The alarm jerked Alex out of his peaceful slumber and dread filled his heart as he imagined the day ahead of him. Another day in the penitentiary they called a high school. Alex didn’t have the attention span for classrooms and organized learning. He just wanted to go his own way. Above all else, his parents were adamant about Alex focusing on his education. Their young man was going to be a doctor or a lawyer—some day they were certain. Alex, not so much.
He pondered what he could do with all this new time that suddenly was available to him. As long as he made it home before his parents, he would be golden. He considered for a moment spending the entire day at home watching porn and masturbating. It was an all too tempting. With everyone gone, he could turn the speakers all the way up and the neighbors would all think he was having an orgy. Maybe not the smartest plan.
No, today couldn’t be just about Alex, he had to get his friends in on this too. An adventure for the ages played through his mind as he scrolled through his phone and sent a mass text message to anyone he deemed cool enough for the excursion. His phone blew up with responses, several ‘Are you crazy’s and ‘You are gonna get busted so hard’s. Carrie, the cute girl from math class couldn’t come because she had an exam, but maybe she’d skip out after.
Why are all my friends so lame? The phone started to ring and Alex picked it up without hesitation
“Count me in!” Ronnie shouted through the phone.
“Fuck yeah Ronnie! I knew I could count on you.” Ronnie had been Alex’s best friend since they were eight. He lived in the same neighborhood just a few blocks down. They were always getting into trouble together, so it was only fitting. “Wait until the school bus leaves and then wait for me by the Oak tree.” Alex hung up the phone and did his ‘excited’ dance that he only did when no one could see. He peered through the blinds of his kitchen window, from which he could see the bus stop and the yellow trolley to Hell waiting for them. The other gullible saps filed themselves on, but Alex wouldn’t fall in line this time.
Almost there. The bus took off and Alex practically kicked down his front door as he ran around and grabbed the new bike he had gotten last Christmas. He thought he was too old for bikes but his parents wouldn’t buy him a car. Tough world for a teenager. It was blue framed with red flames, like it came straight out of a Hotwheels box. He mounted the bike and pedaled as fast as he could toward the old oak tree that Ronnie and Alex used to play under in the piles of leaves in the fall. Alex made it about twenty yards before hitting a pothole and flying over his handlebars and onto the asphalt.
Fuck that hurt. Alex composed himself and picked his bike up, now with road worn scratches for the both of them.
Ronnie was standing there waiting, shaking his head.
Alex shuffled down the street, with his red sneakers tied in double knots and an inconspicuous brown hoodie covering his mop of curls. He was walking aimlessly, waiting for Ronnie to finish trying—unsuccessfully—to get the hot baristas phone number in the coffee shop behind him. The shop windows passed by in a blur as he skipped over each crack in the sidewalk. He didn’t want to be the one to break his mother’s back.
Across the street, a lady with tresses as white as toilet paper frantically tried to catch her shaky Chihuahua. The little thing tangled itself between her legs in hopes of catching the leaf that blew past. She tittered and whined for the thing to, “Stop, please, baby, you’re going to hurt your mommy.” As if from some clichéd comedy, it did figure eights around her feet until the poor thing came to the end of its leash. The lady braced herself on the glass pane to keep from falling until a younger gentleman came by to help her.
As he watched the interlude, he noticed what was displayed in the window. Three-mannequins of varying sizes were adorned with fashionable clothing. On the two male—he assumed—since they were not anatomically correct, mannequins were clothed in finely pressed pants and crisp button down shirts. One of them even sported a blue vest perfect tailored to the mannequin’s fit. The last one was dressed in a short and tight black dress that barely reached mid-thigh and would make his grandfather wish for younger days.
A few patrons had already gathered outside the display windows. Two girls with pigtails dressed in leotards covered their mouths, giggling. A couple with their young son turned away from the scene. The man frowned at the boy and shook his head. He bent his fedora low on his brow and turned away. Most just stopped and stared.
“Hey, what are you doing?” someone said behind him.
At the last minute, he reached for the final mannequin and put his hands up towards the ceiling. Touchdown.
“You can’t be messing with those,” said a lady. She was working her way through the racks. Fortunately, her waist size was just a little too big for the clothes in the store, hindering her forward progression. He squirmed between the racks in the other direction and was out the door.
“Stop that little brat!” a woman yelled as he bolted down the sidewalk still avoiding every crack in the concrete. He loved his Mom. She would not have a broke back because of him.
