I sloshed through the door, glitter wafting out of my hair with each step. I ignored the sparkles, though they’d likely fall in the carpet and make mom angry. I shut the door behind me with one last shiver.
Said mother sat at the dining room table, sifting through the mail. I dropped my backpack and pulled off my damp shoes. They were going to smell if I didn’t dry them soon. At the moment I didn’t care. They were cold, wet, and covered in pink glitter. They deserved to smell.
I took that thought back when I realized it perfectly described me.
“How was school Sam?” Mom asked without looking up.
I shed my coat and hugged myself as I wandered into the dining room, searching for a vent. The middle of February wasn’t the best time to take a stroll outside in wet socks. They must be frozen to my feet by now.
“It was great mom.” I said, my voice edged with more than a little sarcasm. I found the vent and stood over it. My feet prickled as feeling flooded back.
“Quit with the sarcasm and tell me how….” Mom finally looked up. I lifted my arms so she could see the full extent of the mess that equaled me.
“I know. I look like I stood in front of a leaf blower loaded with glitter.” I said.
“You know that friend of mine? James? I hate him.” I leaned on the table and started peeling off my socks. Mom crossed her arms.
“Alright, out with it. What happened?”
I glanced up and opened my mouth.
“Start at the beginning,” She said.
“Come on Sam,” James pleaded.
I heaved my backpack over my shoulder, shaking my head. Why I’d chosen James as my friend I don’t know. The senior was like an old puzzle; he was a few pieces short of a complete picture.
“No. It’s your fault you left your phone in the gym. I have a life. I’m not your runner,” I said. Drama students edged around us, gabbing as they squeezed into the auditorium.
“Please?! Mr. Johnson will give me a tardy! Five gets you kicked out! I already have four!”
“And whose fault is that?” I asked. I sounded a bit cruel, I know, but I doubted Mr. Johnson would kick James out of drama. He was the lead role, after all. Everyone knew James had the best voice in school, though his acting skills could leave you yawning. He’d always had specific talents like singing and begging his parents for money, whereas I’d always been the average Joe. I wasn’t athletic enough to make any sport team, couldn’t play a single instrument in band, and even if I could, had stage fright so bad I’d blacked out giving a speech in third grade. I wasn’t smart enough to be a geek, either. I was in that in-between realm where I could pull off a B in chemistry but, as it turned out, was still stupid enough to cave in to James.
“He’ll probably throw me in a detention, just for fun. If I don’t text my mom about the unscheduled practice she’ll ground me!”
“Because the last time you were late from school it was because you drove over a fire hydrant. Again, not my fault.”
“She worries for no reason. Could you please get it for me? For your friend? It will take you five minutes,” James said.
I rolled my eyes up, caught a stain on the ceiling, and stared at it. It was shaped like a hippo.
James was right. It would only take me a few minutes, and he was my friend. Besides, what was so pressing? It wasn’t like I had a date or something.
Now that just made me sad. You didn’t have to remind me of that, Sam. Now I was talking to myself in third person. I was going crazy.
“Fine. I’ll get your stupid phone,” I said.
“Thanks man.” James’s face split into a smile.
“Are you coming James?” Someone called.
“Gotta go.” James turned to join the thinning stream of students.
“I don’t know why I help you,” I murmured. I watched James enter the auditorium before heading toward the gym. I had a long way to go.
I trudged through the halls, passed a few classes that were still in session, and then cut through the pool area. I edged around the puddles, trying to keep my shoes dry. The swim coaches’ whistle echoed off the walls. The swimmers launched off their platforms into the water, powerful strokes propelling them forward. I watched them for a moment before stepping through the door into yet another hallway. The gym entrance was just around the corner. I jogged into the next hallway.
I jerked to a stop, tiptoed backward, and hid behind the corner. I hesitantly peeked around it.
Three boys stood on the other side of the gym door, talking about heaven knew what the principle wouldn’t approve of. Their names were Dylan, Levi, and King, though I fondly called them Shorty, Beanpole, and His Ugliness. They’d met me last quarter and have been after my life ever since.
Not really, but that’s what it felt like. Some people just don’t know how to relax. I edged back. I’d have to detour down a few extra halls, but it was better than having a chat with the S.B.U. gang. I retreated and eventually found the gyms other entrance.
Basketball practice had yet to start so I was alone. I stepped onto the court, shot an invisible basketball into the hoop, then made my way over to the bleachers. James had said his phone was on the home side, right?
A bench covered with an assortment of coats and bags begged for my attention. James’ black jacket sat crumpled in the middle.
I rifled through its’ pockets. Nothing. Did James leave his phone lying around? As if a brand new iPhone 7 didn’t shout ‘Steal me!’ enough already. I continued searching the jacket and the jackets around it. Where was it? I glanced further up the bleacher. A foot away lay a white iPhone, face down like a fallen angel. Aha! I snatched it up. I found you my precious.
“Hey Sam,” A voice said.
I whirled around, instinctively hiding the iPhone behind my back. Brittany stood at the other end of the bleacher, a smile that looked like a forced apology plastered on her face.
