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The Pooh Colored Robe
Wake up at 7 AM. Walk to school. Walk home. Homework. Eat dinner. Go to bed. Wake up. Repeat. Life was going just fine. Nothing interesting ever happens, but I'm not about to start complaining. I never really searched for anything great, I guess I just thought whatever was supposed to make my life exciting would make a point at presenting itself to me. Every day seemed to be the same for me. That is, until the third Friday in October, the day that changed my life forever.
"Get your ass to school!” shouted my mom. Oh yeah, my mom is a drunk . Ever since my father died, she has turned to alcohol to comfort her. Her being up this early is not a good thing, this means she got up in the night and started drinking. Every time this occurs I know to grab a quick snack and hustle out the door before she really starts yelling.
The school day seemed pretty similar to every other day besides the fact that I would be trying out for the basketball team later today, but even so I kept finding myself zoning off, smiling, and thinking to myself about my favorite superheroes. My comic books do a good job at keeping my mind off of school and the kids who continually bully me. In no time, school was over and it was off to tryouts.
The whistle blew and all the boys at practice ran over to center court. The coach named a drill that sounded something like a foreign language to me. All the boys ran to where they had to go and I was lost. This time everyone, even the coaches, expected me to know what I was doing. But I had never done this before, how was I supposed to know? That’s what I thought anyway. All the other boys had played on travel teams together and were used to everything the coaches would throw at them. I got in a line behind one of the more seasoned players and tried to follow his lead. I followed and ended up not doing as poorly as I thought I would. After a few more drills it was time for a break.
"How's it going Theo?" asked John Smalls sarcastically. He was one of the best basketball players on the team.
"I'm having fun. How much longer?” I said.
"Why, you tired little baby!", all the boys laughed with John and jogged back to the coaches. After, the coaches talked a little bit then said it was time to scrimmage. All the boys cheered, I felt like I was going to throw up. John and his sidekick Anthony were captains and they picked teams. One by one boys were picked and high fives were given after each one. Four kids left. Then three. Two. Then it was just I. Alone again.
“I guess I have no choice, Theo you’re on my team,” John said, without an ounce of excitement in his tone.
There were 11 kids at tryouts and my team had six guys meaning that I was the sub. I sat on the sideline and watched the boys play. I couldn't help but get lost in thought. "Why am I so different? Are they better than me? Why am I not accepted?" These thoughts kept running through my head. Despite all the hostility towards me, I showed none back. I didn't even think mean thoughts, just wondered why everyone treated me differently.
"Schmitd! You're in. Smalls you're out." As I ran onto the court, the look in John's eyes said it all. No high five or anything. John wasn't happy. But nevertheless I was on the court. After five minutes of struggling to keep up with the game, I decided to become a little more vocal. I started calling for the ball when I was open, but instead of the ball, I received silly smirks from my fellow teammates. Finally I got the ball and started to dribble down the court. The boy guarding me began to laugh. I dribbled a little more and then took a shot. It seemed as if the game went into slow motion. The ball missed the hoop by three painful feet. The little hope I had suddenly turned into sadness.
The whistle blew and tryouts were over. The coaches brought all the boys together and said that the team would be made up of eleven kids, which meant everyone made the team. When I heard this, my mind went blank. The only thing I was was confused. "Why was it that I don't care? Well I guess I'm happy,” I thought to myself. As I walked home I searched for the happy feeling one was supposed to get after accomplishing something this great. But with all the hate I got from the other players I couldn’t help but think that was how the whole season would go, Theo against the rest of the team. It always seemed like it was me against the rest of the world.
I walked with my head down the whole way home kicking rocks one at a time. I kept kicking different rocks until I noticed something peculiar. I saw a rock on the ground shaped like a star. It was unique so I picked it up to examine it, popped it in my jacket pocket and kept on walking. In less than a minute I spotted another, then another, and another! The next one was just off the walking path, so like all curious eighth graders I searched for more. Very shortly I realized it was a path of some sort. It led to the forest a few yards off the path. This didn't stop me though. It just made it that much more of an adventure. An adventure only a superhero would take. After picking up about 20 stars I was led to a tree with a note attached too it: Look for the tree with the big roots protruding from the earth. It's there.
