To Ask for Nothing, Nothing to Receive: Chapters 1 & 2


Chapter 2

In which Michael neither Knows nor

Acknowledges His True Feelings

The semester was in full swing and classes were getting into serious subject matter. Michael’s French class had just been given a sheet explaining how to count to 100—a much trickier task in French than in English or Spanish. This increase in difficulty, of course, meant that Michael’s study group met the challenge by being even less diligent about studying. This particular Thursday Michael was sketching out the rough outline for a new drawing while the others were joking around. Suddenly Alyx got up to buy a bottle of iced tea. When she returned Michael, who up until now was engrossed in his portfolio, glanced over and noticed something he hadn’t before. Walking down the hall, with the sun to her back, her body cast a long and slender hourglass shadow. As soon as Michael noticed he was staring at her body he turned back toward his drawings with such alacrity that he knocked David’s coffee cup over, spilling the contents.

Michael profusely apologized while trying to catch the coffee cup and almost spilled his cup of Coke in the process. After it was all cleaned up Michael, still red in the face, decided to again withdraw. He sat back and silently watched Alyx interact with the others, then took back to drawing.

It was a black-and-white pencil drawing of a figure standing on a mountain. A half-moon was obscured by black clouds; it managed to cast light onto a sparkling river in the valley below, upon which the figure gazed. He looked down from the edge of the precipice, and saw various travelers and evening merchants engaging in their business in the village below. A fog encroached on the valley from the hills. The figure’s cloak, although having its upper portion securely snug around his torso, had its bottom half blown about by the breeze and its fringes danced upon the ground a meter away. It was as if a black fire’s tongue-like flames were reaching out to ensnare a creeping creature. The figure himself remained still against the breeze, just as the still mountain upon which he stood. In the distant background a foreboding castle called out from beyond the valley. An evil had descended upon the land and only the famed sword of the Elder Tannenbaum could hope to smite it. It was clear what his mission was. He had to go bowling during Fall break.

“Michael?”

Michael’s head snapped up and he saw Nichole, David, and Alyx staring at him. David repeated, “Do you want to go bowling during Fall break?” Michael stared off into space for a second, then returned his gaze and said, “Yeah. Sure. When is that?” Nichole jumped in with, “Next weekend. We have that Friday off, so we’re going that night.” Michael stared into space again for just a second. “Oh. Yeah, that sounds good,” he said softly. Alyx boisterously asked, “Why are you always so quiet? I mean, like the first day of class you talked with Nichole and me, and then you turned into Mr. …” She furrowed her eyebrows, struggling to come up with a witty pop-culture reference. “Mr. Silent Sam or whatever,” she finished. Nichole scoffed with a laugh and asked, “Silent Sam?”

“Shut up,” Alyx shot back. Michael waited a moment to speak, then answered, “I don’t know why. I mean, I’ve always kept to myself. I like to paint and draw and stuff like that. I just talk when I have something to say. Sometimes—” “Oh, crap,” Alyx interjected. “I have to get to my next class! See you later, guys.” She ran off, and David looked at his phone, asking, “What time is it, anyway? Hmm, I have a doctor’s appointment so I should go too. I’ll talk to you guys later.” He got up and held out a fist to Michael. Michael absentmindedly extended his hand for a shake. David quickly changed his fist to a hand, but Michael clenched his fist for the bump. David chuckled and waved instead. Nichole giggled and stood up to stretch as David walked away.

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