Stratford-On-Guy Series 3

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Fifteen short stories recounting the high school days of the late 1990s and early 2000s of eleven teens in Melbourne, Australia Samuel Beck is a teenage boy living in suburban Melbourne, Australia. Throughout his adolescence, he recounts some of the most interesting moments between him and his best friends in their high school years, both inside and outside of school.

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Year 9 – 1998: January 14

I was going out with my friends again to the cinemas, even though I really didn’t want to this time. Not that I hated watching movies, quite the opposite, actually; I loved films, which was probably why I had been so angry at the fate of cinema at this point. Every movie I had seen in the last two years has been pretty terrible, and I wasn’t the only one feeling this way; so many critics were giving negative review after negative review of each new-release film. The other reason why I didn’t want to go was because I was watching with Tiffany, Janet, and Dave. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re really great friends, but they had a pretty bad taste with movie choices and sometimes with music too.

This time, the movie they chose was Titanic, which I was already dreading. I had seen the trailer for the last few weeks and it was definitely something I wouldn’t pay $10 for. It wasn’t really a documentary so much as it was a romantic thriller between two people who were coincidentally on a ship that hit an iceberg in 1912. Still, people were loving it, and it was making money up the arse. I didn’t get it. It was just another romantic thriller for me. Probably because these kind of movies weren’t really my cup of tea. I was more into action movies as well as comedies. Drama and romance weren’t my thing. Tiffany would always tell me that I just didn’t understand, and she was right. I guess this was why she dragged me to this film. I didn’t want to understand, anyway.

Tiffany and I had the same problem when it came to television shows. She was more into soap operas and dramas like Home and Away, while I preferred watching comedies like Seinfeld and Frasier. That always made it harder to reach an agreement whenever we were at each other’s house and wanted to watch TV. I disliked that Tiffany always wanted to watch The Bold and the Beautiful. My mum was glued to the TV whenever that show came on. It was so freaking over-the-top with its drama. Just the most trivial of shit happened, and the characters would lose their bloody minds! Calm down, will ya?

At least we could both agree that the Simpsons was the best show on TV, but of course Tiffany’s favourite character was Lisa. I tried to stay away from people like that, but Dave felt the same way. Come on! Everyone knows Bart and Homer are where it’s at. People watched the Simpsons for its comedy, dammit! I mean, sure there was the commentary and messages they conveyed, but they didn’t always revolve around Lisa. Hell, most of the time, they revolved not just around Homer and Bart, but around many of the other characters as well, like Moe Szyslak and Mr. Burns.

When we went to the cinemas, I noticed that Craig had influenced me as I brought with me a truckload of snacks. Anything to keep me awake during the movie because I knew I was going to fall asleep at least a half hour in. It happened anytime I was watching a film I didn’t enjoy. Once again, since I was out, I thought to let the diet go. James wasn’t here, anyway.

It seemed that the cinemas will never listen to my complaint of having a billion ads and movie trailers before the movie would start. It was just a stupid gimmick to make you eat all your snacks prior to the film. Another gimmick I hated was how salty they made the popcorn. Don’t get me wrong, I hated bland, unsalted popcorn as much as the next person, but damn, you don’t have to put every grain of salt in your freaking popcorn. Again, just a gimmick to get you to buy their expensive as hell drinks, which were full of sugar so they made you even more goddamn thirsty.

After about 30 years, the movie finally started. I swear, I could feel myself going through male pattern baldness by the time the lights went out. I even shouted, “Fucking finally!” With Dave, Tiffany, and Janet looking at me in confusion.

“What? It was taking forever.” I whispered loudly

Half an hour into the movie and I was surprisingly still awake. I wasn’t even dozing off. Didn’t feel sleepy at all. Was I enjoying the movie? No, not by a long shot. I was bored after the first two minutes. My strategy with the snacks worked, though I felt guilty after consuming each snack. Chocolate, chips, popcorn, ice cream, you name it. I tried to save my snacks for later so they could last me the whole movie, though it was too bad the movie was three hours long! God, I felt like I was in a war torture camp. Whenever a movie was more than two hours long, I could swear my body was starting to decompose. I felt the same way about songs that went on for too long. Usually, seven minutes was my limit. As much as I loved Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins, I always skipped the song Silverfuck because it was almost ten minutes long. That’s two and a half songs, goddammit!

It was like one time I went over to Steve’s house, and we played Pink Floyd’s album Meddle. You weren’t at Steve’s house if he wasn’t playing Pink Floyd or Status Quo. On this record, there was a song called Echoes and I swear to God I felt myself age about sixty years listening to that. Steve had told me it was 24 minutes long, and yeah, I timed it too. 24 goddamn minutes. There were episodes of Friends just as long if not even shorter than that. Sorry but a song shouldn’t be as long as a sitcom episode. It just wasn’t right. Four or five minutes was all you needed.

There was another song I heard from the late 1960s called In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, but it was only three minutes long. Or so I thought until Melanie told me that was just the radio version and that the real one was over seventeen minutes long, with a three-minute drum solo. Should have learnt that from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes where Bart sold his soul to Milhouse. Did these bands honestly think that people who were listening to this had the fucking attention span to sit through a 20-minute song? The only reason why music was my favourite form of entertainment out of the big three was because it fit my short attention span. There was 90 minutes to the average movie; about 25 minutes to the average television show; and 4 minutes to the average span. Guess which one I was going to choose? Yeah, the song, unless it’s six songs long!

