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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chapter 21 - Luggage Class

"Something pink, something new" I thought. I couldn't remember the rest of the saying, or even if it was the right saying, but right now it seemed to fit the moment. I needed to answer his question, but I was still unsure about making a decision. It did look odd. "Cotton candy," I thought, "It does look like cotton candy." But I was reasonably sure it wouldn't taste like it though. In fact if you ate it, you'd probably get real sick.

"So, do you want some or not" asked the airman? He was holding a ball of pink fluff. It looked like a ball of cotton candy with strings of pink lying on the surface; except this mass of pink was perfectly round and it wasn't held with a stick, instead it sat on his palm. A few tufts string hung exposed from the pink planet, scars of customers past. Looking to my left, I could see the small chunk of pink was given to servicemen sitting next to me. The serviceman made two smaller balls of pink and proceeded to stick those things into his ear. The concept seemed slightly grotesque, but any solution to the constant humming sounded reasonable. The loud humming resonated in the belly of the machine that we were in, the vehicle's heartbeat could be felt by all. I wondered if Jonah felt the same. Though the sound was too loud for most, I was sure I could handle it until we reached our destination a few hours from now. This time however, my bravado seemed a bit silly. If this was the standard procedure, I'd better join the fair. At least my ear plug choice was better than what I would get on Seti Alpha Five.

"Ok, I'll take the ear plugs." I replied, as I accepted my pink ball of fuzziness with gratitude. The dealer of pink moved onto his next addict.

I rolled the pink fuzz in my hand to form the little balls. The two came out rather nicely. Spheres; both actually look like pink ball bearings. Hmm...now I just need a pink Pachinko machine to match. I smirked and proceeded to deaden the humming that surrounded us all.

Traveling on this aircraft felt very odd. Typically when you fly, rows of seats are lined up one after the other. However in this vehicle, only four columns of seats were used. Two columns had backs to the walls of the aircraft's fuselage and the other two columns were back to back in the center. Wherever you sat you would be facing someone. Sitting here in my red mesh seat, I felt like a WII paratrooper just waiting to cross the English channel. Though unusual in arrangement, the seats were comfortable; if anything, sitting in one felt kind of cool.

Outside the port hole, I could see the clouds run by; I followed the flow and I could see families and airmen sitting in the cabin. To the left and to right of the window sat families similar to mine; looking just as eager to reach their destination. I wondered what made them want to travel. Was it the same thing that drove my family on this pilgrimage? Possibly I thought, because most travelled to this strange land for one reason. And that reason was good enough to send millions traveling afar each day to evangelize the consumer driven faith that we all knew quite well, discount shopping. Korea was heralded as the cheapest shopping Mecca closest to Okinawa and when most of us went there, we went to pay homage.

"This plane is cool. I've never ridden in a C-130 before" I said.

"Yeah I know. We've been on all those other planes and this one is coolest." responded Tony. "I wonder what Korea will be like."

"Cold and white; it's getting cold in Okinawa these days, so it must be freezing in Korea. I heard there might be snow as well. I wonder if it will look like scenes from M.A.S.H."

I was done eating my C-130 provided sandwich. And as expected from military prepared food, it wasn't great. But a combination of turkey and bacon on any sandwich made it good enough. I swallowed the last bit of my tasty morsel and I drank the last of my drink as well. Ah tsu-bu-tsu-bu, it tasted great. Nothing quite like an orange pulp drink to finish off a sandwich. With nothing left to consume and not liking the grease the had built up on my hands, I turned to my brother and asked, "Tony, do you see a bathroom around here?"

"I think it towards the back." he said and pointed towards the rear of the aircraft.

I stood up and began my trek. Though muffled, the constant rattling of the propellers could be felt throughout my body. The magnitude of the vibrations seems to ebb and flow every time I took a new step. The loud hum was resonant everywhere and it seemed to move up a few decibels as I began to wander. As I sifted past the last group of passengers and reached a set of empty red mesh seats, I spotted something that I thought I would never see while traveling on an airplane. Startled, I was too shocked to say a word. Perplexed, my mind went searching for an anecdote to capture the moment. Suddenly a rush of laughter ran throughout my body, and when it reached my lips, I could do nothing but smile. Hmm, I mused. So this is why military travel was cheap. We were nothing more than cargo. Sitting there was a collection of families; not made of real people, but the symbols of the families that traveled on this aircraft. Bounded to the floor with a large green cargo net was the traveling gear of the passengers. Below the mesh was a mound of luggage, boxes, bags, and strollers that created a collage of color that gave life to the otherwise bleak world of dark steel blue-green walls that encompassed us. I could see my family’s suitcase, it was blue, and it was a Samsonite. I could feel it laughing at me; overjoyed too remind me that not everything could travel comfortably during flight. Like our suitcases, we travel in luggage class. And what made me smile the most, was the fact that one word came to mind, "cool." I liked the fact that we traveling like cargo in a C-130 heading to Korea; it felt awesome.

I regained my thoughts and looked around. I noticed that there was no restroom in sight. It must be at the front of the aircraft, I thought. I turned and began to walk towards the cockpit. But before I went out of sight of the mound, I stopped and took a last look. Once again I grinned and thought of silly things, "OK luggage you win this time. "


"It's freezing out there!" Tony yelled. "Are you sure you want to go look for that game?"

"Yeah, I'm almost ready. I know we can buy cheap copies of computer games in Korea for a buck, so that's what I'm ready to do." I replied. "We already spent the last two days buying clothes with Mom and Dad, and now I need time to buy my stuff. Plus we got new shoes and new jackets already."

I just got out of the shower and with the toothbrush in my mouth I proceeded to get dressed. After donning some old jeans, a t-shirt, sox, and a sweater, I went looking for my new jacket. There it was lying on the chair next to my brothers new jacket, shining in all it's glory was my brand new light blue Members Only jacket. It was an imitation, but it looked great. I didn't care that it was fake; I just wanted a new jacket.

"Do you know that jacket cost $80 at the BX?" said Tony.

"Well not this jacket, you mean the real ones. Not the Korean specials." I had a big smile.

Tony was smiling too, "Our jackets cost $15 each. What a great deal! Too bad we can't wear them until we get outside."

"Yeah, that's one thing about Korea that I'll never understand. Why is it so freak'n hot in the hotel and freezing cold outside? Oh well at least the shopping is cheap."

"Alright, let's go." said Tony. We grabbed our jackets and left the room.

We journyed through the sweltering heat of the hotel lobby and stepped outside into the cold. Though we puffed warm mists of air with every breath we took, the sun was out and the shine from our freshly made blue and black jackets was all we really noticed. "New jackets and cheap games, here I come Korea," I said to my brother. He smiled too, and off we went.

A few hours later, I found the games and my brother found more clothes. Now, we were ready to go home.


Space-A travel was what they call it. Learning how to spend the entire day at the MAC terminal waiting is what I called it.

Korean food was ok, but 4 days straight is too much for me. I couldn't wait to get back home. I wanted to eat a sa-ba bento, a bowl of tempura udon, and the ya-ki-to-ri from the cart guy just outside Gate Two. But first, I'll ask mom for some ka-re ra-i-su. Nothing in the world beats that on a cold winter day.

A familiar chatting was in the air. Tagalog, I could hear it, and the voices sounded familiar. It was my dad, he always seem to find another Filipino where ever we were. It must be some kind of Pinoy powered instinct; two Filipinos in any relative vicinity independent of traveling direction would automatically gravitate towards each other and make contact. Luckily Filipinos and heavily bodies don't run the same physics; otherwise Kepler Law’s would be in trouble.

"Michael and Tony, this is Mr. and Mrs. Marino. They are here shopping as well."

"Hi, nice to meet you," I said.

"I have two boys around your age. Armand and ..."

"Bert," I guessed?

"You know them? Wow that's great. My boys are good boys. I'm glad you guys get along," said Mr. Marino. “You know, Pinoys need to stick together.”

"Armand, sure, but Bert, well, it wouldn't call it getting along," I said in silence.

Thus, we entered a conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Marino about the Marino boys, our high school, and life at Kadena AFB. By the end of it, I really wanted to get the heck out of Korea.

Luckily for everyone, we managed to find a C-141 back to Kadena, but the dreary thoughts of being stranded in Korea for one more day felt all too real. Grinning from ear to ear I couldn't wait to get back to home.

Space-A travel is common to military brats around the world. However, running into your friends parents in a distant air force base while on a shopping trip, is pretty rare. Maybe fate was telling me something, that no matter how far away I go, I'll always find a way to run into my life-long friends. These days whenever I speak to the Armand's dad, I always remember running into him and his wife at the MAC terminal in Korea.

Chapter 20 - The Outfield

As we waited for the next Okibus, I could see the gate guard waving-in the midday traffic. It was a good Saturday and the warmth of the spring sun was upon us. The sky was an endless blue and the air felt refreshing. Next to me was a duffel bag. It was filled with memories. Memories of many who have played the game and memories of summers past that me and my brother shared. It was green, a bit ragged, and slightly torn, but it was our duffel bag and in it where the tools of the game. Today would be another memory for it to hold, so we waited for the bus that would take us to our game.

"Do you think we'll have enough people today?" asked Tony.

"I think so, I told everyone that you are coming, so I think everyone will be there. Plus I called the 3-Ds last night just in case." I replied.

"Good, I guess we'll have enough. Let's just hope the field in Lester will be free for us to use." said Tony.

"It should be fine, we've never had a problem on a Saturday. I'm just glad that Hillary let you out today. Anyways, here's the bus, I can see it coming." The orange and white bus was coming down the main road. It would be here in a minute.

Our conversation was interrupted, a familiar voice began speaking from behind us, "Hey Mike, hey Tony how's it going? I'm ready to play."

