It was finally out! I sped through the 'Heroes and Myths' bookstore. The seventh book in the Caldwian series, 'Gregor Mendenwall: Hero of Caldwian'. The series was the greatest thing since Lord of the Rings came out a century ago! And it had finally reached the end.
I turned the corner, ready to grab the book off the shelf the moment I saw it. That’s when I saw him.
He was standing at the other end of the aisle, right across from me. My eyes narrowed. He stood there, in his grey T-shirt with the green stripe, his red-blond hair hanging in his face like Boromir from the Lord of the Rings. Man, I wished I looked like someone from Lord of the Rings. But that was beside the point. What was he doing here?
“What are you doing here?’ I asked.
He noticed me for the first time.
“I’m getting a book.” he said. “That’s what bookstores are for.”
“Yeah but you don’t read, Jordan.” I threw in his name to make it sound better, but it fell totally flat.
“Who says I don’t, Michael.”
What do you say to that? Also, why did he sound so much cooler than me?
“Let’s just grab our books and pretend this never happened.” he said.
“Fine.” I said.
“Fine.” he said.
We broke eye-contact and each walked forward, scanning the shelves.
There it was! And there was only one copy! Jordan was forgotten, all that mattered was that I get my hands on that book. I grabbed it. Victory! But it wouldn’t come out of the bookcase. I tugged it. It tugged back. Somebody else had my prize. Jordan. His long fingers with their somehow clean nails were on my book. How dare he!
“Let go of my book.” I said tugging it towards me.
I had it first,” he said, tugging it back towards himself.
“You need to get your eyes checked. I clearly had it first.” I said tugging it back towards me.
A girl walked up. It was Shelly, the cutest girl in school. I had had a crush on her since fourth grade. I glanced at Jordan. His eyes were practically spinning. Not only did he want my book, he was after my girl too.
“Hey, is that 'Hero of Caldwian'?” she asked. “The last book in the “Caldwian Legends” series? I didn’t know the Heroes and Myths had gotten it.” She glanced at the shelf and saw it was the last copy. Oh no. I could see what was coming next. "Can I have it?" She batted her eyelashes. ”I would be ever so grateful.”
Aghhh! This was my chance to impress the girl of my dreams! But at what price? Hearing whether or not Gregor survived the final trial and gained the magical Sword of Light by some second-hand account description by someone other than John Kearny, the great storyteller himself? Living in the dreadful suspense as to whether the beautiful Miranda was married to her true love, or whether she was forced into marriage with the ugly Count Dwain to save her father’s land for another who knows how long until the store was stocked up again? I couldn’t do it.
“Um.” I said, unintelligently.
“Well,” Jordan said, slightly more intelligently.
Suddenly I could see there was no contest.
“Sorry, Shelly. It’s already taken.” Jordan and I said at the exact same time. We glared at each other.
She rolled her eyes.
“Fine.” she said. “I’ll just wait till the initial excitement wears off. It’s not that important anyways.”
Not that important? My eyes were opened. This golden-haired siren had blinded me with her spontaneous giggles and blue eyes. Not that important? Never again would I fall for such skin-deep beauty. Not that important? I watched her walk away with no regret.
Then I turned my thoughts to more important matters.
“Obviously I should get it.” I said. “I’ve read the entire series five times.” I pulled the book towards me.
“I’ve been reading it since the first book came out.” Jordan said. “I should get it.” He pulled it back towards him.
“I know everything about Gregor.”
“I know everything Caldwian. And its inhabitants.”
“I’ve read all the “Beyond the Book” stories on the website.”
“I got eighty-five percent on the official quiz.”
I stopped tugging.
“Really?” I said. That was a herculean feat. The Gregor Mendenwall Official Quiz was twenty questions, no multiple choices, and delving into the most secret moments in the hero’s life and the deepest depths of Caldwian history. Only the most devoted fans even attempted it, and even then, popularity claimed that it was impossible to get a score higher than 80. Most didn’t even reach that.
