Be There Or Be Square!
A tale based on a 5th Grade Love story that may have been.
Charlie loafed in his desk, fondling the baby-blue nylon ribbon as he read a flimsy piece of paper with cheesy computer borders. His eyes bursted open.
"Yes! Party at Jen's," he read aloud, "Blah, Blah, Blah. Be there or be square! I'm there!"
Adrenalin overcame Charlie. He began to prance around his classroom, joking with his cronies, flirting with the girls and kissing up to the teacher. He was a very social 5th grader.
Charlie walked home and jumped on the phone to call his best friend Luke.
"Is Luke there?" Charlie blurted out instinctually.
"This is he speaking." An unenthusiastic voice replied.
"Hey, you goin' to Jen's Birthday Bash?"
"Who is this? Charlie?"
"Yes, banana breath, I've been calling you for years now!"
"What do you want monkey boy?"
"Are you going or what?"
"Oh, definitely. I can't wait to show off these new basketball shoes I just got."
"Really? Those inflatable 'Fly 'till Ya Die' ones with lights? Do you think Mable is going to the party?"
"Why? Do you wanna go out with her!? HUH!?!"
"No! I just thought... you liked her or something!"
"Yeah right! Not even!" (In all actuality, the testosterone levels blew the charts whenever either of the two so much as thought about her.)
" Uh...whadaya gonna wear?" Charlie continued on in panic.
"Hold on. Someone's on the other line."
"What does Luke want honey?" Inquired Charlie's mom who happened to be passing by carrying Laundry.
"Mom," Charlie wined, "Nothing, I called him."
"Are you two going to a party? Why didn't you ask me first?"
"I'm going. I have to. Everyone's going."
"I'll think about it."
"Sure, that means I'm definitely going," thought Charlie but only an "OK mom." came out. His mom went into another room.
"Hello!?" Luke said impatiently.
"Yeah I'm here," said Charlie.
"I gotta go. See ya at the party."
" Wait! Whadaya wearing to Jen's?"
"I don't know? Who cares? It's just a party."
"Oh yeah, well, bye."
They hung up.
"Shit," Charlie whispered.
Charlie's mom came in the room again, "What was that?"
"Nothing! I said "Sheet"... as in paper. I need a sheet of paper to make a birthday card for Jen."
"Not only do you curse, you lie too! Sorry Charlie, but there's no way you're going to that party now! I hope those friends of yours at school don't teach you to lie and talk like that. I should probably talk with their parents."
"Answering back? Go to your room!"
Charlie ran crying to his room. He slammed the door and turned on his TV set to Channel 3, his favorite channel. Then he powered up his Nintendo and began manipulating his control pad furiously. This was his stress-reliever. His Om. In the midst of his video gaming mantra, an evil idea popped into his brain. He could sneak out of his window now and come back once his parents were asleep at night.
He locked his door, turned up Tetris full-blast (mistake) and climbed out the window. He was scared. But nothing can stop you when you are a preteen in love!
Charlie arrived early, panting. Only Jen and her best friend Martha were there. He asked Jen if he could use the phone and then dialed Luke's number.
"Come on down."
"Dude, you're at Jen's house already?"
"Yeah! Only me, Jen and Martha are here. Come on!" Charlie began to whisper firmly, " I don't wanna stay here by myself with these nerds."
"Alright. I'll be there in a sec, see-ya."
"Adios my friend," Charlie hung up, smiled to the girls and began to shoot the bull.
Luke got there as quickly as he could. He hurried to beat Mable. There was no way he could let Charlie and Mable be alone together. Charlie was scared of being alone with Mable but would not want to be without her, especially if she was with Luke. The two were mega jealous of each other.
Luke arrived along with waves of other 5th graders in the class. Parents would drop off their kids only to come back four hours later. That's how things are when your kid is only ten to eleven years old. Jen's house began to fill up with little earthlings.
"Charlie, wanna sleep over?"
"I can't. I'm grounded."
"Again? That sucks." Luke suddenly realized the situation. "Wait. How are you here if you're grounded?"
"Easy, I snuck out."
Just then the room quieted to a warm hush. Martha incidently walked by with a bowl of pretzels as Charlie had said this. She stopped.
"You what!?" Martha and Luke mouth drops in harmony.
"I snuck out. Anything to party."