I turned and saw him. He was carrying a mitt. "Hey Darin, good afternoon, why are you down here?" I asked.

"I live here...by Gate One. Just a few houses from those over there." he replied as he pointed to the houses next to the gate.

"Donny wanted to know if you wanted to play D&D tonight. Are you free?" Darin asked.

"Might be, I'll have to call my girl to see if she wants to do something first." I replied.

"What" inquired Darin? "You have a girlfriend?" My brother leaned over to catch the news.

"I'm not sure, we see each other every day a school and we hang out on the weekends, but it's only been a few weeks. I think so, but we haven't spoken about it." I replied. "Hey here comes the bus."

As we were boarding the bus, Darin asked. "Do I know her? What's her name?"

"You might know her, she's in our grade and she might be in one of your classes."

"Hey Darin, hey Mike" yelled a voice from the back of the bus.

I looked and saw two friends, both with mitts and eager faces. They seemed ready to play.

"Man I'm gonna hit a home run today." said Derek as he gave us a demonstration of his swing.

"I can see that you guys are ready for some ball." I replied.

"I just want to be outside and throw the ball around. Mike are you up for D&D tonight?" said Donny.


"Can anyone pitch?" asked Darin.

"I can," answered Tony.

"He's pretty good, so it should be a fun game. I know Bill can pitch as well. I'm not great, but I can if we need more pitchers." I added.

My brother looked at me smartly and smiled. I'm sure he was thinking, "OK, if you think you can."

We all sat at the back of the bus and spoke about playing the game. The bus left Kadena, took a left turn and started down the busy highway towards Camp Lester.


Most of us gathered on the field and some were taking batting practice. My brother was on the mound pitching and Bill was at bat. Joe, Ted, and Bert were waiting for their turn at the backstop. From there they could heckle Bill, trying to disturb his swings. Jeff, Ricardo, and the others were in the field. The radio sat on the dirt next to the dugout blaring away. Back in the dugout, I sat on the bench trying to solve priority one, food. I was opening a bag of e-bi-sen when Chad came in.

"Hey Mike how are things?" he said.

"Fine, ta-be-ta-i ka?" I asked as I showed him the bag of shrimp chips.

"No thanks. But you know today is a great day. It's clear, sunny, and I think we have enough players to field a real game." he said jovially.

"Yeah I think so, I'm glad I could get Darin, Derek, and Donny to come out today. We finally have a lot of people." I replied. "It's a great day to play ball."

"Plus I feel great!" he said. "By the way is Johnny coming today?"

"I think so, but he's not here yet. He's busy with the school play, so I didn't see him all week. However, I heard that Johnny and Trisha didn't work out, so hopefully he's down about that." I replied.

"I don't think so. I talked to him about it and he said that he wasn't really interested in her anyways. Johnny said that she felt the same. So he should be fine." Chad replied.

"Alright, sounds good. You know him better than I do. But you know, it's funny that I'm the only survivor from our bet. I didn't really know what I was getting into, so I certainly wasn't expecting to be the last one with a girl. Fate is an odd creature. Speaking of which, I can't wait to see her again," I said. "She's really amazing and when I'm with her time flies. I just hope the gang doesn't blow it for me, she's a clean wholesome kinda girl."

"Mike I gotta tell you something. You are not alone." he said with a smile.

"Yeah I know, my brother and Joe have girlfriends. And I heard that Joe's new girl is really hot."

"No, not them. I'm talking about me. I'm seeing someone right now, and she is amazing too. We went out last weekend and last night." Chad was smiling.

"What? I thought things between you and Anna were over weeks ago." I asked. "Didn't she get back together with her boyfriend?"

"It's not Anna I'm seeing." Chad replied.

The lone voices of our conversation were broken as Ricardo yelled, "Alright let's get started!"

"I'm gonna win myself a scholarship. Now Tony pitch it right down the middle." yelled Bill as he readied his bat.

Tony pitched and CRACK, Bill sent the ball flying towards an empty outfield.

"Ready?" asked Chad enthusiastically.

"Let's do it." I responded as we got up and ran towards the outfield.


No runs were scored that inning and I managed to shag two fly balls at center-field. Once again our side returned to the dugout. It was our turn at bat and we fared no better. I managed to make good contact with the ball, but the line drive went to close to short. Bill was there and he's too good of a player to miss it, so he didn't. As I walked away from first towards the dugout I heard Bert say "Is that all you got?" Usually I would say with something brash, the kind that would contain a four letter word, but today I was in too good of a mood to respond. I could tell Bert was a bit disappointed that I didn't say a word.

"You're out Jeff!" yelled Bill, "Get out of the dugout slackers."

"Take the field. It's my turn at bat. Tony I'm gonna knock one over the fence." said Joe with a smile.

As the opposition came into the dugout, Chad, I and the others ran on to the field. Two runs were scored while we were in the outfield, but at least Johnny had time to join the fun. He was late, but he brought his music collection. As we entered the dugout once again, I noticed that the music had stopped.

"What band are we going to play next" yelled Johnny?

"KISS!" said Jeff.

"Scorpions" yelled Derek and Darin.

"How about something with more soul," added Ted?

"How about the Outfield?" Suggested Chad, "I like the title track".

I was about to say Def Leppard, but I liked the song 'Your Love' as well. The name seemed to match my mood today so Chad's pick was a better one. "Johnny do you have the Outfield?" I asked.

As the boom box started to play, Chad, I and a few others in the dugout could be heard humming the song.

I was getting hungry again, so once again I began the search for my oasis. After a few restless moments I found it, crumpled and next to my mitt. But this time, it was mostly eaten. Damn! Someone ate half of my chips! With a slight smirk I thought, "oh well, at least the thief ate only half the chips."

With a few chips in my mouth I managed to ask," Chad what were we talking about, earlier?"

"Girls." replied Chad.

"Oh yeah, speaking of which, who's the girl?" I said.

"It's Trisha." he said with a smile.

My fingers lost their step and I dropped my bag of chips. "Shit," I mumbled as I picked up my food. A few chips were sprawled on the floor but I was quicker than the 5-second rule so nothing was lost. I looked up and asked, "Wait. How did you end up with Trisha? Isn't she Anna's best friend? Wasn't Johnny going out with her?"

"Yeah. But after things weren't going well with Anna, Trisha and I started to talk and talk. The more we talked the closer we got, next think I know we are on a date." he replied. “Plus Johnny told me he wasn't interested in Trisha anyways."

"Wow that's great news. No wonder you seem so happy today. I'm in a good mood too, I guess today really is a good day." I said with a smile.

Thus we entered a strange conversation about girls and possibly girlfriends. I never thought I'd be discussing this subject with anyone, but since Chad and I were both novices something seemed to click. We spent the rest of the inning talking about music, movies, and of course our girls.


It was the third inning and Chad, Ricardo, and I were in the outfield. There weren't enough players to field all of the infield positions, but playing without a 3rd baseman and a catcher would do. The sun was beaming down and the humidity was wearing on us. Everyone was sweaty by now, but all of us were having fun; however, I knew that two us in the outfield were having a bit more fun than everyone else. It was a good day.

Suddenly a burst of laughter from my left caught my attention. I turned and saw Chad laughing, almost doubled over, and pointing to my right. I turned to my right and looked. Ricardo had his shirt twisted and wrapped around his shoulders. Most of his chest was exposed. But what made us all laugh was the cap we wore. It was the inverted backside of his shirt that he ran though the hole where you head pokes out. Looking at him, I began to laugh as well. He looked like a Caribbean banana girl without the fruits that would normally sit on top. Or maybe he looked more like a older bald Ricardo with a white dome, either way he looked silly. Either way, he made us all laugh.

"It's hot, we're losing, and I need a rally cap" said Ricardo while grinning ear to ear. "So, let's play ball!"

Chad and I were still laughing almost to the point where it began to hurt.

Johnny was at bat. Tony wound up and readied to pitch.

"Stop!" yelled Johnny. "The music stopped playing. I need to change the tape."

"No! Just flip it over and press play." yelled Chad. "Let's play the first song one more time."

"Fine." said Johnny.

As the music started to play, Chad yells at the top of his voice "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over."

For some inexplicable reason I joined him and yell "There are some many things that I wanna say, you know I like my girls a little bit older." in unison.

"I just wanna use your love tonight." yelled Ricardo as he joined us.

Then our outfield started to sing,

"I don't want to lose your love tonight."

"I ain't got many friends left to talk to-oo, no one’s around when I'm in trouble.

"You know I'll do anything for you..."


We sang that song happily until it ended. We even managed to make a few plays while singing. It was too much fun. An hour later the game ended. We got on the Okibus and headed back to Kadena.

Derek asked, "Why the heck were you guys singing that song during the game? You guys looked like dorks."

"Got me," I responded "Chad started it and for some bizarre reason I joined him." I didn't really feel like telling him why both of us were acting so stupid, but then again, I don't think either of us really knew as well.

"Well at least we won and I got in a few good hits. Maybe you guys will win next time." said Derek.

"Maybe, but I think we won too." I replied.

"What," said Derek? "You were on the losing team, how can you win? Mike, sometimes I don't get you."

"Never mind."

I carried a big smile as I walked to the back of the bus to join Bill and my brother.

