Victor stood in front of the mirror and straightened his shirt as best he could. There was some clattering from down the hall, and the rustle of comic books being tossed aside, and then a cry of, “Found ’em!” Footsteps clapped the floorboards in the hall, and then Gary was back in the bathroom, Victor’s jacket and tie in hand.
“Perfect, thanks,” said Victor. Gary handed him the tie, and he looped it around his neck. He struggled one-handed for a minute, failing to make a Windsor knot—failing to make a knot of any description.
“Would you like me to tie it for you?” asked Gary.
“Uh, do you know how to tie a necktie?”
Gary gave a puzzled, almost offended look, as if Victor had just asked him if he knew how to tie his shoelaces. “Of course.” He snatched the tie from Victor’s collar, slid it around his own neck, then began flipping and looping it like an expert. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.
“It’s the best thing,” said Victor.
Gary sighed. He loosened the textbook Windsor knot from his neck and lifted it over his head, then placed it over Victor’s head. “At least you’ll get to go home,” he said, sliding the knot up and adjusting it to dovetail with Victor’s collar. “There you go.”
“Wow. Nice knot,” said Victor, admiring it in the mirror. Gary picked up Victor’s jacket and brushed it off with his hand. “You know,” said Victor, “if all goes to plan, I won’t be the only one going home.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you go to Sunday School, Gary?”
“Every week—until I got sick.”
“I figured as much from the curse in the garden shed. I’m a Sunday School veteran myself. Do you remember the story of Samson?”
Gary smiled. “Yeah, he was strong because of his long hair. I liked that story.”
“Me too. Do you remember how it ended?”
“Um… yeah, his hair got cut off… and then, uh…he was weak, and he—oh yeah! I remember. He pushed the building down and killed himself, and all his enemies died.”
“Exactly,” said Victor with a wink. “I’m going to do a Samson.”
Gary looked confused. “Wait… what…”
“Could you help me put the sling on?”
“Oh, uh, yeah.” Gary laid the jacket across the sink and picked up the sling from the floor. He fitted it over Victor’s right shoulder, then held it in position as Victor slid his left forearm into the pouch. “What are going to do?”
“There’s a picture frame waiting for me in the front hall, right? Which means I’m going to die here. Well, if that’s how it has to be, Gary, then I’m taking The Dragon Lady with me.”
Gary’s eyes widened. “What?”
A determined look set in Victor’s face. “I’m gonna break this damned curse, so you can finally go home.”
Tears welled in Gary’s eyes and he threw his arms around Victor. Victor yelped in pain as Gary squeezed his ribcage. “Oh, sorry,” said Gary, releasing him and stepping back.
“It’s okay,” groaned Victor. He breathed slowly and tucked his left arm to his side. “I’ll get my jacket too,” he said, with a nod toward the sink.
Gary grabbed the jacket and held it as Victor put his right arm through the sleeve; he draped the other side over Victor’s left shoulder. “Looks good,” he said.
“Yeah?” said Victor. He observed himself in the mirror. “Huh. Not bad at all. If this is it for me, then I might as well look my best, right?” He turned to face Gary.
“Hang on, there’s a bit of fluff there,” said Gary, and he brushed the right jacket pocket. His hand hit against something hard. “What is that?”
“Huh?” Victor reached into the pocket. He chuckled. “Oh yeah, the ninja gave me a present.”
“And the pterodactyl. Here.” Victor removed his hand from his pocket and held out the water pistol he had put there the previous day.
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