School Safety Part 1

Rock’s phone buzzed on the locker room bench and he picked it up and looked at it.  He texted something, hit send, and put it back down.

“Is that the girl you’ve been seeing?” Jacob asked, tying his shoes, which is something I’ve heard people like to do before gym class.

“The black girl? Yeah, well, kind of,” Rock said, responding to another text.  “We aren’t really seeing each other.  We’re still in the feeling each other out phase.”

“I see,” Jacob said.  “You should probably refer to her by her name.  Not ‘the black girl’.”

“Why?  It’s not like we’re dating yet,” Rock said, answering another text.

“That isn’t really the point,” Jacob said as Rock typed away.  “Dude, this is a pretty intense conversation.  What’s she want?”

“She wants me to call her.”

“Are you going to?”

“Nah, I don’t feel like talking.  I just told her I don’t have my phone on me,” Rock said, standing up.  “You ready to head to the gym?”

“Yeah.  Well, no.  We’re not in the gym today.  We have to go outside.  The girls’ class is in the gym.”

“What?  That’s bullshit.  Why do they get to use the gym and we have to go stand outside in the cold like a bunch of jabronis?”

“Rock, it’s like 75 degrees out.”

“Whatever.  Still bullshit,” Rock said.  He shook his head for a moment, then his eyes lit up.  “You know what would be hilarious?  You know that cart we use to wheel out the tables when we set up for bingo?”

“Sure.  What about it?”

“We should have someone go out and ride the thing across the gym.  We can stand on the the front of it, like a recreation of Washington Crossing the Delaware.  It’ll be awesome.”

“I’m a little surprised that’s the reference you went with.  I’d have said Leo in Titanic.”

“Yeah, dude.  We can scream ‘I’m the king of the world’ as we do it.  The girls will be all like ‘whaaat’.”

“Well, your plan is solid,” Jacob said of Rock’s very shaky, very bizarre plan as he look over the cart that was conveniently left near the back of the gym.  “The problem is these things are not very stable.  Someone could get hurt, or we could get in a lot of trouble.”

“We’ll cover our faces.  And we’ll get someone else to stand on the front and yell.  You and I will just propel the cart from our locker room, across the back of the gym and out the door on the other side.  There’s absolutely no risk.  To us.”

“Right, but who the hell is going to agree to something like that?”

“What about Dylan?  He’s been pretty impressionable lately.”

“Yeah, dude.  That’s because his parents just got divorced and he’s going through a pretty rough time.  Only a complete monster would take advantage of someone in such a difficult position.” Jacob looked across the locker room.  “Hey, Dylan, you want to do something stupid and reckless that will get you attention, and though we’ll be more laughing at you than with you, you won’t figure that out until you’re in your mid-30s?”

Dylan shrugged.  “What did you have in mind?”  They explained the plan to Dylan, which I’m not going to repeat because I’ve already done it, and reiterating it would be boring, so fuck that shit.  After Dylan heard the plan, he shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Sounds kind of dangerous.”

“No, dude, check it out.  This is the type of shit they’re always doing on those stunt shows you watch,” Jacob said.

“I don’t watch those.  I’m pretty sure nobody does.  What made you think I like those?”

“I assume all unlovable fuckups watch them.  Now, are you going to ride our cart or not?”

“Not.  Besides, those shows all have disclaimers telling you not to try this at home.”

Rock put his hand on Dylan’s shoulder.  “Those only apply to kids people care about.  For kids like you, they want you to try them at home.  If you get hurt, it doesn’t matter, because your parents can always make another you.  Or at least they would have been able to if you hadn’t been such a rotten child that they had to go get a divorce.  And then your mom killed herself.  All because of you.”

“Fine.  I’ll do it,” Dylan said.

Rock and Jacob bumped fists.  “Way to bring up the mom’s suicide to close the deal.  Nicely done.”

“Guys, this feels really unstable,” Dylan said, standing on the handles of the cart.

“That’s because it is.  But don’t worry, it’ll be fine as long as we’re either holding onto it or standing on the back to counterbalance your weight,” Jacob said, using his obvious foreshadowing tone of voice.  “Ready?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Dylan said.  They went out into the gym, and after a running start, Rock and Jacob jumped on the back.  Dylan, per the plan, yelled, “I am the king of the…”

“Shit, it’s Ms. Walters,” Rock said as the girls’ gym teacher walked in.  “Run.”