I'm sure singing that song in the outfield made us look like a bunch of dorks that day, but for the three of us, it really didn't matter. We were having too much fun and somehow singing allowed us to express it better. I never could have imagined the effect that little stunt would have on the gang. But from that day forward, whenever we played baseball or softball, Chad and I would sing that song the first time we took to the outfield, even without the boom-box. Over time, others learned the lyrics and sang it as well. For those who have always wondered why we sang that song, now you know. We were all following the voices of two love struck teenagers, two innocent kids frozen in a moment of time, who didn't know how else to express an emotion they really didn't understand. Sometimes the best traditions come from the purest things.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chapter - 19 Ranger Ric

Mother nature was having that time of the month again and without reason the rain was coming down hard. Though it was the beginning of summer and the heart of typhoon season, no storm was in the forecast for today, nevertheless Camp Lester looked miserable outside. I wasn't in a great mood either since I wanted to be outside, and to top it off, I was stuck in Jeff and Ricardo's house.

As I looked out the window, I couldn't help but to say what was on my mind, "Too wet to go out, too cold to play ball, so we sat in the house and did nothing at all. So all we can do is..."

"Why are you reciting that, it's not story time." snapped Ricardo.

"It's not nap time either, but a nap sure does sound good if we decide to do nothing. It's too wet to play football out there, and that's what we were going to do. I even have my cleats. Jeff, do you guys have any milk and cookies?"

"I'm sure we do, why?" asked Jeff, he was on the other side of the room with Chad, Armand, and Tony.

"Because staying inside with friends somehow feels like daycare, and if we are in daycare then I might as well eat milk and cookies."

"Stop whining. You're being a kid again Mike" injected Ricardo.

"Me? I'm not acting like a kid." I smiled and responded smartly. "I am a kid."

"I'm just a sophomore you know...well I guess not officially until school starts in a few months."

Ricardo seemed annoyed, but not as much as I was hoping for; something was on his mind, I wondered what it was.

"What do you think is the best rock band? Van Halen is OK." said Chad.

"U2 is the best." shouted Ricardo.

"I like Scorpions and Yes," I said. "But Def Leppard is the best!"

"I think REO Speedwagon is really good," added Chad.

"KISS is the best band in the world!" shouted Jeff.

"What makes you think that?" asked Armand.

"That's easy because..." replied Jeff as he walked over to the cassette player and turned it on; the air-drum solo followed suit.

"I wanna Rock and Roll all night...and party every day!" shouted the radio and Jeff.

I noticed that my brother didn't chime in, but then again, he didn't like heavy metal anyways. I was sure he would rather be talking about anything else.

The conversation was going nowhere so Armand decided to change the subject to something more useful. "Who's the hottest babe?"

"That's easy, Lita Ford!" answered Jeff as he pointed to the Lita Ford poster on his wall.

"Sorry to interrupt such an important topic but... What are we going to do?" Tony asked.

"Got me?" said Jeff.

"I've got a few Robotech tapes at my house, we can all go there and watch a few." said Chad.

Tony and Armand nodded. I could tell that they thought Robotech was a better solution than spending the rest of the day talking about KISS.

"I have it! Ranger Ric to the rescue." shouted Ricardo. "Let's play war in the rain, Jeff and I just bought some new air-soft guns. You guys can use the old ones."

"What? You mean we run around playing cops and robbers in the rain? Going Bang Bang, Bang Bang?" retorted Chad sarcastically as he holstered a pair of recently spent five-fingered shooters.

"Now who sounds like a kid?" I responded.

"These are kiddie toys, these guns shoot plastic bullets and if they hit your skin they can sting."

"Sounds cool, Special Forces is more my style." responded Armand. "It’s Rambo time baby."

Now that sounded interesting. I've shot fireworks and BB guns at friends before, but running around with guns that could shoot plastic bullets that are a painful but not dangerous...hmmm...that didn't sound too bad.

"Oh, that's a different story." I said "O-mo-shi-ro-i ne, o-shi-e-tte ku-da-sa-i".

Tony leaned over and told a confused Armand, "Mike said, sounds fun, tell me more." Everyone else except Armand had a Japanese mom; the rest understood what I had said.

Ricardo began to sell the game to everyone. In a few minutes, we all got our guns and were ready to get wet. It felt like a bad idea to leave a dry place, run amuck in the heavy rain, and to play war, but since we had nothing better to do, we went ahead with it. So like a pack of lemmings, we followed Ricardo into the chasm.


We must have been playing for over three hours. Luckily the heavy down pour had abated during most of our matches. We were all wet, but not completely soaked. We weren't cold either since Okinawan summer storms came down as warm rain. Foot trails surrounded us; sneaker tracks in the mud, sneaker tracks in the grass, and sneaker tracks on the road with orange plastic pellets scatted everywhere. Finally, the heavy rain started to come down.

"Let's get out of here. It's starting to come down hard." I said.

"Last game." shouted Ricardo "And we are going to win this one, right squad?"

"Yes, sir Ranger Ric!" shouted Chad and Jeff at the same time, then they gave him a salute.

Tony shrugged, Armand smirked, and I, well, I didn't know what to think. We never said it officially, but it was team Lester versus team Kadena today.

I looked skywards towards the rain; I felt the droplets on my face, I knew I was done. But as I veered downward to the smiles on team Lester’s faces I decided that one more game couldn't hurt.

"Come on Mikey, one more game. We’re already wet." Armand was ready to go. He didn’t look tired or bored, maybe this was his style of game. Tony on the other hand, seemed apathetic. I got the feeling he would go along with any decision.

I looked at my teammates and said "What the hell, let's do it."

Showing a smile Armand said, "Go Panthers".

"Go panthers!" we said.

"Let's get this over with ASAP, so I can get dry and find some food, I'm hungry" I said.

"You guys be the attackers, we'll defend this time." yelled Ricardo.

"Fine with us," I yelled back.

We walked to the closest building and leaned against the wall. Ahh. Shelter from the rain felt nice.

"We are coming in 10 count." I yelled.

"10, 9, 8... 7, 6, 5..." Being dry feels great I thought.

"4, 3, 2" Hmm, milk and cookies, I hope they have Oreos. Oreos and milks....mmm... my mouth start to water as my mind started to drift.

"...1" then I smiled and looked at Armand and Tony.

"Stop, don't go anywhere."

Armand and Tony looked at me wryly.

"I have an idea. Let's stay here for a few minutes before we hunt them." I said

"Why?" asked Tony. "I thought you wanted to get this over with."

"I do, but I'd like to stay dry. Since its starting to come down real hard right now let's just wait a bit. They'll get really soaked if we wait." I let out a little chuckle.

Armand and Tony understood my plan.

"Mikey, nice plan, you are wise in the ways of the force." Armand was grinning.


So we stood there for 2, 3, 4, 5 minutes before we started our search. All of us were carrying large smiles.

"OK, let's split up and see if we can find them." said Armand.

Splitting up is normally a bad idea, but since we are in a hurry this strategy was the best. Especially since it was the last game and I was getting real hungry. I didn't care if we win or lose, I just wanted to eat.

"Fine, I'll go this way." I replied as I left.

10 minutes later we regrouped.

"Well I got Chad." said Armand "I found him hiding under the building over there, but I can't find Jeff or Ricardo, any luck for you two?"

"Nope" we said in unison.

“Mike and I had them pinned early, they were surrounded, they knew they were dead, but somehow they got away.” By the look on Tony’s face I knew he was disappointed. His pincer strategy was perfect, we had them trapped; this game should have been over 5 minutes ago.

"We checked everywhere, we couldn't find them," I added.

The rain was pouring now. We looked around the compound, but we couldn't find them anywhere. I had no idea where those two could have gone.

"OK, let's get Chad and call it a game." I said.

"Sounds good." said Tony. Armand agreed and left to fetch Chad from the dead zone.

A few minutes later Chad was with us and he was laughing deviously.

"Can't find them eh?" said Chad sarcastically. "So it’s a draw. Tell them and they'll come out."

"Well that doesn't seem fair." spoke Armand.

"We are winning." I added.

"Sure, but it’s not over. So how long do you want to search for them in the rain? It's coming down pretty hard." replied Chad.

"Damn he's right," I thought. Though I didn't want to lose, ending the game was the real priority.

"OK, it's a DRAW! We can't find you, you didn't kill us either. Come out it's over." I yelled.

"Come on out, its a draw!" yelled Chad.

Strangely enough, the only sound I could hear besides our voices was the falling rain. I thought that everyone would want to quit by now. What the hell were they doing? Then all four of us were yelling out that it's over and that it was time to quit. But still Jeff and Ricardo couldn't be found.

"Maybe they pulled a fast one and they are already sitting at home, nice and dry." said Armand.

Damn; they'll be eating my milk and cookies. "Those bastards, let's get out of here."

We started to leave and then Chad spoke up "I don't think they would quit".

I frowned and thought about it. He was right. They were too serious about this kind of stuff so I didn’t think they would quit either; their father was in the Special Forces.

"How about if you guys try a new plan?" said Chad with a wink and a big smile.

Obviously our current strategy was failing; it was time for a new tactic. I quickly came up with a good strategy.

"Jeff, Ricardo you guys win! Kadena gives up, we surrender!" I yelled.

No sooner than I the instant the words had left my breath, did rings of motion start to ripple across a large pond a few yards away. Emerging out of the center of the pond was a pair of drenched kids with guns raised.

"Ah ha, I told you Ranger Ric would find a way for us to win." shouted Ricardo.

Armand, Chad, and Tony started to laugh uncontrollably. I was too shocked to laugh.

"Nice Rambo style!" shouted Armand enthusiastically.

"You guys are crazy!" I said "How long have you been in that pond?"

"Once Chad got killed and you guys had us surrounded, it was looking impossible for us, but we didn't give up." replied Ricardo with Jeff nodding.

"You sat in that pond for over half an hour, you guys ARE crazy! That pond has got to be at least two feet deep and a hundred feet wide."

"I told you Jeff, we can win even with the odds stacked against us. It's only impossible if you don't try!" rejoiced Ranger Ric.

