if they let him take a shower where he is. Not like this, not after a swim and before English Lit, not to wash the chlorine from his hair, but for basic cleanliness -- do they let him? And I wonder if they force him to shower alongside the other boys too, or in my father's case, other men. I used to hate that, but then I found SuperFizz.
It's so much more than an energy drink. It's "Can in a can," like the aluminum says. And while it won't make me drunk or cause my heart to explode, it says it's "SuperFizzially proven" to unlock the real me. So I carry a can with me everywhere I go, clutching it like a rabbit's foot, or jammed in my pocket like a .45.
I need it around the likes of Dallas and his friends. Listening to their talk and the drumming of the shower water on the floor tiles I don't know, maybe I've read Lord of the Flies once too often, but I start to feel like Piggy stuck on that island. I spin around to check what's going on behind me, but Dallas and Co. are only showering. Showering and ranking on Miss Gould. For now.
"She's so fat --" Dallas says, and I roll my eyes.
Trapped beneath a trickle, wishing it was a waterfall I could hide behind, I turn obediently to the wall, waiting for that first kick from the can I drank earlier.
The empty is in my water-proof shower bag at my feet. I'm tempted to drop the soap just so I can check it hasn't picked up any dents in there. I only keep the pristine empties, but the shower cap I wrapped it in ought to protect it until such time as I can get at it without interference. Phys Ed. Coach Ballantyne's rules clearly state no food or drink in or around the pool, but I can't hit the showers without it. When we took our shower bags from our lockers, I made a beeline for a cubicle, where I drank the SuperFizz in three neat swallows. Shame to rush it, but when I need it I really need it.
It's tough not having Dad at home. He's not around to watch The Bold and the Beautiful when I ask him to help with my homework. He's not around to tell me Son, there are people with worse problems than yours when I tell him Dallas stole my lunch money again. Doesn't realize he has Dallas and all of his thug friends under his employment while his son slowly starves into a bigger -- or is it smaller? -- weakling. No, he doesn't look that deep. He'll just toss me some more money so Dallas and Co. will have their wages rise. Rather, he would if he was still around.
I always wanted to believe he'd wake up, realize his son is fast-becoming a man, and try to be the father and role model for real instead of just appearances. Seems that Happy-Ending bullshit only happens in movies, and since I've outgrown them too, I have to get my artificial sweetener from a different kind of can. My mother gets hers from intensive therapy -- the retail kind. Maybe they have a cell for her, too. That would just leave me and my SuperFizz
Dallas finishes telling everyone Miss Gould is so fat they could all cum in her belly button and not a single pearly drop would spill. Bryce, one of Dallas's thugs, suggests that Miss Gould would be more than willing to let us find out. Reaper, another, and ever the precisionist, remarks, "You're assuming she hasn't got an outty, fellas."
Everyone laughs but me, which brings Dallas sauntering and swinging across the tiled floor to loom behind me.
I stop soaping an armpit. Suds fall and splat on Dallas's feet like well, like something else.
"What makes you think you're any better than us, Burgers?" he says.
They call me Burgers because my name is Burgess. It's what they do.
I close my eyes and focus, and there it is. That SuperFizzial rush. Not sugar, but sweet nonetheless. And suddenly I'm not only tired of these Shallow Hals, I'm ready for them too, every one if it comes to it, because that's what SuperFizz does for me. Gets me in this shower room every Friday afternoon and sees me through.
Sees me through.
"It's 'cause I am better than all of you," I say, SuperFizzially charged. "Let's just get it over with, okay?"
He drops me to the tiles with a stomach punch. There's a flurry of kicks and punches to the body as the others join in. They deliberately avoid hitting me in the face. Dallas and his thugs may be shallow, but they're not stupid.
It's tough not having Dad at home. I wonder if they let him take a shower where he is. I wonder if they force him to shower alongside the other men. Or if they beat him, too. Something tells me he may be one of the ones doing the beating. It's tough not having him around, but I'll survive. Superfizzially! Yeah, ain't that the truth.
Sticks and stones.
Kicks and punches.
I'll take them all. I'll take them today, and next Friday, and every Friday after that. I'll take them just as long as no one steps on my shower bag and crushes the can in there. There may not be enough of me to put up a physical fight, but what I can do is keep coming back, keep drinking the SuperFizz. For the sugary kick. The sweet rush. It has to be better than not drinking it.
Better than a tasteless life.
This work is copyrighted by the author, Steven J. Dines. All rights reserved.