Roots // Professorfic
0.1 // Chapter One
0.2 // Chapter Two
0.3 // Chapter Three
0.4 // Chapter Four
0.5 // Chapter Five
0.6 // Chapter Six
0.7 // Chapter Seven
0.8 // Chapter Eight
0.9 // Chapter Nine
1.0 // Chapter Ten
1.1 // Chapter Eleven
1.2 // Chapter Twelve
1.3 // Chapter Thirteen
1.4 // Chapter Fourteen
1.5 // Chapter Fifteen
1.6 // Chapter Sixteen | (2)
1.7 // Chapter Seventeen
1.8 // Chapter Eighteen
1.9 // Chapter Nineteen
2.0 // Chapter Twenty | (2)
2.1 // Chapter Twenty-One
2.2 // Chapter Twenty-Two
2.3 // Chapter Twenty-Three
2.4 // Chapter Twenty-Four
2.5 // Chapter Twenty-Five
2.6 // Chapter Twenty-Six
2.7 // Chapter Twenty-Seven
2.8 // Chapter Twenty-Eight
2.9 // Chapter Twenty-Nine
3.0 // Chapter Thirty
3.1 // Chapter Thirty-One
3.2 // Chapter Thirty-Two
3.3 // Chapter Thirty-Three | (2)
3.4 // Chapter Thirty-Four
3.5 // Chapter Thirty-Five
3.6 // Chapter Thirty-Six
3.7 // Chapter Thirty-Seven
3.8 // Chapter Thirty-Eight | (2)
3.9 // Chapter Thirty-Nine | (2)
4.0 // Chapter Forty | (2)
4.1 // Chapter Forty-One (Coming soon)
Hey everyone. This is a little idea I had a while ago, and I think it needs a certain introduction before we begin.
As the title says, this is a Professorfic. Specifically, it's about the childhood of Professor Rowan, and how he grew up to be the person he is today. The games/canon gave absolutely no information about this whatsoever, so I had a lot of creative room to work with. The result was, for better or worse, the thread you see today.
Rating: PG-13 for swearing. That's pretty much it, but if there's ever an exception, I'll let you know.
Chapter sequence: I label each chapter as a decimal, so whatever number it is, just imagine the decimal point moving one place to the left. Chapter 1 is written as Chapter 0.1, Chapter 2 is Chapter 0.2, and so on. This means that Chapter 10 will be Chapter 1.0. (Chapter 0.5 is not half a chapter!)
A NOTE ON CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY //
This story is set in 1963, so there will be some obvious differences between it and a story set in today's world. Obviously, people in 1963 didn't have all the super-cool gadgetry we (and therefore, the trainers in the games) have today, but I think that makes the story all the more interesting.
About songs. I don't like to put much music in the writing in general, but some chapters are the exception. What you have to know is that I do take some liberties pertaining to release dates. The story is set in 1963, but a lot of awesome songs were released after that, and I think they set the mood perfectly for some scenes, so I use them. When I do, I'll make sure to put the real release date in an author's note, for those who are interested.
The essence of this fic is based on the games, especially certain characters and situations within them. It's supposed to be a story of how the young Rowan grew up to be a professor, but really, it's much more. I will sometimes stray from the common geography of Sinnoh and its towns for the sake of the story, so if you notice a particular thing that doesn't seem to be in its correct place, rest assured, because everything is 100% intentional.
Spoiler:- PM List (Post here or PM me if you want to be added)::
And here... we... go!
For the people of Sinnoh, summer 1963 was the peak of the year. Temperatures soared well into the 90s, sending half of the country’s inhabitants indoors, and the other half outside. Newspapers and televisions broadcasted the heat of the Space Race, an ongoing competition between them and the Hoenn region, which raised both passion and controversy worldwide. Citizens marveled at the newly-refined pokéball, which was booming in sales, both for trainers and for average people. It was, at the first glance, a summer like any other. But it would also be the one to change Sinnoh forever.
May 17th began like any other day for Jubilife — a city that, even then, was already a teeming metropolis. Its jagged skyline basked under the full glare of the Southern sun, cutting a striking silhouette that dominated the lowlands around it. Cars cruised along the network of streets, flashing sleek, bulky frames and vibrant colors. People strolled at leisurely paces, dressed in the colorful, casual style that had taken hold of the new generation.
