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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.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Chapter 11 - Blue Light Special

He sat there, blond hair, blue eyes and bored. Strumming his fingers through his spiky hair, he asked,”Its 8 o'clock on Saturday night and we have nothing to do. So what can we do now?”

"We can go watch a movie.” answered Brian. “Olympic is just up the street.”

"It's too late for that. The last shows at Keystone and Olympic were at 7pm, how about a game of D&D instead?" I added.

"Sounds good, but Chad, Jeff, and Ricardo are in Lester tonight.” replied Brian.

"They are probably just goofing around with a few of the video games that I just gave them from the last Commodore 64 club meeting.”

"New games, which ones? Are any like Ultima?” inquired Brian. "Ultima kicks ass."

"One, but I gave them all sorts.”

"Enough nerd talk already," exerted Bill "Why don't we go buy some vodka, orange juice and hang out at the sea wall."

"Biiiilllll, let's go to the sea wall.” replied Todd.

"Alright Bill, let’s go," said Ted. "Mike you are such a nerd."

Feeling a small fire raging inside me, I replied with vigor, "I'm not a nerd just because I play computer games you bonehead. Let’s go play some ball and I'll kick your ass."

"Mike you're still a nerd, let's find a court and I'll kick your ass." replied Albert.

Albert was waiting for this chance. I don't know why we always ended up this way, but somehow he'd find a way to piss me off.

"Like that’s going to happen," I bellowed, "Now where can find a lit court around here?”

"I'm going for a scholarship", rejoiced Bill as he began to swing his arms in a circular motion performing his all too familiar championship dance.

"I’m fine with basketball." said Tony. "I finally got a night out with you guys, so we need do something."

"Kadena is not my turf bro." replied Arman. "Johnny, where on Kadena can shoot hoops at night?"

Johnny responded, "I think there might be one by the rec center, next to the tennis courts."

Joe suddenly shouted, "Let's go banner raiding instead! I need a few more banners."

"That sounds good, let's do that.” replied Johnny he had eagerness in his voice.

"Joe, let's go." said Ted.

"Do you really need more banners?" I added sarcastically.

We were all in Joe’s room. It was a small room, but somehow, it managed to fit the gang. Most of the bedrooms on Kadena had small rooms, especially the two story duplexes. The walls were white but barely visible. Other than a single hot chick poster, store banners lined the walls; most were inscribed with Japanese characters. A myriad of colors and Kanji sprawled the banners and some with a few English words as well. A red and white banner with a black racing car covered Joe's door. All were taken from stores around Okinawa; most were taken by us.

On the floor was a box, it was packed full of banners Joe couldn't fit on the wall. "He needs a bigger room," I said to myself as I snickered.

"So genius, do you have a better idea." snapped Joe.

"No." I said with a glum look. "I already gave my two cents."

"Your opinions are worth two cents, noted." jabbed Brian.

Most of us let out a short laugh, but Johnny and Bill were serious about finding something to do. Bill was looking for any reason to get some alcohol and go to the sea wall. And Johnny, well he looked like the Thinker. He sat on a chair with his elbow on his thigh and his chin in one hand. He had been contemplating something for a while, and now he had a devilish smile. "Now what was Johnny up too?" I wondered.

"How about a treasure hunt?” said Johnny?

"What?" echoed a few voices.

“Lame,” added a few more voices.

Hmm. A treasure hunt that sounded interesting.

"I saw a movie once where you run around collecting things on a list." I said.

Now what was the name of that movie? I'm sure Tony would know it, he was always good a remembering the name of any movie we saw.

"Sounds fun," I added. “We could run around like the movie.”

“What movie?” asked Brian?

"Mike stop being gay." remarked Ted.

I smiled at Ted and gave him the finger.

"Yeah." echoed Bert. "That sounds stupid."

"It's not, trust me it will be fun." answered Johnny.

Johnny seemed invigorated. I think he was hell bent on doing this. He was smiling and I could sense he was holding something back.

"Did I mention the most important part? You can't buy any of the items on the list."

"Five finger discounts. OK I'm in." replied Joe.

And just like that, the lemmings began to jump off the cliff.

"Me too," replied Bill.

"I’m in too," replied Ted.

"Yeah, we make lists, split up into groups and go looking for the same things. In a few hours we get back together to see who has the most items. Obviously, at least one banner is on the list." added Johnny.

Like clockwork everyone else agreed, except for me. I didn't feel like stealing anything, I only did that only once in my entire life and I still regret doing it. As penance for my crime, I hung my shame on my bedroom wall. It was a constant reminder of my foolishness. However, I didn't feel like being the odd man out. I knew everyone was looking at me to hear my answer; however I knew it really didn’t matter since they were going to do it anyways.

