If It's Tuesday,
This Must Be Sleepyside
Monday, 12 Noon
East Lansing, Michigan
Cathy, relieved to have escaped from the psychopath Sue's delightfully twisted mind had created, took in her new surroundings.
Hmmmm, she thought, this doesn't look like anyplace Julie Campbell ever wrote about. Her alert eyes noted the small room crowded with ratty furniture. To the right was a bathroom that looked as though it had been a while since it had seen a cleaning product and to the left was a sleeping area with lofts. Cathy snapped her fingers. "A-ha!" She said aloud. "This is a dorm room. I must be at Michigan State!"
"Is someone here?" A feminine voice called out from the sleeping area. A moment later a petite girl of about sixteen with tousled blonde curls appeared. Her blue eyes widened as she saw the blonde woman standing in Jim's living area.
"Cathy? Cathy P.? Is that you?"
"Trixie? You know who I am?"
Trixie smiled brightly, her eyes sparkling like sapphires. "Of course! You and Jix were the inspiration for this universe! Dana never would have created the whole sweet-sixteen-young-love-me-and-Jim-so-happy-you-need-a-glucose-tolerance-test-to-read-us storyline if she didn't want to concoct a tribute to you and your legendary love of all things Trixie and Jim. Gleeps! I hope you don't go into sugar shock just being here!"
Cathy blushed at Trixie's words and said modestly, "Are you sure you're not exaggerating just a little bit, Trix?"
"Not at all—Dana's just so grateful to have a place like Jix to escape to that she wanted to show her appreciation." Trixie grinned. "And it's good to see that I'm not the only one that blushes at compliments! Wow! I never thought I would actually get to meet you!" Then Trixie's brow furrowed as her well-known curiosity kicked in. "So, what are you doing here?"
"Well, Laura Ramsey has kidnapped Jim and is leading me on a merry chase through the Jix universes. I have to find him before March 7th or he'll be hers forever."
Trixie gasped and her eyes became troubled. "We can't let that happen! There's no way that two-bit con artist is going to spend eternity with that supple redhead. Why, I'd just as soon let him skate off into the sunset with that awful Dot Murray!"
Cathy shuddered at the thought. "Well, neither is going to happen if I have any say in the matter," she stated determinedly.
Trixie's eyes flashed fire. "Me, either! What can I do to help?"
"Well, when was the last time you saw Jim?" Cathy asked practically.
"He left for his 10:20 class at about 10 this morning. He had an 11:30 class right after that. I'm pretty sure he said that got out at around 1 and he'd be back by 1:30."
Cathy looked at her watch. It was shortly after noon. Then she had a thought. "Trixie, why aren't you in class on a Monday? Shouldn't you be back in Sleepyside suffering through math class or something?"
Trixie grinned impishly. "Dana decided that there would be one of those convenient teachers' conferences in White Plains today, leaving me with a three day weekend to visit Jim. She figured if that opportune plot device was good enough for the KK's, it was certainly good enough for her. She thought you might like to see Michigan State."
Cathy smiled. "Cool! I got to go to Brasil, too!"
Trixie squealed. "You got to go to Meagan's universe? I have such fun in that uni! Where else would I get away with wearing dental floss?" Trixie asked flippantly. "Have you been anywhere else?"
Cathy nodded. "I got to see Sleepyside in Sue's uni."
"Sjaye Sue? There's so many Sue's and Susan's around here that sometimes I lose track," Trixie admitted.
Cathy nodded. "It was Sjaye Sue's universe," she confirmed.
Trixie took a deep breath. "Okay, I know we're in a hurry and we need to find Jim, but can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, Trix, anything for you."
"Am I really with Dan in Sue's uni?" Trixie wondered.
Cathy grinned. "You are. But it's actually a really good match. And Jim's happy, too. He met a sweet girl named Molly."
Trixie accepted this. "I can handle that. I trust Sue."
"Good, you should. And if you ever lose a necklace, she'll help you search through stroganoff covered trash," Cathy replied. "Now let's track down Jim."
"He has his class schedule copied down and taped to his desk. I'll go look at it," Trixie said as she disappeared back into the sleeping area where Jim's book-laden desk was.
Cathy waited patiently until Trixie returned carrying a slip of paper. "He has an advanced calculus class in Wells Hall until 1:10. It's about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from here. You ready?" Trixie said as she reached for her winter jacket.
"I am," Cathy stated as she zipped up the thick jacket she was wearing.
