Tag Archives: Lakewood

Big Spike Mean Ethan

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Chapter 8

The Red Queen shook her head, “You may call it nonsense if you like,” she said, ”but I’ve heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary.”

Allan, Paul, Bryce, and I were all middle school tyros back in the day. Afterwards we passed all the St. Mel’s interviews and tests and were accepted as freshmen. The only thing left to do after that was for our parents to find the money to pay for. It takes a ton of dead presidents to go to St. Mel’s. It takes more than thirteen thousand of them to get it done.

It takes a BOWLFUL of MAMMON to lie in the lap of the Virgin Mary.

Allan played on the St. Mel’s freshman football team from day one. At least he did until he got a concussion on the first day of practice. That finished him off before he got to day two. He’s out for the season.

He played football for Lakewood Catholic Academy in his youth. He’s only a little taller than me, but he’s a lineman. He’s butt load big and wide, although he has a potbelly, and still of all he’s strong as a bull. Allan’s not just a body on the JV field. He’s actually good, if he was still there, but after they rocked him at practice, he was scrambled eggs and toast.

St. Mel’s is hugemongous into football. We lost our only game in two years to Don Basco. Even though we always put one of the best teams in the country between the lines, Basco is the best team now. Our guys went to New Jersey to play them and it didn’t go well. But they have to come to our field next fall. Everybody is looking forward to that.

Mr. Rote, our religion teacher, always says there is no revenge so complete as forgiveness, but I think the best revenge is a massive beat-down. Never walk in anybody’s shadow, we always say in the hallways.

We’re state champions and that’s awesome. We own everybody in football and most of the other sports, too, especially wrestling. We have a bank load of paid for state championship trophies. There are too many of them in our vaults to count, really. When you start winning championships, year after year, that’s all you’re interested in.

It’s not just because we’re St. Mel’s that we win. It’s our tradition of winning and our players and coaches who want to win BAD. But it’s mostly because we have the players, the biggest and best players, and the biggest best black players, too. Some of St. Mel’s black football players are big, VERY BIG.

My friends are on the big side, too.

Big Boy Allan has a hot face and pearly whites, but the rest of him is mostly pasty white. He has brown hair and brown eyes. His hands aren’t big, but they’re meaty. He has fat toes and cankles. He doesn’t have ankles, not exactly, just calves attached to his feet. No ankles – only cankles.

Paul is tall and thin and strong. He has big hands, big feet, and is going to play basketball for the school. That’s the only sport he plays. It’s all he knows. He can palm a basketball no problem. He has super big hands. His hair is dirty blonde, his eyes are blue, and he has normal size ears. His lips are white person lips. Small. Black people don’t have white people lips. The only white kid I know who has black lips is Bryce.

Bryce is the Fourth Musketeer of us who made it into St. Mel’s, which surprised the rest of us. and everybody who knows Bryce. It even surprised me. Nobody thought he had it in him. He and I go way back to grade school and even before that. We were friends before we were even alive, although we didn’t know it.

His mom and my mom were hair stylists together and they got pregnant at the same time. After we were born on our not exactly the same birthdays, we were best friends from the time we were babies. Bryce is tall and big and buff. He’s very strong very don’t mess with me very on top. He wears his wavy hair long, which is a ginger color down to the roots, and sometimes he ties it back in a ponytail.

Even though he’s barely a month older than me, he already has a beard. It’s not like the badlands, either. It’s a real beard. I don’t have a single whisker. He used to shave more often, but he doesn’t as much anymore.

Bryce just turned fifteen, just ahead of me. He weighs more than 230 pounds, but he’s not fat. He’s close to six foot four, which is exactly eight inches taller than me. He walks like Robert Mitchum in the old movies my dad watches on TCM, not all butterfingers, like the ground’s moving underneath him. He’s not like that, quirky, where you walk weird. He walks with a swagger.

We all play sports, although I’m not sure what sport Bryce will play. It will probably be football. He will be a beast when he does. He’s built like a God. I run cross-country. I’m built like a bushman. I’m going to try to get on the lacrosse team next year. But I want to run track more than I want to play lacrosse. I stay in shape for it by running cross-country.

I used to play football, but I was always getting the hell kicked out of me because I was too small. We were always getting the hell yelled out of us by our coaches, too. I didn’t like that, either, any more than I liked being knocked down all the time.

