Insinuation 2.3: Sparky and Greg

Source material: Worm, Insinuation 2.3

Originally blogged: February 22, 2017


Not much to say here. Last chapter was very much a setup (and minor exposition) chapter – hopefully this chapter takes the pieces that were set up last time and puts them into motion.

Or in less metaphorical prose, hopefully this chapter will deal with Taylor’s decision regarding Tattletale’s contact post. If I’m lucky, it might even show the actual meeting, provided Taylor decides to take Tattles up on it.

Which I’m relatively sure she will, or chance will have her meeting the Mozart Gang soon anyway. After all, it would be rather narratively odd for it to not happen after the way Insinuation 2.2 ended.

Damn, every time I write “not much to say” in one of these posts I end up saying lots… Anyway, let’s get crackin’!


I didn’t have any time to contemplate the message I’d received from Tattletale.

This opening could be just ordinary narration to move the school day along, but it could also be read as a note to the reader: “We’re doing something else first but we’ll get back to that in a bit.”

Maybe we’re in for a Bitch Trio chapter?

The bell rang and I had to hurry to properly log off and shut down before heading to my next class. As I gathered my stuff, I realized I had been so caught up in researching on the villains I’d met last night and in Tattletale’s message that I had forgotten to worry about getting into trouble for skipping class.

Ah, right, that plot thread was kind of left dangling throughout the previous chapter.

I felt a kind of resignation as I realized I would have to face the music later in the day, anyways.

You can hear it better when you’re facing it. Face the music and jive!

…actually, since I haven’t really done this much in the liveblog so far – and have made it clear that English is not my first language – I should probably clarify: I do know what “face the music” and most idioms I encounter mean. It’s just that I sometimes like to act as if I take things literally, for comedic purposes.

That does remind me that I forgot to put on music, though.

[There was a link here to the 24/7 Homestuck music stream I was listening to, lumiRadio, but the link was dead. As of December 2018, the stream can still be found on the YouTube channel luminantAegis. No relation to Aegis the Worm character.]


Madison was already in her seat as I got to the classroom. She had a pair of girls crouching by either side of her desk, and all three of them broke into giggles as they saw me. Bitches.

Ah yes, there they are.

My seat of choice was the far right, front row, closest to the door.

Makes sense. We’ve already seen Taylor’s quick escape tactics, back in 1.1.

Where is she going to have lunch now that the secret of her unsanitary bathroom snack habits has been compromised?

Lunch hour and immediately after school was when the trio tended to give me the hardest time, so I tried to sit as close as possible to the door, for a quick escape.

How come you usually don’t hear other synonym combinations for that concept? Like speedy exit, hurried abscond, fast departure, supersonic disembarkment…

I guess people are used to quick escapes.

I spotted a puddle of orange juice on the seat, with the empty plastic bottle lying just underneath the chair. Madison was going for a two for one. It was both a ‘prank’ and a reminder of how they had doused me with juice and soft drinks last Friday.

I’ll give them that, their antagonism is… compact?

Irritated, I carefully avoided looking at Madison and took an empty seat a few rows back.

If you give her a direct response, she wins.


I just noticed that 2.3 was posted on July 12, 2011, and it made me think about the Utøya attack again. This was only ten days before the attacks, which of course were on July 22.

I know the attack was reported on internationally at the time… I wonder if Wildbow saw the reports, and if it occurred to him that he’d accidentally predicted an “ABB” killing teens.

(#man if only worm had been there to drown anders behring breivik in bugs)


Mr Gladly entered the room, he was short and young enough you could almost mistake him for another high school student.

I have a teacher like that, and early in the first year at videregående (two years ago), I sat there thinking on several occasions, “is that my teacher or is she one of my classmates?”

(I’m not all that good with faces.)

It took a few minutes for him to start the class, and he immediately ordered us to break into groups of four to share our homework with one another and to prepare to share it with the rest of the class.

Ew.

Ooh, I remember this. In 1.1, he told them to write lists of how… supers had affected their lives, wasn’t it? Oh, right, that’s the homework that was mentioned briefly in one of the recent chapters, too. Then they were going to combine lists in groups of four and see which group had the best combined list, I think.