Jeff was smiling and we all knew that team Lester was the victor in more ways than one.

"OK it's over, let's get out of here!" yelled Tony.

We all smiled and started to leave, but Ricardo stopped and took a deep breath.

"I don't care what you know…" yelled Ricardo as he started sing.

"I don't care what you know…" joined Jeff as he began to sing and march in step with Ricardo.

It was an all too familiar army basic training song, we’ll at least the rhythm; I didn’t know the words, but I heard it many times in movies and in TV shows. However, I never thought Jeff and Ricardo would be singing it out loud in public.

Without thinking about it, we began to march as well. And soon, we join the song. We didn't know all of the words, said we said the easy part, "Yes sir! one, two, three, four...three, four." But by the end of the march, we were all yelling and singing the entire song.

We marched and sang that silly song all the way back to the Jeff and Ricardo's home. I felt really stupid singing that song while marching in the rain, but somehow I couldn't stop. I guess, when your having a good time with your friends, sometimes even the dumbest ideas are fun to do.

Though we played war many more times, it was never better than the game we played on that day. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the silliness, or maybe it was the signing that made it memorable. But when I sit back and think about what really affected me that day, the moment becomes clear. It was Ranger Ric's determination about not giving up that made it truly unforgettable for me. So remember, whenever it looks like the odds are against you, "It' only impossible if you don't try."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Chapter 18 - Unmei

It was only Wednesday, I had another day to go, but today was the day that I had to do it. I reasoned if I tried today and chickened-out, I still had one more day to try again. It sounded like a good plan, so I ran to my next class to meet her.

I was sitting in classroom waiting for her to arrive. I was early for once, four minutes early to be exact and it felt really weird. A little too awkward actually, like something bad was going to happen, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Seeing that no one was around, I got up and decided to sharpen my pencil.

As I approached the door, I ran into her and Penni. Speechless, my reflexes suddenly took over; I looked at her and asked, "Hi Marielle, are you busy after class? I'd like to talk to you about something important." I don't know why, but I was surprisingly nonchalant about how I said it. Underneath my stoic exterior lied an entirely different world.

"Sure, what's on your mind?" she said. She seemed happy like always; as cheerful as could be, nothing out of the ordinary was on her mind. I wish I felt the same.

"Oh nothing really, I just have a question for you, but let's talk about it after class, OK?" I managed to say what was on my mind, but barely. Rapids of adrenaline were crashing through my ears and my vision started blur. Feeling slightly dizzy, I realized that I needed to breathe. I took a deep breath and decided it was best to sit down. But when I reached my seat and sat, I felt even worse. "There was no way I could go through with this!" My hands started to shake, my palms were clammy and my heartbeat became chaotic; caught in a whirlpool of self doubt, I began to drown in my own insecurities.

Suddenly a divine voice broke my despair, "Hello bad boy, how's it going?"

I looked and saw Penni; she was turned around in her chair and smiling. I never saw her reach her desk. I had no idea she was sitting in front me. She startled me, but not in a bad way. I don't know why, but her smile made me feel better. The fog of confusion vanished and my primal instincts took over. "Fight or flight?" I knew I had to choose.

Out of the blue, a name popped into my head. "Another possibility," I thought. Without hesitation, I asked. "Penni are you good friends with Becky? She's a junior and bowls with us on the weekend?"

"No not really, but we have hung out before. Why?" she asked.

"Do you know if Becky is dating anyone?"

Penni look surprised but answered my question. "Sorry we aren't that close; go ask her yourself."

"Oh forget it. I think she likes Ron anyways." I mumbled. I then realized that flight was trying to take over. Regaining some sensibility, I understood that cowardice would be disastrous with my friends. Fight was my only true option. Whether I liked it or not, I knew what I needed to do.

"Who likes who?" inquired a familiar voice.

I fell back into irrationality; I didn't know how to answer the question. "What?" was the best I could muster; as I began to seek the inquisitor.

"Who do you like?" asked Zoey. Her blatant questioning caught me completely off guard, but I sensed that she was determined to get it out of me.

"Come on Mike, who?" She had me stretched on the rack and she was slowly turning the wheel. Inexplicably, I knew I was going to tell her the truth. Marielle was in hearing distance, but it didn't seem to matter. If Zoey asked again, I would tell her what was on my mind.

Time began to move slowly and the girls began to talk. Penni and Zoey seemed to be comparing notes; then Gwen, Sara, and Marielle joined their conversation. The situation was getting out of hand, I knew my personal life was about to get exposed. Oddly enough, I welcomed it. Zoey turned around; she was ready to continue her questioning...

Then class started, and the uncomfortable ordeal came to an end.


It was a long forty-seven minutes and class was about over. It took the majority of the time, but I now felt at ease. Without thinking about it, I once again looked towards Marielle. I started to get a little nervous, but this time I felt really restless. "Oh what the hell", I thought. "I'll just do it and get it over with. Who knows, it may work out. It's only impossible if you don't try! That's what Ranger Ric would say."

Ranger Ric was right, if I don’t try, it is impossible. I had to do it, so I began to believe. Reassurance surged and I knew what I had to do. My heartbeat relaxed, my breathing calmed and I became filled with confidence. Nothing was going to stop me now; in a few minutes, good or bad, it would all be over.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Zoey leaning over from her desk. "Pssst Mike, I have a secret that I want to share with you."

I leaned over to listen, and I heard her say it; the words that changed my life forever. The words that every nerdy guy wants to hear, but only believes happens in movies. "I know someone who likes you. She's a friend of mine and she wants to know if you have a girlfriend?"

What? I began to choke on my own the air. Like a deer seeing headlights; I was stunned. I couldn't believe my ears. Maybe she was kidding; I took a second look at her and I knew she was serious. Waves of emotion began to run wild and my heartbeat quickened. Suddenly, a slide-show of all the girls that Zoey knew went flying though my mind. Gwen, Sara, Penni, Alice, Amy and a few others. Who? Why? Who? Then something else dawned on me, Zoey was good friends with Marielle as well. "Could it be?" I thought; maybe luck was on my side. I thought about it again and realized something even more important. I was saved! I could ask a girl out with no fear of rejection. I've never felt so relieved in my entire life. I didn't care who it was anymore, I just knew that Zoey was about to make my life easier. What perfect timing, fate was being kind to me.

I collected myself and whispered to her "Let's talk after class."

She nodded and the final minutes of the class flew by in an instant.

The bell rang and class ended. I stood up, smiled, and immediately walked over to Zoey's desk. I picked up her stack of Menudo folders and joyfully said, "Zoey let me walk you to your next class." I gave her a wink and she returned a smile.

As I got to the door a voice from behind said, "Mike didn't you have something you wanted to ask me?"

I looked at Marielle, she had a big smile but so did I. "Sorry I can't right now. Something urgent came up and I need to discuss it with Zoey. I'll talk to you about it later." Then I left the classroom with Zoey.

On the way to her next class, I leaned over, put on my cool voice, and asked "I'm not seeing anyone. Who is your friend that likes me?"

She smiled, poked me in the ribs, but didn't say a word until we got close to her classroom. I got the feeling that she just wanted me to carry her stuff, which I did gratefully. I didn't think any boy would be willing to carry her conspicuous set of Menudo folders in public, but today I was willing to do it for miles; I would have worn a Menudo t-shirt in public if she asked.

We stopped at the doorway to her classroom and she wiggled her index finger at me; asking me to come closer. I leaned over and she began to whisper into my ear. I felt her breath on my ear, it felt a bit warm. It felt a little weird too, but I was too intent on getting the name to back out now. Then she whispered it, the name; the name of emancipation.

I couldn't believe what I heard, luck was truely on my side. I smirked and slowly righted myself. I took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye and gave her a big smile. She returned one as well.

I knew exactly what I was going to do next; I smirked and began preparing my rejection speech about joining Renno's club.

U-n-me-i is what the Japanese call it; we call it fate. I do believe in luck, but I don't believe in destiny. Having a pre-determined future never made any sense to me. If the future was inevitable, we might as well let time pass us by as we do nothing; we wouldn't be alive, we wouldn't have hope and the desire to improve our situations. But we do, we can't help it, it's innate to us. We all strive to make our lives better regardless of where we are today, or where it may look like we're headed. Good or bad, choices in life are ours to make and the outcome of those decisions determine the path we take. Ironically however, whenever choices became a little too precarious for me, fate always seemed to help out whenever I needed it. And that day was no different.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chapter 17 - Bad Boys, Bad Boys

It was another typical day in Biology; Mrs. Walker was lecturing us about the details of mitochondrial DNA. It was an interesting subject, but I was tired. The parasitic pace of the lecture didn't help either. On the plus side, this was my last class and freedom was only a bells toll away. Everyone at my table was silent and busy taking notes. I looked down at my notebook and saw a few misspelled Latin words and a sketch of the starship Enterprise. She was busy battling the doomsday machine. I've been working on the drawing since class started; though it was drawn proportionally correct, the perspective seemed a bit wrong. Hmmm, I need to work on that aspect.

"Mike, do you understand this stuff?" whispered Alison.

"What?" I replied.

"The DNA stuff that Ms. Walker is talking about." said Alison.

"Oh that stuff, sure. I haven't read the chapters, but it seems straight forward." I whispered.

"I'm usually good at Biology but this time, she lost me. Let's compare notes later." she replied.

"Well I don't take good notes" I said as I showed her my art work. She seemed surprised, but she did return a smile.

Normally, I would have felt like a real dork showing my drawings to a girl, but then again she wasn't any girl. She was Alison, and somewhere inside of me I was hoping she would learn to appreciate me more through my artwork. The odds were one in a billion, but I thought it was worth the risk.

