15 February 2010

University of Pennsylvania

13 Nov 2009. The first Ivy League entrant. Looking to go classy, I was aiming for a cocktail/martini glass, intending to save the wine goblets for the Napa schools, such as UC Davis and...hmm...just UC Davis then. Penn had a nice bookstore stocked with beanbag Quaker men but no martini glassware.
The university seal is etched on the glass I'm telling you. Why won't you believe me??
Next door at Cosi bakery, a nervous manager was being meticulously evaluated by a humorless district supervisor. Was it the wrong time to squeal in horror about a fruit fly in my orange-pom juice?

"There's some hot Livin' On A Prayer action. Thank you, Percy-fone."
"It's Per-SEFFA-nee!" calls out the curly haired blonde making her way back to her plastic chair.
The MC moves on. "Next we have Mario. Mario, you're up for rooftop karaoke tonight. Step on up to the stage mic and - where's my stage mic?"
"I have it." answers a deep mellifluous voice. "Ms. Persephone stole my Bon Jovi thunder. But I made an alternate selection. I'm ready to go, if you could switch to song 5428, please."
The MC's eyes dart from seat to seat. Who was messing with him?
"Come on up to the stage, Mario, and I'd be happy to."
"I said I was ready to go."
"...You got it." The MC taps out a couple keystrokes and leaps offstage.
Mario, nowhere in sight, gets off to a rocky start. He rushes the first words of his selection to catch up.

"AndnowtheendisnearandsoIfacethefinalcurtain, my friend, I'll state it clear..."
The MC motions to the bartenders to round up security.
Mario continues, hesitant to flex his pipes. The uneasiness clearly comes through in his voice.
"...Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention..."
The two bartenders return with a tight shirted bouncer brandishing a few hefty maglites. The four of them split up, searching the roof. They scan the neighboring buildings' windows and fire escapes.
Mario's disembodied voice, strong but subdued, still does not exhibit the confidence laid out in the lyrics.
"...When there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out..."
The customers look around in confusion. No one seems to be paying attention to the song.
Except for Persephone.
The search party elbows her aside.
How obnoxious. Just let the guy sing.
The final verse approaches. She cups her hands over her mouth for amplification, never necessary for ol' Limber Lungs Persephone.
"Belt it out, Mario!"

Mario's voice suddenly loosens. The words are relaxed and powerful. Vibrating baritone bravado transfixes everyone within earshot, even the employees on the hunt.
"For what is a man
what has he got
if not himself
then he has naught
to say the things
he truly feels
and not the words
of one who kneels?
The record shows
I took the blows
and did it m- "


The last two words of Sinatra's classic are drowned out by an explosion. A hole is blown open in the old brick building next door. Smoke pours out. Masonry and glass shoots onto the rooftop club. The customers, caught frozen, are pelted with stone debris. Fallen light posts, scattered chairs, and broken wine glasses and beer bottles complicate any attempt at a quick exit. Students in the crowd cry out.
"Help me! I go to Penn!"
The employees and some of the customers tend to the injured.
Persephone emerges from underneath a patio umbrella. She peers into the smoky crater. As her view clears up, she locks on a pair of large golden eyes. They are the size of regulation baseballs, ten feet off the ground. The pupils thin when Persephone catches sight of them. Before she could blink to get a better view, they disappear.

The stage mic, melted mouthpiece and all, flies through the air and lands at her feet. She picks it up but quickly drops it. Still hot.
It was at this moment, surrounded by brickwork and liquor, that Persephone first experiences - and understands - her parents' seemingly contradictory blend of concern and anger. She does not have time to contemplate this unsettling new emotion. It makes her move. She runs over to the edge of the four story nightclub. The fire exit is rusty. She carefully shuffles over the brick wall onto the platform. She looks down.
A puff of smoke shoots through the second story window of the next building.
Persephone jumps back onto the roof and finds a rain gutter. She launches over the wall and grasps the pipe between her hands and knees.
Just like a playground pole.
She shimmies down, and, within seconds, she is down on the ground near the service exit. The double doors fly open in front of her.
If she has no plan for stopping anyone, which she doesn't, she definitely has no plan for stopping a dragon.
He - Persephone instantly knows this is Mario - has deep blue scales, golden claws, teeth, wings, and spines to match his eyes. He is showing signs of high adrenaline aggression: wide eyes, flared nostrils, arched back. She feels stupidly defenseless; any one of those teeth could slice her to lunchmeat.
If he's going to gut me, nothing I can do now.
"Mario, you hurt a lot of people up there."
Mario averts his gaze. He says nothing for an eternal beat.
"You urged me on." Miniature flames spurt from his throat as he speaks.
"To sing louder? Like I knew you were a fire breathing dragon!"
Mario pauses to economize his words.
"Those last two notes. I should have known."
"Why were you hiding?"
Mario doesn't have to ponder this one. "Why do you think?"
Now it was Persephone's time to consider a response.
"You have a world class voice. You shouldn't have to hide it."
Mario just glares at her. She winces at her comment.
"Oh. You already...know that."
"Indoor karaoke, a disaster. Outdoor, the same. Singing to my mate in our grotto, unfulfilling."
"There's the problem! You can do so much better than karaoke."
"I don't know. I'm sure we can think of something to keep it safe for others. Fireproof mics?"
"Very low fidelity."
"I'm just brainstorming. And you can speak in full sentences, Mario. I'll just stand to your side away from the sparks. I'm not afraid." Persephone moves to Mario's right side. He leans left.
"I am."
She puts her hand on his back knee. The scales are like cold, hard, tea saucers.
Persephone's face goes vertical. She smacks her head and points to Mario.
"I know who can help."

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