Hercules the Lesser paced back and forth looking at the ringing telephone. He would stop occasionally and reach for the phone then the ringing would stop. He would go back to pacing and the phone would start to the ring again. He seemed to know who it was and was as excited as he was scared. He paced. The phone rang. He stopped. The phone stopped. He paced. The phone rang. He finally got up the nerve and grabbed the receiver. All he got for his trouble was the dial tone.
Hercules the Greater could feel his heart sink. If he was going to get all of these things done by lunch, he would barely have time for breakfast. He pulled out some frozen waffles and orange juice. He reached for the counter-top TV and flipped the little switch – nothing. He flipped again. Still nothing. It was then he noticed somebody had removed the power cord from the back of the TV.
His father had other plans. There are a lot of chores to do and if he could eat like a 12-year-old boy he could surely work like a 12-year-old boy.
There was a list taped to the refrigerator that had at least ten chores for Hercules the Greater to do before turning on the television set.
At the bottom of the note were the words, “This will get you through to lunch. Don’t bother your Mother, Love Dad”
The first Monday of winter break Hercules the Greater slept in. His plan was to play video games and eat mac-n-cheese. He hadn’t thought much further than that. He did think that for the next two weeks – with the exception of Christmas Day – would be all about video games and mac-n-cheese with occasional break in the action for cartoons or a Vin Diesel movie.
When Janice looked up at the bleachers, she saw a person sitting alone. It was a small boy in an over-sized, olive green, winter parka. She looked back at Becky. She tried to get involved in the ring toss game, but she – somehow – kept returning to the shadowy figure up in the bleachers. She felt compelled to look up at him. Her heart tugged a little with every gaze. Eventually the figure left and a small part of Janice’s heart chipped off and fell to the ground. The sound it made was a muted plunk, but it echoed in Janice’s ears.
Janice Coraopolis and Becky Showalter walked through the converted gymnasium and talked about nothing at all. Becky would be going west for winter recess to avoid the cold. Janice would be staying at home with her parents and a Corgi named Ziggy. They walked back and forth waiting for something to happen – for something to shake them out of their doldrums.
From his vantage point high above all the activity Hercules the Lesser was surprised at the little tug at his heart whenever he caught sight of Janice Coraopolis. He blushed and looked away, but was soon (and repeatedly) drawn back.
She could be talking to Becky Showalter at the ping pong ball toss or posing for silly pictures with the chess club. Wherever she was at that carnival she compelled Hercules the Lesser to look at her. She tugged his heart every time – without even knowing it.