Jacob and Rock hopped off the back of the cart, predictably, and even more predictably, Dylan screamed and the cart toppled over forward, sending him headfirst into the wall.  After Jacob and Rock had retreated to the safety of the locker, they looked out at the chaos unfolding in the gym.

“Well, that didn’t go as planned,” Rock said.  “Oh, well.  At least we tried, but I guess that wasn’t as funny as we thought it would be.”

“Yeah.  Well, I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Jacob said, pointing at the girls’ gym class.  “They seem to think it’s pretty funny.”

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Back to Universe A

“Welcome back, Jacob,” Tyson greeted Jacob as he removed his helmet.  The universe jumpy one, not the time-travelly one.

“Yo, Tyson B, what gives?  Did this not work?  Come on, man, I need to get back to my universe.”

“What?  Jacob, you’re back in Universe A.  It worked.”

“But you look and sound just like Tyson B.”

“We’re the same person.  Just different timelines.  Did he not explain this to you?”

“I have no idea what he said or didn’t say.  I wasn’t listening.  It was a bunch of sciency mumbo jumbo.”

“Right.  Of course,” Tyson said, shaking his head.  “Anyway, how was Universe B?”

“Actually, apparently we’re Universe B?”

“What do you mean?  How are we Universe B?  They’re the one where all the weird shit happened.”

“We elected Donald Trump as President.”

Tyson thought for a moment.  “I guess I see their point.  Regardless, how was the other universe?”

Jacob shrugged.  “Alright, I guess.  Though I did forget to ask about the spiders.”

“Spiders?  What spiders?”

“The camel spiders, dude.  You wanted me to ask if they had camel spiders in Universe whatever the hell letter we’re assigning it.  Universe not this one.”

“Universe B.  And what’s this about camel spiders?  I never asked you to ask about them?  Why would I?”

“Because they’re fucking huge, dude.  They’re like this size of your face, and they’re spiders.  If they don’t have them in Universe B, then we need to move there, like now.”

“I don’t think either of those things are accurate, and besides, you don’t live in an area that has camel spiders anyway.  What do you care?”

“I want to get out before they start some sort of nuclear war.”

“Nobody’s going to start a nuclear war over camel spiders.  What the hell is wrong with you?”

“If I woke up and one of those suckers was on my face, or really even in the vicinity, I’d nuke the shit out of it.”

Rock shrugged.  “It’s as good an argument for using nukes as I can think of.”

“Alright, if you guys are done being stupid,” Tyson said, looking at Rock and Jacob.  “So, how was it?”

“It wasn’t really any different.  Tyson B looked just like you.  I wasn’t even sure I’d left our universe, to be honest.”

Tyson nodded, hanging on Jacob’s every word.  “Right, right.  We planned it that way, so you wouldn’t be too taken aback.  What about the timeline?”

“What timeline?”

“Well, the universe should have been drastically different in terms of historical outcomes.  What happened there and how did that affect everything in the present time?”

“I don’t know.  Tyson B didn’t mention anything being different.”

“What do you mean?  That was the whole point of sending you,” Tyson said, growing frustrated.

Jacob shrugged and gave Tyson a stupid grin.  “I guess he just forgot.”

“He didn’t forget.  You just didn’t listen, you fucking idiot.”

“I’m pretty sure I listened.  Don’t blame me because alternate you is an airhead.”

“Jacob, he didn’t forget.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he’s me.  I’m him.  He’s the same person, except in an alternate universe, and I wouldn’t forget.  We’re exactly the same.  You just never listen to us.  Me.  Whatever.”

“Good idea.  I could totally go for some soup right now.  Rock?”  Rock shrugged, and he and Jacob headed toward the door, but Jacob stopped and turned back.  “By the way, I didn’t get to meet alternate Jacob because Tyson B sent him out on a fake errand.  It made me think of all those times you sent me to the store.  If you two are exactly the same, does that mean…”

“Hey, let’s celebrate,” Tyson said quickly, cutting off Jacob’s thought in a way that should have been obvious, if Jacob had been a little less soup-obsessed at the time.  “Soup’s on me.”

An Old Flame Conclusion

“So, she was the one who turned Jeremy into the Bar?” Zach asked, sitting at the bar, waiting for Jeremy to return from his settlement conference with Karen.  “That’s straight up cold.”

