The Mischievous Nerd's Guide to World Domination
Author: Stephen Oberauer

Chapter 3
Did you hear something?

9 YEARS, 10 MONTHS, 14 DAYS TO E-DAY

Sometimes one is just at the right place at the wrong time, or is it the ‘wrong place at the right time’? Either way, it was not a good. The time was 10:58am on Monday, the 10th of June, 1991. I was in school, where I was supposed to be, and sitting in the front row during the first half of my double mathematics class, when Peter called me from the desk behind me, ‘Nathan, can I borrow your calculator?’

‘I’m using it,’ I replied, irritated that Peter was always forgetting things.

‘I just need to calculate something quickly.’

‘What?’

‘81,624 times 1,241’ he replied.

‘101,295,384,’ I answered.

‘Don’t just guess. Use your calculator,’ he ordered.

‘It is the right answer. Just leave me alone,’ I complained and continued on my maths work.

‘Nathan,’ My teacher called. Although teachers generally don’t admit it, they usually have their favourite students. Miss Pearson, however, was one of the few who did admit that I, Nathan Bauer, was her favourite. I was top of my class, and always answering questions, and always did well at mathematics competitions. Did you just say ‘nerd’? That’s okay, I’m very used to it by now, not that I’m very good at any other subjects, except science and my extra subject, computer science. What I mean is that I don’t just study all the time, so I’m not really a nerd.

‘Nathan’, Miss Pearson smiled, ‘The school bell isn’t working and I need someone to ring the hand bell.’ She placed her hand on the large, rather ancient looking brass hand bell. ‘Would you mind walking along the passages and ringing it? And when you’ve gone all around the school you can come back to class. I’m sure you won’t miss anything that you don’t already know.’

The hand bell was big, and I was shy. Miss Pearson handed over the bell and gestured, ‘Like this’, waving her hand up and down. A slight movement of my arm was enough to wake up the entire class. The wooden handle continued to vibrate in my hand for a few more seconds. Unable to say ‘no’, I carried the brass monster to the door and crept out into the passage, swinging my arm as I walked. Seconds later, children were pouring out of their classrooms glaring at me as if it was the first time they had ever seen a bell. As I walked down the passage it became more and more crowded until only those close to me could see who was ringing the bell. The attention was too much for a shy teenager like me. I stopped ringing the bell, and held it at my side. As I walked it carried on ringing to the beat of each step I took, ‘DONG, DONG!’ ‘Where’s that ringing coming from?’ could be heard around me. Everyone could hear it, but now they couldn’t see who had the bell. Raymond spotted me, ‘Buddy, where’s that noise coming from?’ he looked around. I shrugged my shoulders. ‘I’ll catch you at break,’ he said, squeezing his way passed me and down the crowded passage.

‘See you,’ I replied.

Soon I reached the boys’ toilets and went inside. Holding my left hand inside the bell to muffle it, I disappeared into a cubicle and closed the door. After a few minutes I sneaked back to maths and returned the bell. Rumour has it that more than half the school never heard the bell for their next class.

Unfortunately that was just one of many embarrassing moments. Shy teenagers like me, with glasses, pimples, and wavy brown hair that never does what it’s told, always seem to get embarrassed, especially when there are girls around. Maybe that’s why every afternoon after school I go straight to my room and hang out with my computer, all alone, or watch recorded episodes of Knight Rider, wishing that I had a talking car as a friend. I guess you could call my computer my best friend. It never teases me, never judges me, and always does what it’s told.

I don’t mind that I spend most of my spare time with my computer. I’m just not really the sociable sort. Even if I wanted to go to the school discos, my mom probably wouldn’t let me go, because ‘Trouble makers go to those noisy discos’. She wanted me to grow up to be a good Christian. Besides spending time with my computer I also rode on my supermarket special skateboard, which my parents bought for me as a Christmas present. Of course my mom wouldn’t let me ride it without my colourful knee pads, elbow pads and helmet. Together with my glasses, I was quite a sight. Don’t get me wrong, my mom was not cruel, she was just really protective because she loved me so much. I grew up in a good, safe, loving home.

After placing the bell back on my teacher’s desk, I only had to take three steps to my desk, right in front, in the middle, next to Jacques, the rugby fanatic. We were getting back test results for an experimental test that Miss Pearson had given to us the week before. The test was to determine whether children were capable of learning mathematics by struggling through sums rather than being taught, so it contained a number of mathematical concepts that we hadn’t learned yet. She read out the marks while handing back the tests. ‘Peter 45%, Lindsay 58%, Jacques 60%... ’. After reading all the results except for mine and Andrew’s, she said, ‘I’ve got two tests here that say ‘Nathan Bauer’; one got 22% and the other, 100%’. She handed the 100% test to me and the 22% test to Andrew. ‘Very funny, Andrew’, she added.

After school that day my brother and I had a guitar lesson at home. We weren’t very good at playing guitar, probably because we hardly ever practised. We both wanted to be able to play guitar well, but spending time with our computers was usually far more appealing than trying to co-ordinate our fingers. Trying to get our left hands to do one thing while our right hands were doing another was about as unnatural to us as wearing socks is to a cat. I wasn’t very good at skateboarding either. It was just one of those sports I could do by myself, as often as I wanted to, and I loved it.

The guitar lesson ended at around 5:30pm. My legs itched to go out for a skate, but it was the middle of winter, cold, and starting to rain. Instead my legs carried me up the creaky, wooden ladder to my room. My bedroom is in the attic. It’s small, but cosy. My bed is right next to the window, and on rainy nights like tonight I like to keep my curtains open while I lie, staring out of my window, thinking up theories and solving problems until I fall asleep. Tonight wasn’t a night for theories though; this time I was feeling a bit lonely and thinking about Ruth. I don’t think I knew about attraction before I met Ruth. I noticed her on the first day that I started school when I was plonked in the chair next to her, and couldn’t understand why I felt the need to squeeze her, to touch her long, shiny blonde hair, and to poke her left shoulder, just so that she would turn and look at me, and I could stare back into her highly annoyed blue eyes. That was seven years ago. It’s unbelievable how crazy a girl can drive you, and it feels like I’m left to just figure out what to do with my feelings by myself. My friends at school used to go around telling girls that I liked them just for fun, and then I’d tell them ‘Hey, I like Ruth. Why don’t you tell Ruth that I like her?’ They never did, but two years ago she did find out.



 

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