This whole thing started with Melvin Sneedly minding his own business. Ok, so that's not exactly true, he was minding his own business and also other people's, scanning the halls for any trouble-makers, rule-breakers, delinquents, etc. He hadn't seen anything of note yet, except for a nonsensical and familiar conversation between two students. By now he knew why he didn't understand what they were conversing about, but that didn't change his annoyance at not getting what was going on.
"Knock knock" said one student. (A nonsensical conversation starter.)
"Who's there?" Replied the other. (It’s inane reply.)
"Who" said the first one again. (A complete non-sequitur that by any rights should throw off all chances of intelligent conversation.)
"Who, who?" The reply. (The first part in this conversation that makes any sort of sense. If Melvin were a part of such a discussion he would be asking similar questions, along with what and why.)
"What are you an owl?" (Another complete non-sequitur to end the conversation, rendering the whole event seemingly pointless and certainly substance-less.)
Then they both laughed which, while obnoxious, was not against any school rules (at least, not anymore. There used to be a rule about unsupervised laughter in the halls, but it had been removed sometime during the carnival fiasco and had not been reinstated. Melvin had checked.)
While he continued his patrol down the hall, his path was suddenly blocked by someone standing in front of him. Frowning, he attempted to side step the person, but they stepped into his path again.
Scowling, he looked up to see a taller boy who was apparently insistent on getting in his way (judging by the ridiculously intimidating height and the prepubescent pimples this was most likely some sixth grader. Possibly one that had been held back at least once before.That filled Melvin with a little apprehension.) But before he could tell the other student if he could kindly get out of his way, the older boy said in a loud voice, seemingly addressing the students in the hall, "Oh look, it's the little robot pretending to be a kid".
The fourth grader blinked incredulously at that. How anyone could be stupid enough, even in this school, to take him for an inorganic machine he couldn't begin to fathom. Brow raised in confusion he corrected,"Um, I think you're confused. I am certainly no robot. I know robots. I build robots. I'm not one."
Glaring at him critically, the sixth grader responded in a mockingly scientific tone, "That's just what they always say. But no human kid could be so humorless."
Melvin fidgeted at that. This was becoming uncomfortable. Reminders of his condition were... humbling, and he hated humbling. But before he could speak up and explain himself, he flinched, eyes clenching shut, as something moved towards his head. When he opened his eyes the world had been reduced to colored blurs. Dumbfounded and irritated that this idiot who didn't even know the difference between man and machine actually had the audacity to take his glasses directly off of his face, he cried out,"Hey!"
With that same mockingly scientific tone, his attacker added, "A robot like you doesn't need glasses. They're just a cover."
Melvin reached out in the general direction of the tall student shaped blob, hoping to by chance grab onto his glasses, protesting, "As I told you before I am perfectly human. Now give those back I need them to SEE"
But it was soon becoming clear that the other student had no intention of letting him have them back (and the genius was getting the impression that the glasses were being intentionally kept out of his reach by the taller boy), so Melvin used the one reliable defense he had. Hopefully facing the bully (he was not, and instead was looking over his shoulder) he threatened indignantly,"I'll tell Mr Krupp about this!"
Somehow the idea of a nine year old telling on him did not send the sixth grader to quivering fear or him handing back the lenses.
With a fake terror, the other replied, "Oh no! You're going to go report back to your master?"
With his shouting, the bully was beginning to attract a crowd, who watched with interest but did not intervene. Some of them even watched with eager grins (not that Melvin knew this), seeing it as payback for Melvin having tattled on them before. Even those not happy about it were ambivalent at best. Everyone in the hall remembered the incident with Professor P and just who had helped him. The overall mood was that he had it coming.
Noticing he was gaining an audience, the older boy spoke more pompously, hamming it up under everyone’s attentive gazes, “I guess now I'll just have to defend myself!” he cried, digging in his backpack with one hand while the other continued to hold the glasses aloft.
At this point George and Harold somehow found themselves in the surrounding crowd, at first excited to see what could be attracting so much attention, but their enthusiasm draining quickly when they saw what was going on. Neither of them were happy about where this was going.Retrieving a plastic bottle from his bag, the bully held it up and continued his little act, “This'll short-circuit you” he sneered, overturning the bottle and dumping its contents on the younger boy.
Melvin flailed in an attempt to shake off whatever had been poured on him (he hadn’t even be able to dodge, his vision being what it was), protesting, “Ack! No! This sweater vest has to be dry cleaned you neanderthal!”
In a disappointed tone, the bully continued “That didn't work? Well, I guess that means that means that you're not only a robot, you're a broken one!”
Before Melvin could protest further, or explain, once again, that he was not a robot (or that even if he was that statement would make no sense. He was broken because he didn’t break when he got wet? What kind of robotics did this caveman even think he was dealing with anyway?), he was startled as he suddenly couldn’t feel the ground under his feet anymore. “Hey!” he shouted, more in fear than anger now, “What are you doing?!”
Grabbing the child by the collar of his shirt, the pre-teen dramatically carried him towards a large metal trashcan that sat, uncovered, at the end of the hall, saying, “There's only one place for a broken machine no one wants”.
