Beyond OK


Probably the most refined version of this story can be found on

Pixarplanet here is kinda of a place for me to test the waters for this story

Chapter 1: The Mature Student

Wearing his best salesman grin, Don Carlton did not bother with his usual greeting to Professor Knight as he stepped up to the Scare stimulation before the eyes of his fellow (younger) Scare students, that is, if they were not so immersed in their textbooks as they waited their turn on the stimulation. With all the Fall semester Scare knowledge jogging through his head, he answered Professor Knight’s first question with ease.

“Demonstrate the technique,” ordered Prof. Knight.

Don rubbed his tentacles arms on his blue shirt to minimize the stickiness of his darn suction pads and straightened his glasses. Then he creaked open the simulator door, pulled his tentacle off the door knob, crouched down, and crawled across the floor, with his darn suction pads popping noise on the wood floor, into the child bedroom simulator. He towered over the scare-dummy, bent over… Then his back suddenly cracked and Don’s cry of anguish startled the dummy, which sprung up with its obligatory artificial scream, causing scream energy measurer to beam feebly.

“Don- I mean, Mr. Carlton, are you well enough to take this Exam?” Concern rang in Professor Knight’s gruff voice.

“I’m fine, sir!” Don reassured him.

Professor Knight shot a look toward the high balcony of the classroom where Dean Hardscrabble stood to preside over every student’s progress. Don dared to look up at her and thought he could discern a nod of her head, which consented to a rare act of academic mercy. With that, Prof. Knight returned his attention to the scream simulator. “Mr. Carlton, please re-demonstrate the technique.”

His back still aching, Don exited the child’s bedroom, reentered, crept near the bed (with the tentacles still producing unnecessary noise), rose over the dummy, and belted out another roar at the dummy, which jolted up with a scream. The sound of the scream-score rang in Don’s ears.

Following the one demonstration, the Exam proceeded as Prof. Knight shot up more questions, all that Don answered with ease, and the pain tore through Don’s shoulder every time Don performed into the bedroom stimulation.

That evening, Professor Knight slapped the morning Exam results on the wall outside his office.

Don J. Carlton – Oral Questions: Passed—Scare Energy Average: “46/100”—Demonstration: Failed

His back still throbbing from the morning exam, Don kept the grin on his face, as a salesman did, moving from customer to customer after unsuccessful sale to the next potential client. Don slipped through the crowd of rowdy Scare students, gathered around to see their Exam results.

He saw Professor Knight making his way through the crowd and nodding at him, as if to acknowledge his gratefulness for having one semester with one nice student, who spoke to the faculty staff like old friends and equals, unlike the young students who vented about deadlines and intensive work.

Whistling a tune to alleviate the disappointment, Don stepped outside the School of Scaring. He had to rest again, so he settled himself on the stone steps of the School, and scooted to the side to give space for the students skipping down the steps, boasting of a new Scare semester to look forward to.

Then, a peach-colored glob-like monster in a blue sweater trotted down the steps, when his foot slipped at the edge, and he would have tumbled down if weren’t for Don, who disregarded his aching back and snatched the kid’s back-collar. By jerking of the neck-collar, the kid’s cap flew off and tumbled down the steps, revealing a tuff of brown hair between his two white horns.

“Thanks,” the kid mumbled as Don pried tentacles off the kid’s collar, allowing the kid to turn and face him. The kid had five-eyes and a doltish face too benign to fire up the scream simulator even with a roar. Don vaguely remembered this student, passing by him in class. He probably was the sort of student who tucked himself in the back and corners of the classrooms, not to commit classroom mischief, but to hide from the eyes and vulnerability to the Professor’s questions.

The kid wobbled, his lips quivering, muttered another thanks, and then turned away and down the stairs.

“You ok sonny?”

With his head facing the gravel of the stairs, the kid kept descending down the steps toward his fallen hat like a pebble sinking in a pond. “I’m fine, just a hiccup.” More like the choke of a sob. At the bottom of the steps, a female monster in a flowery-dress, similar in appearance to the kid, but the size larger and golden curls draping her forehead, ran toward the steps and scooped up the kid’s hat.

“Sweeettie! LEetttt celeeeebrrateee.” She bellowed as she stuck the hat back on the kid’s head.

“Moooom, I didn’t make it. Stop it.” So it was not the fall that hurt the student.

The kid’s grief provoked an even tighter squeeze from his mother. “Oh I’m so sorry, sweetie.” With the kid’s head sunk on the side of his mother, they strolled off together. It was rare to see young college folks blessed with parental warmth.

Then, Don’s back shot up another pain on his shoulder blades and right through his train of thought as he threw his hand to his shoulder. He would have to walk off the pain sooner or later. So he staggered through and pass Scare students, chatting about the upcoming winter break.

He wandered the campus until he found a university café and decided to grab a bite. Entering the café, he heard the cajoling of young monsters, and fraternities, gathered around small tables with chairs they snatched from vacant tables, sharing gossip and conspiring their future victories in upcoming competitions.

After making his purchase, he set down a plate with a little tart and a cup of hot chocolate and seated himself at the table in front of the glass window. His eye caught a Blue Poster—“Propose Your Own Fraternity/Sorority”—tacked to the window next to him. Don adjusted his glasses to look closer to the smaller text below the bold text: “visit Office of Greek Life and see Claire Wheeler or Brock Pearson for procedures.” Interesting. In his college, well, earlier college days, he had a curiosity about fraternity culture, but he found it redundant when he already hung around his own circle of college friends. Say, speaking of old friends…

While buried in his Scare studies last week, Don had received phone messages from old co-workers, wishing him happy birthday, which was a day with secondary importance to the Scare Finales. Don stared down at his tart, his overdue birthday treat for the five decades and two years he lived. He should probably make time to get in touch with his old friends tonight. So he bit into the tart, gulped down his drink to wash the crumbs down, and wiped the chocolate from his fin-like mustache and picked up his remaining tart with a napkin. Tossing the paper cup in the garbage bin, he exited the café.

On his way toward the University library, he passed by two familiar figures sitting near the curve of a campus driveway. It was the fallen Scare student again, sitting near the curb of a road and licking half-melted chocolate ice cream cone with his mother next to him.

“Mom, what am I supposed to do next?” Don heard the kid mumble.

“It’s allllll right,” she answered with her voice like a tune, “take your time love. You’ll find a new major in no time.”

“But mom, that was the only major I wanted, what am I really gonna do next? And will I even like my new major?”

Chewing on the last of his tart, Don Carlton asked himself those same questions.

Chapter 2: The Outdated Diploma

The library computer lab was filled with students improvising the content of their term papers, some probably due an hour away. The dark circles under their eyes marked the stress of finals week as their eyes scurried over their research and studies and hands or tentacles flipped through pages.

Of all the students who pulled off their “all-nighters,” Don considered himself the worse procrastinator. Over 30 years late working for his dream and now it flew out of his reach. It wasn’t too late, Don had told himself. It wasn’t too late. That was what all these young students told themselves as they engrossed themselves in their distractions instead of their assignments and studies. And as long as they staggered through with a passing grade, the only consequence to them was just the stress of the rush, not the academic consequences. Don could only wish the best for them all, hoping that they would learn not to underestimate the consequences of any sort of stress. He had learned too late in life that there was heavy stress in trying to prevent stress.

At least, Don no longer had to worry about classes that involved physical exertion like Scaring. He could at least sit back, relax, and explore the computers.


Ah, the mysterious and terrifying world of computers just might outdo the thrill of opening the doors of the human dimension. He clicked onto the Internet browser onto something new, something bursting with data and wonders in its pixel world, with the unknown behind each click. According to his Computer Basics instructor, the Internet was a rising innovation, and the University was applying this innovation for the greater academic good of its students, starting in the library computer lab.

He hovered his mitt-like hand over the keys, his thumb twitched toward the ‘D’ button, only to accidentally press onto ‘D’ and ‘F’ simultaneously, thus Don had to tap Backspace. Darn mitt hands. If only he was blessed with many fingers.

After some clicking, Don finally opened a link to and tapped on the correct keys to log onto his college profile.

Major: Undeclared
Minor: Computer Science

So within a few hours after the exam, the Program had already made sure to revoke his status as a Scaring major. The University truly was experimenting fast with this Internet.

Click. Remove the minor. Click. Scroll down all the choice of majors. Computer Science. Select. Click. Thank you for selecting major. The Academic Office will review your selection.

Click. That sound marked his certain future, 3 or 4 years after he would march out of M.U., for the second time in his life, straight toward another job, with only programming and software to look forward to.

At least the computers weren’t agonizing as the physical activity in Scaring. Even if he would take agonizing over the mundane.

Don’s bus always passed by a familiar sight of the past, a large company building with the steely words Oozmanian Industry, his former workplace.

Don recalled how one-by-one, old co-workers, pals like Pete, Andrew, Dan, and more were laid off. So Don did not protest when his boss dismissed him. It had taken Don two days to clean out his office for the next salesmonster, hired in for their youth and fresh talent. No hard feelings, just the way of the world, inviting progress from the old. After Don had studied his employment options, he had resolved not to go back to sales, at least, not full-time. And so the door closed on the life he knew, and it was time to find another door. And he had thought that maybe he could open this metaphorical door at Monsters University.

As the Don’s former workplace faded from view, Don shook off these thoughts so not to miss his stop.

Finally, the bus reached his destination on Dark Avenue. Don stepped out and walked toward apartment with the number 1200. He unlocked his apartment door and entered his snug spacing of four rooms-- bathroom, kitchen, living room of three chairs, bedroom.

He entered his bedroom, went to his desk, and started flipping through his second-hand Scare textbooks, smoothing the creases of page corners, and set the books at the corner of the desk, ready to sell them to new Scare students.

Then, Don adjusted the crooked frame above his desk that contained his diploma, 30 years old document with the biggest of the fancy bolded words that remained forever visible.

Monsters University
Don Joel Carlton
Bachelors of Business

The frame was grimed with dust, for Don had not polished it in a long time. The parchment meant nothing now in the wake of the economic downturns.

Now to tidy up the rest of his desk.

Don rummaged through his old paperwork on his desk, sorting them into files. Among the scraps, he dug up a copy, or perhaps a draft, of his application to Monsters University. He squeezed it in his hand, about to crumble it when a certain, amusing detail caught his eye.

Major: “Computer Scie–” it stopped at mid-writing, slashed out by the rapid swish of Don’s pen, which then wrote the following, un-slashed, words “Scaring.” Don crumbled the application, which conveniently stuck to a suction cup, scraping it on the recycle bin’s ledge so the paper could fall in.

As he resumed his cleaning, Don picked up the last piece of paper, creased and worn, with faded pencil writing.

…he looked after my every dreams. It is up to me now to carry on his legacy by holding on to the spirit he passed down to me…

He found the one-year old draft of a eulogy for the late William Carlton, composed by his surviving only son, who was now filing the eulogy careful not to crease it again, and then he glanced at a photo on the wall of his father, who had an image like his son, but green with brown spots and a woolen sweater.

After that, Don heaved himself onto his bed and reached for the phone on the nightstand to contact his old friends. He carefully dialed the numbers so not to stick his suction cups to the buttons. First call was to Andrew, probably too busy because he did not pick up, so Don left a message. Then Pete, greeted old pal Don with a pleasant twenty second conversation that consisted of howdy, sorry Don, about to enter my fourth job interview of the week, good wishes and good bye.

Only ole’ Dan made time for Don, at least, for a real conversation. “Don! It’s great to hear from you again. How’s school?”

“Swell! How’s work?”

“Work? I’ve just found work! They were hiring over in Fright Town. It’s enough to get by and bring home the bread. So how are them computers?”

“Oh, they’re dandy, Dan.” Actually, the computers were sorta complicated. “Ima gonna actually take Computer Science as full-time now. One semester in the Scaring Program and they dropped me off.”

“Say, yer takin’ Scaring?” And then Dan went quiet. Don suddenly realized this was the first time he ever told his friend about his recent Scaring pursuits.

“Oh yeah! Forgot to tell ya’ about my crazy idea. Didn’t work out for me. Had to make myself more relevant to the job market and conquer these computers head-on.”

“Sorry to hear that Don.”

Then the phone produced the noise of chattering children, prompting Don to inquire, “now how’s your missus and the tykes?”

“Wonderful! We just attended the seventh grade graduation of my Pammy!” Through the phone speaker, something slammed and crashed, likely noise from the mischievous antics of Pete’s children. “No Fanny, daddy has the phone now, you have to wait to talk to your friend. Put that down Vanny! And stop pulling your sister’s hair, Sammy! Yessssssss Mammy dear, I’ll wash the dishes tonight. Janny, watch out for that, don’t touch tha- Oh, sorry Don, gotta go. Keep in touch and good wishes to you.” And Dan hung up.

Don did not bother to put the phone back, letting it fall of his suction pad and swing like a pendulum toward the floor. He’d pick it up later. Staring at the ceiling, Don absorbed the emptiness of his apartment, until he reminded himself, he could always think of ideas, so that’s what he did.

Out of a desire to share a conversation with someone, Don fancied the idea of asking ex-professor Knight if he would have a beer with him as buddies. After all, even the austere Prof. Knight was no exception to the professors Don liked to engage in casual conversations with (“How’s yer day? How’s yer family?”), that is, if he wasn’t busy with younger students begging for a due date extensions. But Don reminded himself of the unspoken boundaries between teachers and students. As a mature student, he did relate well to them, but the teachers, especially Knight, were often too occupied with the student’s academic matters to develop close friendships with them. Don’s professors were just nice acquaintances that offered a causal chat once in a while.

And there was his future to consider at M.U. What else could he do on M.U. campus while he studied the computers? Shouldn’t he experience something new? He was at least fond of attending college sports events, especially with its free admission for M.U. students, but now he yearned to be part of something, anything significant. He resolved to no longer be the bystander of the great college experience as he was in his youth.

He remembered that Frat/Sorority Poster he saw in the café and considered it like a last-minute employment opportunity. Despite his limited knowledge in Greek Life, he could not shake off his curiosity. With years of computers ahead of him, it could give him something else to do.

Tomorrow, he will venture out into a neighborhood into his part-time job of door-to-door selling, and after that, he could visit the Office of Greek Life tomorrow to learn about that opportunity.

