Stealing feels great when you’re doing it. There’s a rush, the kick of adrenaline and the cold sweat as you slip the new camera into your pocket. When you’ve escaped the high sensitivity store and are finally free to breathe in the fresh air outside, new favorite thing in your pocket, you start to plan your next attack. You’ll never have to buy anything again! You’re so smooth. Maybe you could even quit your job and just lay around watching pirated movies all day that you bought cheap from your buddy over in apartment 2B.
Even better, that mechanic guy that you met in the shady gas station a couple of months back says he can fix up your piece of shit car for a couple hundred bucks. He has a 1995 Corvette. It’s purple with a black interior, cleaned and buffed enough to blind the sun. Who wouldn’t trust their car with a man like that? Of course, you know he stole the parts that keep his car running and you know he murdered his wife last year when he drank too much. That’s okay though, as long as your service is done quickly . . . you didn’t have anything to do with that poor dead woman. That blood was on his hands, not yours. The murder was unsolved but as long as you didn’t testify what he confessed to you while he was smashed, your car would be a shiny new penny in no time.
Abbadon is where death consumes and life revives. A place where living on earth is a seductive dream and spending an eternity burning seems like a real possibility. It’s where the almost shitty people are stuck after they die. Maybe you saw someone get stabbed and did nothing. Well, newsflash, you kinda suck.
Living as a human is a gift, not a right. The souls are in limbo because they’ve stolen, cheated, and lied. Not left to rot, but left to sit and think about what they’ve done, what they could’ve done differently. To atone for these wrongs, these bodiless beings must sit and watch the earth waiting for a human to need assistance or help. From afar, they must try their best to fix their mistakes by making that fallen tree branch that’s about to spear through Nelson Wittle’s windshield and straight through his chest fly into the grass instead, leaving Nelson to think “Wow, that was a close one.” He then continues on his way to work, shaken. This is the job of the abdonians, to keep the earth safe until they can move on to the next dimension.
I walked into the locker room already bored out of my mind, wishing we would stop studying basketball. It’s gym class, you’re supposed to play basketball, not study it. I didn’t mind playing. I wasn’t the best but it was way better than sticking my nose into old, sweaty research papers about it. Our gym teacher didn’t want to waste the limited prints the principal allotted and would just hand the same information sheets out year after year. My dad went to my school back in the day and swears he got the same papers. Maybe even my grandpa had them! Okay, they probably weren’t that old. I contemplated this and walked into the locker room covered with baby blue and yellow tile. It was supposed to be gold, but tile that resembled gold was too expensive for our school’s budget. More evidence of this was the shared shower. Only two of the heads in the giant circle worked. The other three were clogged with gum. It was probably the same classless guys that pissed in the drain.
“Three, twenty four, fifteen.” I said my combination aloud as my lock clicked open and I changed as quickly as I could without breathing. There were so many health code violations in this locker room, it wasn’t even funny. The main problem was all the lockers were connected and most of the guys didn’t wash their gym clothes for weeks. They thought if they used their whole can of Axe body spray, it would be the equivalent of taking a shower and doing the laundry. It wasn’t, not even close. Day after day, the stench never failed to trigger my gag reflex and I always changed as quickly as I possibly could and bolted for the exit. Today though, I was feeling particularly tired, mostly because my anxious dog barked all night about I don’t know what, and I couldn’t get him to be quiet. I loved my dog, but I couldn’t figure out what he was nervous about all the time.
Gym class was not on my top priorities list for the day and I forced myself to breathe through my mouth so that I could stay in the locker room longer. The best excuse for taking a long time was always the good old, “yeah, I was in the restroom for a while. . .” with a combination of embarrassed, awkward glances between my coach and my feet. He believed his students when we used that excuse because he really didn’t want to know the gory details of our bathroom experience. He also thought maybe we were using our extra time to study for his pop quizzes.
