It has been two weeks since I have seen Manny Gomes. But now he’s in the locker room during my suit up time for PE. I am standing by my locker in my boxer shorts when he walks by. I freeze. Am I really going to fight in my underwear? He stares me down as I look back, but I don’t eyeball him or give him my tough guy face. He sees me in my underwear and shirt off. There is no way I’m scaring him with my body. I stand five foot five and weigh one hundred and twenty-five pounds. You can see my rib cage, and my puny arms resemble spaghetti. I peer into his small pupils; they’re like two black marbles. Is he possessed? Maybe he’s a sad bully. Ferguson wrote in his book that you should look a bully straight in the eyes. Don’t show fear, don’t say a word. Be prepared for action, stand your ground. He keeps walking, probably thinking that I am not worth his time.
I’m petrified, but I would not back down if he started some shit. Maybe a year ago I would have. He just keeps walking. Maybe because I am in my underwear I was saved from a fight. Fighting a dude in underwear would not be good for his image. Next time we cross paths things might turn out different. I am going to go into weight training. Boy do I have to work on this body. I look like an x-ray. I need to drink some of those protein shakes or something, because Frosted Flakes isn’t doing anything for me except rotting my teeth.
I should also think about some sort of self-defense training. It wouldn’t hurt to know how to fight. I have only been in two ‘real fights’ and both of those were not anything to brag about. One was in ninth grade wood shop when I punched another kid a few times before he started to cry. This kid, Marty, thought I touched his newly varnished step stool so he punched me in the face. I never saw it coming. He hit me square in the nose, that bastard. My nose was bleeding a little while two other kids watched laughing, like a couple hyenas. I felt like punching them too. Who punches somebody in the nose unless they knew for sure why they were doing it?
My other fight was in eighth grade when I went after another kid who harassed me. A kid named Mark Paulson who was on my Little League team was still mad at me for losing a game when I made an error in the last inning.
Fast forward two years later, we were now in junior high. We had the same PE class and we played softball against each other on opposing teams. He started talking some BS about me losing that damn Little League game. I let it go a couple of times, but it eventually got to be too much. He played catcher and I was a runner on base. I rounded third on a hit and felt this need to level him, so I crashed into him. He went down hard and dropped the ball, allowing me to score.
After the play he got up and threw his glove down, charging towards me. He knew I meant business. I shoved him back down to the ground. He got up then moved towards me, but I landed a punch and down he went. He got up and said he was sorry. It was weird, after that we became friends. Maybe he respected me after that.
After lunch, I head to math class when I see my mystery girl in the hallway. I don’t know her name, I even checked in last year’s yearbook. She walks alone most of the time, but now she has another girl with her. I have seen that girl before. I think she is some sort of ‘class officer’.
I decide to swerve into their path and block her way. It’s a real smooth tactic. She stops and I stop … Time stops … Again, I have another moment where I have no control of what comes out of my mouth. She smiles.
“Hi, isn’t it a remarkable day?” I ask.
She looks at her friend and laughs. I manage a grin. There is silence again; crickets. She turns red, and then replies, “Oh yeah, it’s great.”
I detect an accent but have no clue where it’s from. Then her friend chimes in. “This is Susan. She’s an exchange student from Germany; and I’m Carry. What’s your name?”
“Fergus, Fergus Gordon. I am from here, but not forever.”
Shit, I think that was stupid. But they laugh. “Well ladies enjoy your day, and welcome to Booker High. Let me know if you need anything.”
I don’t know how well that came off, but it was something. That is one of the longest conversations I have had with any girl in high school. Two sentences are a start though. Susan is from Germany; who would have thought? Damn, that is awesome.
It takes a girl coming from Germany to actually talk to me, not to mention her friend. Thank you Ferguson. I would have never done that if it wasn’t for you. I think I know the trick now; don’t worry too much, just let whatever comes out of your mouth come out. Well, maybe I could use a bit of a filter; but I get the message. I did use Ferguson’s line about it ‘being a remarkable day.’
I was reading his book last night about making your own luck. The only way you get any kind of luck is to create some kind of ‘action’. Nothing will happen unless a catalyst provokes a change for something to happen. It’s like they say in physics; every action has a reaction. Don’t wait around for anything, because it may never happen.
Today is the first day of my debate team meeting. I have no idea what to expect, or what I am supposed to do. The only thing I know about debate is that you have to stand-up, talk and argue. At least that’s what I think is going to happen. Then the other side does the same. After that they go back and forth berating each other with their facts. Like a politician, you can throw out some ridiculous statement with confidence that a lot of dopey people believe. I know this is going to be a challenge, since I am one of the worst public speakers of all time. That ‘C’ I got in speech class was a gift from Mr. Ryan. I think it’s a make-up for cutting me from the basketball team.
I arrive to the debate club and there are around thirty kids hanging around in the classroom. The bearded guy, Kurt, is sitting on a stool up front. Vanessa is at the teacher’s desk. There are more kids sitting down that I recognize but have never talked to. They are the smart kids. I don’t usually do well in situations where I don’t know anybody. There are also a lot of juniors and seniors. I feel out of my league, so I take a seat in the back. As soon as I park my butt down, Kurt yells at me.
“No, no, no, Fergus, up front. This is not detention, you don’t get to hide. We don’t have any slackers in here.”
Some kids laugh. Damn Kurt is fucking me up. I sit in the middle of everybody.
“Everyone, this is Fergus Gordon, he is a rookie; so be good to him. This is his first meeting.” A few kids put their hands out for a fist bump. I return the gesture.
The debate meeting is not what I expected. We are not even debating anything. Kurt and Vanessa are guiding us to brainstorming ideas for debates, while they write them down on the white board. The ideas are broken down into two categories - current events and themes. They want us to come up with things we think affect everybody, such as: racism, climate change, crime and etc.
We then talk about possible current event topics like the internet, drugs and healthcare. There are all sorts of ideas coming out of kid’s mouths. Vanessa looks at me and asks if I want to add anything. Then everybody looks at me and that thing where I say something stupid comes out of my mouth.
“Sex,” I blurt out.
Why in the hell did I say that? Vanessa writes it on the board and kids start yelling goofy and stupid things about sex. I heard someone say tight pants and another yell something lame about rubbers.
“As much as you all want to debate about the imaginary sex you think you have, I don’t see it happening,” Kurt lashes out.
Kurt shoots me a look. “You got anything else, Fergus?”
This time I stop and think for a few seconds. Someone blasts out, “Kim Kardashian”.
“Funding for music and art classes,” I say.
“Good one Fergus.” Vanessa replies loudly.
“Wow, check out Fergus with the big brain,” some moron shouts from across the room. Nobody laughs, and I hear a chatter of favorable responses from the small crowd. Funding for music and art classes isn’t anything I have ever researched, but I overheard Patty talking about it with Mr. Ballantyne in our art class.
The next thing we have to do is make arguments for pro’s and con’s on all of the topics we wrote down. The kids in this class are impressive, they know what has to be done; and they do it fast. We discuss the internet, and whether it should be censored to things like porn and gratuitous violence.
The first subject we begin to tear apart is public service requirements. We are supposed to present why people over eighteen should or should not be required to perform one year of public service. I am in a group of six other kids; three boys, three girls and me. I’m in the only group with seven people - all of the others had six. I guess I’m the wild card. Another Ferguson thing - “be the wild card”. Be the person who has no limitations. I think I have a lot of limitations, but these kids don’t need to know that.