"You're crazy!" Luke informed Charlie, "Think of all the trouble you'll get in if you get caught."
"Don't worry. I have things all under control. I've done this before anyway like fifty times."
"Really! Wow!" An impressed Martha smiled with amazement.
Luke knew many many things about Charlie. In their six years of friendship, he had never before heard of Charlie sneaking out of the house. Luke knew Charlie was lying from the sound of his voice.
"Na ah you liar."
"Yu huh. I do it all the time."
"And you never told me?"
"I don't have to tell you everything. I figured you wouldn't want to go along with it anyways."
"When did you sneak out before?"
"Man, I don't know. I don't keep a track of the times I sneak out."
Luke's index fingers pointed upward as his thumbs connected, forming a "W".
In the midst of the bickering chums, Mable walked in. Her immaculate makeup job highlighted Mable's magnificent cheeks. Her beautifully blonde hair stood up in a ponytail displaying a wonderfully charming neck. Her eyes sparkled in the light like serene ocean waves during a full moon. The tight shirt wrapped around her upper body complemented her pleasantly curvy figure. Her jeans clung around the skin of her leg. She wore a cute little smile that could melt the heart of any 6th grade boy. Her boyfriend Lauren followed close behind her.
"Hey guys. What's up?"
"Hi Mable," Luke greeted them, "Hey Lauren how's it going."
Lauren was a shy jockish boy. Very handsome. Very athletic. Very dull.
"Hi." Lauren said in his off-field voice.
"Hi Charlie," said Mable, "How's the party been so far?"
Mable laughed. "Just So-So?" She smiled and petted Charlie's head. Then she walked off to greet Jen while Lauren followed turning back to exchange ugly looks with Luke.
"I don't know what he sees in her," said Luke.
"Uh," Charlie snapped out of his fantasy dream in Bermuda. "Oh yeah. I know. He is so ugly."
"I mean she's so...so..."
"Huh? Oh. Yeah. She's very fat."
Mable was not in the least bit fat. She just wasn't a toothpick. It is very 5th grade to call a girl fat just because a boy doesn't want other people to know of his attraction to her. Even if she was fat that wouldn't be bad. Some like 'em pleasantly plump.
Luke was thinking: Ah ha! He thinks she's fat. There's no way Mable would like a guy who thinks she's fat. This gives me every reason to want Mable to go out with me over Charlie. She would hate a guy like Charlie.
Charlie was thinking: Ah Ha! He thinks she's fat! Why else would he say something like that? I only agreed with him so he wouldn't feel embarrassed suggesting something that was totally wrong. Now I know what he's thinking. Mable shouldn't ever go out with a guy who thinks she's fat. This gives me every reason to want Mable to go out with me over Luke. She would hate a guy like Luke.
"Let's go get some punch."
While sipping at the punch, the boys sat down and tried to get a good glimpse of Mable, each one checking the other to make sure they weren't being checked on. And then Jen came into the room with a wine bottle. Empty.
"Who wants to play?" Jen shouted out.
"'YEAH,' 'ok,' 'Sure,' 'What are we playing?'," replied various kids around the room.
Most all of them enthusiastically gathered in a circle on the floor sitting boy-girl-boy-girl. But those too scared to play remained standing in the other room. These out-casted victims of the 5th grade society were tormented and harassed by the braver kids who were arrogant enough to participate in the childish adult-forbidden game.
Jen spun the translucent bottle. It gradually stowed finally landing on Bobby. They went into the closet and five minutes later, came out blushing. Then Bobby spun it and it landed on Patricia. They went in the closet and in five minutes came out blushing. Then Patricia spun it landing on Greg. In and out. Spin. Sarah. In and out. Spin. Ben. In and out. Spin. Matt. Respin. Susy. Spin. It landed on Charlie.
Charlie had played this game once before and it never involved going into a closet. It was dark, stuffy and smelled funky. What was to happen to when the door shut and what about his claustrophobia? Charlie began to grow nervous when Susy began to stick her tongue down his mouth.
"Whu ah oo dooi Thoozy?" blurted out Charlie.
"I'm kissing you."
"You're tasting me."
"Shut up so we can get this over with."
Charlie felt embarrassed. Not only was he sweating hard he also simultaneously had a coat hanger up his back. He came out blushing like everyone else. His peers laughed. Charlie's time of humility was not up yet. He still had one more spin session to go. He spun.