Deep in the downtown area, at the edge of a busy intersection, stood a small newsstand, one of many that dotted the city. A crowd larger than the usual size was gathered around it, waving copies of Sinnoh Post in the air, their voices a chorus of anger and awe. The rows of baskets arranged around the stand were rapidly being depleted as hands grabbed for the issues, unfurling them to reveal the same cover image — a round, gray sphere dotted with craters, beneath the title: “Hoenn Spacecraft Captures the Moon.” The picture dominated the whole side of the street, fanned out in front of readers’ heads, and held aloft in the air by dozens of debaters who carried on heated arguments.
Near the baskets stood the scattered remnants of a line, a group of people who were impatient to learn what all the fuss was about. One lady who managed to push her way to the front reached into one of the baskets and grabbed the last issue that remained. She unfolded it and gasped as she read the front cover. “Well I’ll be. They’ve done it again!”
“What is it?” asked a man behind her. The lady shook her hand in dismay and handed him the issue.
“Looks like they’ve stepped up their game,” she said.
The man opened up to the cover story and scanned the text. His face soon fell into the same expression of betrayal that was reflected all around him. “That blasted Hoenn… always one step ahead of us.” He placed the issue back without buying it.
“Don’t worry!” piped up a young boy beside them. “We’ll beat ‘em! Pictures of the moon, that’s nothing! We’ll put a man on there one day!”
There was a chorus of cheers and applause at this. A portion of the crowd left with copies of the newspaper in hand, and newcomers began to arrive in their place. By the end of the day, everyone would know.
In another part of town, well beyond the hubbub of the city center, was a quiet suburban area, the likes of which were cropping up around most major Sinnoh cities. It surrounded the downtown in a ring, a miniskirt of flowery nature and planned development, where life moved at a relaxed, efficient pace.
This was the home of the only middle school in West Jubilife — a collection of brick buildings whose design dated back to the '40s, and whose subsequent renovations through the years gave it a worn, semi-modern look. An ancient bell was suspended above the main office, a relic of rusty metal, its glint dull in the sun's glare. The students and faculty were all indoors, leaving the school's grassy yards empty and quiet. For the most part, at least.
In a far-flung corner of one of the playgrounds, a hedge rustled. There was another moment of stillness, then the motion repeated, this time dislodging several leaves from the already-thinning crown. Tufts of dark fur shifted beneath the leaves. Moments later, a head poked out of a gap between the branches, revealing the face of a Stunky.
His purple and beige coloring blended well with the patterns of light and shade, though his presence was given away by the tiny bush, which shook even from the smallest of motions and scraped dryly against the wall beside it. Every time he heard the noise, his ears perked, then flattened again. Black eyes darted back and forth across the landscape, as if diligently searching for something in the depths of the playground.
For a few minutes, the only sound was the creak of swings rocking with the wind.
Then, a single cry sliced through the silence.
"THERE IT IS! GET IT, GET IT!"
Something large and metal hit the ground with a clang, missing the Stunky's body by inches. In a snap, the pokémon sprang out of the hedge and sprinted off as fast as he could, clawing across grass and gravel. The pounding of footsteps behind him shook the ground, drowning out the quivers of his heart. After a frenzied search, his eyes locked on a target — a garbage can that stood against a wall. When he reached it at last, the Stunky skid to a halt and made to turn behind it. But there was already someone waiting there.
A pair of hands shot out and grabbed the pokémon by the tail, locking around it in an iron grip. Before he could react, a strange force lifted his legs from the ground, breaking his contact with the tangible world and casting him off into empty air. He clawed and kicked in an attempt to pull himself back, but the world seemed to spin and tilt of its own accord, and somewhere in the muddled blur he could see the ground receding, the clumps of dirt growing smaller and smaller…
Michael Rowan stood up slowly. His smile was wide, and there was a mischievous gleam in his blue eyes. He hoisted the Stunky up into the air like a fresh kill, ignoring its squeals and flails.
From the other side of the playground, two other boys ran to catch up with him. The first was blond and bespectacled. The second was a bit taller, and carried a large net. Upon seeing the squirming Stunky, he let it drop to the ground.
"Man... how did you catch that thing?" he panted, wiping a film of sweat from his forehead.
"Yeah, that must have been, like, seventy miles per hour!" said the first boy.