Besides trying to skip gym class daily, I also always wore my fedora. Every day I went to school, it was glued to my head, mostly with sweat. But I do have hygiene. I switch hats every day; I’ve got every color and every pattern imaginable. Some kids liked to talk back to the teacher to piss them off, and I liked to wear my hats. It was against school policy to wear hats in the classroom but I always did it. They threatened to write me up or do a million other things but no matter what, the next day I’d come back wearing a hat. They tried to take them away too, but considering half of my closet is full of them, the teachers and principals just left me alone after a while. It didn’t bother coach so much as annoyed him and that was amusing so I kept doing it. Usually, he left me alone about it, but if he was in a bad mood he’d force me to take it off. I went to go wash my face in the sink. At least something in here was clean. The cool water somewhat woke me up, but only briefly.
There were three tiny sinks, one dirty mirror, and a very noisy hand dryer that only blew out air for ten seconds. Then the air turned cold and to really dry your hands you’d have to do it four or five times. Since I knew I was going to be late either way now, I decided to stay in for even longer; my sense of smell numb. I approached the full-length mirror humming Frank Sinatra to myself and within half a foot of the mirror; I stopped to study my face. I’d always been somewhat insecure, okay . . . really insecure. Not to the point of having a therapist or anything, but I wasn’t about to become a male model. My eyes were boring brown and where I lived brown eyes were a dime a dozen. So I wore color contacts and I didn’t know if maybe people thought that was lame but I liked them, so that’s what I wore. My eyes were bright green, almost reptilian but it didn’t matter much since everyone knew they were fake anyway. I had a decent face and random stubble I really needed to shave. My hair was a tan brown, but no one saw unless I was outside of school, the only time the fedora came off.
When I finally checked the time on my ever present watch, I realized I was ten minutes late, and bolted for the door. I instantly regretted staying in the locker room longer than necessary. Coach’s horrible mood was exemplified by the wrinkles spider-webbing his face.
“Hey! You with the fedora! Come over here!” I frowned hearing my gym coach talk about my signature trend (the trend only I followed) with such anger.
“Yes sir?” Of course, I didn’t really think he deserved this formality but rather that than spend an eternity in detention while he fell asleep with a half-eaten tuna sandwich still in his hand.
“Where is your report on the history of basketball? I need it now.” I thought about this for a few moments and realized that I didn’t do it but not on purpose. I hadn’t wanted to do it but I also legitimately forgot. I said the first thing I could think of.
“My dog ate my homework.” What? Why, brain, why would that be the first thing? Of course, the LAMEST excuse ever. “Alright, after school you are going to run a mile for not doing your homework, and another for lying.”
“Oh sir, I can’t, I have a heart problem, really.”
He just stared at me, amused. “Oh, and I haven’t got any eyes. Sure, Parker, just be sure you are here by four on the dot or I’ll add another mile. Go sit down.”
I stared at him. He knew I had a heart problem and a stomach condition which were somewhat related because everyone had to turn in their medical information at the beginning of the semester. My stomach and heart weren’t really deadly; they never affected my everyday life, just if I exercised too much or got too emotional or something. I never really showed my emotions though; maybe that’s why I had a heart problem. I tried to keep it all locked inside and my heart couldn’t take it. How depressing.
“Sir, honestly, I really do have-” But at this point, he didn’t care and had moved on to harassing some idiot on the basketball team. I was staring at Ozzie Garcia. I didn’t idolize him, but everyone else did. Apparently he knew everything about sports, girls, or anything else, really. Well, not classes, he seemed smart but not as intellectually gifted as me. As for the girls’ thing, he was a genius; he’d been dating a girl named Jezebel since middle school of seventh grade. Anybody who can last from then until he’s a junior in high school must know something about dating. I was almost envious of their relationship. Okay, yes, I WAS envious of their relationship. They had it all worked out. He bought her food, movie tickets, sometimes even clothes, and in return she gave him love. Real love. Or at least that’s what it looked like to me. It was always something I hoped for; to have a relationship like theirs or any relationship at all really.
