Good evening, everybody. Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday. Today I’m going to try something different. Instead of writing something new, I’m recycling some old homework assignments I wrote for school. It’s still my writing after all, and it’s not doing anyone any good just sitting in my Google drive.
For a composition class in my senior year of high school, I had to write a series of stories about a childhood best friend. I chose to write about my friend Doug who lived across the street. The following stories were written and submitted in the first week of December 2008.
And so without further ado, from the homework vault, I give you some stories about Doug.
I was horrified to discover that my front bicuspid was loose. It was not a prominent wobble, but the psychological discomfort was ravishing. With every bite of my morning grapefruit, I felt the faint aftershock of my gum tissue slowly unearthing. I needed to remove the young tooth for the sanctity of my sanity – this tooth had to go.
To me, Doug was a hunter, scholar, warrior, poet, and a hero all divinely conceived into one mighty soul. I dashed across the street and gave a modest tap to his back door. Doug, hunched over a bowl of cereal, ushered me in with a weary nod. My lungs squeezed out a cry for help.
“Doug, Doug, my tooth is loose.” I held my head in panic as I watched him lethargically chew the Lucky Charms in his mouth.
“You gotta… pull it out,” said Doug in nonchalance, between lazy swallows. He stared at me with blissful disinterest.
“Won’t that… won’t that hurt?” I said with a pathetic yelp. Doug just stared and chewed. He lobbed his spoon into the sink and wiped his hands on his tattered sweatshirt. He lifted his finger as he yawned, pointing to the corner of the kitchen.
“Go stand over there and open your mouth.” I shuffled nervously at his command. I stood pigeon-toed against a set of cabinets and opened my tiny mouth. Doug leaned back in his chair and closed an eye. He held a crimped face for a few seconds, as he was in deep concentration.
“Is this going to hurt?” I asked in a trembling pity. Doug smiled with one corner of his mouth.
“Yup.” Doug cocked his foot back and lunged it forward, sending one of his jet-black sneakers into the air. The shoe struck me in the jaw with laser-guided precision. I fell to the floor and screamed. My face pressed against a pool of blood and tears on the sleek hardwood floor. My cries fainted as I looked up at Doug.
“That hurt!” My anger was kindled as I attempted to stare him down. Doug lifted an eyebrow at my insolence.
“Does it hurt now?” I rolled over to my back to ponder his words. I was awestruck with his wisdom.
“So the pain was worth it,” I said as I dried my tears with my sleeve. Doug nodded from his chair as he chuckled.
“Gosh, there’s blood everywhere.”
This story is mostly true. Doug actually knocked out my tooth by flinging one of his shoes at me. However, it didn’t quite go down like this. We were sword fighting in his front yard and he just wanted to catch me off guard. He didn’t mean to hit me in the mouth.
I tied my skates a little tighter than usual. This game was serious. I was tired of the nauseating smell of defeat. I was tired of living in fear and doubt. I was tired of hyperventilating myself to sleep night after night, lying awake in a pool of my own failure. I was tired of it. The day came when I would be done with it.
That day was no ordinary one-on-one driveway street hockey game with Doug. This was to define a legacy and baptize a champion in greatness. We had picked the day at least three years in advanced and trained relentlessly. Only one of us would emerge as a victor.
Six amber colored bottles sat on the porch, glistening in the sunlight. Doug and I had won a three-legged race at a block party the night before and were awarded the coveted six-pack of Goose Island root beer. Goose Island was a fine root beer. Because of its quality, we only reserved it for very special occasions. We had agreed that morning that the winner of the hockey game would be awarded the entire six-pack.
“Ready for me to skate circles around you, Alex?” Doug peered at me from the opposite side of the driveway as he wrapped his stick in tape.
“Shut up. I hate you. Everyone hates you. I hope you die in a freak hockey accident!” The anticipation was making havoc with my emotions. Perhaps I was too young to be able to handle so much pressure.
As I struggled to rise to my feet, Doug skated a few brisk warm up laps in the street.