Michael gave a shrug. "Stunkies are stupid. They can run fast and everything, but all you have to do is scare them a couple times, and they'll corner themselves." He lowered the pokémon to the side, still taking care to hold it away from his body, and dusted off his shirt. "Well that was a good use of eleven minutes. It was nice hunting with you today. Cory. Brendan."
The boys all shook hands, nodding at each other like military officials. Their arms were covered with dirt, leaves, and bruises, earned from many months of outdoor adventures. Steering clear of the buildings' windows, they began to stroll around the yard, watching the Stunky hang from Michael's outstretched arm and claw at the empty air. Whenever one of the boys leaned in too close, the Stunky would lash out at him, making all three of them jump back.
"Looks like we got a feisty one," the blond boy, Cory, remarked.
Brendan lowered his head so that his eyes were level with the pokémon's. "He looks hungry. I bet if we let him loose in the cafeteria he'd clear all the tables like a lawnmower!" He extended his index finger and brought it to the Stunky's face. "Here, Stunky, Stunky…"
The Stunky began to growl, and just as Brendan was about to touch its nose, a cage of glinting teeth snapped at his finger, making him pull back at once. But paradoxically, this intrigued the boys all the more, and they stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to form a triangle around it. After surveying the upside-down Stunky from various angles, Cory reached from behind to poke one of its ears. He had hardly made contact for a second before the Stunky jerked its head up to face him.
Cory withdrew his hand in a flash. "Whoa!"
Brendan snickered. "Ha, you got scared!"
Cory, who had hidden his finger behind his other palm in reflex, lowered his arms with a scowl. "Shut up! You try it, if you're so smart."
Brendan brought his finger close to the Stunky's head and wavered with it in the air, trying to find the right moment to strike.
Observing his friends' antics, Michael smiled. "See, I told you this would be better than history!"
Cory nodded. "Yeah, I'm sick of learning about this stupid country. It's always the same crap every year about progress and cooperation, then they spend the last four months lecturing us about the modern government. Why should I care what some random people did a thousand years ago if I wasn't even there?"
"Yeah," Brendan agreed. "Mr. Caesar's a total dipstick. He doesn't even know what he's talking about, all he does is give us work."
"He's a talking textbook," Michael said. "He's been parroting everything the authors said this whole chapter." He narrowed his eyes, scanning the colony of box-like buildings around them. "He probably hasn't even noticed we're gone yet. He's still busy picking through his lunch. And those summaries will probably take everyone at least another fifteen minutes to finish."
Brendan made a face. "Man, I'm sick of those. He sent me another letter a couple days ago just for missing three of them. I had to get up early to take it from the mailbox, because my parents said if they get another one, they'll send me to summer school."
Michael snorted. "I say we egg his house on the first day of break. One for every letter. That should brighten him up a bit."
Cory laughed. "That would be so cool! I heard another group of kids was gonna do the same for Mrs. Stanton. And they were gonna spray paint her car."
"We should so do that," Michael said. "And it's not like we'll get in trouble either, 'cause no one can give detentions over summer."
The boys' smiles slowly subsided, and as one, their gazes fell on the Stunky. The pokémon was rocking listlessly like a pendulum, probably realizing the futility of its position. After a brief silence, Cory tilted his head.
"So what're we gonna do with him?"
"We should bring him to lunch tomorrow," said Brendan. "Or no — how about on the last day of school? It would be the best prank ever!"
"But then we'll need a place to keep him."
Brendan paused. "We could tie him to a pole."
"Yeah, and who's gonna guard him? Some kiss-up will set him free."
"Not if we put him somewhere hidden. We could use one of those storage sheds by the basketball courts, and spray everything with musk so no one will come near it."
Michael nodded. "That should be pretty easy. I bet we just have to scare him into doing it." He looked down at the motionless Stunky. "Come on ugly! Is that all you've got?"
"Shake him a little," Brendan suggested.
Michael bit his lip and shook the pokémon from side to side. When nothing happened, he shook it harder, until the Stunky's torso became a blur. Right then, there was a loud squirting sound, and a dim green gas shot out to engulf the three boys' heads. It billowed around them like car exhaust, making them double over in spasms of coughing. The smell reminded Michael of rotten eggs, and nearly made him drop the Stunky in an attempt to cover his face.
"Eugh! It smells worse than my socks!" Brendan wheezed. He stumbled away from the cloud, fanning the air with his hand.