I only remember that much because I found it to be a very bad way to execute an admittedly decent idea back in 1.1, especially with the whole thing apparently being optional.

Let’s see how many people actually did it, huh?

The group that had the most to contribute would win the prize he had mentioned on Friday, treats from the vending machine.

The most? It’s about length of the list??

It was stuff like this that made Mr. Gladly my least favorite teacher.

Yeah, pretty much, Taylor. Pretty much.

It’s not a bad idea, per se, but the execution is crap.


It was stuff like this that made Mr. Gladly my least favorite teacher. I got the impression he’d be surprised to hear he was anyone’s least favorite teacher, but that was just one more point against him in my book.

I think many teachers would be at least a little surprised to hear that, honestly, and then a little bit hurt. I get the sense that the surprise Taylor thinks Mr. Gladly would express is from not being on the other end of the scale, though, and on that point I agree with Taylor.

Arrogance is an ugly trait.

I don’t think he comprehended why people might not like him, or how miserable group work was when you didn’t identify with any of the groups or cliques in the school.

fucking

PREACH

He just figured people liked doing group work because it let them talk and hang out with their friends in class.

I mean it’s true, but far from universally. If you have friends and are socially inclined.

Seriously, I relate to Taylor so much on this topic. I’ve grown to be quite asocial at school, forming most of my true friendships online. I’m still on good terms with people around me and consider a bunch of them “friends”, but I’m not really part of their clique. I’ve become… distant.

ANYWAY,

(#the ugly truth about irl krixwell)


While the class got sorted, I figured I’d avoid standing around like a loser with no group to join

Do I have a bullseye painted on me?

and get something else out of the way. I approached the desk at the front of the room.

Hm… what’s up? Can’t be telling him that she hasn’t done the homework, because why should he care when it was optional?

“Mr. Gladly?”

“Call me Mr. G. Mr. Gladly is my dad,” he informed me with a sort of mock sternness.

That’s… not how that works. Ew.

This guy is a bit cringy so far, to be honest, and I think that’s exactly how Wildbow meant to portray him.

“Sorry, uh, Mr. G. I need a new textbook.”

He gave me a curious look, “What happened to your old one?”

Oh, right, that issue. For all that I said about the books during the dousing and Taylor’s fit of rage, I kind of forgot that her textbooks were ruined too.

Soaked with grape juice by a trio of harpies. “I lost it,” I lied.

Harpies, that’s a good term to apply to the trio. Very fitting. Maybe I’ll start calling them that instead of the Bitches; we’ll see.

“Replacement textbooks are thirty five dollars. I don’t expect it now, but…”

“I’ll have it for you by the end of the week,” I finished for him.

*quick currency conversion*

Yeah, seems fair. Over here, we borrow the books from the school without paying anything, but if they do get lost or destroyed, we have to pay for the replacement. $35 is within a reasonable range for that.

How many replacement books is Taylor going to have to buy, though? That dousing’s gonna get expensive.

Taylor losses:
– Books worth potentially hundreds of dollars
– Thus far unknown art project
– Two periods of school
– Dining peace
– Dignity

Bitch losses:
– Several bottles of soda and juice
– Seven emus

[At this point the term “Bitch” still referred to the bullies for me.]


He handed me a textbook, and I looked over the room before joining the only group with room for more: Sparky and Greg. We had been in a group several times before, as the leftovers when all the friends and cliques had banded together.

Oooh, new characters!

Sparky is an interesting name, or more likely nickname. They haven’t been described yet, but so far I’m imagining a boy who looks like he’s perpetually electroshocked, and also like he came out of Hey Arnold for some reason.

As for Greg, there’s not a lot to go on, but at least this makes at least the third work I’m in the fandom for (sort of) that has a character named Greg. Is it going to become the masculine counterpart to “Rose”? I like a lot of works with characters named Rose. There’s Rose Lalonde, Rose Quartz, “Sweet” Rose Lavillant, Rose(luck), Rose Tyler (arguably)…

Sparky had apparently picked up his nickname when a third grade teacher used it in an ironic sense, and it had stuck, to the point where I doubted anyone but his own mother even knew his real name.