It was apparent this was not meant for me but I couldn't help myself. Within a few moments I was standing at the base of a huge tree. As I examined it and started to look closer at the roots, I noticed that there were some deep crevices within the roots. Even though it seemed dangerous, I reached my hand into the crevices to feel around. Mostly I found bugs, but all of a sudden I felt something. A handle. I pulled up but it was stuck. I yanked at it with all of my might and it popped out causing me to go flying back on my butt. I lay there for a moment and thought about why I was even messing around with someone else’s business. It only took a moment for me to convince myself that this was okay. What had flown out of the root seemed to be a briefcase. I tried to open the briefcase but it was locked. I went back to the note on the tree but saw nothing on how to open it. Bummed, I proceeded to walk home, with the briefcase in hand.
When I got home I went straight to the basement where my father had stored his collection of tools. I found a hammer and hit and preyed away at the locks, one by one I broke through. Before opening the briefcase I went up to my room and locked the door. I sat cross-legged on my bed with the case of mysteries on my lap. I slowly opened it up and soon my excitement turned into anger. It was just a long boring robe. It wasn’t even a cool color- pooh colored brown- which made it that much more disappointing. Although I thought it was dumb, there was nothing to do but try it on. As I slid the robe on one arm at a time I thought to my self, "Why would anyone go through so much trouble to hide this and make sure only the person it was intended for would get it? It's a stupid robe." There has to be more to it I thought. I looked in the briefcase for more by holding it upside down and shaking it out, but couldn't find anything but the robe on his back. I plopped back onto my bed, disappointed and confused. I opened up a comic book and dove into a new world. One I had always wished I could be a part of. A world without worry, one where I would be able to do things no one else could do. I could get away from the evil world I was living in now. No more John Smalls, no more bullies, no more being made fun of. That thought was in my head constantly. At tryouts there was not hostility, but seeing the giant guns in the comic book, these thoughts came to me. In the midst of reading my book, I heard the front door open. My mom was home from work. She walked upstairs and opened the door to my room, glanced in for a moment then shut the door and went to her room. "Weird!" I thought. I didn't think much of it and went back into my fantasy world. After a few more pages all the water I drank at tryouts was catching up to me. After using the bathroom I went to the sink to wash my hands. As I turned on the faucet and glanced up at the mirror I had to do a double take. I was looking into the mirror but there wasn’t a reflection staring back at me. I stepped back and tripped over the hem of the robe, causing me to tumble to the ground. Shaking and heart racing, I stood up only to do it all again when I looked in the mirror for a second time. Finally I got up and really looked into the mirror. It wasn't something in my reflection that shocked me; it was the lack of something. There was nothing there. I had no reflection. Confused, scared, and curious, I couldn't think of what to do. I was thinking about what could have caused this when slowly I removed the robe and my body appeared. “It couldn’t be the robe, that’s impossible,” I thought to myself.
I shoved the robe back into its container and threw it into the back of my closet completely scared out of my mind. I jumped back onto my bed and slapped myself in the face a few times but nothing changed, except for the now red color of my cheeks.
"Dinner time!" Shouted my mother.
I hardly talked at all at the dinner table, which made for a quiet dinner seeing as I’m an only child to a widowed mother.
"I made the team,” I said without emotion.
"Good so you’ll be gone longer?” asked my mother.
"Yeah,” I said very monotone, "I'm tired, and I’m going to bed". As I walked back up to my room my mind was racing. Thousands of questions were running through my head all at once. I brushed my teeth and got into bed. It was so early but my body was tired and ready for bed. On the other hand, my mind couldn't even keep up with my thoughts. After an hour of not being able to fall asleep I did the only thing I could think of; try the robe out again. I found the robe in the back of my closet and threw it on. I walked down into the living room where my mom was watching the news and drinking like she did every night. I went right up to the T.V. and turned it off. My mom said nothing but confusion clouded her face. For the second time I was in shock. Remember, I am still getting used to this thing. I decided to grab some candy from the kitchen, which was against mothers’ rules, seeing as it was past 8 o’clock. I went back up to my room smiling the entire way. Finally, all the opportunities came to me. The next morning I got up at 7, ready to follow the same dull routine. But then I remembered something that made me extremely happy, I wasn’t alone, I had my magical robe.