Cory looked down at his shirt, which had been white before, but was now coated with a greenish-brown film. He tried to brush it off, but the particles were embedded in the fabric. "Man! Isn't this smell supposed to last for days or something?"
"Weeks, actually," Michael corrected, his nose buried under his shirt collar. As the gas cloud cleared around them, he moved the Stunky as far from his face as possible, keeping steady against its squirms.
Cory grimaced. "Well that was stupid. Now if they find him, they're gonna know it's us!"
"Hang on. I think my mom knows how to get this stuff off," said Brendan. "I'll just tell her it was an accident and she'll clean all three of us."
"I guess that works." Cory crossed his arms, and as he watched the Stunky flail around, he smiled. "Now that it already sprayed us, though, we might as well have some fun with it. Let's dunk its head in the toilet next!"
Brendan grinned. "Then we'll bring it to lunch!"
Michael smiled as he thought this over, but as he looked at the Stunky some more, he shook his head. "Nah, we gotta be more creative. The cafeteria's too big, and he might get too scared to make a mess of it. Why don't we bring him home and use him for experiments?"
"Hah, yeah! We'll be like those badass scientists in the newspaper," Cory said. "We'll do surgery on him and try to clone him and stuff!"
Brendan clapped his hands together. "And after we've fixed him up a bit, we can train him so he'll do whatever we tell him! Forget the cafeteria — next year we can make him mess with the whole school! He'll be a Super Stunky. We'll have loads of time over break to plan everything out and get our supplies together. All we need is a cage."
"Good idea!" Michael beamed. "We'll go to the hardware store and get us a cage." He brought the Stunky close to his face and gave it a playful rattle. "Did you hear that, little fella? You're coming home with us."
The Stunky shivered.
A shrill voice pierced the air like a dagger, and instantly, all three heads turned in the direction of the sound. Through his still-smarting eyes, Michael saw a woman exit one of the buildings. Her lips were slightly parted, and she was descending the stairs as fast as her two-inch heels would allow.
Cory turned back, his eyes wide. "Teacher!"
Michael groaned. "Shit! We have to get out of here!"
"Are you kidding? We'll be in even more trouble!" Brendan said.
"That's if we get caught, now let's go!" With the Stunky in hand, Michael turned and sprinted away.
He was a pretty decent runner for his age, able to outrun nearly every boy in his class. The only person who was faster had been his older brother, Richard. They'd always be having races, before he left.
Michael's eyes remained fixed on the fence as he ran, narrowing on a row of trees. Beyond them was the open street, a direct path into the city that bypassed all the school's protective zones. He had discovered it two years ago, and it never failed him.
"GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!" the woman shrieked, but her voice quickly faded into the distance.
"Fat chance," Michael whispered to himself.
He neared the fence in a few second's time. With a grunt, he hoisted himself up, using the diamond-shaped gaps as handholds, and with the Stunky still in hand, pushed himself over the edge. Cory and Brendan followed suit, crashing down beside him. When they had all landed safely, Michael jumped to his feet.
"Now RUN!" He tightened his grip on the Stunky's tail and, without a second thought, sped off towards freedom.
Three days later, Michael sat in a quiet classroom, his eyes cast downward. The desk's surface was blackened from years of carving, which he idly traced with his fingers, following the messy patterns that past students had left. His mother, Patricia, sat beside him. Her back was stiff and her hands were folded in her lap, her classical business posture. To his left, a large window gave a glimpse of a happy outside world. Michael yearned with all his heart to be there, but it seemed that the authority figures had other plans.
Mrs. Maxwell's desk was a little island at the head of the classroom. Unlike everything else in the room, her things weren't dirty or worn-down. All her papers were in their proper places, and she even had separate folders for each period, which she replaced every new year when the old ones had fulfilled their purpose. She never ate in class, so there were no lingering odors around her desk.
Mrs. Maxwell had greeted them in her usual calm mood, though she still looked a little crabby after the chase. Michael watched her scribble something onto a piece of paper for a minute, then slam the pencil back into the holder. When she rose from her seat, her chair rolled off towards the wall.
"Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. And for someone of his intelligence!" She planted herself on a wooden stool that stood before her desk, facing them both.
