The Lightning Thief – Chapter 6: I BECOME SUPREME LORD OF THE BATHROOM

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Chapter 6: I BECOME SUPREME LORD OF THE BATHROOM

Once I got over the fact that my Latin teacher was a horse, we had a nice tour, though I was careful not to walk behind him. Id done pooper-scooper patrol in the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, and, Im sorry, I did not trust Chirons back end the way I trusted his front. 

  We passed the volleyball pit. Several of the campers nudged each other. One pointed to the minotaur horn I was carrying. Another said, “Thats him. “

  Most of the campers were older than me. Their satyr friends were bigger than Grover, all of them trotting around in orange CAMPHALF-BLOOD T-shirts, with nothing else to cover their bare shaggy hindquarters. I wasnt normally shy, but the way they stared at me made me uncomfortable. I felt like they were expecting me to do a flip or something. 

  I looked back at the farmhouse. It was a lot bigger than Id realized—four stories tall, sky blue with white trim, like an upscale seaside resort. I was checking out the brass eagle weather vane on top when something caught my eye, a shadow in the uppermost window of the attic gable. Something had moved the curtain, just for a second, and I got the distinct impression I was being watched. 

  “Whats up there?” I asked Chiron. 

  He looked where I was pointing, and his smile faded. “Just the attic. “

  “Somebody lives there?”

  “No,” he said with finality. “Not a single living thing. “

  I got the feeling he was being truthful. But I was also sure something had moved that curtain. 

  “Come along, Percy,” Chiron said, his lighthearted tone now a little forced. “Lots to see. “

  We walked through the strawberry fields, where campers were picking bushels of berries while a satyr played a tune on a reed pipe. . . . . . . . . . . 

  Chiron told me the camp grew a nice crop for export to New York restaurants and MountOlympus. “It pays our expenses,” he explained. “And the strawberries take almost no effort. “

  He said Mr. D had this effect on fruit-bearing plants: they just went crazy when he was around. It worked best with wine grapes, but Mr. D was restricted from growing those, so they grew strawberries instead. 

  I watched the satyr playing his pipe. His music was causing lines of bugs to leave the strawberry patch in every direction, like refugees fleeing a fire. I wondered if Grover could work that kind of magic with music. I wondered if he was still inside the farmhouse, getting chewed out by Mr. D. 

  “Grover wont get in too much trouble, will he?” I asked Chiron. “I mean . . . he was a good protector. Really. “

  Chiron sighed. He shed his tweed jacket and draped it over his horses back like a saddle. “Grover has big dreams, Percy. Perhaps bigger than are reasonable. To reach his goal, he must first demonstrate great courage by succeeding as a keeper, finding a new camper and bringing him safely to Half-Blood Hill. “

  “But he did that!”

  “I might agree with you,” Chiron said. “But it is not my place to judge. Dionysus and the Council of Cloven Elders must decide. Im afraid they might not see this assignment as a success. After all, Grover lost you in New York. Then theres the unfortunate . . . ah . . . fate of your mother. And the fact that Grover was unconscious when you dragged him over the property line. The council might question whether this shows any courage on Grovers part. “

  I wanted to protest. None of what happened was Grovers fault. I also felt really, really guilty. If I hadnt given Grover the slip at the bus station, he might not have gotten in trouble. 

  “Hell get a second chance, wont he?”

  Chiron winced. “Im afraid that was Grovers second chance, Percy. The council was not anxious to give him another, either, after what happened the first time, five years ago. Olympus knows, I advised him to wait longer before trying again. Hes still so small for his age. . . . “

  “How old is he?”

  “Oh, twenty-eight. “

  “What! And hes in sixth grade?”

  “Satyrs mature half as fast as humans, Percy. Grover has been the equivalent of a middle school student for the past six years. “

  “Thats horrible. “

  “Quite,” Chiron agreed. “At any rate, Grover is a late bloomer, even by satyr standards, and not yet very accomplished at woodland magic. Alas, he was anxious to pursue his dream. Perhaps now he will find some other career. . . . “

  “Thats not fair,” I said. “What happened the first time? Was it really so bad?”

  Chiron looked away quickly. “Lets move along, shall we?”

  But I wasnt quite ready to let the subject drop. Something had occurred to me when Chiron talked about my mothers fate, as if he were intentionally avoiding the word death. The beginnings of an idea—a tiny, hopeful fire—started forming in my mind. 

