Aaron Frale has a new queer LitRPG fantasy out (gay, gender fluid): My Three-Year-Old is a Barbarian and Other Parenting Problems.
Necromantic rituals, murderous ogres, battle-scarred rangers: not a typical Saturday detention for unsuspecting teaching assistant, Petra, and her delinquent teen charges.
The Beaverton High School Breakfast Club show up for what they thought would be cleaning the locker room with a toothbrush when the morning goes horribly wrong, and they fall victim to a deadly, dark spell.
Some jerkwad moon mage shoves the consciousness of Petra’s three-year-old into the body of a musclebound barbarian, and she is transformed into a halfling. The kids get stuck as a cleric, fire mage, and other stalwarts of your typical fantasy gaming party.
Now they must quest through a land of pissed-off warriors, angry giants, a pompous vampire, and a necromancer out to kill Petra and her child.
Despite being in a world where everything threatens to shuffle off her mortal coil, the hardest part is convincing a hulked-out man that the battle axe is not a toy, the undead are not cuddly, and he should use the potty.
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Things to Do in Detention When You’re Dead Beaverton High School, Mid-October
The final victim in the day that Instagram died was none other than ‘Baking’ Aiden himself, Petra’s favorite customer. The guy was a living stereotype. If the long hair and perpetually-worn Metallica T-shirt weren’t enough, the guy actually drove a VW minibus. The smell of pot wafted all the way to the front door of the school when he jumped out of his vehicle.
If the police needed to fill their minor-in-possession quota for the day, all they needed to do was follow him around. She briefly contemplated asking what Aiden had done to join the ranks of the Saturday-damned but realized any conversation would invite Urkel to join in. She dialed up her perpetual scowl and went for the front door to the school. However, it was locked, and TAs weren’t important enough for a key.
Before she could figure out what that meant for the students assembling, another car pulled up. It was her dad, Barry. The prick was in his convertible with the top down, and his girlfriend, who Petra could have sworn was going to the same community college as her, was in the front seat. Petra’s three-year-old was strapped in the back. She slung her backpack off and shoved it into Urkel’s hands.
“Okay, I’ll watch it for—” The kid’s voice trailed off as she stomped over to her father.
“What the hell are you doing, Dad?!”
“Your mother didn’t tell you?” Barry asked. “Bets and I are going to rent a cabin for the weekend.”
“No, I’m talking about Jonathan!” She screamed and pointed to the kid in the back seat. “You don’t drive with your top down with a kid in the back!”
Her father laughed. “What? He likes it!”
Petra scrambled to remove her son from the car seat. Even though she felt way too young to be the mother of a toddler, she sometimes felt more responsible than her own father. Her dad was an idiot with an idiot girlfriend who always tried to act like the cool mother despite being the same age as his daughter.
“He’s a three-year-old boy. Little boys need to laugh,” Beatty ‘Stupidsalot’ (Schneider) said, but Petra ignored her.
As soon as Jonathan was safely in her arms and the diaper bag slung over her shoulder, her dad revved the engine.
“You make sure you feed that boy properly and get him his nap. Got to go. Check-in’s at 3,” he said, before speeding off.
“I guess you’re not picking us up afterwards.” She added under her breath. “Whatever, dick.”
“Dick!” Jonathan said and giggled like he had uttered the funniest thing ever.
“Don’t you say that,” Petra scolded her child.
“Dick! Dick! Dick!” Jonathan said over and over, laughing with glee.
“That’s going to make Great-grandma Petra very sad. You don’t want to make her sad, do you?” Petra said, as she brought her kid towards the door. If it weren’t for her namesake grandma, Petra didn’t know what she would have done when she had gotten pregnant. She was lucky that nothing seemed to stop the woman. She was a babysitting machine even at 85 and had practically raised Jonathan from birth.
The worst part about being a mother with no financial stability because the school system paid TAs like serfs toiling the land was that Petra’s actual parents were useless at parenting. Her mom always had her laptop on and wouldn’t notice if the climbing-obsessed toddler had scaled to the top of the fridge (which he had on more than one occasion). Her dad wasn’t reliable either because he was more concerned with the things a college student should be concerned about, like partying and driving fast cars. That left Grandma Petra, who was happy to watch the kid when Petra went out with her friends. (Which didn’t even involve any drugs or alcohol, even though she had masterminded the scheme that facilitated the buying and selling of it. Her outings were more to feel normal for an hour or two).
