Happy Thanksgiving, America!
Well, it’s finally done. My manuscript for Dream Weavers is officially complete. Presently, I am searching for the right literary agent to represent it to publishers, but in the meantime, as a special Thanksgiving treat, I’ve reposted the introductory chapter to my novel below for your reading pleasure. Hope you like it!
Well…this was it…the first day of school…
As Tyler eyeballed the single story brick building in front of him and gulped hard, he tried to force himself into thinking that the day would be just like any other first day of school: He’d meet his new teacher, make friends among his new classmates, dive right into whatever lessons were awaiting him, and so forth. Sadly, no matter how much of an effort he made to convince himself that everything would turn out fine, he couldn’t bring himself to accept the fact that this wasn’t the same school he’d come to know since kindergarten. Miles upon miles away was he, in fact, from all the friends he’d made over the past four years, and now he doubted that he’d ever see them again. Worse yet, as he observed the kids who were entering the building, he noticed that they were all white. Well, okay, that wasn’t entirely accurate; there were a few Hispanic students, from what he could tell, as well as the occasional Asian kid here or there. For the most part, however, all the other students were Caucasian, which left Tyler—at least from what he could tell so far—the only child of African descent in the entire school. Great! Just what he needed: one more reason to stick out from everybody else aside from simply being the new kid.
For a while, Tyler could do little else than shake his head sadly and wish that things hadn’t come down to this. If only he could’ve stayed in his old hometown and surrounded himself with the people he’d come to know just for a couple more years until junior high. By that time, he’d have been ready to move on to bigger and better things without any problem. Not now, though—not when he only had two more years of elementary school to finish first. Sadly, it was too late to ask for such things, which left him no choice but to take a deep breath and screw his heels in before heading on into the building, doing everything he could to blend into the crowd of kids who were also entering. Soon enough, he was inside…so far, so good. Now all he had to do was find his homeroom. He was on his way, too, before he heard a voice calling out to him.
“Hey, wait up!”
Tyler turned around to see a small boy around his age with a pale complexion and sandy brown hair hustling toward him. As he watched this new face approach him, he took note of how the kid leaned forward with his massive backpack on his back, making him look like a hunchback of sorts as it seemed to pull him forward via its own free will. Soon enough, though, the boy put on his brakes and stopped short right in front of Tyler, then took a moment to catch his breath before speaking again.
“You’re in Milton’s class, too, right?”
Tyler nodded and asked, “Why? You having a hard time finding her classroom?”
The boy laughed nervously and replied, “No, I’m okay. I’m just trying to make sure I’m going the right way, is all. By the way, the name’s Brad…Brad Posey.”
“Oh! Cool. I’m Tyler.”
Tyler then raised his arm to give Brad a high five, which the smaller boy openly accepted, and the two of them immediately started walking together towards their new classroom—that is to say, of course, Tyler was the one who was actually walking while Brad resumed letting the mass of his backpack propel him forward. Hey, whatever…it was all cool by Tyler’s standards. If nothing else, at least he had someone to talk to on his way to the classroom, and thankfully, Brad was more than willing to chat with him.
“So, Tyler, are you new here?”
Tyler chortled. “How could you tell?” he asked wryly.
“Eh…couldn’t, really. Just trying to start up some small talk, is all. Anyway, I’ve actually been looking forward to school this year, and I can sum it up in two words: science fair.”
Tyler looked over at Brad curiously. “Really?”
“Yep. Every winter, fourth and fifth grades participate in an annual science fair in this district. I know because my dad’s been a science teacher at the local community college for several years now and has been invited to be a judge for many of those years. I’ve got to tell you, too, that I’ve had a great idea for a project that’ll surely rock the judges’ socks off. Even my dad will be impressed.”
“Oh yeah? What is it?”
