Oscar Petey and the Duel of Knights
Oscar Petey Joel-Jacobson never did anything out of the ordinary. He wasn’t too good, but he wasn’t that bad; he got B’s, and a couple A’s and C’s, and kept his 6th grade shenanigans to a minimum. Once, he was tardy for class three days in a row, and got after-school detention for it. He had paper bag lunches, two best friends, a crush on Amy Campbell, and a mop-head of golden corkscrew curls, a pale mole tucked by his nose; he liked himself enough, for he really felt there wasn’t much to complain about, except for dirty dishes and homework, of course. All and all, Oscar Petey was pretty darn normal.
Was pretty darn normal, that is. Was, until yesterday.
Now there wasn’t anything overtly special, or different, about yesterday. At least not at first.
He woke up to Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf at 7:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. He got up (without hitting the snooze button), took a shower, shoveled down some of the scrambled eggs his father had hastily made for him and his younger sister, and was soon hurried out the backdoor and into the van, so his father could attempt to avoid the morning rush hour. Whether or not his father got stuck in traffic on his way to work, Oscar never knew, but he imagined he did, because he just about always did. Oscar was in his desk by 8:00, talked the latest internet memes and music videos with his friends until 8:30, and had an ordinary school day. When the shorthand struck 3:00 in the afternoon, he packed his backpack with the night’s homework, waved goodbye to his friends, and hopped down the concrete front steps of his school and began the walk home, his sweatshirt tied around his waist and his beanie hat snug over his blonde tresses.
There was a local park Oscar Petey liked to cut through, called Magellan Park, and on most days, it was quiet and uneventful. Once he had tripped on his untied shoelace and skinned his hands. Once a dog had gotten off its leash, and had bombarded him with excitable jumps and yips until he was knocked over. (The dog’s owner rescued him, and had apologized again and again until she was blue in the face.) Most days nothing happened. He strolled effortlessly down the wide dirt paths and watched the chickadees hop about the boughs of the trees and the squirrels scurry to-and-fro. But Tuesday, that particular Tuesday, was not a normal day, and as he ambulated through Magellan Park that day, with only a few cares (that weren’t really cares at all) and a bit of a cramp in his left leg, he didn’t take notice, at first anyway, to his long shadow walking alongside him, and the rather odd fact that it had four arms, instead of its normal two.
What tipped him off that something was amiss? Who could say? If intuitions and instincts made sense everyone would use theirs more often. But something did tip Oscar Petey off, and in the middle of the sunlit path he stopped and turned, gazing at his shadow, his head cocked slightly and his brows, furrowed. His long shadow stood facing him, four hands on his hips and four legs, planted. He looked behind him, but no one was there; he looked above him, and nothing was there either; he looked down and watched his shadow scratch his head in confusion, twice. It was strange, to say the least. But, Oscar was sure there was some sort of logical, scientific explanation. He just didn’t know what that explanation could be, but, surely there was one. He turned on his heel and continued walking.
And his extra-limbed shadow followed him, as shadows do. He couldn’t stop glancing at it. His shadow’s movements seemed, somehow, out of sync. He halted again on the path and stared. He jumped up and down a bit, and swung his arms, watching and observing the utter strangeness of his shadow’s behavior. Again he put his hands on his hips, his shadow looking like some sort of insect with all those extra appendages, and so slapped his arms to his sides, flummoxed.
“This is weird.” he muttered to himself, “What’s wrong with you?” he addressed to his shadow, and stood there for quite some time, trying to think of what was happening.
“Oh come off it!” a voice suddenly cried, “Your intrusion is upsetting the lad. Go find your own boy!” Oscar whirled around, looking for where the voice came from, when another voice sounded off behind him.
“You come off it! This is my boy! I was here first! You leave!”
“Balderdash! Clearly I am the first, you go!”
“Bah! We both know you’d say anything to keep these feet! You go! I am clearly the first and the better -!”
“Ha! You are a half-wit if ever there was one, cousin -”
“You’ll be eating those words next noon, usurper!”
“AAH!” Oscar cried, and took off into the park, hiding behind the trunk of a craggy pine tree, his eyes darting wildly about the once peaceful scenery. Who had said that! “Who’s there!” Oscar Petey cried, wondering if he was going mad.
