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Jen reads w/out #pants on, Ep. 3 (#comics character shoots his author)

*Read below! Or listen above.*

Pre-order Becoming Hero here:
With comics: https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Hero-…
Without comics: https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Hero-…
Elsewhere: http://becominghero.ninja
Skye is the storm-tossed comic character out for revenge on the author who murdered his family. Jace is the math-loving #blerd trying to escape his father’s deadly legacy. When their worlds collide, Jace must choose between the real world he’s always hated, and the comic book world he’s always loved–and Skye must decide if killing his author will save his world, or damn his soul. *Solve Skye’s math puzzle for a chance to win $100, in every book.*

Jace, cont.

My dad and I lived in one of the grey buildings, not a red brick one. Mottled grey exterior, greying warped beige stairs, and grey stained carpeting that scratched like sandpaper against the splintering bottom of our apartment door as I opened it. The mildew even smelled grey.

“I like your couch,” Caleb said right away.

It wasn’t grey. I looked at him, and back at the orange and yellow plaid ratty sofa that held so many memories of my Mom, and I smiled.

“Yeah, it’s ugly, isn’t it?” I smiled. “A superhero team in my favorite comic has the same one.”

“Yeah, uh…I like comics, too.” But he didn’t elaborate. He just stood there, staring at the couch.


“Hey, uh—lemme grab—food—stuff.” I ran to the kitchen. It was so small I could literally put both hands on the walls without straightening my elbows, and so yellow Dad and I called it Twinkieland. (It was supposed to be white.) I snatched the off-brand not-Oreos off the counter, wrapped my arm around two glasses, and yanked the milk jug out of the fridge.

Back in the main room I found Caleb sitting at the dinner table in the corner, scribbling…with my math book in front of him.

Oh crap!

“Whoa, that’s not, it’s, hey!” I almost dropped the milk on the floor in my rush to stop him. My math level was my third-most closely guarded secret, after my dad’s job, and now I’d given away number two and three in one day! I knew I shouldn’t care, but come on. Other guys at school took it like a personal offense that I dared to be smarter, or study harder, or whatever it was I did. If they were nice, they treated me with pity, like I had to have some kind of horrible social deficit to make up for it. Poor naïve Jace, I bet his mom ties his shoes…My school didn’t even offer calculus, so I had to take an independent study period for a correspondence course with the local college just to keep progressing, and I made sure everyone thought I was goofing off.

I tried to apologize for it. “Hey, Caleb, that’s not really, you know, that’s…”

Caleb slid a sheet of loose leaf across the table.

He’d done my homework.

Hey! Hey, a nerd like me!

“Yeah, there’s somethin’ calming about Calc, right?” he said it with a capital C when he said it. “Like it’s the key to another reality or somethin’.”

I chose my words carefully, with a little smile. “Well, technically relationships between all matter run on…differentials of various functions, you know? Math’s the underpinning of the way the world works. It’s the essence and the truth of things.”

“Or it’s our way of describing it, and the world doesn’t work on anything.” A dark glare glittered under the hair falling over his face as he looked away from me.

I swallowed and looked away from him to pour a glass of milk. I felt shut down. Man, who was this guy? Weirdo, liking my couch, and beating up my classmate, and doing my math homework—crap, this guy just took out like ten people in front of me. He could probably kill me with this glass like the Joker in that Frank Miller Dark Knight Returns.

“Hey, I have to study,” I said, trying to indicate that stranger-meet-and-greet was over. “Whole bunch of problems sets I have to finish. So…”

Caleb flipped like a coin. The glare never existed: now he grinned like a little boy freshly declaring war on the girls’ treehouse. “Race you,” he said with twinkling eyes. “See who can finish your problem sets first. If I win, you gotta tell me why you stole that guy’s wallet.”

No man, maybe some other time, I really need to concentrate and stuff, it’s been cool, but—all the words that could’ve come out of my mouth milled around somewhere between my brain and my sinuses. Look at this guy, just so happy about my homework. How could anyone say no to that?

Then again, I’d learned the hard way to play it safe.

Man, but look at this guy’s torn jeans and stuff—torn because he’d worn them too long, not because he bought them that way—and the mud on the Batman backpack he still hadn’t taken off, and the bruise forming over his cheekbone, I mean, who knew what this dude’s life was like? He probably had a reason for feeling like the world didn’t work on logic. And now I was gonna push him out?

I couldn’t imagine God smiling on that.

“Sure,” I said.

So that’s how I chose to befriend the violent stranger. Caleb cracked jokes every ten minutes or so at first, but after about an hour only the intense fluttering of paper or the occasional curse over a mistake marked his presence. I didn’t say much, and I didn’t make mistakes. I’d never met someone like Caleb; math was part of his identity, like it was mine, our mental martial arts—a way to master chaos with logic.