Brad then stopped in his tracks and swiveled around to face Tyler, nearly smacking a pair of fellow students who were just passing by. Luckily, they were quick enough to step out of the way just as his pack swung around in their direction, and when they spun around and saw Brad standing there and staring back at them with a blank expression on his face, they turned back around and walked off in a huff to wherever they were headed. It was only when they had left that Brad turned back to Tyler and resumed the conversation.
Tyler raised his eyebrows dubiously. “Seriously?” he responded. “I don’t know. Sounds more like a psychology project to me.”
“Hey, psychology’s a science, too, you know,” Brad protested. “Just because it doesn’t involve beakers and test tubes and microscopes and all that doesn’t mean it’s not a science. The human mind is quite a fascinating frontier, after all, and I honestly believe that the more we try to understand it, the more likely we’ll be able to fix much of the garbage that’s going on in society today.”
Sheesh! Talk about getting worked up over something. Then again, Tyler really couldn’t blame the kid for having an interest that he was passionate about, so he decided to tread lightly on the matter from thereon out.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “I didn’t mean—”
“Nah, it’s alright,” Brad interrupted with a sigh. “Most people I know don’t associate psychology with all the other sciences, either—not even the adults. I try not to let it get to me, but…well, it always does to some extent.”
And with that, Brad went back to lurching forward and heading off in the same direction he and Tyler had been going before. As they did, Brad went on about his fascination with psychology, explaining how his mother had helped him become so interested in the subject, how many books he had read and websites he had visited discussing the study of the human mind, and what exactly he had learned from these sources—no doubt a mere fraction of what he’d learned, of course, considering the amount of information he was regurgitating at the moment and the speed at which he was doing so. Tyler honestly tried listening to him, even if only for the sake of being polite, but with so much information coming out of the kid’s mouth at once, it was quite a tough task to do—especially considering the fact that he was also trying hard to pay attention to the room numbers above each doorway that the two of them passed in hopes of locating their new classroom. Eventually, though, he finally came across the number he had been looking for and was just about to head on in when he noticed that Brad was still trucking on down the hallway chatting away with essentially nobody. Before he utterly vanished from site, Tyler called out to him.
Brad spun around again as he heard his name.
“Our classroom’s right here.”
Brad chuckled once more in embarrassment and came straight back and joined Tyler as the two of them headed on into the classroom together. As they walked in, they met their teacher right off the bat—a tall, willowy, young-looking woman with raven-black hair and a warm smile who welcomed them immediately as they stepped inside the room.
“Well, hello there!” she greeted sweetly. “Welcome to your new classroom. What are your names?”
Tyler gave a quick nod and introduced the two of them. “Hey. I’m Tyler. This is Brad.”
“Oh, that’s right! You’re the new student Principal Brewster had told me about the other day. It’s nice to meet you.”
Tyler couldn’t help but blush at Miss Milton doting on him the way she was at the moment. Hopefully, she wouldn’t be able to tell that he was, however, although Brad was quick to make sure of that once he cleared his throat and caught her attention.
“Not to be rude or anything,” he said, “but what exactly am I, this guy’s trusty sidekick?”
Tyler reared his head back in shock at his new classmate’s apparent need to be so forward, especially towards their teacher and on the first day of school to boot. It didn’t help Brad’s case much, either, that Miss Milton herself was showing just how taken aback she was with the expression on her face and the tone of her voice as she tried to speak again.
“Oh! Um…sorry for ignoring you, Brad,” she said uneasily. “Tell you what, though: Why don’t the two of you have a seat at the last pair of desks at the back of the room?”
The two boys peered on over to where Miss Milton was gesturing and could see for themselves that all the other seats in the classroom had indeed been taken, save for the two desks that were smack dab in the middle of the final row in the very back of the room. Well, Tyler told himself, he and Brad may not have been left with much of a choice, but at least what they were given was better than nothing at all. It was with that in mind, too, that he headed on over to that pair of desks and chose for himself which of the two he would prefer to sit at. As he made his way to the back, he took a gander around him at his classmates, most of whom were too busy reading, writing, chatting away with one another, or double-checking their school supplies to be bothered by his presence. There were a few, on the other hand, who raised their eyes to look upon him as he walked on past, and while he did his best to not worry too much about them, he still couldn’t help but wonder what was going through their minds. Still, he kept his head held high, even as he finally sat down at one of the desks and took a good look at his surroundings…or at least until Brad clumsily smacked him with his backpack as he sat down right next to him.