Melvin kicked frantically, with no visual context he had no idea what his attacker meant by that or what he was planning on doing, and he hated to admit it but that scared him. All while he hung helpless in the air he also shouted, “Where are you taking me?! Put me down! You can't do this to me! I’M TELLING!” He cried, trying his usual trump card one more time.
They suddenly stopped moving as a brown blur jumped into the bully’s path, holding something that Melvin couldn’t make out. He was surprised as he heard George Beard’s voice say, “Alright,
leave the nerd alone or be prepared to face justice at the hands of the legendary Indiana George!”
“And me, too!” He heard Harold add from off to the side, and he was surprised at how determined and angry he sounded. He was far more used to George having the confidant dialogue, and Harold being far more mild. “Although, um,” Harold now stammered, sounding less confidant and a bit more like Melvin would have expected, “I...I don't have a, um, weapon. Whatever! I'm here too!”
“George and Harold?” he asked, confused by their presence and what they were doing. With all the pranks they had pulled on him, and with how many times he had gotten them into trouble, he would have thought they would have been at the front of the un-interfering crowd.
Clearly his assailant was confused in a similar manner, because he asked in a puzzled tone, “Aren't you two the prank kids? The ones this one is always getting in trouble?”
Melvin wanted to defend his upholding of the rules, but was scared if he said something George would no longer want to help him. He wasn’t sure why George was even helping him at all in the first place. So he just bit his lip and hung silently in the older boy’s grasp.
“Well yeah, he is” answered George, his grip on his tie loosening slightly. Shaking his head, he re-tightened his grip and got back into a ready stance, defending authoritatively, “But that doesn’t matter right now. You’re going too far”
“Yeah,” agreed Harold, moving to stand next to George, arms crossed and expression stormy in a way few were used to seeing from the sunshine child, “You really crossed the line here. And we’re not going to let you cross it any further.''
With an attempt at a threatening expression, George cried, “So leave him alone or face the consequences!”
The older boy weighed his options. He remembered the whole thing with Kipper Krupp, and also knew enough about George and Harold’s power with pranks to know that “the consequences” would be unpredictable and probably painful. Ultimately he decided to spare himself the pain and humiliation. “Fine” he relented, letting go of Melvin’s collar so he fell to the ground with an “oof”.
Harold turned to Melvin, asking, “You alright?”
“I’m perfectly fine.” Standing up and attempting to claim some semblance of dignity, he impatiently asked his former tormentor (or at least the rough blob-shaped approximation of him), “My glasses?”
The taller boy got a smirk, replying, “Oh, of course”. Holding the glasses up, he dropped them in front of the fourth grader’s feet, where they shattered on the ground.
“Hey!” shouted three different voices at once, with varying degrees of shock, anger, and annoyance.
The bully shrugged innocently, replying in a seemingly-genuine tone (though even Melvin wasn’t fooled), “Oops, I dropped them. Sorry about that”.
With that last petty act to end on, the bully walked away, and the crowd dispersed when it was clear that that was the end of it. Harold held George back from angrily going after the 6th grader, subtly gesturing to where Melvin was knelt on the floor, picking up the pieces of his glasses and muttering to himself.
“Immature and rude” they could hear him complaining angrily to the floor as he reached for a larger piece, only grabbing it after several misses, “Not only did this accomplish nothing but now someone might step on broken glass, and I will not be held responsible for that…”
He kept the mumbling commentary going as he carefully retrieved the shattered glass from inside the frames, each piece taking several attempts before he could actually get a hold of it.
George and Harold lingered, wanting to help but also uncertain because… Melvin. Helping in the heat of the moment had been a clear decision-- that guy had gone too far and both of them hated to see anyone bullied (even Melvin)-- but this was different. Melvin technically didn’t need their help anymore, he could do this by himself. Neither of them really knew what they would do to help at this point, or if Melvin would even want their help, anyway.
Glancing over at the two of them (or at least in their general direction), Melvin asked stiffly, “Is there a reason you two are still standing here?”
Harold was starting to consider leaving after all, rolling his eyes and retorting, “That’s a weird way to say ‘thank you’.”
Sitting back on his heels, Melvin stopped from gathering the remains of his glasses, and turned toward the Harold-colored-blur. It hadn’t been his intention to sound sarcastic. He was truly wondering why George and Harold were still there. “I mean” he clarified, hoping that his tone sounded more genuine, “I am legitimately uncertain why you’re still here. And, for that matter, why you helped me at all. I had thought that the two of you hated me. That monster was correct, I do always get you in trouble”.
George looked somewhat uncertain himself, not looking up at him as he re-tied his tie, “Well, yeah, you do. But we meant it when we said that that guy was going too far.”
“It’s not cool to dump anyone in a trash can. C’mon give us a little credit. Nobody’s that heartless” added Harold.
Melvin had his own thoughts about the validity of that statement, given the mob of ingrates who had been more than content to simply watch his humiliation, but all of the sudden just felt too tired to voice them. He half-heartedly tried to scoff at the phrasing, but it came out more like a tired sigh. Distantly, he was starting to wonder if he was really as fine as he had told Harold before. In truth he was starting to feel a bit shaken, and his glass-retrieving efforts slowed significantly (not that they had been all that quick in the first place).