"Come on Mikey. Don't let us down. It’s all good." said Arman with a smile.

How can I do this without stealing anything? I had to think quickly, and then I figured it out. The trick was to work around the "don't buy it" rule. If someone already owned it...hmm.

"OK, I'm in," I responded.

We all went downstairs to the typical meeting area, Joe's dining room. Most of us sat on the chairs surrounding Joe's wooden dining room table, the rest stood by or leaned on the walls.

"Joe do you have a pen and paper?" Inquired Johnny "I need to make the lists."

"Fine. I'll get it." replied Joe. “Kate! We need a pen and some paper!”

Begrudgingly Joe’s sister went to get the pen and paper.

Like eager koi waiting to be fed, we gathered around Johnny waiting for the list to emerge. It didn't take long to make the list as everyone contributed to the items in question. The list included a matching set of banners, a traffic sign, some food, an emergency light, and some other odd things. Then we split up into 3 teams. The squads were formed and I was off with Johnny, Brian, and Arman. All of us decided to meet in 2 hours.

As we began our trek, we that noticed that the other teams ran to their cars. However we continued our leisurely stroll to Johnny's green machine.

Johnny said. "I'm glad your brother is here tonight, we hardly get to see him these days."

"His girlfriend finally gave him a night off," I responded.

"He should make more time for us," added Johnny.

Seeing the opening, I raised my voice and said, "He should, but he's got a girlfriend so he's too busy for us."

"That's because he's just pussy whipped!" shouted Joe from the other car.

"Pussy whipped!" echoed Bill.

"Pussy whipped!" echoed Ted.

"Shut up!" yelled Tony. "Most of you don't know what that means anyways. Other than Joe, you’re all a bunch of virgins!"

For a few moments, silence was in the air.

Then we all started to laugh, even though I really had no idea what that phrase meant.

"Pussy whipped!" yelled Bill

"Pussy whipped!" yelled the choir.

"Shut up!" yelled my brother as he got into Joe's car.

The laughing, yelling and prodding continued as the other cars drove off.

When we reached Johnny's car, he exclaimed "It's time for some music!"

He popped in the tape and Judas Priest was brought to life.

I looked at Johnny and said, "If possible can we try not to steal anything tonight?”

Johnny didn't look too thrilled, but he still had a smile.

"Fine, but we might not be able to win." he replied.

"Who needs to win, it should be good enough just to do something exciting tonight." I replied.

"Shotgun!” yelled Arman as he jumped into the front seat.

"Dude. But don't you have to touch the car first." shouted Brian.

"Nope," answered Arman "But if it makes you feel better, I did anyways."

"Crap!" replied Brian.

We all got in Johnny's car and the race was on.


Three hours later, we came back with quite a few items, none stolen; correction, freshly stolen. Since the matching set of banners came from Johnny closet. Joe's crew on the other hand had very questionable material on the table. Like a stop sign! Where the hell did they get that; now that was trouble? Don't ask, don't tell I thought. So I didn't ask.

However, Bill being Bill decided to explain their escapades anyways. But we all failed on one item, the emergency light. However, the gang wasn’t ready to give up on it.

"I want it." said Joe with a stern look of conviction.

"It's at a Japanese police station." replied Bill with a voice of concern.

"So what, I can still get it." shouted Joe.

There was no hesitation in his voice. Joe's mind was made up; he was going to do it. I could see the glimmer in his eyes and the smirk of decadence on his face; the hairs on my arms started to rise, I knew bad news was coming. I didn't like the sound of this; I'd better find out what they were scheming.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"An emergency light, a police light and a blue one at that." said Joe. "You know like the flashing red lights that the undercover cops use in their cars."

Stunned I retorted, "Are you crazy?"

"Crazy enough to do it." replied Joe.

"You're gonna get arrested." I said.

"Only if they catch me." said Joe.

"Only if they catch us.'" add Tony.

I knew Tony was looking to have a lot of fun tonight, since he hardly ever gets time to hang out with the guys. Still, I looked at my brother in shock. No words could explain the level of disapproval passing through my head.

"Yeah." added Bill.

Ted and Toddd were smiling.

Suddenly, I got this bad feeling that something terrible was about to happen. And it did. Somehow, someway, we all found the challenge very intriguing; so most of us decided to go for it.

Ron and Brian had to leave, it was close to midnight and their curfews were coming up. But for the rest of us, curiosity drove our bravado; we wanted to know if it could be done. For me, if my brother got involved into something this stupid, I'd better make sure we could get out of it. On the plus side, seeing Joe and Bill running from the Japanese Police would be worth all the time and effort. So we all went down to Gate one; to the Japanese police station that held our treasure.


