“Goooood evening, dear sister! How are you on this rainy Monday night?”
Phoenix felt her sister’s eyes rolling as the long sigh echoed through the phone. Susie’s annoyance only made Phoenix want to harass her more.
“What do you want?”
She clutched invisible pearls, feigning disgust. “Why, that’s no way to treat your poor, innocent sister!”
“Phoenix! I’m in the zone!”
“Ok, ok. Can I have just five minutes?”
Another sigh sounded like the autumn winds that picked up each day. “Fine.”
“Soooooo…” she felt her sister’s eyes roll again, “I was at dad’s annnnnd I kinda get the feeling he’s lonely.”
“Of course he’s lonely,” Susie said flatly.
“I think we should help him!”
“How do you suppose we do that, Phoenix?”
Her voice was so deadpan. She was enjoying her pain a bit too much. “I dunno. You’re an adult. Do you know anyone we could fix him up with?”
“Ugh! Really? Phooey!”
“Look, Phoenix, I really need to get this chapter down. It’s on the tip of my tongue!”
“Don’t you mean your fingers? Hee hee.”
“You’re not funny!”
Susie hanging up on her was always the best part about speaking via phone. So far, the plan did not take shape, but her spirits and determination remained high. She needed a bit more time to figure something out before presenting the plan to her father. Besides, she had bigger fish to fry that night.
As soon as Phoenix appeared in the kitchen, Mary pounced on her. “Phoenix, your principal called! Do you have any idea–“
“I’m sorry, mom, but can we talk about this in the morning? I’ve gotta eat and jet!”
“And where are you going so late?”
Rats! She had her serious mom voice on. It was just a little prank! No one got hurt, and nothing was destroyed. No big deal!
“The humor and hi-jinks festival!”
Mary wrinkled her nose at the name. “Why on earth would you want to go there?”
“Because! I can work on my comedy with an audience!”
Mary wasn’t one for comedy. It wasn’t posh enough for her, but Phoenix didn’t care. Being funny was the highlight of her days, and she knew with a bit of work she could be a great comedian one day. Mary didn’t have to like it, but she did have to respect her choice.
“And, if people like me, I have a shot at winning §500 and a mic stand,” she threw in for good measure with a mouth full of salad.
Mary was the second person she exasperated within 15 minutes. She shook her head and rolled her eyes at the sky. “Don’t talk with your mouth full. Have you completed your homework?”
“When should I expect you back home?”
“I’ll be home before midnight…I promise!”
She had that mom glare down. Phoenix was almost intimidated. “Make it 11.”
“Ok! Gnite mom!”
Phoenix grabbed an umbrella and dashed out the door. Excited was not the proper word to describe how she felt. Walking around San Myshuno’s art district with other comedic hopefuls–and wannabe chiefs of mischief–she finally felt like she was doing something big despite being a little more than halfway through her teen days.
She read online about the tea served at the festival. The article said it was simply an herbal tea that contained extract of some root that affected the pleasure sensors of the brain. The endorphins made all who drank it less tense and more apt to be silly or mischievous. Both teas were actually the same minus the food coloring and the ingredient which produced the glow. But, choosing one tea to drink was tradition and created a sense of camaraderie and competition. The light tea became the tradition for those attending the festival for the humor, and the dark tea for those seeking hi-jinks. Phoenix proudly poured a cup of light tea and drank up.
Next to the drink fountain, she spied a familiar gray t-shirt and slick brown hair. Nick Broussard sat alone and didn’t look too happy.
“I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to be a sour puss at these things. I think I read that in the rule book or something.”
He snorted and showed the tiniest grin. “Hey, Phoenix.”
“Like, seriously man. There are rules to these things! Section 3 article 2b says everyone has the authority to act on behalf of the Sad Clown Society when encountering anyone not having a good time.”
“Sad Clown Society?”
“I swear. I can grab you a copy if you’d like!”
He laughed. His unamused face was still cute, but she was relieved to see his smiling face again. “You’re a trip, Phoenix.”
“I do what I can.”
“So, are you competing tonight?”
“Yep! I could use that money, but I reeeeeeally want that mic stand.”
“I hope you win. It’ll be cool for someone as young as us to win against all these adults.”
“Thanks, Nick. I appreciate you saying that.”
Maybe this encounter could be the thing that sparked a friendship between them. They were warm acquaintances at best, traveling in the same circles. But now they had an experience that no one else at school could share. She didn’t know much about him and wanted to know everything.
“Well…break a leg!”
Phoenix wasn’t that good at writing jokes and routines yet, but she practiced as much as she could. She wrote a lame routine about her dad and how bad his cooking was. And, of course, there was the sketch about being a child of divorced parents. Tonight was the litmus test. Should she continue down this path, or continue being just the girl who made everyone laugh?
She stepped up to the stage, feeling fear for the first time all night. Grabbing the mic, she peered out at the few people who were paying attention to her. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if no one cared. She only needed to impress the judges, right?
“It’s a great night to be out here with all of you. Clearly, I’m on #TeamHumor, but the hi-jinks team has an unfair advantage!”
A few people looked around to see what she meant.
“They have the Watcher on their side! What’s up with this rain, amiright?”
A few people laughed! They actually laughed! And, when the night was over, they called her name…as the winner!