"How did you manage to find a winter coat in Brasil?" Trixie wondered as they slipped out the door and Trixie locked it using Jim's key.
"It was snowing pretty hard in Sue's uni so I borrowed it from Dan. I didn't realize I was still wearing it." Cathy put her hands in the pockets of the jacket and felt a tiny scrap of cloth with strings that could only be a Brasilian bikini, a rectangular shaped piece of cloth she knew to be the Australian flag, the rosary beads, and the shiny stone that had lead her to MSU. "I seem to be collecting quite a few souvenirs as I go," she murmured.
As they trudged across campus, Trixie spoke. "Dana's really sorry that the walk from Akers, Jim's dorm, to Wells Hall is boring and ugly. This is the part of campus built in the 1960's and it's functional, but not pretty."
"Oh, that's okay," Cathy said easily. "Maybe I can come back another time and see the northern part of campus you like so much."
Trixie looked at her companion in surprise. "How did you know I like the northern part so much?"
"Well…" Cathy was saved from answering when Trixie realized that they had come to a fork in the path.
"If we go this way," Trixie pointed to the right, "it'll take an extra five minutes but it follows the Red Cedar River. It's really quite pretty."
Cathy again looked at her watch. "We have time. Let's go!"
The two talked along the tree-lined path and Cathy took in the quiet beauty of a Michigan winter. The trees were bare of leaves but lightly dusted with a coat of white snow that softened their harsh appearance. The layer of ice on the river glistened in the mid-day sunshine, and the snow crunched satisfyingly under her feet. For someone who left Michigan 8 years ago because she hated the winter, Dana sure seems to be waxing romantically about all of this stuff, Cathy thought.
Soon the path widened and veered to the left, while the river wound gently to the right. More students occupied this portion of the path. As they rounded a curve, Cathy saw a large stadium not too far ahead.
"That's Spartan Stadium," Trixie commented. "That's where the world attendance record for a hockey game was achieved recently. It beat a 50 year old record set in Moscow."
Cathy smiled. "Dana plays hockey—it's no wonder you know that."
Trixie smiled, as well. "Dana was at that game—that's how I know that! Anyway, this building right here to the left of the stadium is Wells Hall, where Jim's class is." Trixie looked down at the piece of paper she was carrying. "B106 Wells. Let's go this way," she said as she led the way to the east side of the building. "Both Jim and Dana assure me that not one student escapes four years at MSU without a class in either B106 Wells or B108 Wells or both."
Cathy nodded and noticed a small, scrawny man with a long, shaggy grey beard. He was barely dressed warm enough for the weather in tattered clothes that had seen their best days decades ago. He carried a plastic bag and collected cans. An old Schwinn bike sat nearby, another plastic bag full of cans tied to one of the handlebars. "Who's that?" she asked, her voice full of curiosity.
Trixie looked over at the bony figure. "Oh, that's Ernie. Here in Michigan cans have a deposit of 10 cents so people collect them and turn them in for money. Dana made almost $100 collecting them after a frat party one time. Ernie has been going around campus for years collecting cans. He's an MSU fixture and students actually save their cans and bring them to class to leave for Ernie," Trixie explained as they entered the glass doors of Wells Hall and found themselves standing outside Jim's classroom. It was 1 pm—class would be over in 10 minutes.
Cathy thought about the gaunt little man collecting cans, wearing tattered clothes through a cruel Michigan winter, living who-knew-where. "I feel sorry for Ernie," she stated.
Trixie snorted. "Don't feel sorry for him!"
Cathy was surprised. "Why, Trixie! That's not like you! What happened to helping people worse off than yourself? Don't you remember the antique show and the ice carnival you helped plan? All the projects you did for UNICEF?"
"I'm all for helping people who need it but let me tell you a story. Dana's best friend Hans lived down the street from Ernie. He had the nicest house on the block and told Hans that he got $10,000 a year in tax-free income from collecting cans in his spare time. With his military pension, he lives quite fine. But the students think 'Poor Ernie' based on the ay he dresses and the fact that he collects cans religiously and continue to bring him cans."
"Wow! It's almost like Jim's great uncle. Everybody thought he was dirt poor, but in reality he had a fortune," Cathy observed.
"Gleeps! I never thought of that before, but you are so right, Cathy," Trixie exclaimed. "And as a side note, you know the story the Philly Phab Phour wrote, 'Toilet in the Middle of Mayhem'?"
Cathy nodded. "Yeah, but it kind of got abandoned. I guess they were having too much fun at the Williamsburg convention to finish it."