“Hey! Easy does it!” he cried out.
Brad took a gander over at Tyler. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly.
Tyler then heard some snickering coming from the side of him and, out of little more than instinct, swiveled around in his seat to find out precisely who was laughing at him. As he did, he could see for himself that in the corner of the room sat two boys, one of whom had beady eyes and the bushiest, most unkempt brown hair he’d ever seen in his life. The other boy wasn’t quite as remarkable as the first one, but hey, if nothing else, at least he was somewhat easier on the eyes. Either way, Tyler could feel his gut tell him that these two were bound to be trouble.
“Don’t pay any attention to those two. They make fun of so many other people that even they don’t know why they do it.”
Tyler turned his head in the direction of where the words were coming from and found himself staring directly into the plump-cheeked, Asiatic face of the boy sitting on the other side of him. As he regarded this other classmate of his closely, Tyler readily took note of his smile, which actually seemed rather sincere—not mocking or condescending or anything else of the sort, but quite genuine and amiable. On that note, then, Tyler felt at ease enough to smile back and exchange greetings with him.
“Oh, hey there!” he said as he stuck out his hand. “I’m Tyler.”
“I’m Tommy,” the other boy returned. “Nice to meet you, Tyler.”
Tommy then reached out and shook hands with Tyler, and as he did, Tyler thought, Gee…only my first day here, and already I’ve made two new friends. So far, so good. Speaking of friends, he could feel Brad nudge him across the aisle between their desks and, when he turned to look at him, see him gesture to himself as if to insist for an introduction. At first, Tyler was reluctant to do just that, seeing as how he was so forward with Miss Milton only moments earlier. Then again, he knew that refusing Brad’s request would be downright rude—a blemish upon his school year that he couldn’t afford to bring upon himself in the slightest, especially not at this stage of the game. Therefore, without further ado…
“Tommy,” he said as he turned back around, “I don’t know if you know him, but say hi to Brad here.”
Brad then gave Tommy a short wave and—just as the other boy began to wave back—instantly leaned forward and began to strike up a conversation with him.
“So,” Brad began, “are you a big fan of psychology?”
Tommy chortled with uncertainty. “Um…I guess so. Why?”
Oh, boy…now it’s his turn, Tyler told himself. No sooner had he thought that, too, than Brad started on up with more or less the same spiel about all the things he’d told Tyler about only a minute earlier in the hallway. Great…just what he needed to hear…more discussion about the human mind and Brad’s captivation with how it worked. Not only that, but the fact that he was sitting between the two of them meant that Brad was buzzing in his ear again, only more directly as far as volume went. Tommy, meanwhile, just sat there smiling and nodding for the sake of being polite. Safe as it was to say, then, Tyler could find little else better to do to bide his time other than to let his eyes wander for the time being and take a closer look at each of his classmates, hoping to at least learn each of their faces and pick out more potential friends before class was officially underway. As he did, he just so happened to catch out of the corner of his eye something that he was surprised he hadn’t seen before, for in the very front of the classroom sat a girl who appeared to be of the same background as he was. On top of that, as he noticed her conversing with the lanky blonde girl she was sitting next to, he could tell that she was quite pretty, what with the way she smiled with her pearly white teeth and how her eyes seemed to sparkle as she and the other girl chatted away with one another. Wow! Apparently, Tyler wasn’t the only black student in the entire school as he’d feared after all. Granted, the question still remained as to whether or not this other girl was as friendly as she looked, but hopefully, he’d discover the answer to that question soon enough. Indeed, her presence was enough to make him forget about the two boys who’d been laughing at him before, even if only for the time being. He would have loved to dwell on that little fact for a bit longer, too, except that the first bell of the day at long last rang, and once it did, Miss Milton stood up at the front of the room as if on cue and called for the attention of the entire class.
