Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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Flashback: “Defensive Optimism”

Flashback: “Defensive Optimism”

There are days when Mr. Gulley can barely stand sunrise.

He sees it and all he can think about is later.

When the world is gone. When the sun is gone. When there’s nothing but an empty void and it’s his family’s fault.

He thinks of dead Skoll and living Fenris and the third one, wherever the heck that one might be, and all he can think is:

I can’t.

He isn’t even sure what he can’t. Just, he can’t.

He realizes, on this particular day, watching this particular sunrise, that he’s curled up like a gargoyle against the roof of one of his buildings. He’s crouched there, frustrated and broken there, on the slanting tiles of a Lethal Magnet School roof.

And he’s not alone.

“As long as you have hope,” the Professor of Defensive Optimism tells him. “As long as you hang on to hope, it’ll be all right.”

He gives the man a thumbs-up.

“I didn’t hire a Professor of Defensive Optimism,” Mr. Gulley informs him.

Professor Brittain shrugs at him. He stares off into the dawn.

“I really didn’t. It’s just, you keep ignoring that. You were supposed to be teaching Unsanctioned Operations.”

It is an old argument. It is a pointless argument. Mr. Gulley sighs.

He’s seen it used as a ki barrier. He’s seen some of the Life Skills students holding off gigantic turtle-squids with nothing more than hope and a whispered prayer. It’s not like it doesn’t hold water. He’d even tried it once, manifest this little bubbling white-light barrier. But . . .

What is hope, against the wolf?

“You’ll get through this,” the Professor of Defensive Optimism advises him.

He’d like to believe that.

Mr. Gulley would.



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