One morning – despite himself – Hercules the Lesser turned to Janice Coraopolis and asked her if she had any family pets.
“We have a chocolate lab named Rambo,” she said
“No, I mean a real pet,” he said. “Not a candy one.”
“You’re so funny, Hercules,” she said.
She took his hand in hers and they walked to General John G. Pershing Elementary School just like that.
Hercules the Lesser wasn’t sure when or how Janice Coraopolis started walking him to school. He was walking along one day and there she was. She fell into step with him and they walked side-by-side for a few paces.
He slowed down to let her get ahead of him – she slowed down. He sped so he could put space between them so she sped up. He stopped. She stopped. They walked to school – side-by-side – in silence.
The next day she was waiting for him on the corner and she fell right into line. He didn’t speed up or slow down. He just kept walking.
Before long Hercules the Lesser memorized every crack in the sidewalk all the way to the front door of General John G. Pershing Elementary School.
When the snow melts and the buds begin to bloom you can usually find Hercules the Lesser on that stretch grass in front of General John G. Pershing Elementary School playing catch with Louise. She didn’t mind because he wore his winter gloves under his mitt and she didn’t have to hold back when she threw the ball to him.
They never played for too long, but it was always very special time for them. They rarely talked. Hercules the Lesser mostly granted and moaned. Louise mostly hummed songs that made her smile. When he spoke = on this particular day – Louise was a bit taken aback.
“How do you know if you’re in love,” he asked between catching and throwing.
“You just do,” she said.
“I guess I do,” Hercules the Lesser said and smiled at his friend.
Louise smiled back at him. She wound up and threw a celebratory fastball and then she watched him chase it into a puddle.
Eileen kept licking the inside of her hand in order to make it moist enough to hold Hercules the Lesser’s cowlick in place. Mrs. Pulaski borrowed a suit from her brother Andrew. Between grooming attempts – Eileen helped with some dance moves and some basic party etiquette. She eventually gave up on the cowlick and started rifling through drawers looking for scissors
“I’m not gonna let one little cowlick ruin a good ‘do,” she said to no one.
Hercules the Lesser didn’t even move.
Hercules the Lesser walked back into Miss Kravitz classroom. He stopped and said to Miss Kravitz, “You’re not gonna believe what just happened to me. You’re not gonna believe it!”
“Please tell, Hercules,” she said.
He sat down on the bench and put his head down on the black lacquered keyboard cover.
“This is the best day of my life,” was all he said.
He tried to deny the little tug at his heart as he looked around waiting for the punch line. When none came – he asked her if she knew who she was asking.
She smiled slowly and brightly and said, “Yes. You are Hercules Pulaski and I want you to escort me to the Sadie Hawkins dance.”
“Do you know which Hercules I am?” he asked
“I do,” she said.
“And you still want to go with me to the dance?”
“I do,” she said
His heart tugged just enough for her to see it.
“It’s a date then,” she said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Janice Coraopolis walked away whistling.
Janice Coraopolis asked Hercules the Lesser to the dance one day when she caught him coming out of Miss Kravitz classroom. There was no warning. No time to prepare. She just walked up to Hercules the Lesser and asked if he wanted to go with her to the dance.