"But if want me to explain it to you, let's do it after class." I added.

Seemingly out of nowhere, something struck our table. It came down mostly silent as it bounced around in front of me. It was round and I knew immediately what it was. It was the Raven, the messenger of bad news. The paper ball sat there, so I picked up and frowned. I looked at Alison, she seemed a bit shocked, but my other table mates started to laugh. I guess it was our turn to join the pranksters. From the corner of my eye, I noticed Mrs. Walker turning around so I quickly rolled the evidence off the table, away from her view.

Mrs. Walker continued to speak about how mitochondrial DNA was inherited from your mother and then she began to write the details on the blackboard. The instant she turned around, another messenger appeared. And once again it sat in front of me, but this time, I could hear the twin coconspirators laughing. I quickly picked it up and crushed it in my fist. Now what should I do? If I threw it back and get caught, I'll be in trouble. If I threw it back, I'll look just at guilty as those jokers to the rest of the class. Hmmm, what to do? What to do? If Ms. Walker caught me, I'll be listed as a trouble maker for sure. I've never been a trouble maker; however, my muscles ached. They were ready to take action; throwing a ball was innate to me. I have played baseball every year of my life since I was five. If I threw this ball, hitting my mark should be an easy task. OK, I decided what to do, I needed to find a target.

As I looked up, I ran into Alison's eyes. She was shaking her head, but didn't say a word. I could tell she thought it was a bad idea to retaliate, so I hesitated. Then it happened, I got struck. The paper ball bounced of my head and landed on the table. In stunned silence, I sat there and watched its final act. I became it's balletomane and watched it mock me until the final turn of its pirouette. Everyone at the table began to laugh, my face turned red, and I started to feel really embarrassed. Witnesses of the crime around the classroom started to snicker and then I got mad. I grabbed the ball and held it in my hand. I sensed a swell of rage building inside of me. I felt the ball growing ever so small as I crushed it in my hand, but then I saw it, the thing that made my anger vanish. Alison was smiling and she started to laugh. I can't explain it, but my anger was gone and I started to laugh with her as well. I suddenly I knew what I had to do. I looked towards the instigators and spotted my target, Joe.

I stood up, turned, and threw a fastball. Though he was two tables away, it hit Joe right in the chest. He frowned, looked me right in the eye and silently mouthed "what the f...".

“Oh shit,” I thought! Now I gonna get my ass kicked. Still shocked by my actions, I quickly sat down. I turned around to see my carnage and I saw a Joe that didn't look very happy. Once he noticed that I was looking towards his table he made a fist, pointed one finger in the air and rotated his hand to the left. His index finger pointed to his coconspirator. I couldn't hear what he was whispering, but I knew what he said. "He did it, dumbass."

I was at a loss for words. "Oh crap," I had hit the wrong target! I'm a dead man now, I thought. And then, both of them started to laugh; louder than before with no signs of anger anywhere. For a moment I didn't understand it, but then I realized what happened. They were too overjoyed that they got another person to join the madness. Panic subsided; maybe I wasn't dead after all.

I turned around to looked at Alison. She still had that surprised look, but her smile made me know that she was OK with my actions.

"Joe!" yelled Mrs. Walker "What are you doing?"

Instinctively I turned and saw it, Joe was standing up with a paper ball in his hand. Looking at his body position, I knew the target was me.

"Oh nothing Mrs. Walker, I was just stretching." replied Joe as his pitching stance turned into a stretch motion.

"Go to the corner!" said Mrs. Walker. "You are being a bad boy. Sit in the corner until class is over."

It felt like elementary school and everyone in the class started to laugh out loud; it was a very funny moment. Even Joe was laughing, he knew he was caught red handed. As he walked by my table towards the stool that sat in to the corner of the classroom, he mouthed. "I'll get you next time" and smiled.

I returned the smile and responded with a silent "OK".

Class returned to normal for a minute until another paper ball landed on our table. I turned to see the instigator...

"Chad, go to the corner!" yelled Mrs. Walker. "You're being bad as well. Bad boys, bad boys both of you."

By the look on his face, he was surprised that he had been caught. Chad smiled and started to walk towards the corner where Joe sat.

"No, not that corner, the other one." said Mrs. Walker as she pointed to the other side of the room.

Chad changed directions and walked towards the other corner. I could tell he could barely control his laughter.

As I looked away from Chad, I noticed that Mrs. Walker was glaring at me. I sensed that her trust for me had disappeared. I knew she thought I was just another bad apple was waiting to be caught. Without saying a word, she said, "You behave now!"

Perhaps if she had more stools in the corner I would be joining Joe and Chad. But luckily there were only two troublemaker stools in the classroom. She never planned for three troublemakers at once. Three troublemakers, I thought. Hmmm, I never saw myself as one. "Interesting," I started to grin.


Class continued once again and this time all went well. At the end of class I reviewed the discussion with Alison and then she was off. I collected my things and began to leave.

As I was leaving the classroom I heard a voice, "Mike, Right?"

"Yeah that's my name." I turned around to see who it was.

"We'll I'm Chad. Nice to meet you." he said. Then we shook hands.

"It was you. Wasn't it?" I asked.

"Yup, Joe didn't hit you with the ball."

"Is Joe going to kick my ass for what I did?" I asked nervously. "I didn't mean for you guys to get in trouble."

"Ah, don't worry about it. We actually had a great time. I think Joe enjoyed scaring the crap out of you the most though. But don't sweat it, he's a great guy. You'll get to know him soon enough. By the way, you know Renno right? Renno, the big Filipino guy. You hang around him right?"

"Renno? Renno the tyrant, my overbearing nemesis,” impulsively, I began to nod.

"I've known him for quite a while," added Chad. "We are good friends."

Renno! Now it makes sense. He's the source of all of this mayhem. "Renno, yeah I know him." I replied with a smile. "Did he put you up to this?"

Chad smiled, but didn't answer my question. We left the classroom together and began to talk about Kadena, our common interests, and our common friends. Thus began a friendship that would never end.

Sometimes trouble and friendship come hand in hand and sometimes order comes out of chaos. Today seemed like one of those moments. I could have tried to avoid the trouble, but something inside of me told me not too. Luckily, I joined the mayhem and managed to come out unscathed. More importantly I came out with a new friend, and a life long one at that. I escaped being sent to the corner that day, but my luck would soon run out. A few weeks later my turn in the corner would come. Triggered by good fun, a spinning Petri dish, and like always in that class, chaos initiated by the two jokers in the back of the classroom.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Chapter 16 - Doughnuts

My heart was beating so fast that I couldn't hear what Johnny was saying. My hands were clammy, my eyes were closed, and I could feel the sweat tingling on my skin. Like a baby in the womb, I nestled down near the floor as tight as I could get. I felt like I just ran five miles with a panther on my tail, but I wasn’t exhausted. I was still tense, still nervous. Everyone else in the car was breathing hard as well. Body heat filled the air and the windows started to fog up the windows. The radio was off and so were any lights. Other than our heartbeats, the car had been silent for a few minutes.

"I think we made it," said Johnny. He was in the driver’s seat; his white knuckles still gripped the steering wheel. "Let's go look for the others."

"I wonder if they got away?" I said.

"I think so. We had a few hundred yards between us and the MPs when we booked it. I think we should go back and see if everyone got away." Johnny seemed more relaxed now, but barely.

"Why do we need to go back there?" asked Brain. "Aren't the cops going to be there?" He was still nervous, but then again, so was I.

"I don't think so. But there's only one way to know for sure." replied Johnny.

"But..." is all I could muster. Exhaustion has caught up and my adrenaline subsided, being chased by the police was new to me. And I kept on thinking, if I get caught and my parents find out, my Dad’s gonna kill me. How the hell can Johnny keep his smile and be so calm.

Johnny rolled down his window and pushed aside the bushes that hid his car. "I don't see anyone, do you?" he asked.

I collected myself and looked around. "Looks all clear to me."

"Looks good." echoed Brian.

Johnny started the car and we slowly pulled out of the bushes. The landscape was green, but there was no way you could tell. The night sky hid most things and the man on the moon was sleeping tonight. Johnny turned on the lights and blindness took our sight. Moments later, a black road and patches of greenery filled our view. The cut grass was familiar as the 8th hole lay to our left. It seemed safe so we started our move.

We quietly drove for a minute to reach the mounds. But this time, we drove to a spot across the road to cliff high above. Johnny's headlights flooded the area and towers of gray rocks came into view. The mounds were easily eight feet tall and it was composed of the kind of gravel used for construction. As I looked closer, I could see our swirls on the ground below. The car was our paintbrush and the gravel our canvas. A portrait of interwoven circles was strewn across the grounds. The pattern was a thing of beauty. All were bound to a common thought, doughnuts! Pollock would be proud.

We opened the doors and got out of the car. We stood and stretched. The air was cold, but I didn’t wear my jacket. Small chills began to run up my spine and I shivered for a moment.

"We made lots of doughnuts down there; that was fun." remarked Brain.

"Yeah." added Johnny.

I nodded; I felt relieved. I let out a smile and began to relax, but that was short lived.

Suddenly, we saw another set of lights coming our way. The head lights weren't far apart, so I knew it wasn’t an American car. I looked at Johnny and we instantly knew who it was.

It was a silver 4-door car full of people, it drove by a mound and stopped. "That was awesome, want to do it again?" yelled Joe.

"Are you crazy? We just ran out of here when the MPs showed up." I yelled. "We barely got away."

"So what?" said Joe with a big smile. He got into his car and I could hear the shouting of the voices within.

"Doughnuts! Doughnuts!" shouted the people in the car.