Sports are the biggest thing at our high school because St. Mel’s is absolutely sports-oriented. The only guys not in sports are the smarties. That’s a stereotype, but it’s right around the corner to the truth. The guys not in sports who aren’t actually smarties are the guys who go to St. Mel’s for the experience or because their parents are making them go.

One of my friends, DB, who’s a sophomore, says he hates the school. He’s a nut, but that’s how it is. He calls it THE ORGANIZATION. That’s because his parents make him go to St. Mel’s. I love it. Nobody makes me do that. It’s right for some guys, but for other guys it’s completely wrong. I don’t know why it’s not right for DB. I never ask him. All I know is my three friends and I love it.

I tend to hang around the guys who like St. Mel’s. I don’t want to be talking to downers. There are kids like that at St. Mel’s and everywhere else, too. I’m not a big flag waver for our school, but why think your life is crap just because you think going to St. Mel’s is down?

DB and guys like him are weird. Weird is fine. I’m weird, too, but in a good way. Those guys are just awkward. I think they know they’re awkward, too. They’re less friendly than everybody else. They think they can sit there, smirk and grimace, and nobody will mind.

Some guys just float and float, which is bad. I am in the same classes with some of  them a few times a day and they’re drifting. I try to be active, answer questions, but some guys just sit there like clods. They stare at the walls and daydream. They constantly won’t and don’t get good grades. It’s all right to get a not good enough grade once in a while, but constantly getting bad grades is bad news. It’s not going to work at St. Mel’s. Nobody learns anything by failing. Success is the only thing that counts.

At St Mel’s, teachers always routinely try to help you. It’s not like it was in middle school. They’ll come to you, or you go to them, which is even better, and they’ll help you. There’s no doubt about it. If you CARE about St. Mel’s, then St. Mel’s will CARE about you.

But some guys don’t care. That’s the problem. Their parents made them go to St. Mel’s. Their moms and dads are insecure and think they’ll have a better image of themselves and other people will think better of them if their son goes to St. Mel’s. It’s a prestigious school and they want the prestige. It’s a good fit for some guys, but for others it’s definitely not.

You don’t even have to be Catholic to go to St. Mel’s. There are Hindus and Muslims and even Protestants. We don’t have a daily mass, but we have a daily religion class every day. Everybody has to go. One of my friends, Amija, is in my religion class. He’s either a Hindu or a Muslim, or something like that, but he isn’t allowed to sit it out. We study Roman Catholic theology and Amija participates like everybody else.

One of the guys on my cross-country team is a Lutheran. There are all kinds of religions at St. Mel’s, although there are no Jews. I’ve never heard of one ever attending the school. No one ever says anything about it, about the no-Jews rule on campus, not even the Jews, who are always complaining about everything.

Even Mr. Rote avoids talking about it, like he avoids talking about guns, although he has a lot to say about everything else. He’s my full-time religion teacher. I wish it were Miss Torrent, instead, who is the other religion teacher. She’s about two feet tall, but she stands tall, taller than THE MAN. If I stand up, she is just past my belly button. It’s awesome. She’s awesome. Nothing keeps her down.

“I don’t mind being short because I was never tall,” she says.

She’s all in proportion, an older lady, and talks nasal like a duck. She wears her hair short, almost like one of the guys. She always seems happy, which is unusual in older people, who are usually cranky. Everybody gets older, but you don’t have to be old, although that’s not how it seems to work. She says she’s happy and not happy other times, but mostly happy.

“Thank God I never was cheerful,” she says. “But I am a cheerful pessimist.”

Walking into St. Mel’s on the first day of school and not knowing anybody was all new, but not so new. There were guys from Lakewood, North Olmsted, and Westlake. They were from all over. Walking in the door I only knew Allan, Paul, Bryce, and myself. I knew some guys from cross-country because we had been practicing for about a month before school started. But that was only for a month and I had barely paid attention to them.

If I had gone to Lakewood High School, I would have known a boat load of guys. They’d have all been from my hometown. We had an orientation the day before classes started, but that was the day before anything mattered. On the first day of school I went to my first period class. When the class ended that was it, my first religion class was over, and after that I went to my next class.

St. Mel’s was just a new place and I was at the bottom of the bottom of the pile. It didn’t feel scary, or anything, at least not like 6th grade, which is the first year of middle school.

McKinley Middle School was scary because it was a completely new experience. We had to move from one classroom to the next one all day, not like in grade school. When you’re a young kid you’re stationary. You’re in one room all the time, but at McKinley we always moved around, shifting changing.

