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

Chapter 6
The boys’ toilets

9 YEARS, 10 MONTHS, 12 DAYS TO E-DAY

The only good thing about Wednesdays is that when they’re over there are only two days until the weekend. Wednesday hit me with a bang! I had fallen out of bed without instructing my body to do so. I looked over at my alarm clock which said 3:21 am. My alarm clock was like a time bomb, about to explode with the dreaded ‘You must get up from your warm bed and go to school now. DO IT NOW! DO IT NOW! DO IT NOW!’ This particular Wednesday I was lucky enough to still have three hours to sleep, so I got back into my warm bed and shut my eyes. It didn’t work. My mind had too much to do. It was pestering me with ideas of what secrets a parabola shaped piece of wood and a microphone could uncover at school: ‘Who do teachers talk about in the staff room?’, ‘Do teachers whisper amongst themselves during assembly?’ and of course, ‘What do girls talk about when no boys are around?’

Suddenly it hit me; I could use my old walkman as an amplifier. With my duvet still wrapped around me I got up and switched on my desk lamp. I scratched through my cupboard for my old walkman which I had put aside after it had shredded a few tapes. I had also removed the motor for an attempt to build a device which would automatically open my curtains at the push of a button. I cleared some things off my desk, placed what was left of my walkman in the opening and began to dismantle it once more.

By 6am my room smelt like burning solder and my desk had once again become cluttered with diagrams, little wires, screws and other electrical bits and pieces. I had managed to assemble the appropriate parts into a previously emptied toffee box which was about the size of a pocket. I plugged in the microphone and put the headphones over my ears. It was time for a sound check. I clicked my fingers in front of the parabola, ‘CLICK!’ It worked. To be honest, I was a bit surprised that it worked the first time. Normally it took a bit of fiddling to get things right, but, at the same time, I couldn’t think of any reason for it not to have worked.

Although it was a bit large, disguising the parabola was easy. I put it in my gym bag, which hardly blocked out sound at all, and took it to school instead of my normal bag.

When I arrived at school that day, I immediately put the headphones over my ears and wandered around, pretending that I was listening to music. Walking didn’t help much, because the bag had to be kept still in order to make out what people where saying. I sat down on the field, pointing my bag in various directions and listening to random conversations. They weren’t very exciting. Most of the boys were talking about sports, a subject which I, though being a boy myself, had no interest in. The girls were talking about television, make up and clothes. The bell rang. We had to go to our classes.

I’ll spare you the day’s classes. They were as boring as usual. That was of course until mathematics. Our teacher had not yet arrived, so I put on my headphones, rested my head on my desk and aimed my bag in Ruth’s general direction. Dean! Of course, who else would she be talking about? Dean is this, and Dean is that! Wait, now they’re talking about Brad Pitt. How unoriginal and boring can you get? I switched off my little project and put my headphones back in my bag. There’s nothing worse than hearing the love of your life talking about someone else.

Miss Pearson arrived and the lesson began. After school we had compulsory sports practice. I had chosen soccer, since rugby was, according to my mom, too dangerous. I was pretty useless at soccer, but enjoyed the one time during the practice that I actually got to kick the ball. After practice the coach called me aside and we discussed how much better I would be if I actually practised. Why they never had skateboarding as a sport, I don’t know. I really enjoy skateboarding a lot more and would certainly have been willing to practice. ‘You’re letting the team down,’ the coach told me. It didn’t matter really; it was the ‘C’ team and I was a reserve anyway.

By the time that I had reached the changing room everyone else had left, but the smell of sweat and deodorant had remained behind. I washed my face, sprayed on deodorant and changed my shoes. As I was about to walk out I heard voices. I peaked out of the door and noticed that a group of girls had gathered just outside the door. It was Ruth and her gang: Cathy, Janine, Melanie and Susan. They were the cool girls. For some reason I was too shy to leave the changing room. I was scared of girls, especially these girls, and all five of them together was not making life any easier. I would have to just sit inside the changing room and wait for them to leave.

I sat on the bench, put on my headphones and aimed my bag at the door. What else could I do while I waited? I could distinctly make out each girl’s voice:

Janine was talking, ‘… and then she makes us read the whole chapter as homework.’

‘I would have smacked her one time and told her to read it herself!’ remarked Cathy, as excitedly as always.