I guess he’s not too bright, then… no pun intended on my part.

He was a drummer, long haired, and was so out of touch with reality that you could stop talking in the middle of a sentence and he wouldn’t notice.

Knowing this story, I doubt Wildbow is going to waltz around the implication that this kid is doing drugs for very long.

He just went through life in a daze, presumably until he could do his thing, which was his band.

Well, I’m glad he’s found something to enjoy!


Greg was just the opposite. He was smarter than average, but he had a way of saying every thought that came into his head – his train of thought didn’t have any brakes. Or tracks.

Instant ADHD headcanon.

And honestly, I think Wildbow knows what he’s talking about.

It would have been easier to be in a group with just Sparky and essentially do the work by myself than it would be to work with Greg.

Some people are hard, or even exhausting, to work with. It can be for many reasons, and in this case it seems to be a clash between Greg’s “no brakes or tracks” and Taylor’s “stop to think in detail about everything”.

Having Greg’s ADHD and Taylor’s preferred approach in one person would likely result in that person being really slow at processing things. There’d be a lot of things to consider in detail, and each detail brings to mind other things to consider in detail.


I got my share of the homework out of my new backpack.

That’s a nice, seamless way to introduce the fact that Taylor has a new backpack, which isn’t relevant enough to warrant a full sentence stating that she got one, but could still make people think “plot hole” if left completely unadressed. Good writing.

Mr. Gladly had asked us to come up with a list of ways that capes had influenced society.

Oh, society, not the students personally. That makes more sense, and redeems the project slighty (slightly).

In between the various steps of my getting ready for my first night out in costume, I had taken the time to fix up my art project and had come up with a fairly comprehensive list for Mr. Gladly’s homework.

Ooh, the art project is back in business! I should’ve figured it wasn’t irrepairably broken when we didn’t find out what it was (I mean, if there wasn’t a sort of reveal planned for it, Wildbow probably would’ve told us what it was back in 1.1), but apparently I didn’t think of the concept of “repair”.

As for the homework, I still don’t really get why anyone’s doing it. Enough people already don’t do homework without the teacher saying it’s optional.

I had even used newspaper and magazine clippings to support my points. I felt pretty good about it.

At least Taylor can take pride in it.


“I didn’t get much done,” Greg said, “I got distracted by this new game I got and it is really really good, it’s called Space Opera, have you played it?”

Note the run-on sentence; a classic example of how to convey a character voice.

But yeah, Greg totally has ADHD.

A full minute later he was still on the same topic,

Oh, he hasn’t branched off into some vaguely related topic yet, while talking at those speeds? Really likes that game, then.

even though I wasn’t playing any attention to him or giving him any feedback on what he was saying,

I’ve been where Greg is now, except I was a bit younger. By Greg’s age, I had learned that people didn’t appreciate the ramblings, and gone way more silent.

“…you have to understand it’s a genre, and it’s one I’ve really been getting into it lately, since I started watching this anime called – Oh, hey, Julia!”

I’ve heard worse anime titles.

Greg broke off from his monologue to wave with enough energy and excitement that I felt a little embarrassed to just be sitting next to him. I turned in my seat to see one of Madison’s friends coming in, late.

Oh no

And they’re supposed to be in groups of four

Shit.


“Can I be in Madison’s group?” Julia asked Mr. Gladly.

“That wouldn’t be fair. Greg’s group only has three people. Help them,” Mr. Gladly said.

Shit.

Shiiit.

Shi, shit shi shi’i shit? Sh’shit shi.


Julia walked over to where we were sitting and made a face. Just loud enough for us to hear, she muttered a disgusted, “Ew.” I felt much the same about her joining us.

Quick, Taylor, put on your friendliest facade! Act overjoyed to have her in the group, beam at her!

(Possibly with literal laser beams.)

(#just don’t shoot them from behind your eyes)


It was downhill from there. Madison’s group moved so the four of them were sitting right next to our group, which let Julia talk with them while still sitting with us.

