Raymond’s father opened the door. In the threshold, backlit by the weak November sun, stood a man in a royal blue uniform, his eyes shaded by too-dark sunglasses. “Yes?” asked Raymond’s father.
The man stuck out his hand for a moment, then threw it back down at his side as if the initial motion was all that mattered. “It’s Truancy Officer Ryan B. Turley. I’m here on behalf of Sol Block High School.”
“I see,” said Raymond’s father. “It’s about the absences?”
Officer Turley nodded. “Your son has eluded school for the past ten days straight. After nine absences without an excuse the school sends me out to…retrieve them.”
“Well, you see, my son is not in exactly the best position right now.”
“And why is that?” Officer Turley took a step into the house and closed the door behind him.
“He’s in his shell-less phase right now.”
Officer Turley raised an eyebrow.
“Didn’t the school tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“My son is half Yamerian space snail. Two weeks out of every year his body absorbs his old shell and grows a new, stronger one. Those two weeks started last St. Xenon’s Day.”
Officer Turley scratched at his dark mustache. “So you’re telling me your son will be back to school tomorrow, in his new shell?”
“We certainly hope so, Officer.”
“Well good. And tell him to stop this nonsense. It’s not good for a teenager to come out of his shell.”
Raymond laughed behind his couch with such force that he stained the carpet with fresh slime. “Too bad I just ate my old shell,” he muttered. “I would’ve liked to eat him. Racist Truancy Officer.”