Joe's lights turned on and the engine started to rev. A loud squealing sound screamed out of the tires as it began to peel away at the gravel below. The car started to make tight circles on the ground; over and over it spun and the circles came. The occupants in the car could be heard laughing and cheering, "DOUGHNUTS!"

"They are crazy." remarked Brian.

"Yep. I can't believe Joe found this place. You would think coming here after school would be enough, but for all of us to come back at night...we are all crazy." I replied.

"Mike, so I heard you have a girlfriend now." said Johnny.

"What? She's not my girlfriend, we just had one date. But I've been walking with her to class everyday this week, that's about it. She is a really nice girl. Plus she's cute, has wonderful smile, and I did make out with her on our first date." I replied with a big grin.

"You what!" spoke Brian. He was shocked. "On your first date. NO way!"

"The timing was right so what the hell else was I supposed to do. I didn't' want to look like an idiot. Dating is new to me, I just went with the flow."

Suddenly everything froze. I could barely hear it coming. But I knew what it was; the sounds, the sounds of trouble. It was the second time tonight, but this time we weren't ready. We were all going to get caught now. They were coming and nobody seemed to notice except me.

"Johnny we need to bail, now!" I yelled.

"Why" asked Johnny? Brian looked puzzled as well.

Suddenly the approaching sirens could be heard by all of us. Johnny fumbled his keys as he opened the door; Brian jumped into the back seat. I got in and Johnny tried to start the car. He turned the key but nothing happened. He turned again and it still didn’t start.

“Don’t do it again or it will flood.” I said. “But if you flood the carb Joe showed me how to fix it.”

“I won’t. It will work this time, trust me. I know my car,” replied Johnny. He turned the key and the green machine awoke.

But it was too late, I could see the red and blue lights streak across the windshield. The sirens were too close.

Joe's car must have noticed it as well, as they stopped making doughnuts and backed up behind one of the mounds. We were all dead, there was nothing we could do. It was too late to run.

But before the colorful lights arrived, a car streaked down the road right past our eyes. It was going really fast and it was followed closely by a police car; lights and sirens blaring. Then a second police car followed suit, but as it drove off I could hear the loud speaker yell, "You punks stay right there! We’re coming back for you!"

Still in shock, no body made a move.

"Is that who I think it is?" I asked Johnny.

Johnny returned a big smile.

"Oh shit! That was Ricardo's car." yelled Brian.

We all started to laugh. Even though I could barely see it, I could swear I heard laughter falling out of Joe's car as well.

"Let's get the hell out of here." yelled Johnny. "No need to wait around to get a ticket!"

"Hit it!" yelled Brian.

I didn't say anything since I was too busy laughing. Seeing Ricardo being chased by the police made my day.

As we drove off, I could see flashes of red and blue shine on the rear window. They must have caught Ricardo, and the second car was coming back for us. I guess it was our turn to run, I hope Johnny was a good driver.


We rolled in to the parking lot next to the softball fields across the street from the Olympic shoppette. The lights from the field were off and there were still a few cars parked in the lot, so we didn't stick out.

"Get down." yelled Johnny.

We all hunkered down and Brian said, "Don't step on the brake, it will give us away. Ricardo said to use the hand brake in situations like this."

Johnny’s hand was already on the brake and it was wrenched. The car settled and we waited. I slowly slouched down to the floor and began my hibernation.

"So what's her name?" asked Johnny.

What the hell? "I don't think now is the appropriate time for us to talk about my love life." I replied in an irritated voice.

"Seems like a good time to me. We don't have much else to do." said Johnny with a smile. "Is she..."

"Hot?" injected Brian. "or is she a butter face."

"Shut up!" I replied, "I already said she was cute, so can we drop this right now."

Everything became silent as we all saw the flashes of white light reflect on the windshield. We all held our breath as the police car rolled slowly by. It seemed to last forever, but eventually the lights went away. The police car was gone, we were spared.

"I can't believe we got away." I said.

"We made it. See I'm a good driver, you can always count on me." replied Johnny.

I smiled and since everything was clear I began to return to myself. With my wits back, I decided to turn the tables on him.

"By the way Johnny, you joined the bet too, how did your date with Trisha go?" I asked.

He thought about it, looked at me, and gave me a big smile. Then he said, "I think that's it for tonight, let's go home."

I guess he didn’t want to tango. But it was alright, I was too tired to dig it out of him anyways.

Johnny started the car and turned on the music.

On our way home Brian asked, "What bet? What are you two talking about? Why do you all have girls? What the hell is going on?"

Johnny and I smiled and decided not to tell him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chapter 15 - Risk

8pm Saturday Night, Fall Sophomore Year

"Well this sucks. I'm out." said Ricardo.

"When you start on Asia as your base on a six player game, you're usually the first one out." I responded. "Don't worry, we got all night, there's always another game."

"How is it that Armand is still alive?" asked Ricardo. "He just stared playing this board game tonight!"

"Luck" I added.

"No Mikey, it's skill." voiced Armand with a big smile.

We all let out a chuckle. It turned out to be a fun hour and so far it was turning out to be a great day.

"I'm still sore from playing football this afternoon, but at least I threw a few touchdowns today." said Ricardo.

"Yeah that was fun." responded Tony. “I especially like those 80 yard bombs that you threw.”

"I juked like this and juked like that..." answered Bill while performing the "I'm too good for you" two-step.

"Ricardo, you might as well wait on the sofa and watch a movie, but don't worry. I'll send the others there is shortly." I said crassly.

"Mike, save your self a seat. You are going down." added Bill.

"Nope, the only person that has beaten me since the 6th grade is my brother. So I don't think so." I replied.

"I'm still in it." smiled Tony.

“Ha Mike. You speak too soon. With these cards, I will smite you.” relished Chad. He was definitely having a good time.

This game was getting fun the serious players were definitely ready.

"Bill, do you have Commando or Rambo in your movie collection?" asked Ricardo.

"Yeah, just look over there in the cabinet”

"Well it's my turn now. Sorry Armand you are going down. Brazil to North Africa, let's roll some dice.” I picked up the dice and let it roll.


10 pm, Saturday Night

"Finally, I’m out of this game. I thought you guys said playing a game of Risk would only take two hours finish." said Armand. "Not two hours just for me to lose."

"Sometimes when you’re doing something good, it takes longer then you think to finish it. When things get fun, it's easy to lose track of time." I said.

"Well I'm done Bill and since you took my territories, where can I find your food? This game will take forever." added Armand.

"There are plenty of chips over there." pointed Bill. "And the cokes are on the counter."

"At the rate we are going, we should be done by midnight." I explained.

"Well if that's the case, then I'm out. Because if you say midnight, then it will be dawn before you’re done. Time to go home now, I'll see you guys tomorrow." said Armand as he continued to raid our undefended refreshments before he left for home.


1 am, Sunday Morning

“Mike you are not going to win this territory,” said Chad as he rolled the dice in his hands.

“Hey Tony what happened to the cute girl that made you go with her to church?” I asked.

“You mean Audrey? Well let’s just say that after they started speaking in tongues, I decided that scene wasn’t for me. It’s totally different then mass on Sunday,” responded Tony.

“Long curly hair and knockers right? Mike isn’t she in your grade?” asked Bill.

“Yeah, but she’s not my type.” I replied. “Pass me the dice, it’s my roll now.”

“Too cute for you right? Or did you mean because she’s not a seventh grader,” laughed Bill.

“Shut up Bill. But I’m sure you’d date one.” I retorted.

I picked up the dice and rolled. Bingo! All hits, I won the territory.

"Damn it, I lost. Mike you got too many lucky rolls. Otherwise I would have beaten you." said Chad.

"It's called skill. Feel free to join Ricardo in the loser…ummm” I faked a cough. “…movie room"

“Mike grow up” yelled Ricardo from yonder.

"Well I’m beat, Ricardo let's get outta here." said Chad. "It's a long walk, but it should only take us about an hour to get from su-na-be to Lester."

We all said "good night" as Chad and Ricardo started their voyage back to Camp Lester.


2 am, Sunday Morning

"OK, it's late, why don't we finish this later? Everyone else is probably sleeping and playing football this afternoon is finally catching up with me."

"Nope. We stay until someone wins" replied Bill. "Do you want to give up?"

"I don't want to quit, but I'm too tired to stay awake long enough to win. This game seems endless."

"Hold on Mike, I'm going to attack South America." said Tony. "Maybe you can go to sleep real soon."

"Feel free, I want to sleep." I replied.


3:30 am, Sunday Morning

"Thank God I'm out. This game is getting way too long. Bill do you have Sixteen Candles? I feel like watching something fun."

"I thought you were tired. Or was that an excuse to lose." he said with a smile.

"Nope, I'm really tired, but I think I'm past the point of no return. I'm awake now." I replied as I walked towards the movie cabinet.


3:41 am, Sunday Morning

I could barely see the movie on the TV. My eyes could barely stay open. But I could hear parts of a conversation in the distance.

"The game seems even. By the way Tony, you seem to hanging around Hillary a lot this morning during bowling. What's up?" asked Bill.

"What do you think about Hillary? She's been flirting with me..." said Tony.

"Like with all my girls. You have to see how far you can go." replied Bill. "Now where are those dice, let's finish this game."


7:30 am, Sunday Morning

My dream-world turned into an earthquake as the world around me started to shake violently. I felt my shoulders tighten and I sensed a familiar voice in the distance.

"O-hi-o" said Tony as I awoke, he was shaking my shoulders. "Time to go home, the game is over."

I looked at him with eyes half open and asked, "Who won?"

"Bill. He's pretty good at Risk. He’s always willing to take chances. You should watch him and you might learn something." Tony replied.

"From Bill?" I responded half-heatedly. That's the best sarcasm I could muster this early in the morning.