  “Chiron,” I said. “If the gods and Olympus and all that are real . . . “

  “Yes, child?”

  “Does that mean the Underworld is real, too?”

  Chirons expression darkened. 

“Yes, child. ” He paused, as if choosing his words carefully. “There is a place where spirits go after death. But for now . . . until we know more . . . I would urge you to put that out of your mind. “

  “What do you mean, until we know more?”

  “Come, Percy. Lets see the woods. “. . . . 

  As we got closer, I realized how huge the forest was. It took up at least a quarter of the valley, with trees so tall and thick, you could imagine nobody had been in there since the Native Americans. 

  Chiron said, “The woods are stocked, if you care to try your luck, but go armed. “

  “Stocked with what?” I asked. “Armed with what?”

  “Youll see. Capture the flag is Friday night. Do you have your own sword and shield?”

  “My own—?”

  “No,” Chiron said. “I dont suppose you do. I think a size five will do. Ill visit the armory later. “

  I wanted to ask what kind of summer camp had an armory, but there was too much else to think about, so the tour continued. We saw the archery range, the canoeing lake, the stables (which Chiron didnt seem to like very much), the javelin range, the sing-along amphitheater, and the arena where Chiron said they held sword and spear fights. 

  “Sword and spear fights?” I asked. 

  “Cabin challenges and all that,” he explained. “Not lethal. Usually. Oh, yes, and theres the mess hall. “

  Chiron pointed to an outdoor pavilion framed in white Grecian columns on a hill overlooking the sea. There were a dozen stone picnic tables. No roof. No walls. 

  “What do you do when it rains?” I asked. 

  Chiron looked at me as if Id gone a little weird. “We still have to eat, dont we?” I decided to drop the subject. 

  Finally, he showed me the cabins. There were twelve of them, nestled in the woods by the lake. They were arranged in a U, with two at the base and five in a row on either side. And they were without doubt the most bizarre collection of buildings Id ever seen. 

  Except for the fact that each had a large brass number above the door (odds on the left side, evens on the right), they looked absolutely nothing alike. Number nine had smokestacks, like a tiny factory. Number four had tomato vines on the walls and a roof made out of real grass. Seven seemed to be made of solid gold, which gleamed so much in the sunlight it was almost impossible to look at. They all faced a commons area about the size of a soccer field, dotted with Greek statues, fountains, flower beds, and a couple of basketball hoops (which were more my speed). 

  In the center of the field was a huge stone-lined firepit. Even though it was a warm afternoon, the hearth smoldered. A girl about nine years old was tending the flames, poking the coals with a stick. 

  The pair of cabins at the head of the field, numbers one and two, looked like his-and-hers mausoleums, big white marble boxes with heavy columns in front. Cabin one was the biggest and bulkiest of the twelve. Its polished bronze doors shimmered like a hologram, so that from different angles lightning bolts seemed to streak across them. Cabin two was more graceful somehow, with slimmer columns garlanded with pomegranates and flowers. The walls were carved with images of peacocks. 

  “Zeus and Hera?” I guessed. 

  “Correct,” Chiron said. 

  “Their cabins look empty. “

  “Several of the cabins are. Thats true. No one ever stays in one or two. “

  Okay. So each cabin had a different god, like a mascot. Twelve cabins for the twelve Olympians. But why would some be empty?

  I stopped in front of the first cabin on the left, cabin three. 

  It wasnt high and mighty like cabin one, but long and low and solid. The outer walls were of rough gray stone studded with pieces of seashell and coral, as if the slabs had been hewn straight from the bottom of the ocean floor. I peeked inside the open doorway and Chiron said, “Oh, I wouldnt do that!”

  Before he could pull me back, I caught the salty scent of the interior, like the wind on the shore at Montauk. The interior walls glowed like abalone. There were six empty bunk beds with silk sheets turned down. But there was no sign anyone had ever slept there. The place felt so sad and lonely, I was glad when Chiron put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Come along, Percy. “

  Most of the other cabins were crowded with campers. 

  Number five was bright red—a real nasty paint job, as if the color had been splashed on with buckets and fists. The roof was lined with barbed wire. A stuffed wild boars head hung over the doorway, and its eyes seemed to follow me. Inside I could see a bunch of mean-looking kids, both girls and boys, arm wrestling and arguing with each other while rock music blared. The loudest was a girl maybe thirteen or fourteen. She wore a size XXXL CAMP HALF-BLOOD T-shirt under a camouflage jacket. She zeroed in on me and gave me an evil sneer. She reminded me of Nancy Bobofit, though the camper girl was much bigger and tougher looking, and her hair was long and stringy, and brown instead of red. 