At least if she’s talking to them, she’s not spending the entire time antagonizing you to your face.

But knowing the MO of the Harpies so far, they’ll probably talk shit about Taylor just loud enough for Taylor to hear every word.

The presence of all the popular and attractive girls in the class just got Greg more wound up, and he began trying to insert himself into their conversation, only to get shut down or ignored. It was embarrassing to watch.

Poor Greg. He doesn’t know whom he’s trying to court.

Can I just say that at this point, I can’t help but picture Greg as Greg from Over The Garden Wall, complete with being like a foot tall?

Of course I can, this is my blog.

At this point, I can’t help but picture Greg as Greg from Over The Garden Wall, complete with being like a foot tall. Tiny Greg, standing on top of the desk, trying to interject in the conversation on the next desk over.

Adorable.

“Greg,” I said, trying to distract him from the other group, “Here’s what I did over the weekend. What do you think?”

Well I mean it’s gonna be easy to distract him, but only if he finds what you have more interesting than what he’s already focusing on.

I handed him the work I had done. To his credit, he gave it a serious read.

“This is really good, Taylor,” He said, when he was done.

Huh. He actually did.


“Let me see,” Julia said. Before I could stop him, Greg dutifully handed my work over to her.

Oh boy, here we go. And of course, Taylor can’t stop her – she is in their group, after all.

I watched her glance over it, then toss it onto Madison’s table. There were a few giggles.

Yep. Inevitable.

Well, at least they were supposed to present it in class afterwards anyway?

“Give that back,” I said.

“Give what back?” Julia said.

“Madison,” I said, ignoring Julia, “Give it back.”

Yes, good, stand up for yourself.

Madison, cute and petite and crush of choice for half the guys in our grade, turned and managed a combined look and tone of such condescension that a grown man would have flinched, “Nobody is talking to you, Taylor.”

That’s

…actually a pretty weak one. You don’t need someone to be talking to you to start talking to them. But of course, it’s how Taylor feels about it that matters.

I can’t imagine she wasn’t prepared for a response like that, though.


That was that. Short of running to the teacher and complaining, I wasn’t going to get my work back, and anyone who considered that an option has clearly never been in high school.

Fair enough. It’s weird, but there is a kind of stigma around asking the teacher to intervene between students, I guess. Maybe it’s that it’s seen as admitting defeat, or childish because that’s what you’d do in elementary school.

Greg looked between me and the girls with a kind of panic before settling into a funk, Sparky had his head down on his desk, either asleep or close to it, and I was left fuming.

And of course, this means she can’t continue the work.

I made an attempt at trying to to salvage things, but getting Greg to focus was impossible, as he constantly tried to apologize and made lame attempts to convince the other group to give my work back.

Yeeah, he knows he fucked up, and now he’s too wrapped up in his guilt. Not very helpful, and that’ll probably just make him feel even worse later.

And that will keep churning in his head, because ADHD isn’t just an inability to focus. It’s also an inability to stop focusing on certain things, and if those things happen to be negative… that’s probably one of the reasons why ADHD people are prone to anxiety and depression.

ADHD is trivialized in media, but it can be brutal.


Our time ran out, and Mr. Gladly picked out people from each group to stand up and go over what they had come up with.

I sighed as Mr. Gladly picked Greg to do our group’s presentation,

Oh boy.

At least it wasn’t Sparky or Julia, though. Greg at least cares about trying to do it well.

and was forced to watch Greg botch it badly enough that Mr. Gladly asked him to sit down before he was finished.

Even if he doesn’t succeed, and gets another thing to beat himself up over.

Greg was one of those kids I always figured made teachers groan inwardly when they raised their hands in class.

Back in the equivalent of the stage of school these kids are at, I used to get asked to not raise my hand from time to time, but that was usually because I was the Hermione of the class. I raised my hand to most questions, often with the right answer. Basically, I answered so frequently that the teachers had to ask me to stop for a bit so others had a chance.

The sort of kid that took twice as long to answer as anyone else, and was often only half-right or so off-tangent that it derailed the discussion.

I may have been long-winded at times, but at least I stayed mostly on track.

