[DEFEAT. is Rendar Frankenstein's truest attempt at fiction. Presented in weekly episodes, the novella tells the tale of Daryl Millar - a hero who dies at the intersection of pop culture, science-fiction, war epic, and fantasy]
Principal Clancy took a big, nasty slurp of coffee. The paper cup struggled to maintain itself, pushing against the vice grip of a fat, sweaty paw. The brown juice sleazed passed yellow teeth and fought against a burp on the way down. Naturally, the cup folded inwards as the liquid found its way into the educator’s gullet. In the process, a splash of coffee broke through a fissure and launched itself onto Principal Clancy’s jowls.
He didn’t even notice.
Sitting on the visitor’s side of Principal Clancy’s desk were Daryl and Gramps. Whereas the younger Millar had been in the office for about twenty minutes, the elder had just joined the party. “Sorry for the delay — I was at Bandini’s Café, reading the paper and eating breakfast when my son called me there. He told me that you’d asked him to come in, but since he can’t leave work and is too afraid of his wife to call her, looks like I’m here instead.”
Having hustled in, it was only after this introduction that Gramps noticed. The ripped shirt. The scratched face. The pleading look of You have to back me up on this one of his grandson. “What’s the deal, Clancy? Did something happen to Daryl?”
Principal Clancy put his hands behind his head and reclined. The chair screamed in protest, agonizing as it was pushed to its limits by the bulbous mass of human. In this position of faux-relaxation, Clancy haphazardly scratched at a wart on his third chin and addressed the pertinent issue. “Well, Mr. Millar, the simple answer is yes.”
“Well then, what is it? What happene-”
Clark was interrupted by the administrator, a man whose inflated belly was only challenged by his inflated sense of intellectual superiority. “However, as those of us with doctorates know, the simple answer is generally the wrong answer. But the truth, well, that is always to be found underneath a pile of complex, intricate circumstances.”
Disgusted, Gramps offered a counter-offensive. “Great. If simple answers are never correct, why would you even bother with it? Why waste the time? And aren’t you a principal? As an educator, shouldn’t you be able to explain complex ideas in easily understandable, simple terms?”
Daryl, still mute, looked to his grandfather and gave him a head nod to signal his appreciation. Once again, his father’s father was proving to be a man worthy of admiration, a guy who wouldn’t take shit from anyone. Especially not from someone who got fooled into spending ten years and hundreds of thousands of dollars chasing a piece of paper because it said Doctor of Philosophy.
Principal Clancy, on the other hand, didn’t share Daryl’s approbation. In fact, he was incensed to the point of temporary silence. All he could do was shake his head in disbelief, sending alternating dirty looks to Daryl and Gramps. Then, scooping the residual grinds from his coffee with his first two fingers and rubbing them into his gums, he continued.
“Mr. Millar, you are here because Daryl was engaged in fisticuffs this morning. Completely unprovoked, your grandson approached another student and then assaulted him. The negative consequences you may have noticed,” he pointed to Daryl’s shirt and face, “are a direct result of his instigation. In complete self-defense, the victim inadvertently scratched Daryl’s face and tore at his shirt.”
“That’s bullshit!” Daryl finally entered the conversation, unable to bite his tongue. Not unlike his friends the night before, the teen had been beaten down by a selection of all-stars from the football team. “I look like this because Brady Moore and his thugs kicked the shit out of me! They circled me, held me down, and just kept on stomping! If Coach didn’t come in, they’d have fucking killed me!”
“Now Daryl, I’ll forgive your language for the moment — but that’s not the story I heard!” The principal readjusted his left breast, as was often necessary, and then told his version. “The way it was explained to me, Brady was working out in the gym when you attacked him. Completely unprovoked, at that. Then, it took all of his friends to keep you off of him.”
Coming to his grandson’s assistance, Gramps chimed in. “Wait one second — that Brady Moore is a damn menace! Just last night, he put Riff and 8-Bit in the hospital! If my grandson did anything to that punk, he had it coming!”
Just as Principal Clancy was going to argue back, there was a knock at his door. “Come in!” he grunted, and the door swung open. In its place stood a figure, just about the same age as Gramps, holding a clipboard in his right hand and wearing gym gear on top of a thin layer of sweat. He was good looking, even in spite of the sturdy wrinkles that suggested a lifetime of cigarette smoking. His head was covered by a dense mat of blonde hair, decorated with streaks of grey at the temples.
From his position, he couldn’t see Daryl or Gramps and so he spoke to Principal Clancy in complete candor. “All right, Clancy, what the hell is it now? I’ve done enough running around this morning. What do you want?”
Clancy frantically waved his hands, as though to say Don’t come in now! to the newest guest. But the attractive older man walked in anyways and saw Daryl and Gramps within the first couple of steps. His annoyance quickly turned to concern. “Millar! How’re you holding up? Those cretins didn’t bust you up too bad, did they?”
Daryl shook his head, “Nah, I’m fine Coach. Thanks for helping me out back there.”
“Ah, no problem, son,” Coach affirmed through his slight southern twang. Then turning to Gramps, he apologized, “I’m sorry, where are my manners? My name’s Coach Major. Ryan Major, that is.” He switched the clipboard to his left hand, revealing his right to be slightly out-of-order. Nevertheless, he held it out to the man in front of him.
Gramps extended his own hand and received one of the firmest shakes he’d had in a long time. “Clark Millar, I’m Daryl’s grandfather. Pleasure to meet you.”
Sensing the formation of an alliance that could crush him, Principal Clancy intervened. “Ah well, this is all great. But Coach, I need to have a few private words with Mr. Millar and Daryl. So, if you wouldn’t mind…”
“Well, if it’s about this morning’s events, I would mind. Tell me you’re going to suspend Brady Moore.”
“Actually, no. I was just about to inform the Millars that Daryl is suspended for the rest of the school day. He can return to classes tomorrow.”
Ryan Major was disgusted by the injustice. “Damn it, Clancy, that’s ridiculous. I told you what I saw! Those kids were acting like damn savages! I told them to stop and they just kept on going! I had to pull each one off myself!”
From behind his desk, Clancy looked at his three opponents. “Listen here Major, you might have just the right connections to keep me from firing you. But the way I heard the story, Daryl Millar threw the first punch. He was the instigator. As such, he’s gone for the rest of the day.”
“Who’re you going to trust,” Coach Major raised his voice, “me or Brady Moore? The things you’ve let that little shit get away with…”
The administrator stood up from his chair. He opened a box on his desk and retrieved a Boston crÃ¨me donut. At the same time, he pulled out the ace in his sleeve. “Well, since you’re making me address this now, I will. Major, you’re a drunk. You show up to school half-blasted every other day. So if it comes to trusting you or the star quarterback of our football team — who happens to have a very important game tomorrow — well, then I’ll take my chances with the star.”
Ryan Major knew that he was beaten. He held his head low and turned to his newfound friend. “Clark…I’m sorry…It’s just that…well, anyways, I’m sorry…” he trailed off.
“It’s all right,” the elder Millar assured his sullen comrade. “Come on, Daryl, let’s get out of here. I know when there’s no hope of appealing to reason.”
As the trio made their way out of the office, Clark Millar turned around for one final statement. “You know, in my day we used to thank anyone daring enough to stand up to a tormentor. But these days cowardice and indulgence are rewarded, not bravery. Enjoy your donut.”
The door closed.
Principal Clancy finished his donut.
And then he wept.