The name plate on the desk read, “Bob Nowicki – Guidance Counselor.” Behind the desk sat a plump man with a pleasant face, one that could never be definitively called handsome or ugly, but somewhere in between. The worst, cheapest rug to ever work its way off the assembly line covered his bald head as if it were a diseased woodland creature that chose that very spot to keel over and die and then, the owner of said head decided to just leave it there.
He wore a lime green leisure suit with a pink polo shirt underneath. He smiled at Mitch as he reached into a bowl on his desk, unwrapped a candy, and popped it into his mouth.
“Hmm?” Mr. Nowicki asked as he nudged the bowl toward Mitch, offering up the sweets inside.
Mitch shook his head no.
“Mmm,” Mr. Nowicki replied as he pulled the candy bowl back.
Outside the office sat Evelyn, an older woman with a tall, bouffant hairdo. She was Mr. Nowicki’s personal secretary, and she busily clacked away on the keys to a typewriter. Every so often, the contraption would emit a ding sound.
“So, how goes the battle, sport?” Mr. Nowicki asked, rather loudly, almost as if he were putting on airs for his secretary.
“Oh, not so great, sir,” Mitch replied, just as loudly and half-heartedly. “I’ve been really lousing things up big time. When will I ever learn?”
Mr. Nowicki’s eyes traveled to the door, checking on Evelyn, then to the clock, checking on the time. 11:59 p.m.
“Well, you’d better start lifting yourself up by your boot straps and uh, screw your head on tight and swab your poop deck but good, son, because no one likes a loser, that’s for sure,” Mr. Nowicki said.
Mitch took a peak out the door. Evelyn pulled a piece of paper out of the typewriter, then placed a plastic cover over the keyboard. “I’ll do that sir.”
“Excellent,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Because the reefer sticks will ruin your life.”
“I know,” Mitch said. “Mr. Klugman was lecturing me on the need to abstain from reefer sticks just this morning.”
“Good,” Mr. Nowicki said. “The danger of reefer sticks just can’t be stressed on enough.”
Evelyn poked her head into the office, her coat in hand. “Knock, knock.”
“Hi Evelyn,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Everything ok? I was uh, just giving the boy here the business, making sure he gets off the reefer sticks.”
“I’m fine, Mr. N,” Evelyn said. “I think I’ll take my lunch now.”
“Good idea,” Mr. Nowicki said. “See you later.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“Oh, no, I’m fine, thank you,” Mr. Nowicki said. “The old ball and chain’s told me I’ve got to drop a few.”
Evelyn told her boss she’d be back soon, stepped out, but then popped her head back through the door to remind Mitch to stay off the reefer sticks, as if he hadn’t been issued enough reminders by the staff of Seacaucus High School anyway. Once the coast was clear, Mr. Nowicki pointed at the door, causing it to shut and lock itself. He then pointed at the window, which caused the blinds to fall down.
“Alright you little turd,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Stop crapping on my leg and telling me it’s chocolate sauce. You’re doing supernatural shit, aren’t you?”
“Maybe,” Mitch said. “Maybe not. What’s it to you, old man?”
“Boy oh boy,” Mr. Nowicki said. “If I had a nickel every time I saw a supernatural kid who thinks he’s the very first supernatural in history to ever think about gaming the system, I’d be a rich man.”
“Well,” Mitch said. “I’m not admitting to anything, but I don’t see any other supernaturals gaming the system, so…”
“They do, ok?” Mr. Nowicki said. “Supernatural crime syndicates. Underground gangs. You don’t want any part of it.”
“I’m not a supernatural gangster, Mr. N.”
“Well, what the hell are you up to?” Mr. Nowicki said. “Because when a smart supernatural kid’s grades take a nosedive toward the end of senior year, it can be only one thing.”
“Oh, here we go,” Mitch said.
“You’re breaking the Treaty of Stuttgart,” Mr. Nowicki said.
“So what if I am?” Mitch asked. “You just did.”
“What with the door and the window?” Mr. Nowicki asked. “That was just to save my back. My doctor says I need surgery to correct it but I’m trying to postpone it as long as I can. The wife’s been harping me on it to beat the band though but anyway. We’re here to talk about your problems, not mine.”
“I don’t have any problems,” Mitch said.
“Oh yeah,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Everything’s just hunky dory with you, isn’t it kid? Life’s just one big sugar plum car with candy cane wheels.”
“Something like that,” Mitch said.
“Look son,” Mr. Nowicki said. “No supernatural, and I mean no supernatural, can be in full, one-hundred percent, total compliance with the Treaty of Stuttgart all the time.”
Mitch appeared surprised to hear an adult say this. “Thank you. Finally, someone over thirty who makes some sense.”
“You want to get together with some of your little werewolf buddies, drive out to the country, and go on a little midnight run, blow off some steam?” Mr. Nowicki asked. “Be my guest. Go on. Get nuts. Get wild. Get crazy. Howl at the moon. Bite the heads off some chickens. Peek in a farmer’s window while he’s sleeping and freak him out so bad that he runs to the tabloids to tell his story, like anyone would believe it anyway. What you don’t do is, well, whatever the hell it is you’re doing right now.”