“Yeah.  Well, maybe.  I don’t know.  He was drinking a lot in those days, and I don’t know the whole story, just what Jeremy’s told me, so take it with a grain of salt.  I don’t know her side,” Benjamin said.

“What has Jeremy told you?”

“That she’s the worst person of all time.  And that’s coming from someone who once described Hitler as ‘pretty cool’.”

“Well, if Jeremy doesn’t like her…wait, did Jeremy really say that about Hitler?”

“What? No.  I was just emphasizing…” The door to the bar opened and the two quickly went into an awkward silence.  Jeremy walked in and sat down at the bar.

“Zach, I need you to start drawing up a settlement agreement.  I’ll look it over when you’re done,” Jeremy said flatly, looking straight ahead.

“On it,” Zach said, quickly standing up from the bar and heading into the office.

“So, how did it go?” Benjamin asked softly.

“Pretty well.  We settled relatively quickly.  Really, nobody was looking for a fight.”

“No, I mean how did it go?”

“It was fine.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Can I get you anything?  Club soda, or that orange juice and ginger ale concoction you’re so fond of?”

“I’m good.”

“You sure?”

“Jesus Christ, Ben, I’m not a fucking child!” Jeremy snapped.  “I said I’m fine.”

“Alright,” Benjamin said, holding up his hands defensively and backing away from the bar.  “Let me know if you want anything.”

“Just because I had to negotiate with the hell-cunt that ruined my life…it’s not a big deal.  I’m over it.”

“You sound over it,” Benjamin said from the other side of the bar.  “And you probably shouldn’t use the word ‘cunt’.  That’s a hate word.”

“You’ve been hanging around Veronica too much.”

“All I’m saying is that it’s disrespectful toward women.”

“No, you’re right.  I should respect absolutely every woman on the planet, because all women are worthy of respect.  None are deceitful, dumb, or have any flaws whatsoever.  All women are perfect, brilliant goddesses.  I could never say anything bad about women, because no woman has anything bad about her.  It’s not like they’re people or something.”  Jeremy shook his head.

“I get your point.  You hate people.  Still doesn’t excuse your hate speech.”

“What the fuck ever.  Get me an orange juice-ginger ale concoction.”

Benjamin made Jeremy’s drink and handed it to him.  “We really need a name for this.”

“Why?  Orange juice-ginger ale concoction too verbose for you?”

“A little bit.  We need something shorthand.”

Jeremy shrugged.  “How about a virgin orange fizz?”

“Nah.  Too simple.  How about a kiddy creamsicle?”

Jeremy shook his head.  “No.  It’s nothing like a creamsicle.   Besides, I hate children.”

“You hate everything,” Benjamin said.  “What do you have against children?”

“They’re always running around so happy, acting like life is a big pile of pickles.  Nobody’s had the decency to tell them life is one big gauntlet of shit.  Until people learn that, they’re insufferable.”

“You must hate me then, because I’m just loving life over here.”

“Whatever,” Jeremy said, picking his drink up and standing.  “I have work to do.”

An Old Flame

“Alright, let’s get this over with,” Jeremy said, walking into the coffee shop and putting his briefcase down by the leg of the table.

“Thanks for coming,” Karen Sinclair said, standing up.  She took a step forward to hug Jeremy, but he ignored her and sat down.

“Don’t.  I’m here because you’re blackmailing my client, not to repair old wounds.”

“You know, I’ve got just as much to be upset about as you do.  I’m still five years behind where I would be if not for that little stunt of yours.” Karen took a deep breath.  “But you’re right.  This is about our clients.”

“And what is the pound of flesh your clients are demanding?”

“Stop acting like the victim.  Your client ran over their mailbox with his car.  While drunk.  He’s the bad guy in all of this.”

“Herb is harmless.”

“Except for when he’s drunk.”

“Which is most of the time,” Jeremy said.  He leaned forward.  “Even then he’s harmless.  He didn’t hurt anyone.”

“He could have.  This time it was their mailbox.  Next time, it could be someone’s kids.”

“Who lets their kids play outside at two in the morning?”

“That isn’t the point,” Karen said.

“No.  The point is that your clients are demanding money or they’ll go to the police.  Blackmail is the point.”