Don Carlton (c) Pixar
Andrew, Pete, Dan (who never make a full-fledged appearance), the deceased William Carlton (c) me

Chapter 3: Scott

“Feel unprepared when applying to college? You’re in luck! At Japlan, we supply the M.A.T, Monsters Aptitude Test practice books, containing over thousands of practice questions. It comes in sets too, ranging from mainly math, English, to Science, and even History. And if you order the entire pack, I’ll throw in TWO packs of number 2 pencils for free!”

In his best shirt, coat, and hat, Don had said this several times today in front of many houses, all while he showed off a sample thousand-page M.A.T book, printed by Japlan. He often rehearsed the pitch in front of the mirror in his living room where he practiced his Scare face thousands of times.

Don found his sales routine simple, adjustable, yet somehow ineffectual. He would ring the doorbell, wait for potential customer, hold up the sample M.A.T book, and recite his lines. Then, he would often find himself tipping his hat and calling out “thank you for your time” to closed doors slammed onto his face. He always did try to perfect the line, “thank you for your time,” a courteous surrender to the politely declining customer or the closed door that just slammed onto his face. There was a time when Don was the one being thanked, that is, in his past successful days, for offering great deals and products of Oozmanian Industry. How did his charismatic instinct for the past decades leave him?

He reminded himself that if he had lost the speed, then he would just have to perfect his technique. He will bring the best out of this Japlan product as he had done for the fabrics of Oozmanian Industry. He will find something the customer would like in this oversized, flimsy, probably overpriced exam book. But no matter how much he tweaked his pitch and mannerisms, softened or raised his voice, or complimented the product more, he could not persuade the potential customers as he did in his earlier days.

After many slammed doors, he would hauled up his bag and stroll to the next house. There were a few more houses to try. Then he could walk to M.U., conveniently just a few blocks away, and visit the Greek Office.

Finally, he reached a nice little white two-story house, then noticed a peach blobbly-like clay figure, in a blue cap and sweater, sitting at the porch with his eyes fixed on a book. Don set himself on the target, ready to deliver the sales pitch, but then Don found himself distracted by the familiarity of the kid’s face.

“Oh hi, sir?” The kid set his book aside and rose from his chair to get a closer look at Don, who tipped his hat. He was just as mildly astonished as Don was with the chance encounter. The kid spoke, “Oh hey, you’re the guy who saved my life at Scaring School. I’m Scott Squibbles.”

“Don Carlton, we sat in the same classroom for quite a while and we have finally and properly met.” He reached for a handshake. “Could I interest you in some Practice Exam books for M.A.T?”

“Eh, don’t know, don’t really have a major now. Ask my mom.” Scott gestured toward the door.

But before Don could knock on the door, it swung open, forcing Don to jump back, revealing Scott’s mother, donning a flowery-blue dress and her hair curled into rollers as the lugged a sign in one arm and a hammer in the other.

“Scottie, what have I told you about talking to strangers?!” Kicking the door shut, she raised up the sign above her curls, her hand twitching…

Don dropped his wares, whipped out a business card like a shield before her face, and shouted “Don Carlton! Sales! Mature student of M.U.!” Anything to get her trust and not drop that sign on him.

“Mom! He’s just a classmate from Scaring School!” Save the kid’s life, Don got his life saved by the kid.

“Oh, well, carry on,” she lowered the sign down. “Apologieesss, wasn’t really gonna hit you. Just my maternal instincts,” she sang as she trailed over on her lawn and placed the sign down.

Catching his breath, Don stuck his business card back in his pocket and scooped up his bag and sample Test book, wrinkled and battered from the fall, and called after her, “Oh! M’am, I would like to interest you and your son in some–”

“Nooooooott iintteerresttt,” she sang at the top of her lungs as she started digging into the ground.

“Well! Thank you for your time, missus!” he called. He started down the path toward the sidewalk onto the next house.

But by the time he was halfway across Squibbles’s sidewalk, he thought he heard Scott mutter, “Wait.”

So not to miss what the kid was saying, Don walked back to the porch. “Say what sonny?”

“Out of curiosity, did you make it in? The Scaring Program?” His five-eyes gleamed with the childlike desire to find something to admire.

Don nearly bit his lip to keep his smile up. “Oh no, sonny, if you watched my performance yesterday, you would know that my ole’ back gave way. Gotta turn to the Computers now, where my back would be seated and rested, and my hands and brain would just have to do all the work. At least my fiasco told me that my destiny lies in those terrifying Computers.” As trained salesman, Don was taught to claim certainty over the most uncertain aspects of things. This product ouggta work, even if he did not test it, he must take his employer’s word for it.

“Oh yeah, you were that guy. So sorry about that.” Scott leaned back. “But it probably wasn’t as worse as my failure in the Scare Program. It was my only dream to become a Scarer. Other than that, how would I explain this to my grandparents when I go visit them this break?”

“Cheer up sonny. I’m sure your grandparents would understand. You just had a setback.”

Scott sighed, as if he wanted to drive the subject off his mind. “When are you gonna graduate?” Scott then asked.

“Hm, probably about 3 years from now and it’s off to the full-time workforce. And you, sonny?”

“Ehhhh, because I need a new major, I don’t know.” the kid pulled his cap over his eyes and slumped down. Then a dreamy look crossed his downtrodden face. “I sure would love to graduate, like my mom. I remembered her graduation when I was little, so I can’t wait for the day when she comes to watch my graduation.”

“Trust me sonny, it would be yer proudest day. Just work hard.” Actually, Don learned hard work never quite brought him in the desired direction in life. And not to mention, although his graduation from 30 years ago was indeed a proud day, that achievement was wrought with so much regr-.


Scott’s mother had just started jamming the sign into the earth of her lawn.

“Better be…” Slam! “going,” Slam! “sonny.”

“Bye, Don,” Slam! “See you around!” the kid shouted over the noise.

As he walked down the path, Don tipped his hat to the Miss Squibbles, who paid no attention to his gesture and slammed a ROOMS FOR RENT sign deeper into the earth, and Don proceeded into the neighborhood onto an additional zero M.A.T Books sold.

In his head, Don wished Scott well, for the poor kid was still searching for his place in the world and was blessed with more time than Don to do so.

Chapter 4: Don’s Pitch

Walking into the Office of Greek Life felt like the day he walked into the Scaring 101 classroom months ago. When he was treated like an equal to the young Scaring folks. His chances of success was just as good as theirs.

At the office desk, sat two students: a sullen grey three-eyed girl with fin-like ponytail buried in a book and a purple bird boy with a large beak flipping through a comic. The name tags on the desk read “Greek Life President Claire Wheeler” and “Vice President Brock Pearson.”

“Why hullo there, Miss Wheeler. I saw yer poster and thought, hey, why don’t I start one of them fraternities?”

They stared at him as if they could not believe in the existence of a mature student, especially in this office, asking to participate in Greek Life.

It seemed it took time for the bird Brock to process Don’s question, caused he slowly placed down the comic and surveyed old Don until he asked, “Oh? Got a gimmick, good sir?” Somehow, without raising his voice, a block of enthusiasm and energy flew out his beak, earning him a glare from Claire.

“Um, sorry?” If only the library had a dictionary in stock with all the terminologies and slangs of the young folks.

Claire clarified, “He’s asking what does your proposed fraternity stand for.” And with that, the Greek Life President glared at her bombastic companion.

“Mature students.”

Claire lifted a brow at him. “Sure thing, may I see your I.D. card?”

He handed her a faded, yellowed, flimsy plastic card with the black-and-white photo of Don, his head of fin-hair and his size slightly less (understatement) robust, and his mustache thin. Claire looked up from the card, to old Don’s face, skeptically, as if the resemblance between old and young Don meant nothing.

“Opps, looks like I handed in my I.D. from years ago.” He waved the card around and laughed to provoke a smile from her.

Instead, she responded with a dull “Haw, haw, your current student I.D. please?”

After she verified his true I.D., the one with the photo of the more current Don with the thinning hair, she handed him a packet of paperwork. “Just turn in your proposal right now, and you can deal with the rest of the paperwork later. And when you completed all that paperwork along with your group, come back to us.”

Then Brock asked, “Do you have your group already?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Um, usually, you already have the friends, they fill out some of the paperwork, then you start a frat and recruit some more. So it’s just you?”

“Yup, it’s just me. Well, I thought I might find friends through starting a frat, so I won’t have to chat with the fessors’ anymore for a social life,” Don responded, chuckling. “It’s a way for me to find geezers who came back to school.”

“In that case, it’s best we should hand you an on-campus recruitment permit right now,” Claire informed him.

With the eyes of a meticulous customer about to make a significant purchase, Don examined the fine print of the paperwork and made a mental checklist. He needed four members to legitimize a fraternity (multiple-headed body counted as one). He needed to gather signatures and contact info, find housing, and get members registered here. Also, there was the financial and housing paperwork to turn in. And lastly, there was a printed note regarding Housing space in the Frat/Sorority Row area. Housing there was full.

“Young lady, how would I find available housing?” He asked.

At Don’s “young lady,” Claire sighed at Don’s innocent patronizing. “Since Frat Housing on Frat Row have been full since the recent addition of Omega Howl, you would have to search elsewhere for housing. You could search the nearby neighborhoods, like the commuters houses, and sponsor the housing yourself, or ideally, when you gather your potential members, they could contribute to paying for the housing.”

With that question out of the way, Don set his focus on the “Proposed Name” line on the proposal sheet. Desperate for an idea, he looked to the wall, noticing the pictures of the current fraternities and sororities with their proudly posed members. Eta Hiss Hiss (ESS), Roar Omega Roar (ROR), Slugma Oozma Python (EOP), Jaws Theta Kappa (JOK)… all creative names and with initials that fit the mold of prideful intimidation. Frats and sororities seem to pride themselves on the abruptness of names, easier to flaunt, and simpler for their admirers to pronounce.

Don’s brain skimmed for a term that would fit the name. Greek terms, there’s Omega, Theta, Kappa… yes. Kappa. Sounded nice. That’s a K.

What else, what else. Oozmanian Industry. Be nice to pay tribute to his old company. Oozma works. Oozma Kappa.

Although the initials O.K. lacked creativity, it would have to do, for Don could not imagine adding another letter in these initials.

“All set!” He showed the proposal to Claire, who surveyed it for a while.

“You’re all good sir. Just do the rest. And here’s your permit to recruit on campus.” She handed him a card. “Feel free to borrow some tables and chairs in the office if you need a stand. Probably best to do it now by the end of the next Finales Week, as Dean Hardscrabble wouldn’t be in her office during the break.”

“Dean Harescrabble?”

“Um, yeah, she takes part in what fraternity or sorority comes through since the School of Scaring is actually affiliated with us and funds most of the Greek Life activities around here.”

“All righty, then. I’m set to round em’ up in no time.”

Claire rolled her eyes at Don’s enthusiasm.

So hours after his visit to the Greek Office, he set out with a large white poster, and wrote O.K. in green permanent market. He then set it up at the library and stood there with a clipboard, pen, and blank sheet of paper for signatures. Knowing that plenty of students passed by library, he ought to catch one of the older students.

In his head, he rehearsed his “Pledge to O.K.” speech.

And as he did in his office days, Don made mental notes of everyday progress.

Today: He never had a chance to say his “Pledge to O.K.” speech, but did succeed in receiving some odd glances from young students passing by.

Wednesday: Don still kept watch on the crowd of young students exiting and entering the library, skimming for an older face. The only one who took interested was a campus officer who asked to verify if Don had an on-campus recruitment permit, then left him alone, nothing more.

Thursday: Staggering progress. Don did manage to find older students, but they politely declined interest. Unlike Don, they were wrapped in family matters.

Friday: Professor Knight passed by and they exchanged brief hellos, Don asked him if he knew any mature students around and Prof. Knight apologized, admitting Don was the few mature student he ever had in class, and by that end of the day, no one showed interest.

On top of that, he sold zero Exam books on his morning door-to-door endeavors that week.

So that Friday evening, Don found himself packing up and reconsidering his idea. Should he bother next week with recruitment?

Don learned not to always expect positive outcomes, but this crazy frat idea was one of the few times he felt he had some solid direction in his college life. If he succeeded, it would feel like the former glory days of getting a sales pitch praised and accepted.

Yes, he will bother next week with recruitment. But he would have to adjust his strategy to appeal straight to his demographic of middle aged adults.

But the issue was that his demographic was rarely to be found on college campus. There wasn’t much mature students on campus, let alone bachelor mature students. His planned-fraternity did not mind extending to “married” mature students, who often had their own family to care for, but then again, what adult in his right mind abandon his family for college Greek Life? Actually, there wasn’t much he could do. There was only two sort of mature students, married and with family with too little time, or unmarried, single, with too much (often squandered) time on his hands.

Maybe he was looking for too much in common.

He reached for the O.K. poster, turned around to set off home, and started thinking about how to extend the membership qualifications… only to find himself face-to-face with a peach blob-like monster.

He darted back. “Scott?”

“Oh, sorry to startle you, Don. Was just going to the library, saw you and thought I’ll say hi. How’s it going?”

Chapter 5: Scott’s Pitch

“Just swell, sonny. It’s nice to see you again.”

“What’s that you doing out there?” Scott pointed at the poster that Don had just tucked under his arm.

“Tryin’ to start myself a frat.” He showed the Scott his O.K. poster.

“Oh, for what?”

“For geezers students like me. I know, it’s like I’m starting a retirement home on campus. I don’t see a lot of students my age around on campus, and that’s a way for me to find these kind of students and befriend them. I wanted a little side project for the next year to keep me busy.” Don chuckled. “But no one but them fessors’ are my age around this campus.”

“Gee, sorry to hear that,” Scott’s eyes fell to the ground. “Fraternities sound like fun. But no one would even take me. Mom suggested I join that new Omega Howl group, but they turned me down. Don’t got the physical build for it apparently. But it’s not a loss, I’m just happy with where I am, at home… with my mom.”

“Oh. I’m sure you’ll find your place,” Don assured him.

“Well, I know my place is my house,” Scott muttered, trying to fish out the pride in that assertion. “Well, technically, it’s my mom house, being that she pays for it. But that’s my place.”

At least Scott had some certainty about his place.