I didn’t know many kids at McKinley when I started. I only knew my friends from grade school. I didn’t know anybody else because they came from so many other grade schools. By the time I started St. Mel’s I was used to not knowing anybody and moving around all day.

The classes at St. Mel’s are smaller than at Lakewood High School. There are maybe twenty of us in a class, all freshmen. Most of us are white guys, but some of us are black guys. I made friends with Eli, who is dark black, and Bobby, who is a lighter shade. There’s another black guy, too, who’s even lighter, he could almost be white, but I don’t know him.

There are plenty of blacks at St. Mel’s, and plenty of them are there to play sports. Some of them definitely got into the school because they’re good at running, catching, and tackling. A few of them, no, it’s because they’re smarties. Still, there are a butt load of them on the football team. There are even more than you would think would be on a normal football team. But there are still a lot of white guys, too.

There are no Asians, definitely not any of them. They’re like the Jews. No Jews and no Asians on the rough and tumble.

There aren’t many black guys living in Lakewood, which is mostly white man’s land. My stepmom said more of them are being section-eighted, complaining complaining and complaining. I didn’t know what she was talking about. When Jack started nodding his head, agreeing with her, I started ignoring it. I’ve seen more black guys at St. Mel’s than I expected. One of them is in the locker next to me. He is big fat evil Ethan. I’m OK with fat people, although I’m not a chubby chaser, but Ethan and I don’t get along. We’re two totally different kinds of people.

I have a friend, Big Spike, who’s on the JV basketball team. He’s sky-high tall. He’s one of my best friends, and he’s black, so it’s not like I’m a racist. It doesn’t have anything to do with tall, either, even though I’m on the shorter side. It’s just that Ethan is rude. It doesn’t have anything to do with being black, more like he’s got an evil black soul streak.

Fee fi fo, walking to Detroit.

He pushes other kids out of his way to get to his locker. “Get the fuck out of my way,” he’ll say. He’s never said it to me because I stay out of his way, believe me! I don’t commit the mortal sin of standing my ground. If I did, I’d be a pancake in no time flat.

No one ever pushes back. He’s big and has short legs, so he’s built low to the ground, even though he’s tall. I try to stay away from him. If you’re not nice to people I don’t want to be your friend. You don’t have to be a racist, just like you don’t have to be mean. But you have to be realistic. I play it smart. That’s how I am.

The mean guys don’t necessarily stick together. Ethan has lots of friends, even Bryce, who’s my best friend. I can’t get my head around it, but that’s the way it is. They get along. I don’t know how the nice guys can be friends with the mean guys, but it happens. Maybe it’s how you look at them, or maybe it’s because Ethan has never been mean to Bryce.

Bryce is bigger than Ethan, for sure. Ethan isn’t going to go out of his way to tell Bryce to get out of his way. That ain’t going to happen.

There are some people I don’t like and other people I really don’t like. I really don’t like Ethan. He makes it his mission in life to be nervy, like he has to do or say something disrespectful every ten minutes, like he just wants to be rude at all costs.

Bert, who plays soccer on the soccer team, is another one, although he’s more annoying than anything else. He’s a smart guy, not that it matters. He’s in my history class with Mr. Krister. Bert usually knows all the answers but is kind of a jerk and a smart aleck at the same time. When we were at Homecoming, he made out with my friend Jake’s girlfriend, right out in the open, on the dance floor. He can be a major jerk-bag.

He texts in class and when Mr. Krister calls him out on it he will say, “Oh, Mr. Krister, I was just texting my mom, she’s a widow, about what time to pick me up after school.”

We all know his mom is totally married, but Mr. Krister is in the dark about it.

Mr. Krister will take his phone away, but then won’t actually keep it, because he isn’t a mean man in that way. Bert will sit in Mr. Krister’s chair when he’s out of the class, and Mr. Krister doesn’t like that, at all. Once day before class he was in the hallway and Bert sat in his chair. He saw him through the doorway and chased Bert back to his seat.

He e-mailed Bert’s soccer coach, complaining about it, but nothing happened because he’s a fast-running fast-scoring fast-rising star on the team. All anybody has to is read their history books to find out what is number one at St. Mel’s.

If you’re good at sports at St. Mel’s you can get away with a lot of sins, BELIEVE ME. It’s not about being white or black or mixed up. It doesn’t matter what religion you are. What matters is the trophy case. What matters is not fade away. What matters is don’t turn into a pot of paste. What matters is winning. We’re all grown up about that.

