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Mark poked his potatoes with his fork, wondering whether to tell his parents about today’s incident or just to wait until they found out.
He was saved from making this decision when his parents noticed his lack of appetite. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw them look at each other, a tall blonde and a short, dark-haired man, so different in their exterior but yet so remarkably similar when both wearing that same expression which Mark knew only too well.
“Mark,” said his mother, putting down her knife, “did something happen at school today?”
He looked up. “Well, I had battling class.”
She leant slightly forward and turned her ear a little towards him so that a lock of her wavy hair swung annoyingly around in front of it. This meant, as Mark had learned through the years, something in the direction of, ‘Resistance is futile. Speak out or I’ll sigh and look at you with an annoying kind of expression that parents use.’
“Mrs. Grodski told me off,” he said shortly, figuring it would be pointless to lie.
He closed his eyes painfully. “For saying ‘whatever’.”
“Well, in what context did you say that?”
Detective Mom on the case. Mark sighed before continuing.
“She asked me a question, I didn’t know the answer, and she started going all ‘Oh, you’re so hopeless! You can never answer questions! You’re going to fail! You’re blah blah blah blah blah!’” Mark imitated in the screechiest voice he could manage, feeling his bad mood amplified by the mere thought of Mrs. Grodski.
His mom smiled in that annoying parental way that said, ‘I always side with the teacher because she is an adult and adults always know better.’
“You really should try to do well this year, dear…”
Mark sighed again with a dull expression. “I’ll try – if Mrs. Grodski doesn’t finish me off before the exams, that is.”
“Oh, she’s not that bad,” his mother said in an unconvincing tone of attempted reassurance.
“She hates me,” Mark grumbled, folding his arms.
It was his mom’s turn to sigh now. “She doesn’t hate you,” she said sternly. “She may not be your favorite teacher, and I admit you may not be her favorite student either, but I’m sure she doesn’t hate you any more than she hates anyone else.”
“She does! I’d know it better than you!” Mark shouted across the table, losing his temper at last. “Why are you always on her side?”
“Mark…” his father began.
“Goodbye,” Mark said loudly, standing up from his chair and storming towards the door. “Did I mention I hate you too?”
As Mark slammed the door behind him, he discovered two things. The first one was that he had completely forgotten that it was pouring down rain and was greeted by the nasty feeling of his socks being soaked with water as soon as he stepped outside. The second one was that there was an unconscious Charmander lying in the middle of the street.
Mark’s frustration at discovery number one was quickly replaced by the dumbfounded feeling of having landed himself in a situation that was such a cliché it could have been cut out of Ash Ketchum’s autobiography.
Of course, the next thing that came to mind was: What the hell is a Pokémon doing here?
From his geography class and general common knowledge, Mark knew that for unknown reasons, something in North-West Ouen had creepy effects on Pokémon. No wild ones had lived there for as long as anybody could remember, and if Pokémon were brought there by trainers, they seemed to get unnaturally exhausted and weak after a few days in a phenomenon known as ‘the Effect’. Sailance, Mark’s hometown, was practically in the very corner and stereotyped as a haven for Poképhobes; why a Charmander would have come there of all places was even more puzzling than why it was outside in this kind of rain at all.
The sound of a car snapped Mark back to the real world. Whatever the reason for this Charmander being there, it would certainly get run over if it wasn’t brought off the road, and even then, the tail flame that the little lizard’s life depended on had been reduced to less than a candlelight by the merciless raindrops.
He ran into the street to pick up the Charmander’s limp body. Carrying it towards the house, he stroked its warm, orange hide and vaguely remembered pointing at a Charmander in a picture book when he was little to announce to his parents that he was going to pick one as a starter when he became a trainer. Now Mark wasn’t as fond of the traditional starter Pokémon although he still liked Fire types; he would have picked a Vulpix or Growlithe if he had gotten to become a trainer last year.
Securing the Charmander in his left hand, he used his right to open the door before stepping inside, already soaked by the rain.
“I thought you hated us?” his mother asked from the dining table to the right. She was sitting with her back faced towards the door, but Mark could imagine the smug expression she would be wearing; blushing slightly in embarrassment about his dumb little fit of rebellion, he fought to catch his breath.
“Mom… Dad…” he panted, “there’s a Charmander… it was just outside…”
His mother looked over her shoulder with a blank expression; her eyes moved slowly from Mark’s waterlogged clothes to the unconscious lizard Pokémon in his arms. She let out a shriek as she jumped out of the chair. Mark’s father hastily came around the table to see and his mouth fell open under the mustache.
Mark was feeling too strange to even notice his parents’ reactions and just started fanning the Charmander’s tail with his hand, unable to think of anything else to do. Whether thanks to his efforts or simply because it was warm inside, the fire already seemed to be growing, and it did not take too long for it to be restored to well out of danger zone.
Breathing in relief, Mark shook his exhausted arm. His mom had been standing there staring at him for the whole time, but now looked at the window. The street view was still blurred by a thick sheet of rain.
“I guess we will have to keep it inside for the night,” she said unsurely, biting her lip.
“It will have to sleep in something flame-proof, too,” Mark said, glancing at the fire that now burned peacefully on the Charmander’s tail tip. His mom looked at him and then hurried up the stairs to the kitchen.
“Mark,” his father said suddenly, speaking for the first time since Mark came back inside, “where did you find him exactly?”
“On-on the road just outside our house,” he stammered.
“You are aware that this is the last place a wild Charmander would go to when it’s raining, I hope?”
Mark sighed. “Yeah.”
It made sense. There was probably a trainer out there missing his starter Pokémon who would arrive at their door soon enough asking if they’d seen a Charmander. But Mark was still having the half-uncomfortable, half-exhilarating feeling of his life having changed forever.
“We’ll go online tomorrow and check if a trainer has reported a lost Charmander,” Mark’s father said decisively as his wife returned from the kitchen, holding a large pot. She looked questioningly at Mark as she placed it on the dinner table in front of him.
“It’s got to be a bit uncomfortable to sleep in, but we can’t have him burn down the house.” He placed the lizard gently into the pot, taking care to leave the Pokémon lying in a comfortable position, and picked the pot up instead.
“Why don’t you just take him into your room and read or something, just to keep an eye on him?” his mom suggested, noticeably worried by the thought of the house burning down. “I need to talk to your father a bit, too.”
Mark eyed his parents suspiciously as they walked up the stairs, but decided that watching the Charmander was more important than listening in to conversations and carried the pot with the unconscious Pokémon into his room. Setting it down beside his bed, Mark picked up a book about legendary Pokémon that his parents had given him, and sat down on his pillow. He glanced once more at the sleeping Pokémon in the pot and felt his face break into a grin. A Pokémon! In Sailance! Perhaps he could practice his Pokémon speech skills by talking to Charmander. Maybe he was even more fun to talk to than Mr. Flintlake’s Vulpix.
Secretly hoping that the trainer would take a while to find, he sank himself into the legend of Vaxil and the Color Dragons, which he almost knew by heart.
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Pokémon © 1995-2010 Nintendo, GAME FREAK and Creatures Inc. The Quest for the Legends and its characters, locations, storylines, extras, spinoffs, etc. © 2002-2010 Butterfree/Dragonfree/antialiasis except when otherwise stated or stemming from official sources.