“If you can’t find any old folks, why not invite younger students?” Scott suggested.

“I don’t have anything in common with young folks. Besides, I already told the Greek Life Office that a group of ‘mature students’ was my ‘gimmick’ for my frat.” Don wagged his hands like quotation marks to signify that “gimmick” was still an awkwardly foreign term to him. “Should I trouble myself with another proposal? And not sure if I could or should extend to anyone else other than people my age.”

“Then find something in common you have with the younger students. For example, Ima young student, what do we have in common?” In an attempt to spat out an idea, Scott went, “um, we attend the same school, wear the color blue sometimes…”

“Trust me sonny, what we have in common won’t gel together.” Though Don could bring up their failure in the Scare Program, which they discussed once together, but there was nothing prideful in that.

But then an idea melded its way through Don’s mind.

“Well, good luck with your fraternity thing. See ya.” And Scott started off.

But then that idea in Don’s head nudged at him again. “Wait.” Scott turned around. “Just wanna say good luck in findin’ yer major.” Scott nodded in thanks and started walking off, fading into the distance on campus.

He called for Scott, who was disappearing into a blur among the students, so Don stopped himself and then scratching his head in wonder at his random idea. But then the idea started to push its way through his head. And Don could not neglect this idea as salesmen never resisted a chance to present a possibly million-dollar pitch.

The idea was bashing down, as if the Squibbles lady hammered the “Rooms for Rent” sign right onto his head.

He ran straight into the campus crowd, skimmed for that peach blob, and tapped on his shoulder. And then Scott turned around, perplexed by the sudden fervor in Don. “Wait, Scott, you are an ex-Scaring major, and there’s many ex-Scare students here that could use a brotherhood. They might need to find support for their failure.”

Scott stared blankly, his doltish face trying to process Don’s idea.

“I was just thinkin’ now, you said you wanted to be a part of a frat, well you could start one all by yerself.”

Scott stared down, pondering the words. Then his face lit up. “Yeah, that would be cool. But how could I start one?”

“You have yer housing Scott. And hasn’t your ma’ rented out her rooms?”

“No, she and I are still on the look out for tenants. But why ask about that?”

“Because frats need housing. And your house is potential housing right there, and potential tenants for yer ma too.”

A grin widened on Scott’s face. “Mom would sure like that.” Then his face fell. "But how do I start a frat? And what if I don’t find anybody?

Don had time on his hands. “First things first, it’s off to da’ Greek Life Office. I’ll show yer where it is.”

By the time Don and Scott reached the Office of Greek Life, Brock Pearson was just gallivanting out of the office, while Claire, muttering about how that bird brain Brock left her with a desk mess to clean up, was up from her chair and sorting out the files.

“Ummm,” Scott started.

“Yes kid?” Claire asked as she straightened out some pencils and pen in a cap.


Don jumped in, “This fella here would like to start a frat.”

Claire rolled her eyes, pulled out a proposal form, and muttered brief instructions. “I would appreciate it if you guys hurried. The Office is closing.”

Scott began tapping on the proposal, trying to jolt up a name.

“Ah, findin’ an ideal name,” Don remarked.

"Kappa, Slugma, Theta… Scott’s lips pondered those blur of words.

Claire drummed her fingers on the desk. “Um, we’re about to close the office.”

Scott stuck the end of the pen into his mouth and chomped on it to jog his eager thoughts into an idea.

At that sight, Don threw out an offer: “How a-bout you just take my name, Oozma Kappa. I wanted to make a new name anyway. I have all winter break to think up another name for my own frat anyway.”

“You sure sir? That name would go to his frat, then,” stated Claire.

“I don’t mind. I’ll submit another posal’ later.” In truth, Don had long given up on his idea. Ah well, better to recycle that name.

Scott hesitated, but at the sound of Claire’s tapping fingers, he then scribbled “Oozma Kappa” as his proposed name, then he read over the “gimmick section” (no doubt typed by Brock).

“To support failed Scare students,” Scott repeated Don’s suggestion as he wrote down the words. Ok, it sounded a little blunt and there was probably a nicer way of describing the gimmick, but it was what Scott went with. And thus the proposal was handed in.

Suddenly, Claire shoved a bunch of additional paperwork, financial forms, housing standards, guidelines, the recruitment permit, and all, before Scott, who began flipping through them rapidly like a panicky high school student procrastinating in the night.

“It’s like getting a pop Final Exam,” Scott joked sheepishly as they exited the Office. “But boy, if I get this frat started, then I’ll actually have something fun to do with friends.”

Scott flipped open a page of the packet. “But boy, there’s so much to do. I have to find the friends now.”

Then he turned to Don.

“How about you?”


“You’re an ex-Scaring student. Why don’t you join? I thought, maybe you could join my frat.”

As darn nice as it was to receive such an offer from a young kiddo, Don was wary of the generational gap between him and Scott.

“Scott, you do know that I have a home life and it would bring me trouble leaving and packing up my apartment.”

But with the excuse out, it struck Don as self-contradictory, since Don was willing to leave his apartment life if he was going to house with his yet-to-exist fraternity.

And the contradiction did occur to Scott. “But you were trying to start a fraternity before.”

“Well, I doubt that would ever get started. It’s right for me to stop trying.”

“Then my frat will take you,” Scott pleaded, “And you are the one who gave me the name of Oozma Kappa, so you’re kinda like an Oozma Kappa guy already.”

Don smiled a good luck smile with the well wishes that Scott will find the friends to initiate his frat, but he shook his head and started walking off.

But Scott kept following him to chatter about the possibilities, the brotherly fun they could have, the games and parties frat loved to indulge in, and all the exciting antics to engage in… oh, all the buddy stuff they could do together.

Don was no stranger to haggling and bartering with pushy clients. If a client overstepped his or her boundaries in bartering and pressed an impossible deal, Don was trained to resort to an outright refusal. A flat, hard “no” was all the situation needed.

But Scott was just a naïve youth with innocent intentions. All Don could do was apologize repeatedly for the crime of declining an offer.

Slowly but surely, Don walked off in the direction off campus into the M.U. commuter-populated neighborhood, not brushing off the kid’s company, but not quite latching onto the kid’s company either. He hoped that by the fourth block, he could tire out Scott, so he could just drop the subject, walk home, and be off to find his friends and frat members.

But Dooooonn, you’re the closest to a friend I have around here.

Sonny, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop meeting and storming up a little chat on campus.

“… Besides, you might like the housing. Why don’t you come with me and take a look. We’re just about near my house. Mom and I like to show off our rooms to potential tenants.”

Don surrendered. “Sonny, yer re’ a persistent lad and I admire that in a fella. Look, I will just say I will not take up on your nice offer. That offer should be saved for the nice young college gentlemen who will become yer brothers someday, but… I’ll have a look at yer home. Just because yer persistent like the young salesmen of ole’ Oozmanian Industry. So I’ll sample that offer, just for you.”

Scott beamed.

It was odd to reward the kid’s persistence like that, agree to sample a look at something only to admit out loud that you were gonna refuse it politely. At least the moment evoked such fond memories, of clients who expected to decline products until Don could quell their doubts and convince them of its usefulness.

Besides, sampling something and declaring that it was not for you could be the more ideal refusal. After all, Don had several clients who seemed to be deep in interest of a product, but then summoned up the courage to outright refuse it. And that usually marked the end of the relationship between salesman and client.

“Wait 'till you see my house. It’s nice, and what else can I say? It’s my mom’s.”

Skimming through this fanfic (imagine me browsing this as a novel at a bookstore, wondering whether to buy it).

Looks good so far, I love your Dan, Pete and Andrew reference, haha! :slight_smile:

Oh, well in that case, if you want the full version reading, purchase it now for only $40! And for single chapters, it’s $10 each!

And if you want the hardcover edition, that would be just a mere $100!

And if you want the hardcover edition with the special features and the afterward and deleted scenes, that would 10 bits! That’s right, the pony currency!

Thanks, you’re the first person to reply on this page.

Chapter 6: The Squibbles Household

That ROOM FOR RENT sign, the would-have-been Miss Squibbles’s weapon on Don’s head, still stood on the lawn as Scott dragged Don into the Squibbles household.


Stepping into the doorway, Don skimmed around the household at all its flowery themed wallpapers, dollies, tea sets, and somewhat worn-out furniture.

“Lovely home.” All right, it was designed according to a lady’s quaint taste, but nonetheless, pleasant home to Don. “But what’s with that lil’ house of cushions over there in da’ sittin’ room?”

“Oh, that.” Scott looked a little embarrassed. “Heh, that’s my fortress. I get really bored.” Scott walked toward it and kicked it down, and all the cushions tumbled down into a lonely little pile.

Then Scott headed to the door under the stairs, and threw open the door only to be blasted by the unintelligible lyrics of heavy metal pumped up to maximum volume, prompting him to slam the door.

“She’s cleaning the basement, just proceed with caution.”

As they fastened their hands over their ears, Scott gradually opened the door and they stepped down the basement stairs into a large room with laundry machines and walls lined with shelves with knick-knacks. Don peered over the rail to see Ms. Squibbles, her hair curled into rollers, reaching into a shelf at the corner of a wall as she piled books into her arms as she shook her hips to the music produced by the radio near her foot.


“WHAT?!” she squawked. Then she noticed Don. “SCcccooott? I’ve told you not to let strangers into the house!” Recalling the sign incident, Don checked if she had any potential weapons in her hand.

“Mom, he’s interested in a room!”

“Oh! Well lemme speak to him then!”

Less worried about getting attacked by Ms. Squibbles, Don made his way down, pushing his hands into his ears as the music screamed louder and louder with every step down.

Ms. Squibbles just kept swishing her hips and yanking out another album.

“Here, I’ll help you with those missus!” He reached out to lift off a few books off her arms, but it involved removing his hands from his ears and his eardrums braced itself for full blast of Heavy Metal.

“I’m fine!”

Perhaps the Heavy Metal screwed with Don’s coordination or Ms. Squibbles was grooving too much to the music because Don collided into the armful of albums, causing some of them to spill out the contents of the Squibbles’s precious memories as the albums hit the floor.

Ms. Squibbles kicked the radio switch off, thus relieving Don of the Heavy Metal headache.

“I am so sorry, missus!” The music still buzzing in his brain, Don knelt down, and then, resourcefully poked his suction cups onto the fallen photos his hand to gather them.

“It’s all right! Accidents happen!” She bellowed. That music must have distorted her hearing.

So she sunk to the floor and started gathering the photos. “Besides, at least I can look at my lil’ baby Squishy while I’m at it.” She swiped a photo of the ground and playfully showed Don the random snapshot of a toddler Scott, eyes shut tight at the flash of the camera, with a fist full of his mom’s diploma, in the arms of a younger and beaming Ms. Squibbles, who donned a graduation cap and gown.

“Aw Mom,” moaned Scott, who was also recovering from a Heavy Metal headache. “Stop showing off my baby pictures!”

“Okay dear.” One-by-one, she pried the photos off Don’s sticky arm and scooped the rest off the floor. “Now, you needed to speak to me, Mr.-…”

“Carlton.” He pulled out a business card and handed it to her. “But Mr. Carlton is my father, may his soul rest in peace. Call me Don.” Asking folks to call you by your first name provided a sense of relatable trust, an initiation of a relationship.

And then Don, realizing Scott’s matter, decided to mention, “Oh! But first things first, yer boy would like to speak to you.”

So Scott, with a toothy grin, stepped forward and dumped his frat paperwork in front of his mother. “Mom, mom, I wanna’ start my own fraternity!”

Ms. Squibbles plucked the last of the photos off Don’s suckers and placed them on the shelf. “Oh! That’s wonderful sweetie! Do I have to sign for parent permission?”

“Not really. I just wanna ask you if it’s ok if this house could be a frat house. Mom, it means tenants!” Scott answered.

Don couldn’t help but add, “M’am, consider you and your son lucky. The proximity of this house to the University campus is not only convenient for your son, but qualifies as potential housing for a fraternity.” Don was about to get back on his feet when a familiar pain creaked within the muscles of his back and he planted himself firmly back on the ground.

Still sitting on the floor, Ms. Squibbles surveyed the paperwork. She flipped through the pages, reached the final page, closed the packet, and then skimmed the first pages again. Then she took a pencil off the shelf and started underlining some of the text of the guidelines. Then she shut the packet, then reopened it, flipped through, underlined some more text, and then-

“Mom? Are you done?” Scott was now on his knees, eye-leveled with his mom’s face, and his little hands wringed his blue M.U. hat in anticipation.

“I’ve decided…”

Scott leaned over. “Yes?”


Now Don could not help but to clench in fists in anticipation.


“Yes,” she said.

“Yes what?”

“I’ll love to house in a frat here for you Scott. Just so you can make some little friends like in Scouts. But-”

“But what?”

“Scott, do you have your friends ready for housing? Would they be willing to pay the rent?”

Scott bowed his head down. “Oh, I’m looking for the frien- well, members to join.”

As she filled out the housing paperwork, she toned down the perkiness into a mildly cheery but more serious expression. “Scott, I would prefer you would gather your friends by the end of the month. There’s already one fella’ interested in one of our rooms and I will have to turn him down. And we might have more people interested in our rooms if you take too long to do this. As property owner, I can provide housing, but I would not be allowed to rent off to non-students. Please do this as quickly as possible.”

She put the finished paperwork in Scott’s hands, and Scott nodded like the good little Scout he was.

With a grin, Don staggered to his feet, only for something to snap through the muscles of his back, causing him to utter, “Ow, omph, sorry bad back.” The injury let out familiar crack of disgrace as from his final Scare Exam.

Then Ms. Squibbles sprung to her feet, and her hand flew out, striking Don’s shoulder, and turned him around, his back facing toward her. Then, the tip of her hand jabbed a shoulder blade. Don bent over instinctively to avoid another blow only to feel the bump of her thump hitting the tip of his shoulder. The edge of her palm threw out about three or four thumps between his shoulder blades, then one final thumb jab onto the shoulder area nearest to his neck. In the rapid moment, Don gasped, tried to steady his legs to dash off, even nearly called out to Scott for help, but the blows had stunned his energy and snatched his breath away so he could not holler anything.

