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Guest art by Olivier Pichard
Episode 15: The Savage, Unforgiving History of Fake Moustache Day
Hana, James and Henri sat on the grass on the field beside the school’s track. James had just finished his energetic and exaggerated tale of holding Brussel captive, about how he had kept the green boy at bay with his bat while waiting for Daniel Druff to appear, and was surprised when Daniel Druff actually did, riding a slimy dandruff canoe into Brussel’s secret underground laboratory. Daniel Druff had congratulated James on saving the world, and then the ancient robot took Brussel far, far away, possibly to the same secret location where Scorlax was being imprisoned. At that point James had struck a pose and exited the sewer.
‘It’s a good thing there are people like you and me to save the world,’ he said to Hana, striking a seated pose.
‘I just wish there were more,’ Hana said.
‘Your sister helped, didn’t she?’ Henri asked.
‘Yeah, but I still don’t think she has any idea of what she actually accomplished,’ she said. ‘Not that it matters. It’s probably better that she’s not aware of all this craziness.’
‘I’m glad we’re aware of it, though,’ Henri said. ‘If we weren’t, then it wouldn’t be happening.’
‘I didn’t know you enjoyed it that much, Henri,’ Hana said.
‘I’m okay with it as long as it doesn’t interrupt anymore baseball games,’ he said.
‘And being kidnapped by lobsters?’
‘I didn’t even know I was kidnapped,’ he said. ‘I suppose it’s like your sister not knowing she had destroyed Brussel’s minions by watering the crabs. These things happen.’
Hana smiled this time.
‘I suppose so,’ she said. ‘I kind of wish I was the one congratulated by Daniel Druff. But this silence might be enough.’
The wind rustled the grass around them, and then James retold his tale.
As James re-enacted the sequence, Hana pulled off her shoes and then her socks. She wriggled her toes and pulled sock fluff from between them. Letting the soft material fall to the ground, she wondered what these last two summers would have been like if she had the ability to make things out of her sock fluff instead of her dandruff. She wondered if it would have been more or less disgusting for everyone involved.
‘I see you’re no longer a fan of shoes,’ Henri said to her.
James was describing the heroic glint of his aluminum bat at this point, not seeming to notice or care that nobody was paying attention to him.
‘I feel like stepping on some things,’ she said.
She then stood up, feeling the cool soil beneath the warm grass. She stepped onto the tarmac, hot like beach sand, until she could no longer take the pain, at which point she returned to the soothing band-aid of soil.
‘Is that fun?’ Henri asked.
‘Kinda,’ Hana said, stepping from one temperature to the other and back again.
‘And then Daniel Druff said “Thank you for saving the universe”,’ James said, and he swung his bat triumphantly.
They continued sitting, stepping, talking and listening, enjoying the quiet that only a lack of absurdity can bring. Then the absurd happened: Kohlrabi strolled up to them from across the track, wearing a set of clothes that did not quite suit him.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared. Hana froze with one foot firmly planted in the soil and the other heating atop the tarmac.
‘Hello, my fellows,’ Kohlrabi greeted them.
He pulled his hand out of his blue school uniform and offered it to the group for a friendly shake. James pushed it away with his bat.
‘Aren’t we above that by now?’ Kohlrabi asked, leaving the offer of his hand dangling in the air.
‘Are you kidding me?’ Hana asked. ‘Who did you beat up to get that uniform?’
‘Oh, nobody,’ Kohlrabi said. ‘Apparently my school was run over by a giant bear, so I was transferred. Here I am. Let’s start over again, shall we?’
Hana, James and Henri all looked at each other uncertainly. Then Hana shook his hand, followed by Henri, and James rather reluctantly offered the tip of his bat, which Kohlrabi shook happily.
‘It’s good to be on the winning side for a change,’ he said.
Kohlrabi once again introduced himself as a student of their school when he officially joined their class the next day. It was Fake Moustache Day at the school and Kohlrabi had prepared for it with a thin black moustache held under his nose. This also served as camouflage so that nobody would be able to recognise him as the boy who had crashed the most recent baseball game with a dandruff lizard.
‘It is a pleasure to have joined my rivals,’ Kohlrabi told the confused class in greeting. ‘I promise that this is not an inside job or sabotage attempt. I am here for real.’ He then added, in a whisper that was a bit too loud: ‘Until my school is rebuilt.’
The class clapped and then Kohlrabi took his seat by the coat racks.
‘An excellent speech and a fine moustache, Kohlrabi,’ the teacher said. ‘I have a friendly stack of homework that will help you get caught up.’
Hana turned to James, her moustache nearly falling off with the swift motion.
‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ she whispered to him.
‘He’s not Kappa or Brussel,’ James whispered back, his long moustache bouncing against his lips. ‘All he wanted to do was be better than you. I think we’ll be okay.’
The teacher coughed politely and then began his lengthy lesson on the savage, unforgiving history of Fake Moustache Day.
