Authors: Flynn Meaney
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction / Social Issues / General
“My little sister, Lila, would be so excited about this,” I
tell Hunter. “She loves natural disasters. She watches The Weather Channel all the time, and she’s only seven.”
Hunter laughs. “Sounds like she’s gonna be one of those tornado-chasers one day. I’m clueless—I didn’t even know we had earthquakes in Wisconsin.”
I shake my head. “We’ll probably never have one. They mostly happen at fault lines—like, where the plates of the earth meet each other. The plates shift, and everything gets shaken up.”
“Wow.” Hunter turns his head back to look at me. “You’re an expert.”
I laugh. “I had to learn enough to prove to Lila that we’ll never have one.”
Being this close to Hunter, I’m suddenly aware of his breath, and I start to feel nervous.
I have to ask. I have to know about him and Diva.
I say, “So this is how Julius celebrates Valentine’s Day.”
“Ughhhh,” Hunter says with a sigh. His shoulders sink.
“I don’t know,” Hunter says. “Valentine’s Day is just so annoying.”
He accidentally puts his left hand down on my right hand, balancing all his weight on me for a second.
“Sorry!” he says, and then continues. “No, like, probably Valentine’s Day can be cool with someone you like. Like, are you and Johann doing something?”
“No,” I say quickly. “I didn’t even see him today.”
“Diva wants me to buy her something,” Hunter says.
“But I’m not. She’s so annoying. She just, like, randomly told people we’re dating.”
“So you’re not dating?”
I can feel my pulse in my throat.
“Nah. I dunno. I mean, I guess we are.”
I lift my head and blurt out, “I don’t even like Johann. I don’t really know why we’re going out.”
I want Hunter to look relieved or excited. But instead he looks sympathetic.
Does he feel bad for me?
“He’s a nice guy, though,” Hunter says.
“I just… He’s… I don’t like him like that,” I say. I know I sound completely desperate, but I keep going. “I don’t even know how we ended up going out.”
Hunter smiles. “Well, I know how I ended up going out with Diva…. I got drunk and passed out, and she took advantage of me.”
We both laugh out loud. Hunter’s eyes are so ridiculously blue, and I know that I’m staring at him for longer than I should, but he’s looking at me, too. I’m scared to move any part of my body, including my eyes.
Hunter moves his hand, and it lands on mine again. This time he doesn’t say sorry, and I don’t want him to. Then he tilts his head, and I realize that he’s about to kiss me….
And the loudspeaker crackles, and Hunter retreats, banging his head against the table.
“Thank you for participating in this emergency drill,” Dr. Nicholas’s voice booms over the loudspeaker. “Please resume your classes.”
Mr. Winther picks up the discussion. “As I’m sure most of you realize, we did not have a real earthquake today. However…”
No, it wasn’t a real earthquake. Nothing shifted today. But I have hope. There are definitely fault lines here.
“Anonymous Senior Gives Tell-All Report About Being Forced into Prom Contract”
“The Boy Recession©” by Aviva Roth,
The Julius Journal
feel like shit.
Actually, I feel worse than shit. I feel like dog shit in a paper bag that Derek set on fire on someone’s porch. My head hurts. My neck and shoulders hurt. I feel like I’ve been lifting weights, even though obviously I haven’t. And I’m more tired than usual this week. Musical rehearsals have been wearing me out, but this is a different kind of tired. I’m just dragging my ass around. I don’t even have the energy to pretend I’m not sleeping in class.
“Hunter, you are
sweaty,” Diva tells me.
“I’m aware,” I say. “And I can’t breathe. Can you get offa me?”
She’s sitting on my lap, because we just finished this song, “We Both Reached for the Gun,” where I pretend to be a puppet master and she’s a puppet. The spotlights are
really bothering me, and Diva’s weight on my legs is making my thighs go numb. I push her off, and she lands on her ass on the stage and whines, “Hunter!”
Pulling my sticky T-shirt away from my chest, I stand up and start to walk offstage. I need to get out of these spotlights. But before I get to the stairs, Mrs. Martin calls out from her seat in the front row of the audience.
“Billy Flynn!” she says. “Let’s take those last few measures again.”
I trudge back toward the chair, which Diva’s sitting in now.
“Can we do it without her in my lap?” I say. “She’s heavy. My legs are all sore.”