"See Mike, I'm the best player when it comes to risk." said Bill "You need to use more round about attacks so your opponent doesn't see it coming."

"I guess you are the best at Risk tonight." I replied. "I think I could have won, but I was too tired to play an all night game."

"Then that's something you need to work on, if you can't stick to it, you can't win." answered Bill.

"All right Bill, next time I’ll win for sure. By the way good night...ummm...Good Morning. By the way Bill, do you have any o-cha-zu-ke?”

“What the heck is that?” replied Bill.

Tony just started to laugh.

I have no idea why I remember this fragment, since these mundane moments aren't very exciting. Maybe I remembered it because these are how things used to be before girls, alcohol, and Joe would change our world forever. I'm not saying that the keeping the original ways was good for the gang, but I do remember it as a very fun and simple time. If anything, those ordinary days were the last signs of our innocence. Bill and I never had a chance to play another board game of Risk, since our lifestyles were about to take us down two different paths. What I didn't realize at the time, was that the real game of Risk between Bill and I had just begun. I didn’t know it consciously, but it was a game that would take more than a night to finish; a game without borders, a game without rules, a game that would last years, and a game that would put our friendship at risk. It was a game that neither of us should win. Well at least I didn't want too.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chapter 14 - Mystery Bag

It was Tuesday morning and Mr. Larson began to talk about the experiment that the class would do tomorrow. He wanted us to separate hydrogen atoms from water; it sounded a bit dangerous, but it also sounded really fun. High school students, Chemistry, and fire always seemed like a bad combination to me, but I guess we all have to learn about it sometime. Unfortunately that wasn't the only thing on my mind this morning. Britney sat at the octagon two tables away. She sat there with her cohort, Shelly. What a dangerous pair, I thought. Both were cute, attractive, and extremely smart; a tough to beat package on any scale.

Suddenly something slid across the table and stopped right in front of me. I looked and saw a cassette case, on the cover was a 50's convertible with two teenagers riding in it; a guy and a girl. The car was parked downtown and scenery was slightly orange. I picked it up and looked closer; printed on the lower edge of the case was the label Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.

"Sorry Mike" whispered P.J. "I was trying to get that Becca, but it bounced of the Bunsen burner valve and went right to you."

"That's OK," I mouthed silently as I started to slide the cassette back to P.J. "Is it any good?"

"Yes" he whispered. "You should give it a try."

"Sure, let me borrow it sometime." I whispered.

P.J. nodded.

"Pass it along Mike." whispered an anxious voice.

It was the voice of our long haired table-mate, Becca. I could tell she was getting impatient with our small talk, so I passed her the tape. Satisfied, she let out a grin.

Mr. Larson noticed our dialog and glared at our table. We quickly sat up straight, smiled at him, and tried our best to look attentive. He resumed his lecture.

I could tell Mr. Larson was determined to teach us something new today. This was good, since I actually enjoyed Chemistry. It was definitely an interesting subject to me. But that wasn't the best thing about Chemistry class; the best part about it was Mr. Larson teaching Chemistry. He usually gave us an impromptu performance of Chaplin's "Modern Times" during the demonstration of most experiments. Mr. Larson wanted us to believe that he kept in control of the experiments, but he usually didn't; in most cases we all had an unexpected laughing session that usually ended with Mr. Larson mumbling something to himself. I assumed tomorrow would be no different, but today I was different. I wasn't interested in classical Chemistry, I was more concerned about the immeasurable type; she sat only a few tables away.

What to do, I thought. Was she the right girl? I’ll probably go down in flames, but Joe did say that if I was going to ask out anyone in my grade, it should be Britney. He thought she was the hottest, so he said if you’re gonna get shot down anyways, it might as well be with her. Damn it Joe, I wish I had your confidence; everything seemed too easy for you.

When should I approach her? Perhaps after this class? Perhaps after school? I wonder if I can meet her without Shelly around. That was the tough part; those two were super glued together like hydrogen atoms in a water molecule. What to do? What to do? I began to get consumed by my own insecurities and I was starting to drive myself crazy.

Out of nowhere something pricked my arm. I looked and saw a set of shiny pink finger nails next to the pain.

"You're staring at them." she said with ominous smile.

My face turned white, my heart froze and my eyes balls just about fell out of my head. How long did Becca notice? How long was I staring at Britney? How long was I daydreaming? How long, how long? Thinking quickly, I thought of a cover story.

"Thanks, I was just daydreaming" I whispered. "Not enough sleep last night."

She winked and turned back to look at Mr. Larson. But I got the feeling that she didn't believe me.

"Whew that was close," I said to myself. Then I turned to look at Mr. Larson; however before my eyes fell on blackboard, a commotion two tables away caught my eye. Shelly had brought out a bag from her purse and seemed to be giggling about it. Britney was giggling too. Then unexpectedly Shelly opened it ever so slightly and began to drink something out of it. I could see that inside the bag was a slightly orange drink container; the kind you'd use with your lunch box in middle school. After she took her sip she gave it to Britney. After Britney finished both girls giggled. They did this exchange about 3 times before putting it away. I began to wonder what was in that container.

10 minutes later, they were at it again. But this time, they were both smiling and giggling a bit louder; almost to the point that Mr. Larson would hear them. I was sure he noticed them, but he continued with the lecture anyways.

I whispered to P.J. "Did you see that?"

"Yes" he responded.

"What is that?" I asked.

"They are just being stupid." he responded and then he mouthed the word "beer".

No way! That's not possible. Who would be dumb enough to drink liquor in class? Those two were two of the nicest and smartest girls in my grade. I couldn't believe it. But after putting their actions together, P.J. seemed right; all signs pointed to alcohol. I had to believe P.J.; he was the Mr. Popular for the juniors, so if anyone would know about this kind of behavior, it would be him.

Damn. No matter how much of a crush I had on Britney; this behavior was unacceptable for any student. I shook my head in disbelief. But oddly, I suddenly felt liberated. Britney didn't seem like the girl I knew. Correction, what I thought I knew. The Britney I liked was in my mind; I didn't know the real Britney at all. My crush had given me rose colored glasses, but now I saw the truth. I looked at P.J. and gave him unspoken thanks of appreciation. The left side of my brain seemed to celebrate too, as logic had finally won the day.

Now I understood my choice. It was easy; there was only one name left on my list and there was no turning back now. I knew Marielle was truly a nice girl and would never pull off an unflattering stunt like Britney's. Now I started to think about when and how. And once again, the flower fields were in full bloom and the butterflies came flying back.


Class just ended and most of the students were already out of the classroom. Mr. Larson was erasing the blackboard and I was still thinking about what happened. As we stood up from our table, I turned to P.J. and asked, "Are you serious, was there beer in there."

"The way they were acting, I'm sure of it was some kind of alcohol" he said as he shook his head.

We headed towards the door and I asked him "About that cassette, what's the name of the group?"

"It's O.M.D. Didn't you see it on the cover?" he replied.

"Yeah, but I thought that was the name of the album."

"Oh no, the name of the album is Crush", he replied.

Surprised, I snickered.

"What's so funny?" asked P.J.

"Nothing" I replied. But I said to myself, "How ironic." How ironic indeed.

Then we parted and left for our next class.

I never found out what was in that bag since it really didn't matter. Seeing a different side of Britney wasn't the most important lesson in the classroom either. The real lesson was learning more about myself, and it was a real eye opener for me. I thought I never judged a book by its cover, which I usually didn't do. What I didn't realize, was that I ignored that rule when my crushes came into view. After that day, I decided that level of stupidity was never going to happen again. However, that wasn't the only thing I learned. As an added bonus, I discovered the band O.M.D. If it wasn't for the hand of fate, I would have never listened to that band, especially since it wasn't my kind of music at the time. So when I listen to O.M.D these days, I always remember the lesson, the car on the cover, and the mystery bag. I might have lost a crush, but I gained one too.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Chapter 13 - Lunchtime Decisions

It was the start of my second day at Kadena High School. I sitting on the bus next to my brother, but this time he had the window. Sitting next to the isle was a pain since I could clearly see and hear the rambunctiousness of the boring conversations and activities that surrounded me.

I still wasn’t used to the weather, though winter, you could feel a heaviness in the air. The high desert in southern California wasn’t humid at all, but Okinawa on the other hand was the complete opposite; it was always humid. The humidity never ran away, but at least in the winter the air was cool. I started to have flashbacks of the time I spent at Clark AFB in the Philippines. Of extremely hot and damp summers filled with t-shirts soaked in sweat and a sun that would not be denied the energy that it drained from you. Troubled, I could only imagine what an Okinawan summer had in store for me.

Suddenly a kind voice said, "Hi you’re new to Kadena right? We have social studies together, my name is Carol."

I turned to greet her. Carol's skin was pale; she had blackish-brown hair, brown eyes, freckles and a smile. I could instantly tell that she was mixed. At least half-Asian I thought.

"Hi." I returned. "I'm Mike. So we a have the same social studies class? Maybe we have more in common, what other classes do you have?"

"English, P.E., Home Ec, Science and Algebra I." she replied.

"Ah we both have English and P.E., but I'm taking Drafting, Biology and Geometry." I said "You're still taking Algebra I?"

"Yeah, I'm not good at Math." she replied quietly.

"I think I remember taking that in 7th grade." I thought to myself, and I then realized that I said it out loud. Ooops.

"You must be a genius," added Carol sarcastically. "Are you really that smart?"

No need to stoke the fire, I thought as my ego started to take over. I smiled.

"Yes. And if you ever need help with your math or science homework, just let me know. I'll give you a hand." I replied. "But I hate English; they always make you read boring stuff."

Feeling a little guilty about my brazen comment, I decide to change the subject. "Carol, please tell me about school. Like you know, I'm new." I said.

