Cream Soda and Root Beer

February 19, 2013
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Our grade eight group of hellion rascals consisted of eight punks in total: Blaine and Blaze, who had more balls than any of us when it came to vandalism and pranks; Mac and Jesse, who had been best friends since elementary school; Devlan and Alex, who always bought us food at the corner store and drinks at the vending machines; Luke, who we never really knew that much about; and me, who only knew Blaze before joining the group.
The last place I wanted to be right before lunch was stuck in sewing class, tidying up my seatmates’ and my workspace because I was too slow to escape clean up time like the rest of them. Every day in the class before lunch I would always try to seat myself as close to the door as possible so as to be sure to give myself enough time to sprint to my locker, toss in my books, grab my sandwich and run down to Blaine and Blaze’s locker, where we would all meet every single day at lunchtime before heading down to the corner store. On one occasion a few months before, Alex had to stay after class for five or so minutes to do something for a teacher, and sure enough the group along with myself left without him, leaving him to scrounge around the school looking for another clan to attach himself to. You didn’t want to be left behind.
For the most part our group got along with each other, with a few exceptions. Blaze was an on-again, off-again instigator and it was a rare moment if nobody was in a brawl with him; Mac never passed on an opportunity to insult even his best of friends, which painted him an incredibly unlikeable character in my eyes; and nobody liked Luke at all except for Blaine, and he was lucky to have that. If he ever talked it was because he was responding to something Blaine had said, otherwise he was sure to be retorted at with a cold “Shut up, Luke.” There was nothing wrong with him –– he wasn’t mean or annoying or anything –– he was just the kind of kid who you hated and didn’t ask why.

Blaze was the most picked-on kid in our school. We were the only people in the world who could stand him, having been a foster child of a respectable, mischief-intolerant Catholic family who seemed to be upset with their obligation to stand by their decision of adopting a “troublemaker.” Out of the people I hated, I hated Blaze the least. He was a nice enough kid, as long as you were willing to look past his social handicaps and his absolute inability to express friendship on any level.

I secretly hated Blaine, Mac and some days Blaze. Hating Luke was no secret. The day Blaine stole my wallet I swore I would never hang out with him again, but sure enough the next day I was back in the group, not wanting people to think I had no friends, because that was the most important thing in the world.

So after sewing that day I barely managed to make it to our usual meeting spot in time to secure some company on the way to the corner store, where we would litter more environmental harm than an oil spill, smash Jones Soda bottles on the pavement, smoke cigarettes without the faintest idea as to how this was done, and of course set off a few little red firecrackers in the neighbors’ mailboxes. When we got to the store, usually in about ten or twelve minutes, depending on how many vandal detours we took, we all got the same things we always got: slushies and five-cent candies, except me. I always just got a slushy and then collected all the change and bought as many caramel cubes as I could. Then I’d sit in my next class and do nothing but pick my teeth.

On the way back to school our destructive minds were usually too preoccupied by our snacks to worry about what kind of damage we could do, until of course we got sick of our slushies, which we would always end up tossing on nearby doorsteps, front lawns, or just lazily onto the middle of the quiet street. But today I guess Blaine was feeling a bit out of the spotlight, so instead he decided to toss his slushy at the back of my head. I immediately froze, boiling with anger at the little brat who just soaked me in sticky juice, but at the same time feeling scared that that same brat didn’t like me any more, and that this might be me getting kicked out of the group. To make matters worse, Mac, Jesse, Blaze and of course Luke all saw the look of satisfaction on Blaine’s face and decided that they had had enough of their slushies too, and in less than one terrible minute I got five cream soda and root beer slushies thrown at me by my best and only friends in the world. The only two who continued to drink their slushies and passively stand up for me were whom I then believed to be the only two decent people in the world, Devlan and Alex.
When we finally got back to the school, with about fifteen minutes before period three began, I immediately left the group and headed for the washroom to clean off my face, hair and hat, and to hide any evidence of moisture in my eyes. Before I finished, Devlan and Alex came in and said they couldn’t believe that those guys would do that and I replied, “I know I can’t believe it either,” and I thanked them for not throwing theirs.
Now the three of us, best friends ever since, use a lot more caution when choosing who we share our lunchtimes with. We look for people with class, people who don’t feel an adrenaline rush when causing someone pain or discomfort, people with morals, people who understand the value of friendship, and people with common decency – people who don’t treat others like dirt and expect to get away with it. We also look for the weaklings, the people who are scared senseless of doing anything that might upset one of us, people who are shorter and usually a year or two younger to make us feel superior, people who are kind and generous, so that we don’t have to dig into our own pockets every time we’re hungry, and most of all, people who feel the most important thing in the world is having friends, whether you like them or not. We need to be sure that we’re the ones holding the slushies at all times.

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