Man! challenge in a can Man!





Mail Call
Victoria P.

St. John practically vibrates with suppressed excitement as Scott hands out the mail.

His friends all look at him strangely. He has no friends, no family outside of Xavier's. Who could he possibly be expecting mail from?

Bobby wonders if his best friend is holding out on him, if he's met someone from the outside and hasn't shared. He feels hurt when his oblique questions about John's excitement go unanswered three days in a row. Bobby has yet to learn the difference between subtle and completely obscure, so Johnny just shakes his head at the offers to talk and odd comments about girls they've met on their travels to the city.

Kitty tries to recall if John applied for early admissions to any colleges, as she's done. She's waiting for that thick envelope from MIT; she wants it so badly she can almost taste it, but she knows it may not come for another week yet. She tells him that, only to be greeted by an incredulous look from him, and all their friends. He's a decent student, but the surety of early admissions applications is beyond him.

Jubilee snickers and makes loud remarks about packages wrapped in brown paper, ordered off the Internet in the dead of night. She speculates he's waiting for his new subscription to Hustler or perhaps the cock ring she caught him contemplating one evening when he couldn't click away fast enough.

Rogue watches and wishes she had reason to get excited about the mail, but she never does. She wrote to her parents after she settled in at the school, but they never responded. She already knows she's not going away to college, has settled on taking courses over the Internet, and the only person she wishes to hear from is a lousy correspondent, who occasionally remembers to send word he's still alive in the frozen north.

This goes on for a week, and then Johnny's excitement dissipates into a grudging acceptance that whatever he's expecting isn't going to come.

Time passes, and the holidays arrive, along with Kitty's early admissions letter, Bobby's yearly care package from Mom -- apparently the one time of year the Drakes feel they can't ignore their mutant son -- and a hastily scrawled postcard for Rogue from somewhere north of Vancouver.

It's not until after the New Year that St. John's name is called. He rips the letter from Ororo's hand and rushes off to his room, trailing a wake of surprised looks.

With trembling fingers, he tears open the envelope and gingerly unfolds the letter inside. The weight of the paper -- a fine creamy bond he associates with important business, though he can't say why -- reassures him.

Words jump out at him at random. "Well-written." "Interested in seeing the rest." And most importantly, "Please forward the entire manuscript at your convenience."

His query package has been accepted. He is giddy with joy at the idea that they want to see his manuscript. Oh, sure, it's a cheesy romance novel, full of heaving bosoms and a chiseled hero who's so dumb his horse actually saves the day, but it was calculated to get this letter. Johnny's done his research and he wants to get a foot in the door any way he can. His more complex work sits in a notebook under his mattress. He dreams of being the next Raymond Carver, and has shared this with no one. He knows he has talent, but he's still just a firebug from Melbourne, a seventeen-year-old mutant kid who's seen too much of the world in his short life. He's afraid his image will work against him. Everyone wants uplifting Oprah books, and he's writing about unwanted children eking out an existence on the street after fleeing from parents who would rather forget they‚d spawned at all.

Hence his descent into cheap romantic nonsense that will sell better than a clear-eyed look at the world ever will.

His interest in school is limited, but he has devoured most of the books in the large library, and has become a capable mimic of those styles he feels will get him the most attention while he waits to spring his short stories on an unsuspecting New Yorker.

He dances around his room, letter in hand, singing the chorus to "Johnny B. Goode" until there's a knock at the door.

Calming himself, he opens it to see Bobby standing there, a hurt look on his face. He yanks his best friend and roommate into the room and waves the letter under his nose.

"I'm gonna be published, Bobby-boy!" he exclaims. In his excitement, he cheerfully ignores the fact that this is not yet a certainty.

Bobby rips the letter from his hand and reads it over. "Damn," he says. "You wrote a book? Why didn't you tell me?"

Johnny shrugs, diffident. "I thought you might think it was stupid. I mean, it's a freaking Harlequin romance."

"Yeah, but it's yours," Bobby replies and Johnny can't think of a better response than to hug him tightly, because he's Bobby and he's so earnest when he's supportive. After a moment, they both pull back, a little embarrassed at the sudden display of emotion. "Come on, let's go tell everyone."

Bobby pulls him out of the room and down to the rec room, into the waiting arms of his family and friends, who eagerly congratulate him after Bobby announces the news.

St. John Allerdyce. Giddy. Book.

Man! challenge in a can Man!