“Hunter!” Diva whines again.
“Get back into position,” Mrs. Martin says. “She is the puppet; you are pulling the strings. All of your body movements must be coordinated. And she must be mouthing the words at the same time you are singing the words. You must be completely attuned to each other.”
“I don’t know if I should even sing any more,” I say, squinting out at Mrs. Martin with my hand up to shade my eyes. “My throat is sore.”
“If your throat is sore, you are not singing properly,” Mrs. Martin says. “You should not be singing from your throat. You should be singing from your
“I’m singing the right way,” I snap. “I know how to sing. My throat isn’t sore because I’m singing. My throat is sore, so I don’t wanna sing.”
“Sit down, Billy Flynn!”
Diva stands up next to the chair and crosses her arms to show she’s pissed. When I’m in the chair and she lands on me with her full body weight again, I let out this involuntary grunt.
“Jesus Christ, Hunter,” she hisses, without even looking back at me. “Get over yourself.”
The piano guy starts the music, and Diva gets going with her puppet movements. Her arms are flinging and flailing all over the place, and she keeps hitting me in the face with her stupid elbows. I can’t wait for this crap to be over.
When we finish the song, I push Diva off me again and head for the stairs, but Pam pops her head out of the stage curtains. She’s got her headset on, and she calls out, “Billy Flynn! Where are you going? You have a costume fitting!”
“What?” I’m on the first step. “I can’t do it tonight. I’m sweaty as hell.”
sweaty?” Pam says, holding up her clipboard. “I just hauled twelve boxes of dusty-ass costumes off a sketchy-ass truck and unpacked every single one of them to find the so-called pimp suit that you don’t even deserve. So I think you can expend the energy to try on a pair of pants.”
I’m too tired to fight with Pam. So I go into the auditorium, where they’re fitting the costumes. I take off my pants in front of, like, ten people, and don’t even care. Pam puts the suit pants on me and starts sticking pins or needles
or something all up and down them. I’m standing, feeling dizzy, and my body’s heating up like a generator.
“Can I sit down?” I ask Pam. “I don’t feel well.”
Diva is next to me, trying on her costume, and she looks over and rolls her eyes.
well? Seriously, Hunter?” she says. “Man up.”
Pam actually lets me sit down, and the whole time she’s busy fitting my jacket, I’m thinking about how much I hate Diva. Hatred is rare for me. But my girlfriend—I definitely hate her. She’s gone from telling me what to wear to criticizing everything I wear and criticizing everything I do. I would dump her right now if I could do it without her screaming at me for three hours.
I almost kissed Kelly the other day. I would have done it, too. But we got interrupted when the emergency drill ended. But really I should have just kissed her the second we got under the table. I should have kissed her months ago. But now instead I’m stuck with Diva, and Kelly is dating Johann. Kelly is awesome and funny—and
, which, I’m realizing more and more from spending time with Diva, Pam, Amy, and Mrs. Martin, is a really rare thing in a girl. I knew she was awesome and funny and nice, but I didn’t do anything about it, because I’m lazy and stupid and a fucking slacker. I didn’t ask her out back then, and I didn’t kiss her the other day, and now I’m screwed and I have no one to blame but my own lazy ass.
The more I think about this, the worse I feel. I’m all
pissed at myself, sweaty, and my whole body hurts. Then I remember Kelly’s hand. It’s the weirdest thing, but when we were under that lab table, my hand was on top of her hand, and her hand was small and soft, and it felt really cool. Now I imagine her touching my forehead, smoothing my sweaty hair back with her palm, sliding her hand down my face and my neck. I’m thinking about it so hard that I can almost feel her hand. It’s like those guys dying of thirst in the desert who see water and try to drink it even though it’s really sand.
“Ow! What the crap?” I say, jumping off the chair.
“Did I stick you?” Pam asks. She’s holding pins between her teeth.
“Yeah! The needle is still in there! Get it out!”
That’s it. I’m done with this shit.
I rip the jacket off and leave it on the chair. Pam tries to protest through the pins in her mouth, but I don’t even look at her. I unzip my suit pants and let them drop to the floor.
“Hunter, what the hell?” Diva whines.
