Rating (at the moment): PG-13
Chapter One - From Humble Beginnings
I guess you could call me an open book.
There’s this old quote that says emotions have taught mankind to reason. I think whoever said that must be kind of stupid, or they haven’t been around many men, because in my case emotions and reasoning could not be farther apart. My dad is like a rock and my mom is an emotional wreck. Guess which one I’m like? There are people who can’t express their feelings, and then there are people that have every action controlled by their emotions, and I’ve always been firmly in that second group. “It’s romantic,” my mom always told me, but try telling that to your date when you cry in the middle of a flick. When there’s snot in your popcorn and crap running down your eyes because the soldier might not see his bride again - well, for many girls that isn’t too romantic.
Maybe if that wasn’t my one defining trait. If I was really tall or great at battling, it might be a little romantic. A blubbering idiot, that’s just awkward for everyone involved. Take saying bye to my folks. A man of eighteen holds his back straight and his head up high and shakes his dad’s hand. He’s not sweating and he sure as hell isn’t on the verge of running to his mom and hugging her for dear life. I wasn’t even scared, that’s the thing. After so many years of getting “do this” shoved into your brain, you do that. Especially in a nowhere town like Fortline. If you don’t want to be a farmer, you become a trainer. My dad is a farmer, you see, and he absolutely hates it. So when I finally got the chance to do something different, it should have been one of those moments you need to catch on camera. Not even good-looking guys look good crying on camera, so I was out of luck. When the hiccup found it’s way out of my throat, Old Jay Morrow number one looked at number two (that’s me, for those keeping track at home) with something resembling disappointment.
“What’s wrong, Jay? Your balls drop?”
He loved little jokes like that. Had a big stack of funny-books in the corner of our little kitchen, and he would rattle off from them after dessert like a robot. What’s a tree and a dog got in common? Bark. Guys like Jay Morrow, Sr. always have an edge, to them, though - it’s how they stay young. What do you do when your dishwasher stops working? Well, let’s just say Mom didn’t like that one. For him, asking about my balls was nothing.
They hadn’t dropped, at least. I reached in my little travel bag that would no doubt be full by the end of the week; I had to fumble around in it for a second before pulling out a Poke Ball. The mindless action had managed to calm me down.
“You’re a funny guy, dad.”
He shrugged his gigantic shoulders, smiling thinly. The crisis had been averted, but he wasn’t about to forget a moment of weakness like that. Another thing about guys like him? They don’t forget things. Maybe they’re not the sharpest men around, but you don’t need to be bright to be bitter.
Any time left to delay the inevitable had passed me by.
Old Jay Morrow looked almost sad for a minute, before chuckling nervously. “Have what you need, then?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“Know where to go?”
“Only one road to go down.”
It wasn’t philosophical, mind you, there was literally only one little road to get out of Fortline. The town consists mainly of a lot of dirt and some corn and then some more dirt. Want a shop, or food that’s not corn? Go west to Pallet, where I was heading to get my starter.
“Looks like it’ll be nice for a couple more hours, then the sun’ll go down. You’ll make it by, uh, by then.”
Maybe it was the adrenaline rush or the newness of it all, but any sentimentality that could have emerged from the departure wasn’t there anymore. That’s how it is sometimes. Cry during a movie, but when you might as well be in the middle of one you start to play the role you’re assigned a little better. I held out my hand, straightened out my dark blue jacket. Fixed up my posture. “So I think I should go, then.”
“Have your license?”
I didn’t like the guy, but he was also giving a nice performance.
“Right here,” I said, slapping my pocket with the hand that wasn’t extended. The zipper stung my palm.
At that point both Jay Morrows were out of words to say. Dad took my hand, shook it twice, let go.
I didn’t see him again after that, but I like to think things got better for him.
God knows they didn’t for me.
Sun going down.
The first hour hadn’t been bad. Hadn’t been great, but I like to think I managed it admirably. A man I’ve known since I was four or five was walking back with some supplies, and I only thought for a couple seconds that he might murder me. Things were looking up.
Thankfully it was all but impossible to get lost. Apart from some knee-high bushes and dirt, there wasn’t anything to look at so hypnotizing that it could distract you. I followed the little rubble path they call a road, stopping only when my bag started weighing against my shoulders or to get a drink of water. Fifty minutes in and I had gone through two water bottles; I knew I would have to ration, but I figured the beginning of any epic journey was meant to be easy.
The second hour arrived.
Almost exactly on cue with the opening of my third bottle, a thorn wrapped around my foot. To say it caught my off-guard would be far too kind to me. To say I screamed a little would be an exaggeration, but a little whimper definitely came out. Like I said - the only things here were dirt and bushes, something as exotic as a thorn was unheard of. And a stone road, of all places, seemed like a fairly ridiculous place to worry about stabbing your foot. Probably going to get it infected, dirt’s already seeping in, I can tell. This is great, really just fantastic. I’ll hobble to Professor Oak’s and faint right into his arms like a vaudeville dancer. When I had the good judgment to look down at the damage that had been done, there was something stranger than a thorn staring up at me with two small, beady black eyes.
Bellsprout jumped up in one swift motion, the legs that I had taken for thorns displaying surprising athleticism. I had seen pictures of it, of course, but Pokemon in general were scarce in Fortline, and Bellsprout weren’t native to the area at all. It lazily swayed its leafy arms at me. Its face didn’t seem capable of registering any emotion, but I took the blank stare as unwelcoming.
“You lost, then?”
I expected it to respond, as dumb as that sounds. Two hours in and my mental faculties were starting to abandon me. Great. It did respond to some extent, laying back down on the road, closing its eyes in a dramatic display of defeat.
The notion of abandoning it seemed cruel. Whatever had prompted me to shake my father’s hand like a man was still in me somewhere, because I decided that wouldn’t happen. “And what, let a Pidgey bite off your arm? That won’t grow back, buddy.” I had no idea if I was speaking the truth.
I’m not worthy, the Bellsprout said, flailing one of its legs around. It was kind of cute, in a vegan kind of way. I tapped it gingerly with my shoe, afraid it would crumble at my touch. Thankfully, it didn’t. “Come on, stop playing around.” It looked up at me again with its emotionless beady eyes. “Let’s take you to Pallet, huh?” The words came out before I could filter them. Immediately, the Pokemon perked up a little, its arms rising slightly and its dull eyes starting to shine. Crap. Am I stuck with this thing now? And then, more troublingly: Did I just get conned by a Bellsprout?
No kid dreams of having a Bellsprout as their starter. No kid. I was no exception, but I couldn’t deny that the thing had some charm to it.
Not much, but some.