Mr. Rote says the Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible. At St. Mel’s, no matter what Mr. Rote says, the only sin is losing, and it’s not the small insignificant it doesn’t matter kind of venial sin, either. Winning is one thing and losing, all the hundreds of ways of losing, getting lost at sea, is another thing, FOR GOD’S SAKE, the mortal sin kind of thing at St. Mel’s.

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Thick Stony Starch

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Chapter 7

“O Tiger-lily,” said Alice. “I wish you could talk!

“We can talk,” said the Tiger-lily: “when there’s anybody worth talking to.”

You never want to fall asleep in Mr. Hittbone’s second period math class, no matter what, because he will leave you full stop asleep until you eventually wake up, whenever that is. It’s one of the rules written on his personal rules board at the front of the class. NO WAKING SLEEPERS!

Classes will come and go, and no one is ever allowed to wake up anybody sleeping.

If you fall asleep, he just lets you sleep, no shaking you up, and you miss the next class, and even the class after that. You wake up and it’s, oh, MY GOD! You get major detentions for missing classes at St. Mel’s. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t your fault. Mr. Hittbone doesn’t care that maybe you had homework for six classes and had to do work around the house, too, and walk the dog.

Nobody cares when you’re explaining. They care even less when you’re complaining. I take it smart. I never explain and I never complain.

A guy once went lights out for three straight periods. When he woke up Mr. Hittbone was at his podium lecturing, just like always, but after the guy blinked shook his head looked around, he saw there weren’t any familiar faces. There were all different guys in the class. He flash bolted out of the room. He hadn’t technically skipped any classes, but he got a butt load of detentions.

It’s not a school rule. It’s Mr. Hittbone’s rule.

I woke up halfway through his class one day after a long night at home. “Did you sleep good?” he asked. His hot dog lips were a thin hard line. Thick stony starch Mr. Bone.

“No, I made a few mistakes,” I said. He didn’t like that. He got stiff as a board. I got a detention.

“You boys grow up without rules, without boundaries,” he told us the first class the first day of school. “You need discipline. You can be yourselves, whatever you think that is, once you’ve learned the rules.”

Lots of rules and no mercy, that’s Mr. Hittbone, like he just stepped out of the Old Testament. Mr. Rote and the rest of the religion teachers teach the New Testament, but that news flash has never reached the Big Boneman.

It’s not ten thousand years ago, Mr. Hittbone! But he doesn’t care about that, either.

Everyone says he’s been at the school since it opened, or maybe even before that. He was probably waiting for the big day to happen. He’s only ever taken two days off in all those years. He told us about them on the third day of school. “It wasn’t because I was sick,” he said. The Legend of the Bone says he’s never been sick. Someone else was sick on those two days.

Maybe he ever only feels like crap in private. Maybe he’s only stiff as a board at St. Mel’s. Maybe he only melts when the guy finally gets his girl in the movies.

Mr. Hittbone’s a short man with a beach ball belly and big lips, like weiners. He pulls his pants up almost to his nipples. He doesn’t wear a sports jacket like most of the other teachers. He only ever wears a dress shirt. He has grayish brown hair and eyes the color of an old telephone pole. He’s a stumpy grumpy dude. Everybody hates him, the upper classmen, and us, just everybody, really.

Some of the upper classmen add an S to the front of his name, but never out loud to his face. That would be a disaster if it slipped out. Mr. Hittbone is the MASTER OF DETENTIONS. He’s a hard hard hard-boiled egg. It’s not even funny.

He’s married but told us he can’t stand his wife because she doesn’t make him dinner never turns off the house lights and watches TV all the time. “She even shops in bed, thanks to television,” he said. We all thought, “So what?”

He has a son and daughter, but he never talks about his son. When he told us about his daughter, he said he was mad angry about how in the first year of whatever job she got she was making more money than him.

He always says money is a “masterpiece in the eye of a masterpiece,” whatever that means.

“God wants us to prosper and have plenty of money,” he said. “Money is how you keep score. That’s why you don’t want to stop at simple math, because then you’ll only make simple money.”

Nobody ever knows what he’s talking about. Most of the rich grown-ups I’ve met are simple-minded. They think they deserve their gold mines, saying they worked hard for their dough, when everybody knows they made everybody elese work hard. They won because things went their way, or they cheated the hell out of somebody else.

Mr. Hittbone smokes between classes, in front of the gold dome chapel, ripping the filters off his cigarettes. I’ve never seen another teacher smoke on campus, only him. He throws the butts on the ground, mashes them, and lights up another one.