I pull on my jeans and then I take off, running down the stairs and into the audience. Actually, I’m trying to run, but my body’s so weak that I’m actually jogging slowly. But I’m getting out of here.
Mrs. Martin looks up from the orchestra pit and calls out, “Billy Flynn!”
A girl in the audience says, “Hunter, your coat and your backpack are here,” as I pass her going up the aisle.
But I ignore both of them and jog to the auditorium
door and plow into it, and even though I’m weak as hell, it bangs open really loudly. My fever is making me crazy, and I imagine I’m running to Kelly and that she’ll be nice to me and touch me with her cool hands and not tell me to “man up” when I’ve got a nine-hundred-degree fever. But I realize I’m just running to anything that’s cold that will cool me off.
So it’s a good thing I live in Wisconsin, because we have a lot of cold stuff lying around everywhere. Once I get outside, I stand for a minute to feel the cold air blow against my sweaty skin and to breathe in the fresh air. Then I walk over to the side of the building and stick my face in a huge pile of snow.
“He Had It Coming:
’s Violent Female Leads Too Familiar for Comfort?”
“The Boy Recession©” by Aviva Roth,
The Julius Journal
o, after three hours waiting around in the ER and two blood tests, I found out I’ve got mono.
When I stormed out of that rehearsal, I felt pretty badass. But then I realized I didn’t have my phone or a ride, and I couldn’t walk home because it was four degrees outside and I was in a T-shirt. So I had to sneak back inside to grab my stuff, and then sit out on the curb, waiting for my dad to pick me up. My doctor’s office was closed, so my dad drove me to Columbia St. Mary’s hospital in Milwaukee. Apparently doctors can’t give you medicine to get rid of mono; you just have to rest for a few weeks and hope it goes away. The ER doctor warned me that mono makes you so tired you sleep ten or fifteen hours a night, which made me wonder,
How long have I had mono for?
been trying to sleep ten or fifteen hours a night since puberty.
So except for feeling shitty and sweating my ass off, being sick is pretty sweet. I get to stay in bed all day. No school. No homework. No musical practice. It’s awesome. I get to sleep until three in the afternoon and have my mom tell me, “Good for you! Rest up!”
When I first disappeared from rehearsal, Diva freaked out and tried calling me five hundred times. As soon as I got out of the ER, I texted her
Got mono, can’t talk, can’t rehearse. Tell Mrs. Martin
, and then shut my phone off.
Apparently Diva spread the word about me being diseased pretty fast, because Eugene found out and called my house that same night. He let me know that Diva had been writing Facebook status updates on my “condition”:
My poor boo is still home with swollen lymph nodes!
At rehearsal, missing my Billy Flynn! Rest up for opening night, boo!
My boo is starting to get better…. Get strong, boo!
Her updates are ridiculous, considering she has no clue what’s going on with my lymph nodes or me. I refuse to text her or pick up her calls, and she refuses to visit me because she’s scared she’ll catch mono and miss the
musical. But Eugene has come to visit me a bunch, and I think that he thinks I’m dying. A few days ago he brought rosary beads and spoke to me really seriously.
“How are you feeling, Huntro?” he asked me in this low voice.
“Why are you whispering?”
“I’m fine,” I told him. “I’m just sleeping all day.”
“Huntro, this mono is serious stuff,” Eugene said. “Can the doctors do anything?”
“Oh my God!” Eugene sprung up from the chair in surprise and brought a fist up to his mouth.
“No, no!” I sat up in bed. “Like, they don’t
to do anything. I just have to sleep for a while and it will get better.”
“Huntro,” Eugene said, sitting down again and leaning forward. “Your illness has got me thinking about my own mortality. Seriously, man. I’ve started writing my will. And I’ve decided I’m leaving Bobbi ten thousand dollars.”
“What the hell?” I said.
“I know she and I aren’t dating anymore,” Eugene told me. “But finding all these people prom dates has made me think about love and compatibility…. I regret losing her. I do. I know we had our differences, with her being a Christian, and me being somewhat morally… ambivalent… but I really care about Bobbi. I want to take care of her, even if I catch your mono and die.”
“No, I meant, like, what the hell?” I interrupted him.
“I’m the one who’s sick, and you’re trying to have a heart-to-heart about
right now? I have to listen to your dumb ass blabber on all the time—give
ten thousand dollars.”