“Now look what you’ve done!” the voice came again, “You’ve gone and frightened the tiny chap! Poor lad, his knees are knocking -”
“Well it certainly isn’t my fault.” the second voice came, “We were having a nice stroll before you arrived -”
“It was our stroll!” the first voice bellowed, “And you were not invited!”
“ENOUGH!” Oscar Petey cried, and now standing with arms crossed and stance wide Oscar Petey glowered over his two rogue shadows, finally having realized where all the shouting was coming from. How it had happened, Oscar hadn’t the slightest idea, but there they were, two shadows laid over the grass, autonomous, acting on their own, and choosing this remarkable moment of magic to have a spat. It seems shadows weren’t much different from people, for standing in the Light Of The Incredible, instead of astonishment or applause for the new and fantastic feat currently being performed, the two beings decided the first thing in order was to have an argument.
And an argument they had.
“How is this possible?” Oscar Petey asked, his head reeling.
“What on earth do you mean, dear boy? Everything casts a shadow -” the paler of the two shadows began.
“What he means is how there are two of us!” the darker interrupted.
“Don’t interrupt me, you beslubbering weasel!”
“Back off, eel! Slipster that you are -”
“STOP IT!” Oscar yelled, his voice booming over the greensward and paths. “Just – stop!” The two shadows halted their mudslinging, each turning to attention, shoulders back and heads high. Oscar, still bewildered, and slightly afraid, took a deep breath. He gazed down at his two shadows, and blinked, but still there they were. He raised his brows. He wished he had posture that good, or, maybe he did, or they just did, but maybe he could. He shook his head, trying to focus.
“Could I be of any assistance?” the Pale Shadow asked.
“Oh. Sure. Cozy up to him.” the Dark Shadow muttered.
“What I meant was how are you talking? How are you conscious? How are you alive?” Oscar stressed, finally getting words out.
“Hmm. This is a rather odd situation.” the Pale Shadow pondered on the grass, his hand upon his chin.
“I’ve never had need to talk before, until you.” the Dark Shadow said, indicating fiercely to the Pale Shadow.
“Well STOP.” Oscar demanded. “I can’t have talking shadows! In fact, I can’t have two shadows! One of you has to leave!”
“A point well made.” the Paler resounded.
“Quite right!” the Darker agreed.
“Right-o! You should be off, then.” the Paler said.
“Right-o! I’ll be off, then NOW WAIT A MINUTE.” the Dark Shadow whirled, a notable scowl in his voice. “I was here first. Oscar Petey Joel-Jacobson is my boy, and you—fowl sneak!— are trying to steal him from me!”
“Me steal? HA!” the Pale Shadow crowed. “You steal! Nothing was amiss until you sidled yourself here, you – you fawning flirt-gill!”
“I’ll have you regret those words, you loggerheaded apple-john!” the Dark Shadow shouted, and together the two shadows stepped back, and both in unison drew swords, each of them swishing their rapiers left-right-left before taking their stances, readying to duel.
“What the – why do you have swords!?” Oscar cried.
The two shadows gave pause.
“Why, I don’t know!” the Paler admitted.
“I’ve never had need to use a sword before.” the Darker said, seemingly astonished by his own fortune, “Until you.” he growled, pointing his blade swiftly at the Pale Shadow.
“I will fight for my boy to the death!” the Paler shouted.
“I will fight for my boy to the death!” the Darker harked in return.
“Please, stop fighting!” Oscar called, holding his hands up. He had never been in such a situation before. Was this how princesses and damsels felt when the knights fought over them? It was strangely flattering. Rather alarming.
And really, really uncomfortable.
No matter of Oscar Petey’s pleading the two shadow-knights could not be reasoned with. Like Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, Anne Shirley and Josie Pye, Montagues and Capulets, Captain Ahab and his damn White Whale they sought to destroy the other, lobbing as many insults as verbally possible while they did it. The Pale Shadow struck first, and like tinging dominoes one strike of metal upon metal led to two then three then four then five and soon, the two shadows were bouncing all over the park! Swinging and tinging and thrusting and parrying all over the grass and paths, bushes and trees and the swing-set and the merry-go-round, until at last, trying to shout and curse each other off the face of the earth the battle seemed to reach its zenith on the back of an old shed; they had spilled out of the park and into someone’s yard, poor Oscar Petey racing after them, hopelessly trying to end the outrageous fight.
“Cut it out!” Oscar yelled, praying no one was watching, “You guys are behaving like freaking idiots!” But the fighting continued on.
