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How to Upgrade Your Nickname This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

“Ice cream soda, cherry on the top, who's your boyfriend? I forgot. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H!” The Shelby Warner laughed with her girlfriends as she gracefully skipped over the swinging rope. I watched The Shelby Warner from across the playground, wishing that I were a girl just so I could be her friend and maybe even have the honor of watching “Lizzie McGuire” with her on weekends. It was my second week at my new elementary school and my first full year in Canada. I was the new kid, also known as “Ben the Korean.”

Every day at recess, from noon to 12:55, I sat on the lopsided tire swing staring at The Shelby Warner. That was the extent of our relationship. Not only did I lack the courage to talk to her, but my English was as feeble as David's might compared to Goliath's.

The Shelby Warner was a brunette with large blue eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks. She usually wore a white V-neck shirt with capri pants; her average American-girl looks were completely enchanting to me. Since my English skills were sub-par, I mistakenly referred to her as my knight in shining armor.

Even at the time, I was aware that my behavior bordered on stalking. Sometimes, she caught me looking at her awkwardly, at which point I'd quickly avert my eyes to stare anywhere else, even into my tall friend Jack's armpit. The Shelby Warner probably thought I was weird, but I retained hope that things would eventually work out between us … until that ill-fated day.

When the bell rang for recess, I was the first one out the door, racing to secure my stakeout spot on the swing. Soon, The Shelby Warner came into view with a few of her friends, holding a tiny box of KFC chicken wings that her dad had dropped off for her. It was a perfect sunny day in September, with clear blue sky and a chill that required a light jacket.

The girls sat at a picnic table and started to eat. I noticed a half-pumped soccer ball under the slide – the soccer ball that would forever change my fate.

As soon as I saw the ball, I had a magnificent idea. I placed it on the concrete so the hole for the pumping needle faced my chest, a position rumored to increase kicking distance up to 200 feet. I unreasonably convinced myself, This is it. If she sees me kick this ball, she will like me. As a naive third-grader, my primal instinct was to show off my athletic ability.

I stepped back and got into position, preparing to kick the ball over a distant chain-link fence. Then I faked a big cough to catch the attention of The Shelby Warner and other unimportant classmates. Since I didn't actually know how to kick a soccer ball, I figured I would hit it with my toe and aim high. I focused on the ball and envisioned basking in the glory of applause and recognition from the girl I had loved for two weeks.

Upon contact with my toe, the ball took off admirably, but started curving to the left. “STOP!” I yelled at the ball. It didn't stop. Instead, it pounded into the beautiful face of my one and only, The Shelby Warner. On the ground, hands over her mouth, chicken wing in the air, The Shelby Warner had noticed my kick all right.

Soon, the teachers came out to carry the crying girl to the nurse's office. I crawled under the wooden bridge and hid myself from the rest of the world. Shocked and embarrassed, I resolved to never come out and instead start my own society of awkward people who kicked soccer balls at innocent girls.

Eventually when I got hungry I abandoned this idea. With my body flat against the wall, I tilted my head to peek through the window at The Shelby Warner in the nurse's office. She had a Scooby-Doo bandage on her lower lip. My luck with the ladies had hit a new low, but from then on, classmates called me “The Kick-Hur” and “Bend It Like Ben.”

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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Jason said...
Nov. 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm:
Really fun, well told story.  Planning to use it next Monday as the sample text for some middle schoolers I work with.
 
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jazziscool said...
Apr. 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm:
I burst out laughing at the end, when they gave Ben his new nicknames. It was a funny and cute story; though, I'm sorry the girl got hit in the face.
 
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