This story was basically my first attempt at serious fiction, and it shows. Its got a few problems, and needs a good rewrite I think, but here it is anyway.
By Alex Schumann
Mark was the tenth caller. Hed somehow gotten through on the pay phone outside the mini-mart after dialing three or four times. We had been sitting in a small park across the street, where a big maple shaded us from the afternoon sun. We were eating beef jerky and listening to the radio. They played a bit of song backwards, and offered Sugar Ray tickets to the tenth caller if they could name it. Mark bummed a quarter off me and ran across the street almost without looking. I gathered our schoolbags and followed after him. Got there just in time to hear him give the answer. He got real excited on the phone like people do when they win something, and then they made him hold for a little.
You won? I asked.
Oh yeah! Two tickets down on the floor! he said.
I could hardly hold myself in. Some folks had stood in line for 48 hours straight to get tickets. Id heard about it on the radio. Mark had unbelievable luck. We would have so much fun!
So, Buddy.. Who are you going to take? I asked.
Loaded question, he said.
I half smiled and brushed the hair out of my eyes. Who else would he go with? He gave his name and address to the phone, thanked it breathlessly, and put it back on the hook. The quarter clinked somewhere inside.
A group of older girls walked past us into the mini-mart. They had on shorts and little bright colored tops. One of them had a navel ring. They giggled at each other. Mark stared after them a while like he was lost in a daydream. I hit him in the arm.
Dude, Sugar Ray!
He smiled a beaming smile.
He was an inch taller than me for most of the years we were friends. I had gotten used to looking up at him. He kept his hair short and moist with gel. He was wearing jeans and a neat button up shirt that looked hot. I was dressed more appropriately for the weather, with shorts and a loose white tee. I brushed my hair out of my eyes and squinted into the sun, getting lower behind him.
Hey, I better go study so mom lets me go, said Mark.
Okay, see you tomorrow.
He said goodbye and walked toward the corner bus stop. I went home to study too, because I figured Mark was going to take me, and I didnt want to leave my mom an excuse to say no. Strobe lights and fog machines filled my dreams that night.
In the morning, on the way into class, I told a few friends I was going to the concert… and how Mark had won the tickets. They made me promise to try and get an autograph. At lunch it wasnt long before the subject of the tickets came up. Mark boasted to everyone about his call, and told the story again. He picked up a plastic spoon and twiddled it in his fingers.
I want to ask Karen if shell go with me, he said.
My mouth stopped mid-chew.
Oh, said one of the kids at the table, she wont pass up a chance like that.
Since when do you know anything about girls? I asked.
Mark didnt look up from his spoon.
When are you going to ask her? the other boy asked.
Shes in my homeroom, next period. I was thinking then, but I dont really know what Im going to say.
Nobody had any suggestions.
I piled my plate and silverware on my tray, got up, and without looking back, dumped it. We had been friends for three years and he wanted to take some girl he didnt even know? I went early to History. I spent the entire period drawing mean looking faces on the inside of my binder.
After History, Mark and I had P.E. together. The locker room always smelled like stale socks and mildew. I was half finished dressing when Mark walked in. He opened his locker, stripped, threw on his gym shorts, and apologized.
I didnt know what to say.
Look… I want you to go with me.
What, did Karen turn you down?
No… he said, I didnt ask her. I chickened out. Ill go with you. It was stupid anyway. She wouldnt want to go with me.
I sat down on the bench.
She might… I said.
No. You and me. Dont worry about it, itll be great.
We finished dressing and headed toward the gym. We were playing five on five basketball that day, and normally I had enough skill to keep from embarrassing myself, but I couldnt seem to hold onto the ball. The only shot I managed to take fell nearly two feet short. When it was over we showered and started to get dressed.
So, do you… like her? I asked.
The words sounded foreign as I said them. I wondered if this was how the older kids talked about girls.
Shes nice, he said.
The gym opened to the outside with a set of double doors. Between them I found Mark, looking outside though the glass. A girl was shifting books in her bag on the other side.
That her? I asked.
We watched in silence as she finished with her bag and straightened up to leave. I pushed open the outer door and we stepped outside. I bit my lip hard and called her name. Mark looked at me alarmed.
Ask her, I said.
When she turned around, I turned to him, to show her I had yelled on his behalf. He didnt delay long.
I… I was wondering, if maybe you would… I have two tickets to Sugar Ray this Friday. Do you want to go?
His skin was flushed, and he held his hands so awkwardly I almost couldnt watch.
She handled the whole thing well, pretended not to notice how scared he was.
Your Mark, right?
I would love to go.
He smiled and relaxed a little.
I dont know why, I wasnt going to go see Sugar Ray, but I felt like I had won a thousand concert tickets. I gave the two of them a nod and hurried to class.