In part 1 (from Aug. 21): Freddy upgrades his name to Fred on the first day of his fifth grade year. His last year in elementary will be his best because he plans to rule the school as president, as lead in the school play, and as “Guru of Gum,” collecting the most gum comics in recent history. But when situations don’t go his way, can it still be the best year yet? The first of a string of unexpected glitches occurs in part 1: a small being crosses his path, uttering a phrase he doesn’t understand. “This is your year so don’t you fear…”
A rustling in the bushes next to the drinking fountain made Fred do a double take. “So that’s where the little guy disappeared into. Maybe he’s playing a trick on me?” He knew kindergarteners were small and sometimes behaved oddly, but this one seemed a bit ridiculous. “Hey little dude, come outta there. Where’s your mommy?”
“F-R-E-D!” came a small voice from the shrubs. Fred leaned in but couldn’t find a trace of anyone. He tried coaxing him out again. “Hey, buddy. How do you know my name? You must be smart. And what were you saying about this being my year so don’t fear? That’s kind of a weird thing to say. Please come out. I won’t hurt you.”
“I’m not a kid.”
Playing along, Fred continued, “That’s right. You’re not a kid. You’re a big boy. And big boys talk face to face.”
“I’m not a big boy either. I’m your angel friend.”
“You’re my what?”
“Remember when you were 4? We were friends. But when your dad had enough of your “imaginary friend,” he convinced you to grow up and I disappeared. Remember?”
“Uhhhh, I think I’m gonna be late. I better be going.” Fred rushed off to his new class. The words “angel friend” and “imaginary friend” kept turning in his mind. “Nah, that’s crazy. It can’t be. I’m not going crazy!”
“Of course you’re crazy, Freddy boy!” Omar jolted Fred into reality. “You had like 20 kickball home runs last year! Dude, that’s crazy! Just own it. Just say it, ‘I’m crazy good.’ Say it, Freddy!”
“Oh yeah, dude. ‘Fred,’ whatever. You’re crazy!”
Fred chuckled at Omar’s obsessive fascination with kickball skills. “Okay already. I’m craaaazy in kickball!”
And nodding in satisfaction, Omar said, “That’s right. Just own it, man.”
At recess, Fred could not get his mind off the “angel friend” who wasn’t imaginary. So he went back to the bush where he had his last conversation with the hidden boy. “Psssst. Little dude. Where are you?”
“Why you talking to a shrub?” The little boy was suddenly behind Fred. He jumped with a start and noticed, in fact, that the little boy was not a boy at all, but a little man creature with squinty eyes, hunched up shoulders, white hair, and an orange shirt with a grinning face upon it.
“You’re my angel friend?” Fred questioned cautiously.
“At your service! You’ve hit the jackpot. Only one in 175, 000 can see their angel after the age of 5.”
“Why me? …Why you?”
“All us angels talk about who needs us most, who’d be most accepting of us, who’d get the most from our services… And with you being a good guy and having lost your house over the summer, we thought you were a pretty good candidate.”
Then Fred’s angel looked offended, “And why me? You want an exchange already?”
“No. I just didn’t expect you to… to… look like this.”
“Oh, I get it. You’re expecting wings, a white gown, and maybe a halo over my head, right?”
“I can tell now; you are my imaginary friend! That’s so cool! Only, you’ve changed clothes.”
“Yeah, the big guy loosened up the rules since I last saw you. We can choose our own fashion now.”
“Wow, and you chose that shirt, huh?” Fred marveled at his old friend.
“Okay, enough about my excellent fashion sense… This is your year so don’t you fear!”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean: I’m like the writing on the wall, your own personal guide, your genie in bottle — only, I don’t grant wishes, I can’t produce money, and I don’t live in a bottle. I’ve always been around to help you; but now I get to use a little of my magic to make things go your way. That is… if you let me.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“Try me! Did I fail you when you were younger?”
Fred couldn’t remember a time when his “angel” sent him in the wrong direction. But it was so long ago and he couldn’t be sure of a lot of things.
“Alright, let’s try this. Your first task is to help me with winning the election. It’s next week.”
“Great! I love elections. They’re such character builders. Oops, gotta go.”
Telly appeared out of nowhere. “What about the election? And who are you talking to? You’re weird.”
“You know, I can say the same about you, too.” Fred walked toward the kickball field, throwing his hands in the air in frustration. His angel was gone, again.
Looking into the sky, Fred whispered, “How am I supposed to contact you? Can anyone else see you or hear you? What’s your name? God, are you playing a practical joke on me?”
Part 3 of 3 to be continued in 2 weeks.