The Haunted Woods Fan Club Meets
“This meeting of the Haunted Woods Fan Club will come to order!” shouted Hal, banging his gavel to get the attention of the noisy crowd in front of him. “I said order!”
The noise gradually died down. Hal surveyed the crowd in front of him. It was a much bigger turn out this meeting, mostly likely due to the recent announcement of “Brains” Mortigan officially replacing Autrey in this year’s tournament.
“Much better,” he said after the room had gone mostly silent. “As you know, this is the last meeting before the official start of the cup. One quick announcement before we start discussing team news: If you have not yet bought your tickets for the upcoming first match, you’d best get on it. There are only a few days left and tickets are sure to run out before long.”
“Now, on to official business. As all of you are likely aware, Autrey Fulse will not be returning this year.”
At this point he had to stop talking as the crowd began talking over the skunk Kyrii again. He glared from behind the podium until they had quieted down once more.
“Instead,” he continued finally, “team captain Krell Vitor has recruited newcomer ‘Brains’ Mortigan.”
The crowd erupted once again. “Please, settle down!” he shouted. Several minutes passed before Hal was able to get their attention again. “I know that this is a controversial issue, but I must ask you to calm yourselves!”
As the crowd settled into a semblance of calm a young red Xweetok stood up and marched to stand in front of the podium. “Hal, I must insist upon addressing the crowd.” She was a regular attendee, and he knew she was only asking permission as a formality. He waved her to continue, knowing that she would have even if he had denied her.
She turned to face the club members. “Fellow Haunted Woods fans, this betrayal by Krell is unforgivable. Autrey was our best defender, and without him we are lost! I say we boycott. Return your tickets and refuse to support them unless they bring him back!” She ripped the black and orange headband from her hair and tossed it to the ground.
“So you just expect us to drop our team just because one team member has been replaced?” came a voice out of the crowd.
“No, I expect you to continue to support our team that has been ruined, and demand that it be restored!”
A red Chomby stood up and made her way to the front as well. “Hal, if I may?”
“Go right on ahead,” he said. This always happened whenever anything changed. Some people would insist things be ‘set right’, others would support the change and weren’t afraid to express that opinion. He could only hope that they would get it out of their systems before the end of the meeting.
“Lieta, friends and Haunted Woods lovers alike, can anyone honestly say that it sounds like a good idea to jump ship just because of one team change? This isn’t the first time our team roster has changed after all.”
“Exactly!” shouted Lieta before regaining her calm. “And we haven’t won since Chelo left! Another team roster change could drop us to last place. They’re just unlucky and you know it, Molly!”
“If you’re going to insist upon changing the team back, why focus on Autrey then? Why not boycott the team until Chelo comes back, hmm?”
From behind the podium, Hal smirked. He doubted even Lieta could come up with a response to that. And indeed she could only sputter before marching back to her seat without a backwards glance. Molly threw an amused look up towards Hal before returning to her seat as well.
For once, the club was quiet. “Well then,” said Hal after a few moments of this stunned silence, “if everyone’s gotten change-is-the-worst-thing-possible syndrome out of their system, let’s move on, shall we.” No one spoke up, and so he continued.
“Now, regardless of whether you support Krell’s decision, Brains is new and we ought to support him. That’s why I propose we put together a gift basket for him like we did when Autrey was new. So, any ideas?”
“Cookies!” shouted someone from the back of the room.
Hal scribbled down the suggestions as fast as he could. When the ideas stopped coming, he looked the list over. “We probably ought to come up with some non food products, guys,” he said. “He is in training after all.”
He could tell by the faces of the crowd that no one had any ideas. He had just opened his mouth to encourage them when a voice came from a back corner.
“How about a ghost paintbrush hidden inside some flowers?”
“Very funny, Zeb,” said Hal, not amused. “Although I doubt Krell will let another new guy fall for that one.”
“Sorry, Hal...” came Zeb’s voice again, although it was clear that he was indeed not sorry.
“Zeb, you need to stop being such a jerk!” called a fire Meerca from the front row. “It’s people like you who give Meercas such a bad name.”
“I’ll have you know I haven’t been a Meerca since my last lab trip. I’ve been a Buzz for the past two weeks, so there!”
“Zeb, shut up,” said a brown Grundo in the back of the room.
Hal sighed. If even Quid the shy was annoyed, it was past time to end the arguing.
“Guys, clearly no one but Zeb thinks that pranking the new guy is a good idea, so let’s just drop it. So does anyone have any actual ideas?”
“What about a house plant?” suggested Quid shyly.
“That’s a great idea,” said Hal.
“Just nothing brain related or he might eat it!” shouted Zeb again.
“Zeb, if you’re going to be a toenail, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Hal said firmly. He waited a moment to see if Zeb would say anything else, but apparently he wasn’t willing to get kicked out.
Fortunately, the rest of the gift basket discussion went smoothly.
“Ok, so we’ll need a couple of people to get this thing put together. No, Zeb, I’m not going to pick you, so just put your hand down,” Hal added as Zeb’s arm shot up in the back corner. “Alright, how about Molly, Andru, and Quid then?” he continued. “You three meet me after the meeting and we can talk more about it.
“Now, we are almost out of time at today’s meeting. But before we go, I’d like to bring up one bit of old business.” Hal paused a minute, looking around at the faces of the regulars. He could tell by their assorted eye rolls and amused smiles that they knew what he was about to say.
He waved at the wall behind him which was covered in frames. “We have yet to finish our autograph collection. It’s only Zo’s, and now Brain’s come to think of it, that we have left to get. Has anyone had any luck since the last meeting?”
He could almost hear crickets chirping; it was that quiet. Then Leila spoke up.
“No, of course we haven’t,” she said. “And if we keep bothering him about it, we probably never will.”
Hal hadn’t really expected anyone to have managed it this time. Zo hadn’t liked them since the paintbrush prank, even if that had been Zeb’s fault. Still, what kind of team fan club didn’t have a full set of autographs to show off?
“If we stop bothering him, how will we ever have a chance to get his autograph?” Hal asked. “Exactly,” he added when no one responded. “We can’t give up. He doesn’t have to know you’re from the fan club after all.”
“Now then, I want to hear that some progress has been made by next meeting, ok? Molly, Andru, Quid, one of you should ask for Brain’s while you’re delivering the basket. He doesn’t have a reason to dislike us yet. Well, as long as you keep Zeb away from the basket. Meeting dismissed.”
He smacked his gavel to officially end the meeting, then headed down to the snack table to chat with the gift basket team.