It was just past the witching hour; the air was cool, the stars were out and so were the gremlins. Most of the lights in the neighbor were off, but I could see the apple in the Garden of Ede, an especially bright blue apple. We were in Su-na-be and the blue emergency light could be seen down the street. It was perched on a five foot high wall next to one of the station entrances. The gang was sitting on a street corner a block away, planning the next move.

“Let's do this. Johnny, Tony and Bill you go with me to the wall. I have the wire cutters,” said Joe.

"OK," replied Bill.

“OK,” replied Tony.

“I’ll watch the station, but Joe, we have to be fast," replied Johnny.

Johnny seemed awfully nervous. I got the feeling he thought we wouldn’t go through with it, but now I think he realized there was no going back.

"The rest of you guys, just spread out and let us know if you see anything that we need to run from." said Joe.

"You know, I still think this is crazy." I said.

Joe looked at me and smiled. Unbelievably my fear went away. Joe seemed to shine in these moments. Planning and strategizing for the whole gang; he was always a very effective leader in times of crisis and I was always impressed when he did this. Too bad most of his ability bore fruit in mischievous activities.

The gang never had an official leader, but if I had to pick one, it would be Joe. During these times, we all looked up to him for advice. His charisma easily overwhelmed us and our hearts began to pump vigorously as we began to believe in the impossible.

We all agreed with Joe's plan. We had every street, nook, and cranny covered. We all gave two thumbs up and operation blue light special was underway. Fortunately for me, I agreed to take the outpost down the street where it was just about impossible to see the action and far enough to get away easily. Better off not seeing it, I thought.

Two minutes into the action, make that two long minutes into the plan, I got bored. So I drifted down from my street position to take a peek.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Johnny stood at the opening peeking at the station door, but two thieves were swaying back and forth in the air as they wrestled the beast. Joe and Tony were sitting on top of the wall straddling both sides of the light trying to break it free. Let me clarify that again; ON TOP of the wall and in PLAIN sight! It felt surreal, like living a scene from the movie Urban Cowboy. Except this time, there were two riders on the bull, a few spectators in the audience, and two rodeo clowns holding onto the riders' legs. Bill and Ted were doing their best to keep Joe and Tony on the wall.

I could have been shocked at the blatant disregard for the Japanese police, but the scene was just too hysterical. Bronco busting rodeo clowns I said to myself as I began to die from an uncontrollable laughter.

Painfully holding back from laughing out loud, I quietly yelled "What the hell are you guys doing?"

"Hurry up!" yelled a rattled Johnny.

Joe and Tony were still wrestling with the light.

"Its stuck." remarked Joe. "Mike, get over here and help us pull on this so we can break it off."

"Hell no, you guys are insane. We are going to get caught!" I responded.

"Joe hand me the wire cutters! I think I can get it from this end." demanded Tony.

The wire cutter changed hand. Slowly the light started to budge, but only a little. Then the cherry landed on top and the sundae was complete. Tony jumped off the wall, grabbed the light, put his feet square on the wall and pulled with all his might. Bill held firm, Joe pushed with all his strength and finally it broke off. Humpy Dumpty did his thing and the thieves came crashing to the street, except for the trapeze artist. Joe carried a big grin and simply jumped off the wall.

Like mice in a barn when the farmer came a visit'n, everyone scurried in every direction possible. I ran and ran and ran and ran. To where, I didn't care, just wanted to get away from this place.

I finally found my hiding spot close to a set of vending machine next to the sea wall. It seemed like an hour later when the pounding heartbeat began to leave my ears. Regaining some senses, I noticed that the vending machine sold my favorite drink. I reached in my pocket and found two coins. Ni-hya-ku-yen, thank god, just enough to buy some tsu-bu tsu-bu. So I bought it, drank it, and boy did it feel refreshing; nothing quite sooths a restless body like the sweet taste of cold pulped orange juice.

The sounds of the ocean beckoned to me and I slowly walked to the sea wall. The night sky was black, but a beacon of grayness that was the wall paved my way though the darkness. I followed the concrete steps and stood at the wall looking towards the sea beyond. A hundred feet away, a lone street light provided the glimmer that danced off the incoming waves. The echos of crashing waves were comforting, as if mother nature herself was soothing me with her tireless lullaby. I jumped off on the wall and on to a jack. The wall was full of them, giant concrete jacks lined the barrier; the jacks were used to break up the waves but also provided a whimsical beauty to otherwise ugly wall. I leaned back and lay on the jack. Though hard, it was comfortable and I could easily see the stars above.

