“Being a waterboy isn’t so bad. I may not wear a jersey for the team, but there is lots of down-time. Then again, any reason to stay away from home is an upshot, to use a basketball term. See, my dad isn’t all that fun to be around since my mom died. One time I told him to get over it and he cried hysterically for almost an hour. Insomnia told me once that I should use my powers to contact her. What would I say? Would I proceed to call on my dead grandparents, ancestors, or my goldfish? I mean, people don’t actually expect to make contact, which is why they wet their pants when it actually happens. It is just too much of a shock to move from saying your last goodbyes to your first helloes.”
-1st contact interview between the waterboy and Nature Critic
My alarm rang and felt relaxed as the harsh realities of my life had not yet had a chance to set in as of yet. As my consious mind started to put two and two together I thought to myself, “the physics test is today!” I lifted my head up, rubbed my eyes as if I were my own genie’s lamp, and thought about how society preaches about all-natural this and all-natural that and yet waking up to an alarm clock is the most unnatural and grating experience in the world. At any rate, I forced my way out of bed, looked out the window at the newly-fallen snow, and started my mad rush to get ready for school.
When I got to the kitchen, my dad was just leaving and said the world-famous generic line “have a good day” before leaving to his part-time job as a bagger for Cept-con Foods. I didn’t answer back as I focused on unwrapping my Pop-Tart, or should I say “toaster pastry,” as that too happened to be generic. My dad had been traumatized by my mom’s death for 8 years. I suppose that was why he never cared to ask me where I was going. The upshot was that it made it easier to hide my role as a Changent. And as for seeing Gale? That was easier yet, although I wouldn’t exactly describe it as “sneaking girls into my bedroom.”
I grabbed my jacket and stumbled towards the door with my messenger bag in tow. As usual, I suddenly remembered that I forgot something. Today it was my Trigun manga I intended to read during basketball practice. I ran back inside but couldn’t see it anywhere in my room, including under any of the strewn clothes I had scattered about. I was anxious at this point because I refused to be late for my test while also refusing to leave without my book and be forced to watch a bunch of sweaty jocks play basketball for 2 hours. “Awesome,” I said, snapping out of my thoughts as I spotted my book under my Atari Lynx. What can I say, I also like to collect vintage video games. Sue me. I jumped on my vintage (albeit crappy) Elite 80 and sped as fast as I could to the parking lot of West Cept-con High not only because I was late but also because I was cold as hell. Counting my gains in losses, I was thrilled I was only ten minutes late for my exam, which was sitting neatly on the only empty desk in the science room. Thankfully I knew the material fairly well despite not having much time to study. After completing the exam, I checked over it a second time to prevent my usual bonehead screwups, and proudly walked to the front of the room and set it down on the teacher’s desk before Jeremy. And to add insult to Jeremy’s injury, I noticed him scratching his head on the way back as if he were really struggling. “Yeah baby,” I thought, “life is good.”
After school, with manga in tow, I headed for the gym. I filled all the disgusting bottles and grabbed a fist-ful of clean towels and put them all in the cart. Shortly after, there I was, lounging near the scoreboard controls reading manga of all things in the presence of a bunch of jocks playing basketball. Thanks to the Cocktail Party phenemenon Insomnia always talks about, I smiled when I overheard the coach yelling at the players for their stupid and trivial mistakes including what the coach called “travelling,” whatever that means. Whatever the case, it all seemed so irrelevant in a world where thousands of people literally starve to death every day.