‘How’s this mathematics homework?’ asked Ruth, ‘Does anyone get this stuff?’

‘You mean, “Besides Nathan?”’ Janine pointed out.

‘Exactly!’ commented Ruth, ‘I would do anything to have a brain like that!’

‘He’s like flipping Einstein!’ Cathy exclaimed, ‘And he’s got a nice personality.’

It was getting interesting, and I had a big smile on my face. I listened very intently.

‘He’s probably going to invent the cure for cancer,’ Ruth suggested.

‘I think he’s more likely to become a hacker,’ Janine disagreed.

‘Or an inventor!’ Susan added.

‘I doubt it,’ Melanie said slowly. ‘Raymond told me that Nathan’s quite religious, so maybe he’ll become a preacher,’.

‘That would be a waste,’ Cathy replied.

‘When did Raymond say that?’ Ruth asked.

‘Raymond’s always telling me stuff. I feel like a priest at confession sometimes. He once told me that he stole my pen, and then he brought it back to me.’

‘Weird,’ Janine said.

‘Raymond’s like a big bear,’ Susan added.

‘What?’ Cathy asked, ‘He’s not that big.’

‘I mean, I just want to give him a big, bear hug.’

I felt quite good after listening in on the conversation. It’s really the best feeling when someone compliments you, especially when you’re not supposed to have heard it. I do wonder, however, if Cathy knew that I was spying on them, would she still say that I have a nice personality? I think not!

The conversation continued for a good fifteen minutes, about things which really wouldn’t interest you, so I’m not going to mention them. It felt like I was never going to get home, until Ruth asked, ‘Who dares me to go into the boys’ changing room?’

It was quite obvious to them that a changing room that had been ‘guarded’ for fifteen minutes with no-one going in or out would be completely empty, and since it was after school, most people had already gone home. What could I do? It would look really strange if there was actually someone in the changing room. How would I explain what I had been doing all of this time? I tried to think of something to do, but it was too late; Ruth and Janine had entered.

I instinctively put down the headphones and stood up, looking suspicious. ‘Welcome,’ I said.

Ruth asked me, ‘Is anyone else in here?’

‘No,’ I replied. Her friends followed her inside, and oddly, they did not seem surprised to see me there. I didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing; was this how they pictured me spending my afternoons? Did they think I had been constipated, or did they just think I took really long to get changed? I was highly embarrassed, but tried not to show it. I had a big problem though, which is that whenever I got embarrassed, my ears turned red. I glanced at the mirror; my ears were red. I put my headphones back on to hide my ears.

‘What are you listening to?’ Ruth asked.

‘Nothing,’ I replied, honestly.

The girls, like a bunch of tourists, took a quick look around, and since there was not very much to see, soon left. I waited for about a minute to make sure they had gone and walked home.

Why is it that every interaction I have with Ruth is so awkward? I remember a birthday party that I went to some time ago. My mom was worried that there would be loud music and so, I kid you not, she made me wear ear muffs. They are the type that people normally buy for shooting ranges, and are the same ones that she bought for us so that we were allowed to use our cap guns.

It was the first time I had ever gone to a party where there was loud music and dancing. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just copied everyone else. Some of the guys were asking the girls to dance, but it was something that I couldn’t do. I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing without looking too much like an idiot, which was of course quite difficult to do when you’re wearing large, orange, ear muffs at a party. I sat down and watched the people, trying to figure out whether they were enjoying themselves at all, and knew what to do, or were they just like me and copying each other to try and fit in.

Ruth was also there, dancing with other boy’s and I had to do my best to avoid being seen by her, because I really looked ridiculous.

Towards the end of the party, everything changed and I finally figured out what the point of a party like this was. A tall, pretty, dark haired girl with dark brown eyes walked over to me and asked me to dance with her. She smiled in a way that made her whole face crinkle up while waiting for my response. Of course, I said ‘yes’, and had a dance. It wasn’t a slow dance, just one of those dances where you move to the music while facing each other, completely pointless actually, but the important thing was that she had been good enough to ask me to dance, and that brightened up my whole evening.

As we danced I noticed a thin, silver streak of hair on the right side of her head. I pointed to it, with a questioning look.

‘I was born with that,’ she replied.



 

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