A circle of folding chairs sat on the floor of an old auditorium. To one side of the circle a folding table had been set up, arrayed with snacks and soft-drinks as well as a portable radio on a classic rock station. Over the course of a few minutes, an unusual assortment of figures filtered in and filled the seats. When every seat was filled, a young man in army fatigues stood to address the group.
“Okay, it looks like that’s everyone we’ll be getting today. I’d like to call the first annual meaning of Unpopular Lallo Characters Anonymous to order. Before we get started, I think we should do a roll call of all members present. Starting with me, we’ll work our way around clockwise. When it’s your turn, please stand, say your name, and tell us what book you are most associated with. I, of course, am Non Sequitur, from the Other Eight.”
“Gracias, The Other Eight.”
“Pollinatrix, The Other Eight.”
“Chloroplast, The Other Eight.”
“Bomb Sniffer, The Other Eight.”
“Phosphor, The Other—“
“Wait, wait, wait,” cried a young woman in a red and white latex suit and goggles.
She stood and looked around.
“We’re just the entire cast of The Other Eight!”
“Now Nonsensica, let’s just wait until we get through roll call before we—“ Non Sequitur said.
“No, no. This is bogus. Why are we the ones who never caught on? Superheroes are huge right now!” she griped.
“Yeah… Yeah, that is kind of weird isn’t it?” remarked Gracias. “Like, even the rotten movies are packing the theaters.”
“Maybe no one reads anymore,” said Pollinatrix.
“If no one reads anymore then this whole room would be packed. We’d have that mad scientist in here and his frickin’ computer, and those wizards. There hasn’t been a Lord of the Rings movie in the theaters since that third Hobbit movie and people are still buying those stories.”
“I blame our cover,” Bomb Sniffer said. “It looks more like a Pixar movie than a superhero thing.”
“But Pixar movies are awesome!” Gracias said.
“And there was one about superheroes, and it was the best one!” Nonsensica said.
“I don’t know. The Toy Story Movies were pretty good,” Pollinatrix said.
“Yeah, and Monsters Inc,” Gracias said.
“Does anyone like Cars?” Phosphor asked. “Because I got a kick out of Mater.”
“Look, we’re not talking about Pixar.” Nonsensica said. “We’re talking about how it is lame that superheroes are the in thing and here we are as the only people in the ULCA.”
“Heh, I like how it’s almost UCLA,” Gracias said.
Nonsensica gritted her teeth. “Can we please stay on topic here. We’re trying to figure out why no one likes us!”
“Have you taken a moment to consider that we’re just not that good?” Pollinatrix said.
“It’s true. I mean, we had a whole big scene in a Waffle House. That’s not exactly heroic,” added Bomb Sniffer.
“Whoa, hey now. Let’s not talk smack about waffles. Waffles are probably the most heroic food,” Gracias said.
“That’s just stupid,” Chloroplast said.
“Name one food that’s more heroic.”
“The hero sandwich.”
“… Well played… This is precisely why Team Green shouldn’t face off against one another. We should—“
“FOCUS!” Nonsensica said.
“Nonsensica, please. It just so happens we aren’t the only ones here. See?” Non Sequitur looked to the side. “Excuse me. Excuse me, ma’am? … Er… Ma’ams?”
The group turned to find a large lavender serpent with three heads at the snack table. The rightmost head was entirely immersed in a bowl of cheese curls. Realizing they were being watched, the center head perked up.
“Oh! Uh… Rill, The Between,” said the Rill.
“It’s not The Between, it’s just Between,” Left-Rill said.
Right-Rill’s head burst up from the bowl, sending cheese curls flying everywhere.
“Wha-?” she said, still munching on the snack.
A rather striking demon woman of some sort with red skin and wings snapped open a diet cola and took a sip.
“You ask me, we shouldn’t even be here,” she said. “Our story’s not done yet. For all we know we’ll rocket in popularity around chapter forty or so.”
“Keep dreaming,” said a young man in medieval attire. “If ‘not having your story finished’ is a reason to not be here then I’d be long gone.”
Trixie turned to him. “And who are you?”
“Edge,” he said. “Untitled Second Trilogy.”
“Never heard of you,” Nonsensica said.
“The Beta Readers know who I am… some of them, anyway.”
“Okay, okay. We’re getting off track here. I think we all know who each other are now, so let’s move on to the second order of business, the absent list. Let’s see… Looks like Michella didn’t turn up.”
“Talk about denial,” Pollinatrix said.
“She is on the cover of Artificial Evolution,” Phosphor said.
“And I’m on the cover of The Other Eight. Coverage doesn’t mean squat. The facts are, no one likes Mitch and she keeps getting shoved down the people’s throats and yet we only get one outing,” Nonsensica said.
“Who else… Ayna’s name is crossed off here. Ether too,” Non Sequitur said.
“Yeah, a couple big name fans have kept them off the list,” Trixie said. “That’s the magic of fan art.”
“Again, bogus. I’ve had plenty of fan art!” Nonsensica said. She crossed her arms. “And if we’re going by fan art then basically no one is popular, because we are in a drought for that stuff.”
Non Sequitur shuffled through some papers. “Okay. I’ll just mark down the rest of the names so we can get rolling, since it looks like the rest of us are all here. Let’s get started.” He cleared his throat. “I know it can be frustrating to know that, for what may well be no reason more than bad luck, we’ve been relegated to the bottom of the popularity list. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t good characters.”
“I think it does,” Bomb Sniffer said.
“No. That’s bad thinking. We haven’t been abandoned. Right now notes exist to bring back each and every one of us, and as Trixie, Rill, and Philo illustrate constantly, Joseph R. Lallo is more than willing to dump tens of thousands of additional words into an idea that simply hasn’t caught on.”
“Writer’s pets,” muttered Pollinatrix.
Non Sequitur continued. “And always remember that even if we aren’t the most popular, out there I have no doubt that each of us has a diehard fan praying we get to be the stars of the next NaNoWriMo experiment or Newsletter Perk.”
“Oh! You know what we should get? You know what would turn it around for us?” Gracias said.
“We’re not trying to turn it around, Gracias, we are coming to terms with—“
“An audio book! We’re like the last ones who don’t have one. Let’s get an audio book, and let’s get it narrated by…”
“Morgan Freeman?” Phosphor suggested.
“MORGAN FREEMAN!” Gracias said, raising his hands. “That would be killer.”
“Come on guys. Seriously,” Non Sequitur said. “Let’s just get through this so we can hit the snack table and start the mixer. Let’s do the affirmation—“
“Oh, like in Wreck It Ralph?” Bomb Sniffer said.
“Another great Pixar movie, by the way,” Gracias said.
“No, no. That wasn’t Pixar, it was just Disney,” Chloroplast said.
“Tha-a-at’s right. Oh, speaking of, is that Lain starring in that Zootopia movie?” Gracias said. “If so, that guy’s got range.”
“You know what? Screw it.” Non Sequitur said, tossing the papers aside. “Snacks are on the table. Enjoy the rest of the meeting, folks. Maybe we’ll do another one of these next April Fool’s Day.”