Zack and Milo watched as Richard turned back toward the mess that Murphy’s Law had made of the intersection. As they watched Richard’s retreating back, Elliot followed him, shouting, gesticulating wildly and pointing at Milo. They distinctly heard him utter the words, “public menace” and “threat to safety.”
Zack put a friendly hand on Milo’s shoulder. “Are you OK, Milo?” he asked.
Milo blinked and realized who was talking to him. “Oh, hi Zack,” he said. “Just wait right here,” he jerked his head at the bakery behind him. Its windows were full of delectable looking baked goods. “I was supposed to pick something up.” He pushed open the door and went inside.
While Zack waited for Milo to come back, he pulled out his phone and fired off a quick text to Melissa and Amanda. “I have Milo. He’s picking up the cake and we’ll be heading back to his house shortly.”
A second or two later Zack’s phone pinged. He had received a return text from Melissa. “OK, see you soon.” Zack turned his attention back to the bakery. The display in the window was mostly obscured by a thick, billowing cloud of flour. The door opened and Milo emerged. He was holding a large white cake box and he was covered from head to foot in a thin layer of flour. “Well, I guess now we know that Murphy’s Law and fresh baked goods don’t mix,” Zack observed drily.
Milo opened his mouth, ostensibly to respond, but he immediately started to sneeze and Zack quickly thrust his hands under the large box, lest Milo drop it. He sneezed loudly and blew a cloud of flour into Zack’s face. Zack looked like a ghost. “Milo, why don’t I hold on to this,” he said.
Milo nodded. “Good idea,” he said, “you know before Murphy’s Law hits.”
The two boys turned away from the blocked intersection and started walking in the opposite direction. “Are you OK, Milo?” Zack asked again. “I saw you and Elliot and-,” he trailed off.
Milo shrugged and settled his backpack higher on his shoulders. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. Milo had always had a complicated relationship with Elliot Decker. Elliot was much older than Milo and was the volunteer crossing guard for Jefferson County Middle School. When he was six he had gone the circus with his family. The previous spring, Elliot had accidentally been handcuffed to Milo, who had quickly deduced that Elliot’s animosity toward him was largely the result of Murphy’s Law. Martin had taken Milo’s then three year old sister, Sara, to the circus on the same day as Elliot. Martin’s prescience had triggered a chain of events which had resulted in the collapse of the circus tent. Elliot had always believed he was responsible and as a result, he had repressed the memory of the the event and had developed a pathological obsession with safety in the process.
“I thought you and Elliot were getting along better, at least a little,” said Zack as they reached the bus stop. “He seemed pretty happy with the job you did last year looking after his dog walking business.”
Milo nodded. “So did I,” he said, “I thought his line of safety gear might have helped him work out his issues.” A few months prior, Milo, Zack and Melissa had decided to spend a day at a sky diving simulator. When the turbine’s generators had inevitably malfunctioned in the prescience of Milo’s negative probability field, the three of them had wound up in open free-fall. Fortunately, Milo had thought to pack several parachutes that he had bought from Elliot, which had probably saved their lives.
“Yeah, I remember those parachutes you bought from Elliot last year,” he said.
Milo chuckled, “the Free-fall Incident is admittedly at little difficult to forget, even for me.”
Zack and Milo arrived at the bus stop. There were several other people huddled under the bus shelter’s heater trying to stay warm. The bus arrived twenty minutes late. Milo and Zack took turns holding the cake, while they both dug through their pockets for their transit passes. They swiped them and sat down. Zack balanced the cake box on his knees. The bus’s engine rumbled and the bus pulled out of the bus stop. It took six blocks for Murphy’s Law to hit. The bus shuddered to a stop with the crunch of metal and asphalt and slanted over sideways with a thud. Zack watched the bus’s front right wheel go bouncing away down the street. “I think we just lost a wheel,” said Milo.
Zack nodded. “Looks like we need to find another bus.” Milo and Zack got up and filed toward the bus’s exit. Milo hopped off the bus and Zack followed him, carefully balancing the cake box in his hands and he stepped off of the bus and on the road. Car horns blared angrily from behind the stopped bus, which had plowed a ragged furrow in the road. They set off walking down the street, weaving in and out of the pedestrians going in the other direction. They eventually got back on the bus and made it most of the way from downtown Danville to Milo’s subdivision before Murphy’s Law struck again and the bus slid through the intersection and jumped the curb. As Milo’s house was only twenty minutes away on foot and it had mostly stopped snowing, Zack and Milo decided to walk the rest of the way.