Then in a swift movement of hands, she finally jerked him around so he could face her once again. The final blow was on his chest, aligning him into a straight stance.

The muscles of his back begin to relax and the pain receded. Ms. Squibbles deft movement of her hands somehow cured his back pain.

Don began to chortle. All that energy he nearly exhausted to holler for help burst into laughter. He clutched his chest and had to hold onto the shelf to support himself.

“Um Don?” Scott muttered.

Suddenly, Ms. Squibbles started joining in with Don’s laughter with her voice flipping uppity and up.

And then Scott complimented the moment by forcing out “hahahahaheh heh heh…- wait, what are we laughing about?”

Don swallowed some of his laughter to finally say, “How do I… Hah HAH… ever thank ya’ m’am? But for a moment, ha heh heh, I thought you were attacking me.”

Ms. Squibbles cut off her laughter to remark, “I learned that therapeutic technique from Nursing studies. That back of yours needs plenty of good exercise and relaxing. It seems that you had a lot of stress knotted up and bunching up your physical health, your back in particular.”

Weary from the laughter, Don leaned against the shelf. “I’m sorry m’am, it appears we have forgotten to discuss something.” He peeled off his glasses and wiped a little tear in his eye. “I was busy trying to help Scott that I almost forgot that I came to check out one of yer rooms. Scott has been beggin’ me to join his frat and Ima considering it.”

“Ohhhhh,” she hooted, perhaps naïve to the rare occurrence of a mature student taking interest in frats. “Getting into college activities I see? Well, Scott, I have to clean up these books, so go and show this gentleman the single-bedroom.”

“It has been a pleasure meeting you, missus.” Don extended his tentacle-hand, and she reached for it, then his suction cups tightened on her palm, so he pulled off his suction cups with a pops and muttered an apology. “Sorry. Drat my cephalopod heritage, not that I ain’t proud of it.”

“It’s a good thing mom hadn’t found anyone yet to rent out these spaces,” remarked Scott as he led Don up the stairs. “We had tenants come and go and with the semesters starting and ending. Mom always advertises these rooms out to M.U. students.”

“Smart lady, lad. Especially with a home this close the da’ campus.”

“Well, this is the only single guest bedroom available, and it has a bathroom. And you’re first, so first come first serve.” Scott led Don to the end of a hallway and opened the door.

It revealed an uncovered mattress (“you have to bring the cover, blanket, and pillow yourself” said Scott.). Next to the bed, sat a desk with a bare lightbub hanging over it. Small, but not cramped, just snug quarters.

“It’s no different than my apartment.”

“Is that a bad thing? Mom and I could tidy the room to your liking.”

“Well, it’s just a bed, a little room and desk. It’s fine.” To relax from the events of the day, Don sat down on the mattress. It bounced with a firm surface, adequate to rest a weary back. Then, he surveyed the room, the white wall, bits of paint peeling, some fresh floral curtains, and a small closet. It seemed big enough to contain his important possessions and files.

But it would be a hassle to move his possessions while getting rid of his unneeded possessions back at his apartment. Sure, the house was close to campus and less costlier than his apartment. But what about Don’s pots, pans, utensils, desk, and other unneeded stuff, so what could he do with them? He had sold his car years ago (due to his preference for bus transportation) so how would he transport his stuff?

And being that he would be a frat member, the inexpensive price (compared to his apartment’s) and the convenient proximity to his school would be at the expense of quietness and even space. Frat boys, his “brothers,” would be running around, disturbing the peace.

He was about to stand up only to discovered that Scott had taken his seat next to him. “Um, Don. I’m not making you stay, we could always talk on campus.”

But the more Don thought back to his own empty little apartment, with only photos of his family as company, the more Don wanted to throw his back against the bare mattress and just sleep the nights away to the noise of the pestering young folks and housematies scurrying around.

“Sonny, Ima glad to report that the pros outweigh the cons.” Don smiled. “Why should I let an offer like this pass? I’ll take it.” But Don reminded himself he would have to deal with the packing issue sooner or later.

Scott threw him an affectionate punch on the arm. “See? What did I tell ya’? First brother here!”

“And Scott, if we want to git this done with, we’ve got one week to round up some more brothers before da’ Winter Break, startin’ Monday.” And with a chuckle, he put his hand over the afflicted area where Scott struck him, sensing that this would not be the last time a Squibbles’s hand would strike him again.

Chapter 7: Eye Lockin’

That Monday marked the last Final Weeks and the first day of (Scott’s) recruitment for Oozma Kappa. Don set up the booth and readied the clipboard, paper, and pen in his hand. Now to acquire the recruits.

Now Scott should be here at any minute now to hel- yipes.

Don spun around to discover Scott, wearing an eager grin, standing behind him in close proximity. “Hey Don! I’m ready to go.”

Ms. Squibbles stood nearby, attired in a blue dress with a name tag of “Nurse Sheri Squibbles” and nurse hat sitting on her curls. “Just dropping off my lil’ trooper. Also, Don, I need to talk to you about move-in.”

“Oh, I was a-thinkin’ I’ll settle in last weekend of the M.U. holidays. Maybe on a Saturday. And I would also need to stop by to drop off some of my stuff at yer home sometimes. It might take a few days as I need to walk there.”

“Wait, you don’t have a car? Then I’ll just hafta to drive you to your home, help you load in some stuff, and transport em’ to your new home.”

Don waved his hands in refusal. “No no missus, I’ll be fine.” His un-cracked back today reminded him that the missus had already done plenty for him.

“But since you paid the rent in advance last Friday, I should.”

“I’ll be a-thinking a-bout it then.”

“Well, when you decide, just let me know! Anyway, have you got anyone yet?”

“No one yet.” Don showed them the clipboard paper, blank, save for the names of Don and Scott. Scott’s face fell a bit.

“Oh that’s a shame,” Ms. Squibbles commented, “Now how a-bout I give you some help?” She hopped onto a nearby bench, hollered, and not so inconspicuously pointed at the O.K. stand. “Heeeelllloooo! There’s a lovely frat hereeeee for interested boooyyysss!” Her shouts attracted the awkward stares of several campus students and professors, many of whom shrugged off as if it was just another loony or obsolete cause or organization on campus.

Flushing with sweat and embarrassment, Scott dashed to the bench and tugged at his mother’s arm. “Mom! This is a frat! And I don’t think ladies advertise frats!”

“We’ll take it from here, but we appreciate it anyway,” Don added.

She hopped down the bench. “Oh well, then suit yourselves boys!” She giggled as she walked off. “Besides I got a patient who’s always trying to climb the Aviation School and some poor cephalopodian fella’ with a case of hydro-glemia. See ya!” And she was off to the M.U. infirmary.

After her departure, Don resumed the difficult task. He extended his hand out to passing students. “Oozma Kappa, a frat for ex-Scaring majors. Interested? Fine housing, fine opportunities. Greek Life starts here!”

Meanwhile, Scott copied Don’s gestures, but the poor undeclared major just scurried around trying to catch a passerby, extending a hand, but then uttering a word cut short by his edge of nervousness. As a result, every passerby just brushed by him.

So Don took Scott aside. “Now Scott, remember how persistent yer were with me? Just do what you did to me. And keep approaching them as you kept approaching me. Oh Scott, I knew ya’ as da’ sort of fella’ who kept that foot wedged in a closing door. Now what happened?”

“Guess I got tense.” Scott bit his lip. “The thought just occurred to me. That’s exactly why I wanted to join the Scaring Program. If I could do the scaring, I wouldn’t be so nervous around anything or anyone.”

“Don’t sweat it Scott, there’s a new major out there for you. One to teach ya’ the courage you need.”

“Well what Major would you suggest?”

“Ima not the best to say.”


“Computer Science?”

“Why would I want to take Computer Science?” Scott scratched his head.

“It’s just something relevant to the job market if yer consider it. But never mind that. That’s my destiny. How a-bout them drama players?”

“Stage fright.”

“Public relations?”

“Don’t talk well with others.”

“Scott, if there’s anything you would hafta remind yerself, college IS a place for learning things like that. Try what yer don’t like and maybe you’ll come to love it.”

“I know, that’s why I’m trying to sample all the classes I can so to know what I want besides Scaring.”

“Then that’s a swell plan, but back to the task. Scott, lemme tell ya’ something. In my early days, when I meet with customers, I make eye contact. I lock my eyes with theirs. Eye contact is a method of hookin’ in the customer. It keeps the conversation, bolsters yer confidence, and most importantly, establishes a trust between the salesman and yer customer.”

“Trust,” Scott repeated.

“Pick one of them students, set yer sights on them, and approach. As a matter of fact, try that pair of potential members walkin’ toward us!” Don pointed to the slender orange-yellow long-necked two-headed monsters, each with circular heads with one eye, and two arms at each side, walking on their stripped tentacles with their bickering voices getting louder as they headed closer.

“Those schedule conflicts clashing… over exertion of physical activities…” was the all Don could hear of their conversation.

Then Scott turned to Don. “Say, it’s those two from my English class.”

This prompted Don to nudge Scott.

“Don, why don’t you go to them? You know how to do this better than I.”

Don pushed Scott forward. “Scott, I know these young folks would rather listen to a classmatey than a geezer like me. Just smile and ask em’. Eye contact, stare straight into them eyes like yer aiming a pistol. And smile so they can trust ya’. If they say no, then onto the next customer.”

Summoning the teachings of the great ex-Oozmanian Industry employee Don, Scott stretched the corners of his lips into a grin that spread from cheek-to-cheek and locked his eyes on the twins but barely inched a move toward them. Though his head followed the pair of potential recruits, it seemed that Scott would have allowed the twins to pass by.

As they glided closer, the twins were too immersed in their argument to question the presence of a small student setting his sights on them. But then the shorter head of the twins felt that hard stare of the benign Scott. It drew him out of his argument and led him to stare back at Scott as he walked on and his taller brother blathered on. Then the taller brother, noting that his conjoined companion had suddenly diverted his attention elsewhere, also took a double-take at Scott’s goofy expression. Their tentacle legs nearly stopped in their tracks, but they shrugged and walked, well, tried to walk on, but they glanced back, unable to shake off the hard stare tracking their every movement.

Scott’s eye contact was maybe a little too strong, especially when he started cranking his neck and head to the side so that his eyes stuck to the twins as they were about to disappear out of conversational-reach.

And suddenly, as if Scott’s stare was some sort of string pulling them in, and they slithered backwards to where Scott stood, looked straight at him, and the doubled-horned taller head felt obligated to inquire, “Um, may I, or we, help you?”

Chapter 8: Two Heads, One Body

Having just reeled in a pair of potential recruits by the power of his uncanny glare, Scott tried to compose himself. “Um, hi, I know you from English class. We never spoke, cause’ you’re always on the front of the class, and I sit in the back.”

“Ohhhh, um, I knew I’ve seen you somewhere, and if you have a question about the final paper, then you’re screwed because that was due yesterday,” remarked the double-horned taller head.

“Um, no, I turned that in already, I, well, we are trying to form a fraternity, for…” Scott turned to Don, who waved his hands to coach him. Those who didn’t make it into the Scaring Program. We’re recruiting for Oozma Kappa. I was wondering, did you get kicked out of the Scaring Program?" There was no way this would sound appealing to even the most fitting potential members.

The brows above their eyes rose with mortification. “Oh, thanks for reminding us of our failure two semesters ago,” muttered the taller head as he shot a glare at his conjoined smaller counterpart, who did not look so moved.

At least Scott essentially guessed right about the student(s) status as failed Scaring major(s). Progress, all right.

“Well, this fraternity is for Scare student failures… like me! But um,” Scott threw another glance at Don, who was waving his tentacles urgently to drop the negativity in the pitch. “And this guy, Don, is helping me out and he’s the only brother so far to have joined this group.” Scott pointed to Don, and the twins gave Don that familiar skeptical look that doubted the existence of middle-aged students.

So Don decided to step up and replied, “Well, Greek Life might be nice for you fellas. And pledging to Oozma Kappa will bring that Greek Life to you. Great for resumes ya’ know. Also, you probably haul alotta academic weight, so Greek Life could relieve ya’ of that stress.”

Then, a grin formed upon the smaller, singled-horn head. “Greek Life, eh? A fraternity that actually will take us? We’re sold!” he yelped in a jovial, uppity voice that accentuated his brother’s sullen voice. His hand reached for the pen on Don’s clip board, only for the other hand of his brother’s slapped it away.

The taller head loomed over the smaller and hissed, “We? It’s just you. With some of our tuition blown away by our attempt at the Scaring Program, and perhaps your silly dancing pursuits, we’re already in a load of a financial mess. You could have just shared the English major with me cause’ the school would have charged us as one. Not to mention the housing bills, eh, with those insanely expensive dorms we got stuck with. There’re always fees involved in frat life.”

“What? Oh, back to that argument again? You know I have my own life and I am just as much entitled to my own career choices as you are!” griped the smaller head. “And besides, you didn’t protest when I tried to get us in that new Omega Howl group.”

“That’s because I wasn’t worried that they would accept you in.”

Then Scott jumped in, “Wait? You tried to join Omega Howl? I was rejected by their group too! Do we have another thing in common. We’re ex-Scaring students and we’re Omega Howl rejects!”

The smaller head chuckled tensely at Scott’s innocent bluntness, while the taller head sighed.

That was when Don came to Scott’s rescue. “Wait, young man, well, men, I heard you mention about yer housing bills issues? Why Oozma Kappa housing is more than O.K., less than them costly dorms here. It feels like home. Just ask Scott! It’s his house!” Technically, Ms. Squibbles’s house but that sort of info wouldn’t be attractive to these young folks.

This perked up the taller head. “Oh yeah, housing, heh?” The words curled at his lips with an edge of suspicion and intrigue. He glanced at the info on the clipboard, and his lips slurred out some inaudible calculations. “That’s less than our housing here per semester, and the house is close enough to the campus. If we signed up now, we wouldn’t have to pay the housing fee for next semester. Also, Greek Life. Good for a resume as you said, and we might actually have a social calendar, for once.” His hand pulled up the pen and signed his name. Then, the other head took it and scribbled his name. At this sight, Scott could hardly contain his delight as jumped up and down.