When I got to school, all was normal. Once lunch came around though, I tried out my luck.
“Hey guys can I sit here?” I asked my teammates.
“Theo, we have girls coming here,” said John Smalls with a cocky attitude.
Pretending to act disappointed, I went back to the table I usually sat at. But once I turned my back to Smalls, a sneaky smile erupted on my face. I quickly ate my lunch and then went to my locker to grab the cloak. I put it under my arm and made a beeline to the boy’s bathroom. There, in the safety of the stall I draped the cloak over my body. (In more ways than one, I was someone I wasn’t. But I loved it.) I went straight to the basketball player’s table and stood there for a while to see if anyone could see me. No one said a word so I slowly reached towards John’s carton of milk and tipped it over right onto his lap. I struggled to hold in laughter. John was ticked off and scurried to the bathroom to clean off. I followed him there and took off the cloak and pretended like I didn’t know what had happened.
After school I had my first basketball practice. On the way to the gym I saw John walking wearing some weird looking overalls.
“Those are interesting pants,” I said trying not to laugh.
“Shut up,’ he said defensively. I had seen those pants before in the nurses’ office. They were the ones that were given to the little sixth graders who wet themselves the first days of school. The stench of the milk on his pants had become too much. I loved the fact that I got back at John for the way he treated me all the time.
At practice I just went through the motions thinking about what to do next. Practice was over in no time. The other kids on the team recited their usual jokes throughout practice, but it didn’t seem to affect me at all. I knew I could get back at them whenever I wanted to and never get caught. Afterwards, on my walk home I decided to walk home invisible. As I threw the robe over my head I noticed a cute twenty-something brunette jog by and whistled at her. I saw a couple having a picnic and walked up and grabbed their baguette when they were looking the other way. As I was walking away I heard them questioning each other. I felt on top of the world. While eating my bread I thought of how I’d been in need of a new comic book or two. Comix, my favorite comic book store, carried my all time favorite comic book, Watchmen. Completely forgetting I had my cloak on I went into the store, grabbed a few of my favorites and went to the cashier. I stood there for a few moments watching the cashier almost stare straight through me. Then I realized I was still wearing the robe. This was the first time I really realized the possibilities that could come from being invisible. I thought about it for a second and then walked out of the store with the comic books under my arm.
When I was almost home I slipped off the robe and shoved it in my backpack along with the stolen comic books. I walked into the house and went straight upstairs. I lay in my bed reading my comics but couldn’t focus on them. All I could think about was doing more with the cloak. I decided I wanted to do more evil to John. My comic book always showed the person with powers getting back at enemies, and that’s what I wanted to do. I knew both John’s parents worked, so John would be home alone. I got my scooter and headed over to John’s.
Without hesitation I walked straight into John’s house wearing the cloak. Everything was so natural now. I found my way into the kitchen and saw the stew John started for his mother to continue cooking for dinner. Without a second thought about it, I headed into the bathroom and found just what I was looking for, laxatives. I poured some into the stew and stirred it all around. With a smile on my face I scooted on home.
I walked in the door and hopped up the stairs and straight to my bed where I continued to read Watchmen. Within minutes my mom was home and I walked on down to greet her.
"Hello mother,” I said with a smile on his face.
"What’s your deal?"
"Just feel like helping out,” I ignored her careless response.
“You’re not all bad,” my mother said more thoughtfully than she had ever said anything, “I just hope to God you don’t end up like me.”
After dinner that night I went back up to my room and attempted to do my homework, but the same thought kept filling my head, "If stealing comics were this easy, what else could I get away with?” I decided to wait until my mom was asleep so I could sneak out more easily. At about midnight I hopped on my scooter and flew down the sidewalk towards the 7-Eleven, since it’s always open. I slipped on the cloak and walked right on in. With no acknowledgment from the grungy cashier I could take whatever I wanted. I spent quite some time in the store, first grabbing a candy bar, then a pair of sunglasses and a few knickknacks. Then after realizing how easy this was, I put a pair of expensive headphones under my arm. I walked out, put my new things in my backpack and headed home for bed.