His feet pounded on the ground, carrying him farther away as the hard wind rushed past his face. The trees blurred as he sprinted. He passed by the couple with the young son from outside the shop. With quick precision, he jumped and snatched the fedora right off the man’s head.
His words were lost in the wind. They were fuzzy and incoherent at the speed Alex was running. He hollered at him, saying something that sounded like “menace” and “troublemaker.” But he felt far from it. He felt like he’d made a touchdown.
The thrill of the mannequin escapade went away, and Alex was growing restless. He biked back home for lunch. Eating his loaded sandwich, he sat in his desk chair jamming to iTunes while drumming along to Dierks Bentley’s Drunk on a Plane. The clock read 12:00 and, he racked his brain for his last hurrah. He called up Ronnie and they swapped ideas back and forth.
“I’m thinking we go old school and set up chairs on top of the school’s roof and yell as the kids are leaving.” Alex didn’t want to tell his friend that it was the lamest idea he’d ever heard, so instead he joked about it.
“Maybe we should just teepee the joint? Haha, nah, I’m just messin’ with you, bro. I just, who knows how many more days like this we’ll get, you know? We need to do something epic!”
Ronnie agreed, but neither of them could come to an agreement. Alex, always fidgeting, was rummaging around in his desk drawer when he came across his GoPro camera. His parents had given it to him for his sixteenth birthday, but he never had a chance to really use the camera to its full potential, until now.
“Dude! I just found my GoPro. Grab your bike and meet me at DuPont Park. We are gonna make history.” He hung up the phone.
Ronnie was already waiting for Alex as he rode into the parking lot. The two high-fived and put on their helmets. They might have been daredevils in the making, but they were smarter than they looked.
“How’s this gonna work?” Ronnie adjusted his helmet’s strap until it fit snugly under his chin.
“I thought about attaching it to my helmet, but I think we’d get better footage if it was attached to the bike instead. What do you think?” Ronnie agreed with the latter option and secured it to Alex’s handlebar.
“I think we should go to Cedar Rock, cus it’s the steepest and we’ll probably get some major air time.” Ronnie finally suggested something not lame, and the pair began their trek up the 4,000-foot high mountain.
The trail passed a huge waterfall where Alex and Ronnie saw old men fishing and couples picnicking. The weather was unbeatable for a day like this. The breeze kept the friends from sweating profusely and the clear sky reminded Alex of nature’s beauty. This sure as hell beats school. This is where I wish I could be every day. Ronnie nudged Alex out of his thoughts and pointed to a weird circular rock formation. About ten rocks were placed side by side, forming a nearly perfect circle. An eerie feeling surrounded the formation, causing Ronnie to shudder.
“What do you think it is?” Ronnie bent down and took his phone out to snap a picture.
“Witches. It’s the only rational option.” The two laughed even though Ronnie wasn’t so sure he believed it was nothing. He wasn’t prepared to stick around either.
It took them a good 45 minutes to reach the top. They sat down on the benches overlooking the mountain’s plateau and took in the amazing view.
“Man, you don’t see this every day. Too bad we’re stuck in the lame ass classroom like pigeons trapped in cages, desperate to be free.” Ronnie had surprised Alex with his philosophical comment, but he agreed, nodding.
“I’m with ya. If this was our classroom, I could dig it.” They breathed the fresh mountain air, and the changing colors signaled the start of spring and the end of winter. The wild flower scents filled their nostrils, fueling them with a sense of wonder and calm.
Alex turned on the GoPro and prepared for the descent. “Are you ready?” He looked and Ronnie and he smiled in reply.
“Ow. Ugh, what happened?” Alex touched his head, unbuckling his helmet. He felt dizzy and wondered what Ronnie was doing beside him.
“Hey, man, are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?” He held up three fingers in front of his best friend’s face.
“Three. Why do I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck?” He tried sitting up, but his gut hurt him too much to move.
“Well, you remember how we were gonna break the internet with your GoPro?” Alex nodded and waited for Ronnie to go on. “Well, you sorta broke your GoPro when you crashed near the waterfall to avoid running into an older couple walking their poodle or something.”
“Damnit! My camera’s broke? My parents are going to be so fucking pissed.” Alex cursed himself for being careless and all for nothing. “Hey, can you hand me the GoPro? Maybe the video is still salvageable.” Ronnie unhooked it from its place on Alex’s handlebar. The screen was cracked, but maybe the memory card was still intact. Alex popped open the card slot and dumped the SD card into his hand. He stopped when he noticed the scrape that cut clean across his palm. He held the SD card up in triumph.