Don read their names, Terry (neat printed writing) and Terri (nice cursive writing) with the surname of Perry. The addition of a third (well, technically fourth too) name on the pledge paper pleased Don. “Ah Terry and… Terri with an ‘i’, we look forward to having ya. So ya’ joined for the swell housing deal, but I guarantee that you would stay for the fun! But we must note, we need one more member to kick this fraternity off the ground, so I can’t guarantee this will start soon enough.”"

Scott called out, “Thank you brothers! It means a lot! We’ll update you and the latest Oozma news and happenings!” The Terri head chuckled while Terry rolled his eye, slightly amused. Then, Terry started to move off.

But as the twins went away, Terri’s side of the body kept pulling back toward Don and Scott. “Well, you have our phone number, bros, so call us when the fraternity starts, all right?” Terri called out as he was dragged away by his brother’s side of the body.

Scott waved at the two, and as they disappeared, Scott bent down on his little knees weary from the success of having a sustained conversation with two folks.

“I did it. You helped, but I actually did it.”

And perhaps it was the buried unknown paternal instinct in Don that compelled him to grab Scott, and rubbed his knuckles onto the top of Scott’s cap. “Yer done it, son of a gun! We got two, well, technically one body. But we only need one more to go!”

Chapter 9: The Ties and Art of Brotherhood

Although Scott’s uncanny stare had successfully acquired two recruits, Scott had unfortunately relied solely on that eye contact strategy until Don advised Scott to adjust to another communication strategy. Don’t force the smile, just talk and don’t think too hard, it’s all about instinct. Scott always nodded at the instructions and would (try to) carry them out. Don concluded that Scott wasn’t incapable of natural communication, but he lacked the spark to maintain a smooth consistency in communication that made him immediately socially relatable.

Since the recruitment of the Perry twins, Scott and Don had been switching locations over the next few days, from the path of the library, even in front of the Scaring School, and then finally, Don and Scott eventually agreed to try the Frat and Sorority Row where students often went to for various events. Looking at all the lush frat housings, made Don think that if had proposed Oozma Kappa sooner, they would have a spot here before Omega Howl came in. But they had Ms. Squibbles’s simple household and that was ok.

That Thursday morning, Scott was busy with a Final that day, and he had promised to come to the booth as soon as he was finished. So Don was left to wander around the O.K. booth for three hours looking for recruits. Next time, he should give away something like treats, or even balloons. Not the best idea, but it would be better than nothing.

Now when would Scott be done with that Final?

Then he spotted a familiar slender figure of two heads heading toward him. As the Perry twins marched up toward Don, both were perspiring in the sun and lugged a duffel bag. Terry clutched a water bottle and glugged down the last of the liquid then tossed his empty bottle at a public trash can, but missed.

Naturally, Don greeted them. “Why if it isn’t our future Oozmas, the Perrys! What brings you here?”

“I’m sorry, what is your name again?” Terri wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“It’s Don Carlton.”

“Mr. Carlton…”

“Oh please, call me Don.”

“… Scott ran into us this morning and told us you haven’t gotten any members since we signed up. So Scott asked us if we could help and since we’re done with our, well, my dancing final, we could help out.”

“We can’t chance on losing our housing benefit if O.K. starts too late into the next semester,” added Terry.

“Well, then! So nice of you to help out.”

Despite their exhaustion, the twins were more adept at approaching passerby than Scott. Terry’s lower voice blended in quite seamlessly with Terri’s more uppity voice. They applied an adequate use of hand gestures when calling out to students. They wouldn’t make bad salesmen themselves.

Then after several attempts, the Perrys just collapsed on their tentacles onto the edge of the pavement.

“Um, boys, are you up for this? You look quite tired.”

“That’s all right sir, we, um, I just had a dance final. I barely got an A- and Terry just followed my moves.”

Someone brushed by Don, and instinctively, he turned and came after the fella’, hoping to seize an opportune moment. Don strolled up to the purple melon-headed double-horned on his way somewhere. “Wanna join Oozma Kap-…” But then Don noticed the fellow already wore a crimson frat sweater “whoops, already a frat fella’, never mind sir. Have a nice day.”

The frat fella’ greeted Don’s comment with a smug smile, amused at the Oozmas, shaking his head at the Perry twins. Don could visibly see ROR embroidered on the back as he turned back, snickering to himself.

Monsters like these never phased Don much. Years of sales had brought him to encounter rather disdainful behavior from potential customers.

“Heh, just the Worthington fella’,” Terry seem to spat out these words. “He’s the recently elected President of Roar Omega Roar. Comes from a long line of great scarers. He’s the valedictorian of his high school. Saw his performance at his entrance Scaring entrance course. A favorite of Prof. Knight and a tough student.”

“Why, quite an accomplished fella’,” Don commented. But he had one little quibble he dared not mention out loud: if only the fella’s character were not so poor. “And I hope that in Oozma Kappa ya’ll work to become even more of the accomplished fella’s ya’ already are.”

Terry frowned. “Remind me, what’s the gimmick of Oozma Kappa?”

Tha’ they go again, that terminologies of the youth. “Gimmick? As Scott pointed out before, we welcome former Scare Students.”

Terry knew well that “former” served as a euphemism for “failed.” He was the sort of customer that never failed for the euphemism and was unafraid of pointing out the product’s shortcomings to the seller. “Mr. Carlton, that doesn’t sound very ‘accomplished’ to me. Mister, I really do hate to point it out, but frats and sorority thrive on having certain strengths. ROR is elite, PNK is athleticism. So this Scott guy came up with this?” As he droned on, Terri was gritting his teeth.

“Actually, I gave Scott the idea.”

“Ohhhh, if there’s any… constructive criticism,” he said as the good English major he was, “we need to play to strengths of Oozma. Yeah, we got the housing deal cause’ we’re desperate, but where’s the strength? It appears we are about… for lack of a better term, failure.”

At his brother’s bluntness, Terri buried his face in his hand.

Don gently refuted, “But failure ain’t da’ point, the point is to rise above that failure.”

“Mr. Carlton, but is this fraternity about the failure or finding consolation for failure? Because frankly, neither are attractive gimmicks.”

Don sustained his usual salesman smile. Yet, Don never expected to be so condescended down to by a young folk, especially by one who called him by the proper mister-surname. Was this how the boy spoke to his ‘fessors? But as the persevering Carlton hs father raised him as, Don forgave the fella’ whether or not he was worn out from physical activity or pent up frustrations.

Finally, Terri stated, “Terry, cut it out, stop pushing the guy.”

“Oh all right. But I can get keep getting pushed by you?”

“Look, I know you’re still stressed from the dance routine, and about last yea-…”

“Oh yeah, I’ve told you to forget it.”

“But you haven’t.”

“Maybe because I had to live that you were the one who messed up, you made that stumble as our faces slammed against the wood floor, even though I knew how to do it right. You screwed it up right in front of the class, the Worthington fella’, the Professor, and not to mention the Dean. And I took the rap too.”

Terri’s head sunk down. “Terry, stop, I just had horrible stage fright, it was one year ago. I thought you’ve forgiven me.”

Of course I have. But you’re right, I haven’t forgotten it. Now I have to go along with your dancing pursuits so you can make a good grade. And I have to stiffin’ up my body, ignore all my aches in my body, and learn your routine with ya, just so you can get your As in Dancing class. And all at the expense of our future in Scaring.”

The twins seemed to have forgotten the existence of Don and the Oozma task at hand and they simply remained seated. Terry was in a huff, and Terri looked upset, his lips wobbling, and both of them refused to face each other. Don did not dare approach them in caution that he could provoke their frustration and possibly irritate them into revoking their Oozma Kappa pledge.

Then, Don fancied he felt the huff of a breath on the back of his shirt. Oh, it must be Scott, always sneaking behi- waaiit, that wasn’t Scott. He flung back at the bizarre thing just a few inches away from him. There stood another monster, purple with stripes of lighter purple, with a slinky arch body with two small arms below the face and wide lips like putty and gapped teeth, all complimented by the idle pair of eyes that wandered off into space.

And there was Scott, standing next to the odd fellow. “I got someone!” Scott exclaimed, as excited as a young Scout who earned his patch. “Hey, you know how mom mentioned that there’s a fella’ who has been trying to climb the aviation school? It turns out mom told him about us and now he’s interested! And he’s an ex-Scare student himself.”

Don almost thought that Scott just happened to drag that fellow out of a hippie circle on campus.

At this chance, Don shook the fella’s hand, quite a relax hand that wobbled around. And he eagerly signed his name on the pledge sheet.

Even when the potential recruit made eye-contact, his eyes stared into space, almost hypnotized by the galaxies in Don’s eyes. “Hey,” it said in a scraggily voice. “This little dude’s mom says there’s housing. Months ago, I have been evicted from my dorm, and although sleeping in sewers can be exciting, I would like a roof over my head. Also, Greek Life might be rad for me. I tried getting Omega Howl’s attention sometimes, but I guess I’m too good for them.” That would be the third Omega Howl reject to join.

But Don felt uneasy upon the the fella’s candid admittance of his background. But ah well, Oozmas welcomed anybody.

Checking the signature, Don asked, “Just Art? You don’t happen to have a surname do you?”


“Is it short for Arthur?”

“Just Art!”

“Also, we need to register you up. You would hafta come with us right now.”

“Nope! Just Art! Opps, not a question. Yup, I’ll love me a first outing with my new bros!”

Scott jumped up and down. “We got four Don, can we go to the Greek Life office now?” Then Scott took notice of the recently-bickering twins. “Don, did something happen?” Without disclosing the full details of their aforementioned Scaring fiasco, Don whispered to Scott about the twin’s argument and requested to let the twins cool down before they could proceed.

But then the furry fella’ began approaching the twins as if they were a shiny musuem exhibition. Don wanted to signal the purple furry fella’ to give the twins their space. At the sight of a purple arch monster approaching them, the Perry twins nearly scurried back on the pavement.

The fella’ dangled out a green string that was twice the length of his arm. “My lucky string, use these to make friendship bracelets and you will relearn the meaning of brohood.” He flung the string at Terri. It fluttered idly in the wind as it hooked around Terri’s wrist.

The Perry twins shot Art an awkward look, questioning why this random guy, who passed out friendship bracelets, thought he could resolve their personal problems. So the twins resumed turning their heads away from each other. Then Terri’s hands began fiddling with the string as a little twitchy hand habit. Slowly his upper and lower hand began stretching it around as if he was attempting shapes. And then, Terry, still not facing his brother, reached for the string gradually. Terri did not protest. And soon, with the artistry of their hands and fingers movement, the string unraveled into diamonds within squares, squares within triangles, then triangles morphing into rectangles and then a star. With the careful essence of rehearsals and habits, their hands waved and flapped the string in unison.

Don whistled as Scott watched, mesmerized. Meanwhile, Art watched as if he prophecized the destined reconciliation.

Finally, Terri wrapped the string around his fingers, and the Perry’s stood up. Terry asked, “Well, sorry we took long. Please forgive the episode me and Terri had.” He laughed sheeplishly. “We’re done right?”

Don nodded. “Righty on Terry.” They now were joined by Art, their fourth member, Scott’s Oozma Kappa was ready to be legitimized.

“Another brother,” muttered Terry as he surveyed Art.

Terri affectionately punched Terry with the green string curled around his fingers. “Yes, another brother, Terry, but you’ll manage right?”

“Yeah, if I had put up with you for 19 years, I can manage with this one.”

“You bet you can!” exclaimed Art.

Oozma Kappa was ready for legitimization. “Well, come along boys, you all gotta’ git registered now!”

So as they packed up their posters and clipboard to head off to the Office of Greek Life, Don stated, “Now Scott, I hafta remind ya’ we haven’t picked out some team colors yet.” Then Don thought of Art’s friendship offering of the little green yarn. “I was a-thinking, green might suit us.”

“Oh! And gold would be nice to go with the green!” added Terri.

Green and gold it is, as Scott took note of that on the paperwork.

Don felt relieved that it was one less thing to deal with.

“You actually did it,” Claire Wheeler muttered as she double-checked the paperwork. She flipped through the pledge signatures, the color agreement, the housing agreements (with Ms. Squibbles’s signatures with little hearts dotting her 'i’s), and all down to the terms and guidelines agreed. Then the Oozma each individually completed their paperwork, though it took time for Claire to sort through Art’s background check. And finally, she stapled every paperwork together and scribbled the approval signature of the Greek Life President, accompanied by the Vice President Pearson’s.

Don turned to the boys. “Well, boys, there’s our first accomplishment together.”

Claire pressed her button on the phone and handed back the paperwork to Scott. “Well, I see the housing is in order, you are all qualified as an official frat. Now just take that to the Dean Hardscrabble. I’m giving her a call to her office to let you know that you are coming to see her.”

Scott clutched the paperwork to his chest like a security blanket. Having faced Hardscrabble before on the Scream stimulator have not improved his relations with her. Even Art wringed his hands with pity.

So Don put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Scott, why don’t I take it to her?”

Ch. 10: The Sorority Alumna’s Approval

[i]Perhaps it was Dean Hardscrabble’s nocturnal heritage that prompted her to keep her office in mininal light, that natural sunlight pouring from the window through the darkness. Or maybe it was to establish her credibility as a Scarer.

Don Carlton had the sudden intuition that Dean Hardscrabble was not fond of salesmen, because when he flipped out his business card out of simple habit, she responded, “Mr. Carlton, if you are engaged in your selling activities, I’ll have you know it’s a campus misdemeanor to sell non-campus-approved products.”

“My apologies.” And just when Don was about to stick his card back into his pocket, he spotted its “Oozmanian Industry” text. He reminded himself he would need to print out new cards without his now-former company name.

Dean Hardscrabble went on, “Well good day sir. I called you here to discuss your petition to be received back into the Program. Mr. Carlton, your record states that almost 30 years ago, you dropped-out of the Program and moved onto a Marketing major. The school’s rules have changed. Drop-outs are rarely accepted back in order to discourage students from easily putting off their commitments. You must answer me, why should you be among the few exceptions?”

“I considered that ole’ standards could apply to me now since I was a student in da’ 50s. And I willingly retook da’ pre-Scare application exam this year, and Ima willing to improve my Scare knowledge.”