  I kept walking, trying to stay clear of Chirons hooves. “We havent seen any other centaurs,” I observed. 

  “No,” said Chiron sadly. “My kinsmen are a wild and barbaric folk, Im afraid. You might encounter them in the wilderness, or at major sporting events. But you wont see any here. “

  “You said your name was Chiron. Are you really . . . “

  He smiled down at me. “The Chiron from the stories? Trainer of Hercules and all that? Yes, Percy, I am. “

  “But, shouldnt you be dead?”

  Chiron paused, as if the question intrigued him. “I honestly dont know about should be. The truth is, I cant be dead. You see, eons ago the gods granted my wish. I could continue the work I loved. I could be a teacher of heroes as long as humanity needed me. I gained much from that wish . . . and I gave up much. But Im still here, so I can only assume Im still needed. “

  I thought about being a teacher for three thousand years. It wouldnt have made my Top Ten Things to Wish For list. 

  “Doesnt it ever get boring?”

  “No, no,” he said. “Horribly depressing, at times, but never boring. “

  “Why depressing?”

  Chiron seemed to turn hard of hearing again. 

  “Oh, look,” he said. “Annabeth is waiting for us. “

  * * *

  The blond girl Id met at the Big House was reading a book in front of the last cabin on the left, number eleven. 

  When we reached her, she looked me over critically, like she was still thinking about how much I drooled. 

  I tried to see what she was reading, but I couldnt make out the title. I thought my dyslexia was acting up. Then I realized the title wasnt even English. The letters looked Greek to me. I mean, literally Greek. There were pictures of temples and statues and different kinds of columns, like those in an architecture book. 

  “Annabeth,” Chiron said, “I have masters archery class at noon. Would you take Percy from here?”

  “Yes, sir. “

  “Cabin eleven,” Chiron told me, gesturing toward the doorway. “Make yourself at home. “

  Out of all the cabins, eleven looked the most like a regular old summer camp cabin, with the emphasis on old. The threshold was worn down, the brown paint peeling. Over the doorway was one of those doctors symbols, a winged pole with two snakes wrapped around it. What did they call it. . . ? A caduceus. 

  Inside, it was packed with people, both boys and girls, way more than the number of bunk beds. Sleeping bags were spread all over on the floor. It looked like a gym where the Red Cross had set up an evacuation center. 

  Chiron didnt go in. The door was too low for him. But when the campers saw him they all stood and bowed respectfully. 

  “Well, then,” Chiron said. “Good luck, Percy. Ill see you at dinner. “

  He galloped away toward the archery range. 

  I stood in the doorway, looking at the kids. They werent bowing anymore. They were staring at me, sizing me up. I knew this routine. Id gone through it at enough schools. 

  “Well?” Annabeth prompted. “Go on. “

  So naturally I tripped coming in the door and made a total fool of myself. There were some snickers from the campers, but none of them said anything. 

  Annabeth announced, “Percy Jackson, meet cabin eleven. 

  “Regular or undetermined?” somebody asked. 

  I didnt know what to say, but Annabeth said, “Undetermined. “

  Everybody groaned. 

  A guy who was a little older than the rest came forward. “Now, now, campers. Thats what were here for. Welcome, Percy. You can have that spot on the floor, right over there. “

  The guy was about nineteen, and he looked pretty cool. He was tall and muscular, with short-cropped sandy hair and a friendly smile. He wore an orange tank top, cutoffs, sandals, and a leather necklace with five different-colored clay beads. The only thing unsettling about his appearance was a thick white scar that ran from just beneath his right eye to his jaw, like an old knife slash. 

  “This is Luke,” Annabeth said, and her voice sounded different somehow. I glanced over and couldve sworn she was blushing. She saw me looking, and her expression hardened again. “Hes your counselor for now. “

  “For now?” I asked. 

  “Youre undetermined,” Luke explained patiently. “They dont know what cabin to put you in, so youre here. Cabin eleven takes all newcomers, all visitors. Naturally, we would. Hermes, our patron, is the god of travelers. “

  I looked at the tiny section of floor theyd given me. I had nothing to put there to mark it as my own, no luggage, no clothes, no sleeping bag. Just the Minotaurs horn. I thought about setting that down, but then I remembered that Hermes was also the god of thieves. 

