Sometimes I ask myself, why? Why do I exist? Why is the earth round? And most important of all, why in the world did I ever allow myself to take part in a dodgeball game with Bruce Raglamachir?
And I don’t mean on a team with the biggest, meanest bully in the school. I mean on the opposite team, which is basically a death wish.
I, along with my teammates, didn’t stand a chance. We were slowly picked off, one by one, with perfectly aimed shots from Bruce and his cronies. At the end, I walked half-conscious to the sidelines after receiving a ball to the head that was probably going at least one hundred miles per hour.
Okay, not really. Scientifically speaking, for someone to throw a ball at a speed of one hundred miles per hour, they would need to have an illogical arm strength of at least—
Never mind. Sorry. I get carried away sometimes. The point is, I should have hidden in the locker room until the end of the period to escape torture. But I didn’t, and I got to pay for it.
The rest of the day went by in a haze. Before I knew it, I was on the bus headed home, chatting with my best and only friend, Will Chandler.
“Guess what? Emma actually talked to me today!” Will told me enthusiastically.
I laughed and patted him on the back. “Wow, no way! Good job,” I told him sarcastically.
Will had a crush on a girl named Emma Wilkinson, and practically everyone at Pinewood Middle School knew it except for her. She was the most popular girl in the school, on the cheerleading team and supposedly already dating at the age of fourteen.
“You just keep working on her,” I said. “You never know, one day . . .”
Will shoved me playfully. “Oh, shut up,” he said, but he was blushing furiously.
The bus pulled to a stop in front of my house. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and stood up. “See you tomorrow, Will,” I said.
“See you,” he responded.
I got out of the bus and walked up to my front door, resting my hand on the handle. Then I paused for a second, took in a deep breath of the fresh afternoon air, and opened the door.
My dog, Pluto, immediately came running around the corner and began jumping on me in excitement. I laughed, pushed him down, and closed the door. Then I squatted down and addressed him.
“Well, hello there, buddy,” I said. Pluto barked happily and began licking my face.
Pluto was a playful, loyal husky and one of my only joys in life. I had had him for two years and I never wanted to leave him.
“Oh, Alex, you’re back!” came a voice from the kitchen.
My mood immediately dampened. I felt bad about it, but I couldn’t help it. The voice belonged to my aunt Theresa.
“Welcome home!” Theresa said, coming through the doorway. She handed me a cookie for a snack and asked, “How was school?”
“It was good,” I said, trying not to sound glum. I took a bite of the cookie and then started upstairs with my backpack.
“Sorry, I’ve got some homework to do,” I said, which was a lie. I walked up the stairs with Pluto at my heels as Theresa said, “Okay, dinner’s at seven. And it’s a really nice day outside! So maybe you should get some fresh air!”
I nodded. “I will,” I told her, disappearing upstairs. As surprising as it may be, I like spending time outdoors, especially at night. And Aunt Theresa was right, it was a very nice day, sunny and with temperatures in the lower seventies.
I went into my room and set my stuff down on my bed. Then I grabbed my book from my backpack, plopped down on my beanbag chair, and began to read.
Yes, I’m that kind of geek. Most people go home after school and play video games. A rare few go home and read a book, especially if that reading is for mandatory homework. I’m one of those rare few. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love video games too. But books are hard to beat.
After about ten minutes, a head popped into the room. It was my uncle AJ. I only half paid attention to him and continued to read. It was a captivating book, after all.
“What are you reading?” AJ asked.
I surrendered. Tilting the book up so he could see the cover, I said, “The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.”
His eyebrows crept up and he chuckled. “You really are a whiz kid. Reading books like The Fault in Our Stars at the age of thirteen.”
“Almost fourteen,” I immediately reminded him, and then my cheeks colored slightly. I couldn’t help myself.
He chuckled again. “Yes, almost fourteen,” he corrected himself.
Pluto, who was curled up at my fight, woke up, yawned, and stretched out his legs. Then he jumped up and barked once, then nudged his ball.
I laughed and picked up the ball. “Do you want to play, Pluto?” I asked.
Pluto barked again happily and ran in circles.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said, standing up and putting my book on my shelf. I looked at AJ. “Sorry, Pluto needs to get some energy out. We’ll be back soon.”
Uncle AJ smiled. “You need the fresh air too, you know. We can’t have you cooped up in this house reading a book all day, now can we.”
I shrugged. “Well, I’ll take Pluto on a walk and get both of us some exercise. See you soon,” I said. Then I ran down the stairs with Pluto and exited the house, taking in another breath of fresh air after I was in the yard. Then I half smiled and said, “Come on, Pluto, let’s go.” I put on his leash and we set out on the sidewalk.
We walked around our neighborhood for twenty minutes, enjoying the nice weather and the beautiful landscaping. We stopped at every mailbox flower bed so I could take pictures of the beautiful tulips and roses and marigolds and morning glories and so that Pluto could sniff them.
We got back to the house and played fetch in the backyard for a while. Then Pluto ran around for a bit chasing squirrels and I layed down in the grass with my head in my hands, looking up at the gorgeous blue sky.
Soon, Pluto rejoined me and curled up next to me. I nuzzled his head and he licked my hand. I chuckled and resumed looking at the sky. I loved just laying down and pondering random things.
I closed my eyes, smiled, and said, “Pluto, this is how I want to spend the rest of my life.”
Pluto barked in agreement. I laughed and petted his soft fur.
A bird called, and it was answered by another. The songs were beautiful, and I loved listening to them.
And then I realized what I was hearing. Smiling to myself, I said, “That’s the sound of the wild.”