According to the student body, nobody messed with Ozzie because he was in no man’s land. He wasn’t popular, so he didn’t get in anybody’s way but he also wasn’t a nerd so nobody picked on him. He could probably be the most well-known guy in our high school if he wanted to though. What made him cool is that he consciously CHOSE not to do that. Of course, he got a lot of attention anyway so I guess maybe he did lean more towards being popular after all. A major downside for the rest of us humble beings, though, was that for all the love he got from the student body, he got even more from the teachers. So as soon as I heard Coach Phillips call his name, I KNEW he didn’t do his homework and I KNEW he would be let off with a playful shoulder shove and a promise to try out for the basketball team next season.
I thought all popular people were the same stereotypical jerks and he was no exception. I didn’t really know the guy and I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to. I just knew everyone loved him, and teachers were always giving him the easy way out. It would be really great to switch places with him for a day.
Twitching. My feet were dying to move and I was tapping my hands on the gym floor keeping the rhythm to the techno song I just made up in my head. The floor felt really dirty, made of that foam stuff that would hold a pencil straight up if you stabbed at it. I guess that was so the cheerleaders didn’t hurt themselves too badly when they fell, which happened a lot. Particularly when I happened to be walking through. Honestly though, girls weren’t that big of a deal. I was already in love.
I got a rush just from feeling those three syllables slip off my tongue. Je-ze-bel. Her hair smelled like it was made of jasmine, my favorite flower, dark brown and long so I could run my fingers through it. When her eyes reflected the sun, I was gone. They reminded me of liquid chocolate. Thousands of memories invaded my mind as soon as I thought of her so it was better that I did so when I was with her. She understood she crowds my mind. I couldn’t get over her cute bunny teeth and how she was only 4’ 9”.
She made me want to do all kinds of different things I’d never done before. The only thing that could really make me stop thinking about her was . . . well, video games. I knew people would judge me for that but, sometimes bloody violence was more beautiful than her. She didn’t know about my video game obsession. Whenever it was past ten P.M. and I didn’t respond to her texts she thought I was drifting in and out of sleep. Really, I was playing GTA, COD, and Skyrim. Video games never yelled at me or asked me to buy them things. She wasn’t perfect but when I started thinking about her, my favorite memory resurfaced for the millionth time that day.
It was around Christmas time, last year. We were sitting on my really long couch, one of those wraparound types that took up a whole corner of the house and we were watching The Dark Knight for the third time on my request because I begged her. Batman was my favorite comic book character but the joker was a close second.
She had this pouty face on because she really didn’t want to watch and I knew it. We’d watched it so often; she could quote the whole movie. I was pretty sure she would watch it with me anyway though. Besides, I knew we wouldn’t really be watching the movie much; we’d be doing other stuff. We both had invisible purity rings on our fingers (her request), but I tested my boundaries a little. I knew I loved her, and we’d been through literally everything together. We had been together so long it almost seemed like we were born as one person. I’d been trying to deflower her since I was fifteen and almost succeeded when I was sixteen but she was really careful to stop me since then.
“Fine, fine, we can watch The Dark Knight . . . again”, she said this in a voice that sounded totally unlike mine, but she was trying to make fun of me.
“Hey, hey…watch it Jezebel, I’m going to tickle you until you pee your pants.”
“No you won’t, because I’ll have you pinned to the couch before you can say kiss.”
“K-“ and I was interrupted as she pushed me down. I worried that maybe my mom was home, or my sister but I realized that, number one, they knew we did this and, number two, they were both at work and wouldn’t be home for a few hours. When she fell on top of me, she kissed me straight on and I felt like my body was lifting away from earth. I instantly took the kiss from gentle to rough and I could feel her hands moving down my back, slowly making circles. Somehow, someone’s foot touched the remote and the movie started fast forwarding but we didn’t stop. She had her little hands wrapped around my neck and we were flipping and turning. I had almost forgotten where I was because I was just thinking about her. When it started to go too far, one of us would pull away, usually her, but today was different. It was definitely the Christmas spirit.
