Sue was digging through an old box and found this story I wrote 26 years ago. Perhaps the second story I ever wrote.
I think Mike and I have always been friends. Always except last week I mean. Last week he said something not very friendly, so I told him we weren’t friends anymore. I guess something like that needs some explaining.
Two weeks ago we had a new kid in class. His name is Artie Stevenson. Everyone always wonders if a new kid is a nerd or if he’s OK. You can always tell by lunchtime. Artie didn’t raise his hand and try to answer every question in class, and at lunch he didn’t have a dumb lunch box or anything like that. His mom sent carrot sticks, but when he said his dad lifted weights and he ate carrot sticks for lunch no one said anything.
Anyway, some of us went over to Artie’s house after school the next day, and that’s when we knew for sure he was OK. When he saw our bikes, mine and Mike’s and Billy Swenson’s, Artie said let’s go riding. When he got his bike from the garage, we could tell he was OK because he had the coolest bike we’d ever seen but he didn’t brag or say anything about it, just, “Come on, let’s go, guys” and we raced to the empty lot.
The next day, Mike wanted to come over and play Captain Crash on my computer. Well, really it’s my dad’s but he lets us use it if we’re careful. I said let’s go bike riding with Artie, and he said, “Okay” but I think he didn’t want to. He didn’t tell his usual number of dumb jokes that day. (Mike’s jokes are alright, just a little goofy sometimes.) I guess I didn’t notice then, but I do now.
After that, it seemed like every day Mike wanted to do one thing and I wanted to do something else. My something else usually meant going to Artie’s house. Before, Mike and I always wanted to do the same things. I couldn’t figure out why he was being so weird.
That weekend, Artie’s mom said he could have one of us guys over to spend the night in his tent in the back yard. He could only have one of us, she said, because it was a small tent. Artie picked me, and I was real happy, and Billy didn’t mind, but Mike was just weird. He just said, “I’ll see you guys later. I gotta go.”
My mom said I could go straight to Artie’s right after school Friday so I took all my stuff in my school backpack.
Artie’s tent was neat. His dad barbecued, and his mom made us some snacks for after they went in the house. His parents are real cool. They even made sure we had a flashlight, in case we needed to come in the house in the middle of the night or anything. Then we had homemade pancakes for breakfast. Not homemade from a box, homemade from just kitchen stuff. His mom even made the syrup!
After that, Artie came over and we played Captain Crash until my dad needed to use the computer. (Dad says when he gets a new computer I get to have his old one in my room.) Artie is pretty good at Captain Crash. He said his best friend at his old house had it and he was glad his new best friend had it, too. He meant me.
When Artie went home I called Mike to tell him how good Artie was at Captain Crash. All he said was, “Yeah, okay. I gotta go, okay?” Then I asked him how come he was so weird all the time, and then he said it.
“At least I’m not a computer nerd like some people.”
Mike never had any problems with computers before, but I wasn’t gonna let him say that, so I told him he wasn’t my best friend anymore. I told him Artie was my new best friend. I told him he couldn’t play my computer anymore and his bike wasn’t cool, and he said he didn’t want to be a computer nerd, and how would a computer nerd know what was cool anyway. I got mad and hung up.
My mom and dad were weird all day Saturday. They acted like something was wrong with me. I said, “If you want to see someone who has something wrong with them, go to Mike’s house.” They didn’t go, but they were less weird I guess.
Monday Mike and I didn’t sit together at lunch. All the guys were acting weird, so after I ate I went to the library instead of going out to play baseball like I usually do. I didn’t want to see a bunch of weird guys right after lunch. Especially not Mike.
Guess who was in the library.
I was just minding my own business over by the baseball books when Mike walked up and started looking at one of them. He just looked at it for a minute and then put it back. Then he just stood there. Finally I asked him, “How come you’re in here being a library nerd instead of playing baseball?”
He said, “You know I can’t play catcher with one of those other guys pitching. You know they always almost hit me.” I didn’t say anything about what I would do if I was pitching. Then the bell rang for class, so Mike left and I checked out the book I was looking at.
That day after school, Mike called. He said he and Artie and Billy and Reggie Williams and some other guys were playing baseball and did I want to come over and pitch. He said, “I told Artie how good you are, and he said I should call you. So I did. Are you coming or what?” I didn’t want to, but it was boring playing Captain Crash by myself because I know all the levels, so I said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
When I got there they were already playing. Tommy Wethers was pitching, but when Mike saw me he yelled, “Hey, let’s get a real pitcher in here,” and Tommy threw me the ball and ran to shortstop where he usually plays. I didn’t want to pitch to Mike, but all the guys were waiting and looking so I went to the mound and pitched.
It was a pretty good game, but the main thing I remember is that when we started playing, it was hard to stay mad at Mike. You can’t pitch when you’re thinking about something else; you have to concentrate. Also, the pitcher and the catcher have to work together. You can’t just throw the ball and hope he catches it. He has to know what to expect, like Mike said.
The baseball book I checked out says the pitcher and catcher are called ‘the battery’ like they’re charged up or something. After the game I told Mike that, and he said something about us being real high voltage. Then he asked if he could come over and play Captain Crash. “Aren’t you afraid of turning into a computer nerd?” I asked.
“Naw,” he said. “I know a guy who’s a computer nerd, and he’s the best pitcher in the whole world, except maybe Nolan Ryan.” I didn’t know what to say about that. I just punched him in the shoulder and said, “First one to my house gets to use the Electro-Ray adapter” and took off. Mike beat me like he always does.
We played Captain Crash until dinner time, and Mom asked if Mike wanted to stay for dinner. My dad and I drove him home afterwards because it was getting dark.
On the way home my dad said, “It’s nice to see you and Mike being yourselves again. Friends are important.” I guess he noticed how weird Mike had been acting.
On Friday, Dad asked if I wanted to have someone over for dinner. “And spend the night?” I asked.
“Sure, if you want.”
I ran to the phone to call Artie, but I guess I accidentally punched Mike’s number. I wasn’t sure what to do. Then I had the very best idea ever. “Can I have two guys over, Dad?”
My mom answered instead. “As long as you promise to give me just a little peace and quiet this evening.” I said I had an idea, and she would get peace and quiet.
Mike said yes, and when I called Artie he said yes, too.
When I got off the phone my mom said, “You know dear, some kids have two best friends..”
I said, “Yeah, like me.” That was my super idea.
My tent sleeps three.