“Okay, everyone! Settle down and give me your attention, please.”
All the students in the room promptly quieted down and looked forward towards the front of the room as per Miss Milton’s instructions—everyone, that is, except for the two boys from earlier, who remained blissfully ignorant of what was going on and kept joking with one another as they clearly had been before. Miss Milton was quick to take note of them, however, and tried once more to quiet them down.
“Hey, fellas,” she said, “time for talking’s over. I need your attention up here, please.”
The two boys stopped talking at last and reluctantly turned their attention up front along with everyone else, but not without showing their disgust. Once they did, Miss Milton made sure to thank them before continuing with her introduction.
“Thank you,” she said simply before clapping her hands and addressing her class as a whole. “Well, then, how is everyone this fine first day of school?”
The students responded in unison in a mishmash of answers—some enthusiastic, others calmer and more reserved. Regardless of how each particular student felt, however, it seemed as though Miss Milton was impressed with the response she was getting, so she felt no need to stop right then and there with her speech.
“Alright! Glad to hear it. I’m looking forward to this year as well, but before we get into that, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Miss Milton, and I’ve been teaching at this school for a solid five years now, so…”
A number of the students actually began applauding their teacher once she said this as if it were that grand an accomplishment, which took Tyler aback somewhat. All the same, he didn’t want to stick out from the crowd any more than he already did, so he decided to join in with them. Miss Milton seemed grateful to receive such applause, too, judging from how she was smiling and nodding in reaction to it even as it died down.
“Thank you!” she repeated. “I really appreciate that. To tell you all the truth, though, I’m actually interested in finding out more about each and every one of you, so I’ll tell you how we’re going to go about doing just that.”
She then briskly walked on over to her desk and picked up her clipboard and a black pen and began reading from the attendance sheet before her.
“Okay, now,” she instructed, “as soon as you hear your name, please stand up from your desk and tell us a little something about yourself, starting with…Joyce Anderson.”
The lanky blonde girl who’d been sitting in the very front of the room bolted up from her seat almost as if she’d just sat on a tack and immediately began telling the class all about herself.
“Hey, everyone!” she greeted enthusiastically. “My name is Joyce Anderson. My family and I’d just gotten back from our summer vacation up in Nova Scotia, which I can’t wait to talk about because of how a-maze-ing it was! Aside from that, I’m big into basketball and dancing, I’m currently involved in the park district’s cheerleading program, I love—love—all kinds of animals, and I’m definitely looking forward to this year of school because…well…I just have a good feeling about it. Simple as that.”
Joyce then sat back down with a broad smile on her face and the rest of the classroom—Tyler included—staring back at her blankly as they tried to absorb her exuberance. Miss Milton wasn’t quite as perplexed, however, and readily smiled back at her after hearing her response.
“Thank you, Joyce!” she replied. “I’m definitely looking forward to having you in my class this year as well—especially considering just how much energy you have.”
Joyce shrugged. “It’s a gift,” she said simply.
Some gift, Tyler said in his head, trying his best not to be too judgmental of this new classmate of his. She didn’t seem like too bad a girl, really, but truth be told, he wasn’t too sure if he could ever warm up to someone so…well…bubbly, for lack of a better word. At any rate, Miss Milton kept reading down her attendance list and called out the name of the next student.
Ah…Andrews, huh? Well, if nothing else, that was one more name beginning with “A,” which gave Tyler time enough to wrack his brain in hopes of figuring out just what he was going to say. Then again, it didn’t exactly hurt that he had the luxury to sit back and listen to at least a couple more classmates tell the rest of the class who they were and what they were about. For the time being, then, he could take it easy for a moment and begin to feel at ease with his peers until Miss Milton inevitably called his name after the third or fourth student had given his quick little self-narrative.