“Mr. Carlton, many students make the same pledge shortly before breaking them.” And for a moment, Don swore that Dean Hardscrabble saw into the young 18 year old freshman, who trailed into the entrance Scaring Program, naive to the grueling work ahead of him.

Don leaned a few inches forward, rested his elbows on her desk, then laid his chin on his hands. Salesman’s technique. Leaning the right amount forward would command the listener to consider the speaker’s words.“Dean Harescrabble. I implore you to see if I have da’ spark of potential that ya’ always look for.”

He brows lifted slowly at this. She seemed to have figured Don’s calculated gesture. She respected that subtle endeavor.

She craned inches forward to scrutinize Don. The eyes of the instructor and the salesman met like a match, and they exchanged character studies as taught by their expertise’s training. The record-breaking Scarer and instructor inspected Don for a capable Scarer. Meanwhile, Don studied the headmistress like a new customer, inferring her preferences based on the mannertisms and demeanor. In her stone face, he gathered that the her taste tended to be narrow. Then Don knew that his task would be to do something that would allow the Dean to expand and open her judgments.

She delivered her verdict: “While you are not made of the conventional Scarer build, it would be unfair to deny that you do have the potential for the field. And while I do not recommend this for you as the best path for the job market, you do have the right to enroll this upcoming semester based on your recent written pre-Test score. We can make an exception for you.”

If Don was that young M.U. student he was, he would have celebrated this accomplishment. But not the current ole’ Don, who knew that the challenge was just about to start. “Many thanks. As yer new student for next semester, I give a hearty promise that I’ll be the finest surprise you’ll ever see.” A salesman’s pledge.

“I make very clear distinctions between surprises and exceptions. I’ll be overseeing your performance at the end of the semester.”[/i]

That salesman habit tingling again, Don whipped out his business card. “Don Carlton, former student of your Program, and it’s a pleasure meeting you again.”

Dean Hardscrabble’s disdain for salesmen had not changed since the last time she and Don met face-to-face. “Then I’ll remind you that non-campus-approved selling is not permitted here,” she answered as she glared at the SALES on the cards.

Apologizing, he withdrew his card.

“Mr. Carlton, if I may ask, is your back doing fine?” She meant it kindly, but Don still couldn’t shake off the uncomfortable memory.

“Dandy as ever.” Don extended the paperwork, which she peeled off from his suction cups. Even if he possessed the charisma in his younger days, he could never cajole an amused expression out of the Hardscrabble.

Skimming over the signatures and paperwork, Dean Hardscrabble bore a stare that pierced the smug expressions of the most prideful students. Her lips mouthed the names, Scott Squibbles, Terry & Terri Perry, and… Art (with a sigh). At some point of their lives, they all stood on a stimulator under Hardscrabble’s watchful eyes, reciting answers and demonstrating techniques.

As she continued reading, Don passed the time by studying Hardscrabble like a potential customer. But he found nothing new in her. Nothing flinched in her stern demeanor.

It won’t hurt to strike up a conversation.

“I wonder, Dean, if yer’re fond of them fraternities and sororities?”

She did not look up from the paper. “Oh, I was a former sorority girl.” She remarked with a hint of pride as she glanced at the wall.

Don also turned his head to the wall where he spied a picture. Abigail Hardscrabble, an Eta Hiss Hiss sister (now alumna) standing in the foreground of her sisters. The young Abigail had a straight mouth and dull eyes, donning trendy dark attire, almost like the Claire girl. So this is what happened before she ran the Scaring school. He had been so adjusted to Dean Hardscrabble’s authoritative presence that he had forgotten that she was once a University student. Don and Abigail were M.U. students that were generations apart, but they shared the same aspirations and a desire for belonging.

“May I ask how young Mr. Squibbles came up with this idea?”

“Actually, I suggested the idea to Scott, and he moved in on it, and next thing I knew, I was on it too.”

“Then may I ask you how did you come upon this idea of such a group, Mr. Carlton?”

So Don started, “Well, ma’am, with young men getting thrown out of yer Program, some are frightened out of their wits a-bout what to do next. Thought these boys… and me, might like a place that could encourage them as they find their new paths.” A raspy edge escaped his throat, as stifled as Scott’s attempts to choke back his sobs the day he stumbled down the Scare School steps.

The Founder of the Scare Games threw another glance at the Eta Hiss Hiss photo on the wall, then she looked to the Founding-Father-to-be of O.K. Her years as a Scaring examiner must have built up immunity to the pity stories of her many students. It was difficult to tell if there was sympathy or mockery in Hardscrabble’s stone face, but Don was certain he saw the pity in her face. Pity, you are just among the many respectable students who just weren’t fit to scare.

“Mr. Carlton, and please tell your members this, particularly to young Mr. Squibbles, do not stress yourself out over your setback with the Scare Program. I wish your fraternity the best.” With that, Abigail, the former sorority girl, scribbled her approval signature.

Departing from sorority alumna’s shadowy office and down what he was sure to be the final time he stepped down the the School of Scaring stairs, he wore not a salesman’s grin, but a grin made of a customer who made a wise purchase. Waiting for him, was the new brotherhood. As Don held the approved form the way he showed off his business card, Art slapped Scott a high-five and even Terry cracked a smile as Terri pumped his fists in the air with the green string twined around his fingers.

Constructive criticisms welcomed!

Oozma Kappa, Ms. Squibbles (c) Pixar
Dan, Pete, Andrew (who never make full-fledged appearances) (c) me[/i]

Chapter 11: Faces on the Cards

It was final Friday of the M.U. semester, and having finished his exams, Don sat all nice and snug in his apartment, enjoying an early Holiday card from former co-worker Andrew. Busy fella’. And speakin’ of other old friends, Don tried reaching them again. However, Pete and Andrew didn’t pick up, perhaps too occupied with business, so Don left them some Merry Holiday messages, while only Dan, again, had time to converse with ole’ Don.

“Daannn, I’m doin’ great! How are ya’? Say hullo to yer wife and tykes for me.”

“Got lil’ Janny sittin’ on mai knee right now.” Don could hear a toddler babbling through the speaker. “So how’s ev’erythang else? Passed all yer computer classes? Whatcha been doin’?”

“Settlin’ down for da’ Break and sellin’ some Exam books. Sold two Exam Books yesterday. Actually quite an accomplishment.” Not compared to the recent triumph of being accepted by an frat of M.U. youth.

“I recall you mentioning yer took Scarin’ the last time we called. What became of that?”

“Ah, as I told ya’ before, ne’ver worked out. Didn’t pass da’ Exam,”

A pause. “Oh yeah, sorry, ole’ brain just forgets sometimes.” Another pause. “Everything’s fine. Job’s fine. Itsa hassle at times but I least git some quality time with mai family.” Silence again. Appeared that Dan was pacing himself to reveal something.

“Doin’ anythang special for da’ Holidays?”

“Well, I do…” Dan’s signature salesman method involved holding clients in suspense. “…I got extra time to also give somethang else a try, an ole’ dream.”

“Now what could that be, Dan?”

A breath of anticipation. “Movies, Don.”

“Them movie pictures?”

“More precisely, scriptwritin’ for now. Even got myself a computer and printer to do so. Them typewriters don’t cut it.” Don had to envy Dan’s audacity in purchasing those durn machines. “Now I know Scarin’ weren’t workin’ for ya’, but when you said yer was tryin’ that out a week ago, tha’ gave me some inspiration to shoot for an ole’ dream. Thought it woulda be too late, but then I realized, really, that if I waited too long, now it would really be too late… Mighta sound like a mid-life crisis to mai wife, but I got some time as I watch the kids, so I thought, why not? Not much of a chance of gettin’ it greenlit in Hollywood or even as an independent movie, but it’s wortha shot.”

Though Don felt elated at the news of Dan’s new hobby, Don couldn’t help but doubt for Dan’s future in filmmaking, and Don sensed that Dan was not oblivious to his longshot, doubtful future in film-writing. “Dan, so what’s brilliant idea yer got for Hollywood?.”

“So far, it’s titled ‘Tracy and da’ Ghostlight.’ I know, it’s one of them B-movies premise, but itsa start, a workin’-progress.”

“I wish ya’ the greatest luck, Dan. Well, I bet ya’ one day, Dan, that you will become some big shot and when yer folks and friends ask ya’ ‘how,’ yer tell em’ it all started in…”

Dan finished the words, “Business School. Mai interest for movie-makin’ started way back, no, before M.U. Business school.” Then struck a pause, and the two former Oozmanian Industry employees and M.U. Business School alumni, shared a rush of empathetic inspiration.

“Ne’ver knew ya’ loved movies this much to wanna make em’.”

“Mai Janny is gettin’ fussy now, keep in touch.”

“Merry Holidays to you and yer family. Again, wishing ya’ the greatest luck.”

“You too. Take care ole’ Donny.”

Hanging up the phone, Don began tidying up his desk with his thoughts running. Dan had every right to be optimistic, but Dan would have to proceed with a cautious sense of reality. Maybe that was the perk of getting old. Less fear of failing, but at the same time, the wariness that success was a longshot.

Then the phone rang again and Don picked up. Maybe it was Pete or Andrew.

“Hey Don.”

“Oh hullo Scott! How’s ev’erythang?”

"Don, we’re holding our first Oozma meeting!

“Oh gosh! Now I have to be there for that. What are we discussing for the next semester?”

“We’re building a fort and defending ourselves from the impending war!”


“Ok, it’s not really an official Oozma meet, just a fun get-together. As the founder of Oozma Kappa, I’m saving real frat discussions for next semester. You have to come over for the fun!”

Not that Don looked down on youthful activities, but cushion fort-building was far from his interest. “Oh Scott, might be nice to join ya’. But I am quite busy with Holiday stuff to do. Like sellin’ mai apartment, packin’ up…”

“Then you can pack up and come over here for some fun- OH! Darn it Art! The battle hasn’t ev- sorry, Don, you could stop by. I mean, I had a lotta time to get to know Terry & Terri and Art and they would like to get to know you.”

“I tell ya’ what, Ima gonna drop off some stuff, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be there in time to catch yer fort-game.”

After scooping his desk supplies into a luggage, Don removed all his framed photos- of the late William Carlton, his parents, his Oozmanian Industry friends, and his Marketing diploma off and lined them along with the blanket in his luggage. Then lastly, he took his filing crate- made sure it contained its old Oozmanian records, phone numbers, and that eulogy of his late father, especially that eulogy.

The moment Don set foot in Squibbles’ household, he was greeted by the slap of a pillow. Stunned, he pulled the pillow off his face to notice the war zone before him: pillows, cushions, feathers scattered over the living room. The couch and chairs, turned over. Scott peeped his head over the couch.

“Woah! What a calamity!”

“Oh, sorry Don, I thought you were Art.”

“How’s everything. What yer been up to?”

“Visited my grandparents for a while last night, had a great time there and they are proud of me for starting a frat, and I can’t wait for mom to take me skiing.”

Suddenly, Terri’s head, a small pillow jabbed through his straight horn, emerged next to Scott. “Mr. Carlton!” Terri greeted, “It’s so great to see you! We were just resolving the latest battle and we’re going to make a truce and celebrate peace by going to the arcade.”

Then popped up Terry’s head, streaked with pillow feathers. “You know, I thought this would be lame and childish, and but it’s actually quite a thrill.”

Art, with a army hat secured around his arch-head, sprung up from behind a fallen armchair. “Good sir, you missed my tragic death. Promise me you’ll cry for me the next time I perish on the battlefield. And make sure they decorate me posthumously.”

Then Ms. Squibbles came flouncing in. “Now booooooooys! You don’t have to clean it now, but I would like to see the room cleaned by tonight before supper. You can clean it when you come back from the arcade!”

Terri chimed, “sure thing Ms. Squibb-” Then within a rapid seconds, Ms. Squibbles flung a pillow onto Terri’s eye before dashing off to the kitchen much to Terry’s amusement. “Good one, Ms. Squibbles!”

The young Oozmas stepped out of their war barriers and swept off the debris of feathers and pillows to ready themselves for the arcade. Don chortled at the antics then started upstairs with his luggage. Then Scott uttered, “Wait? Why don’t you join us, Don, for the arcade?”

“That’s all righty boys, besides, I’ll be busy unpackin’. Aside from that, I don’t know if I can afford fun at da’ arcade. Back in mai days, them games were a nickel apiece. But now they had skyrocketed into a quarter or two apiece.”

“Aw c’mon Don, today’s our first outing. Tomorrow, Terry and Terri will be packing up their dorm and be off home. And Art has to go to some retreat and you only just met him 24 hours ago. This is probably the only day of the Holiday where we could really be together and get to know each other until official move-in.” Scott’s eyes glimmered pleadingly, too innocent to comprehend an old fella’'s reservation about youth activities.

“I love ta’ but I got some unpackin’ to do.” There would be plenty of time next semester to familiarize with his fraternity.

Scott started off. “Aw, suit yourself, Don.” And the Oozmas left.

So Don stepped up into his bedroom and prepared his mattress. He unpacked the photos and picture frames and lined them on the walls and shelves. Finally, he hung his Marketing Bachelor above his new desk and wiped off the dust of the brass frame, only for his suckers to smudge the glass. Durn it. Ah well. And finally, he hauled his filing crate to the Squibbles’s basement. Before Don opened the basement door, he checked the door for blasting Heavy Metal. Quiet. Thank goodness. As he stepped down, he noticed the backside of a figure on the basement floor, on her knees, staring into a photo album. Don cleared his throat.

Ms. Squibbles sprung up. “Gave me a fright, Mister!”

“Whoops, sorry. Didn’t mean to scare ya’, Missus, only came lookin’ for a spot for mai files.”

“Just find yourself an empty spot on a shelf.” She put away her album and clamored upstairs humming a tune.

Chuckling at Ms. Squibbles’s endearing mannerisms, Don started to push his crate onto a shelf, but then something wedged between his files caught his eye. He pulled out the wedge to discover that it was an aged pack of Scare. trading cards. So he did still have those cards after all these years. He was about ten years old when he had showed this treasures off to his Pa’. Lookie at what I found at da’ dime store. He had flipped through the faces, from the Waternoose to the renowned Abigail Hardscrabble, and declare, these are the monsters I want to be when I’m older.

[i]Pa’ can I be a Scarer?