Jordan stopped tugging the book as well, as though surprised that I recognized his accomplishment.
“Yeah.” he said, almost sheepishly.
“Me too!” I said. What were the odds?
“What are the odds?” Jordan said.
“Hey,” I said, “That’s it.”
“What?” Jordan began, but then it dawned on him. “Brilliant.” he said, grinning.
Twenty minutes later, we were sitting opposite each other, a computer in front of each. Heroes and Myths had computers in the lobby for just such a time as this, when the only way something could be decided was by an unrelenting quiz taken to prove who truly deserved the honor of taking home the Gregor Mendenwall adventure finale. Or other, less important times, as the case may be. A checker named Michelle counted off.
We glared at each other.
The mouse hovered over the “start” button.
We hit the button. Thirty minutes. Twenty questions. The highest score would win the book. I worked feverishly. The questions zoomed by. I skipped the ones I didn’t know. Soon I had completed all but one. I looked at the clock. Ten minutes left. I looked at the question again.
“What small town was Leon’s favorite poet born in?”
Leon was Gregor’s best friend and sidekick who quoted the ancient bards at the most random times. His favorite poet? Probably the one he quoted the most: Clion the Blarney. Clion came from somewhere in the far east, near Beldelon. But what town? Kedjuny? Melaion? No those were all fair-sized towns; on the map. A small town probably wasn’t.
I looked at the clock again. Bad idea. Less than two minutes left. The seconds ticked away. Under his perfect hair, Jordan’s forehead was increasingly creasing. My mind blew. I couldn’t think. My eyes kept shifting morbidly to the clock.
“Hands off the keyboards, please.” Michelle said. Jordan and I backed away from the computers as Michelle checked the scores.
My hand wandered to my mouth and I began gnawing on my thumbnail. My mother wanted me to stop that habit. I looked over to where Jordan was standing, anxiously twisting his green watch.
“It’s tied.” Michelle said. “You both missed one question.”
What! No! This was not happening! I had gone through all that and I still didn’t have the 10 ounces off pure Gregor Mendenwall awesomeness in my hands.
Jordan’s shoulders slumped. His hands were in his pockets.
“You know, if someone could answer the question I missed, I’d be totally fine giving them the book.”
“Which question did you miss?” I don’t even know why I asked it. It was pretty obvious. Who could possibly get that village question?
“Number six. ‘Which son of Kire is Gregor Mendenwall’s anscestor?’”
My jaw dropped.
“What was the name of the town Clion the Blarney was born in?” I asked, all in a rush. I couldn’t help it. If Jordan had missed that question, he must have gotten the other one right.
“Kirkington. But he grew up in Makalakadon. Why?” He said. His eyes grew big, along with his grin. “Wait do you know which one of Kire’s sons is Gregor’s ancestor?”
“Yeah.” I said. “I like making character geologies in my spare time. This one took forever, but it’s Kassion. Intresting fact: Kassion had two sons. One became Gregor’s distant ancestor, the other became Malidak’s.
“Really?” Jordan said.
“Yeah.” I said. “Weird, isn’t it?”
He grinned at me.
“You’re kind of smart, you know?” he said.
Did he just compliment me? How dare he! We were archenemies. I was Gregor; he was Malidak. There was no way we were going down that path. Then again, he had just complimented me.
“Um, you too.” I said. “I mean, I wouldn’t have gotten the village one without you. Thanks.” Did I just thank him? I had. And it felt kind of good.
“Really?” Jordan said. “Hey, the library’s getting another copy next week, why don’t we both wait till then to read it?”
It was a hard decision. It felt like I had been waiting for Gregor Mendenwall: Hero of Caldwian my whole life.
“We can go to my house and binge read the entire series as well as everything on Caldwian.com.” he said. But he was trying so hard.
“Just think.” he said. “We might be the first people ever to get 100\% on the Gregor Mendenwall Official Quiz.” That was the clincher.
“Sure” I said. “Let’s do that.”
Maybe we were more like Gregor and Leon than Gregor and Malidak.
But I was still Gregor.