I couldn’t imagine what had possessed Mr. Gladly to pick Greg to do our group’s presentation.

Is this Wildbow admitting that it happened mainly for plot convenience? It sounds like that kind of lampshade. I’ve done my share of those, in a project I’m no longer proud of.


What made things worse was that I then got to watch Madison rattle off my very impressive sounding list of ways capes had changed the world.

For some reason it hadn’t occurred to me that this was what they were going to do with Taylor’s list.

But hey, at least it’s kind of a compliment? That they think it’s good enough to steal and present as theirs. Obviously it’s still a dick move; I’m just looking for a silver lining. Turn a negative into a positive, as Taylor was going on about in 1.1 and 1.6.

[No, 1.2 and 1.6]

She cribbed almost all of my stuff; fashion, economics, Tinkers and the tech boom, the fact that movies, television and magazines had been tweaked to accommodate cape celebrities, and so on.

The tech boom is another great example of Wildbow being just like Taylor in that he thinks things through to their logical conclusions. Have a category of heroes capable of creating extremely advanced tech? Naturally some of those are going to let others study, learn from and adapt the tech of the future to new tech of today.

And I guess superhero movies are a bit easier to make if you can get an actual super to play the main character.

Still, she got it wrong when explaining how law enforcement had changed. My point had been that with qualified capes easing the workload and taking over for most high profile crises, law enforcement of all stripes were more free to train and expand their skill sets, making for smarter, more versatile cops.

What did I just say! Wildbow really thinks these things through. It makes for quite a believable world.

Madison just made it sound like they got a lot of vacation days.

That kind of thinking could be harmful. If the people start saying “Why are we paying taxes for the police to take vacations?”, politicians might reduce the police’s freedom to train.


Mr. Gladly named another group as the winners, by virtue of the sheer number of things they had come up with, though he made a point of saying the quality of Madison’s work was nearly good enough to count. From there, he moved on to his lecture.

Quantity over quality. Sigh.

I mean obviously I didn’t want Madison to win, but y’know…

I was steamed and I could hardly focus on the lecture, as my power crackled and tugged at my attention from the periphery of my consciousness, making me acutely aware of every bug within a tenth of a mile.

Boom, superpower plot!

Hm. We’ve got a heroine whose power becomes a bit less controllable when she’s angry… and who’s got hints of anger issues like her dad’s… yeah, this is probably boiling over some day.

Rule of three?

I could tune it out, but the extra concentration that took, coupled with the anger I felt towards Madison and Mr. Gladly, was distracting enough that I couldn’t focus on the lecture.

TFW when thousands of bugs keep distracting you from your World Issues lecture. #relatable

I took a cue from Sparky and put my head down on the desk. Being as exhausted from the previous night’s activity as I was, it was all I could do to keep from dozing off.

Honestly, Mr. Gladly seems more and more incompetent. He’s got at least two students doing this now, and he’s not even trying to do anything worth mentioning about either.

Still, spending the class half asleep made it go by faster. I was startled when the bell rang.

Where what who whuh?


As everyone gathered their things and began to file out, Mr. Gladly approached me and quietly said, “I’d like you to stick around for a few minutes, please.”

Hm? Is he more perceptive than I gave him credit for?

I just nodded and put my books away, then waited for the teacher to finish negotiating where to meet the prize winners from the class contest so he could pay for their prizes.

Doesn’t seem like there’s much to negotiate. Just meet them by the vending machine!

When it was just me and Mr. Gladly in the classroom, he cleared his throat and then told me, “I’m not stupid, you know.”

“Okay,” I replied, not sure how to respond.

That is the perfect response.

There are so many things not being said that it says a lot. For example, it doesn’t say “I know”. It doesn’t say “I believe you”. It doesn’t say “I care”.

“I have something of an idea of what goes on in my classroom. I don’t know exactly who, but I know some people are giving you a pretty hard time.”

Okay, good. Could still be better, but some of the things the Harpies do in class are relatively subtle and I can excuse a teacher of a full-sized class for not picking up on those.

“Sure,” I said.

