I looked around. Grandpa’s office was as extravagant as ever. The place looked like it belonged anywhere but a public school, like he had carved out the real principal’s office and replaced it with a penthouse suite. From the sunlight filtering in through wide windows, I could tell it was late afternoon. Which meant it had only been a couple of hours since I blacked out.
Better than usual, then.
You see, I had a problem. Whenever things got too intense, I tended to faint. The formal term was syncope. When it happened, there was no telling when I’d wake up. Could be minutes. Could be hours. Could be days. One particularly bad time, I was out an entire week. An entire week of my life, just gone. Poof. Up in smoke. I really, really should have refrigerated that egg salad. Where was Oliver the minifridge when you needed him?
Chilling with grandma in the great beyond, probably.
But I was still here, stuck with my mad scientist of a grandfather. And now it looked like I’d been roped into another one of his wild schemes.
Because I was literally bound with rope to the chair I’d been so rudely placed in without my permission while I was out like a light. I could feel the ropes digging scratchy troughs into my skin. I squirmed this way and that, but the ropes that bound me held fast. There was no way to free myself. I was like a caterpillar in a straightjacket. Completely helpless.
Maybe noticing my pathetic struggle, grandpa ripped the gag out of my mouth. I gasped, and after catching my breath said, “Explain this.” My tone was bitter, like I was, and that was why I practically spat the words.
“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace,” he said in that voice that I couldn’t stand, too sickly sweet to be coming out of a rotten mouth like his. He was twirling his bushy mustache, and he took a step toward me. Then another. And then another till he was far too close for comfort. “What is there to explain? You had to have known that I’d keep a few chairs for myself, right? I mean, where else would— sniff sniff. What in the…? What in god’s name is that smell? Did you… did you wet yourself?”
“Huh? Oh. No. I just sat in some, uh… Look, never mind that.”
“Fine. Whatever. Like I was saying, of course I kept a few chairs for myself. Where else did you think I was going to sit? On the floor?”
I couldn’t fathom why it hadn’t clicked sooner. I was bound to a chair. A chair. A regular old boring high school chair, complete with desk attached. I hadn’t seen one of these things in a month. No one had. Not since this year’s opening assembly, when, with all of us packed into the gym, grandpa made one of his rare appearances before the student and teacher body.
And crowned himself king of the school.
Yes. You read that right. King of the school.
Well, “king-cipal” to be exact.
“The prince is merely the heir to the throne,” he explained to all of us as we sat there dumbfounded. “The prince is a simple successor. The next in line. It’s the king who sits on the throne. The king who rules. Therefore, since I rock, roll, and rule around here, I’m no principal. I’m a king-cipal, baby!”
Sparks flew as some pyrotechnic pieces they’d apparently installed in the gym specifically for this particular occasion shat fireworks at the stupid proclamation. Then a bunch of goons who looked like they were part of a bonafide paramilitary op jogged into the gym in annoyingly perfect step and crowned grandpa king right then and there. Flowing robe. Jewel-encrusted crown. Royal scepter. The works.
It was only once we all returned to our classes that we sussed the consequences. As it turned out, coronations didn’t come cheap, and in order to fund his, grandpa had sold off all the chairs in the school except for the cafeteria benches. Student desks, teacher chairs, lab stools, administrators’ rolling office chairs, all gone just like that. Since then, we’d had to stand through all of our classes. Even the ones hardly anyone could stand anyway, like chemistry.
But of course the old coot had saved a few seats for his own comfort. I shouldn’t have even been surprised.
“You big cheater,” I told him.
“All’s chair in love and war. Err, ‘fair,’ I mean.” Then he practically fell, lithe as the snake he was, backwards into the comfy swivel chair behind his mahogany desk and started to rock back and forth, side to side. God, he acted like such a little kid sometimes.
“Anyway, enough chit chat,” I said, eager to find out just what I was doing here in the first place, and, more importantly, what crazy scheme I was about to get suckered into this time. “Get to the point. Why did you bring me here?”
“We found you passed out in a bathroom stall.”
“Bullshit. You guys made me pass out in that bathroom stall.” I stopped short of saying that I had done around 80% of the job myself with my escapade in the cafeteria, of course. Sitting in someone else’s still-warm pee and getting ambushed by those FPI guys or whatever was just the icing on a cake made of nerves.
Come to think of it, who were those guys anyway? I didn’t get a good look at them, but the way they moved, the way they talked…
“So, who’s the FPI?” I asked. “Your personal guard or something?”
He tugged at his mustache some more. “A king does need bodyguards, you’re right. But no, they’re not my personal guard. The FPI are rather a government body. Think of them as a sort of secret police. Only even more secretive than normal. They fly under the radar, shadows in the night. Few out there have heard of them. I’d wager that most people don’t even know they exist.”
He was right about that. I sure didn’t anyway. At least until today.
“So? What’s their game?” They had to be like the FBI or something. That much I could tell. But what did “FPI” even stand for?
“Let me ask you something, Wallace.” Grandpa’s voice turned grave. He got up again and started pacing back and forth. He always did that when he got serious about something, like he was filled to the brim — overflowing with… with… well, who knows what? Excitement, maybe, or mad genius, or something like that.
Whether I liked it or not, and I most certainly didn’t, grandpa was a genius. I couldn’t deny it. People like that… well, us normal people can’t even begin to guess what goes through their heads sometimes.
“Shoot,” I said.
“Are you familiar with the term ‘equivoque?’”
Slowly, because I couldn’t gather where this farce of a conversation was headed, I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “It basically means, like, puns, right?”
I hated where this was going already. Puns. Why did it have to be puns? First the cafeteria, and now here. It was my punniness that kicked all of this off to begin with. Puns had meant nothing but bad news so far, and frankly, I didn’t want anything to do with them from here on out.
Poor, naive past me. If only he knew what was in store. If only he knew his whole world was about to come crashing down in an avalanche of puntastic proportions. If only he knew what painful, pun-filled days awaited.
Actually, if I had known what was coming, I might’ve found the strength inside me to break my bonds and hightail it the hell out of there before it was too late.
But I didn’t, so I didn’t.
I just sat there and listened, confused.
“Yes, that’s about right,” grandpa continued. “Puns. Now, Wallace let me ask you something else. Are you familiar with the particular and curious problem that plagues us here at school? The greatest challenge we face in our modern times as educators and educatees? The proverbial ghost that haunts us whatsoever we may do and wheresoever we may go?”
Nope. No clue. Which meant it was time to make like this was a math test and start guessing out my ass.
“Is it aliens?”
“No. Where are you getting these inane ideas?”
“I give up then. Just tell me.”
“Puns!?!?!?” If I hadn’t been strapped upright to my seat, I’d’ve been floored.
The end of The Birth of the Great Pun Detective! (Part 6)!
To be continued in Part 7!