“It isn’t blackmail.  They have every legal right to go to the police.  In fact, they should.  It’s just…” Karen stopped herself.  She paused for a moment, regaining her thoughts.  “They want to resolve this quickly and quietly.  Look, Jeremy, it doesn’t matter.  Your client has a choice.  It’s like letting a guy buy you a $50 dinner.  You can get the lobster or the steak, but either way you’re getting fucked.  Settle this today, or we go to the police.”

“What do you want?”

“Pay for the repairs to mailbox.”

“Done,” Jeremy said quickly.  “Herb was planning on doing that anyway.  As I said, he’s not a bad guy.”

“Wait.  We’re not done.  They also want him to pay to re-sod their lawn.”

“There it is.  You see a rich drunk, and think how can I exploit him today,” Jeremy said.  “Well, a well-off, I guess middle class…a not completely broke drunk, at any rate.”

“Hey, he’s got the money to keep you on retainer, he can pay for a new lawn.  Besides, this one has tire marks on it.  He really chewed it up.  It’s embarrassing.”

Jeremy shook his head.  “Whatever.  I’ll have to run it by Herb, but I don’t think he’ll have a problem.  What else?”

“That’s all,” Karen said.  She looked down and took a long sip of her coffee.  She inhaled deeply.  “So, you seem…happy.”

“Yeah, well, you know.  I’m not,” Jeremy said.  He stood up and pushed his chair in.  “If there’s nothing else.”

“Jeremy, wait,” Karen said, standing up and heading after him.  “I know it isn’t my business, but if this isn’t the first time Herb has gotten in trouble, maybe, I don’t know, try getting him some help.”

“Help?  What, you mean like an intervention?” Jeremy asked.  “What do you want me to do, throw him in a corner and berate him until he quits?  I don’t think that’s the best way to have a successful intervention, but then again, what do I know?  I’m not the expert here, now am I?”

“I’m just saying.  Some things are more important than keeping a repeat client.”

“You were right.  It isn’t your business.  I’m his lawyer, not his therapist,” Jeremy said.  As he turned to leave, he stopped and looked back.  “Goodbye, Karen.”

Hello from Universe B

“Hi. Welcome to Universe B,” said Tyson, extending a hand to shake Jacob’s.  “I’ll be your guide.  I’m Tyson.  Obviously,” Tyson said with a nerd snort.

“Yo, Tyson, what’s up?  Did this not work?” Jacob asked.

“What do you mean?  Did you not hear what I just said?  Yes, it worked.”

“But you look exactly the same.  Besides, you know I never listen to what you say.”

“I’ve never met you, being the Tyson from Universe B, so no, I don’t know that.”

“Tyson B, come on, are you telling me that Jacob B listens to you?” Jacob asked.

“No, he doesn’t.  And just call me Tyson,” Tyson B said.

“No, not going to happen,” Jacob A said, looking around.  “So, what’s the deal?  This place looks exactly the same.”

“Me and my counterpart from your universe thought it best not to start you with anything too dramatically different from your universe.  Therefore, things on an individual level are mostly the same,” Tyson explained.  “However, there are some major differences on the geopolitical level.  The South won the Civil War, the Germans won World War 1, and some obligatory third thing also happened.  What are things like in Universe A?”

Jacob shrugged.  “Donald Trump is President.”

“Oh,” Tyson said.  “I guess that makes you Universe B.”

“Whatever. I don’t believe in, like, labels, man,” Jacob said for some reason.  “Anyway, where’s alternate Jacob?  I want to, uh, meet myself.”

“We thought it best to keep you two apart, for now.  As I mentioned, we’re kind of trying to ease you into the whole alternate Universe thing.  Besides, you’d end up fucking him and we don’t want that.”

“I wouldn’t…” Jacob began, before accepting the futility of arguing the point.  “So, what’d you do with him?”

Tyson laughed.  “I sent him on an errand.  I told him that if he brought back a box of donuts and a pack of D batteries, I could send him to a universe made entirely of swimsuit models.  He’s such an idiot.”

“Aren’t we pretty much identical?”

“Yeah.”

“And aren’t you pretty much identical to Tyson A,” Jacob said, putting the pieces together.  “Does this mean…”

“Hey, this is a pretty monumental occasion,” Tyson said quickly, feigning excitement.  “We should celebrate.”

“Cool.  How do you celebrate here on Universe B?”