The bottom line was that even though Petra would sell a bag of weed here and there and give her middle finger to the authorities whenever she could, at the end of the day, she knew it wouldn’t be forever. Her grandmother would be dead, and the only person in the world at that point who would give a crap about Jonathan would be herself. That was the thought that kept her up at night.
By the time she got up to the group assembled at the school’s front door, they were already talking about going home for the day. Jack grabbed the door handle and attempted to muscle it open. When it wouldn’t budge, he turned to the others and said, “Oh, well, fifteen-minute rule. Right?”
“I don’t think that’s a thing,” Urkel ventured.
Sissy said, in her high-pitched nasally voice, “Come on, Jack. Let’s go. We’re missing the game.”
Petra rolled her eyes and said, “Everyone, just chill out. You obviously don’t know how this works. You cut Saturday detention, and that’s two more Saturdays for you and maybe another for speaking out of turn. Just enjoy the fact that we get to spend it outside on the grass, because the clock is already ticking.”
“That’s right,” Mr. Jackson said from the threshold of the school, startling all of them. He must have come from inside while they weren’t paying attention. While the guy was a good-looking twenty-something with longish brown hair and thick hipster glasses, there was something off about him. He looked as if One Direction had to kick one of the members out of the band for being a serial killer.
Usually, Petra would be Hot for Teacher, but there was something a little too intense about his personality. Maybe it was the way he always seemed to be staring into the distance or how he’d sometimes seem to talk to someone who wasn’t there when he was alone in his room. Regardless, he was disconcerting, at least to Petra. The dumb girls had a crush on him. She was so glad to be outta this place, well kinda. But at least she could quit the job when something better came along.
That didn’t stop her from attempting to get out of her obligation.
“Mr. Jackson,” she said, while he ushered them into the building, “as you can see, I could not secure daycare. Do you really need a TA for today?”
Mr. Jackson ignored her. He slammed the door behind them, and Sissy jumped. He strode forward, not even bothering to turn on the lights to the school and led them down a dark hallway. Nothing but emergency lighting illuminated the way.
“Maybe this is a good opportunity to teach your son about responsibility, Miss Zaslavsky,” Mr. Jackson said over his shoulder.
Petra gave him the middle finger, and Jonathan did the same while shouting with excitement. The others laughed while she tried to get her son to perform some other hand gesture. Mr. Jackson didn’t seem to notice or care. He brought them further into the building until he stopped at the basement stairs.
“Can’t we just clean a classroom or something?” Sissy squealed. “There are spiders down there!”
“The custodial staff keeps this place quite clean and pest-free,” Mr. Jackson said. “Now, I need you to help me with a little project. It will take an hour of your time, tops. Then you’ll be free to go.”
“But Principal Sokol said it would be six hours!” Urkel said, and Jack kicked him. Petra was pissed too. An hour of pay wasn’t even worth the gas. Not that she paid for her own gas or had driven her own car. However, something wasn’t right, and she’d be happy to leave as soon as possible.
“I know what the principal said, but it’s my prerogative to administer punishment as I see fit,” Mr. Jackson said.
“What does this project involve?” Petra asked warily.
“Nothing,” Mr. Jackson replied. “You’ll just need to sit there.”
“Dude!” ‘Baking’ Aiden exclaimed. “Sign me up!”
The others nodded in agreement. Petra didn’t like it, but she didn’t really have a choice. It was either go in a basement with a psycho teacher or spend the following Saturday with Coach ‘Justice’ (Justin). His detentions always involved toothbrushes and locker room floors and the TAs always got stuck with bucket duty. At least there was safety in numbers. If Mr. ‘Jack-off’ pulled out a butcher knife, she could throw Urkel in the way and get to safety.
Mr. Jackson smiled in that weird staring-into-the-void way and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be with you the whole time.”
That was precisely why she was worried.
Good times and hope for a better future. Maybe some fun time travel adventures or interdimensional travelers. A toddler stuck in a barbarian and his mom in a halfling. “Comedy and” is my jam. When not writing, I can be found teaching, podcasting Aaron’s Horror Show, and screaming while playing guitar for the band Spiral. Life has brought my wife, myself, and my son to Montana, where we reside at the moment.
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