Tyler paused for a second and took a deep breath. Just be yourself, Tyler, he told himself. That’s all anyone can ask of you. Brimming with gumption, he stood up from his desk, cleared his throat, and prepared to let everyone know just who he was.
“Hey, everyone,” he began. “I’m Tyler. My dad and I just moved into town not too long ago so that he could be closer to the place where he works. As for me personally, I’m pretty big into writing and reading, and I’m also pretty good at playing sports of all kinds.”
Miss Milton nodded pleasantly. “Interesting,” she remarked. “Is there anything in particular that you like to write about or any particular sport you prefer playing?”
Tyler shrugged. “Anything that comes to mind, more or less,” he answered plainly yet honestly. “A poem here, a short story there. Nothing too fancy. Same thing with sports. I don’t really have a favorite. I just like going outside and getting some exercise.”
“I see. I also understand that your father has quite an interesting job. Would you like to tell the class what your dad does for a living?”
Tyler was quiet for a moment or two, then answered, “He’s a toy designer for Blue Rex Toys.”
The class murmured upon hearing this, and as he regarded his classmates, Tyler could see for himself that some of them were genuinely impressed with what he had just shared with them. This included Joyce and, more importantly, the girl who’d been sitting next to her, both of whom shifted their attention between each other and him as if to silently muse with one another over the fact that they were attending the same school as the son of a toy designer who was working for one of the nation’s biggest toy manufacturers. Indeed, it was hard for him to deny how great it felt to see the other girl beam at him with her pearly white smile, and maybe it was just his imagination, but did he perchance see a sparkle in her eyes as she looked at him? Well, whatever the case, it was nice to see that he had caught her attention in a good way. Unfortunately, not everyone in the classroom was so impressed to know Tyler’s father’s profession, judging from the extra-loud snicker he heard from the opposite front corner of the room. Against his better judgment, he turned his attention in that direction and saw that the two boys from earlier were cracking up, much to his chagrin. He could feel the blood rush to his cheeks, too, as he heard them snorting like a couple of pigs mocking him for little more than honestly answering a question that he’d been asked. Rude as they were, though, he decided instead to simply keep his disgust to himself and carry talking to the rest of the class…assuming, of course, that there was any chance of the duo doing him a favor of simply shutting up and blending in with the others, which sadly didn’t seem to be the case.
“Blue Rex, huh?” the bushy-haired one repeated. “You’ve got to be joking. That company hasn’t put out a top toy line in years.”
Tyler scoffed. “What are you talking about?” he refuted. “Blue Rex has made plenty of top-selling toys: Super Duper Squirters, Karaoke Kids, Lullaby Critters…”
“Pbth!” the second kid interjected. “Whoopee stinking do! All little kid stuff. You’d think that with a name like ‘Blue Rex,’ that stupid toy company would come up with at least one decent action figure lineup.”
“Action figures? You mean like the Justice Juniors?”
Again, the duo laughed him off, making Tyler feel all the more ill at ease with himself with every second that passed. Luckily, none of the other students felt like joining in on their little two-man bash fest against him, but that still wasn’t enough to keep him from wanting to hide his face in shame. He knew he had to stay strong, however, and as such kept his chin up to show everyone that their insults didn’t hurt him as much as they actually did, even if only out of fear of offering them more ammunition with which to snipe him.
“Man, please!” the bushy-haired kid cracked. “The Justice Juniors are for little kids, too—just a bunch of kiddified Sentai Saviors who fight monsters who aren’t even scary enough for Sesame Street. Honestly, if your old man’s company ever wants to be taken seriously, they’ve got to stop selling out to the twerps and start making stuff for the rest of us.”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Miss Milton scolded as she finally decided to step in. “I don’t know what your name is, young man, but—”
“It’s Randy, Miss Milton. Randy Voight,” the boy interrupted. He then gestured to the other boy and added, “This here is my buddy Scott Salnave, in case you’re wondering.”