Whenever anybody tells him cigarettes are bad for you, he scowls.

“When it looks like I’ll live longer than my next cigarette I’ll scrape it off the bottom of my shoe,” he says.

Whenever anybody tells him cigarettes are practically illegal, he gets mad about that, too.

“The government tells you smoking is bad for your health, but when you Ben Franklin the numbers, the government has killed more people than cigarettes ever did, or ever will.”

One morning he told us he was in a gas station buying his generic cigs down on Detroit Road, just down from the school, when somebody tried to rip off the attendant with some kind of money trick.

“I wanted to beat him with a bat,” said Mr. Hittbone, making fists, his hands shaking.

He said beat him WITH A BAT to beat the hell out of him. Every day the forecast for Mr. Hittbone is clouds, rain, and grump. Fee fi fo, walking to Detroit. We all laughed, though. He couldn’t beat himself out of a paper bag.

He teaches from a podium at the front of the class. He’s the only teacher in the school who has one. How does he rate? It’s because he’s an OLD DINOSAUR and gets his way. He puts his papers and things on the podium and hardly moves all period, unless he wants to tear up something that’s on your desk. That’s another one of his rules. MATH ONLY!

Even if you’re not doing anything with whatever is on your desk, like a science assignment from Mr. Strappas, if he sees it, all of a sudden, he’ll just stoop down on you and take it.

“I don’t think you’ll be needing this,” he says, and rips it up.

He’s constantly looking for things to rip up, even if it’s something for one of your other classes, not even his class, something you were just looking at. He’s always showing up aout of nowhere and tearing your work into shreds.

He has a ton of rules on his board, more than fifty of them, a boat load of them. NO CHEWING GUM!

If you chew gum anywhere on campus, not just in his class, watch out for him spying you doing it. He scribbles your name in his little black spiral notebook and reports you. He gives you a full detention, which is forty-five minutes. He never gives out minor detentions. Mr. Hittbone told us chewing gum is rotten and should be banned from the school.

“If you can’t swallow it, don’t chew it.”

No one is allowed to touch anything in his classroom, either. NO TOUCHING!

If you pass by one of his special teacher books and you sort of graze it with your leg, you get a major detention. If you pick up a marker at the board without first asking his permission, you get a major detention. If you punch somebody’s arm, even though it’s none of his business, you get a major detention.

It’s nothing like my third period class, which is our science class. The teacher is Mr. Strappas, who’s one of the varsity football coaches. He’s young, has blond hair he combs back, and is super fit. He played football in college and he’s a nice cool man. He encourages us to touch things, do things, get into the projects, and the only rule he has is no talking when he’s talking.

I don’t know why some guys can’t get it right. It’s always the same guys who get it wrong, who do all the talking in class, breaking the rules. We sit a pair to a table and those two guys are somewhere in the middle of the room. They talk about video games, sports, and all their other dumb stuff. Mr. Strappas will say, no talking, and they will say, sorry, but they don’t stop. They don’t even get good grades on their quizzes and tests. They don’t turn their homework in on time and get bad marks for effort. They’re just stupids.

Mr. Strappas doesn’t stand at his lectern. He roams back-and-forth, to the sinks, the whiteboard, and all around the room. He’s always on the move. It’s my favorite class of the day. I actually like learning in it. It’s fun finding out about atoms and geology and everything he’s interested in.

Mr. Strappas expects us to be in our seats when his class starts, but he doesn’t sweat it if it doesn’t happen. But if you’re not in your seat when the bell rings at the instant Mr. Hittbone’s class starts, you get a full detention. Everybody should be in their seats when class starts, we all know that, but if you’re standing there for a second, just fixing your belt, he gives you a detention, anyway. It’s totally retarded, but that’s another one of his rules.

Because it’s Mr. Hittbone, you absolutely want to make sure you’re all good. You want to be perfect. LOOK PROPER! We wear ties, dress shirts, dress pants, a belt, undershirt, and black shoes. We have to make sure we’re all buttoned up for him. If any button is even half unbuttoned it means a full detention. He really hates it if the second button on your shirt is undone.

Even though Mr. Hittbone is a hundred years older than Mr. Rote, our first period religion teacher, who is young and thinks he’s all there, but is a doofus, it’s one for the button in first period and two for the button in second period.

He hates casual dress days, too. “It’s like a casual walk through the insane asylum,” he says.

