OK, I think I'm finally happy with chapter. Please tell me what you think, and any suggestions for a better title will be accepted gratefully!

Chapter 1

Dough

The trick to a good trick, is to make sure no one gets seriously hurt. Because if there's any real damage done, people won't just laugh and forget about it. They'll laugh, and come after you.

"That's why," I explained to Al, "we're not using paint. If we use paint, parents will complain, and we'll get landed in detention. Whereas water," I held up a big sloshy water balloon, "does no harm at all, except to the victim's… well, dryness." I ended lamely, in spite of the good start.

Al grinned at me and nodded, he had that gleam in his eye that told me my genius was showing.

"Here we go." I whispered, glancing down at the first unsuspecting student head. It was, as I had hoped, Her Highness Aud Rose, Narcissina herself. Her hairpins glinted up at us between the branches. I let go the biggest, orange-ist, slushiest water balloon we had.

SPLASH!!!

Man I love my work. Mrs. Friss was on the other side of the schoolyard, so the first to come running were other kids, including our dear friend Clarence. Our position was perfect, the branches hid us completely, and as long as we didn't make a sound, there was no way anyone could pin this on us. As soon as enough kids had accumulated under the tree, we dumped the entire pile on them. Al started laughing, but I quickly covered his mouth with my hand, there was racket a plenty going on below us, but if either of us let one word slip, we'd be that much closer to getting caught.

I started climbing up the tree to my getaway - I'd planned this perfectly. There was a very taut length of rope tied from one of the tallest branches to one of the third story windows of the school. Al could never make it, of course, so I had to put the second part of the plan to action on my own. He climbed one of the lower branches straight into one of the second story windows. I stood at the top and closed my eyes, then walked across the wire into the window. It was something I'd always been able to do, and I'll tell you it tended to come in handy at times. As soon as I was safe inside the third story, I cut the wire. It flapped around like a wild snake for a moment, then released its heavy load, still hidden till this moment in the tree. A gigantic waterfall of white flour spilled out over the unfortunate students of Silver High.

Man I love my work.

"ARROWLEAF!!!"

Uh oh. I spun around, and there stood Mrs. Friss, every prankster's nightmare. She had a nose for tricks, eyes in the back of her head, a keen sense for liars, and to top it all off a burning hatred for Yours Truly.

"Yes Mrs. Friss?" I said, pushing my hair behind my ear and widening my eyes. Anything to look innocent.

"Come with me." She said, and grabbed my shoulder with one purple nail-polished-claw-like hand. She led me out of the classroom and into the hallway.

"What have I done now, Mrs. Friss?" I asked.

"You tell me, Cayn." She gritted through her teeth, and I sighed in relief. That was a good sign, whenever Frissy talked through her teeth it meant she had nothing on you. No proof. Oh yeah! I'd been plenty careful this time.

Mrs. Friss led me out to the yard, where I had to work really hard at not laughing. The yard was full of kids who were doing just that, and a bunch of kids who were doing nothing of the sort - more along the lines of pulling big clumps of dough out of their hair and shouting with rage.

Vice Principle Carter stood in the middle, trying to shout over everybody. As soon as his eyes landed on me, he stopped shouting and turned to me, his mouth was quivering and out of control, the ends kept crinkling and stretching. "ARROWLEAF!! What is the meaning of this?!"

"I- I don't understand, Sir." I said, giving my voice a realistic tremor, my fingers fiddling with the end of my shirt.

"I KNOW YOU'RE BEHIND THIS!"

"Sir, I swear, it wasn't me! As much as I'd like to claim the fame to such a totally brilliant prank like this one, I must admit I had nothing to do with it."

"Where was he?" VPC turned to Mrs. Friss.

"On the third floor. He was supposed to sweep the classroom." She admitted reluctantly. And we all knew what that meant, little old Cayn-y could never manage to drench and flour helpless students and sweep the classroom on the third floor at the same time.

Well, there was nothing much to it, was there? I was innocent. Simple as that.

