really going to? Gross.”

I would’ve rather listened to a rusty metal hook hand slowly and agonizingly scrape a blackboard for close to an hour. Unfortunately for me, Mr. Quint’s marine biology class wasn’t until after lunch.

I couldn’t tell whether my face was going white or bright red, and I sat there, numb as a blunt thumbtack, and feeling about as useless as one too. I buried my head in my arms again. This time, I really was never coming out. Why me? Why did it have to be me?

Greg gave my back what I assumed he assumed was an encouraging slap. “Up and at ‘em. Everyone’s cheering for you. You g— pff… Y-you g-got th—pffft. You got this. Ahahahaha!”

“Could you at least pretend not to be enjoying this so much?”

Despite my best efforts to stay down, Greg forcibly pulled me up.

“Alright, alright. Fine. Geez. I’ll do it.” I finally acquiesced. I figured I just about had to, what with the entire cafeteria intoning my name like that. I’d be the laughingstock of the entire school for at least a couple days whether I went through with it or not, so I may as well just get it over with.

Luckily, I’d come up with a plan. I was going to ask out Eight-Eyed Eliza, Six-Eyed Sheldon’s girlfriend. Sure, I’d get shot down before I even got the words out of my mouth. Sure, she’d rebuke me on the spot and probably never let me live the moment down for the rest of my high school career. “I have a boyfriend already, Wallace Wade, you ignoramus,” she’d say, her lisp out in full force, in all its metal glory. Eliza was the only person I ever knew who had both a retainer and braces at the same time.

But she wasn’t too far out of my league, and that would make it less embarrassing.

Heck, maybe I’d just ask out one of her three pairs of glasses. As much as I hated to admit it, I’d sooner get a yes out of an inanimate object than I would her, or any other girl here for that matter.

Over the clouds with my ingenious plan, I stood up, intent on seeing it through. But I was quickly brought back down to earth by Greg. Specifically, by his hand, which pulled me right back into my seat by the collar.

“Not Eliza,” he said. “Her.” He jabbed a fat thumb in the direction of the lunch line.

How did he know I was planning on asking out Eliza? Anyway, I traced the line his finger drew straight to Mrs. Bagge, the old lunch lady who had to be pushing 100. She was standing behind the lunch counter, doling out dishes to the kids still in line.

“You want me to ask out Mrs. Bagge? Uh, ok. But I’m pretty sure she’s married. You ever see her with that old guy in the suspenders after school? I think that’s her husband. And they have that purple dog—”

Not Mrs. Bagge, genius. Her.” Greg cranked his thumb roughly 1°, and I followed it to the one he was really pointing at.

It was a girl.

And not just any girl.

It was a girl who wasn’t 100.

A girl who didn’t wear two pairs of glasses, or three.

A girl who didn’t have braces and a retainer at the same time. Well, ok, she might’ve had braces and a retainer at the same time. I was too far away to tell. But she probably didn’t.

A girl who was unlike any other girl I’d ever seen. A girl I had, in fact, never seen before.

She was, in a word, beautiful.

At the risk of sounding like a massive, walking cliche, I was already halfway to falling for her.

“She’s beautiful,” I said. “At risk of sounding like a massive, walking cliche, I’m already halfway to falling for her.”

“Whoa,” Greg said. “Déjà vu?”

That was when I noticed something else about the girl: she was wearing what looked, at least from afar, to be an old Victorian maid outfit, a classic getup that likely would’ve been right at home in a posh mansion in the English countryside in the 1800s, complete with headdress, apron, puffy sleeves, and frills everywhere, black, white, and splattered with red all over.

Wait… what!? Splattered with red all over? If I had been drinking milk, I definitely would’ve shot some out of my nose. I stood up and squinted to get a better look at her, hoping she wouldn’t notice me staring and look this way. I half expected her to be holding a knife dripping red, still steaming with the body heat of her latest victim. It was always the beautiful ones.

As it turned out though, I noticed after a couple seconds of sizing her up that the red wasn’t all over. It was just on her apron. And judging by the stuff she and Mrs. Bagge were slopping into bowls and handing to the kids in line, it looked like today’s lunch — and the red on the girl’s apron — was the school’s famous chili.

So she wasn’t a berserk, knife-slinging murderer who bathed in the still-warm blood of her unsuspecting victims after all.


The end of The Birth of the Great Pun Detective! (Part 2)!
To be continued in
Part 3!