"What did he do this time, Barbara?" Patricia asked, more tired than angry. She was fidgeting with the gold chain around her neck. After all the times Michael had been called in, the two women had become so familiar that they addressed each other by their first names.
"I caught Michael skipping class on Tuesday with two other boys. I went to look for them, and I found them in the playground, harassing a wild Stunky." Mrs. Maxwell fixed her gaze on Michael, who made a valiant effort not to look back. After bolting from school that previous day, neither he nor his friends had heard anything about their misconduct. Yet, when they walked into their first-period class, all three found a notice waiting on their desk, informing them that they were called in for a conference sometime during the week. Brendan and Cory were able to get theirs over with on Wednesday and Thursday, and wash the smell off of themselves and their clothes. As usual, Michael was the only one left waiting.
Upon hearing Mrs. Maxwell's words, Patricia let out a sad sigh. For a moment, Michael wondered if she was about to cry. And as much as he hated to admit it, it scared him a little. His mother wasn't the crying type. But then again, there were still a lot of things he didn't know about her.
"I don't like to deal with these things, Patricia," Mrs. Maxwell continued. "The first time, well okay, maybe he just didn't know his place. The second time, well, I'll have him clean the desks after class. I can even excuse a third for a kid like him, but this is simply intolerable. We've tried every single punishment under the sun — cleaning, writing lines, but nothing seems to be getting to him. I read the rules to my classes on the first day of every year. I always tell them that after they've caused enough trouble, the next step is suspension. So, it hurts me to say this, but I will have to suspend your son for the remainder of the school year."
She paused to let the words sink in. Michael puffed out his cheeks, waiting to be overcome by some sort of emotional response. But the truth was, he didn't feel anything. The word 'suspension' had lost meaning to him a while ago. And besides, it was only one week. What could be so unfathomably important that he simply had to be at school to see it? The last days consisted of nothing but free periods, since teachers were all busy with their grade books and assignment records. They couldn't assign any more work either, since it would only add to the things they themselves had to do. So what else was there to miss? A party?
Michael stole a sideways glance at his mother, readying himself for tears or an angry glare, but saw her to be perfectly calm. She was staring ahead with a pensive expression, her chin resting in her hands.
"It's not your fault, Patricia," Mrs. Maxwell was quick to say.
Michael grumbled. The only thing he hated more than conferences was the invisible rule that everyone there seemed to adhere to — it is always the student's fault.
Meanwhile, Patricia had begun to shake her head slowly, as if she was just as confused as Mrs. Maxwell was. "I try, I really do... but I just don't know what's gotten into him."
Mrs. Maxwell managed a small smile. "It really hurts me to do this, Patricia. Especially since his grades are perfect. What I'm starting to wonder is if there could be any outside sources that are causing his bad behavior. How is your relationship with Michael?"
Patricia looked startled by the question. "Fine!"
"How often do you converse?"
"I try to talk with him as often as I can. But it seems like he doesn't want anything to do with me."
Partially true, Michael thought. The only times he didn't like his mother were when she tried to make conversation that didn't want to be made, gluing a fake smile to her face and asking him about things she never used to care about. She did that more often nowadays, so he responded likewise.
Mrs. Maxwell continued. "Has Michael ever shown any interest in extracurricular activities? The science club? Debate team?"
Patricia shook her head again. "No. I offered it to him, but he refused."
"You know, kids who are enrolled in afterschool clubs or weekend activities tend to have better performances in school, and a better attitude overall. So, maybe it's time to consider something for your son." For the first time during the meeting, both women turned to look at Michael.
"Well, Michael? What do you have to say?"
"Science club is for geeks," he said simply. "I don't want to build a rocket out of a plastic bottle. I'd rather have the real thing."
Mrs. Maxwell sighed. She went back to her desk and took a long sip from her water bottle. "Well, then there's very little I can recommend for you, Michael. The point of school clubs is, sort of, to let kids experience real-world concepts in a classroom setting."
"Which is boring," Michael replied.
Mrs. Maxwell gave a nod, registering his response. She turned to address Patricia. "What about at home? Are there any problems there that may be causing Michael stress? That can often cause someone to act up in school."
Patricia's eyes widened. "Of course not! Not that I know of, at least."
"What about you, Michael? Do you have anything to add?"
"No." Nothing I'd say to you, that is.