Sure, sonny! Don’t need mai permission to ask that. Honest work will git ya’ to yer dream.

You’ll be the first I’ll give mai own tradin’ card to when I’m a Scarer.[/i]

Don remembered the days when he would lie on his belly on the floor, shuffle the cards around, and imitate whatever famous face he came across. As he would creep around the floor and belt out his roars, Pa’ and Ma’ would praise his Scaring potential. He would practice on the field mice outside or even the two-headed pigeons.

Pa’ had said that he always believed in Don.

Then a slight pain flew across Don’s back. With a sigh, Don stuck the card pack back in the crate. Now, what was Ms. Squibbles’s causal diagnosis the other day when she fixed his back here in the basement? Oh yes, a case of stress knotting up his back.

Chapter 12: A Lull In the Conversation

To prevent another outbreak of back pain, Don lugged himself up to the living room, still a messy war zone since the last Oozma battle. To help out Ms. Squibbles, he hauled the turned-over couch back to its position. Then, he turned over the toppled blue-stripped armchair (that served as Art’s war shelter). The exertion amplified his back pain, so he collapsed himself right onto the armchair right when he brought it up. To bring his mind off the pain, he studied Ms. Squibbles’s furniture and decorations. Worn, yet well-cleaned, probably purchased from yard sales or even thrift stores. Ms. Squibbles had extravagant, yet somehow inexpensive taste. The faded marks on the fabric indicated that a lady’s deft hands and management preserved the furniture’s freshness.

Soon next semester, rowdy Oozmas would fill the empty seats around him, so Don resolved to enjoy this peace while it lasted. Yet, part of him regretted not joining the Oozmas to the arcade. And it wasn’t his former childish side that regretted it. Don had lost interest in arcades, but as Scott suggested, he had missed time with his new Oozma brothers. Still, Don figured maybe it was better that he didn’t join the boys, for it was not much use standing around watching the boys play games or possibly worry them with a back crack. Don would be like a father supervising grown college boys. Not a bad thing, but not much he could contribute to boys already capable of taking care of themselves.

But at least he could enjoy the quiet, though still very messy, living room. The silence evoked his countryside childhood days, when he would scurry up a tree then settle himself on a branch to just laze around. Refreshing. Nothing but the rustlin’ breeze. Like creeping up on a field mouse. And then he would hear Pa’ Carlton’s gruff voice from below, requesting him to finish his chores. Young Don would beg for a few moments more. And Pa’ Carlton would hesitate before relenting, sure, Donny, but don’t forget yer chores.

With pacing of Ms. Squibbles’s grandfather clock, Don fancied the ticking matched the heartbeats of his three Cephalopodian hearts. One tick. Two. Three. Four…

Ms. Squibbles emerged from the kitchen door and slipped Don a mug of cocoa. Four seconds of serenity until Ms. Squibbles’s intrusion.

“Oh, I see whatcha doin’, forcin’ me hospitality before I could politely refuse it. Well, don’t mind if I do!” He sipped the cocoa. Chocolaty and warm.

Ms. Squibbles settled down on the sofa near Don’s chair with her own mug. “Thought you might like a hot drink for the winter. And it’s my apology, I almost forgot, you’re the fella’ I almost whacked with a sign weeks ago.” Don reassured her that no harm was done.

She nodded, sipped her drink, and nothing more came from her. A lull had a way of creating awkwardness out of thin air. It must be one of her quieter, non-Heavy Metal days because she said nothing more, quite possibly attributed to the absence of her son. But she kept eyeing Don’s stare and must have anticipated a word from him. It should have been simple enough to ask something causal. Sustaining a lull was so unlike the energetic Ms. Squibbles or even the former full-time salesmonster.

Fixing his eyes on Ms. Squibbles’s, Don counted clock ticks between the silence… seventeen, eighteen, nineteen… Each tick nudged his salesman’s intuition to break the silence, for prolonged silence often made the customer insecure. Yet, even as the salesmonsters performed the subtle gestures of a conversation initiation, straight eye contact as Don advised Scott once during recruitment, the atmosphere of the Squibbles’s living room bound him to silence. Wordlessly, he placed his mug down, rested his chin on his fist and locked his eyes on hers. She lifted her brows at this, assuming that Don’s deliberate gesture precluded a response from him. Then she opened her mouth only for a breath to come out. Whatever she had to say got lost in the moment. Maybe that was the perks of relaxing. Or maybe it was the sugar of the cocoa. Savoring every little detail and fearing that noise would disturb this intimate atmosphere.

Then Ms. Squibbles broke into a snicker. Don counted thirty-two seconds that passed between the silence. Ms. Squibbles flushed, perhaps processing what just happened. To finally bury the awkwardness, Don struck up the conversation.

“May I tell ya’ what a lovely home you have here. How do ya’ manage?”

“Years of homekeeping. Years of homekeeping, Don. Ever since I got the house, I vowed every month to add a nice thing or two to it.” She sipped her drink. “So, tell me about yourself Don.”

“Grew up in the state of Monigan on the countryside. Then, moved to Montropolis for da’ city life and went to high school there. Ima formerly of Oozmanian Industry, downsized to part-time Exam books seller, and now a full-time M.U. student. And you?”

“You know me, M.U. nurse and a mom to my Scott. Grew up at Monstropolis. You worked at Oozmanian, eh? Sometimes I use their products. Bought their woolen stuff once.”

“Then I hope yer were treated as a valued customer.”

“Tell me Don, how did you get into sales?”

“Don’t know where to start. I say it started when I was in da’ M.U. Scarin’ School 30 years ago. A little major switch occurred there.”

“Scaring School? 30 years ago? Didn’t Scott mention you were a Scare student a week ago?”

“Of course, came back after Oozmanian Industry got downsized. Figured I could try an ole’ dream. Them academic advisers and Harescrabble’s standards wouldn’t stop me. But now I’m a Computer Science major cause that’s where the real opportunities lie.”

“Very rare to see a fella’s like you attend M.U.”

“I know, funny, bein’ in the same class with them young-ings.”

“Shouldn’t be too odd cause’ we were once them at some point. So I understand that you studied under Dean Hardscrabble?”

“Yup. Well, she’s the Dean and oversaw our performance. Prof. Knight did da’ teaching.”

“Oh yeah, almost forgot. That Hardscrabble had been Dean for quite some time.” She laughed. “How did you get into Scaring?”

“I wanted their confidence skill, the honor, the fun to it. Crazy dream, but it was possible. After all, in high school, I was the master of da’ silent scare.”

“What happened? Why didn’t Scaring work out?”

“I got older.” Don left out the part when he had reached that adolescence stage when his suction pads grew stickier and noisier, suckering away Don’s confidence in stealth. “At da’ time, I didn’t think it was right, but now I know Pa’ was right to push it outta of my life… at da’ time.”

[i]Pa’, I know mai grade-marks are lookin’ bad. But I’ll git better. I promise.

I been a-thinkin’. Some other options at M.U. would hafta do for ya’.

Pa’, I swear, if I just git an A next exam, I’ll can make up for everything.

Sonny, I hope this would be the last time you said this.

“I hunkered down to somethang safe and realistic. Pa’ showed me that maybe Scarin’ was too great for me. Couldna match up.”

Ms. Squibbles sighed, “Parents.”

“Now I do hear ya’, m’am. I thought my pa’ understood what I wanted out of my life. But he dit it for mai own good. So I took up a more ‘manageable’ major. And it was adios to Scaring and hello to Business School. But I tell ya’, Missus, it’s funny how da’ older ya’ git, the more ya’ start agreeing with yer parents.”

“Mmm, ehhh.” Ms. Squibbles’s hand swept over her cheek as if to brush off some stress. Seemed she had trouble agreeing with Don’s last statement.

“But I think I agree with mai pa’ now. I wasn’t going in the right direction so pa’ led me to a more realistic one. I coulda tried re-enrolling every year at da’ Scarin’ School but didn’t. And maybe mai recent failure is a sign that it was ne’ver for me. I’m clearly built for only Sales.” Don knew himself to be too much in love with the ideals of success to realize the required effort for that success. In love with the rewards and dream more than the work. Don had told himself that he would have to learn to love the work, but later realized that the work required so much pain and stress, and before it could all crumble down upon him and his self-esteem, Don walked another path until his dream dimmed into a faint glow of the past. And now this misdirection of his life brought him as far as into the world of computers.

“So now I’m just studyin’ da’ craft of Computers. Not honestly my liking’, but it would do. Now I know I’m makin’ this sound all depressing, and I may have spent a lot of my life away only to git a life-long regret and a fifty-second birthday, but it was never a bad life. Just took da’ realistic path. Just a regret. I’ll outgrow it soon enough.” As he always told himself.

She surveyed him with an empathetic look. “Would you say that you are on the right path now? Or on the wrong path?”

Don wished for a clear answer. “Now I honestly don’t know.” ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ neither described it. “I’ll outgrow mai regrets. What matters is that I had a nice life. I know I woulda gone back, but the Scaring responsibility was too much. Now I know that Scaring School IS for learning that responsibility, but I guess Scaring is too great for a humble fella’ like me.” But questions swarmed Don’s head. What if he had disregarded Pa’ Carlton and continued his Scare education? Would he have barely passed enough to survive and possibly improved his way into the Scaring Career? Would he have gained the strength to endure all the obstacles and requirements?

Ms. Squibbles rambled in response, “Oh I understand how grueling the classes are. It doesn’t help that there is so much material to cover. It involves precision, the analysis of the psychology of the human, and exploiting whatever mentality the child has, whether it has a fear of snakes, imaginary creatures, or miscellaneous fears, dodging the objects of the child’s bedroom due to its toxicity risks, knowing what objects can be ok to touch, or even deciding what object to risk touching, and then applying noise in order to build atmosphere, knowing the sort of noise you’re creating and being aware of the volume of each little noise and how one little noise can tip off your progress with the atmosphere building, which would involve a great deal of testing the feel of the floor carpet or, in some cases, the wall. Oh, and there’s mentally and visually measuring the shadows, darkness, and lighting with seconds in order to know where to hide and creep and how to play with those shadows for a scarier effect. And there’s keeping the Scare fresh so the child wouldn’t build an immunity to his/her assigned monster, or even sensing when the child has grown immune to your signature Scare so you could adjust to another technique, knowing when you don’t need a roar to produce a scream, and the diligence, and then the stealth, building the haunting atmosphere in the child’s bedroom, and listening and instinct skills for the possible lurking presence of the human parents, and even studying the parent’s mannerisms and habits within seconds when the chance comes so to know the patterns for the next scare, also, memorizing the door of your child, an exit plan in case danger happens, and being aware of all the physical exertion on the body when it comes to crouching and crawling. Oh, and then all coming down to the execution and presence. And all of this to be accomplished on-field within the estimated range of 2 and a half to 4 minutes for each door. Being that Scarin’ is a dangerous field, there is an understanding to why we must learn all that.”

Don gripped his mug so not to drop it. “Now yer woulda made one swell Scarer.”

With a laugh with an edge of uneasiness, Ms. Squibbles remarked, “I almost became one.”

Chapter 13: Reaping the Regrets

At that revelation about Ms. Squibbles, Don luckily swallowed his cocoa before he could spit it out.

“Missus, you studied Scarin’? Why, you are filled to the brim with surprises.”

Blinking at his flattery, she continued, “I attended M.U. when Hardscrabble was teaching, before she became Dean.”

“What became of your dream?”

“My dream? Not quite, my parents’ dreams, actually.”

“Pardon me for assuming.”

“It’s all right… after all, I suppose it was a dream. Sorta.” She sunk back. “Scaring, I had to tell myself I wanted it, even though my parents wanted it first. I mean, yes, great income and not to mention, I would’ve loved to be a face on a trading card. Who wouldn’t? The classes are fun. I aced those few semesters. It was when Hardscrabble started out as instructor before becoming the Dean I remember. Never met anyone stricter than my parents.”

“Now Missus, that’s a mighty fine accomplishment, impressing Harescrabble enough to survive a few semesters.”

“Oh I know, I could make fine Scarer… but my parents did most of the wanting for me. I convinced myself to want it, but I didn’t want it enough. I knew its benefits, but I also knew that I wanted other things more. On my senior year, I had made it so far, but far enough to realize it wasn’t my true dream. I guess you can say, I was better off an undeclared major rather than a Scaring major. I was still looking for that true dream. Then, I just started skipping classes until Hardscrabble personally asked me to leave.” She mentioned it like a causal matter, but Don could sense the unease behind her smile.

Another lull in the conversation. The clocked ticked. One tick. Two. Three… Don waited patiently, then figured she awaited a reply from him. Having been taught not to probe into deep personal matters to not risk customer’s emotional state, Don could start off a more comfortable topic for the conversation. But by her solemn smile, he detected that Ms. Squibbles wanted to continue speaking about the subject matter. So Don determined that he could proceed cautiously to a relevant question.

“Now how dit ya’ take that expulsion, missus?”

With a blend of fondness and remorse, she answered, “What else? By partying of course. I couldn’t find that one true dream because I liked too many things in life. And life was a non-stop party for me after that expulsion. I mean, when you got a Ma’ and Pa’ that narrowed and pushed your limits, you gotta have some fun.” Almost like a drunk venting party girl, she waved her mug. “Then a little accident happened during my party days with boys. And next thing I knew, I had a baby’s future to worry about.”

Don withheld a response.

With Scott mentioning no father and not a Mr. Squibbles around, Don had already inferred that Scott was either a product of asexual reproduction or just an absent biological father (the former Don thought more likely due to Scott’s resemblance to his mother), but Don wasn’t concerned with which was the case. So it really did not phase Don that Ms. Squibbles had Scott out of a legit-illegitimate birth. But the fact that it was barely a surprise did not lessen the awkwardness.

Ms. Squibbles seemed to have sensed Don’s odd observation for she implicitly acknowledged it in a forcibly lighthearted manner. “I know, right? You would think Scott would be one of those asexual reproduction babies. He’s a mini-me. But that wasn’t the case. Well I think it’s best he has nothing of his father’s looks. After all, his father is dead… beat.” She flushed brighter.

To mitigate the moment, Don threw out a compliment. “Now I’m ain’t a parent myself Missus, but I can tell ya’ yer done a mighty fine job bringing up your son, 'specially in them rough circumstances.”