As Melvin fell silent, George and Harold shared a look. They were both thinking a similar thing right then. Showing Mr Krupp a little kindness had already drastically improved the entire school. And if Mr Krupp, probably the meanest, cruelest, most unfeeling man to ever be an elementary school principal, could change, then anything was possible. With a silent agreement, they both kneeled next to Melvin and shooed him away from the glass pile.
“Here” said George as he picked up the empty frames and handed them to their owner, “Let us help you with that. This broken glass is dangerous, especially for blind guys”.
Melvin fumbled to grab the frames, shooting a dumbfounded look in George’s general direction. There were many things he wanted to say to this, but the first one out of his mouth was: “I’m not completely blind. I can still see without my glasses, you know”
“Sure you can” replied George, and even though he couldn’t see his face Melvin could still hear the grin in his voice, “That’s why you just told the wall that”.
“That’s--I--” he fumbled for words to defend himself, feeling an embarrassed blush creep up his face, and ultimately just decided to change the subject. “I still don’t get why you’re continuing to help me”.
“Because” responded Harold as he stood up, carefully cradling a pile of shards in his hands, “Even if you’re an annoying tattletale”
“Who helped to try and destroy laughter” inputted George, not quite ready to let that one go despite the current circumstances.
“This is just unfair. You just seemed like you could use some help so we figured we’d help” dumping the pile of glass into the trashcan at the end of the hall, he turned towards Melvin, asking, “I mean, is that ok?”
“Y-yes?” stammered Melvin in reply, caught off guard by the question. After all, it wasn’t that he particularly disliked having George and Harold help him, he just couldn’t understand why they were.
“Well there you go, then” said George, casually slinging an arm around Melvin’s shoulders then removing it as Melvin flinched at the touch, “We’re helping you out because we want to, and it’s no big deal”
Standing up, he laced his fingers together and looked thoughtfully in the distance, “Now, what is a big deal is the prank we’ll have to pull on that jerk for doing this. I’m thinking something involving lots of glitter. Probably a lot of glue. We’ll have to talk to our glue guy”
“Glue...guy?” asked Melvin, bemused, confused, and shocked all at once, at the fact that George was openly discussing a prank in front of him, and that they did these sorts of things with enough regularity that they required a specific vendor for glue.
George was pulled out of his creative brainstorm at the comment, and considered Melvin for a moment. “Hey” he said, getting an idea, “What would you say about helping us with this one? Or is that too rule-breaking for you?” he added with a joking tone.
“Me? Help you two with a prank?” asked Melvin, aghast, “But I can’t--I don’t even understand how jokes work”.
“Yeah, but don’t you want to get back at this guy, just a little bit?”
“I could just tell on him. Mr Krupp will surely discipline him” Melvin reasoned. After all, that was the way he always handled these sorts of things.
George looked at him sagely (not that that made a difference at the moment, but it felt better to look wise when you were trying to say something wise), and tsked at the genius, “You poor naive soul. A detention won’t matter to a guy like that. He’s probably had a ton of them, and believe us they lose effect really quickly.”
“But” he continued, eyes alight with the power of possibility, “if your nerdy super-genius whatever teamed up with our raw pranking power...he would remember that”.
“Maybe” added Harold hopefully, “It would even help him realize not to pick on people”
“Well” agreed George, “It’s worked before. Conclusive proof, pranking stops bullying ”.
“It’s not conclusive proof if you only have results from one experiment. That sample size doesn’t really prove anything. The margin of error alone would--”corrected Melvin, before being cut off mid-sentence by George.
“So? Do you want to help?”
Melvin thought it over for a moment, for the first time giving the idea serious consideration. Though he likely wouldn’t get any enjoyment out of this for himself, George and Harold were probably correct about the bully. He had been completely unfazed by Melvin’s threats of tattling, and likely would still not be affected by it now. And then there was the fact that George and Harold were asking to do things with him, and that on its own was baffling. He had always had the two of them pegged as trouble-making, irresponsible kids-- but just now they had been the only ones to actually do anything responsible. He considered that he might have to change his view on them, and admittedly he was curious about what would happen if he said yes.
“I suppose so” he finally answered, relenting to their offer after running through all these facts.
“Alright!” cried George, holding his hand out for a high-five, and putting back down after he remembered that Melvin probably couldn’t even see his hand. “We can start planning after school. For now, let’s get you back to class blind guy”.
“As I said before, I am not blind.” protested Melvin, but not too serious about it. “But” he admitted sheepishly, “Some assistance would not be unwelcome. I really don’t want to run into more walls than I have to”.
Wrapping a hand around his wrist, George pulled him down the hall (hopefully) towards where their class was likely in the middle of happening. He sighed at the thought of being so late, but soon forgot about his worry as George and Harold started to discuss many different -- and ever more ridiculous-- plans for their prank.
When he was finally sat behind his desk, George heading to his own seat in the back of the room, Melvin reflected that for once he was actually looking forward to school being over.