“Thank God the footage was saved. Now my busted hand won’t have been for nothing. We can still break the internet.”
Ronnie shook his head and they both laughed. Today was definitely one for the books.
He parked his bike in the space furthest from the building, convincing himself it was for the shade that the trees cast, but it was really to give himself more time before walking into the daunting preschool. The burning sun seemed to hit him directly in the face; sweat caused his Wal-Mart sunglasses to slide down the bridge of his nose. He walked slowly, dragging his feet along as if they were weighted with lead—or more realistically, dread. Through the double doors, behind the plexiglass window, sat a plump woman with a 1980’s bob. She looked up at him from her bifocals, greeting him with a, “Can I help you?”
He managed a “good afternoon” and slid his wrinkled community service paper through the moon shaped opening of the window. The woman skimmed over it—expressionless—before asking, “May I see your ID please, Mr. Weinerburg?” There was a slight hesitation when she said his last name, but he was used to that.
He pulled out his driver’s license, embarrassed by his photo, which looked more like a mug-shot than a professional picture. He slid it to the woman and she flicked it to herself with a Pepto-colored nail. “So you’ll be with us for an hour today, is that correct?”
“Umm, yeah. I have community service for skipping school. I’m only supposed to be there for their free time to read to them or something.”
“Yes, they’re about to begin Free Choice Centers. We’ll have you read a few books and maybe you could even entertain them with a story of your own.” Pepto-Nails raised her eyebrows at him. He got the feeling that she didn’t believe he could really make up anything worth listening to.
“Alright, Mr. Weinerburg. Go ahead and walk through the door,” she slid his driver’s license back to him and pushed a button on her desk and the door separating the lobby and hallway clicked unlocked.
He walked through, not knowing what to expect. She led him to a classroom at the end of the L-shaped hallway; her heels made a grinding sound with each step. It reminded him of walking on concrete, but the wood was surprisingly smooth. She pushed the door open and led him inside. In the middle of the room, twelve sets of little eyes looked at him curiously. They all sat on a train themed carpet, each child on their own little boxcar. The teacher—a hot brunette—sat at the front, a pile of books on top of her crossed legs.
“Miss Kendall, this is Mr. Alexander. He’ll be helping with your reading time today.”
The brunette smiled at him. Nice teeth: check. Hair: pretty. Tits: kinda small, but workable. Ass: I’ll have to look at that when she stands up. He smiled back at her. Pepto-Nails pursed her lips and nodded in the direction of the carpet before walking out the door.
“Umm, hi guys,” he said when she had left. “You guys can call me Alex.”
“Hi, Mr. Alex!” There was a chorus of little voices. Pepto-Nails’ departure must have put them at ease because they were no longer sitting still. Some of them were bouncing on their bottoms, while others were on their knees trying to get a better look at him.
“Alright guys,” Miss Kendall said, “let’s all sit nicely so Mr. Alex can read to us.” She turned to him and offered, “You can pull a chair up or sit in my spot on the carpet.”
“Whatever is fine,” he said, walking to the carpet.
She slid over and sat on an unoccupied boxcar and he sat down in her spot. At once, twelve bodies moved in unison to get as close as possible to him. A little boy with a Bob the Builder shirt plopped down into his lap and another one tried to sit on his outstretched left leg.
“Uhhh…” he looked at the pretty teacher for help, but she was smiling at him, clearly finding the invasion of his private space amusing.
“They like new people,” she said, handing him a book.
A little girl with oily looking curls scooted up to his right side and grabbed his hand.
“I’m London,” she said. “Like my Elsa boots?”
Before he could answer, all of the children started talking at the same time. “I have Elsa boots too!” “Mine are new!” “Like my shirt?” (someone sneezed on his arm) “Hey, Mr. Alex, I have a dinosaur toy!” “Did you know my Mommy has a baby in her tummy?” “I have a Lunchable today.” “My mommy says Lunchables are not healthy!” “Is it my turn to sit in your lap?” “No! It’s my turn now!” “Mr. Alex, he’s touching me!” (he felt hands pulling on the back of his shirt) “Can I go play on the computer?” “You smell funny, Mr. Alex!” (someone was trying to pull his shoe off) “Laney’s not being nice to me!”