by J.M. Kessler
The eleven-year-old boy with roughed-up clothes and hair looked doubtful.
So, a fellowship. With wizards and hobbits and dwarves and things?
The understanding eleven-year-old boy smiled patiently.
Perhaps you meant rings? And no, not that fellowship. Ours is a
fellowship of like-minded young ladies and gentlemen, he said, looking
across the park at the picnic table where some boys and girls were gathered.
It was my sisters idea to refer to ourselves that way. It
helps keep up morale.
And what do you talk about?
Oh, lots of things, from the correct way to use the contraction
theres, to the appalling way kids wear trousers below the hips
it is trousers, by the way, not pants to interesting programs on
PBS, to new books in the library. Mostly, we share personal experiences.
You mean, complain about our parents, the roughed-up boy smirked.
We may have legitimate complaints, but it serves no one to just
sit around complaining. We have a plan. And once we come into our own,
we can take matters into our own hands. In the meantime, we support one
another in doing whats necessary to make our lives tolerable.
And behaving like perfect gentlemen is supposed to make people treat
us better? the roughed-up boy asked, looking down at his backpack,
which had been trampled in the dirt.
Listen, Jack. People see us as different because of something that
happened to us at birth. We didnt ask for it. Its not our
fault. But how we live with it is our choice. He helped Jack with
his backpack. No one is going to treat you like royalty if you think
of yourself as a gutter rat. Thats the first step. The next step
is to act on the first. The world respects people who respect themselves.
But I thought respect was something you had to earn. Like that hobbit.
No one just gives it to you.
Thats right, replied the understanding boy. He led Jack
across the grass to the picnic table. And you will earn it, every
day, by insisting on it from yourself. That takes work, Jack, commitment.
And support. We have seven years before we come into our power as individuals.
Until then, we are powerful in a group.
They were at the table now where some of Jacks classmates were gathered.
The understanding boy placed a comforting hand on Jacks back.
Youre not alone. We are in this together, and we will come
through it together. He brushed some dirt off the boys shoulder.
No matter what it costs.
Jane Griffin placed a mug on the kitchen bar and poured herself a cup
Im telling you, theres something strange about them.
she paused, grabbed a donut from the box on the
kitchen bar, and tried to think of the right word. But when she saw that
her husband was still looking at his laptop screen, she no longer cared
about the word being right. Roger!
Hmm? He inclined his head just slightly to the left.
Dont you think theres something odd about them?
she said through a mouth-full of donut.
Roger took a sip of his coffee, swallowed, and continued reading. Wrong
Jane rolled her eyes, swallowed the donut, and slouched over the bar.
The kids. Theyre, strange.
She took a sip of coffee and then grunted disagreeably. Sugar,
she said firmly.
Roger lifted his eyebrows a fraction higher. Hmm? Uh, no, Im
fine, he mumbled.
Jane glared. I want it.
Roger, never lifting his gaze from the computer screen, reached out, found
the sugar bowl, and slid it across the bar to Jane.
Its just weird, thats all, she said, stirring
a heaping teaspoon of sugar into her coffee. The way they act, and
talk. They make me feel so, she paused. No, she wouldnt admit
feeling stupid and inadequate to Roger. And now this club thing.
You know what they said when I asked them about it? They said, Its
for kids who are like we are, and who are intelligent and well-mannered.
You dont think thats weird?
So, they started a club. I wouldnt worry about it. Roger
looked up now and took a donut from the box. Theres kids everywhere
that act different just to get attention. Its fine.
Its not. Its creepy. Somethings going on.
Roger eyed his wife with interest for a moment, then shook his head.
Theyre just playing around. Theres nothing wrong with
them, he said.
Roger, Jane insisted, theyre not like us. Theyre
different. The way they look at me. Theres something in their eyes,
like, like theyre always forgiving me for something. Its creepy.
And theyre always so damned polite. I mean, sometimes its
like theyre from another country, or - she stopped short.
Another planet? Really, Jane. Our smart, polite kids start a club
with other smart, polite kids and suddenly its the village of the
Jane looked hard at Roger, but he turned his attention back to his computer
screen. She grabbed another donut.
Well, maybe she was taking it too seriously. It was strange, though, that
they always kept their rooms clean, they didnt spend hours playing
video games, they ate vegetables, they liked to read books, and they were
polite. Too polite.
And it didnt help that they were twins.
Theyre up to something, she mumbled to herself. I
just know it.
Jane drew her shoulders tight and wrapped her hand around her coffee mug,
her diamond ring clinking against it. She remembered twelve years earlier.
She and Roger had been walking downtown when he stopped unexpectedly,
the way people do when they suddenly wonder if theyve brought the
grocery list or left it on the counter, and asked if she wanted to get
married. They were standing outside Tiffanys. And because thats
where they became engaged, they named their daughter after the jeweller.
And because they honeymooned in Paris, they named their son after the
city. They were sentimental that way.
Jane looked at the photographs of their children that were on the refrigerator.
They had been given everything, every advantage. They should be happy,
normal kids. What was wrong with them? She knit her brow suspiciously
and looked away.
A notebook was placed before the roughed-up boy, and a girl indicated
the appropriate space.
So, what am I signing? Jack asked as he smoothed out his hair.
Ill let my sister explain.
The girl with the notebook smiled. Its the Fellowship Eighteen
club book. In it, you will write your name, birthday, and contact information,
which you will promise to keep updated over the next seven years, in case
there are any changes. Then, after everyone has had their eighteenth birthday
and completed their mission, I will contact everyone in this book, we
will meet, and we will celebrate. Sign here, please. She held out
Im sorry about those boys roughing you up like that,
said one of the girls at the table.
Jack grinned. Thanks, Tadasha. Im all right, he said,
shrugging off the incident.
He looked at the page in the club book. Under the heading Fellowship
18 were the names of its founders: Tiphaknee (usually mispronounced
as ti-fack-nee) Griffin, and her brother, Parass (also mispronounced,
usually by kids with an affinity for jokes about posterior anatomy) Griffin.
Their names were followed by Ta-ah Bracket, Seazur Santiago, Seeairah
Schaeffer, Janeva Lake, Darrwyn Lewis, Kuper Mann, Danyull Hoffman, and
Mikenzy Elliott. The roughed-up boy added his name to the list: Éjacks
Welcome to Fellowship Eighteen, Parass said, as Éjacks
filled in his personal information. Of course, once we get to high
school and have email accounts, well add those to the book, and
Tiphaknee will keep contact with everyone online. Right, then. Lets
get started. This meeting of Fellowship Eighteen, the Society for the
Right to be Well-Named, will now begin.