Thursday, August 07, 2008

Here’s looking at you, Kiddo.

In addition, I’d get to hang out with the half-dozen or so members of my clique on a daily basis. After befriending Mega Man in sixth grade, he’d introduced me to some friends of his whose lives revolved around sports and video games. Going into my third year with them, I could finally take it for granted that I had a group of friends!

I carried my excitement about eighth grade right up until third period of that first day – then I entered the orchestra classroom. As soon as I sat down, my eyes went for the all too familiar wall clock. It was time for another one of the longest 45 minute sessions in the history of the universe…

As it turned out, Mrs. Krabappel was overwhelmed with administrative tasks and she actually told us that we could talk quietly while she sorted everything out. I wandered over to Koopa Troopa. “Hey Koopa,” I said.

Koopa was too busy talking to some girl to acknowledge me.

“Hey, aren’t you Debacle?” asked the girl.

“Yeah,” I said to this unfamiliar petite girl with bleach blonde hair.

“I’m Kiddo,” she said. “We were in the same summer orchestra a few years ago.”

“Oh yeah! I remember you,” I lied.

“That’s two people I know now,” she said, high fiving Koopa.

Kiddo was new to school and seemed very friendly – This had a lot of potential! Still, I knew better than to get too excited. She could be a red-herring. “Why did you switch schools?” I asked.

“I live on the boundary and I needed a change.”

“What grade are you in?”


“Ease up on the third degree there, Holmes,” said Koopa.

What? Had I overdone it with the questions? Regardless, I’d found out what I needed – Kiddo was the girl I’d waited almost 13 years for!

While Kiddo stood an inch or two south of five feet with a few large moles on her cheeks, I wasn’t looking for a future wife who looked like she belonged next to Kathy Ireland in the K-mart ads. Excitement danced through her bright blue eyes and warmth exuded from her deep laughter. Our hero couldn’t wait to caress her soft cheeks and say, Here’s looking at you, Kiddo. I had a feeling I’d be repeating that phrase a lot this year. Brushing the rim of my imaginary fedora, I joined her conversation with Koopa.

Kiddo was complaining about the orchestra teacher at her old middle school. Apparently he made you stay after school if you were late to class – even by a minute. If you weren’t one of his favorite students, he’d give you a C if you failed to practice at least a half hour each day.

“What a jerk,” I contributed.

“Actually, you know him,” said Kiddo. “He taught summer orchestra.”

Really? I’d always thought he was a kindly older man with a good sense of humor. However, if

Kiddo wasn’t a fan, I would not disappoint. It was time for my first stoic Bogart-like lie: “He’s so old and boring. I was scared I’d fall asleep during class and wake up to find him shriveled up into a raisin.”

She burst into laughter. I could feel a tiny smirk of success cross my lips, but I did my best to suppress it. Humphrey Bogart would never laugh at his own jokes.

Once Mrs. Krabappel took care of the paperwork she’d been futzing with, the last twenty minutes of class flew by. Whenever I got bored, I glanced over at Kiddo and imagined her long hair flowing in slow motion while she played her violin. Never before had I met anyone capable of combating the oppressive doldrums that made up each orchestra class. Even though I’d known the girl of my dreams for less than hour, her existence had already exceeded my expectations.

Kiddo’s laughter at my brilliant raisin comment had me smiling the rest of the day. It turned out that we had three classes together: algebra, orchestra and gym. To think, I’d spent first period in algebra and completely missed Kiddo. The girl of my dreams had been well camouflaged.

After that first orchestra class, we were already on a hello-in-the hallway basis – by far my greatest accomplishment ever with the ladies! In another week or so, we’d be ready for our song and a piano player named Sam.

What a start!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My life in front of a firing squad

During gym, I took my usual seat on the bleachers next to Kiddo, Koopa and Mega Man. On any other day, I would’ve attempted to think up a funny anecdote to add to their conversation. However, I wasn’t sure how to act around Kiddo. Had Greedo spoken with her yet? Did she confess her feelings for our hero? What if Greedo forgot or if Kiddo refused to tell Greedo who she liked? I needed to relax. Everything was guaranteed to work out – this was the day that the basketball had chosen.

During our lunch touch football game, I was so distracted that I dropped two perfect passes thrown by Mega Man. After the second one, he tried to trade me to the other team. Ugh, there was still no sign of Greedo.

After lunch, I opened my locker to put away my mud-stained jacket and grabbed my black L.L. Bean backpack overstuffed with books and loose papers. Before I could get my hand into the strap, Greedo tapped me on the shoulder.

“I spoke to Kiddo,” he said.

“Oh!?!” I exclaimed, dropping my backpack to the floor. His face conveyed neither excitement nor disappointment. Why would it? He was only a mercenary.

“She wouldn’t tell me who she liked, but it isn’t you.”

A dizzy spell came over me and I braced myself against my neighbor’s locker. Wait a second, this didn’t make sense. “How do you know it isn’t me? You weren’t supposed to tell her that I sent you.”

“Because she asked if you put me up to this. She just wants to be friends.”

How was this possible!?! I hadn’t mentioned my feelings for Kiddo to anyone else. “But—”

“She said that your face turns red whenever you talk to her.”

“Oh.” I clenched my jaw.

This wasn’t fair. My pasty complexion had undermined my Bogart-like stoicism. If I had been running Rick’s bar in wartime Casablanca, I would’ve blushed and ruined everything. Instead of walking off into the sunset with Louis to begin a beautiful friendship, the movie would’ve ended with The Nazis in possession of the transit papers while I begged for my life in front of a firing squad.