They arrived at Milo’s front door fifteen minutes later. The door knob came off in Milo’s hand, as usual. He pushed open the door and together with Zack, went inside. Right on cue, Diogee came hurtling out from around a corner, barking happily at the sound of his accident prone master and launched himself in Milo’s arms, almost knocking him into Zack, who was still holding the cake. Zack stepped aside at the last second and Milo landed on his backside while Diogee happily licked his face with his long pink tongue. Milo chuckled. “Down boy,” he said, laughing. He shrugged off his backpack, then took off his winter coat and boots, got to his feet and picked up his backpack. He looked around, frowning slightly. The house seemed unusually quite. Ordinarily, with Milo out of the house, and no Murphy’s Law to interfere, Brigitte could often be found sitting at the kitchen table with a set of architectural plans and a cup of coffee. At the very least the sound of Diogee barking as Milo and his friends came through the door would have roused Martin and Sara from where ever they were in the house to see what the noise was about.
“Where is everybody?” asked Milo.
Zack walked into Milo’s kitchen and deposited the cake on the kitchen counter. “Maybe they’re in the living room?” Zack suggested.
Milo nodded. “Maybe,” he said with a shrug. He walked past the kitchen table toward the door that led to the living room. Zack followed closely behind him. Milo opened the door and found Martin, Brigitte, Sara, Cavendish and Dakota, along Melissa, Amanda Chad and Mort. A banner hanging from the opposite wall read, “Milo Murphy, the best friend in the world.” Milo looked around at his assembled friends and family, a look of slightly dumbstruck confusion on his face. “I-Zack, what is all this?” he asked.
Zack put an affectionate hand on Milo’s shoulder. “Surprise,” he said. “We’ve been planning this for two weeks.”
“Really?” asked Milo.
Melissa nodded. “You can thank Zack,” she said. “This was all his idea.”
Milo turned to look at Zack, “you didn’t have to-,”
Zack cut him off. “Yes I did,” he said simply. “Melissa explained to me about how Murphy’s Law gets into your head sometimes during the winter.”
Milo nodded. “Yeah,” he said, “Mom and Dad sent me to a therapist once and well-,” he trailed off.
Amanda nodded. “Melissa told us about that,” she said.
“It seems that I don’t mix well with psycho-therapy,” said Milo. He chuckled in spite of himself. “I made my therapist cry fifteen minutes into my first session.”
“We know,” continued Zack, “Milo, we’ve been through a lot together, from aliens to time travel to parallel realities to raccoons in the sewer-,”
“That was one raccoon, singular,” interjected Milo.
“Milo,” said Melissa, “the point is that despite Murphy’s Law, you’re always there for everyone else-,”
“-even people like Elliot,” said Zack.
“Even people like Elliot,” agreed Melissa.
“You’ve given us a pick-up when we’ve needed it,” said Melissa, “and we’d be bad friends if we didn’t do the same.”
Milo looked Zack, Melissa and Amanda as if he didn’t know what to say. “I-uhhhh-I really do have the three best friends in the world.”
Zack pulled Milo into a bear hug. “So do we, buddy,” he said, “so do we.”
The get together lasted for the rest of the afternoon, and only finally ended When Cavendish and Dakota departed at 4:00 PM, leaving only Zack, Melissa and Amanda.
“Thanks again, guys,” said Milo appreciatively.
Zack held up a hand. “No need to thank us Milo, “ he said.
Melissa nodded in agreement, “yeah, you know the middle school code,” she said.
Zack nodded. “yeah, no-one gets left behind.”
Amanda looked as though she had suddenly remembered something. “Oh, Milo,” she said. “Yeah Amanda,” replied Milo.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d be willing to help me plan the WIBAs this year,” she said.
Milo looked a little a surprised. “Well, I’d love to Amanda, but I’d have thought that you’d want someone whose-,”
Amanda cut him off. “Milo, I’m not worried about Murphy’s Law,” she paused. The previous year, Murphy’s Law had prevented Milo from appearing on stage to receive his WIBA Award for Greatest Perseverance. She paused. “Well, OK, maybe I am at least a little, but you did a very good job fixing the decorations at the school dance last year, so I’ve decided that I want you to help me plan the ceremony, no ifs, and or buts.”
Milo still looked a little skeptical, “well, OK,” he said at last.
Amanda nodded, “good,” she said. “Meet me in the library after school on Monday.”