Al and I congratulated ourselves for my genius all the way home. We laughed so hard the dogs started barking all along the street. That must have been it, the dogs. That was why I couldn't hear them till they were upon us.

"This was the last straw, Arrowhead." A gruff voice said from behind me, and the next thing I knew Clarence Ointmen had me in a headlock, and a crusty Phil Applebaum had gotten hold of Al.

"Hello Oinky," I grunted, "You feeling alright? You look a bit pasty to me."

"Shut up, Freak!" Growled Dennis Grimauld, and kicked me from behind. I was in the worst position possible. If there had been a chase, that would have been fine. I was faster then any of these guys. But Clarence had known me too long, he knew better then to announce his presence before he had a good grip on me.

"Do you know how much this jacket cost me, Dumbo? 25 bucks, that's how much! And you're gonna pay for it out of inconvenient places!" Clarence informed me, waving the dark red hair out of his eyes. Dennis kicked me again.

Why were they calling me Dumbo? You got it, my ears.

They weren't that big, only around twice as large as they should have been. But the thing that really bugged people was their shape. Long and pointy, just like something out of Star Trek. When I was little, I used to like it, it made me feel special. And I guess people thought it was cute. But as I got older, I starting hating it more and more. And so did they.

Just as I was beginning to worry about my air supply, Clarence's hold on me lessened. I glanced up to see the cause and felt something in my chest freeze. I heard Al give a barely audible groan next to me.

It was what I liked to call the Pink Parade, Aud and her posse, all on pink-ranging-to-purple bikes. Every day they paraded round town for a while after school, going to the mall and laughing loudly outside of cafés.

Al and I stayed away from them, except if it was for a prank. After all, how long do you think we could hold up against them?

But right now we really had something to worry about, caught between Clarence and Aud, we were really screwed.

Aud and her friends had stopped in front of us, and now the Crown Princess of the 10'th grade herself was walking towards us. "I see you caught the little shit-head." She said to Clarence. "Give him a good one for me." She pulled a handful of dough from her hair and threw it in my face.

I couldn't think of anything to say, my automatic talkback system didn't apply when it came to Aud. Lucky for me, Al was a little quicker on his feet, "What's wrong? I thought the Pillsbury Dough Boy look was really you." He commented.

"Now, is that the way to talk to a lady?" Oinky asked, and motioned to Phil who twisted Al's arm behind his back. There he goes again, with his cavalier-ruffian-noble-savage-knight-in-shining-armor thing. Jerk.

"I've got an idea," he said next, "since the ladies have graciously joined us... Aw look, I got some of Cayn-y's own mess on his nice pretty shirt. Can't let that leave a stain, I'm afraid you'll have to strip!"

The girls immediately started giggling, and I felt my stomach plunge into my sneakers.

"Oh no." Al said.

Oh no was right. I sneaked my foot behind Clarence's ankle and gave a tremendous pull. With a short cry he went toppling with me on top of him. I stuck an elbow in his ribs and sprang up, quick as a flash, dodged Dennis, and rammed Phil, who jumped back, releasing Al.

"RUN!!" I hollered, and followed my own advice.

"Come back here!" Aud shouted, and hopped back on her bike. But I was home free, no one could run like I could. Including Al. I glanced back to see him almost between their claws. "Hurry up!" I screeched.

"I'm trying!"

I lingered back, my mind whirling. What could I do? What we needed was some kind of hiding place, or a distraction. I glanced around frantically, there was nothing promising in sight.

Except there! Someone was painting their house and had left out a ladder, their roller and brushes, and a big tub of white paint. I grabbed that up and ran to stand in the middle of the street. Al was running straight at me, and I grinned at him as he went flying by. Then I tipped the can of paint and filled the world with white.

Immediately the first in the lines of he mob slipped and slid over the puddle and eventually landed on their faces. Those behind them tripped over their forebears and came to the same end.