Miss Milton sighed with exasperation. “Very well, then, Randy. What I expect of both you and Scott right now is to quiet down and show a little respect towards Tyler. It’s his turn to speak, after all. You’ll have your turn soon enough.”
“Hey, we’re not saying anything bad about him, Miss Milton,” Scott chimed in to say. “We’re just talking about the company his dad works for.”
“Even so, Scott, you and Randy both need to keep your opinions to yourselves. You don’t like Blue Rex toys? Fine. That’s your preference. Nobody else needs to hear about it, though—at least not in the tone of voice you are both using. I hope, then, that you two will show a little bit of respect while the rest of us find out more about Tyler. Is that understood?”
Neither boy bothered to answer Miss Milton and instead chose to look away with sullen dejection—not exactly the reaction that the teacher was surely hoping to receive, Tyler presumed, but if it meant that they would be quiet all the same, then so be it. At any rate, as Tyler started gaining back a little confidence in himself, Joyce raised her hand.
“Yes, Joyce?” Miss Milton responded.
Joyce lowered her hand and asked, “So, Tyler, how often does your dad give you the opportunity to test the final product for any of the toys he’s designed?”
“Oh, pretty often,” Tyler answered. “Mostly, he gives me a good look at the final designs of the action figures and some of the more creative toys he comes up with. Same with some of the outdoor toys, too. Basically, he runs the idea of most of his stuff by me, and if I like the design and think there’s a cool idea behind what he’s making, I give it an a-okay.”
“Oh, yeah?” Scott piped back up to say. “What about the dolls? Does your old man let you playtest those as well?”
He and Randy then started laughing all over again, leaving Tyler standing there blushing—and breathing—harder than before. At first, he felt as though he was about to vomit, and for a moment, so did Tommy and Brad, who both stood up to hold him by his shoulders and console him right then and there. Thankfully, Miss Milton stepped in again to take control of the situation.
“Alright you two, that is it!” she snapped. “One more insult out of either of you, and it’ll be a trip to the principal’s office. Now, don’t say another word.”
The boys hushed up immediately once more, not bothering to peer around them at the slew of irritated faces that were glaring at them or offer an apology for their disruptive behavior. An unsettling silence then took over the room for quite some time as all eyes fell upon Randy and Scott until Miss Milton spoke up again to take control of the situation.
“Thank you, Tyler. You may be seated.”
Tyler immediately thanked Miss Milton with a nod and sat back down, and though Brad and Tommy both tried to comfort him, he still couldn’t get over how embarrassed he was to have already been on the receiving end of two of his classmates’ bad attitudes. He did what he could to remind himself that Randy and Scott were only two out an entire classroom of twenty to thirty students, himself included, and that not every last one of his classmates were as rude and as rotten as they were. Brad and Tommy were certainly easy enough to get along with, that was for sure, but even they weren’t enough to help him take his mind off the other two boys. In fact, even as he sat as his desk, he allowed his eyes to wander on over to those two and stared at them distrustfully, wondering to himself just exactly what they got out of making fun of him. After a while, though, he eventually shook his head and gave up on the matter. Really, though, what was the point? The fact stood either way that Randy and Scott were trouble, period, and the less time he had to spend dealing with them, the better. After all, he had other things to concern himself with this year, and so long as those two kept their distance well enough, Tyler knew he could put his best foot forward and make the most out of his current situation. All he really needed was a chance to prove to himself and everyone else that he had just as much a place at this new school of his as anyone else.
Well, there you have it, folks—the first chapter to my latest novel. Any feedback you folks may have for what you’ve read here is welcome, and in the meantime, wish me luck for the right agent to come along and be willing to represent it to the right publisher. otherwise, thanks again for stopping by, and as always, happy reading!
Dustin M. Weber