And, so, one moment The Fate Scheduler had been in his kitchen thinking of her, The Girl Who Smelled of Pine; the next, he was standing in what appeared to be a huge gymnasium full of people who were wandering about any which way. He blinked, looked about him, and then blinked again; attempting to make sense of what had happened. It was a futile effort, as there was no sense to what had happened. Those in the room seemed to be in a state of total confusion; as if everyone had just been snatched from somewhere else and had absolutely no idea why they were now there. Since that was exactly what had happened to him, staying put seemed to be the thing to do. Maybe in another eye blink, he’d be back in his kitchen. It wouldn’t do to move from this spot, only to become even more lost and befuddled, like the majority of the other people in there seemed to be.
As he stood there in observation, he confirmed to himself they were indeed inside a huge gymnasium; there were the basketball end boards and hoops; looking, he noted, a bit ratty and tatty as their nettings were torn and hanging down in places. To either side of him against the walls were wooden bleachers; and, his sensitive nose was telling him, the place smelled like decades of sweat, stinky feet and bubble gum.
Watching the people roam about, it dawned on him that he was reminded of the several times he’d been in a similar place registering for college classes. There was the same sense of almost panic, of not knowing what one was supposed to be doing. Buoyed by a bit of confidence that perhaps he’d figured something out, certain details of his surroundings began to make themselves clear. First off, over towards the east side of the room, there was a long row of tables, behind which sat a group of people; each wearing a somewhat bored expression on their face. In front of each person’s section of the table was a large placard with a letter of the alphabet clearly printed within its center. “A” was on the far left, next was “B”, then “C”, and so on, with “Z” on the far right. As he watched the tables, he saw the person sitting behind “T” lean over to the person sitting behind “S” and whisper something. “S” nodded and stifled a huge yawn. Well, then, obviously, this was some sort of registration center, and yet, not one of the others in the room were approaching the tables.
The Fate Scheduler was uncertain. He thought perhaps he should walk over to the tables and go up to his letter; in fact, he was sure this was what he was supposed to do, but he held fast to his position because he hated being the first to do something in case it was not the right thing to do. This trait was one of the reasons why he’d never made much of a name for himself at his firm; he was not destined to climb the proverbial corporate ladder.
He shifted his gaze from the tables; eyes darting about the room, searching for something that might provide an answer as to what he should do. As he did so, he heard a loud BANG coming from the side of the gymnasium opposite from where the Alphabet People were sitting. He craned his head around in time to see the large, multiple doors being flung open, one after another, each with such force that it bounced off the interior walls. Streaming in through the doors was a massive crowd of people; easily the same amount as which were already inside the gym. He noticed that, while the people already in the room were in a state of confusion, those coming in appeared to know exactly what they were doing, with each one of them approaching one of The Confused with outstretched arms and welcoming smiles on their faces. Slowly, slowly, awareness dawned on the faces of The Confused as they each in turn recognized the person advancing towards them. Then, shouts of joy echoed throughout the room, accompanied by a rush of almost incomprehensible conversations of which he could only make out snippets of “Oh my God! Oh my God!; and “MOM?”; and, “Take it easy, there, Cowboy, it’s all going to be okay now”; and “Holy shit! I need a beer and I need it NOW!”
In this midst of this cacophony, a new emotion; The Fate Scheduler was bereft. No one was singling him out. He was totally alone. On the heels of this, a glimmer of hope. Maybe this was a mistake and he wasn’t supposed to be here after all. Perhaps this was, in fact, a quite nasty dream. With this in mind, he immediately began to pinch himself. When he didn’t awaken, he went at himself like a man gone insane; pinching every skin surface he could reach, wrenching the flesh this way and that in his agitation, aware all the while that this was both futile and he must look like a total fool, but unable to stop himself all the same.
Then came another loud BANG from the other end of the room; the door with this one opening with such strength that it brought with it a whoosh of strong wind similar to those that swirl around you and blow grit in your eyes and deposit bits of trash at your feet. Except this wind brought no dirt or garbage, it brought his third grade teacher, Mrs. Sippy. He stopped pinching himself and gaped at her.
“Well then,” she said eyeing him. “You always were an unusual child”.