Al and I kept running all the way to my house, where we stopped, doubled over with laughter.

"That was a close one, you saved my butt, Cayn." Al said, beaming at me. I loved it when he said stuff like that.

"Well, see ya' tomorrow. Today was great."

"Yeah, it was."

"Bye."

That evening, when my Dad got seven different phone calls from seven different parents I was starting to rethink how 'great' the whole thing was.

"Did they tell you they were about to tear us limb from limb?" I squeaked.

"Nancy brueck was gonna tear you limb from limb? Lakisha Johnson? Harriet Straus? 'Cause those are the people whose parents just called." Dad's forehead was bright red, and the long lines on it were more apparent then ever. It always got that way when I pulled something like this.

"They want refunding for the clothes and stuff that got damaged, and it's coming out of your allowance, for the next two years!"

Paint. I knew it.

"What makes you think we have money for these kind of shenanigans? Do you see me buying us a new microwave? Do you see me buying you your own car? So what makes you think I can pay for other kids' clothes?"

"I'm sorry Dad." I said in a very, very small voice.

"Why today? Huh?" He asked, pacing, "Why of all days did you choose to do this bull on the day of the PTA meeting?!"

Oh. Oops.

But I did have a reason for choosing that particular day. "It was to celebrate my birthday." I said.

"It's not for another 14 days!"

"Exactly."

"What?! Explain yourself Cayn!"

I sighed, "I was born on 4\1, that's not for 14 days. Get it?"

"I'm starting to worry about you, Cayn, I think it's time you went back to see Dr. Campbell."

He always said that. Dr. Campbell was a shrink I used to go to for a while in the 9'th grade. He had hairy knuckles and smelled like Ajax and always wanted to talk about my penis size. "I don't need to see Dr. Campbell, Dad." I groaned, "There's nothing wrong with me."

"Then why do you act like this?!" He asked, sitting down again and putting his head in his hands.

I couldn't take it anymore, "It's a cry for help, OK? I'm seriously disturbed and a menace to society! It's funny Dad!"

"What is?"

"The jokes! You should've seen them slipping and sliding, the Pompom Princess looking like an undead cheerleader!"

He couldn't help it, a snort of laughter escaped him, "You do have a way of putting things. But whata you got against this poor girl anyway?"

I shrugged, stuffing my face with hot dog so I wouldn't have to answer.

"You know you're grounded, right?"

I nodded.

"Well, I've done my fatherly duty, I hope. Pass the mustard."

That's how life went on in my house, everything was fine as long as I could make my Dad laugh.

But I watched him set off to the PTA meeting with a heavy heart. I knew he'd be pissed at me again when he got back. A shadow crossed me as I wondered whether it was time to give up pranking. If maybe I was getting too old for it. As a soon-to-be-Junior and all. Maybe it was time I gave my Dad a break and started helping out instead of giving him more grief…

Yeah, right.

*

I was going through one of those spells.

There was a big full-length mirror on the back of my door, and I stood in front of it and stared at myself. I hated it when I did this. But there was no help for it, once I got going I didn't know how to stop.

At the moment I was examining my nose. I had come to the conclusion that it was far too big for the rest of my face. It tilted slightly to the left, and my entire look was changed by it. As the hours went by I was hating my nose more and more. When I was completely sure I could never be remotely un-repulsive till something was done, I moved on to my mouth.

Way too wide, with thick lips like a girl. Yeah, there was definitely something girlish about my mouth. That kept me busy for another half an hour. I took a step back and took an overall look at myself. I was pale, and very thin. So thin it was ridiculous sometimes. Even my face and my nose were thin. I had huge almost-neon-green eyes that were so big they made me look a bit like a goldfish. And of course my blasted ears. Dad said they were some kind of mutation. Or something. Go figure, I wonder if you can get into X-Men on account of funny ears. I had a mop of brown hair, thin black eyebrows and a blade of a nose. My limbs were too long, my torso too short. I looked like some kind of insect.

I hate it when I do this.