Finally, I was able to get her under me and I said “Pinned ya!” I really didn’t want to stop but I knew I had to. If I tickled her, she’d stop trying to touch me so that’s what I did, she was laughing so hard, barely breathing, and I tried hard to think about something besides her.
“Hey, I really think we should watch the movie. I mean, we’ve already missed half of it. Oh wait, it fast forwarded! That means we have to start from the beginning! Ha Ha.” My voice came out small because I felt like I’d been drugged and there was a hazy curtain clouding my thoughts. I could tell she felt the same way because she did not care at all about the movie. Truthfully, neither did I but she still groaned when I mentioned watching from the beginning.
She settled into my arms and fit along my body like a spoon. I didn’t look at the TV at all. I just watched her, the way her eyes lit up whenever the Joker came on screen. She liked him, I think because Heath Ledger was such a good actor. The fight scenes made her brows furrow, she wanted Batman to win. I watched parts of the movie off her eye’s reflection so I wouldn’t have to look away. When I brushed her hair off her face and kissed her cheek, she loved that. I kissed her neck too though, just to be a tease.
“You know. . . ” she says, “If you keep doing that, I’m going to kiss you again and we might as well just forget about the movie.”
I came back to the present moment when I realized my coach was getting closer and I really needed a good excuse for not doing my paper. I could just butter him up by talking about joining the basketball team next year; that usually worked. He was shuffling towards me with a lazy smile, he always enjoyed talking to me. I think he wanted to be me. I came up with a plan.
“So, Ozzie, basket-baller extraordinaire, where is your report?” Rather than answering him, I decided to humor everyone, and him, hoping I wouldn’t have to run laps as punishment after school because I had work and then other plans. Yes, those kinds of plans. I said “Now look Coach, this should be the same as doing the report. Except cooler. Way cooler.” I shot up from my assigned spot and ran over to the ball cart. Coach and everyone else were watching with confused expressions as I walked to the opposite end of court away from where Coach was. I stared at the net three feet in front of me, an easy shot I knew, and thought about how horribly wrong this could go if I failed. I turned my back and said loud enough so everyone could hear, “Ok, so I’m gonna shoot into this really close basket here.”
Swish! I made it. Of course. I got nervous though because I could do long, complicated shots but on the short ones it was like my brain refused to register. Coach made some noise of disapproval and said “Anyone could make that shot, and I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, Ozzie. This is a far stretch for even you. If you’re trying to impress me to get out of your paper it’s not going to work.”
“Wait sir, just wait. You WILL be impressed.”
Hopefully, I thought to myself. When I turned around again, I pictured my ball flying from my hands, touching the tops of my fingers, going, going, going all the way and making it straight into the basket but I knew better than anyone visualizing was different from actually doing something. Especially since I was doing this blind. I turned around, bent my knees a little. I threw the ball up and back as far as I could. My eyes were closed.
Swish. It went straight through without making a sound and the whole gym went wild. Some of the guys on our state champs basketball team were in the class, and even they thought it was pretty cool. I had to be out of doing the report now, right?
“So coach, how ‘bout that hundred.” I knew I was saying this with a cocky smile on my face because, come on, that shot was pretty freaking awesome. Even for a professional. “Yeah, yeah hot shot. I’ll admit, that gets you some swagger points but the behavior wasn’t impressive. You’ll be staying after school to run the laps with Mr. Fedora over there.” Swagger? Did my fifty-plus coach just say swagger? Gross.
“Wait, no, Coach . . . I really can’t. I have work.”
“Oh now that’s unfortunate. I guess “work” will have to wait or you get a zero on your report. I won’t be unfair to the students who actually did the assignment.”
“Coach that’s not fair, these people did one page, double-spaced with huge font and who else in here could’ve made that shot?”
“Well then, if the report was so easy and quick to do, why didn’t you just do it?”