Oh no. Whenever Brittany showed up, I managed to fail ten times harder than I usually did. In middle school we’d been friends, but she was much prettier now. With her black hair and magazine worthy complexion she was enough to make any guy as awkward as a three-legged fawn. She’d been at my 16th birthday last month and it hadn’t ended well.
Fire was involved.
I too, plastered on a smile. Keep it cool, Sam. You can do this. Nothing would catch fire other than my cheeks, which were already burning.
She gave me that flickering smile and leaned sideways, trying to see behind me. “Um, why do you have my phone?” She asked.
Snap. I’d grabbed the wrong phone.
“Oh this is yours?” I pulled the phone from behind my back and clicked it on. Some guy, probably her boyfriend, stared back. I handed it over before I could recognize him.
“Sorry,” I said. Brittany took her phone and pocketed it, eyeing me warily.
Alright Sam, now say something cool to make up for it.
“So…was that your boyfriend?” I motioned toward her phone.
Why did I ask that? What was wrong with me? I’d practically admitted I liked her. Epic failure number one.
Her perfectly plucked eyebrows drooped. “Um, no. That’s my little sister, Sophie.”
Epic fail number two.
“Oh good,” I said, trying to recover.
SHUT UP SAM! Now you’ve flat out told her you’re crushing on her. Why don’t you tell her you stalk her Instagram while you’re at it?
“I mean, sorry that’s not what I… I thought I saw a manly face so I just assumed…” I stuttered.
I couldn’t believe I was messing up this badly. Brittney’s frown deepened with every word I said. I might as well kick her dog and punch her in the face the way I was going.
“Excuse me?” She said.
“I’m sorry for…existing. I’ve got to go.” I spotted another iPhone a bench higher and grabbed it, clicking it on. Some brunette smiled in the background. So James did have another girlfriend.
I headed toward the nearest door at a jog. Sometimes I wondered if you looked up “stupidity” on the internet my face would appear in the definition.
I glanced back once I reached the door. Brittney’s phone was now in her hand. Blue light reflected off her face as she turned it on. She suddenly looked up at me.
Oh no. she couldn’t catch me awkwardly staring. I shoved open the door.
“Sam, wait, you have…” The door swung shut, cutting off her words. I leaned against it. Phew. I’d made it out alive.
“If it isn’t Samuel Jones,” Said a voice.
Scratch that, I was still in danger. I’d picked the wrong door.
I slowly turned toward King (His Ugliness) and his gang. “What…?” I stuttered. “This isn’t Sam… it’s his clone,” I said robotically. “….um….Sam two point O.” I took a step back.
King crossed his muscular arms. The reason I called him His Ugliness was because he was the opposite. King was one of the better known kids and he worked hard to keep up an image; his shinning teeth had never suffered braces and he kept his sun colored hair perfectly combed. His skin was so flawless I wouldn’t be surprised if he used makeup.
His two buddies, Dylan (Shorty), and Levi (Beanpole), stood by his side, the tyrants constant companions. I wished weren’t so loyal. King treated them like a rock stuck between the ridges of his Converse. They also did whatever King wanted, and since King liked to bother me, his commands generally involved pushing me to the edge. As his nickname hinted, Dylan was quite short; the top of his head didn’t even reach my chin. His large eyes hid behind classy glasses and a bowtie clung to his collar; he was a miniature version of every other hip millennial, skinny jeans included. Levi, as his nickname also hinted, was as tall and skinny as a starving Giraffe. He leaned toward the skate boarder look with the backward snapback and the dreadlocks.
Yes, I just stereotyped them for you. You’re welcome.
“What’cha doing Sam?” King asked, swaggering forward.
I took another step back. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to turn tail and run.
“Retrieving a friend’s phone,” I said warily.
“Really? Must be James’s phone then. You know I could get it to him for you,” King said.
Mental note: never speak again.
“Sure you would,” I said. I continued backing up. I was almost at the corner.
“You don’t trust me?” King said. His strides were longer than mine; a few more steps and he’d be within arm’s reach. If it came to a fight he and his buddies would have James’s phone before I could say snap.
“Does a platypus trust a hippo?” I asked.
King stopped. “What?”
“I don’t know either,” I said. Then I dashed around the corner and made for pool room.
I threw open the door, hating the second it cost me. Either I was the Flash or they were still confused about the platypus and hippo thing because they didn’t follow right away.
I fled into the pool area. Practice was still in session, but this time I didn’t watch the swimmers. I sped along the edge of the pool, taking the shortest path toward the exit. I was slightly preoccupied and failed to remember that when swimmers swim, they splash. Splashing means water outside the pool. Water is slippery.
I leaned to turn the pool corner. My feet flew out from under me. Thanks to my tilting body, I didn’t fall straight back, but sideways, right into the pool.
If you liked what you read, feel free to comment and share! I’ll see you next week with the second half of Doom, Glitter, and IPhones (A Sam Short Story).
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Gabrielle R. Pollack (A.K.A. the Great Rising Puzzlement)