“In Universe B.  And, well, we basically eat too much and give people shit they don’t want.  Sometimes we dance.  How do you guys celebrate?”

“The same, except throw in drinking too much and fighting with family,” Jacob looked around.  “I don’t see any of my family around here.”

“No, you wouldn’t.  Again, we’re trying to ease you in.  This is more a test run than anything else.”

“Then who am I supposed to fight with?”

“Let’s just forget that aspect of it,” Tyson said.  “Anyway, you should be getting back before I have to think through the implications of the changes to history I mentioned above.  Any questions for me before you go?”

“No.  I’m good.  This was boring,” Jacob said, putting his helmet back on.  “Next time I want to go to a universe that’s actually cool.  Not populated by lamewads like you, nerd-smo.”

“Hmm.  You sound like Rock B,” Tyson said.  “Anyway, off you go.”

“Wait.  There is one thing,” Jacob said.  “We have this guy in our universe who’s really depressed.  I think he might be suicidal.  I can’t remember his name, because he isn’t that important, which might be why he’s so depressed.”

“Jeremy Stone.  Sure, we have him too.”

“Right.  Anyway, I’ve been putting off helping him because frankly, I just don’t care that much.  But I also haven’t referred him to anyone because we don’t live in an alternate universe where people are actually helpful.”

“What’s your point?”

“You’re an alternate universe.  Are you guys helpful?”

Tyson shook his head.  “Not in the least.”

“That’s what I figured.  Just checking,” Jacob said, putting his helmet on again.  “Catch you later, Tyson B.”

Tyson’s New Toy

“Come on, where is nerd-licker?” Rock asked, shifting impatiently from foot to foot like a child.  A petulant, smelly, six-foot-tall child.  One who probably sucks his thumb.

“Relax, Rock,” Jacob said, checking his watch.  “He said he wanted to show us something.  He didn’t say when.”

“I wonder if it’s another one of his inventions,” Rock said, looking out the window of the science room.  “You don’t suppose he tried it out himself, do you?  What if something happened to him?”

“Dude, don’t say something so awful.  That’d be devastating.  We’d have to plan the funeral, and I don’t got time for that shit.”

Rock shrugged.  “I think his parents would probably do that.”

“Oh.  Well, we’d have to go, and act upset.  I’m just not feeling that,” Jacob said.  He stared out the window and pondered for a moment.  “On the other hand, we’d get to act all bereaved and show everyone how sensitive we are.  Maybe spearhead a campaign to put a tribute in the yearbook, or at the year-end assembly.  You know, make his death all about us.”

“That would get us laid for sure,” Rock said, remembering the motivation for all male actions.

“Yeah, and we wouldn’t even have to do that much.  And if we found the body, I bet we could take like a month off school.  You know what, I take it back.  I hope he is dead,” Jacob said as a minivan pulled up outside the window.  “Ah, shit, here he is.  Well, maybe some other kid will die.”

“Hey, guys, sorry I’m late,” Tyson said.  “I had a doctor’s appointment.”

“For what?  Your nerd glasses?” Rock said mockingly.

“Uh, yes, actually, it was an optometrist appointment.”

“Aww, and did your mommy pick you up?”

“Yeah,” Tyson said.  “What’s your point?”

“Ignore Rock.  He has this idea that you’re a nerd, and he’s a jock, even though he’s never played an organized sport in his life.”

“So?”

“He thinks he has to give you a hard time.”

“Why?  That doesn’t make sense.”

“He says it’s the way high school works.”

“But most of the jocks are actually really nice to me,” Tyson said.  “A few are dicks, but no more than you would expect from a random sample of 40 or so.”

“And that’s why he thinks you’re a nerd.  Anyway, don’t worry about it.  Very little of what Rock does makes any sense,” Jacob said as Tyson began puttering around a desk area.  “So, that was your mom, huh?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

Jacob shrugged.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before.  What’s she do for a living?”

“She’s a nurse.”

“That makes sense.  A lot of nurses are fat.”

“Hey.  I’m letting you try out my new invention,” Tyson said.  “Don’t fat-shame my mother.”

“One, you’re using me as a guinea pig.  Two, I don’t consider it fat-shaming to mention that people are unhealthy.  Or to throw donuts at them*.”

“Whatever.  Here,” Tyson said, pulling out a helmet that looked exactly like his time-travel helmet.