  I looked around at the campers faces, some sullen and suspicious, some grinning stupidly, some eyeing me as if they were waiting for a chance to pick my pockets. 

  “How long will I be here?” I asked. 

  “Good question,” Luke said. “Until youre determined. “

  “How long will that take?”

  The campers all laughed. 

  “Come on,” Annabeth told me. “Ill show you the volleyball court. “

  “Ive already seen it. “

  “Come on. ” She grabbed my wrist and dragged me outside. I could hear the kids of cabin eleven laughing behind me. 

  When we were a few feet away, Annabeth said, “Jackson, you have to do better than that. “

  “What?”

  She rolled her eyes and mumbled under her breath, “I cant believe I thought you were the one. “

  “Whats your problem?” I was getting angry now. “All I know is, I kill some bull guy—”

  “Dont talk like that!” Annabeth told me. “You know how many kids at this camp wish theyd had your chance?”

  “To get killed?”

  “To fight the Minotaur! What do you think we train for?”

  I shook my head. “Look, if the thing I fought really was the Minotaur, the same one in the stories . . . “

  “Yes. “

  “Then theres only one. “

  “Yes. “

  “And he died, like, a gajillion years ago, right? Theseus killed him in the labyrinth. So . . . “

  “Monsters dont die, Percy. They can be killed. But they dont die. “

  “Oh, thanks. That clears it up. “

  “They dont have souls, like you and me. You can dispel them for a while, maybe even for a whole lifetime if youre lucky. But they are primal forces. Chiron calls them archetypes. Eventually, they re-form. “

I thought about Mrs. Dodds. “You mean if I killed one, accidentally, with a sword—”

  “The Fur . . . I mean, your math teacher. Thats right. Shes still out there. You just made her very, very mad. “

  “How did you know about Mrs. Dodds?”

  “You talk in your sleep. “

  “You almost called her something. A Fury? Theyre Hades torturers, right?”

  Annabeth glanced nervously at the ground, as if she expected it to open up and swallow her. “You shouldnt call them by name, even here. We call them the Kindly Ones, if we have to speak of them at all. “

  “Look, is there anything we can say without it thundering?” I sounded whiny, even to myself, but right then I didnt care. “Why do I have to stay in cabin eleven, anyway? Why is everybody so crowded together? There are plenty of empty bunks right over there. “

  I pointed to the first few cabins, and Annabeth turned pale. “You dont just choose a cabin, Percy. It depends on who your parents are. Or . . . your parent. “

  She stared at me, waiting for me to get it. 

  “My mom is Sally Jackson,” I said. “She works at the candy store in Grand Central Station. At least, she used to. “

  “Im sorry about your mom, Percy. But thats not what I mean. Im talking about your other parent. Your dad. “

  “Hes dead. I never knew him. “

  Annabeth sighed. Clearly, shed had this conversation before with other kids. “Your fathers not dead, Percy. “

  “How can you say that? You know him?”

  “No, of course not. “

  “Then how can you say—”

  “Because I know you. You wouldnt be here if you werent one of us. “

  “You dont know anything about me. “

  “No?” She raised an eyebrow. “I bet you moved around from school to school. I bet you were kicked out of a lot of them. “

  “How—”

  “Diagnosed with dyslexia. Probably ADHD, too. “

  I tried to swallow my embarrassment. “What does that have to do with anything?”

  “Taken together, its almost a sure sign. The letters float off the page when you read, right? Thats because your mind is hardwired for ancient Greek. And the ADHD—youre impulsive, cant sit still in the classroom. Thats your battlefield reflexes. In a real fight, theyd keep you alive. As for the attention problems, thats because you see too much, Percy, not too little. Your senses are better than a regular mortals. Of course the teachers want you medicated. Most of them are monsters. They dont want you seeing them for what they are. “

  “You sound like . . . you went through the same thing?”

  “Most of the kids here did. If you werent like us, you couldnt have survived the Minotaur, much less the ambrosia and nectar. “

  “Ambrosia and nectar. “

  “The food and drink we were giving you to make you better. That stuff wouldve killed a normal kid. It wouldve turned your blood to fire and your bones to sand and youd be dead. Face it. Youre a half-blood. “

  A half-blood. 

  I was reeling with so many questions I didnt know where to start. 

  Then a husky voice yelled, “Well! A newbie!”