If there is any piece of paper on the floor around or near your desk at any time of the class, he’ll give you a detention, even if it’s not yours, and even if you didn’t see it in the first place. NO LITTER! If the paper has your name on it, it’s even worse, because he rips it up before giving you the detention.

Mr. Hittbone is his own Bible of Rules. When it comes to the Hittbone Rules, it’s hell or high water. Don’t look for middle ground. It’s all quicksand there.

DON’T LOOK THROUGH THE WINDOWS! We’re supposed to face front when we’re in class, but there are some guys who sit right by the windows and sometimes they can’t help shifting their faces to the glass.

That’s a FULL DETENTION!

If Mr. Hittbone and I looked out the same window, I don’t think we would see the same thing, no matter how you do the math.

Sometimes I think that since I didn’t have a hand in making his rules, the rules have nothing to do with me. If you say Cloud 9 is amazing, he’ll say, what’s wrong with Cloud 8? No matter what, you can’t fight Mr. Hittbone. He’s like a Godzilla. He swats you down with his horny tail.

At the end of class, we can’t jump up and leave like in any of our other classes. His rule about the bell for ending class is that it isn’t the school bell, but his bell that matters. When the school bell goes off, we have to stay in our seats until he says we can go.

When he says we can go I’ll say, “See you tomorrow Mr. Hittbone.” And he’ll say, “Thanks for the warning, Mr. Who It.”

My middle name is Wyatt, so he calls me Who It, as in Why It, Who It, and then he laughs.

Sometimes it seems like he wants you to lay down at his feet like a guinea pig and say, “Yes, sir, I’ll go dig up those apples, sir, whatever you say.” His rules have nothing to do with anything. He’s just a cranky fanged-up downpresser man. He’s got us for fifty minutes, and that’s that, my man.

I’m counting the days until my sophomore year rolls around and I’m none of Mr. Hittbone’s business anymore.

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Short and Sweet

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Chapter 2

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”   

I’m on the shorter side, not too tall, and I’m on the lean and mean side, not too chunky. I get through doorways easier than most. I could probably go down a rabbit hole if I was in the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ movie. That would be some kind of out of body out of Lakewood in Ohio on my street in my backyard in my mind adventure! On the sports side of life and limb I run cross-country.

I have freckles, like my dad, blue eyes, and brown hair that I keep trimmed. I keep it aerodynamic. I keep it regulation for St. Mel’s I don’t change my hair all year. But next summer when school is over and done, I’ll get a full cut, grow it out, and let it flow chop until school starts again in the fall.

Flow chopping is when your hair is in a circle. It’s all about letting your rage flow. It’s all about being in flow with the boys.

I’m stronger than most guys my size, but not super muscular. I’m more like lean meat. Keep your body rangy and your mind sharp. My dad used to be that way when I was a baby, but he’s bulked up since then, gone big-chested. He’s not as sharp as he used to be, either. He repeats himself, he’s gone grown-up, he’s gone it gets me paid in full and I’m full satisfied.

I’m named after St. Sebastian. He was a bodyguard for the Roman emperor. He was a core tough dude. Fee fi fo, walking to Detroit.

In pictures St. Sebastian looks bigger than me, especially his pecs. He’s got them, for sure. I’ve been doing push-ups lately. I hit the weight room after track and get down on the bench. I do all the machines and I’m up to 85 pounds. I’m on the dumbbells, too, but I only do fifteens. My forearms aren’t that strong, yet, but they will be.

St. Sebastian was the man, until he got on the wrong side of the boss and got busted into pieces.

He was shot to death after he became a Christian. But the arrows didn’t kill him, so the emperor’s flunkies clubbed him to death again and threw him into a sewer. He was buried in France, but later Protestants looted the church and tossed his bones into a ditch. He couldn’t catch a break. After they found all the parts of him, they sent him to other churches all over so it wouldn’t happen again. He’s all over the place.

He’s the patron saint of sports. I wear a sacramental medal of him. I kiss the medal right before races.

I was good at football when I was young, but I was never big enough, especially as I got older. I was a crash test dummy. Now I love running. I’m not an all-star athlete, but I’m more physically fit than most rooms full of average guys, but maybe less than some, too. I’m more than fit enough to be on the cross-country team, so I’m absolutely in the better half.

Many guys are physically fit because they’re in sports. They’re all jacked to begin with, or they’re good at certain things, like soccer or football. There are others who don’t play sports, not at all. At St. Mel’s you’re either fit or you’re unfit. The ones who are unfit are usually the ones who don’t play sports. They either don’t want to be told what to do or they don’t want to exert   any effort towards anything.