“That looks exactly like your time-travel helmet,” said Jacob.

“Right.  But it isn’t.  This helmet allows you to live your life in multiple realities.”

“So, see multiple universes?”

“In essence, yes,” said Tyson.  “You see, every time you or anyone else makes a choice, or there are otherwise multiple possible outcomes…”

“Multiple universes.  Got it.”

“Don’t you want to hear how it works?”

“No.”  Jacob began fiddling with the helmet.  “How do I work this thing?”

“Just like the time-travel helmet.  I’d like to combine them, eventually,” Tyson said.  He helped Jacob put the helmet on.  “Now, as I was saying, whenever someone makes a choice…”

“Tyson, your guinea pig is sold.  Stop with the sciencey bullshit.  Now, which universe should I check out first?”

“I’ve already decided that, and made arrangements.  You will be going to what I call, uncreatively, universe B.”

 

 

*This joke is endorsed by Ariana Grande

What You Will Be When You Grow Up

Your mother told me what you learned today,

Though I don’t know why we pretend to have happy homes in this day and age.

Anyway, your teacher said you can be whatever you want to be.

She’s right, of course, but take a moment to see

The limitations that your teacher left out

In all the choices she told you about.

You’re not going to be the next Super Bowl champ.

Daddy’s short, fat and white and running gives him a cramp.

You’ve inherited these genes, it’s sad but it’s true

But there’s lots you can do.  If you stay in school

It won’t matter a bit, though your teacher says so.

When it comes to success, it’s more who you know.

Since you’re kind of a loser, that route is in doubt.

Nobody likes you since you breathe from the mouth.

You could sleep around, it isn’t quite hooking,

Though that probably won’t work since you aren’t that good-looking.

And you can’t buy your friends, since you aren’t rich.

Don’t blame me for that, your mom spends like a bitch.

Or blame the liberals for keeping up with the times.

In the good old days you’d earn working in the coal mines.

Back to the problem at hand, what you’ll be when you grow up.

I can see from this conversation that you want to throw up.

Another limitation on your possibilities for success.

It looks to me like you can’t handle the stress.

A start up or owning your business is out.

On the plus side, we’re narrowing it down.

Sports are out, you’re too weak to throw

And nobody likes you, so no CEO.

You’ll never be able to get by on your looks.

You’ve no choice but to get by on the books.

One problem there, you’re too fucking dumb.

You’re 8 years old and you still suck your thumb.

Smarts are out, you’re almost braindead.

Which gives just one option for you to get ahead.

Work really hard, but you know that idea’s crazy.

Face it, son, you’re too goddamn lazy.

Where’s that leave us, now that we’ve gotten this far?

Let’s look at what you’ll hope for if you shoot for the stars.

Maybe middle management, but that’s probably a stretch.

Working on cars would be a good catch.

That’s too much to hope for, it’s probably less.

Either of these jobs would be a success.

Get used to cleaning, or flipping burgers.

You should probably learn how welfare works.

With all this in mind, remember this, little man.

If you kill yourself daddy will understand.

It’s Okay To Be Different

I heard you got beat up like you were a snitch

And came home crying like a little bitch.

Sometimes kids can be real mean,

But sometimes things are as they seem.

Face it, kid, you’re fucking weird.

To social norms you don’t seem to adhere.

I know you think your quirks make you unique

When they really only make you a geek.

It’s alright, kid, it’s great to be you

As long as you like being forced to eat poo.

If you don’t like getting shoved in trash bins

I think it’s time you learn to fit in.

I know being different is something everyone sells,

But only if you’re different in the same ways as everyone else.

If it’s in ways they don’t like you’ll be beaten and shoved.

I know you think it’s because kids can be rough.

As you grow older it only gets worse.

Now you only get shoved in the dirt.

Later on you’ll be ostracized and dismissed as a clown.

Your unpopular views will get shouted down.

People like people who don’t think like a clone,

Only when those views are variants of their own.

There is room for nuances ever so slight,

As long as you stay generally on the same side.

If you diverge, well, good luck finding friends.

Even worse, you might not be able to make meet your ends.

That’s a complicated way of saying you can’t get hired.

If they can find justification you might even be fired.

So you see it’s okay to dissent

If you want to spend life outside the fence.

But if you don’t want to be on the margins

Then you need to strike up a bargain.