The phone rang in the kitchen, and my Dad hollered for me to get it. I pulled my too-long legs out into the hall, and into the kitchen. It was Al.

"Hey man, you still grounded?"

"As a parrot in a petting zoo, what about you?" I shimmied up to sit on the counter.

"Nah, my folks still don't know I had anything to do with it. When's he gonna let you off?"

"I don't know, not over this weekend, that's for sure."

"This reeks."

"No kidding."

"Hey, you allowed to have friends over?"

"First thing I asked, nope."

"TV?"

"Like hell."

"Computer?"

"Ha!"

"So what are you doing all day."

I didn't say anything.

Al started to sound worried, "Cayn, you ain't doing that thing again, where you start hating parts of your body?"

I didn't say anything.

"Crap! You're always weird for days after you do that stuff. Cut it out, Cayn, read a book or something, don't stand in front of the mirror."

"I can't help it, Al."

"Bull, hang a sheet over your door. I hate it when you pull this crap."

"Me too. I'm just… I feel…" I gulped, I felt disgusting, my arms were too long, my feet were too big, I felt utterly ridicules looking.

"Cayn, get a grip, listen to the radio, read a book… I know! Put the finishing touches on Judgment Day. That's bound to make you feel better."

Of course! "Oh yeah! Thanks man, I'll go do that now." I put the phone back in its cradle, feeling my heart lighten. I jumped down, landing on my once again normal sized feet, and headed towards my room. I kept my prank plans on a big sketching table my Dad and I had spotted once in a garage sale and had nicked for a low price. It had once belonged to a painter, and was covered in multicolored splotches, and I had levered it up to a 90 degrees angle. I'd got a clip-on desk lamp to hang over it, and used laundry clips to keep the big pieces of sketch-paper in place. It was perfect for planning pranks.

Judgment Day was what I was planning for thirteen days from then, my birthday. It was going to be the biggest trick ever played in those parts. It was absolutely brilliant, if I might say so myself.

Just as I was about to start working Dad knocked on my door. "Cayn, I need you to head over to the store and get some batteries."

YES! I was so sick of staying inside I'd do anything to get out of the house for a while. I hurried off, savoring the fresh air. What I really wanted was to run off into the woods for a while, really get rid of the cramp of the last forty eight hours. But if I screwed up this chance, it'd be a while before he cut me a break again.

It took me a little less then five minutes to reach the store. I got the kind of batteries my Dad wanted and some milk which we were low on. Everything was perfectly fine and normal.

Till I got outside again. There I ran smack dab into Aud Rose.

We were both in the worst possible condition – for me, that is – alone. As soon as she saw me her face darkened, and I felt my insides shrivel up, so that I hoped she wouldn't ask me anything. I couldn't breath, let alone talk.

"I hope you're happy, Twerp." She said.

Now that was uncalled for. It made sense when she called Al that since he's a bit, well, very short. But I was at least a couple heads taller then Aud. There was nothing remotely Twerpish about me.

I didn't answer and she tried to push past me, as a reflex I stepped into her path. She tried the other way and I blocked her again. I have no idea why I was doing this, it's not like I wanted to talk to her or anything, but I didn't want her to leave.

The third time I pulled that stunt she gave a little roar and elbowed me in the stomach.

"Oof." I said, and she passed me by, into the store. I watched her go, trying to suck in breath and ignoring the looks of the people around me. I felt so stupid, and all my self-consciousness from the morning came bounding back. I just wanted to dig a hole where I stood, crawl in and stay there.

I managed to pull my feet from the asphalt and made my way slowly down the street. But it was no use, I could hardly walk I felt so bad. I didn't want to go home because I knew I'd head straight for that blasted mirror. From behind one of the houses it grinned at me, the woods. Just for a while, I knew it would make me feel better. Just for a little bit. I dragged myself towards the trees.

__________

Like it? Hate it? Who are you for so far, Cayn or Aud? The real story starts next chapter… Please review.