Suddenly, glints shined below her eyes. “Don, I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done for him, building this little club where he could make friends.” She was diverting from the topic with something less relevant. Don had seen it in customers before, who went off-topic when a subject turned uncomfortable.

At Don’s reassuring look, she continued, “My parents raised Scott when he was young, not for me, but for him. Still, they refused to pay for my education after what happened at the Scaring School. I pulled out savings, loans, and did odd jobs for my education. I thought of maybe desperately petitioning back into the Scaring Program, but by then, the standards for returning have gotten stricter. So I took up Nursing studies at Northern Scales Community College because figured it would bring some income. When Scott was about ten, I finally moved out and could be a proper mother to him.”

She rested her head and added, her voice quivering, “You know, Scott recently visited my parents, last night, in fact. It’s a surprise to me that they weren’t angry at all at his fall-out with the Program. They actually been supportive of Scott. I still have to thank them for raising Scott while I was away at school and work.” She gulped down her drink. “I’m sorry, I ramble.”

“Don’t.” Don reassured her. “Ramble on.”

And the single mother, failed M.U. student, community college graduate employed at M.U., stared at the ceiling. “Regrets, they lead you places you don’t meant to be or even want to be. A big misdirection in life. When you can’t outgrow regrets, you have to build them into something more wonderful than you ever imagined, even more so than your old dreams. And my regrets grew into something, someone, to be proud of.”

If weren’t for the proximity and arrangement of their seating, the caution of not spilling cocoa, or their causal landlady-tenant relationship, Don, twice a Scare School failure, would have flung his arms around her, but it would not have done justice for his gratitude for her words.

So Don could only, half-playfully, clank his mug against Ms. Squibbles’s. “To misdirection.” He winked. “Yer ne’ver know what happiness yer find there.” And he swilled down the rest of his drink and awaited a response from her.

She was always wearing that smile, even as a tear or two escaped from one of her eyes.

Placing her cup on the table, she edged forward, set an elbow on the couch armrest, and rested her chin on her fist. She shifted so deliberately that it somehow occurred to Don that she was challenging him to another lull in the conversation. Withholding every question to why, Don reciprocate her smiling stare, discovering that their previous awkward long silence had transcended into a some little game. Not even the hourly chime of the clock broke off their eye locking. The clock ticks paced on… Twenty-three, Twenty-four…

Then, came chattering at the front door, causing Ms. Squibbles to utter, “Oh!” Forty-three seconds of silence. Gotta be a record, thought Don.

Ms. Squibbles answered the door to find the Oozmas, Scott, the Perrys, and Art on her porch. “Mom, it turns out the arcade closed very early. But we had a nice time anyway. Oh hey Don.”

Though glad to see the boys, Don remarked that it was a-bout time for him to go. Not minding his sticky suckers, Ms. Squibbles tugged at his arm. “You have to stay for dinner, the Oozmas are joining us.”

“Thank you, but I shouldna impose. It’s more than a pleasure talkin’ with ya’.” More than what words could articulate.

“It’s more than a pleasure having you Don. Stay a while longer.”

“Ms. Squibbles, you’re as sweet as a fresh batch of Mochi candy. So sweet, that I better git goin’ before ya’ hold mei hostage to ya’ hospitality again.”

Though Don wasn’t deaf to the Oozma’s additional pleading for him to stay, it was Ms. Squibbles’s pleading that nudged him the most. The moment Don pulled away, his suckers peeling off her hand, he wanted to take back the refusal to Ms. Squibbles and Oozmas but couldn’t. It felt like the day he dragged himself to the academic office and requested the major switch from Scaring to Marketing. With reluctance but not without reason.

As Don watched Oozmanian Industry pass by on his bus ride to Emeryville, Don quietly missed the Oozmas and Ms. Squibbles, probably chatting over dinner and maybe remarking, too bad Don-slash-Mr. Carlton missed out.

It was at the end of that long conversation that Don decided he was too weary to carry a nice dinner conversation with the boys or even Ms. Squibbles. This missus, who he hadn’t even known for two weeks and sneakily forced a mug of delicious cocoa in his hand (no doubt attributed to her Scaring training in stealth), somehow released out all the words he reserved to himself for three decades. And in turn, she had poured out her own personal experience toward the Scaring dream. She felt differently about the Scaring dream, yet her story was just as empathetic. Various thing - from academic difficulties to well-intended but questionable parental guidance to their self-esteem - had toyed with their limitations, and they continued to reap the regrets of their past.

As he prepared for bed that night, Don glanced at the walls of clear dust linings in ovals, circles, and squares of the recently removed picture frames. He missed those black-and-white photos of Papa and Mama Carlton, and his youth, photos of Oozmanian employees, and misc. And there was a large rectangular dust lining above his desk, reminding him that his Marketing Bachelor hung on the wall of someone else’s home.

Chapter 14: Initiation

At the start of the Holiday, practicality drove Don to have second thoughts about selling his apartment. So he contacted Ms. Squibbles once to clarify that he wouldn’t exactly be a permanent resident in her household. It was appropriate that his Emeryville apartment would serve as a holiday, summer, weekend home like the way on-campus resident students visited their home on weekends. The only difference was that Don would be coming home to loneliness, not family (with the exceptions of his occasional visits to Ma’ Carlton’s home, his childhood home, downtown Montropolis), on those weekends and holidays.

At least it would save him the work of printing new business cards. 1200 Dark Avenue, Emeryville was still his home.

Since Oozma Kappa kicked off as a M.U. fraternity, the Office of Greek Life sent him a catalog of fraternity items- mugs, T-shirts, jackets- to peruse. Having sent away Holiday cards to ex-Oozmanian Industry co-workers, Don figured Holiday cards wouldn’t do for the Oozmas, so he made up his mind to buy a grander holiday gift for the Oozmas. Don wished he could order some letter jackets, but they were insanely expensive and Don did not specialize on the monsters body size (the arch-like Art especially was a confusing case) and didn’t want to risk ordering the wrong sizes. Those jackets were a too much of a vanity item anyway.

So Don settled for ordering the paddles, requested them to be engraved with green OK initials and had them shipped to the Squibbles’s households. Whatever frats did with paddles, Don wasn’t sure, but if Scott could make battlefield weapons and forts out of his mother’s cushions, they would find a way.

Over the next half-a-month of a holiday, Don made a few fine accomplishments: sold 4 Exam Books and carry out some part-time shifts for some Holiday bonuses at a department store.

Filling his trunk, the final item Don packed among his old office shirts and textbooks was a small white package shipped from Kapan, containing a particular order that he used a part of his Holiday bonuses to purchase.

Don had neither seen nor contacted the boys for three weeks, which made him all the more glad when the final weekend of the Holiday, move-in day for the Oozmas, came around the corner. As Don dragged his trunk out of his apartment, he bade his apartment a meaningful farewell, despite knowing he would return there someday. When he passed Oozmanian Industry, it no longer served as a pitiful sight of the past because Don appreciated the present too much to feel down.

Stepping off the bus at M.U., he saw on-campus resident students hugging their parents goodbye. Whistling, Don strolled down the neighborhood to the Oozma Kappa house, thinking of the new semester ahead of him. Of Greek Life activities to try and Computer to conquer.

Before Don even reached halfway across the sidewalk to Ms. Squibbles’s house, she opened her front door and extended her hand to him. “Dooonnn, so nice to see you again.” She had that same glow of hospitality and gratitude in her eyes when he last saw her. It may had been weeks since their introspective conversation over a cup of cocoa, yet Don sensed that she wanted continue the chat from where they left off, when they were playing an odd but intimate silent game, before the Oozmas interrupted them.

Don reminded himself of the white package in his trunk.

“It’s lovely to see you, Missus.”

“Had a nice holiday, Don?”

“Yup.” He stepped in. Her living room was looking fresh as ever. “And you?”

“Yes. Scotty and I went skiiing.”

“Lovely, missus. Now where’s Scott? Have the other Oozmas arrived yet?”

“Actually, Scott and that Art fella’ are waiting for you in the basement.”

“That’s odd, I would think we would have the meetin’ in da’ living room.” Don set his trunk next to the stairs.

“Just go down to them.” Three of her eyes winked at him, which made Don wonder if the Oozmas had some sort of surprise and hoped it wasn’t a cushion war.

When Don entered the basement, the was darkness with a tint of limited lighting radiating from the center of the basement floor. Perplexed, Don felt for the light switch in the dark, flicked it-… caught a full glimpse of Scott and Art, both shrouded in cloaks.


“What?!” Apologizing profusely for his unknown transgression, Don flicked off the light and found himself lunging to the basement door, slamming it and immediately wondering why he didn’t bolt outside before shutting the door.

“Dooonn Carrrrlltton. Would you please step down? Cooommme to uss.” Scott commanded in a voice far from his his usual doltish timid voice.

Don couldn’t process what was going on, but he wanted to appease his Oozmas in spite of inexperienced knowledge of the world of the current youth. Don trudged down cautiously into the faintly lit room then saw the flashlight standing on the middle of the floor, shinning the light under the hooded faces of Scott and Art, both draped in black. The sight of the flashlight should have cheapened the atmosphere, but the angled lighting that partially shimmered in Art’s and Scott’s secluded faces spread something eerie (and confusing) in the Squibbles’s basement.

“Do you pledge your soul to the Oozma Kappa brotherhood?” Don could see that Scott clutched a paddle and a paper in one hand, and sometimes adjusting himself in the light to read the paper, and in the other hand, Scott held a book. Then, without warning, Scott lightly bopped Don’s shoulder with the paddle. So that’s what frat did with paddles. Whacking their brothers as a rite of passage.

“Dooon Caarllton, take the Scared Oath. Put your hand and swear to that Scared Oath.”

“Sccott? Ima sorre, but Ima not sure what the Oath i-…”

“Just swear to it.”

Playing along, Don laid his hand on the sacred book (even though he noticed it was a random copy of “Of Mice and Monsters” as a ceremonial prop).

“Scott, explain to me the purpose of this?”

Scott lowered his voice down to a whisper, and through his teeth, hissed “Doooooon, go with it.” Scott glanced at his paper again and raised his voice with every question. “Do you swear to keep secrets, all that you learned here, will you defend your brothers? No matter what the peril? In the face of unending pain and despair? From evils? From the face of death and despair? From the those that threaten to break us apart, tear us apart, ruin our friendship, ruin our family.” Scott struggled to escalate his voice. “Will you endure pain with us? Now murmur your sacred oath!” Although Scott’s voice fluctuated in volume, loud dwindling to soft then flew louder again, Don was at least satisfied at how Scott’s speaking technique had improved.

Don cringed. “Um, sure?”

“Yoooouuuu’rree IN!” Art bellowed, his grin baring his gaped teeth.

“Oh! Glad that’s over wi-” Don turned to Scott only to discover that he had vanished.

“Scott? Ack!” Scott had crept up behind Don, whipped out a dark cloak, and forced it into Don’s arms. “Mom made this hood just for you, so now we can welcome Terry and Terri.”

How Scott, or maybe Art, explained to Ms. Squibbles the need for dark hooded cloaks, Don was curious to know.

Don squeezed the cloak, the gauzy cloth rubbing the scaly skins of his hand, very pleasant material to feel but doubtful for wearing. Don nearly recoiled at it. He? Emulate that gosh-darn antic in this dark hood? They might as well were asking him to jump through a ring of fire. “Scott, this is… nice … creative and all… but explain how in tarnation did this idea get into your head?”

Scott pointed to Art, who threw off his hood to see eye-to-eye with Don. “Totally my idea Don, dude. Thought we could totally be like a cult! It did scared ya’ didn’t it?”

Before anyone could ask Art to elaborate on the origin of his cult-like idea, muffled voices came from the ceiling and the three Oozmas listened intently to the chirpy voice of Ms. Squibbles directing the Perry twins down the basement.

Art secured his hood back on. “Quick, places everyone!” Art and Scott rushed to Don’s side, and before Don could register what happened, he felt the burst of cloth squeezing through his head and the gauziness of the cloth ruffling his face, nearly knocking off his glasses, though at least Art’s grubby hands showed some decency to hold Don’s glasses in place as he yanked the cloth over his head, and Scott’s little hands straighten out the cloak like the way a mother swept off the dirt off a child’s clothing.

Scott shot out a quick whisper, “Pss, Don, why don’t you say something first? We all take turns saying something.”

The door creaked open and Terry called out, “Hello? Goodness it’s dar-…”


Scott and Art scurried to their positions. Don, now attired in the black cloak for the occasion, stood frozen in the spot.

“Say something Don.”

At first, Don stood dumbly as the twins descended down the steps, not sure if he should warn the twins to bolt out the door or welcome them Oozma-style. Don wished he could update himself to adjust to the times of the youth, such as when Oozmanian Industry pushed away older employees like him to welcome the more youthful employees.

Then he’d just have to act new and take part in this new thing as these young folks did. For his Oozma brothers. To be an Oozma brother.

Thinking of his methods when he wandered the M.U. campus for new recruits, Don steadily mumbled, “Pledge yerself to Oozm, ah-hem.” The tone of typical campus advertising didn’t fit this occasion. Then something was wedged into his hand, for Scott had sneaked his cheat sheet in Don’s hand. So Don, hoping the twins didn’t seen him flushing, pulled the paper up to skim over, then he crumbled it up, ready to memorize his lines like a salesmonsters who had to change his sales pitch at the last minute.

Clearing his throat, Don prepared to limit his homeland accent for ceremonial purposes, “Do you pledge your soul to the brotherhood?” He commanded in a deeper voice. The twins recoiled an inch away but didn’t dash off, shocked to see Mr. Carlton clad in black and withdrawing his accent.

As much as Don couldn’t comprehend the gosh-darn antic, with the Oozmas together, Art trembling with anticipation and Scott looking on at his new brothers, it was something. It was worth Terri’s speechless perplexity and Terry’s what-the-heck-we-got-into expression and the cheers of the Scott and Art as they knighted the shocked Perrys with the paddles.

I decided not to bother with posting the final two chapters here and just settle for posting a link to the final chapters.

I won’t lie, I am saddened that not many here on Pixarplanet seemed to have read it, but it was all in good fun and I am proud to finish my first fanfic.