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Small Town, California

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   After teaching his first day at his new high school, Stiles was tired. So he decided to sit on his porch under his twinkle lights with a beer and a good book. That’s what he planned, and that’s what he did. Curling up on a lounge chair and nursing his beer, he cracked open his old and beat up copy of Anthem by Ayn Rand. He has read it far too many times to count and he’s going to read it countless more times. It’s a habit, if anything. This book has helped him through quite a lot, actually. From when he was having trouble making friends in school, to deciding what he wanted to do with his life, this book helped him through it. It was basically Stiles’ Bible.

   He was about thirty pages in when he heard a howl. Freezing instantly, he began to wonder if there really were wolves in California. But then he remembered there haven’t been wolves in California for years. It wasn’t a wolf, it couldn’t have been. Twas impossible, he told himself. So he had to be mistaken when he saw a large shadow shift in the night. The twinkle lights could only cast so much light into the inky black. He slowly stood up, put down his book and beer, to walk to the edge of the wrap around porch of the house he just began to rent. Two yellow eyes reflected back at him, and he stumbled back instantly, running into his chair and falling back into it.

   Certain he was going to die, he sent up prayers to all those who were listening. Hopefully there was someone who would answer and make his death quick. But being ripped to shreds by a wolf that shouldn’t be in California didn’t sound like a good way to do, so he wished for a heart attack or something. The sound of hard foot falls roused him from his hurried prayer. His heart seized in fear as a dark grey wolf jumped up onto his porch. However, the loud shriek that poured from Stiles’ mouth made the wolf leap back and coware a few feet away. It wasn’t ripping his throat out with it’s teeth. Why wasn’t it ripping his throat out with it’s teeth? He peeked out from behind his hand, to see the wolf looking up at him with sad eyes.

   From where it sat on the wooden planks, it looked at him with sad and curious eyes. As if Stiles wasn’t the person it was looking for, but was intrigued by whom it found. Stiles began to move, clearing his throat (that wasn’t ripped out). “He- hey, buddy,” he said to the wolf. Which upon closer inspection, wasn’t a wolf. So, wolves still weren’t in California. Perhaps Stiles should inform his dad. “Hey, Dad,” he’d say, “there are no wolves in California.” Then Stiles’ dad would wish he could smack the back of Stiles’ through the phone. Stiles looked at the dog, which looked to be a husky.

   “Her name is Nina,” a voice from the dark said. Stiles looked past the dog - Nina - to the man who just stepped onto the porch. And god, he was a good looking man: all stubble, thick eyebrows, and sharp cheekbones. Stiles wanted to lick those cheekbones. Those were nice cheekbones. “Sorry, about that. She got off her leash. Nice, uh, scream by the way.”

   “Oh, you uhh, heard that, did you?” Stiles asked and the man nodded. “Not my proudest moment. But, that’s not my fault, your dog scared me.”

   “She must have thought you were Erica,” the man said. Not knowing who this Erica is, Stiles tilted his head in confusing. “She’s the woman who lived here before you. She moved across town.”

   “So you mean down the street,” Stiles said with a chuckle. Big surprise, but Small Town, California was actually a really small town. However, the guy didn’t seem to think it was funny. A thick scowl still permeated the man’s face, and didn’t it didn’t seem like it was going to relent.

   “Hmh, tough crowd,” Stiles muttered under his breath. “Well, having a heart attack from fear was fun and all, but I think I’ll get back to my book,” Stiles waved back to his book and beer sitting on the little table next to his chair. But the man didn’t move and Stiles didn’t know what to do. “So, uh, if you could be on your way…” Stiles said, cursing internally for being rude to someone he just met. But he blamed it on being slightly buzzed and having been scared by the man’s dog.

   “Oh, yes.” The man seemed to be shook out of a daze. “Sorry about Nina, she won’t do it again,” the man said. He bent down to attach a black leash to Nina’s collar and turned to leave. After walking a few steps off of Stiles’ porch, he turned around and said “Hey, what book are you reading?”

   Stiles, from where was a sitting again on his chair, said: “Anthem. It’s a book by Ayn Rand. It’s about a guy named Equality-72125 in a collectivist society but believes in individualism and he discovers the meaning of life and stuff. It’s a really good read.”

   The man took a few steps forward with Nina just a few steps behind him, “Sound philosophical. I don’t think the library has it, but it has other books by Ayn Rand. I’ve read Fountainhead by her, but not Anthem. Would you mind if I borrow it? I’ll get it back to you.” The man’s face softened, he gave a small toothless smile, it was almost like he was trying to give puppydog eyes to win Stiles over. How could Stiles refuse that face? He couldn’t, that’s how.