"Mikey there you are." said a reassuring voice. In an instant, I knew who it was. I never understood it, but he was always the cool cat. He was never nervous or in doubt under any situation; I was sure that he didn't even break a sweat; unlike me, he probably just walked away from the scene. He was the group’s implicit Zen master.

I asked, "Hey Arman, are the police still looking for us?"

"No worries baby, I got your six."

More relaxed I asked, "Did anyone get caught?"

"I don't think so, but you’re the first one I’ve found." replied Arman. "I don't think the JPs knew what happened. By the way, got any change?"

I tossed him my last coin. He said thanks and bought a drink.

I got off the wall and we continued to walk around Su-na-be for the next 30 minutes until we met up with some of the gang, including Joe, his big smile, and his blue light. The missing thieves must have "little piggyed it" out of here and ran all the way home.

After regrouping at the sea wall, we began our journey back to the main gate. On our way, we walked passed everyone's favorite video store; it specialized in selling cheap illegally copied movies that everyone watched. From the second story, it sat high above the street; I felt as if it was looking down on us passing judgment. "Hypocrite,” I said to myself, smiled, and enjoyed the irony of the situation.

I turned towards Arman and said, "I think I'll have to buy a movie tomorrow."

"Which one," asked Arman?

"It doesn't matter. I just need a too." I replied.

We arrived at the crossing. We stood next to the used car dealership at the traffic light that was opposite Gate One. Though past midnight, cars still zoomed by and the gate guard was busy.

My brother and I gave our salutations to the gang and proceeded home. We still lived in Su-na-be, so we just needed to walk 3 blocks to find our beds.

"You know you're crazy," I said to my brother. "and you are lucky you didn't end up in jail tonight."

Un-phased, he just smiled and said, "Come on Mike, you have to admit it was pretty fun."

"Yeah, but what we did was crazy. This is the stuff of legends; I can't believe we pulled it off. No one will ever believe us."

Tony started to laugh out loud.

"Who cares if people believe us or not; it doesn't change the fact that we did it. But you are right about one thing, my girl will never believe me."

I shook my head in disbelief and smiled at him. He didn't listen to a single word I said, but it didn't matter. He was right, tonight was fun; extremely stupid, extremely dangerous, but extremely fun as well.

A few blocks from my house the rodeo scene kept on creeping back into my mind and I couldn't stop laughing. Stupid kids! How the hell did so many American kids, making so much noise in the middle of the night, not get caught by the Japanese Police? Luck must be on our side. But then again, luck was always on my side. I smiled and continued to laugh out loud.

Dumb-ass events like this peppered my sophomore memories. But to its credit, stupid things like this did help to shape my character and got me to realize my limits on what peer pressure could make me do. They say that stupidity knows no bounds, which is true, but after tonight I knew mine. Luckily, outside of my gang, no one in school knew this side of me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

10 - Now On Deck

Monday came and I was ready for school. It was a restless weekend since the gang was a bit too active. Johnny's insane treasure hunt ran us wild on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon was all baseball; no wonder I felt so tired. I began to wonder how everyone else was holding up.

The monotony of classes seemed like the only place where I could find time to relax. At least I knew I wouldn't be spending the time running amuck and driving to who knows where in Okinawa. That felt reassuring. School was easy for me, as minimum effort usually turned into an A. Paying attention during class, well that's another story. My mind always tended to wander about, my notebooks usually had more drawings than words. Reading breaks typically turned into daydreaming sessions. On most days, I wished my desk came with a pillow. If I didn't figure out what teachers expected from their students, especially on exams; I would probably fall behind. I never really felt challenged in class. Luckily for me, school wasn't just useful for education; it also became the best place to get some rest.

I stood in one the major arteries of the school. As I looked down the hallway, I noticed the darker trim that ran above the pale yellow walls. A royal procession of tin soldiers constantly stood at attention on the floor; steel brown lockers lined both sides of the walls. This is where the sophomores herded; a pit stop between the lunch room and the photography lab.

In the middle of the hallway was my locker; it was on the second level of a set of double stacked lockers. It was a good locker to have since it was clear of graffiti, in reasonably good shape and only a stone’s throw from the junior’s lockers, where the gang collected.

Class just ended and I was at my locker collecting my notebook for the next class.

"One to go and then lunch; good, I need some food", I said to myself.

Smack was the sound that greeted me, as searing white pain began to infest my right shoulder. Though numb, I could still felt the presence of a large hand. A hand that I knew very well, I instantly understood who stood next me.

