Was digging through some old short stories. Found this. I kinda dig it.
Brad was left holding the eye dropper. He looked up from his hunched position at Marvin and shook his head.
What a dick!
“How you gonna make a Briggs-Rauscher reaction now, Brad-lee?” Marvin said, mocking him.
Chemicals oozed from the shattered beaker, spiraling toward the drain in the middle of the Chem lab.
Brad didn’t say a word. He walked to the cabinet, grabbed a new beaker, and restarted his experiment from scratch.
These years had been the worst.
Brad set the beaker down, and looked over his shoulder for the next incoming attack.
Marvin was too busy flirting with the Chem teacher, talking about Fe’s and Au’s and covalent bonds to bother. Brad found himself transfixed on the left side of Marvin’s face. Covering an explosion of acne craters was a life-size, photo-realistic tattoo of Philip K. Dick. Brad sometimes had a hard time knowing which face to look at.
On the first day of freshman year, Marvin showed up with the tat. That was the beginning of the end. Apparently grade school friendships weren’t transferrable. When Brad asked him about it, Marvin said, “Surreal double image of Philip K. Dick. Get it?”
Brad said he ‘Got it.’
But he didn’t.
He could understand an Asian symbol that meant harmony. Even a tat of Bart or Scooby-Doo. That made sense. Razor-wire around a bicep, a tear on the cheek—sure. But a face tat of Philip K. Dick… he was stumped.
Everyone else seemed to get it. “Great joke. Awesome tat. Very smart.”
After that, girls paid more attention to Marvin. Teachers took notice. He was just ‘that guy.’
Brad turned on the gas and relit his Bunsen burner.
With a resounding thud, Marvin plopped his orthopedic shoes on his workstation, nearly knocking over the experiment he had finished forty-five minutes earlier; a beaker full of liquid turned yellow, then navy, then yellow again, repeating endlessly.
Brad sighed. Not only at his failed experiment running down the drain, but at the shoes. He wanted a pair. He had begged his parents, but the answer was always the same.
“You don’t want to look like a poser, do you? Those shoes are for people who need them.”
They were right. He didn’t want to look like a poser.
A chair screeched. Marvin’s lab partner, a brunette in horn-rimmed glasses scooted closer and shimmied her A-cups from between a lab coat, revealing a pastel tube top and almost cleavage.
Her move didn’t go unnoticed by Marvin. Neither did Brad’s endless stare.
Marvin pursed his lips into a kissy-face.
Brad returned to his experiment, determined to get it right—for once. He had to settle for doing all his experiments solo. No one wanted to be his lab partner. All he had was a rugged jawline, flawless complexion, and piercing blue eyes. How could he ever compete with Marvin?
It wasn’t his fault that he actually had to study, and study hard to earn his C’s and D’s. That he was cursed with looks instead of brains.
“Oh my Hawking! Look what Bradley is doing now!” Marvin pointed and laughed. The rest of the class chimed in.
“How can you be so clueless? You’re supposed to use an oscillator,” said Marvin.
“He probably belongs to the Football Club!” said a student.
“He’s probably President!” said another.
Brad hunkered down. He was President of the Football Club. He tried to make himself as small as possible, invisible.
Marvin strolled over with a gait like Shaggy. He picked up Brad’s failing experiment. “Let’s try something. A little experiment of our own shall we?”
Brad didn’t like the sound of that.
From his lab coat, Marvin produced a chunk of K the size of a baseball.
The girl with A-cups started to say, “Marvin, you can’t mix—”
He dismissively waved her off. “Can is the ability to do so…”
—were the last words Brad remembered before he came to in the principal’s office.
The principal sat behind his tiny desk, scratching his red beard. “I hear you’re having trouble with Marvin again?”
Brad cowered. “No sir.”
“Look, Brad. If you’re lucky you can be an anchorman in a top three market. Lord knows, you have the look for it. But until that time, you have to find a way to deal. You catching what I’m throwing down?”
He understood. But he also knew that he could be so much more. If only they knew, knew the real Brad, then they’d see.
The principal stood up and walked to the window, looking out at the school yard.
Brad cleared his throat. “I’ve been thinking—”
“Maybe you should leave that to the more qualified. Worry lines are so unbecoming. You don’t want to hurt your chances, do you? There’s only so many places that need a pretty face. Without that, what do you have?”
The principal patted him on the head.
“For a lot of these kids, this is the best it’s ever going to get. They’ll go off to an Ivy League school, get drafted as soon as they graduate, and saddled with some dead-end job as CEO of a software company, or COO of a multinational corporation, or labeled with some other three letter position.”
The principal turned his gaze back to the bright sunny day. He didn’t say anything for quite some time. Perhaps he was reflecting on his past, Brad thought.
“I know it’s tough now.” His voice rang with nostalgia. “But trust me, kid. In the long run, you’ll thank me.”
Brad hoped that the principal was right.
He looked out the window. It was recess. Kids were sitting on school benches, doing homework.
It was hard to imagine a day when being smart didn’t matter. A day when he would be judged not for his ability to calculate six dimensional quantum mechanics, but for a nice smile and good hygiene.
It was like something out of a fairytale. An ancient myth long forgotten.
Brad sighed, longing for that day to arrive.