“C’mon, you baby!” I yelled as I awkwardly shuffled to the center of the driveway. Doug shook his head carelessly as he dropped the puck on the cement. I held my breath as we crouched low for the face off.
“I’m feeling good about today,” I mumbled just before I shoved an orange mouth guard between my chapped lips. We bumped our sticks together three times and lunged at the puck. Doug immediately swept through my legs and flipped in an easy goal.
Doug proceeded to annihilate me. I could only marvel at his finesse as he wiped the goal post with my dignity. In a matter of five minutes, Doug had reached twenty-five goals. He dropped his gloves and threw his arms up in exuberant jubilee. He loosened his skates, sat on his front porch, and snapped the top off of a Goose Island root beer. I, on the other hand, sat on the driveway in great pain. I began to cry a little as I watched Doug holler to himself. Doug stopped and stared at me.
Through my teary eyes, I could see Doug holding out a root beer to me. I shuffled over to his porch with a quizzical look.
“But the root beer is for you. You won. I didn’t.” Doug smiled with contentment.
“Alex, if you don’t win graciously, you haven’t really won at all.”
I snorted back the last of my tears as I flashed a toothy grin. I grabbed the root beer enthusiastically and dropped in a lawn chair beside him. Doug turned to me and smirked.
Doug and I sipped through the entire six-pack of Goose Island as we watched the sun set over his roof.
This story is true. Doug was older than me, and had no problem wiping the floor with me whenever we played roller hockey in his driveway. We were competitive, but the viciousness was mostly exaggerated.
The Carp had been in the pond for as long as we could remember. We never bothered to give it a name. To us, it was just “the Carp.” I fished at the pond often, for it was only about six houses down and ten yards into the forest preserve. I had only seen the Carp once. The memory of its reptilian figure and ghastly hiss kindled more inspiration than fear. We did not fear the Carp. We respected it, and so we fished for it.
That day was like any other try, save that I finally mustered the courage to swipe my dad’s Deluxe Spence-scout BassPro lure from his expensive tackle box. Doug, as always, was using American cheese. As I tied the impressive jig do the end of my humble fishing pole, Doug shook his head in quiet, but prominent, disapproval.
“This is going to catch the Carp.” I said in resilience to his condescending glances.
“No. It’s not.” Doug was cool and confident as he spit in the center of a pristine slice of Kraft cheese and wadded it into a ball.
“Do you know my dad caught a mermaid with this lure?” I crossed my arms, emulating his confidence. Doug smirked and retorted.
“Yeah. Did you know that’s how he met your mom?” I gave a sharp whip of the wrist, sending the glistening lure through the air. It met the surface of the glassy pond with a tremendous splash. I folded my legs and watched the line intently. We stared into the water, until I slowly realized my cast had wrought nothing but silence and stillness. I furiously withdrew the Spence-scout lure from the water.
“The Carp will never eat that. The Carp is wiser than that.” Doug rose to his feet as he prepared to cast. His wad of cheese sailed through the air and hit the water with an awkward, but charming “plop.” I threw my pole to the ground and hollered.
“But this is one of the best lures my dad has! He would be really mad if he knew I was using it.”
“Alex, the lure may be expensive, but it isn’t tasty. It’s a piece of metal. You can’t catch a fish with metal. To catch a fish, you must offer him something worth while in return.” Doug stated as he wagged his finger pretentiously. I shook my head violently
“That’s not true. It’s scented with rabbit blood. They like that.” Doug took a deep breath and turned his head to the sky.
“Alex, the African proverb says, ‘the empty hand is never licked.’ Think about it.” Doug was satisfied with his wisdom as he wistfully watched his line rippling in the water.
“I think you’re wrong.” I crossly said.
We jumped to our feet as a hiss resounded from the water. Doug gripped his pole with intensity as a reptilian head lunged from the deep. The great Carp had obviously heard the proverb.
This story is barely true. There was a big carp in the lake by our house, and Doug claimed to have gotten it to bite a few times. But I was never there to witness it. I also wouldn’t dream of taking my dad’s prized Spence-scout lure out of his tackle box. As part of the assignment, I had to incorporate a proverb, so the dialog is contrived to do that.