"Well, as long as you stop being a smart ass." she said with a smile.

I like her attitude; I think we can be friends. With that Carol started to explain to me the ins and outs of life a Kadena High School. We never stopped talking until after the bus reached school.

As we got off the bus, she said, "If you don't have anyone to each lunch with, you can sit with me and my friends, OK."

"OK, thanks Carol." I replied as we went our separate ways.


It was the end of Social Studies and boy was I hungry. I couldn't wait to get some food. I quickly headed for the door.

"Mike do you want to join us for lunch?" asked Carol.

"Maybe, I told James that if we had the same lunch, I'd eat with them." I said.

She looked a bit disappointed.

"But if I can't find them, I'm all yours." I added.

She was smiling and so was I until I saw her first lunch partner, Gretchen.

"Carol, let's go eat." she said. And they both started for the cafeteria.

As I walked down the hallway towards the lighted cavern that was the cafeteria, I ran into James.

"Hey Mike. I've been waiting for you. Let go get some food." said James.

"Great." I added as we walked to the lunch line.

After our trays were loaded with what seemed to resemble a mashed potatoes and turkey dinner, we went in search of the lunch table. James was leading.

"Hey James, are there any good courts around here? Feel like playing some ball after school?"

"Ball?" inquired James.

"I meant basketball." I replied. "But to be honest I'd rather play baseball, but that would require a lot more people."

"Sorry, I don't play basketball or baseball. Sports are not my thing. By the way Mike do you play chess?" ask James.

"Sure, I was in the chess club in 8Th grade. I'm OK at it, but I'm better at Risk." I replied.

James stopped and motioned his head.

"We are sitting over there." noted James as he looked towards Renno. "There's Renno and he's with Brigham".

I looked and saw Renno standing at the table, waving to me. Next to him was a tall skinny acne laced blond kid. Both smiled, so all seemed well. But when I looked closer my heart skipped a beat, actually quite a few.

I couldn't believe my eyes. What the heck were they doing, I thought. Between Renno and Brigham sat the world’s most infamous student stereotyper; a cardboard sheet with white and black squares, eight by eight to be exact. Somehow, I felt ashamed to know that fact at the moment. The board was covered with black and white statuettes...it was the infamous chess board; the one item in public view that would easily label any student as a nerd. A chess board! NO! Not a chessboard. I heaved a long breath and looked the other way. I could see Carol, giggling with her friends. She was sitting at a table full of girls. I could easily walk there and save myself from the scarlet letter. Then I saw Gretchen too. Somehow, getting embarrassed by her in front a table full of girls seemed like a far worse scenario. I closed my eyes, took a big gulp and let out a deep breath.

"Mike are you coming?" asked James.

"Yeah, I just saw Carol...but I'll say hi to her later". I said.

So I swallowed my pride, turned, and walked towards my ill fated friendship. If these guys are the kind of friends that I'm going to have, I'd better get used to this...a life nerd-dom. Oh well, fate can be cruel. My only hope was that perhaps some of them were good at a few sports, but looking at them I knew it was just wishful thinking.

"I wouldn't do that if I was you, or you'll lose," I remarked as I sat, smiled, and joined the conversation.

Thus my freshman fate would be sealed in Kadena nerd history forever. I never realized how hard it would be to get out of that self imposed stereotype until I tried. But I never regretted the decision to sit at that table, because those nerdy guys were fun and became my good friends. Making friends quickly was a necessity for military brats since we typically moved to a new school every three years. We were never in one place long enough to nurture the "right" friends. And since I'm not the kind of guy that would trade a good friend for a better public image, finding the "right" friend was never an issue for me. Ironically, the worst part about playing chess in public wasn’t the notoriety, it was the fact that I never beat Renno and he always reminded me of it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chapter 12 - Buzzer Beater

12 - Buzzer Beater

It was Wednesday and for two hellish days Renno tormented me. Though it was Chad's turn, my gut still wrenched. It was lunch time and extremely noisy, but I couldn’t hear a thing as fear of embarrassment consumed my mind. I sat in the cafeteria with my head on the table next to my partially eaten KHS styled Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. I wasn’t at the table alone as the gang was here with me.

"Mike you don't look so well." asked Chad.

"I haven't been sleeping well lately." I responded. I didn't even bother to lift my head off the table as I mumbled to answer.

"How can you be so clam? You only have two days to left to find a date. What happens if Anna isn't available?"

"Not a problem." he replied with a smile. Chad didn't look nervous at all. On the other hand I felt quite ill. Deep down I knew; I waded far beyond nervousness. I swam alone in the Nile; however, it felt much better than open admission of my insecurities. Weakness, if seen by the others would provoke a life time of ridicule. The others had shown no signs of doubt; why was I consumed by it? Perhaps it was just my age, maybe I was too young to date.

"Johnny should be back in a few minutes with the details. He's off talking to Anna and her friend Trisha right now."

With a look of amazement, I wondered how Johnny was able to walk up to a girl and gather information about dating so candidly. He didn't seem anymore skilled at this than Chad or I, but he was a very care free individual. However sometimes, he was a bit goofy. If anything, he was the anti-Joe, but his fairly good looks might have helped. Johnny was taller than average, athletic and carried a great smile; maybe that's how got their attention. He was also nice and considerate to everyone, but he was a nomad as well. I knew Johnny was a core member of the gang, but he seemed to hang out with many other groups besides us.

"What's up chicken?" said the reaper.

"How's it going Renno?" I replied with an uneasy tone. I didn't even bother to look at him.

Slamming his books on the table, Renno came crashing down next to us. "Ready to join the club, the reject club?" he remarked with a big smile.

I sat up and replied. "I'm better than that, trust me." But my confidence was wavering and the sharks smelled it too.

"Nope, your seat is reserved with us: You, me, and Ricardo."

"You’re such a dork Renno." replied Ricardo.

Then a smiling Johnny was back. "I got the news. Anna did break up with her boyfriend. But she's really bent out of shape about it; I think he cheated on her. However she might be ready to go out again. Chad you'd better get going, Trisha told me that a bunch of other guys want to go out with her."

With that, Chad started to smile.

I looked at him and didn't say a word. Neither did Chad. He knew my question, "When?" By the look in his eyes, I knew it would be soon. Crap I thought, then I'll be on the clock. Once again the plague of self doubt that rotted within me began to spread.

The rest of the day came and went in a flash. Consumed by own insecurities, I lost track of time. The night was restless and several nightmares woke me from my sleep. Like a mobster in the yakuza, I felt that my decision to eat lunch with Renno back in 9Th grade would keep be labeled as a nerd forever. I didn't know if I had the stomach to change. It was easier to stay out of the spotlight and hang out in the shadows. Asking out a girl would definitely move me to into the public view and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do that. Like most boys, I feared rejection, but what really worried me the most was the embarrassment and teasing that followed. Oh what the heck I thought, going from true nerd to a reject sounded like a better play, at least socially. I guess I'd better stick to plan “A” and ask out Alison; with that I finally slept.


It became Thursday and Chad was smiling. "I did it. I asked her out." he exclaimed.

Classes just ended and the four horsemen sat at the cafeteria table. Except this time, Johnny was there as well.

"Welcome to the club, pray tell how did you crash and burn?" inquired Renno.

"That's the thing, I didn't.", responded Chad with a big smile. "I'm going out with her this weekend!"

"Holy shit!" I yelled as I stood up from my bench; people around us were staring at me. Filled with embarrassment I quickly sat down. What the heck! I'm totally screwed!

“I can’t believe it!” added Renno in disbelief.

Ricardo didn’t say a word, but I could tell he was a bit down.

"Congratulations on being the first to escape...errr...succeed." I said with a smile.

"Thanks Mike." said Chad, "You know what, at first I was nervous when talking to her, but after a while it got easier. It’s an amazing feeling; you have to do it to understand."

Signs of despair quickly surfaced on me. Chad noticed it, so he gave me a sign of reassurance. Without speaking a word, I could tell he was saying "don't worry it will be all right."

"It's like when I made the game winning shot at Kubasaki. You just need to focus, trust yourself and do it."

"Thanks for the advice." I replied. But it reality it didn't help. I was even more scared now. Being a fourth failure I could live with, being the third, I couldn't. There's no way in the world that I was willing to join Renno’s Reject club.

"So are you ready for Alison?" asked Chad.

He was blunt and even worse, he inquired in public. My face turned red and the guys looked at me.

"Alison the cheerleader, are you crazy? For sure, you are going down like the rest of us." added Renno.

"I don't think so" I responded, but they could sense I was lying out of my teeth. But what else was I going to say, in situations like this, my ego always spoke first.

"Well if you are talking about that Alison, then don't bother. She's just started to go out with senior and he's a Panther varsity athlete. So unless you want to get rejected for sure, you’d better think of someone else." added Johnny.

Great! So much for plan “A”, at least I still had my list. It was short, but I had a backup plan. Let's see how things would go either Britney or Marielle. I still didn’t know which one would cause my doom. But I still had time, seven days. But it seemed awfully short.

"By the way; can I join your game?” inquired Johnny.

"Sure" added Ricardo. "We could always use another in our corner, 4 is better than 2."

"Don't count on that." responded Johnny. He had a wicked smile so I knew he had a plan.

"I'm not joining your reject club either, so you’ll have to find another member." I added, but no one seemed to care. Ricardo was taken aback by Johnny's bravado, Johnny seemed to be focused on something else, and Renno, well, he didn’t bother to believe me.

"So Chad, what are you going to do on your date?" inquired Johnny.

"I've got it all worked out." said Chad with a sly tone and a big smile.

We all listened intently as coach Chad gave us the winning game plan.

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