Parrot the views that everyone speaks

And pick some token thing to claim you’re unique.

Like some harmless tattoo or maybe a piercing.

Make sure it’s something that everyone’s getting.

If you want to look like you’re taking a stand,

Make sure your cause is championed by a band.

But most of all, remember, it’s alright to be different,

Just don’t be so different that you get your ass kicked.

Tyson’s Note

“All I’m saying is a think it’s very unprofessional to be talking down to us like that,” Beth said, complaining to Jacob and Rock as they left health class together.

“What do you expect?  It’s health class,” Jacob said, trying his best to ignore her.  “They’re going to try to teach you to be healthy.”

“Fat is not unhealthy,” Beth said, indignantly.  “Besides, weight loss can’t be boiled down into calories in versus calories out.  The human body isn’t a Bunsen burner.  It’s more complicated than that.  You can eat very little and still gain weight, if you have the genetics for it.”

“You’re absolutely right.  The human body is some mythical thing, unbound by the laws of biology, physics, or even basic common sense,” Jacob said, trying to get away from the conversation by walking slightly faster.  Beth was quite fat, if you hadn’t figured that out by now.  I feel like you probably figured that out.

“All I’m saying is that weight loss is complicated, and the human mind can’t quite grasp the complexity behind weight loss.  It’s much more complicated than things we do understand, like rocket science or DNA sequencing,” Beth said, continuing her self-absolving rant.  “Besides, aren’t schools supposed to be a forum for debate?”

“If colleges are any indication that only applies when your views are some variant of the prevailing orthodoxy.  Besides, I’m not sure you can debate facts.  Opinions or interpretations of facts, sure, but facts are just kind of facts.”

“Evolution and vaccines would like to have a word with you,” Rock said, opening his locker.  A note fell out and landed on the floor, as things that fall out of other things often do.  Rock picked it up.

“What’s that?” Jacob asked.

“It’s a note.  Didn’t you read the narrator’s description?”

“What’s it say?” Jacob asked.  “Who’s it from?”

“I’m going to kill you,” Rock said, reading from the note.  “Well, shit.  That could have been written by anyone.”

“No, dude, there’s something on the other side,” Jacob said, flipping the paper over.  “It’s a note from Tyson.”

“Nerd-mo-tron?  What’s he want?  Ooh, did he finally figure out the whole time-travel thing?”  Rock asked.  “I want to try it, but figure there’s no point if I can’t remember it afterwards.”

“I don’t know.  It says he has something else to show us,” Jacob said.  He shrugged.  “I guess we should go check it out.”

“Who’s Tyson?” Beth asked.  Jacob jumped back and Rock looked up quickly.

“Woah.  What the hell are you doing there?” Jacob asked.

“Have you been eavesdropping on our whole conversation?” said Rock indignantly.

“What are you talking about?  I’ve been here since the beginning.  We were in the middle of a conversation when Rock found his note.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jacob said.  “You stuck around after we switched topics?  That’s weird.”

“Where would I go?  My locker is right here.  That’s why I was walking with you in the first place.”

“I don’t know.  Away.  Wherever people go when I’m not talking to them,” Jacob said.  “I mean, we weren’t talking to you, and you weren’t adding anything to the conversation anymore, so I just figured, you know, you were…not here.”

Beth chuckled awkwardly.  “Well, yeah.  People don’t just go away because you aren’t paying attention to them anymore.”  Rock and Jacob looked at Beth uncomprehendingly.  “You guys do know that people continue to exist when you aren’t around, right?”

“I’m not sure there’s any evidence to support that,” Rock said.

“What are you talking about?  There’s plenty of evidence.”

“All I’m saying is that I’ve never seen people existing while I’m not around.”

“Well, of course not.  You aren’t around to see it, so by virtue…how the hell do you argue with someone rejecting basic facts?”

“Now you know how we felt,” Jacob said, before turning to Rock.  “Let’s go see what Tyson is up to.  If he still exists, that is.”

The Bowling Alley

Rock and Jacob walked into the bowling alley and looked around.

“Why are we in a bowling alley?” Rock asked.  “It seems like a weird place for high school kids to go on a Friday night.”

“What are you talking about?  We’re here to hang out.”

“Why?”