Some of the kids were muttering “Oh, burn,” under their breath, or louder, so I could hear. I would’ve done the same thing but since it was me, it wasn’t so cool. Honestly, I hadn’t done it because I thought it was stupid. I already knew plenty about basketball without needing to write about it. Whatever, two miles wasn’t so bad. Some other kid was staying too so maybe I could talk to him. Or compete with him, which sounded more like it. Staying late wouldn’t be so bad, I always liked a friendly foot race. What was that kid’s name . . . Andy, Andrew, Eddie . . . whatever. I guess I’d find out soon enough.
Five minutes . . . just enough time to stop by the snack bar and buy some Takis before going to run. Takis are these chip things from Mexico that look like a tiny tortilla rolled up. They are really bad for you but so delicious. I picked up the purple bag and then, thought better of it. I didn’t want to puke. I bought a water bottle instead and sipped it as I headed quickly towards the gym and caught sight of Ozzie and Jezebel talking in a corner. Her expression looked blissful. I didn’t want her but they made me wish I had someone. I’d even caught teachers staring after them longingly. In my opinion, their relationship was great but Jezebel wasn’t my type. Her hair was way too long compared to her really short body and I heard she wasn’t very nice to people other than Ozzie. Unless she wanted something, she was catty. But those were just rumors. Three minutes and Ozzie looked a little too peaceful so I thought I’d give him a reminder so he didn’t have to run the extra mile.
“Hey Ozzie, two minutes to get to the gym before Coach adds on more miles!” He looked around for a few seconds like he was really confused because he didn’t recognize my voice. I wonder if my voice sounded nervous, I hoped not. He seemed amazed I spoke English or any language at all and that we were on the same planet. His facial expression said “It talks!” but I was pretty sure he wasn’t cruel enough to say that out loud.
One minute, crap! I bolted for the gym and made it through the door just in time. Sure enough, there was Coach sitting on the bleachers staring at his watch. “Good job Fedora, ya made it. Now go dress out and make it snappy.”
I hated when my coach used stupid, old-timey words like “snappy”. It made him seem like a hip old guy and he really wasn’t. I changed in the shower, just in case anyone else came in, I didn’t want them making fun of my awkward body. Just as I finished pulling on my shirt, Ozzie came in. I saw him in the mirror’s reflection. I thought it was a little odd because neither of us was talking to each other but getting ready to go do the same thing in the same vicinity. I’m pretty sure he knew I was there so I figured being the weird guy who always wore the fedora that I was, I might as well say hello. I walked out of the bathroom part and into the locker room part and I started to second guess myself. He had already changed and was sitting down checking his phone. He looked annoyed.
“Hey, I’m Adam” didn’t exactly seem like the best thing to say at that exact moment. I imagined him flipping out and hurling his cell phone at the wall like the Incredible Hulk. But before I could turn around and walk out, he said “Oh hi, sorry about looking mad or whatever, my girlfriend just started a fight with me for no reason. Not that that’s new or that you give a damn. Sorry. Anyways, my name’s Ozzie but you probably know that already.” His face cleared of a little anger and he gave me a small smile. Girls were so confusing. She’d just looked so happy; maybe it was just a small disagreement.
“Oh sorry, well . . . Did you get extra miles for being late? I bet you didn’t since Coach is in love with you. He told me.” I smiled so he knew I was kidding and didn’t think I was a creep who liked to discuss him in my spare time.
“Oh man, did he really say that? I think I might need a restraining order then. But no, seriously, I’m not his favorite.” Was that insecurity I heard? He couldn’t possibly have anything in common with me . . . .
“Trust me, you are. He dreams about your basketball skills.” It hadn’t really occurred to me how weird and stalker-ish that sounded until I said it. I wasn’t exactly the most socialized person on the planet, especially with new people.
Ozzie looked a little freaked out and he said “Uhm wait, what?”
“Uh, let’s go run!” Hopefully he would forget I said that.
