Once upon a time, in a land far in the suburbs, there was a school. It was an average school; two stories, locker hallways, brick exterior. Pretty cute. Got a decent picture? Good, now throw it away, it’s not important. The important thing is what’s INSIDE the school, a boy named Leonard Walling.
Leonard is a complete loser. He knows this too, so seriously, don’t feel bad about it. His grades are lackluster, his hair’s a mess, his clothes don’t fit, and his underwear always smells like-. You get the picture. To top it all off, he’s not very good at anything. Prescott High School has plenty of extracurriculars for students to get involved in, but none of them seem to be right for Leonard. It didn’t make sense to anyone (not even Leonard) how Leonard didn’t have a single skill that set him apart.
One day in school, Leonard’s 10th grade science teacher Mr. Stevens gave his class a test, which unfortunately meant Leonard had to take it. When Mr. Stevens came to his desk to give him the test, Leonard grabbed it and started reading. He saw numbers placed down the left side of the paper and an assortment of letters from A to D. He noticed there were statements in front of the dotted numbers with obscure squiggles at the end of them (he had no idea what the squiggles meant). He skimmed through one of them and made out something mentioning a water bicycle.
“I can’t take this test,” Leonard said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Hmm,” Mr. Stevens said tapping his nose. “Lemme see it.” Mr. Stevens raised his glasses to his eyes and skimmed over the questions. “Leonard, we’ve covered everything on this test already. Don’t you remember anything about the water cycle?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Okay, good. Then tell me where it starts.”
“First you have water.”
“And then you drink it.”
“Then it comes out as pee.” Leonard looked into Mr. Steven’s eyes with a brimming smile, while Mr. Steven’s covered his mouth and shook his head in disbelief. Leonard thought that Mr. Stevens was amazed at the answer he gave, which was true, but what he didn’t know was that Mr. Stevens was amazed at how simple it was. The class spent 2 weeks on the water cycle, and Leonard couldn’t even remember that it had nothing to do with urination.
“Leonard. What have you been doing for the past 2 weeks while we were going over the water cycle?”
“Uhh….” Leonard mumbled. Mr. Stevens had no idea that Leonard had no idea what he was doing for the past 2 weeks in school, so when he saw Leonard look up in pondering, he returned his face to its position of woe between his hands. “How am I supposed to remember? You know I have bad memory..”
“Leonard,” Mr. Stevens sighed raising his head up. “The issue is that you don’t care to remember anything. We’ve been sitting here for 2 weeks, and I’ve offered extra help at least twice, both of which you didn’t take advantage of. I think it’s time to consider the-“ Since Leonard stopped processing Mr. Steven’s words at that point, it’s not necessary to know what he was saying. What is important (to Leonard at least) is that he believes anytime he tries something it doesn’t turn out right. Leonard thought about how Abby didn’t have to try to get good grades. She didn’t even have to try to be special. Athletic, smart, good at making friends; Leonard thought about how HE could get the same skills as her, but he quickly realized there weren’t any stores giving out free “individuality cards”. He concluded that it was all in her jeans, (you read it right) and wondered why he couldn’t have been born as talented as her. The bell rang for students to be dismissed home and Leonard remembered he was supposed to respond when he was being lectured.
“You’re right, Mr. Stevens.” Leonard said. “I understand what you’re saying” He didn’t understand a word of what he said of course.
Leonard biked home that day exhausted from the radical expectations of his teachers. When he got home he scurried up the stairs and into his room, then unloaded his book bag onto his bed. To his surprise (although it was like this every day) his bed was covered in a filth of books and assignments. Leonard sighed at this sight and slid the school work to the floor. He then pulled his phone from his pocket, took off his clothes, propped the covers up, and slid into bed. There was no point of him trying to do something he wasn’t born with the ability to do.
The next day at school there was a new student in his homeroom.
“Class please say hello to our new student, Daniel.” Ms. Kerns said.
“Hey.” Daniel said in sullen tone.
Leonard couldn’t believe it. Plain blue hoodie, short, unkempt hair. Tony Hawk Payless shoes? It was all too obvious to Leonard; Daniel was a loser too. Leonard could spot his own kind from miles away, but his classmates thought otherwise of Daniel.
“Uh, hey Daniel,” Abby said.
“Hey.” Daniel said. Leonard noticed a red pigment rush through Abby’s cheeks and watched her play with her hair from a couple rows behind her. The crazy thing is that all the girls in the class were doing the same thing.
Is he contagious or something? Leonard thought, and Daniel most certainly was, but not in the way Leonard imagined.
“Where’d you come from?” Abby asked.
“Nowhere special,” Daniel shrugged. “Just some place.” Now Leonard was starting to feel sorry for him; coming to a new school and becoming the biggest loser there on his first day must really suck. Leonard thought of what kind of horrible jeans Daniel must had been born with.
“Oh wow, that sounds really cool!” Abby bubbled, and so did the rest of the girls in the class.
What was that about? Leonard thought. He’s a loser, don’t they know that? Don’t they have eyes?
Leonard’s next class was gym and to little surprise Daniel was in the same class. That day the class was playing basketball. With the boys’ game Leonard and Daniel were the last kids picked for a team. The players were vigorous on the court, shouting plays, posting each other up, and running like speeding cargo trains from net to net. Leonard on the other hand was trying his best to go unnoticed. He looked around the court to see if Daniel knew to do the same but ended up seeing a terrifying sight; Daniel was PLAYING, or at least trying, and it was embarrassing. When the other team went up for layups, Daniel swatted in a spasm to keep the ball from going inside the net. What confused Leonard the most about this was that Daniel couldn’t even get an inch off the ground. It just didn’t make sense to Leonard; if you’re not good at something you just shouldn’t try it. But the end of the game showed different results than Leonard could’ve predicted.
“Great game,” the guys told him in exchange for a signature handshake. Leonard had never gotten a handshake from those guys, let alone a fancy one like that. Daniel scratched his head when he finished the handshake and congratulated the guys back.
“Hey Daniel, me Mike and Tim are going skiing this weekend,” one of the guys said. “Wanna come along?”
“Sure.” Daniel smiled. Leonard knew he had to talk to that guy now.
Between class change to their third period, Leonard caught Daniel in the hallway.
“Hey,” Leonard said. “I gotta ask you something.”
“Alright.” Daniel said.
“How do you do it?”
“You know, tricking people into thinking your cool. How do you do it?”
“Dude,” Daniel laughed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You have a lot of friends and it’s only your first day. Not to mention you’re a loser.” Daniel’s eyes widened when he heard this, then he started to think. He looked around for a moment then responded.
“I’ve never done anything to be cool, I didn’t even know I was. I just do what I can with what I have and I leave it at that. There are things I kinda suck at, which I’m pretty sure you can guess what they are, but I do the best I can when something’s put in front of me. I’m okay with things not turning out okay, `cause that’s just me, but I won’t go down without trying.” The class bell sounded through the hallways. “Well, I’ll catch you later man.”
Leonard came to his last period in Mr. Stevens’s class and went straight to his desk. Mr. Stevens already had the tests from last class graded, so he passed them out at the start of class. When he came to Leonard’s desk Leonard grabbed it and looked it down in a fierce stare. The test read 45 percent. Leonard looked forward in an unwavering stare.
He went home that day and dumped his bag on his bed like always. When the tangles of assignments and miscellaneous worksheets unraveled on his blanket, he gave a sigh. Then he picked up the nearest sheet, stared it down for a minute and reached for a pencil. He thought it was best that he at least give it a try.