“What am I doing now?” Mitch asked.
“I don’t know,” Mr. Nowicki said. “You tell me.”
“Maybe I’m not doing anything bad,” Mitch said. “Maybe, for once in my stinking life, I’m doing something for me.”
“I don’t know what that could possibly be, Mitch,” Mr. Nowicki said. “All I know is you’re ruining your life, so whatever it is can’t possibly be worth it.”
“I’m not running my life.”
Mr. Nowicki popped on a pair of reading glasses and opened up a manilla file. “You are so. Son, Cal Tech was so impressed with your grades that they offered you a full, four-year scholarship. Go out to California, enjoy the sun and the surf and the pretty girls, all expenses paid.”
“I don’t care,” Mitch said.
The guidance counselor flashed the teenager an incredulous look. “You…don’t care? We’re talking about a free ride here and you pissed it away. Your grades were so good in the first semester of this year that you’ll be able to just barely pass with the minimal effort you’re putting in now but Mitch, I don’t think you realize that when Cal Tech gave you that scholarship, it was contingent on you finishing your time here at Seacaucus as the academic all-star you were always meant to be. They’re going to yank your funding. Do you understand?”
“I do,” Mitch said. “And I don’t care.”
Mr. Nowicki sputtered. “But…what the…ok, level with me. What is this about? A girl?”
Technically, it was about several, but Mitch answered,“No.”
“You seem too lucid to be on drugs.”
It was involved, but Mitch said, “No.”
“You’ve got it in your head that you’re better than all the humans because you’re a werewolf so you’re out there, running around, doing something all werewolfy, am I right?”
Mitch looked away. “I..uh…don’t…”
“That’s it,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Kid, let me tell you a little story about Monica Madsen.”
The teenager threw his head back as though he were about to be put through sheer agony.
“No,” Mr. Nowicki said. “I swear this story is on point. Monica was a student here in the early part of this decade. Excellent grades. Top notch athlete. Had a full ride waiting for her at any Ivy League school of her choosing. Come to think it, she was smarter than you, Mitch.”
“Then, last semester, she starts cutting class. Flunking everything. I bring her right into this very office, sat her down and got her to spill the beans. Turns out that she was pulling all-nighters, working on an incantation in her basement that would have allowed her to assume the identity of President Nixon.”
Mitch was intrigued. “What the?”
“Yes,” Mr. Nowicki said. “She was obsessed. Going on and on about how she was going to take control of the White House and threaten to launch a nuclear strike against Russia if the UN didn’t pay her a hefty ransom. Long story, short. We had a heart to heart over some candy, I got her to realize this was a dumb idea and she buckled down, finished the semester and now she’s a number one selling brand representative for Jenny Fairfield Cosmetics.”
“Whoa, sir,” Mitch said sarcastically. “That’s amazing. She could have been the leader of the free world and rich but now she sells lipstick instead. You should be like, the guidance counselor of the year.”
“Very funny,” Mr. Nowicki said. “She’s also happy married to a nice warlock and they have three adorable children. They send me a Christmas card every year. The point, son, is that just because you can do evil shit doesn’t mean you should do evil shit.”
“I’m not doing any evil shit,” Mitch said. “Monica Whatsherface should be in jail if you ask me. Not all use of supernatural powers are evil you know.”
“It’s a slippery slope,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Power can be very intoxicating. Once you start, it’s very difficult to stop.”
“It would be evil for a witch to impersonate the president,” Mitch said. “No argument there. But would it be that bad for a warlock to help himself out?”
“Oh, here we go,” Mr. Nowicki said.
“Maybe you could alakazam those extra pounds right off or abracadabra that rug into real hair,” Mitch said.
Mr. Nowicki reached up and adjusted his head carpet. “Sure son, if you want to take your frustrations out on me, I can take it.”
“Maybe you could hocus pocus yourself a raise or presto change-o yourself a hotter wife,” Mitch said.
The guidance counselor clutched the photo of a chubby woman that was sitting on his desk. “OK, now you leave Mrs. Nowicki out of this, young man!”
Mitch unzipped his backpack, fished around inside, and pulled out a copy of a magazine. He laid it down on the desk. The title read, “Ly-Can! A Magazine Dedicated to Being the Best Werewolf You Can Be.” Mr. Nowicki picked it up and flipped through the articles, which included:
The Ultimate Vacation Thrill Ride: Climbing Mt. Everest in Under an Hour
Getting Buff by Lifting Cars
Running Cross-Country: Literally
“I don’t like supernatural supremacy rags like this,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Every supernatural species has one. Witcherrific, Ogreat, Troll Trolley, Vamp Bite Beats. They’re all the same. All about how supernaturals are so much better than humans.”
“Aren’t we?” Mitch asked.
“I don’t like that kind of talk,” Mr. Nowicki said.
“You see that article called Wolf Out More and Live Longer?” Mr. Nowicki asked.
“Yes. What about it?”
“Mr. N,” Mitch said. “My old man is pushing fifty. He’s fat and bloated. He’s on blood pressure medication. He gets winded when he walks to the fridge. He’s already bought a ticket on the heart attack train it’s just a matter of time before his ticker punches it.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mr. Nowicki said. “I hope he’ll be OK but declining health is a part of life.”