   “Sure, why not. I’ve already read it a billion times.” Stiles got up and walked down to the man. “I’m Stiles, by the way. And if you lose or break it some how, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

   “Derek,” the man said, taking Stiles’ hand and shaking it. Stiles handed him the slim, old book. “And I swear, I won’t even dog ear it.” He turned around and walked back into the night with Nina at his heel. Derek didn’t have a light, making Stiles wonder how he saw. Perhaps Nina guided him? That must be it, or Derek could see in the dark or something. That was a silly thought, it took hours for people’s eyes to adjust to this kind of darkness, and even then it’s hard to see.

   But what was Stiles going to do now that he no longer had a book to read? Perhaps he should go over his lesson plan for this week? Or read another book or watch TV. Stiles ended up reading a magazine in bed and drinking another beer and a half before completely passing out on top of his covers. After he walked out the door the next morning, his copy of Anthem was in the mailbox by the front door with a note attached.

 

Thanks for this, it was a good read.

-Derek

   Derek must have returned it in the early hours of the morning.

 


 

   It was just after third period that Stiles’ headache started to pound behind his temples. His College English Two class was particularly rowdy after realizing their old teacher Mrs. Philbrook wouldn’t be coming back. After forty years of teaching, she decided enough was enough and retired in the middle of the year. This left Stiles with a job right out of college, yes, but it also left him with forty five kids a day who were still trying to see how much they can get away with. Much to Stiles’ relief, his next period was a free period for him. One of his more aggravating students - Randy, Stiles remembered his name - threw a paper ball at another students and Stiles kind of lost his shit. Stiles must have made a noise in his infuriation because the whole room went silent. But then he realized it was because the paper ball had hit Principal Martin. He got scared too.

   “Randle,” Ms. Martin said calmly, “Please escort yourself to my office this instant. And Mr. Stilinski,” she turned toward Stiles, “If you can’t keep your room in check, I’ll start to wonder why I gave you a job in the first place. And once as I start reconsidering a choice, it nags for years to come. Watch. Your. Self.” After she finished, she turned out of the room, her angry footsteps echoed through the halls and Stiles’ room. Perhaps Stiles would lose his job after just getting out of college.

   During his free period, Stiles decided it would be a good idea to apologize to Ms. Martin for his classroom’s behavior and probably beg to keep his job. When he made it to her office though, she turned him away, saying: “That was a threat for the students, not you. I don’t think getting their new teacher fired would weigh very well on their consciences. They might be little pricks, but they’re no monsters.” This gave Stiles much relief but be began to wonder if he was hired by a master manipulator. Stiles began to think he fell in love with his principal.

   He started to walk back to his classroom, taking extra time than needed, just enjoying the fact that he wouldn’t be fired from his first teaching job. Walking past the teacher’s lounge, he decided to grab a cup of coffee. When he walked in, he was met with a teacher he hadn’t seen before. The other teacher was by the coffee machine just looking off into space. His slightly curly brown hair stuck in the air perfectly. It’s like it was done by a hairdresser no longer than an hour ago. “Hey,” Stiles said with a wave. The man jumped with a start. “Oh, sorry buddy, didn’t mean to scare you,” Stiles said while putting his hand of the man’s shoulder to comfort him.

   “Oh, no, its okay.” His face was soft with an easy smile, his jaw slightly lopsided. “Hey!” His face hardened, “You can’t be in here, it’s for teachers. And you don’t have a visitor's pass,” he said.

   “No, I’m a teacher here. New, started a few days ago,” Stiles replied.

   “Ohhhhhh,” the man exclaimed, “You must be Mr. Stilinski. I’m sorry, I haven’t much you yet. I’m Scott McCall, the Gym teacher. And I coach the Lacrosse team.” He offered his hand to shake Stiles’

   Taking his proffered hand, Stiles said: “It’s nice to meet you.”

   “Hey,” Scott said, “Me and a couple of friends are meeting after work to have a couple of beers, wanna join?”

   “Sure!” Stiles exclaimed. He needed friends, he couldn’t just keep drinking beer and reading books by himself. Well, he could. But that’s what he did most of his senior year of college.

   “Great!” Scott matched Stiles’ enthusiasm. “This is my address,” Scott scribbled down on a piece of paper he got from his pocket. “Be there at like, 5:00? Yeah, people should be there by then.

   “Thanks,” Stiles said while leaving. He realized he forgot his coffee after he got back to his room, but he was too happy about making a new friend to care.