After practice was the low point of being a waterboy. I entered the locker room like usual with a cart-ful of water bottles and dirty towels while thinking it was small wonder OCD was becoming more popular. Like a land-rush, the players stampeded into the locker room to claim their showers. In my school it was customary that if you turned on a shower, it was yours, and then you could change clothes while it waited for you. And people respected that. As usual, however, Ron or Limp Gimp, as the players coined him, entered last before being able to claim any showers. He sucked ass at basketball, of course, but he showed up every night for practice. For some reason, he took it upon himself to rebel today. He stole one of the claimed showers and went about soaping himself as if it were business as usual. I am not sure if it was a coincedence, but he stole the shower that belonged to the most respected tough-guy on the team, Jeremy, who was also my arch nemesis test-taker. “Hey Limp Gimp,” Jeremy the cocky-ass guard said, “Your highness, you think you can steal my shower?” I whinced in pain myself when I noticed Jeremy push Limp against the wall until he slipped and fell on the floor. Jeremy said something like, “you like showers, huh?,” grabbed the shampoo bottle out of his hand, and proceeded to piss in it. Several other players held Ron still as Jeremy poured the contents of the shampoo bottle over Ron’s hair. Counting Ron’s gains by losses, I was glad they left him alone to take a seat on a nearby bench. It looked like he was crying, but there was too much piss on his face to tell. And despite my pathetic complacency in the matter, Ron eventually walked up to me and asked, “Did you do well on the test?”
“Great, I think,” I said, “But are you all right?”
”Oh that?” Ron said. “Water off a duck’s back, or urine in this case, right?”
I laughed and replied, “you are a funny guy, and I admire that attitude. Pride, denial, and standing strong really are good things.”
Ron suddenly checked his watch and didn’t seem to hear or acknowledge my last comment. He said, “I have a birthday party to get to or something like that.” Ron said. “I’m giving my mom some sort of porcelain plate she always wanted.” He left in a hurry.
”Water off a duck’s back,” I mumbled to myself. “That’s the kind of thing I always say.” After practice, I slowly walked to my scooter while thinking to myself “I hope my ride will be less frigid this time.” It wasn’t.
Once back at home I parked my scooter in the garage and rubbed my cold hands together. Once inside I removed my jacket. I was relieved to see all the dirty dishes in the sink. I put soap on my cloth and wrung it out with clean water in the sink. The warm water made my cold hands hurt as if I was being punished for wanting too much too soon. My dad was sleeping so I tried to keep the clattering sounds to a minimum, although it was mostly for my own benefit as I didn’t want him to wake up and talk to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want him near. It was just a case of Goldilocks. A nice comfortable distance between us was just right. At any rate, finished the dishes, sighed, and went to my room upstairs to find my Lynx. I threw myself onto the bed. It was time for me to take to the skies in Blue Lightning. Before I could put my game in the slot, I thought I heard knocking.
”Just that raccoon again,” I thought. I climbed back into bed to play my game. A louder knock followed and I quickly ran to the door.
”ProZac, you dunce,” I said as I opened the door, “My dad is asleep!”
“It’s another vision,” ProZac said, panting, “there is going to be a shooting at some local basketball game.”
”What?” I said, “you mean possibly at tomorrow’s game between our rival schools?”
ProZac answered, “It’s possible. I just wish I knew more. Do you have any suspicious activity at your school?”
“Oh brother,” I said as I tossled my hair nervously with my hands.
”What do you mean?” ProZac said.
”Well, there is this kid that gets bullied constantly,” I said. “It’s gotta this kid named Ron!”
ProZac stopped me midsentence and said, “I don’t think we should take any chances. Maybe we should call this Ron or even his parents or something.” I ran into the house quitely and got ProZac a phone book. He called Ron and the answering machine eventually came. ProZac was always too shy to leave recorded voices of himself so he just hung up.
“I’ll call the homeboys,” I said. “Thanks to us, ‘The Time’s They Are a Changin.’”
“Just don’t tell Cowhand Luke about this,” ProZac said.
“How come?” I asked.
ProZac said, “Knowing him he would probably side with Ron.”
ProZac and I retreated to our thoughts for a moment. ProZac suddenly said, “I got a plan, if it’s okay with you and stuff. If I don’t hear anything from Ron, bring Gale and the rest of the Changents with you to the front entrance of West Ceptcon High tomorrow at 7 AM before school starts. With what you told me and what my vision showed, the action won’t heat up until the basketball game in the evening. Nothing to fear till then. Life sure is a pile of shit, huh?”
“You know what?” I said. “You may just be right after all.”