Coach gave us a pointed look as we headed out to the track. I didn’t really understand why but just decided to ignore him because I knew he was weird and most of his looks had to do with him having just eaten a bad sandwich. He called out after us about a thunder storm brewing and if it got really bad to come inside. Again, he knew nothing about south Texas rainstorms. We were lucky if it rained enough to kick up the dirt.
“Okay so, no one is watching us . . . I’m gonna go ahead and walk it.”
Ozzie looked at me and chuckled. “I agree. Dude, honestly, I think it’s really stupid we have to run for forgetting our research papers. Running has nothing to do with the paper that was assigned. I get that you run in basketball but, come on. If Ginobili had to run a lap before every score, the Spurs wouldn’t be such a great team.” Professional sports were not my thing, when other people started talking about them, I would get so bored I wanted to shoot my ears off and until now, I hadn’t been sure if the Spurs were a basketball team or a football team. Then he said “But hey, we could race for half a lap. Running for exercise sucks but racing isn’t so bad.”
By the time we finished the half lap, I was breathing heavily and felt like I had already used all the air in the world. Each breath took as long as a marathon. Ozzie won, of course and wasn’t out of breath at all. He seemed to be on a high from beating me. It wasn’t that impressive. “So . . . what classes are you taking?” I asked this only because he seemed to be waiting for me to speak and I still hadn’t really caught my breath enough to chat.
“Well, the usual you know, Calculus 2, English 4, Physics, Gym, Economics, and Choir. I also have an off period eighth so I chill at the library to get extra work done since all my classes are advanced.”
I think my mouth was hanging open, I had no idea that this Ozzie kid was so smart. He seemed like a boring, average, popular person to me and now I doubted that I was smarter than him after all. He must’ve seen my shocked face because he said “I’m just kidding dude! Did you really think I was taking senior level classes? I’m a junior. Besides, trying really hard in classes is what you do in college. High school is just for fun.” He laughed. “Yeah, but I’m actually just taking all the normal classes you’d take as a junior. Physics, then Algebra 2, then English 3, World History, Choir, Lunch, then gym with you, duh, and umm . . . an off period. I don’t really go to the library, usually I just go home. Or wait for Jezebel and take her out somewhere. What about you?”
“Well, I’m taking sophomore classes plus anatomy because I plan to be a doctor. Did you say you had choir?” I couldn’t have heard him right, Ozzie Garcia wasn’t a singer.
“Yeah, fifth period.” As I looked at him I suddenly realized he stood a few rows in front of me but in the same section. I had another class with him I didn’t even know about. My whole perception of Ozzie felt off kilter now. I loved choir, I wasn’t very good but our teacher was awesome and let us hang out and play card games all the time.
“I have fifth period too. I think you stand…yeah, you stand a few rows in front of me. I always have a great view of the back of your head. It’s nicely shaped by the way.”
He laughed and then touched his head. “Uhhh . . . thank you. Oh crap, Coach is looking, we better at least jog. Or we could race and I could beat you again. If you’re up for that.”
“Oh, you’re hilarious, no thanks.” I said sarcastically. I looked over and it looked like Coach was saying something but I wasn’t sure what so just decided to put it off as some words of encouragement. They probably weren’t encouraging and even if they were, they were actually supposed to be demeaning. I ignored him.
“So, then we are both baritones I guess.” Ozzie said this with some difficulty because we’d been jogging for quite a while. I started to feel an uncomfortable burn in my legs that came with too much exertion. Coach kept watching us. Even though we were both baritones, I hoped I was the better singer. He was offered all the lead roles in the musicals our school did. Or so he said. I felt a twinge of jealousy.
“Yeah, so why did you join choir? I mean, I’d assume it’s just because Jezebel is in the class too but I don’t want to sound like a jerk if I’m wrong.”