“It ends here, cur!” the Pale Shadow suddenly shouted, and with the whirling of his fine blade and a swift swoop, the Pale Shadow knocked the Darker’s rapier from his hand, and then with a hard kick plunged him to his knees. The Paler tucked the end of his sword under the Darker’s chin, and he triumphantly larked, “Ha HA! Well? Give it up, dungcurd! You have been bested!”
“I will never give it up, you cockered clay-brained washpot! I’d rather DIE!”
“Then I will grant you no mercy!” the Pale Shadow pronounced, and he drew back his sword so to strike.
“NO!” Oscar cried, racing forward, but he was too late. The Pale Shadow in a mighty thrust stabbed the Dark Shadow, skewering him straight through, shouting “HAAAAAAAH!”
Oscar Petey stood stunned. He had never wanted this to happen. The Darker groaned and slumped, releasing an “Aaaaaahhh…” but then, quizzically, he brought his head up and looked about. The Paler stepped back, and the Dark Shadow, seeming rather confused, stood up, the Pale Shadow’s sword still lodged through him.
“Why, I’m not dead!” he shouted astonished.
“You’re not dead!” the Paler repeated.
“Well, it sorta makes sense.” Oscar said, stepping forward, feeling relieved. “I mean, you are just shadows. You don’t really have internal organs, and, stuff.” It was all completely ludicrous, of course, but it was the only reasoning Oscar Petey could think of.
“So I can’t kill you!?” the Darker yelled distraughtly at the Paler.
“So it would seem.” the Paler said, grabbing the hilt of his rapier and ripping it from the Dark Shadow’s sternum, the Darker giving a squelching “Ow!”
“So nothing is resolved! We will be forced to do battle forever.” the Paler said solemnly while looking at his unstained blade, his eyes cast down.
“No!” Oscar said, frustrated. “No! You don’t have to fight! Listen, I know that this is all unprecedented. It’s… well, it’s freakin’ weird.” The two shadows nodded in agreement. “And it’s clear to me that neither of you will ever give up the right to be my shadow, for, well, for reasons I don’t fully understand, but it’s clear this means a lot to you both.” Again the shadows nodded, the Darker beginning to recite his litany of eternal devotion to Oscar Petey before the Paler whacked him on the head. “Right. So, I’m thinking, I mean, I know it’ll be a little strange, and it’s certainly not normal, but, well, how about you both be my shadow?”
The two shadows, regardless of having no faces, seemed joyfully dumbfounded. They turned to each other, then back to Oscar Petey (in their minds objectively the most wonderful and prestigious boy in the whole world, for reasons this narrator will never understand), then back to each other, then back to Oscar.
“But! My dear boy!” the Pale Shadow began, “You said yourself you cannot have two shadows!”
“Forget what I said!” Oscar said, “You are both great shadows. I’d be an idiot to let either of you go! Besides, so what if most people only have one? I’ll have two! And that’s my decision. Take it or leave it.”
The two shadows were rooted on the spot, unable to believe their ears. But then, like oily breezes shifting with the winds, they slipped and slid back to Oscar Petey’s feet, connecting back up and melding, molding back into the shadow Oscar Petey had always known.
Oscar, not sure what just occurred, lifted his feet, observing his shadow moving perfectly in rhythm with his movements, testing in the lowering sunlight. He bent forward, and whispered to his dark outline, “Are you both there?”
A head popped out behind another, and together the two shadows said, as though reciting a poem or a prayer:
“We are your shadows Oscar Petey, for now and forevermore.
Through good times and bad, we will be here, loyal and sure.
To grow with you, watch over you, guide you, be your friends.
We are your shadows Oscar Petey, your faithful knights, til the very end.”
And they were faithful, for many long years. Through all of Oscar’s life, they were there. That day, Oscar went home, forever changed. It was an unusual thing that had happened, and he never told a soul. Magic is like that. Not something to be touted about. It was something Oscar realized, that not everything was meant to be shared. That magic was a thing best kept in the heart. Time passed. Sometimes, Oscar Petey wondered if it had ever happened at all, but, he knew the truth.
Magic was real, and he was never alone. And if he ever doubted, even a little, ever at all, all Oscar Petey had to do was step into the light.
He also became quite renowned for his insults. It seemed to have happened overnight. His family never knew what got into him.