Jacob shrugged.  “That’s what all cool high school kids do on Friday night.  They go down to the bowling alley and meet their friends.  Hang out.  Eat nachos and crappy hot dogs.  Play arcade games.  Maybe bowl.”

“I’m like 90% sure that isn’t the case.”

“What?  You mean hanging out at the bowling alley isn’t a thing anymore?”

“I don’t think it ever was a thing,” Rock said, looking around uncomfortably, as he should have, because I’m pretty sure bowling alleys have a pretty high per capita proportion of rapists.  “I’m not even sure bowling alleys are still a thing.”

“What? Really, dude?”

“Maybe in the 1950s.  Wait, there’s Lucy.  And a bunch of other people,” Rock said.  He looked confused for a moment.  “I guess this is a thing.  Not sure why, but let’s roll with it.”

“Hey, guys,” Lucy said, walking up and greeting Rock and Jacob.

“You know, you don’t have to say hi to us every time we happen to be in the same place at the same time,” Jacob said.  “We can both just be somewhere.  What’s this song, by the way? It’s awful.”

“It’s Meghan Trainor.”

“Ugh.  Doesn’t she have a black guy to go fuck?”

Rock and Lucy stared at Jacob.

“You know, because she’s fat and white.”

They kept staring.

“And, stereotypically speaking, black guys tend to be attracted to fat white girls.”

Lucy and Rock continued to stare, before Rock spoke, saving Jacob from himself.  “I actually kind of like her.”

“Really?” Jacob asked.

Rock shrugged.  “Like, I know all her songs are incredibly stupid, and the lyrics are entitled and obnoxious, but they’re catchy.”

“I think they’re manufactured to be that way,” Lucy said. “I think professionals or whatever draw them up specifically to appeal to our brains in a way that makes us enjoy them.  You just have to find a way to ignore the lyrics.”

“Is that what they do with Lady Gaga?” Rock asked.

“I don’t know,” said Lucy.

“Lady Gaga I actually respect,” Jacob said.  “It takes a real artist to wear a meat suit to prove…something.”

“Hey, does anyone want to go get some nachos?” Lucy asked.  “I’m thinking that’s what we do in a bowling alley.”

“Actually, I was thinking about going and playing some crappy arcade games,” Rock said.  “Man, this is so much better than being at home with our high-tech video games and smart TVs, or in a park drinking.  No wonder all the kids these days are hanging at bowling alleys.”

“I know,” Lucy exclaimed excitedly.  “If we were at a football game or something, I might be able to walk ten fucking steps without getting ogled by some creepy pedophile.  And can you imagine interacting with someone at a concession stand who isn’t drunk or stoned?”

“Truly, the bowling alley is the Mecca of high school kid hangouts,” Jacob said.  “Just as it always has been and always will be.”

As Rock and Jacob broke apart and started moving toward the arcade games, Jade Pelfert walked in and caught Jacob’s eye.  He tapped Rock and nodded toward her.

“Hey, what do you know about that girl?” Jacob asked.

“Some sophomore,” Rock shrugged.  “Pretty hot.  Why?”

“Well, don’t tell anyone, but I think we’re meant to be together.  Someday, I’m going to marry that woman.  It’s destiny.”

“Marry her?  Aren’t you getting, like, three steps ahead of yourself?” Rock said.  “Who is she?”

“Jade…something.  Pelfert, I think.”

“Don’t you think you should know her name before you start making wedding plans?  Have you talked to her?”

“Not yet,” Jacob said.  “Back off my ass.  I’m slow playing this.”

“Yeah, I mean, it looks like you’re missing just a few preliminary steps between now and marriage.”

Jacob sighed.  “Maybe.  But I have this crazy pipe dream where something actually works out and life doesn’t completely suck.”

“You may be asking for too much there.”

“I know.”

Rock sighed.  “Is this going to be another extended series of you obsessing after a girl you hardly know.”

“Probably.”

“Don’t you think that plot point is a little tired?  That you’re kind of turning into a one-trick pony?”

Jacob shrugged.  “I don’t know.  There was that one timeline where I ran for President.  Besides, we’ll throw a lot of time travel and other shit in there to break up the monotony.  The love angle is just one thing we’ll do.  Sort of an underlying baseline, if you will.”

“I just think you should be more creative, is all.”

Jacob shrugged.  “Maybe.  But I’ve never really been much for plot structure.  It’s just kind of…boring.”