  I looked over. The big girl from the ugly red cabin was sauntering toward us. She had three other girls behind her, all big and ugly and mean looking like her, all wearing camo jackets. 

  “Clarisse,” Annabeth sighed. “Why dont you go polish your spear or something?”

  “Sure, Miss Princess,” the big girl said. “So I can run you through with it Friday night. “

  Erre es korakas!” Annabeth said, which I somehow understood was Greek for Go to the crows! though I had a feeling it was a worse curse than it sounded. “You dont stand a chance. “

  “Well pulverize you,” Clarisse said, but her eye twitched. Perhaps she wasnt sure she could follow through on the threat. She turned toward me. “Whos this little runt?”

  “Percy Jackson,” Annabeth said, “meet Clarisse, Daughter of Ares. “

  I blinked. “Like . . . the war god?”

  Clarisse sneered. “You got a problem with that?”

  “No,” I said, recovering my wits. “It explains the bad smell. “

  Clarisse growled. “We got an initiation ceremony for newbies, Prissy. “

  “Percy. “

  “Whatever. Come on, Ill show you. “

  “Clarisse—” Annabeth tried to say. 

  “Stay out of it, wise girl. “

  Annabeth looked pained, but she did stay out of it, and I didnt really want her help. I was the new kid. I had to earn my own rep. 

  I handed Annabeth my minotaur horn and got ready to fight, but before I knew it, Clarisse had me by the neck and was dragging me toward a cinder-block building that I knew immediately was the bathroom. 

  I was kicking and punching. Id been in plenty of fights before, but this big girl Clarisse had hands like iron. She dragged me into the girls bathroom. There was a line of toilets on one side and a line of shower stalls down the other. It smelled just like any public bathroom, and I was thinking—as much as I could think with Clarisse ripping my hair out—that if this place belonged to the gods, they shouldve been able to afford classier johns. 

  Clarisses friends were all laughing, and I was trying to find the strength Id used to fight the Minotaur, but it just wasnt there. 

  “Like hes Big Three material,” Clarisse said as she pushed me toward one of the toilets. “Yeah, right. Minotaur probably fell over laughing, he was so stupid looking. “

  Her friends snickered. 

  Annabeth stood in the corner, watching through her fingers. 

  Clarisse bent me over on my knees and started pushing my head toward the toilet bowl. It reeked like rusted pipes and, well, like what goes into toilets. I strained to keep my head up. I was looking at the scummy water, thinking, I will not go into that. I wont. 

  Then something happened. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. I heard the plumbing rumble, the pipes shudder. Clarisses grip on my hair loosened. Water shot out of the toilet, making an arc straight over my head, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the bathroom tiles with Clarisse screaming behind me. 

  I turned just as water blasted out of the toilet again, hitting Clarisse straight in the face so hard it pushed her down onto her butt. The water stayed on her like the spray from a fire hose, pushing her backward into a shower stall. 

  She struggled, gasping, and her friends started coming toward her. But then the other toilets exploded, too, and six more streams of toilet water blasted them back. The showers acted up, too, and together all the fixtures sprayed the camouflage girls right out of the bathroom, spinning them around like pieces of garbage being washed away. 

  As soon as they were out the door, I felt the tug in my gut lessen, and the water shut off as quickly as it had started. 

  The entire bathroom was flooded. Annabeth hadnt been spared. She was dripping wet, but she hadnt been pushed out the door. She was standing in exactly the same place, staring at me in shock. 

  I looked down and realized I was sitting in the only dry spot in the whole room. There was a circle of dry floor around me. I didnt have one drop of water on my clothes. Nothing. 

  I stood up, my legs shaky. 

  Annabeth said, “How did you . . . “

  “I dont know. “

  We walked to the door. Outside, Clarisse and her friends were sprawled in the mud, and a bunch of other campers had gathered around to gawk. Clarisses hair was flattened across her face. Her camouflage jacket was sopping and she smelled like sewage. She gave me a look of absolute hatred. “You are dead, new boy. You are totally dead. “

  I probably should have let it go, but I said, “You want to gargle with toilet water again, Clarisse? Close your mouth. “

  Her friends had to hold her back. They dragged her toward cabin five, while the other campers made way to avoid her flailing feet. 

  Annabeth stared at me. I couldnt tell whether she was just grossed out or angry at me for dousing her. 

  “What?” I demanded. “What are you thinking?”

  “Im thinking,” she said, “that I want you on my team for capture the flag. ”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22