“I saw the mess left on your usual seat today. I remember a few weeks back when glue was smeared on your desk and chair. There was also the incident that happened at the start of the year. All of your teachers had a meeting about that.”

And of course we’re still calling it the “incident”… what happened??

I couldn’t meet his gaze as he brought that last event up. I looked at my feet.

“And I’m guessing there’s more that I don’t know about?”

“Yeah,” I said, still looking down.

At least she’s not lying when asked about the topic. She’s not exactly forthcoming, but she admits he’s right about what he’s already figured out.

It was hard to explain how I felt about this conversation. I was gratified, I think, that someone had brought it up,

Some topics are hard to get yourself to bring up without someone else bringing it up for you. As someone who struggles with taking initiative, I can relate.

but annoyed that that someone was Mr. Gladly.

Heh.

I felt kind of embarrassed too, like I had walked into a door and someone was trying too hard to make sure I was okay.

Why would that make you embarrassed? Because they’re making it seem like a bigger issue? Because they care about you?


“I asked you after the glue incident. I’m asking you again. Would you be willing to go to the office with me, to talk with the principal and vice principal?”

So Gladly has brought this up before, huh. He’s also specifically asking if she’s willing, letting Taylor take the lead in the situation, which makes him less threatening.

Gladly knows how to deal with these issues. He actually appears quite competent at this side of the job, and the cringy touch is nowhere in sight. He can be serious when he needs to be.

After a few moments of consideration, I looked up and asked him, “What would happen?”

I suppose this is what keeps a lot of victims from seeking help. They don’t feel like they know what would happen, to the perpetrators or to them.

“We’d have a discussion about what’s been going on. You would name the person or people you believe responsible, and each of them would be called in to talk to the principal, in turn.”

“And they’d get expelled?” I asked, though I already knew the answer.

There’s also the issue of “snitch” treatment. If the perps aren’t prevented from it by harsh punishment, they can come and want revenge for the victim ratting them out.

In other words, it could make things worse.

Mr. Gladly shook his head, “If there was enough proof, they would be suspended for several days, unless they’ve done something very serious. Further offenses could lead to longer suspensions or expulsion.”

Is “the incident” serious enough for you?


I gave a rueful chuckle, feeling the frustration welling up, “Great. So they might miss a few days of school, and only if I can prove they were behind it all… and whether they get suspended or not, they feel a hundred percent justified in whatever else they do to the rat for revenge.”

Yeah, Taylor tells it as it is.

“If you want things to get better, Taylor, you have to start somewhere.”

“That isn’t a starting point. It’s shooting myself in the foot,” I said, pulling my bag over my shoulder. When he didn’t immediately respond, I left the classroom.

Good, Taylor, keep practicing your one-liner departures – we’ll make a cape out of you yet!

Emma, Madison, Sophia and a half dozen other girls were standing in the hall, waiting for me.

Well shit.

It turns out staying after class for a talk with the teacher isn’t conducive to Operation “Quick Escape”.


End of Insinuation 2.3

That was a pretty decent chapter. Didn’t lead anywhere with the Tattletale plot just yet (which it helpfully indicated at the beginning that it wouldn’t), but instead we got some juicy high school drama plot. We also got to meet a few of Taylor’s other classmates: Sparky the probable drug addict who’s just… there, and Greg the relatable ADHD kid who might not be 1′ tall.

I feel like the high school drama is a lot more bearable at this point in the story, and while that might be in part because I got a bad first impression that colored my view of 1.1, I do think it’s also because I now know Taylor. For the first half of 1.1, I had no real reason to care about what happened to Taylor yet, other than standard pity for a fictional bullying victim. Now, in 2.3, I’ve become invested in Taylor as a character, and her interactions with the bullies actually feel like they matter.

Another thing about this chapter is how relatable the characters were – specifically Taylor as a fellow asocial introvert and Greg as a fellow ADHD kid. I guess you guys learned a lot about me this chapter, huh.

Anyway, next time, I guess we’ll see what sort of hell these nine girls are about to bring down on Taylor in her lunch break. See ya there!

(…nine? The Fellowship of the Bitch)

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