Change His Name This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   My best friend Maureen works at a little ice creamplace, located next to a flag shop. Right between that flag shop and a cardealership stands a small, cute house with a brightly colored "I LoveMom" flag hanging over the front door. I always wondered who lived in thatlonely house and owned the crazy, bright yellow Mercedes Benz with"TAM" stamped on the side. I asked Maureen if she knew, and that's whenI heard about "Crazy Chris."

I giggled about the encountersshe'd had with him. Chris often visits the ice cream shop and dances by himselfin the parking lot and, once, in the dumpster. He never has any music to danceto; he is just happy doing the mamba all around town. Chris even tries to get hisice cream for free, but they all know he has to pay. I didn't believe a word ofthis from Maureen until I saw Chris for the first time.

I pulled into agas station, and who do you think was standing in front of the store dancing?Crazy Chris, of course, dressed in a bright yellow shirt, black pants and a largetan hat. I parked next to a black Trans Am that Chris was eyeing. He was waitingeagerly for the owner, singing and dancing while admiring the car. Chris tried topersuade the owner to let him buy it, but it was not for sale at anyprice.

Maureen said Chris was harmless, but told all kinds of crazy lies."He's Britney Spears' father and she refuses to talk to him because she'sfamous now, and sometimes Chris is his twin brother and that's not really hisname." These silly stories made me a little nervous, but I now know there isnothing to be scared of.

When I got home, I told my parents I had seenthis crazy guy dancing in the parking lot. They knew immediately who I wastalking about. My father said he met Chris at a restaurant. I began telling myparents all the stories I'd heard about him, when my father stopped me and toldme the worst news I could have heard. My father said Chris was the way he wasbecause he lost his wife and children in an airplane crash. Dad told me the nexttime I saw Chris to say "Hello," because he really is a niceman.

I felt awful, like I should be the one in the dumpster. Chris isalone now, and it seems the only thing that makes him happy is what made me laughat him - dancing. A week later, I drove by Chris picking up trash on the side ofthe road. I knew he wasn't in need of money or food, it was just Chris beinghimself, doing something for the town that not many do.

Now whenever Ipass Chris, I smile and wave or beep if I see him in front of his house, becauseI know there's nothing to be afraid of. Crazy Chris is just a name. Chris is justa man enjoying his life the way he wants to.

Don't always listen to whatpeople tell you about others and don't criticize or laugh at someone you don'tknow just because of rumors or stories you hear. I no longer call him "CrazyChris," just plain old Chris.

(Names have been changed.)

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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