Whenever I’m running, I feel totally free. It just flushes everything out of me. That’s when I do my best thinking, bright and bushy. But race day is different. It’s like running across a frozen lake with the ice breaking up behind you, the ice-cold water reaching for your legs. It’s time for getting it on time, one step at a time, fast. I don’t think much during races.

My teeth are almost perfect. I’ve only ever had two cavities, but I did have one tooth pulled. I was in 5th grade. One day I woke up and it hurt bad. It wasn’t even loose. There was something wrong with the nerve and I had to get it pulled that same day. It was so horrible it was horrible. The dentist gave me a shot of Novocain, but it wasn’t enough. When he pulled on it the first time it hurt too much and he had to stop. He gave me two more shots and after that it was all right.

I hate pain, even though I can take a lot of it, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Mr. Rote, our religion teacher, says we measure our pain by God, whatever that means. A lot of my prayers are thanking God I’m mostly healthy. We talk about evil in class, but I think the worst evil is pain. When my grandfather got old, before he died, he was in pain all the time. He was always hunched over, but he never complained. He could hardly walk. Dad said he just had to accept it. IT SUCKS TO BE OLD! When you’re a grown-up it’s right around the corner and you might as well brace for it.

I’m allergic to dust mites, pollen, and I’m deadly allergic to walnuts and pecans. I get itchy eyes from dust mites and pollen, sneeze a lot, and feel like crap. I had to get special microfiber covers for my mattress and pillows. If I eat nuts, I feel sick and then get sick. My throat hurts, it’s hard to swallow, and my stomach goes upset. It’s deadly, so deadly I need EpiPens, two of them, just in case. They pierce your skin. A needle shoots out and epinephrine makes it all go the way of the saints, so I don’t have to go to the hospital.

Thank God my dad and stepmom have insurance. The pens cost an arm and a leg, but they don’t cost us anything. If I was on my own, I would have to rob a bank.

My left thumb is different than my right thumb. It happened three years ago when I was eleven. My dad and I were buying a massage for my stepmom. We parked in the Beachcliff shopping lot in Rocky River and when I got out of our big body family Toyota van, I slammed the door shut, except I slammed it on my own thumb. My hand was still in the door. I slammed it on my own thumb, where it got stuck!

It was terrible. I couldn’t make sense of it. “Open the door, open the door!” I screamed.

When my dad finally jerked the door open my nail came off. We had to get x-rays at Lakewood Hospital. My thumb was broken and when the nail came back it came back different.

I have a scar on the left side of my neck, too. It happened last summer when I was playing Nazis and Jews at summer camp and got whiplashed. It was my own fault, but it was the fault of the jerk who was chasing me. I told him he wasn’t a real Nazi and I wasn’t a real Jew, and did he have to barrel after me like it was life and death? The doctor says I’ll probably have a tattoo reminder of it on my neck for the rest of my life.

I have a good personality. It’s better than most, for sure. I am definitely cool to the touch. I’m just being who I was made to be. I think it’s better to be yourself. Don’t try to copy anybody else, even though they might be smarter or more successful. Even though my personality is my personal property, it seems everybody, especially my parents and my teachers, all the grown-ups down on me, are always trying to change it.

I like to think I’m brave and have the character to rescue someone. I’d like to be a hero. Everyone knows I don’t have a quiet personality. I never look behind me or to the side. That’s not my identity. I don’t want to know who I used to be. That’s over and done. I’m only interested in who I am now.

The past is where I grew up, and I liked living there, but everybody knows YOU CAN’T GO BACK TO YESTERDAY.

I’m nice to everybody, unless they’re a jerk. Then I’m not going to be nice to them. I don’t mind what some guys think of me because I know there are other guys who don’t think that, not at all. There are many nice people like me, who are kind and considerate.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. That’s what a lot of people do. I don’t do that. I’m open-minded, but I don’t like it that grown-ups always try to put things I don’t want into my open mind. I don’t like it, at all.

I’m not too emotional. I’m more of a happy person, not a crazy high and low guy. I know everybody gets sad and depressed. I try to give them a smile. I like doing that. It’s right under your nose and it’s better than being mean. Everybody looks better when they smile. Some of my teachers smile as though they just want to get it over with. It’s like they’re visiting a disaster site. I get ticked off if people never smile, or if they smile only with their lips, not their whole face.

