by Adbas Will
After offending a gang leader, a lame tennis player pays for being saved by a cool guy.
I slammed it shut, bored with the Old Testament. Life itself is like a tyrant king. Our world is an unfit castle for the uncool. We beg not to be beheaded for breathing. I wore a cardboard crown during one of my matches. I made it after the Sailor Gang threatened me for blogging. I mean, Coach Lawz treated me like royalty anyway. Afterwards, the crown was sweaty, and it stuck around my head. I thought to title that evening’s blog, Today’s Old Testament. I stood at the net holding the trophy over my crown. I was king, like David and Solomon, only my court had lines. The only thing missing was my queen. Brit Bain’s sister, Kelly, dressed in her uniform that day in case I was injured. Brit flirted in the bleachers. I held the trophy higher, so she could see. She ignored the ceremony and my fantasy was over. She hopped in with Jorge Phelps, one of the Sailor Gang members. His platinum chain flew from his neck and landed on the pavement. A crown, these days, is cold hard cash.
Jorge was life, a king in a sports car. His leather jacket was his robe. Brit looked comfortable in the front seat. I imagined a throne with her embroidered name on the front. An over-aged drink was a golden cup filled to the tip. All I had to offer were tennis lessons and a shout out on Bally Hughes’ Blog Site. That’s where I bashed the cool guys for hogging all the girls. And that’s the reason the sailors wanted to jump me. I was the noble peasant who dared challenge kings for the throne. Peasants in high school are the uncool. They, the wannabes and cool guys, scolded us ‘til the final bell rang. I pleaded with Coach Lawz to save the sweater vests exclusively for away matches.
“If you look smart, you’ll play smart,” he’d always say.
I was the only prodigy he had. An uncool prodigy at Bally Hughes High was a peasant with fewer restrictions. I could communicate with the cool guys and make suggestions to other powers that be. The wannabes protect the cool guys’ reputations by interrupting our run-ins. Wannabes, like knights, were ruthless and loyal. Any peasant couldn’t bypass the wannabes before a confrontation with a cool guy. Only the uncool prodigies and the ables can. An able is the uncool brother or sister, of a cool one, like Kelly. She talks about Brit’s annoying habit of stealing at practice. The bras and hair brushes below Brit’s bed belonged to her. Brit stole her set of moose earrings and wore it to Sunday school one time. Kelly saw her initials on the antler and yanked Brit’s beautiful braids. When she told me this, I politely challenged her to a match. I defended Brit’s honor like a knight, three games to love. Kelly had no idea she fell victim to my sweet revenge. I knew, at that moment, what it was like to be a wannabe. I fantasized about my reward, a long kiss from Brit at center stage. The Glee Club members voted me sophomore vice president that year. Brit ran the junior class. The reason I joined freshman year was obvious to everyone. Just about every girl in school was in. I first saw Brit while standing in the sign-up line. Her lime high heel shoes stood out below the table in front. She led the sophomores then, and was a star.
“Stamp here, here, aaand here,” she said, “and don’t mess up because you’re not getting a new one.”
That was the first and last thing she ever said to me. I remember her eyes, though. She looked up at me and blinked several times. I translated that into many words, spoken in the language of love.
“What’s up with you, Nile? Vern asked.
“Did you see the way she looked at me?”
“Ah, she looks at every guy like that,” he overstated.
Vern was a peasant, a part of the uncool. I looked back at Brit the queen and wanted to be a king. I was a freshman then. Plus, Vern told me a thousand times that she’d never date me.
“Are you calling me a sucka?”
“Hey, you said it, bro.”
When I beat Kelly for Brit a year later, I wanted to reign again. I acted like a knight, but my shining armor would’ve been useless against kings. I had to become a cool guy.
Sophomore year ended. A summer for the uncool consists of the safe seven. This includes an allowance instead of a part-time job, two-hand touch football, street hockey with pillow padding, and one-on-one basketball with the neighbor’s preteen daughter. That summer I saved for the Swatter 5000, a racquet that records wind velocity. I played tennis with my parents after choir practices. The other two of the safe seven were church events and bible reading before bed. While the cool guys chilled out with girls, I was sitting in a pew among the perfect. By perfect I mean holy. Three days a week of scriptures, songs and sermons eliminated at least two of the safe seven. Summer never lasts always. I usually avoided the one-on-one games with little Laney. That summer, though, Vern went on a family getaway. I knocked on the neighbor’s door with my ball and notepad.
“What’s that for?”
“To tally the wins and loses,” I said.
“You’re such a nerd.”
I never got As because, well, none of the cool guys did. Laney, an eerie sixth grader, called me out. The safe seven became the safe six. One-on-one with Laney suddenly became too humiliating. This triggered a new side effect of peasantry. Seclusion.