“Honestly, she wasn’t the only reason I joined. She definitely helped make my decision about signing up in high school though. I actually started in middle school, way before she did. Well, like a year before. She started in seventh grade and I’d been in since sixth. I’ve always liked singing. I didn’t know I was any good until Ms. Leopold heard me singing some song by Green Day in the hallway. She asked me to join, so I did. I mean, I guess when people look at a guy like me they think it’s weird for me to be in choir but I really don’t think so. Even a few of the football players are in choir.”
It surprised me that he actually liked choir, because it was my favorite part of the day. I was really starting to think he seemed like an okay guy and my original idea of him was pretty much wiped clean. I even felt a little bad for having so many preconceived notions when I didn’t even know him.
We jogged in silence for a while until Coach Phillips went back inside and I realized I had lost count of how many times we went around. I assumed Coach was just sick of standing in the hot sun. He already looked like a prune, but he probably thought he was “staying young”. Unless the hot sun zapped wrinkles he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“Hey Ozzie, how many times have we gone around so far?” He started counting on his fingers, noticed I was looking and put them at his sides, embarrassed, but he still tapped them against his thigh, I did that too.
“Like . . . fifteen? I hate how small this track is, to do a couple of miles we have to go around like a bajillion times! At my old school, we went around like six times and we were done. Dude, Adam, Coach gave you the pedometer. You could’ve just checked instead of asking me because I don’t even know if I’m right. I probably am though, because I’m always right. Maybe coach does know something about weather. It’s starting to get really dark out here, as in freaky dark.” It’d been a while since I had looked up because I’d been looking down making sure I didn’t trip over my feet. When I saw the sky, it was really ominous, darker than I’d ever seen it. That was why Coach went inside, coward.
“You’re right,” I said. “It better not start raining, this stupid pedometer thing will probably electrocute me.” I’m not afraid of a little water, but the sky looked like it was going to fall.
We still had a couple laps to go to finish. The wind was starting to pick up and blow dirt into my eyes. This was one of the times I wished I hadn’t swapped my glasses for contacts. I knew Ozzie was fine with running in the rain other than it messing up his hair gel. “Hey Ozzie, should we go inside? I mean it hasn’t even started raining yet, we’ve only got like three more laps. Coach did say to go inside if it started to look bad.”
Ozzie looked around and said “Well, yeah. Let’s just finish. You know Coach; he probably doesn’t care if we die out here anyways and he might actually make us run more if we don’t. Plus it’s just a little water, what could happen besides us getting soaked?”
“Okay, Ozzie, if we die, I’m blaming it on you.” If I had known the universe would take this as a challenge, I never would’ve said it.
We were on our second-to-last lap when it happened. I was just about to pass the tree that indicated the end when Adam collapsed. Right when he fell, it started raining, not just sprinkling but pouring buckets. The water was actually pelting me and I was sure I had bruises. It reminded me of when I stuck my face into a high powered sprinkler on a dare in fourth grade, and my face was black and blue for days.
I guess Adam tripped over his shoelace or something and I stopped to wait for him because only jerks run off and leave their friends in the rain. Well, we weren’t friends, but either way, I felt responsible for him. He didn’t even really know what a pedometer was. How could he be expected to run the whole way without help? Adam kind of landed on his knees and face though which I thought was weird because I would’ve caught myself. I ran back over to help him up when I realized he was clutching his stomach like he was going to puke.
“Hey dude, are you okay? You look like you’re about to throw up…”
He slowly looked up at me and had a ghostly expression on his face. Something was really, really wrong. It felt like we were in the middle of a horror movie right before the climax and the rain just kept coming down faster and faster, which hardly seemed possible. I heard thunder. It seemed like it was right in my ear. I remembered from our elementary weather safety class the amount of seconds between the thunder and lightning told you how far away it was. And basically how quickly you needed to get inside. I didn’t know if that was right or not, but either way I wanted to get the hell out of there. The dirt path we had been running on turned into mud and the grass in the field was flooding. I thought I saw our coach off in the distance waving his arms or something and I yelled “Oh, great help you are. I already noticed that it’s raining!” I knew he couldn’t hear me.
