Episode 37, Part II – The Big Day
After my tete-a-tete with the head man, I’m determined to put the drama behind me and go about my day. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. As I walk the halls, everybody’s staring and whispering. I figure it’s about the food throwing, then notice posters….every one pro-Max! A lot say, “Go Max!” But others show a giant Max demolishing me one way or other.
From the evidence, I can only draw two conclusions: 1) kids think I deserve the bullying because I’m…like…hipster free spirt, and 2) everybody expects Max to kick my butt, and honestly, I’ve never seen him run, so I could be in for a big surprise.
At noon, Chloe and I head to the Botulism Buffet, aka the cafeteria, where two kids almost died last year from food poisoning. Now they cook everything so much, you have no clue what it is. Everything’s gray…disintegrated meat, veggies, everything. I stick to fruit and nothing else.
I want to relax and eat, but forget it! The upcoming race has everyone in a frenzy, and the minute they see me, the jocks start chanting: “Max, Max, Max!” It’s so fucking deafening, because the the cafeteria’s in the school basement…an echo chamber. Outsiders are never allowed down here. Parent and alumni events are held upstairs in snazzy wood-panelled rooms.
Suddenly, a couple of jocks jump on a table and tack up a banner that says: “Hunter Gets Maxed!!!” And everybody busts a gut laughing. What a fucked-up school!
Chloe and I get on line and start shuffling along. Chloe’s Miss Personality…jolly, curls bobbing, wearing the sanctioned Griffin outfit, plaid skirt, white blouse, blue logo cardigan. Everybody loves her…they can’t figure out why she hangs with a loser like me. She’s a role model…bestows love and cheer in all directions.
I whisper in her ear, “What do you think of my chances?”
She pauses…decides on the right answer. “You’ll give it your best. You always do.”
We move up. Her comment gnaws at me. It’s not really an answer. “Come on, Chloe. What do you really think?”
She brushes me off. “Hunter, I don’t know!!!”
I’m confused and pissed. Do my friends have so little confidence? I turn to another friend, Benny, who’s behind us. “Hey, dude. Am I gonna get creamed?” But he has other things on his mind. His lanky body’s leaning down, inspecting the entrees like it’s the Waldorf. Looks like a giant mosquito with his coke-bottle glasses and pointed chin. He’s like 6’2″, a guy who’d normally intimidate classmates, but not Benny. He’s gay…into clothes more than I am.
“Benny,” I repeat, “What do you think?”
He looks up, blinks. “About what?”
“The challenge race, dude. What do you think of my chances.”
He tries to dodge the question. “Hunter, I’m focused on food right now…a wrong choice could mean death.”
“Come on, Benny. I’m asking as a friend.”
He scrunches his face, scratches his head, looks agonized. When he’s chilled, he’s decent looking, an unusual combination of Puerto Rican and Chinese…except for a flattened nose from getting a jock fist in the face. “Hunter,” he says, “you know I’m not into testosterone. I think you’re out of your mind.”
“What’s it going to prove? Max is the biggest jock in school…he plays Lacrosse. They run during the whole game, right? Like soccer.”
“Yeah, but they’re musclebound…can’t run long distances.”
“But, Hunter, you’re not technically an athlete, right? You’re fit and all, but Max is into competition…constantly.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but it’s true, right? You’re not on any teams.”
Kids yell at us to get moving…cut the bullshit.
We get our stuff…retire to the “fag table” (as the jocks labelled it), Chloe, Benny, Chip and me, plus a selection of total outcasts. Chip’s weird because he doesn’t give a shit about clothes…dresses like a slob, but has been modeling since he was seven…probably gets laid more than anybody at school. We can’t figure it out, because he’s kinda unusual looking…piercing black eyes, thick black brows, mop of hair and a pointed, bony face.
Amazingly, he’s showing up in more and more stuff…flyer’s from Macy’s and J.C.Penny…teen mags. We can’t quite figure it out. Benny’s got a distinct look too, but Chip’s got a build like a brick shit house…a soccer jock with like an eight-pack…born in El Salvador…used to have a weird accent…took refuge with us and never left. Now he sounds like a total New Yorker.
As we start eating, I ask Chip’s opinion about the race. “Dunno, dude. It’s a long shot, but you could win. Max’s carrying a lot of bulk that’ll wear him out. Keep a steady pace and that may do the trick.” Finally something positive, and from an athlete! I’m psyched!
But he’s not finished. “One thing though. Seriously…watch your ass. All his buds’ll be on the sidelines gunning for you. Don’t be surprised if they pull shit like pushing, tripping and throwing shit. They can’t afford to let El Capitan look bad.”
I suddenly lose my appetite. What a fucking circus! Wish I’d kept my mouth shut, and could just head up to Pearl’s, work late…maybe hook up with Jasmine…even her mom. Fuck, I’m a horny bastard!
I get up and head to the library which is pretty empty. Curl up in a chair and leaf through the fashion mags…gotta get my mind off the fucking race. Fortunately, I’ve only got one more class, then study hall…figure I’ll cut…head to the gym…maybe take a hot shower to get loose,..resist my dick to save energy. Got my favorite running clothes in my knapsack which I haven’t let out of my sight. Wouldn’t put it past Max’s cronies to fuck with my stuff. It’s all really comfortable and broken-in, especially my latest sneaks which I’ve had for six months. They’re perfect.
To be continued…. Read next episode!