Petey knew his mumbling was going to get him killed someday. Every time he caught the glares of the older students he was sure that day was going to be this day. It wasn’t a matter of keeping his mouth shut — he had to mumble, like a chewer has to bite her nails, like a smoker has to smoke. Years ago the mumbling was louder, clearer, and easier to understand. Petey knew if his mumbling today was like that he’d already be cold under the Licket food processor. Sometimes what he said was as harmless as ‘she has braids today’ or ‘his sweater is cool’ or ‘he skipped class yesterday’, but it didn’t matter what he said so much as they way he said it, like he was accusing every student of a crime. Most of the time, though, he wasn’t so nice. Everyone likes to dance around the facts and play ‘be nice to all creatures’; Petey wasn’t like that. He had no problems mumbling his true views on every single person he saw, whether it was that pretty girl with a lisp or the big track champ who had no brains. Track Chump, whose name was, correctly spelled, Tray Kushump, was the most likely candidate for Petey’s inevitable death. The look he gave Petey when Petey mumbled ‘hey no brains giant guy you gonna run away again like you run from grades above a C yeah’, which was pretty much every day, assured Petey of this fact.
Ping, the peanut butter jar slid into his glass of Licket water (which tastes like a cross between apple cider and seaweed), splashing it over the sides onto his homework. Mumbling about the evil of sliding stuff along the counter, Petey wiped off the screen, knowing his aunt would throw a fit when she saw those droplets on her antique touch pad. He only looked up when the culprit stood behind him and reached over his shoulder. Petey braced himself to be thrown through the windows and eventually trashed in the vacuum of space, but the guy just grabbed his peanut jar. “Sorry-o,” he giggled, “I loves-um the sliding counters-o ya know?” “If you didn’t have a speech impediment I might get it but fine talk to me like that you don’t sound sorry you have no idea,” Petey mumbled, ignoring the guy to go back to his homework. The school required no less than four treatise of alien life and one thesis on inter-species relationships to graduate, and he only had a couple months left to finish them. “Haha,” the other guy said, “yous-um talk funny-o ya know? I am sorry-o ‘bouts them drops yeah my bad bud-o.” “And he’s calling me ‘bud’ why is he doing that he’s kind of annoying I have to get this done today too, just leave me alone, go back to your peanut butter sliding....” The older guy bent over and stuck his face right in front of Petey’s, grinning ear-to-ear. “I likes you ya know? Hows ‘bouts you be mine-o partner yeah for the mish-o?” “Now he’s creeping me out and I have no idea what he’s talking about he’s going to leave me like space shit out there floating forever I just know it, he just looked at the windows he’ll grab me any second now or bully me forever I’m not sure....” “Hey look up-o!” The guy gasped and pointing to the ceiling. Petey’s eyes followed his finger up. “Ah, it’s down-o nows!” Petey’s eyes followed his finger back down to the ground, then he went cross-eyed as the boy stuck his finger in front of the smaller boy’s face. “Thats was a yes-o yeah it was! Nows we’re agreed I’ll-a go yeah, see ya ats train-o!” With that the boy went out through the doors to the hangar in a smooth saunter that made it look like he was trying to roller-skate with out skate projectors. “What a weirdo I think I might have just agreed to something but who can tell with his funky speech like a demented Licket speaking Spanish in a bathtub while chewing on his antennae.” The mystery lasted only as long as lunch break, when the loudspeaker sounded throughout the entire ship for all to hear: “Cadet Petey Efre, you’ve been chosen to fly with Mission 024-FJ under Captain Lead Mango, report to Special Ops on Deck 14 for prep training. Petey Efre, report to Special Ops on Deck 14, Petey Efre, Deck 14, Petey Efre.”
So much for graduation. Once in Special Ops, always in Special Ops — that’s if you made it back from your mission alive. Petey’s eyes traveled down to the water-marked touch pad, and he thought of his aunt. She wouldn’t miss him much, and his mom was still on duty in Licket so she might not even notice he was gone. Slowly Petey slid off the stool and caught himself with his tail. “Stupid stools, tails, all that,” he mumbled, but his mind was already racing ahead, 20 floors below where a special mission awaited him. “Goodbye tea-house that was stupid anyway mom’s the only one who cares about the thing and even she wants to update the furniture serves aunt right for not knocking it down and building a real restaurant I never wanted to inherit it anyway, I wonder if they’ll have tea on board I bet they will, normal tea with lots of sugar....” As he mumbled he walked faster and faster until he was sprinting down the spiraled ramp that would lead him to Deck 14 and freedom. PB wasn’t so bad, really.