Mrs. Maxwell nodded again. She did this so frequently, it reminded him of a bobblehead. "Another thing I've been noticing over time is that a source for bad behavior can often lie in the type of friends someone has." Her eyes trailed off towards the ceiling, then came down to find Michael.
Instantly, he did a double-take. Cory and Brendan were his two best friends, and nothing would ever change that. They had met on the third day of school after finding themselves in the same detention room.
That day, Michael had brought a pack of water balloons to school, hoping to liven up the usually boring recess hour. Little did he know, two other boys had been thinking the exact same thing. When none of the teachers had been looking, they had each fled individually from the yard and snuck into the nearest building to fill the balloons. They were fighting over water fountain privileges when a teacher came and caught them all.
"Great minds think alike, I suppose," Michael had said, and a bond was forged.
From that day on, he, Cory, and Brendan sat together at lunch, during lessons, and on the bus. Though the two boys didn't get good grades, and couldn't understand half of their homework, Michael enjoyed being in their company. They would meet on the weekends to play sports in the backyard. On rare occasions, they wandered around the downtown with whatever allowance their parents gave them. They'd also pull pranks on people they didn't like, but it was always something small, like a fake letter or a quarter stuck to the ground. Sure they goofed off in class sometimes, but who didn't?
"My friends are normal!" Michael countered, staring at Mrs. Maxwell in disbelief. "I don't care about their grades! And you're the one who's always talking about rights. What happened to everyone being equal?"
Mrs. Maxwell shook her head sadly. "You are who your friends are, Michael. I think that if you spent your time with the responsible people at this school, you'd be more responsible yourself."
"So you'd rather have me make friends with the dweebs in the science club just because I have the 'potential'?"
"Don't talk back to her, Michael! She knows what she's talking about!" Patricia immediately came to Mrs. Maxwell's defense. Still no surprise there.
"But my grades are perfect! Look, she even said so herself!"
"It's not just about grades, Mike! It's about your entire personality! Before you entered middle school, you were a sweet little boy. Now look at you! When was the last time you washed your hair?"
Michael reached up and found a small black tuft that hung limp on his forehead. He combed his fingers back, feeling the strands shift and twist away. They were soft, though a bit dirty from all his time spent outside.
"My hair's fine!" Michael sank back into his seat, his cheeks reddening.
For a few moments, Mrs. Maxwell did not speak. Her eyes moved back and forth between the many posters on her back wall. They depicted moronic phrases like "Reading makes you a better person!" and "Bully-free Zone!" She seemed to be weighing an idea on her tongue, arranging and processing it before speaking.
"If you're still willing to consider an extracurricular activity, Patricia, I think I have something that might be a good fit. It's almost summer again… and that means the Pokémon League's starting another season." Michael closed his eyes and let out a sigh. "Kids from all over Sinnoh will be coming to get their starter pokémon from Professor Emerson. Maybe you could take Michael this year."
Patricia made no response.
"I know it's not typically the kind of activity thirteen-year-olds get into, but considering that Michael's a self-motivated type of learner, and seems to prefer real-world applications to studying for exams, traveling and battling Gyms might be more a benefit to him than school clubs. There are lots of kids in the lower grades who've battled Gyms during summer vacations, and from what I've heard from their parents, it had a great impact on their character."
Patricia shook her head. "I don't know... he can be so reckless sometimes, that I just don't know... That Stunky... what if the same thing happens to his starter?"
"Perhaps having his own pokémon will teach him a thing or two about responsibility. You and Michael can raise the pokémon together, and then whenever you feel he's ready, you can take him to get his trainer card and he can start collecting badges."
Patricia looked over to Michael, who shrugged. "I don't want a starter."
"And why not?" asked Mrs. Maxwell.
"Because it's a scam."
Mrs. Maxwell began to shake her head, a laugh escaping her lips. Patricia joined in, probably out of guilt. But to Michael, it made perfect sense. The little he knew about the Pokémon League was enough to convince him of its shadiness. Obviously, people who gave out free pokémon would be expecting something in return — if not money, then at least a contract. Would it involve pledging himself to them? Would he have to advertise their company? Were they just using kids as pawns to raise pokémon to their full power, them demanding them to be returned? The possibilities were endless. Michael stared at the palms of his hands for a while, caught in a loop of thought.
"Michael, how could it possibly be a scam?" Mrs. Maxwell said. "It's such a great learning opportunity. Think about it, we spent all year talking about the different species of pokémon, and this summer, you'll be able to have hands-on experience with them! It'll make classes much more interesting for you."