As I turned to see the demon; a loud voice boomed. "So kiddy, who are you going to ask? Or are you going to chicken out?"

"I'm not a chicken, plus it's not my turn Renno. I'm also not a reject like you." I replied with a smile.

Surprisingly Renno had a small grin. A tit for tat I thought, but something didn't seem right. His grin did not vanish. Suddenly, it dawned on me, the reality of the bet. Chad was at bat and I'm on deck! The depth of my ordeal set in; my face grew white, my smile vanished, and fear became my companion.

Renno was smiling now. This battle was over and he was the victor. He didn't say another word as he waved good bye and left for his next class.

The butterflies were back and there was no net to be found. Fumbling through my locker I managed to collect the rest of my things. I let out a sigh of despair and headed for class. As I navigated the hallways, I finally arrived at my class, but the big questions still lingered; who was I going to ask out?


I entered the classroom and noticed a few friendly faces. Conversations were rampant, but the room was silent to me. Outside of vision, my insecurities consumed the rest of my senses. Feeling that there was no easy salvation to my plight, I sat down, crossed my arms on my desk, and plopped my head down on my arms.

Suddenly the girl who sat in front of my desk turned around.

"What's wrong Mike? You don't look happy. What's wrong?"

Her name was Penni; Penelope to be more exact. But she liked to be called Penni, just like I preferred to be called Mike by my friends. She was about my height with brown frizzy hair and hazel eyes. Her complexion was fair and she carried a slender build. She was usually very energetic and always seemed to be in a good mood.

With my head still resting on my arms, I managed to say, "I'm fine Penni. I just have a lot on my mind."

"Are you ok, Mike?" came another soft spoken voice from my left.

As I turned my head, I noticed the long brown curls of her hair that covered a never ending smile. She was a tall girl; definitely taller than me. Though her height could easily come into mind first, it never did. She was half Japanese like me, but it was the softness of her voice and the glimmer in her brown eyes was what I noticed first. Her presence always brought a serene calmness to me. I didn't know what it was about her, but I always enjoyed talking to her.

"I'm alright Sara; I'm just a bit under the weather today."

"I don't like it when you look like this, so please, cheer up." she said with a smile.

“Thanks” I replied; it felt refreshing.

I picked up my head and looked at Penni, "I heard you bowled a 200 on Saturday, that's amazing. I've never done that before, but Ron and my brother do it every once and a while."

"Actually it was a 236, I've bowl over 200 plenty of times too." Penni replied with a grin.

"Oh master, you're so wonderful, maybe you can teach me your secrets," as I answered sarcastically with a bow.

Sara smiled, Penni started to laugh and so did I. It was always fun to joke around with my classmates.

Still giggling she said, "But if want, I can give you a few pointers. And if you’re really nice to me I’ll tell you secrets".

Suddenly a large collection of Menudo notebooks went crashing onto the desk to my right.

The three of us quickly turned towards the commotion.

"Mike, what happened this weekend? I heard some of your friends laughing out loud about a Japanese police station and a blue light" exclaimed Zoey!

Who was this girl? The SPs? A spy? Neither, she was just an overly inquisitive Menudo fan. Hmm...a Menudo spy girl. I started to picture Zoey in a spy outfit plastered with Menudo pictures. What a silly concept, but I could hear my imagination starting to giggle.

"Oh that, it's just a crazy treasure hunt we went on in the middle of the night. It's all Johnny's fault and the light was just the pinnacle of stupidity. Let me tell you all about it." I replied.

"I always thought you were a good boy. Mike are you really a bad boy?" said Penni.

With the face of an angel, I replied "No not me. Just my friends, I'm really a good boy."

But I could feel the horns starting to poke out of my head; feeling a little guilty I couldn't look Sara in the eye.

Suddenly an all too familiar voice entered the classroom, my eyes widened as I looked towards the source.

There were two girls at the door. One had long black hair and her complexion reminded me of a beautiful white sand beach; the other was an all too familiar face. Gwen was was talking to Marielle and both were headed this way.

Marielle said "hi," but I was at a loss for words. It felt odd since I usually spoke to her candidly. But something kept me speechless; then I remembered it, she was on my list and I had yet to take my turn. Realizing my petrified state, I awoke from my hypnosis. Hopefully no one noticed.

Luckily, talking to Penni was Marielle's top priority and I was allowed to swallow any exposure to my plight.

Further feelings of uneasiness slipped away after the girls dove into their conversation. Realizing that hiding was better than gawking at Marielle, I decided to lay my head back on my desk.

Moments later the teacher said, "Good morning class, today we will be discussing the effect of the printed word on humanity."

We all looked towards the teacher and class began.

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