Fake Moustache Day was initiated as a tribute to the school’s original headmaster, who was known to wear a luxurious false moustache that he would comb into various styles, often putting more effort into it than in his actual job. One day his moustache was stolen as a prank, and so the headmaster held the entire school accountable, forcing every teacher with facial hair to shave and donate their moustaches in order to make a replacement for his lost whiskers. He would wear this moustache as he marched down the halls, his eyes piercing into every student, teacher and janitor he came across, never again trusting the school he once loved.
‘What happened to his original moustache?’ one of the students asked.
‘That’s a good question, my dear, and one not so easily answered,’ the teacher said. ‘Legend has it that a bird flew into the headmaster’s office while he was taking a nap at his desk, as headmasters are wont to do. The bird then snatched the moustache and wore it up, out and away, never to be spotted again.’
James raised his hand.
‘That’s not much of a legend,’ he said.
The teacher lifted his glasses at him, as if noticing him for the first time.
‘If you can come up with better, by all means do so,’ the teacher said. ‘You can add that to your stack of homework tonight. All of you.’
Everyone groaned except for three: James, because he saw it as a legitimate challenge; Henri, because he found homework satisfying, no matter how tedious it actually was; and Kohlrabi, because he more than likely had no intention of doing it.
Hana hit James with a pencil until the teacher kindly asked her to stop. Fearful that he would ask another question, Hana held down James’ arms for the remainder of class; when they got out for recess, James raised his arms and flailed them in the air.
‘He would’ve given us the extra homework anyway,’ he said defensively.
‘Probably,’ Hana admitted. ‘I just hope we won’t have to present our legends in front of the class.’
‘Really?’ asked James. ‘I’m looking forward to it.’
The next day they presented their legends in front of the class. Of Hana, James, Henri and Kohlrabi, Hana went first:
‘Um, okay,’ she said, straightening out her single sheet of paper. She nervously found the beginning of the first sentence with her finger and, after a few false starts, began reading: ‘“The legend of Fake Moustache Day is a very great legend for a very great day. There was once a student who was actually a giant moustache and one day he fell apart after sneezing. Everyone tried to put him back together again but it was a bit difficult finding all of the little hairs, because some of them landed under desks and back in the olden days people were too big to fit under desks. So instead of putting back all of the hairs they decided to make some new ones out of construction paper, and that was how they made the fake moustache student and Fake Moustache Day started when he died.”’
She looked nervously at the class and then at the teacher. The teacher gave her a slow clap.
‘You have passed,’ he told her. The rest of the class applauded.
After two girls presented a joint legend, Henri went up to the front. He coughed, closed his eyes and recited his fake legend from memory:
‘As we all know, early baseball players had large, thick moustaches to help protect their faces during a game. However, legend has it that there was once a pitcher whose baseball was so fast that it caught aflame as it shot towards the batter. The batter’s moustache would burn off instantaneously if the ball so much as neared it. This led to the creation of fake moustaches made of thicker, stronger material to help protect the faces of the players. From there they created helmets, and the rest, as they say, is baseball history.’
The teacher cleaned his glasses with a handkerchief and then put them back on.
‘Not bad,’ he declared, and the class applauded.
Kohlrabi went up next. He stood silently in front of the class for nearly a full minute before coughing, turning to the side and dashing towards an open window, which he leapt out of. The students watched on in surprise as he vanished into the nearby forest.
‘I’m not sure how I’ll be grading that one,’ the teacher said, and the class once again applauded.
A red-haired boy then went up and repeated the teacher’s legend, which netted him an automatic A. James followed after, holding onto a modest collection of stapled paper.
‘Mine is a bit longer than the others,’ he said to the teacher, holding up his papers as proof.
The teacher nodded and motioned for him to begin. James looked at Hana and did so.
‘“There was once a boy with a moustache on his face. He was very much ashamed of his moustache, even though we all know how cool moustaches are, and was often teased by other boys.
‘“The boy was a student here and is one of the reasons why this school is still standing today. He had a very unique power, and that power was to make things out of the hairs of his moustache, which always grew back after he plucked them.”’
After the initial shock wore off and Hana realised what – or rather who – James was talking about, she found herself blushing.
James continued: ‘“He could make lots of different things out of his moustache, from moustache hot dogs to other types of moustaches. But it was not until the monsters appeared that the boy could put his moustache power to real use. There were slimy crocodiles that smelled bad and big pheasants and even a flying trombone, all of them trying to destroy the school. But each time the boy made something out of his moustache hairs and the monsters were defeated.’”
James again looked at Hana and smiled as he listed off all of the various moustache weapons that the imaginary boy utilised in his imaginary encounters. Hana smiled back and tried not to laugh. She touched her hair and a single dandruff flake fluttered to the floor.
‘“Everyone realised how amazing his moustache was and no longer made fun of him.’”
Hana made a face at this line to let James know she thought it was cheesy, but James pressed on with many similar lines regardless of her face’s objections.
‘“And that’s why we have Fake Moustache Day,”’ he eventually concluded, ‘“and that’s the end of the story.""
Everyone stood up and applauded, even the teacher, and Hana could not help but feel that some of the applause was for her. When she saw that James was clapping as well, she knew she must have been at least somewhat right.
‘Was that okay?’ James asked the teacher after everyone had sat back down.
‘It was decent,’ the teacher said. ‘You get a B.’