"I don't want one, I already told you."
"You know, I think we should try this year," Patricia said, giving her son a glare. Michael's heart sank. If something had his mother's approval, it would happen no matter what. "Maybe it's the fact that he's never had a pokémon of his own that causes him to misbehave around them."
"I hope I'm right!" Mrs. Maxwell let out a cackle. Apparently, it was supposed to be funny.
By some invisible trigger, the two women rose and shook hands, officially ending the meeting. Patricia turned to leave, but before Michael could follow, Mrs. Maxwell put a hand on his shoulder and held him back.
"You're a smart kid, Michael," she whispered. "Don't waste your talents."
There was something in her eyes that he couldn't decipher. Hope? Forethought? She patted him on the shoulder, and he walked off without another word.
The Rowans were lucky enough to have a house just outside the city, instead of being bottled up in an apartment like so many others were. It was back from the days when the family had money, when Michael's father was still alive and his two brothers, Richard and Brian, were still living with them. Michael secretly referred to them as the good days, though there had been nothing good about them at all. With three family members gone, all that was left were two strangers.
The house had two floors. Michael's bedroom was separate from the others — a cozy loft placed just above the kitchen. It had one large window overlooking his tiny backyard, and walls that were covered with posters. His shelves were overflowing with records, board games, and other random objects that had amassed through the years. It was nothing to be proud of, but a room was a room.
The first thing Michael did after coming home was slam his door and flop down onto his bed. He threw his backpack onto the ground, letting all the junk inside spill out.
Suspended for the rest of the year... what kind of idiot does that? And she even said that I get good grades. Moron. Even worse, now I have to survive a drive all the way to Sandgem to get some stupid pokémon from some guy I've never even heard of before. Why can't Mom just suck it up and accept the fact that she can’t control my life?
His train of thought was interrupted by a muffled screech. Michael sprang up.
"Shit!" he whispered. He ran over to his closet and slid open the doors.
The Stunky was still there, in the cage he had bought from a hardware store. It was circling the perimeter uncertainly, its tail quivering. When it saw him, the Stunky let out an accusing growl.
"Shut up, shut up!" Michael kicked the cage, and the pokémon shrank back into a corner. He hadn’t told his mother that he had kept the Stunky, and was very careful to keep it hidden until he could sneak it out. Patricia was the biggest pro-pokémon rights person he had ever seen, and if she ever found out, there was no telling what could happen.
By the perfect stroke of luck, Patricia's voice sounded from downstairs. "Mike? Is everything all right?"
Michael looked at the Stunky one last time, giving it the sharpest, coldest glare he could manage, and closed the doors. Seconds later, Patricia entered the room, holding a metal tray and a kitchen towel.
"Yeah, everything's fine." He stepped away from the closet and sat down in his chair.
"What was that screech I heard?"
"Don't know. Probably something outside."
Patricia smiled a little. "Well, okay. Dinner will be ready soon. And I want you to go to bed straight after that."
Michael lifted an eyebrow. "Why?" Though he already knew what her next words would be, it was a good stalling tactic.
"I'll be driving you to Sandgem tomorrow. You'll be getting your starter. Come on, you already know this. You heard your teacher."
Michael didn’t hide his grimace. "She only said that to make you happy. I don't want a starter. It's all a freaking scam!"
"It is not a scam, Michael. It teaches you responsibility. This has been one conference too many. It's time you started thinking about your future and what you want to do with your life. I don't want you ending up a failure like..." Patricia paused, her lips pursed. "I don't want you ending up a failure at all, okay? No more arguments. I'll call you when the food's ready." With that, she turned to leave.
When the coast was clear, Michael jumped out of his chair and slid open the closet doors. The Stunky was peering at him through the bars, scared, but silent. He sighed with relief.
"That was a close one. You better keep quiet from now on, you little cretin. Hear me?" As he began to close the doors, the Stunky began to whimper. With a groan, Michael slid one open again and looked down at the pokémon.
"Are you bored?" he asked.
The Stunky blinked.
"Are you tired?"
The Stunky blinked again. Its gaze was fixed on him, unwavering.
"Are you hungry?" he tried again.
The Stunky growled. Michael rolled his eyes.
And then he closed the door.