A desperately-needed distraction presented itself by way of two characters, Bat and Jeff. The distraction was necessary because of a meal-time tussle with number-one son over the consumption of a hamburger. Moving away from the conflict, I switched into “amicable-Liam” mode (not to be confused with “angry-Liam” or “Chinese-Liam”).
This is what came out (kinda—it’s been awhile, so word-for-word is unlikely):
Once upon a time, there were two boys, Bat and Jeff. Bat’s real name wasn’t bat – it was Bartholomew. But he didn’t like Bartholomew, so he asked everyone to just call him Bat.
Bat and Jeff had mostly the same classes, but they didn’t take Gym together. Other than that, they were mostly together.
Jeff had some odd habits, not the least of which was excusing himself to go to the bathroom and following teachers around the school. He was intensely curious and he would pick a teacher and follow that person throughout the day during various bathroom trips.
Well, one Tuesday, Jeff decided that Mr. Johnson, the principal, would be an interesting person to follow around the school. Throughout the morning, Mr. Johnson had a very normal day – he would go to his classes, go to the mysterious Teachers’ Lounge, and the bathroom, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Then came the afternoon. Mr. Johnson, at precisely two o’clock, left the school and did not return. The whole day, Jeff kept an eye on Mr. Johnson’s office, and the other on the teachers’ lounge and Mr. Johnson was nowhere to be seen.
He explained this to Bat and suggested that the two of them keep an eye on what Mr. Johnson was doing the rest of the week.
Bat, who had known about his friend’s habit, had never joined him, but this mystery was too much to walk away from.
So, the two kids kept watch over their wayward principal, marking his trips to the bathroom, the teachers’ lounge and his classes in Bat’s notebook.
Then, Tuesday came around, and Bat and Jeff kept an especially tight watch on the principal.
At precisely two o’clock, Mr. Johnson left in his car and did not return. The two kids were stymied.
They enlisted the help of Bat’s older brother, “Pit”. Pit’s real name was Poindexter, but he hated the name and made everyone (except his mom and dad) call him Pit. This, as you may guess, was the reason Bartholomew had chosen Bat.
Pit didn’t have classes in the afternoon, since he was in college and could choose his courses. Bat and Jeff asked Pit to keep an eye on Mr. Johnson the following Tuesday and find out where he was going and what he was doing that kept him away from school on Tuesday afternoons.
Pit, liking his little brother very much (I think the name-thing had a lot to do with that), decided he’d help the kids out. He got in his car and followed Mr. Johnson at two o’clock on the third Tuesday of this story.
Bat and Jeff waited in Bat’s basement for Pit to return with the report. They had thoughts of a secret job as a spy, or a secret woman he would meet (they’d watched a lot of soap operas during the summer) or any number of fantastic things that Mr. Johnson was getting up to.
Finally, the door upstairs opened and slammed closed. Pit joined the two kids in the basement and gave his report.
“There’s nothing strange about Mr. Johnson leaving Tuesday afternoons. He gets in his car and drives out to Leduc where his mom’s in the hospital. He doesn’t have any classes to teach Tuesday afternoons and he spends all afternoon and evening with his mom before going home.”
Bat and Jeff were disappointed with the very ordinary explanation for their mystery but the solution was pretty satisfying in itself.
Granted, it’s not the best story that I’ve ever come up with (especially compared to the greatest hero in the history of Liam-kind – Rick the Robot), but it got Nick through supper and improved everyone’s mood drastically.