The next day all during school I just wanted to use the robe. I thought of all the things I had ever wanted and I decided to skip practice and instead hustled home so I could go to the mall just uptown. I went to the back of my closet to get the robe out of its hiding place, and I put it on. I walked to the Wal-Mart close to my house and used the robe to get the most expensive things I could grab. I knew that the most costly things would be locked down or have security tags so I headed to the toy section and snatched a few sweet nerf guns. Then I headed to the electronics section and got a bunch of DVDs. I didn't think of it as stealing, but borrowing permanently. As a kid I was always told that stealing was bad, but borrowing was acceptable. While in the zone I grabbed a wallet someone set down while examining the new HDTV’s. I ran out of the store and straight home. Scared and worried I threw my loot on the ground. "What am I doing!?" I was lost. I sat in my bed and cried.
I struggled to get to sleep that night. I felt a little guilty for the first time since I started using the robe. I kept thinking to myself how much of a monster this robe had turned me into.
“How could I do this to myself,” I thought, “to my mom!”
My mother’s words really started to hit me hard. She actually said something meaningful to me earlier. Even sober she’s hardly ever genuine. These thoughts echoed in my head. I put the robe into its briefcase and went up to put it in the attic. I went to bed still down about my previous actions that day. I couldn't get myself to return anything because of the embarrassment and punishment that was sure to follow.
Over the next few days I tried to go back to normal but had seeped to a level of sadness I had never felt. Everyone could tell how I was feeling. My mother thought I was sick and my coach asked if I needed to see the school counselor. I was so unmotivated I even started to get behind in school. I had flunked my math quiz and the paper due in English was not even close to finished. About two days after it was due my teacher approached me.
"Theo, I started grading the class’s paper and I can't seem to find yours. Did you turn it in?"
I couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough.
"Yes, I turned it in. Maybe you misplaced it?” I suggested.
My teacher promised to look again but I knew I was in big trouble. After practice, I got home and started writing right away. I had to get it down in case my teacher told me he lost it and I had to turn in a new copy the next day. After a few hours of working extremely hard on the paper I was finally done.
In English the next day my teacher confronted me. "Theo, I can't find your paper anywhere and I know you didn't turn it in. You can turn it in for half credit."
"I turned it in!” I half screamed. I knew that I couldn't afford to get half credit on such a big assignment. I knew what had to be done. I needed a way to slip my late paper onto the teacher’s desk and pretend the teacher had lost it all along. I thought the best way would be by putting it in my teacher's office down the hall. The only problem was there were always teachers in there. My mind started straying off into fantasy world, an area of my mind that I thought I had repressed after stealing from Wal-Mart
"No!” I thought.
I convinced myself it was the only way I could pull of a passing grade in English. I went home after practice to get the robe and headed back to school to do the deed. There were a few teachers in the offices still and it took me a while to find my teachers desk. Once I did, I slipped it under a few pieces of paper. Hoping my teacher would see this and not be suspicious I left the office as quickly as I could.
Once I got home, I wanted to scream. I was so disappointed in myself. I started throwing things around my room and tearing apart my comic books and wadded up the robe. I sat down with my head in my hands and I wept. I knew I had to do something. Hiding the robe from my plain sight wasn’t exactly working; I knew I had to do more. I had had enough and was ready to go back to my normal routine life. Basketball was supposed to be my new thing and it was ruined all because of the stupid robe. I was too preoccupied with stealing new things to even pay any attention to basketball.
With my chest puffed out, I scootered to Wal-Mart put on the robe on and returned the stolen loot. I hadn't used anything, just took it all because I knew I could. I even put the wallet on the customer service counter so it could be found and returned. With a sense of pride I headed back home. Once I got home, with the robe under my arm, I headed to the basement and grabbed newspaper, logs, and a lighter.
Whoever this robe was intended for would just have to find another, I was just glad to finally be rid of it. Being a superhero with powers would just have to stay a figment of my imagination; the real Theo wasn’t ready for superhero powers just yet.