Adam made heaving sounds and I was starting to get really nervous because I didn’t think he would let me carry him. He seemed to be in so much pain.
“Adam, dude, uh, can you stand up and I’ll help you walk back to the gym?” I yelled because the wind and rain were so loud it made it almost impossible to hear anything. When I talked, it felt like I was swallowing water.
He looked at me and said “Does it look like I can walk to you?” and then proceeded to throw up in the grass. “Sorry, it’s just I’m kind of an asshole when I’m in pain.”
“It’s okay man, I think everyone is.” He bit his arm really hard to stifle a yell.
“Do you want me to call 911?”
Adam laughed and then his face contorted again. It looked like he was having some sort of internal struggle. “No, don’t call, this happens every so often. It’s normal for me. It usually isn’t this bad though. It feels like I’m burning to death.”
Burning seemed strange to me considering we were both soaked. “Dude, can I just throw you over my shoulder? We really need to go like now.” He shook his head no.
Briefly, I considered making a run for it but I knew that would be really wrong of me. So I planted my drenched feet in the flooding grass and said “Ok, what do you want me to do?”
He didn’t really respond, just made a pained expression and started to shake. It seemed like whatever happened was coming in waves because sometimes he looked at me like he was going to speak but then it’d hit him again. I decided to just talk to him about random crap to distract him while slowly trying to get him to crawl away from the tree.
I started counting the time between the thunder and lightning. Ten seconds. Then five. Then one. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw lightning hit in the far left corner of the field and there was steam and a huge black spot where the grass had been burned to death.
“That’s it, I don’t care how sick you are, we need to move because lightning just hit the field and I don’t know if you noticed, but we are right under a tree! I’m not dying here today.” I was shivering in the freezing rain that now felt like hail. The wind was now so strong I had to bend forward to keep from being pushed back. I definitely would not be trying out for the basketball team, Coach Phillips had left us to die. The tree we were under started ripping apart and pieces of it were hitting me everywhere.
Adam wouldn’t move. “Damn it! Just sit up and I’ll carry you! I’ll drag you if you don’t at least try!” He ignored me, and I heard loud thunder again.
“DUDE, GET UP!” I screamed. He responded by closing his eyes. I knew he was still conscious but fading fast. If he fainted, carrying his dead weight would be difficult. Lightning struck about five feet to my right and I panicked. I didn’t care anymore and grabbed Adam by the arms and started to drag him. Thunder again.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I said aloud because no matter how hard I pulled him, he didn’t budge. He resisted and had wrapped his leg around the tree. He was lying in a three-inch-deep pond of water and vomit.
“You asshole! I’m trying to save your life! Do you want me to leave you here?” My stupid cell phone was sitting in the locker and I knew he didn’t have his because our gym shorts didn’t have pockets. I decided to ditch him and go find help when lightning struck. This time it wasn’t five feet to my left or way across the field, but straight down the middle of the tree. Shock went through my body and the water felt like it had become a raging river. I started to fall, going down, and down. My butt hit the grass and everything was spinning, Adam’s eyes had opened wider than it seemed possible and I thought he was dead. I thought I was dead.
He yelled, “Ozzie!”
I barely saw him as a wave of pain seemed to eat my insides. All this happened within a few seconds. We were both frozen, staring at each other under this God-forsaken tree. I knew we were going to die here. I must have been electrocuted because it felt like my brain was cooking. That I was thinking I was electrocuted when I was standing in water right next to a tree done in by lightning meant I was definitely out of it.
“Help!” Adam yelled again. He said something about not being able to stand. Then I saw what he meant. A huge tree branch the size of two of me had been hit and it was cracked, falling. The branch was a foot away from completely crushing Adam, as he was trying to crawl away. The last thing I remember was reaching and Adam flying toward me. I didn’t know what happened to him, but he wasn’t under the tree anymore and I was holding his metal watch. It was smeared with blood that the rain caused to drip on my face. I tried to stay awake but there was so much pain and I blacked out.