It’s sad when people die, but I feel they wouldn’t want you to be unhappy. You obviously can’t be happy, but don’t be depressed. That’s how I feel. It’s not worth the effort to be so sad. I might be down about something dumb for a few hours, or even a whole day, but then I’ll just forget about it.

When you smile, you forget. When you remember, you get sad. Never look back is what I say. I take it smart.

Some of the guys at St. Mel’s are so emotional it’s almost absolutely unbelievable. And it’s all a GANG OF GUYS, not even any girls. They don’t know that no one wants to hear their sob stories. They talk about how someone stole their girlfriend, how their parents are control freaks, and how their teachers don’t understand them. They want emotional support, like an IV pumping out of your face, which is like them talking.

I’m not like that. I only tell my close friends what I honestly think. I’m not going to blab it out like a sob train to the whole school. Going to Detroit is the way to go.

Those guys put it all on Facebook. They tell everyone what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. It’s not worth it. Who cares? Nobody cares. They think they have a lot of friends on Facebook. They couldn’t be more wrong. That is the biggest joke of all time. The Facebook gang is laughing all the way to the bank. Don’t be waiting for a friend request from any of them! Twitter has wiped out Facebook, anyway. I’m done with it, although I’m still on Facebook all the time.

There are a butt load of jerks and more at St. Mel’s. There are tools, the cocky guys, and whores. A tool will say they are your best friend. You are friends with them, you talk to them, but they go right behind your back and tell other people. So, they are tools. A cocky guy is someone who thinks they are the best at everything, even though they aren’t. They are insecure. Even if they are good at something, they are so cocky about it they are annoying. The whores are just sad kids, all lonely.

They’re never who they really are, letting themselves be who they are, so they can’t be a real friend. A friend to EVERYBODY is NOBODY’S friend.

Who upsets me more than anything are the attention seekers, especially in class. They want attention over the dumbest things. It makes me pissed off. One guy who is in one of my classes is always raising his hand to say something dumb, or if we have to do something, he asks the teacher to come check this or that. He says he just wants to make sure he’s on the right track. He goes on and on. He wants all eyes on him, since being the poster model is what he does. He needs to shut up!

I just don’t like to hear their voices. It’s totally dead annoying. The guys who make me more upset than anything are the queer bags. They’re the guys who are man whores, guys who will try to get with anyone. They’re just thirsty for a partner, anyone who will pay attention to them. They would probably even steal from bullies to attract a little attention.

Bullies rattle me more than most. I was bullied a lot in middle school. It was horrible. My dad would call the school, and tell them about it, and even go to the school. They would say, “We know, this kid, he’s a bully,” but nothing would ever happen. Nothing ever got done, no whipping, no hanging. At St. Mel’s it’s so different. They don’t tolerate it, at all. But guys still get bullied. It rubs me the wrong way. I know how it feels. It sucks, so they really tick me off a lot.

I’m popular at St. Mel’s because I know how to make friends with my classmates, and sophomores, too. I don’t try to win any popularity contests. That’s just how it is. I’m not modest, but I’m not conceited, either. I don’t try to be popular. I try to be nice and that translates into popularity. Not with everybody, for sure, because there are plenty of scrubs and haters in the hallways.

The only skunks who bite me are people. DOGS NEVER BITE ME, although Scar almost bit me once. I barged into my bedroom and he was sleeping on the other side of the door. My hand was in his mouth before I knew it and even before he knew it. When he looked up it was a toss-up who was more surprised. Was it him or was it me? His tail was wagging, and he was snarling at the same time. He left teeth marks on me, but no bloodshed.

Scar has personality, like me. Sometimes I think I might have been a dog in a past life because dogs will sometimes do a double take when they see me. I think they can see the inside of you. Scar always knows when I’m coming home, even though I might only be turning the corner up the street. He runs to meet me. No one else ever knows I’m home until I come through the door and ask what’s for dinner.

Except when it’s raining. Scar is jumpy about water. A neighbor sprayed him in the face when he was a puppy to keep him from barking when we were all in Michigan for a long weekend. She did it a bunch of times. When my older sister Sadie and I found out we waited until she flew to Las Vegas with her ugly friends to lose money and broke all the windows in her Audi with baseball bats.

It is fun running up and down the street and in the park with Scar. Dogs are so fit and fast. Dogs are my favorite people sometimes, definitely at home. Scar is short and sweet, like me. Nobody thinks cats and dogs go to Heaven, but I think animals were there a long time ago, before any of us, no matter what Mr. Rote says, who doesn’t even have a dog.

What does he know?

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus