Chapter 4

Chapter 4


 A few days have passed, and I have not seen Manny Gomes. Nor have I seen the girl in the hallway, or even had a conversation with Jennifer (who acts like she has no interest in talking). Patty, the art assistant, has looked at my drawings but is not captivated. Whatever I am doing seems very lame to this girl. I better improve or find another way to impress her. I am thinking I should ask her for more help and some special assistance. The promise of the first day is already wearing off and high school is looking a lot like last year.

            Fifteen…hmm, I am fifteen and going through what adult’s call “a bit of a rough patch” in life. Things are bad. But in a big wide-world perspective it doesn’t amount to much when you think about some kid getting shot at in the Middle East, or some poor family starving in Africa. 

            My dad tells me I have an old soul. I’m not sure why he says that. I’m thinking it’s because I hang around a lot of old timers. All of my neighbors are old people that are always curious about my ‘business’. I sit and listen to their stories, even when they repeat themselves over and over again. My dad does like the fact that I don’t wear pants that are falling down my butt. He also notices that I don’t play many video games. I suck at them, and don’t want to spend hours figuring them out. I also know that girls are not really into them, well most girls that I like. Kind of like a buddy of mine who was into chewing tobacco; even I could tell he was not going to get much action with the girls.

            I went to one school dance last year and managed to dance with only one girl. She didn’t even look at me the whole time we danced. I thought that it was weird, and she still doesn’t look at me in the hallways. What am I, a repulsive monster, or the invisible man? My buddies also went to the dance, but they never asked anybody onto the dance floor. They just kind of did their own version of shaking on the sidelines. I guess it comforts me a bit that we are all kind of shitty when it comes to the ladies.

            High school girls are the strangest creatures on the damn planet. Some of these girls I have known since kindergarten. But now that we are all at the same high school, they act like they don’t know me. I get it, there are more dudes than ever, and I have dropped significantly in the pool of desirable, potential, significant others. But I haven’t noticed a large hump growing on my back, or acne overtaking my face to the point where I need to join a leper colony. So why do they act like this? Can’t they just be nice and smile once in a while? And it’s not just me they do this to. My two best buds, Tim and Steve, are outcasts as bad as me.

Now, what is happening is that we have to focus our energies elsewhere. We are scouting other prospects from other schools, and even gone looking at arcades and amusement parks for potential girls we can hang with. For my year end assessment, I feel that we all got a D+ (C- tops) in our quest for girls. In our sophomore year, we will need to change our strategy, or we will be permanently marked as hopeless geeks with no game.

            The only girl we saw on a consistent basis was my friend Jenna. She’s Tim’s older sister and is a senior this year. She didn’t give us much attention, except to tell us to clean-up our mess when we were hanging out at their house. When she had her girlfriends over, we were told to get lost and not spy on them. Jenna (much like my sister) is into the drama club scene. Again, public speaking is holding me back from ever joining that ‘club’.

            Public speaking has got to be the worst class I have ever taken, by a mile. I had that class and never felt more like an idiot. The teacher kept telling me that I had to project from my diaphragm; which was the last thing I was thinking about when I was standing at the podium in front of thirty or so kids. It was hard enough to just look up and make eye contact with another student. Most of the time I just read from a piece of paper with a shaky voice. I tried to place a joke or two into my speeches, but no one would laugh; just crickets. I would be bombing and knew it. Screw that class and the people that want to keep making kids take it. 

            Freshman year also featured my attempt at going out for school sports. I like to play basketball, so I tried out for the JV team. The team was going to allow six freshmen out of a total of fifteen players. Well the odds of me making it weren’t good, since I wasn’t tall enough and I never played a lot of full court basketball. One thing I could really do well though was handle the ball. Ever since I saw the Harlem Globetrotters I was obsessed with dribbling a ball. I could dribble behind my back, between my legs just inches off of the ground. You could say my hand and eye coordination is superb.

            Dribbling will only get you so far in basketball tryouts, so I started shooting every time I had the ball. I guess I didn’t pass it much like you are supposed to. I wanted to make an impression, but the problem was I never made a shot. I thought at least one would go in, but it never happened. Oh well, I got cut and it probably didn’t help that the coach was also my speech teacher. I thought he would give me some sympathy (and maybe a little respect) because I gave a good effort on the court. I have no ill will towards Mr. Ryan, even though I think his decision to wear monstrous hiking boots in speech class is not good for his image. For Christ’s sake, who wears clod-hoppers like that in a classroom? The damn things squeaked every time he walked.

            I tried out for baseball for one day and it’s too bad because that is my best sport.  The first day I showed up I saw all of the kids I hated during my years in Little League. They were the kids that had fathers lobbying for them for playing time and making All Star teams. My dad wouldn’t do embarrassing crap like that. He knew I was good, and he enjoyed going to the games and cheering for me. He even snuck beer into plastic cups. Maybe I should have stuck with it and made friends with those guys. Maybe it’s not too late.

            The only thing I felt like joining was the school radio station because a nice kid I met in class asked me to come by. I like music a lot and thought about playing righteous tunes. It is not really a radio station, but an intercom system that the school allows students to play music on during breaks and lunchtime. They also do a morning news break at 9:30am that the teachers tolerate. It is a five-minute segment narrated by our school celebrity, a senior named Doug Dalton (aka Dougie D). He is so cool; I wish I could have some of that rub off on me. 

            That was my freshmen year attempt at fitting in. Essentially, nothing too impressive, except I did get an A in PE - and the rest were C’s. Algebra was an ass kicker; I didn’t know how I even got a C. I never did the homework. I sat in the back of the classroom with a buddy who cracked jokes and drew pictures.

            That sums up my freshmen year at Booker High School. I was planning on moving up in the pecking order this year. But so far, I’m off to a bad start, as I’m getting feelings of impending doom when I get on campus. I fight it. I can drop out if it gets unbearable. I know I will have to fight my mom on that. I can work somewhere, make some money and get on with my life.

I am not surprised by much these days, so it is cool to see something that made me take notice. It is Saturday afternoon. I come home after hanging out with my friends all day to find a large envelope on my bed. It has a note on it,

            “Found this last year in the attic, finally got around to giving it to you.” 

            I first thought this was from my dad, but the writing is definitely not his. This is Robby’s work. It could be either one of two things: more of dad’s old comic books or collector cards.

            I open the envelope. It has some sort of folder in it. It is obviously old, held together by string that was threaded through punched holes. This was no baseball card collection, nor is it a bunch of junk about our family. The cover is made of thin gray cardboard; like the stuff they make gift boxes out of. In the middle of the cover is a large hand drawn “F”, nothing more. It was someone’s attempt to draw a fancy looking “F” that represented the contents of the book. 

            I carefully open it to the first page and all it says is, “My Manifesto.”  It is handwritten on binder paper that had been photocopied. This thing is also at least two inches thick.

            “My Manifesto” must have been written by the infamous Ferguson, - whom I am supposedly named after. The book has his name written on page one. So, if I read this thing am I going to know the mysteries of old Ferguson? At this moment, Ferguson Bogen was just a guy that appeared in some photos in my dad’s high school yearbook with a bad haircut and weird smile. I see there is a folded piece of paper between page one and two. I open it and it reads,

            “This guy is just as screwed up as you. Read this and you will see why.” 

Robby always finds a way to insult me. Odd for a thirteen-year-old. I have to admit; I am curious to see what this is all about.