Trixie agreed. "Well, that story is based on an, er, incident that happened at Hans' house to Hans' sock."
Before Cathy could ask just what that incident was, the large doors of the B106 lecture hall burst open and a stream of students poured out. Trixie and Cathy both looked anxiously at each student, waiting to see a shock of red hair or sparkling green eyes. When the last student vacated the large hall with no sign of Jim, Cathy and Trixie looked at each other with worried eyes. They entered the large lecture hall to see if Jim had stayed after class to talk to his professor, but the only person remaining in the room was an elderly gentleman heading up the aisle carrying a satchel in one hand and a stack of papers in the other.
Trixie frowned. "It's not like Jim to skip class. Something fishy is going on."
Cathy thought for a moment. "I think we should go back to Jim's dorm room ASAP."
Trixie agreed and the two were soon crunching their way across campus back toward Jim's dorm. They took the short way this time, and Cathy got to see the center of campus. Finally, they reached Jim's dorm and Trixie opened the door—only to see Jim sitting on the couch.
"Jim? How did you get in here?" Trixie asked. "I have your key. And why weren't you in class?"
Jim hurriedly crossed the room and embraced Trixie, giving her a passionate kiss. "Trixie, I missed you so. I just had to leave class early and come back here so we could make love before I have to take you to the airport this afternoon."
Trixie blushed to the roots of her sandy hair. "Jim, you know we're not ready for that. You're not acting like you."
"Oh, but Trixie, we are ready. I can't wait to get you into bed and—"
"Jim!" Trixie interrupted, shocked.
Cathy had been standing silently through the exchange, but now, knowing something wasn't right, she spoke up. "Jim, tell me what you want to do to Trixie."
Trixie gasped and looked at her new friend. "Cathy!"
"Just trust me, Trix, 'kay?" At Trixie's reluctant nod, Cathy turned back to Jim. "So, Mr. Supple, just what is it you want to do to Trixie?"
"Well, first I want to get her naked and then I want to take my tongue and—"
"Just as I thought," Cathy interrupted. "Another Pod-Jim."
"What do you mean, 'Pod-Jim'?" Trixie asked.
"When Laura kidnapped Jim she decided to start leaving Pod-Jims all over the place to throw me off," Cathy elucidated.
Pod-Jim perked up. "Laura? Laura Ramsey? Is she here? I'd love to take her for a long walk."
Cathy looked at Trixie as if that explained everything. "See? A Pod-Jim!"
"Now wait a minute!" Pod-Jim demanded. "You said I was Pod-Jim before I said a word about Laura Ramsey and her charms. What's so odd about me wanting to explore Trixie's body? Susansuth has me 'splorin Trixie a lot! And what about you? I seem to recall some hot strawberries and cream action over at Ten Acres. And what about the saran wrap episode?"
Cathy sighed. "Sure, that kind of stuff takes place all the time in other universes, but not here in Sapphire Days. Dana's too much of a wimp to write a password-protected story. Do you know how hard it is to scroll and write at the same time?"
Pod-Jim thought for a moment. "No, I guess that would be rather difficult. Is that why Trixie and Jim are forever being interrupted in Sapphire Days before things get interesting?"
Cathy nodded. "The very reason."
Pod-Jim shook his head pityingly and looked at Cathy searchingly. "Will the guy ever get past First Base in here?"
Cathy shrugged. "You'll have to ask Dana. I don't meddle in other authors' unis."
"Poor guy," Pod-Jim commiserated. "But this whole conversation reminds me…there's something for you back in the sleeping area. Near that floor length mirror."
"For me?" Cathy said and disappeared into the sleeping area. She heard Trixie say to Pod-Jim. "Well, Mr. Trust Fund, since my Jim doesn't seem to be here and you've got a filthy mind, I'm calling a cab to take me to the airport!"
Cathy looked around and located the functional floor length mirror that stood between two desks. She wondered what clue that witch Laura Ramsey had left and noticed two round objects on the floor in front of the mirror. Cathy bent over to pick them up and study them further. They were like marbles, only bigger, and their blue color was brilliant. "What the heck are these and whose universe do they belong in?" she muttered aloud.
"Cathy?" a voice said softly.
Startled, Cathy looked into the mirror that stood before her. Instead of seeing her own reflection she saw a dark-haired girl who appeared to be college-aged.
"Devin? Is that you?" Cathy asked.
Instead of answering, Devin reached through the mirror and pulled Cathy through.