“Does it have to be?” Mitch asked. “Ly-Can did a study that says that while in werewolf form, werewolves have bodies that put Greek gods to shame. All muscle. No fat. Perfect blood circulation. Low cholesterol. No joint pain. No hearing or vision loss. Hell, you can shoot anything but a silver bullet at a werewolf and the wound will heal right up. They don’t get tired. They don’t need to sleep.”
“I know enough werewolves to know that they get exhausted and drained when they turn back into humans after a night of werewolfing,” Mr. Nowicki said.
“But who’s to say that they ever have to turn back into humans?” Mitch asked. “My kind might be able to live indefinitely as werewolves.”
“Who the hell would want to walk around forever as werewolf?” Mr. Nowicki asked.
“That!” Mitch said. “Right there! Speciesism.”
“Pbbht,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Supernaturals can’t be speciesist against another supernaturals.”
“The hell they can’t,” Mitch said. “You just implied that werewolves are big and dumb and ugly and it would be better for them to die early as humans than live forever as werewolves.”
“I…uh…umm….ok, I suppose I did.”
Mr. Nowicki handed the magazine back to Mitch. The teen stowed it in his bag.
“We all have our biases I suppose,” Mr. Nowicki said. “I’d love for your dad and everyone in his predicament to live forever but I don’t know what kind of life that would be if everyone runs away because they’re scared of you. It’s not like a werewolf could go out shopping or have a nice night on the town without, oh, I don’t know, the National Guard showing up to shoot tanks at him.”
“And who’s fault is that?” Mitch asked.
“Archimedes,” Mr. Nowicki said.
“And is that fair that because one werewolf screwed up a thousand years ago, we all have to pay now?” Mitch said. “Because one werewolf slashed his way through Europe, my dad has to have his heart seize up so bad that he keels over at the breakfast table one day? That you can’t conjure yourself up some hair or a prettier wife or…”
“I like Mrs. Nowicki just the way she is.”
“OK,” Mitch said. “Bad example.
“Why don’t we take all the guns away from humans?” Mitch asked.
“What’s that now?”
“Guns,” Mitch said. “Humans use them to rob liquor stores and murder each other. They fight wars with them and terrorist hi-jack airplanes with them and sad people kill themselves with them. Why don’t we just take all the guns away from them?”
“I don’t know,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Because not every human uses guns for ill I suppose. Some just use them for hunting or for keeping their home safe.”
Mitch pointed at the guidance counselor and smiled.
“You’re nothing new Mitch,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Not every werewolf is going to start a second human vs. supernatural war just because they like to run around in wolf form. A witch can do some self-improvement without taking over the presidency. And I’ll be the first to say to you, albeit behind a closed door, that it’s a tragedy that ogres aren’t able to walk down the street just because a few of them, on occasion, have been known to pound humans flat with their clubs. But supernaturals opting out of using their powers to hide from humanity is the best kept secret the world has ever known and if you keep heading down the path you’re headed there’s three ways it will end up.”
“Those are?” Mitch asked.
“Tabloid fodder,” Mr. Nowicki said. “A punchline that no real newspaper was willing to believe.”
“That I can handle,” Mitch said.
“Dead,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Because a human didn’t understand you and was too scared of you to let you live.”
“Seems like the best way to stop that from happening would be for supernaturals to make themselves known en masse, but I’ve given up on adult supernaturals ever understanding that,” Mitch said.
“We did make ourselves known en masse once and supernaturals and humans went close to extinction, but I’ve given up on child supernturals ever understanding that,” Mr. Nowicki said. “The third and I’d argue worse way is dissected on a government operating table because, I hate to break it to you kid, but high-ranking humans know all about us and when one of us sticks their neck out, it will inevitably get chopped off.”
Mitch and Mr. Nowicki stared at each other blankly.
“I already knew about that,” Mitch said. “Ly-Can has printed some stern editorials against that sort of thing.”
“Sternly written editiorials are all well and good, son,” Mr. Nowicki said. “But at the end of the day, though I would like very much to to conjure myself up some hair, it just isn’t worth it to me to have a CIA probe shoved up my ass.”
More blank stares.
“I’m not saying it’s right that a CIA probe would get shoved up my ass just because I conjured myself up some hair,” Mr. Nowicki said. “Just as I’m not saying that it’s fair that humans would run for their lives if your father were to ever go grocery shopping in werewolf form but, such is the world we live in, kid. You can’t fight city hall and you can’t fight the Treaty of Stuttgart.”
The blank stares continued.
“I tried,” Mr. Nowicki said. “That’s all I can do. Go on. Go do whatever you’re going to do. You’re going to do it anyway. Find out I was right the hard way.”
“If it’s any consolation,” Mitch said. “I’ve always enjoyed our talks, Mr. N. You and the Frankenstein lunch lady are the only two staff members that supernatural kids feel like they can talk to around here.”
Mr. Nowicki shook his head. “That poor woman. She tries so hard to hide those bolts in her neck.”