Deep in his mind he hoped it would not land on Mable. He would feel so nervous around her. He felt he would screw something up in the closet. He would not want to deal with her disappointment and cover up his bashfulness. He felt afraid she would not want to go in there with him because of Lauren, the boyfriend. He was scared of Luke's inevitable teasing. He was frightened indeed of that dark, dreaded closet.
The bottle spun 1039 times before its dizzying descent on Mable. Charlie's heart broke the sound barrier as the butterflies in his stomach transformed into pterodactyls. However, deep deep deep inside his mind he knew this was all he ever wanted, five minutes in the closet with Mable. His goddess of love. His queen of beauty. His little heroine.
They stood there for about half a minute until Charlie said clumsily, "This is weird."
"Your voice is like that of a sweet little robin on a warm spring afternoon." Charlie wanted to say that. Instead he asked, "Have you ever played this game before?"
"No. I'm not sure what we're supposed to do in here. Do you know, Charlie?"
"Omigosh! You said my name. You smell like that store in the mall with all those girls in bras, lovely." was what Charlie was saying to himself, but it came out to Mable like, "We're suppose to kiss I think but you don't have to kiss me. Not that I don't want to kiss you but, well you know. Lauren and all."
"Oh Charlie, that's a sweet thing for you to say."
"Sweet? I want to kick Lauren's ass and stick my tongue down your throat. How sweet does that sound?"was what Charlie was thinking but said, "Thanks Mable. I guess."
"But," Charlie was afraid of a but, "I'm not going out with Lauren anymore. We broke up because his parents wouldn't let him date until he turns sixteen."
"Really. That's awesome! Your butt wasn't all that bad after all." said Charlie's brain.
Charlie said, "Really? I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I like someone else anyway."
"Who is it!? Who is it!?" thought Charlie but he said, "Really? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
"I wasn't going to." was what Charlie feared Mable would say.
"But I want to tell you Charlie."
Charlie was well aware that Mable could very possibly like Luke, his best friend. She could also very well have meant himself. He didn't expect to much. He prepared himself for disappointment, expecting a "Luke" but hoping for a "you".
She said neither.
"OK Mable, tell me."
"Do you know a guy called...oh what's-his-name...Charlie?"
"Holy crapola! This sucks!" he thought and answered, "What? Oh, um, no. I have no idea what his name could be."
"No. That's his name! Charlie."
"Gadzooks! Do I know another guy name Charlie besides me?" he thought quickly, "No, No I don't." He smiled calmly and stated mentally: "It's in the bag."
"Oh! My name just so happens to be Charlie."
"Really? I like a guy named Charlie who looks a lot like you. Isn't that peculiar?"
Charlie thought, "I can get used to this. Sarcasm can be so sweet."
"And you're locked in a closet with him Mable, what are you going to do?"
"I like you Charlie."
"I like you too." was what he meant to say but it came out, "I do too."
"I like you too Mable." He thought it, said it and meant it.
"Let's go out together, Charlie."
"OK" said Charlie but he was thinking, "Cowabunga!"
Just then the door opened, exposing their kiss to the whole 5th grade. Everyone laughed the first ten seconds. Then they started staring silently with astonishment. After the kiss, the couple stood in the doorway of closet blushing. Everyone started to laugh again. Then Charlie walked over to sit down next to Luke who was staring at him in bewilderment. Charlie turned around to wink back at Mable. She smiled sweetly back at him, melting Luke's heart..
The rest of the night Luke and Charlie did not speak much to each other, unsure of what to say. All they did was watch the following spinners of the mysterious bottle of love.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Charlie's dad found his way to the party. He was yelling very loud. Without any goodbyes or thank yous, Charlie ran into his father's car. Then they sped away from the party at Jen's. Inside the car was an angered dad screaming at his son. In the son's mind was an isolated world where only Charlie and Mable were allowed to enter. Charlie didn't care about his house imprisonment sentence because he knew there was always a phone waiting for him in his room to call Mable. He already memorized the number from the school directory even before they met. He was now a real lover in love with being in love and that's all that mattered to him.
Note: One week later Charlie and Mable broke up. He would never be friends with Luke again but would always have a handsome girlfriend he was in love with. He later had seven wives, eight divorces and died a confused man.
...that was party at Jen's
back to the Short Story Page.Party at Jen's, 11 August 1997