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In The Punch Line

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"Why would you bring that up?" Charles Xavier, wearing a cardigan and slacks, sat blowing the foam on his cappuccino and trying to avoid eye contact with his younger sister. "I was hoping to sit the tenth one out."

"Are you kidding me?" Raven said. "Look at you! Why would you even think of not going? You have tenure, Charles. At twenty-eight. And you got the Genius Prize Thingie."

"The MacArthur probably won't mean anything to Jeff Reynolds and Karin Sluskey," Charles said, sipping the foam gingerly.

"You've got --" Raven said, pointing at her upper lip.

"Oh," Charles said, wiping the foam off. "See, I can't possibly go."

"You're going."

"They say the tenth reunion is the one where it gets too real."

"That's the whole point," Raven said. "Everyone you hated will be fat, have crappy jobs, and have weird or nonexistent sex lives."

"So I'll fit right in," Charles said. "I haven't been to the gym in weeks. It's a vicious cycle, Raven -- you stop going and then you're too ashamed to go and then it all spirals out of control. It's survival of the fittest, and once you're not fit, you can't survive."

"It's because of the groundbreaking genius research you've been doing," Raven said.

"I can't very well yell at them about the research over the sound of the cheap DJ as we wait in line for the punch," Charles said.

"Charles, you are the only member of the class of 2001 who has his shit together. You will walk in there and Jeff Reynolds and Karin Sluskey's jaws will drop, and they will go home and have to rethink their lives."

Charles was unable to suppress a small smile at the prospect. "You think so?"

"One hundred percent," Raven said.

Then Charles frowned. "I can't go without a date."

"Well," Raven said.

"It'll be junior prom all over again." Raven winced sympathetically. "And at this stage an inability to attract a mate to pass on your genetic material to the next generation suggests some sort of flaw in your works. No. Out of the question."

"Charles, you're going."

"I just said I --"

"I RSVPed for you."

"I don't have to show up. I don't have a date. I can't just walk out into the street and whistle and have dates come running from all corners like you can, Ms. Runway Model."

"Occupational hazard," Raven said.

"I just -- the whole point of going back would be to show them what a grotesque mistake it was to shove me against the locker and make me eat my diorama of mitosis right before AP Biology in ninth grade."

"In their defense, half of the diorama was edible," Raven said.

"It was actually somewhat tasty," Charles reflected. He sipped the cappuccino. "But that's not the point. The point is to inspire regret in them. And that would require the whole package."

He stared at Raven, whose mouth had dropped open.

"What if I found you a date?" Raven asked suddenly. "You said whole package, and that made me think of -- wait, wait, Charles, if I found you the hottest date imaginable, you'd go, right?"

"Well, sure, but I don't want to pretend I'm --" Charles swallowed. "Who is she?"


Charles brightened perceptibly. "Ah."

Raven was grinning. She pulled out her iPhone. "I'm going to text him right now."

Charles tried to grab the phone. "Raven, this is stupid," he said. "It's not --"

"Ah ah ah." Raven finished the message and hit send. "Let the girl work her magic."

"If he's that hot I'm sure he's wildly busy."

Then Raven's phone emitted the unmistakable ding of several texts being received in quick succession. Raven began typing back frenetically.

"What are you telling him?" Charles asked.

"I'm telling him that my adorable genius total catch of an older brother needs some arm candy for his high school reunion, and if he doesn't say yes, I will come find him and do unforgivable things to his bone structure."

"I don't think you need to resort to threats of violence," Charles began feebly.

"You're right," Raven said. "I just sent that and he's already said he's in. Congratulations, Chuckie --"

Charles glowered.

"You've got a fake boyfriend. Named Erik Lehnsherr. Who just happens to be the newest face of Calvin Klein."

Charles spat out the remainder of his cappuccino.

"Don't do that at the reunion," Raven said. "Other than that, you are SO out of their league."