Karen is amazed by Eddie the nerd.
|Karen dropped her gym bag onto the tile floor and frantically twisted the combination into her school locker. The hallway was Bedlam. Students yelled, banged lockers, and bumped into each other. Why, oh, why did her gym class and English class have to be at opposite ends of the building? Mrs. Wallace wouldn’t ever just let her slip in quietly. Oh, no. She’d put a spotlight on Karen’s offense. Stopping mid-sentence in mock surprise, she’d turn herself with crossed arms to watch Karen slink from the door to her desk. It was humiliating.
As she slammed her locker shut, she yelped. There was Eddie, her nerdy neighbor. He’d been waiting just behind the locker door, inches from her. Moving past him, he stopped her by putting his clammy hand on her arm. “Wait,” he said urgently.
“I have to go, Eddie,” she said shaking off his hand.
“Can I meet you after school?” Eddie asked quickly. He looked like a dog begging for table scraps.
Karen hesitated. She didn’t have time to make up a believable excuse. Oh, heck, she thought, and said, “Yes.” Shame stabbed her heart to see his whole demeanor brightened.
It has been hours since her agreement with Eddie. She’d forgotten all about it and him. He was smiling and waving. It was too late to exit by another door. He’d seen her. She was trapped. Karen’s girlfriends snickered.
“What’s up with Nerdy Eddie? You guys have a date?” asked Jill. Both of her friends snickered.
“Yeah,“ Izzie said, “like are you BFs or something?”
“Stop it. Don’t be gross,“ Karen said. “Go on without me. I’ll see what he wants.”
With a conspiratorial look and a giggle between them, Jill and Izzie continued on. Karen moved out of the flow of bodies rushing the exit. “What’s up, Eddie?”
“I’ve been working on a project at home for a long time. I finished it last night.”
“That’s great,” she said. “What is it?”
Eddie’s cheeks reddened, and he looked at the floor. “I can’t tell you. I need to show you.”
“Oh, I see,” she said. Then whispered, “So it’s a mystery project!”
His eyes darted from the floor and searched her expression. Rats, she thought, he probably thinks I’m making fun of him. Well, aren’t I?
Smiling warmly, Karen said, “Okay, then let’s go see this mysterious project.”
Once inside Eddie’s kitchen, Eddie became a whirlwind of activity. He emptied his book bag and reloaded it with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges, and filled an insulated water bottle with a light brown liquid.
“What’s that?” Karen asked.
Eddie smiled, “It’s a mystery.”
Karen shook her head. “Come on, Eddie. Does everything have to be a mystery?”
“No, but it’s more fun that way,” he said.
She cocked her head and gave him her best “stink” eye. She practiced many expressions in her mirror. The “stink” eye was one of her favorites.
Eddie saw it and crumbled to her will. “It’s iced tea with coconut flavor. Trust me, you’ll like it.”
He tossed the pack over one shoulder, and said, “Can you bring that blanket on the table with you?” Before she could reply, Eddie hurtled down the basement stairs.
Karen hesitated. This was way too strange. Maybe she should just leave. She liked Eddie. They’d been playmates for years. But as time passed, they’d separated onto diverging paths. She bloomed while he became a geek. She took part in band and art. He loved tinkering with stuff. Karen smiled inwardly, remembering the homemade skateboards. Eddie had nailed scrap lumber to roller-skates. Once he’d added a motor to his bicycle. He removed the brakes to do it, but it was an exhilarating ride. What contraption was waiting for her in his basement?
Eddie hurried back up the stairs. “Come on,” he said, and placed a cold hand on her lower arm.
She jerked her arm away. Seeing the plea in his eyes, she decided. Snatching up the blanket, she followed him down the stairs.
Across from the stair landing, tables lined the wall with an assortment of metal and wooden boxes of varying sizes. Dials and switches, tubes and wires made a confusing display. Eddie flipped several switches, and the device hummed and sparked to life. Karen stepped back toward the stairs. “It’s safe,” he assured her. “Stand right here.” He pointed to a circle chalked onto the concrete floor in which he was already standing. Once both were in their places, he flipped another switch. A shrieking noise rising in pitch hurt her ears. Eddie held up a modified game controller. Smiling, he used an exaggerated swirling gesture, and then pushed the firing button.
One moment, Karen was in Eddie’s basement, and an instant later, she was on a sunny, warm mountainside. Far below a beautiful creek flowed past an Alpine like village.
“Where are we?” Karen asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know when we are either.”
“Now you are just teasing me,” she said, feeling a twinge of alarm.
“Do you see a road anywhere?” Eddie pointed to the stream. “There’s just a path by the creek. Notice the sky? I don’t see jet trails, do you?”
After pondering his words for a moment, Karen said, “That proves nothing. It just means we are in a remote place.”
He shrugged and smiled. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”
They spread the blanket over the grass and sat gazing upon the peaceful valley below. Eddie handed her a sandwich from his pack. It amused her how casually they were both behaving in the staggering miracle of Eddie’s achievement. Eddie was a nerd, but also a giant, a genius in the truest sense of the word.
“Thank you for sharing this with me,” Karen said. Reaching over, she laid her hand over his. Surprisingly, he had warm hands this time.