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Cult of Personality

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Aside from the minimal amount of payment he received for being a teacher in the first place, Mr. PJ Liguori was willing to put up with that fact. In exchange for being able to spread his love of crafting to his students it was well worth the small financial stress felt every month; the curly haired Brit was able to live a comfortable life once he had put in the effort of budgeting.

Ever since he had started to reconcile with his son Brad through filming videos of them crafting all the projects he had missed from being an estranged father, he had been inspired to go back to university and get two degrees in art and education that he was now utilizing. Luckily soon after graduating he had been able to apply at a local secondary school thanks to his friend Sophie who taught English and creative writing. Within the first two weeks of his first group of students adjusting to his wacky personality they had come to accept him with open arms,a few even wanting to showcase personal projects they were working on whenever there was an ounce of extra time.

His most enthusiastic kid was a Northern boy called Phil who had a fascination with drawing lions. Even when the assignment focused on ocean life and landscapes there had been a prominently large lionfish in his piece claiming that it would protect anyone who was afraid of the unknown I the deep sea.

"Is it really that scary?"

"Definitely!" the fourteen year old declared dramatically, ice blue eyes wide, "I'd much rather explore space."

"Space is pretty flippin' cool."

"See, Dan? Told you!"

"That doesn't take away from the fact that the ocean is also a place worth exploring."

Giggling gently at the light grumbled he received in response the final period came to an end, bidding them all farewell for the day as he began tidying up areas in attempting to remove a newly added stain to a well-used smock under a running tap. Reluctantly giving up after a while of scrubbing he decided that it was about time to add fresh materials into the classroom, which now put a trip to Tesco onto a schedule of grading projects from a few weeks ago as he walked from the building with keys and a lime green folder in tow.

Aside from the abhorrent traffic that overtook the whole United Kingdom, the trip seemed more manageable as he pulled into a vacant parking spot. Muttering to himself not to spend an enormous amount of quid in the crafting department as his worn trainers scuffed against the cracked pavement PJ was already gaining a few odd looks that he simply shrugged off on his way inside.

"What've we here?" he asked aloud, attention directed to a clearance section where two identical looking bright orange octopus plushies, one being much larger than the other, "Guess it'd be cruel to separate you two."

As an enthusiast for collecting similar items he would normally leave them for less fortunate families to find knowing how much small children enjoyed those toys, yet a sudden idea snuck into his unsuspecting mind that could possibly help the certain few who had irrational fears of the ocean and its many inhabitants before browsing down the appropriate aisle and checking out.

"For your kids?" the cashier asked in a thick Italian accent, light and long blonde hair spilling over her shoulder to the pink jumper she wore, "Or pets? My pugs love playing with these."

"You were right the first time, I have a son."

"Oh well, hope he enjoys!"

"Thank you, miss."

Bidding farewell, PJ his the small smirk that would only seem suspicious to anyone else; he was not technically lying since Brad would be waiting for him at home now that they enjoyed each other's company again. Once home, he was met with a quizzical look that was expected when the bigger stuffed animal was settled onto the couch where he soon sat after bringing over an acoustic guitar.

"Not gonna come to dinner?"

"I've got that creative spark that I can't ignore!" the father explained, pulling over a notebook from atop a nearby side table, "Come help me, Bradley!"

"What's in it for me?"

"If not, this puss will haunt you."

"D'you know what you're saying?" Brad asked in annoyance after throwing away a bag from a fast food joint, "If this is for your teens they're gonna hate it."

"Don't be that way! It's for one of 'em in particular who hates the ocean."

"And tour plan is to… flood them with fear?"

"Trying to teach I a different way."

Late Into the night the to work tirelessly coming up with lyrics that would be both fun and educational, the older member of the Liguori family picked out a couple if chords until a jive sounding tune turned out. With a skeptical scoff from his offspring he enthusiastically packed up these newly annotated notes along with the smaller toy and his selected instrument before retiring for the night after reheating refrigerated leftovers with a brightly burning joy at performing for his students.

Waiting was, in fact, the hardest part as other groups past through his classroom just like any other day, scarfing down his lunch even so even though he would not do the same as he slurped green tea from homemade mug. When the time came he attempted not to oversell the performance that was about to occur only because this would be his first time doing this kind of practice in a professional setting, introducing the small octopus to the class after acknowledging this would be more appropriate during reception.

"Now that I we've got that outta the way," PJ started, guitar strap easily slipped over his shoulder before giving a few experimental strums to make sure it was tuned, "This is The Octopus Song!"

"You've gotta be fuckin' kidding me.." an edgy student named Daniel muttered loudly from his desk.

"You don't have to like it, but you're going to listen unless you want to be seen by the headmaster."

"...Fine."

"Octopus, octopus, eight strong legs, it's not a wuss!
Squishy, mushy tentacles, so preposterous.

"Searching cock, squirts out ink. It's not a bird, but has a beak! That's our favorite cephalopod, that's our octopus!

"Uses camouflage to hide
a floppy head and beady eyes. It's invertebrate, intelligent, but never lacks on elegance! Octopus is a badass everyday and love to dive in on the crab buffet!

"Oh that's... our octopus;"

Pausing once the song came to a close, PJ watched nervously at the strangely silent crowd before alone here of hands started to applaud his efforts. Eyebrow raise curiously jade green eyes turned to look at the source, which too is the prize would be from Philip.

"That was so cool, Mr. Liguori!"

"You think so?"

"Hell- I mean, heck yeah!"

"Well, since you approve would you like to name our new friend?"

After a moment the optimistic teenager brought up an unknown object clutched into a tightly clenched fist, revealing a snack sized box of raisins he left I front of the stuffed animal, "Here you go, Fweej! It's not a crab, but it'll feed you until we can get some."

"Really, babe?"

"Why can't you let your imagination run free? We don't want to shun the non-believers."

"Well said, Phil!"

"That's not what I meant," Dan remarked in a softer tone, slightly blushing as attention focused on him when a package of crisps was also added at Fweej's feet, "He'll never grow to his potential with those sorry excuses for fruit."

Delighted by the response as the octopus was inducted into the classroom, PJ watched as the offerings grew over the next couple of weeks consisting of sweets, junk food, and five dollar gift cards that would secretly be shared between him and Brad every once in a while so nothing went to waste. Finally, the day came to sneak in, not so easily, the larger form of the beloved somewhat pet that had been lovingly adopted. Hiding the first form of this pseudo God-like being into a bottom shelf huden from the student's sight to leave the larger one for each of them who had started leaving gifts behind that something was different.

"Fweej has enjoyed accepting all you've given him over the last month," the teacher announced with a small smile that restored his dwindling faith that younger generations still valued the worth of creativity even through a curriculum that wanted to get rid of such, "And with your help, he's evolved into his final form!"