A Thousand Paper Cranes
By Reiko Anne Nguyen
Original Publish Date: October 14, 2005

Summary: Benny never thought he'd find another adventure quite like pickling the beast. Little did he know that freshman year would prove to be anything but ordinary. Varsity hazing trials, dead bodies, and town secrets are bound to be revealed.

Chapter 1: The Fall of the Beast
"Sad to say, the fall of The Beast marked the rise of The Jet.
It marked the beginning of reality—the beginning of the end of their childhood."

August 26, 1963, Monday
Roscoe Hills, San Fernando Valley

Janie stood over the porcelain vase that had once nursed her favorite flowers. No one understood why, but while most 15-year-old girls preferred the passionate notion red roses entailed, nothing could make Janie's heart soar like an elegant Easter lily could. Granted, she was highly allergic to them, but Lord knew she had her reasons.

"Stupid rain," Janie thought forlornly as her beloved lilies drowned in their vase. The downpour that unpredictably swept over the town of San Fernando Valley had grown stronger, and although many people welcomed the fresh coolness that replaced their typical heat waves, Janie only saw it for the destruction it inflicted on her flower pot.

"Jane Everlie Reynolds!" Her younger sister suddenly bellowed from the kitchen window, imitating their mother's strict stance. "Ittai nani wo yattenda?"

As if only realizing the drizzling weather condition now, Janie instantly raised her umbrella to shield herself. She shivered slightly as a chilly breeze ruffled her damp dress. "I'm just…um, nothing! I'm not doing anything!"

"Well then are you stupid? It's pouring cats and dogs!"

Janie chose to ignore her younger sister's ridicule, but she knew it would be useless. The kitchen door had already slipped open, making a slap-stick sound before Gracie's footsteps began nearing.

"He's not coming, you know," Gracie softly pointed out as she rushed under the umbrella.

"What are you talking about?" Janie scoffed a bit too heavily. It was hard for her to act as if she didn't know who Gracie was talking about.

"Benny. He's not coming."

Janie cleared her throat as she tried to compose herself. She didn't want to cry, not when she had survived an entire summer of waiting day to day for someone who was hopelessly out of her reach. She needed to convince herself that she didn't care; that he didn't matter anymore. But it was an attempt that had proven to be extremely futile, as she spent her entire summer indoors either waiting for Benny to knock on the door or contemplating on visiting him herself. The latter would have killed her pride, and so she opted to wait.

"I wasn't waiting for him," she said with as much indifference as she could muster. "Get your facts straight."

"Facts?" Gracie mused as she stole the umbrella from Janie's hands and ran off to a safe distance. "You wanna talk facts? Here's one. Benny hasn't come to see you all summer."

"I hardly noticed," Janie said as she remained rooted to her spot.

"Fact. Benny has new friends, now. Newer, cuter, and dumber."

"There's no such thing as dumber, Gracie."

"Fact. Benny's not Benny anymore. He's The Jet, and I highly doubt he would be caught dead hanging around someone who corrects people's grammar."

"Now you're just being mean," Janie whimpered as she tried to hold back the tears. "Damn you! Damn you and your reality checks! So ugly!"

Gracie had to laugh out loud at Janie's failing limitation. She knew she had crossed a line—or two—but she had to stop nagging before Janie could revert back to her post heart-ache syndrome.

"I know it sucks hearing this from me," Gracie said as she approached Janie and wrapped her in a warm hug. "But Benny's a jerk, and I hate to see you still pining over him after what he did to you. He doesn't deserve your attention, Janie. The whole world knows you deserve better than that backstabbing sosh."

Janie only nodded her head and let her eyes grow distant. In a way, she was thankful for having a sister who was brutally honest and straight to the point. There were just some things in her life she couldn't see with her own eyes—things she didn't want to acknowledge. And despite the pain that defensively told her to keep believing in Benny, Gracie had just slapped reality back into place. Benny simply isn't Benny anymore. He was a neighborhood prodigy now, and it was all because of The Beast.

Like every child who had grown up as a Valley local, Janie heard just about every single myth and rumor that circulated around their trivial town—from the ghost stories that haunted nearly every ramshackled structure still standing to the old tales of hidden treasure buried on their turf. Of course, this was just their way of making their monotonous hometown seem much more interesting than it really was, as they were quite fed up with suburban life. The world was getting bigger, and most of them, who had never stepped foot outside The Valley, were both fascinated and terrified of the advancing changes that were developing outside their hometown. They were skeptical that anyone would ever leave to become something dynamically bigger and better. It just simply wasn't heard of…until now.

Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez, Janie's best friend since the first grade, was on his way to becoming a neighborhood legend. Never in her wildest dreams did she think The Beast would fall from his reign of terror, and yet it happened while she was away. The Beast—a monster that plagued her childhood through a series of modified rumors—was defeated by her best friend, and was exposed as nothing more than a lovable mastiff.

Yes, she had only heard the stories. She knew what had happened between Benny and The Beast, despite never being there. And yet, it changed her life. From the moment her best friend became a household name, the course of her life had changed—for the good, and even for the worst. Sad to say, the fall of The Beast marked the rise of The Jet. It marked the beginning of reality—the beginning of the end of their childhood.

Disclaimer: "The Sandlot" was written and directed by David M. Evans. I do not own anything related to the movie other than this fan written fiction and the original characters I have created through my own imagination. I assure you that this piece of work does not make any profits, nor will it be published in the future. Copyright infringement is not intended.