Today is the first segment of our new Choose Your Own Adventure series, “The Ladore Luger.” (Don’t worry. The title will make sense.) Enjoy and remember: you will be responsible for the decisions 16-year-old Billy Hamilton makes.
The voice rang off of the walls and echoed through the hall, forcing its way into the tiny bathroom at the end. The abruptness of the sound momentarily interrupted the attempts at flexing of the pale, young, skinny boy inside.
For the last twenty minutes, the young man had been standing there, his muscles tensed. He had moved his arms every which direction, but there seemed to be no noticeable improvement. No matter what he tried, he looked like the poster child for a foundation benefitting the starving and easily sunburnt.
He sighed, letting his muscles relax. To the common observer, there was no noticeable difference between the gangly arms of the fifteen-year-old and the gangly flexed arms that had momentarily occupied the space next to his torso. The young man knew all too well about the awkward phases teenagers go through and their implications on high school life.
He stared in the mirror, thinking. Maybe his new school would be filled with people skinnier and pastier than him. It could be the pastiest, scrawniest school in America, renowned for its population of awkward teens. He could be the hero of a school like that.
“Fat chance,” he muttered to himself.
The voice called again. “Billy!”
“What do you want, Mom?!”
“Why have you been in the bathroom so long?!” The voice paused, allowing the awkwardness of the question to hang in the air, before following it up with an extra helping of awkward. “Are you going number two?!”
“Mom! That’s definitely an invasion of my personal space!” Billy put his head in hands, looking down. “I’ll be out in a minute!”
“Okay! There’s more toilet paper under the sink if you need it!”
Slipping his shirt on over his head, he opened the door to the hall. He shivered for a second as a rush of cool air greeted him, the result of an air conditioner doing its best to combat the hot, sticky August air. Downstairs, the rattle of breakfast dishes nearly drowned out the sound of his mother’s greeting. Before he had finished sitting down, a dish of microwaved waffles had already been laid in front of him.
“Well, it’s about time!” his mother said, ignoring the normal pleasantries that come with a morning greeting. “I thought you had moved in there permanently!”
“He was probably just counting armpit hairs.” His brother had barely bothered to look up from his cereal for this fun little jab at his brother’s body hair. As far as high school seniors go, Chris ranked towards the top of the obnoxious scale. “What, you’re up to about six now?”
Before Billy could say anything, his mother had already jumped to his defense. “Chris, you leave your brother alone.”
As Chris tried defending his comments, Billy stood. “I’ve got to go or I’ll miss the bus,” he said. Part of his concern really was the bus. Being late to his first day at a new school was not a dream scenario. Mostly, though, he wanted to get away from the morning circus.
His mom stopped and turned, facing him. “Billy, you have a great first day of school. You’ll do great.”
“Yeah, whatever mom.”
“I love you, honey.”
Nothing is more awkward than to a 16-year-old than a declaration of love from their mother. “Uh… you too,” he said, fully aware that this response made no sense. Still, it seemed to appease her plea for affection, at least enough for him to squeeze out the door.
All the way to the bus stop, he thought through his options. Today was a fresh start, a chance for him to leave behind any preconceived notions people might have had about him in the past. Maybe he could act tough. He could become that guy who mouths off at the teacher or gets in fights over girls. The fight thing might not work out so well, but the mouthing off to teachers probably would not get him hit. He settled on that.
At the corner of Rose and Maple, there stood one other kid. He shifted his weight nervously, never still for even a second. If this was his competition at the new school, things might not be so bad. Watching the kid glance around timidly, he suddenly found himself more at ease. A car neared the corner and the kid’s shifting intensified, his shoes now leaving the ground and his legs moving at double the speed.
The car passed the corner before a quick u-turn that brought it to a screeching stop by the kid, now almost convulsing with apprehension.
“Hey,” said a voice from inside the car. The window rolled the rest of the way down and a face suddenly appeared. “Why do you look so nervous?”
“I…I…don’t know what…you’re talking about,” the kid said, barely getting through the sentence. Billy looked closely, expecting to see a stream of liquid flow down the kid’s leg. It must have been a good day for him because, as nervous as he seemed to be, his bladder held strong.
“You…you…you don’t know?” the driver mockingly stuttered. Despite the heat, the kid wore a letterman’s jacket, proudly displaying patches for every sport a school would offer. He was clearly a big deal at North Ladore High, a person who was on top of the high school hierarchy. Billy knew you didn’t want to cross him for any reason. Unfortunately, he was about to have no choice.
“What about you?” the kid said, locking eyes with Billy. For a second, he began to look away. Then he remembered: this was a new year. This was his chance. Ignoring his urge to turn his gaze, he locked eyes and intensified his look.
“What about me?”
The driver continued staring. “Why do you think he looks so nervous?” The nervous kid face was now scrunched up, almost as if he were holding in a nervous gastrointestinal reaction. Billy glanced to make sure he had, in fact, not crapped himself. His bowels had held just as well as his bladder.
“I don’t know,” Billy said. He instantly felt bad for the nervous kid, but he had no choice. This was his chance to get in good at the new school and he couldn’t miss it. “I’d probably be that nervous too if I’d breast fed until I was 14.”
The nervous kid looked over, his eyes shocked at the statement. Billy knew he had done nothing to ease his nerves, but by the looks of the kid, a strong sedative probably wouldn’t have done the job either.
From the car, there came a loud laugh. “Ha! Does the little baby miss his mommy?” he called, further adding to the nervous energy the bus stop contained. “Hey,” he said, turning towards Billy. “What’s your name?”
“Well, Billy. Get in. You don’t want to ride on a bus with this bedwetter,” he said, his words being the final blow to the nervous kid. Dejected, the nervous kid turned and walked as far away from the corner as possible.