HIS FOURTH NEW FRIEND
“You dragged along an astronomy book? I don’t believe it, man! This is a football game, for Pete’s sake!”
“Who is Pete?”
Jeff doesn’t answer. Instead, he lowers his voice. “Put it away, Mike, willya? You want people to think you’re a geek?”
Michael ponders this. Students frequently yell that name at him as he lopes through the school halls. He looked up the word last night in his dictionary. It means a person who is socially awkward, which strikes him as an accurate description of himself. “Yes. That’s only logical, because I think I am a geek too.”
Jeff snorts and shakes his head. “You don’t want the dudes thinkin’ that, believe me, Mike! Or the babes either, for that matter. Hey, speakin’ of which, check out them cute cheerleaders over there! Man, do they look hot!”
Puzzled, Michael frowns as he follows his grinning companion’s index finger. “I think they look cold, Jeff. They’re not wearing much clothing.”
“Yeah, man! That’s the whole point…. Hey, whatcha doin’ with your hands up over your ears like that?”
“I’m protecting them from hurting, Jeff. Everyone is yelling. It’s too loud!”
“You’re supposed to yell, it’s a football game! Don’tcha wanna root for our team?”
“No. I have no roots, because I’m not a plant. I belong to the kingdom Animalia.”
But Michael’s voice is drowned out by the yelling on all sides, one collective roar that snatches Jeff—his third companion—away from him into the baffling world of normals. Soon he will lose this friend as well, and his Special Ed teacher will not likely produce for him a fourth. But Michael doesn’t mind. He much prefers stars to people anyway. Stars follow predictable patterns….
He hunches over his astronomy book, struggling to focus upon the photo of Andromeda. But the yelling jars his concentration, shoots pain through his ear canals and down his spine in silver shivers. He must release the book to again clap hands over his ears.
And that is when he sees her. The girl with the hands over her eyes.
He wonders if she’s hot. She must be, he concludes, because she’s wearing far more clothing than the cheerleaders. Indeed, she’s bundled up inside a shaggy overcoat. Yet she also looks cold, because she’s shivering. Just like Michael himself.
Forgetting his own pain, he blunders up from his bleacher and crashes down through bodies and boards to reach her row. As he draws closer, he sees tears slithering down her cheeks like transparent worms. He smiles because he likes worms, almost as much as stars. But he also understands that tears mean sadness.
“Why are you sad?”
“Don’t you see? They keep on kicking it! There’s only one football, and at least two dozen humans! How can they be so unfair?”
“I don’t know. I think that’s part of the game. Like the yelling.”
“I don’t like the yelling, either. But the kicking is even worse! Doesn’t it hurt that poor football?”
“I don’t think so. The football cannot feel, because it has no nerves.”
Slowly she peels away her hands from her eyes, but she averts her gaze from the football field and turns to study him. “Well, I still think it’s unfair to that poor football. There should be lots of them, at least as many footballs as humans. That way the game would be more balanced.”
“Yes! I like things to be balanced, too!” Michael can’t stop the grin that splits his glowing face. He still is shivering, but now it’s with excitement. “And I also like things to have patterns, like the stars! Do you like patterns also? Do you like stars?”
The game is forgotten as he flips open his book, pulls her into his world of black holes and white dwarfs. Now he can only hear the music of the spheres. And the music of his new friend’s voice as she comments on the boiling clouds of Venus. “If God is everywhere, then He must be there as well—even within that nightmare world. Do you think He could be here also in this nightmare world? Right here where things are never balanced?”
“Yes. I believe that’s logical.” Michael grins more widely still, because he does feel balanced. He doesn’t think he’ll lose this fourth companion, whom he picked all by himself. She takes his hand and he wonders if he might be sprouting roots, even though he’s still not a plant.
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