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m not talking about the movie anymore, and the answer was pretty simple; I didn’t give a shit. One time, when I was about six, I was watching a movie with my mum and I was eating popcorn but it was pretty late for a child to stay up at that time, I fell asleep halfway through eating. Was actually scary, considering I could’ve choked on the popcorn.

As I had mentioned before, whenever I was going to a place that I knew I’d be bored as hell, I would bring my GameBoy with me and ensure that it was fully charged too. One time I brought it with me to a boring movie but it’s battery had died and so the melatonin kicked in just ten minutes later. Thank God for that! I was barely able to keep my eyes open.

This time, I was still wide awake and was wondering what Liz and the others were doing.

Just by some coincidence, I hear a beeping noise coming from my backpack and I took out my pager, Liz sent the following message,

“Hey Sam. How are you doing?”

I was going to respond with, “In an Iraqi torture camp,” but instead replied, “Bored as hell. You?”

“Oh, I’m at the arcade. You’re just at home?”

“No, no. I’m at the movies with Dave, Tiffany, and Janet.”

“Whatchu watching?”


“Goddamn, they’ve got you and Dave by the balls.”

“Wait, Dave has balls?”

“Just get your arse over here.”

“Who’s with you? Your brothers?!”

“What? No! It’s me, Craig, Johnny, and Mike.”

“Cool, I’ll be there soon.”

“Thank you!”

I quietly packed my things and picked up my backpack. Once I was getting up to leave the theatre, Tiffany folded her arms and glared at me, tapping her foot impatiently.

“Just where do you think you’re going, Mr. Beck?” She whispered

“I’m going to the bathroom.” I said, which was true, I had to go to the bathroom, unlike last year with Craig who came back smelling like an unwashed ashtray.

After I had finished from the bathroom, I went to the arcade and ran immediately to a blonde girl with her back towards me wearing a grey tracksuit and beret; that was definitely Liz.

“Hey Sam! You’re here! How was the movie?” She asked cheerfully, putting her arms around my waist.

I yawned, “God, it was so boring!”

“No shit, Sam. It’s Titanic. Of course it was gonna be a snore!” Johnny exclaimed

I really didn’t know how Dave enjoyed watching this movie, but then again, I should’ve expected it from him since he was into romantic shit like Tiffany. No wonder he could hold down a conversation with her better than I could. He also liked listening to boybands and eating salads, so I sometimes wondered whether he was a male, or even a human.

“So, Sam, did you cry during the movie?” Mike teased

“Dude, I wasn’t even fucking watching!” I replied, “I was playing on the freaking Game Boy and stuffing myself with chocolate.”

Liz chuckled, “Typical Sammy. Now, let’s go play some games.”

“How long have you guys been here?”

“Like…5 minutes? We haven’t even played anything yet. We’re still deciding.”

“By the way, Sam, does Tiffany know you’re here with us?” Craig asked

“She doesn’t have a clue.” I sniggered

Craig inhaled, “Oh, shit…”

“She’s gonna find out, you know.” Johnny said

They had a good point, so when were playing games in the arcade, I tried to hide myself. I had no idea when the movie was going to end, but I thought by the time I had left the cinema, there was about an hour left, so I was safe for now. I thought we would be playing games here for about 45 minutes meaning we’d leave before Tiffany caught us.

We all wanted to play the car racing games, but there was only enough to play four players, so we had to take turns. At first, it was Liz, Mike, Craig, and me, but then Craig had to go to the bathroom, which I doubted this time, so Johnny took his place, then Mike went after Johnny. I got tired of racing after a while, as did Mike and Johnny, so all three of us played different games including Skee-Ball, Point Blank, Wheel of Fortune, and Street Fighter Arcade. Of course, there was the Simpsons arcade game, which I could never say no to as it was Simpsons related.

While playing the Simpsons game, I felt like someone was watching over me. I looked around and saw nobody, so I thought nothing of it. I continued to play for the next ten minutes, but that feeling was still hovering through my mind, and so I was losing focus and lost the game. It pissed me off, so I started kicking the machine and swearing.

All of a sudden, I heard a dark, whispery feminine voice say chill through my ear, “Oh, I’m sure it would suck to lose, eh, Samuel?”

I froze in my position, refusing to turn around. That’s how scared I was. About ten seconds later, I turned around only to see Tiffany hovering over my left shoulder. I jumped about five feet into the air, and grabbed my chest when I came down.

“What the hell, Tiffany?” I asked, puffing and panting

“Hello there Sam. Why, this doesn’t look the bathroom to me. In fact, I should’ve known that you weren’t going to pee. Toilet breaks don’t take 45 minutes!”

“Hey, hey. I could’ve had digestive problems.”

“Pfft! Bullshit Sam, I know you were in here. Don’t lie.”

“Ok, fine. You got me. Now, can you let it go, please?”


“Why not?”

“Because you lied to me, Sam! Why did you do that?”

“I wanted to get out of the movie, and I was too scared to tell you!”

“Well, if you didn’t wanna see Titanic, you should’ve said something. We would’ve gone and seen another movie.”

“See, here’s the problem, Tiff; you wanted to see Titanic, which meant that we pretty much have no say in the matter.”

“Ok, but if you didn’t want to see the movie, you could’ve easily said, sorry Tiffany, but I’m not interested in watching this stupid film, and watched whatever you wanted to with Dave or any of the other idiots some other time!”

“The other idiots who are standing right here, by the way.” Liz waved

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. I really should’ve said something, but I didn’t wanna hurt you.”

“That’s just hilarious because you going behind my back hurt me more.”

I couldn’t help but feel guilty, and so I had nothing to say. Eventually, Dave and Janet arrived at the arcade.

“Sorry we took a while, Dave had to pull himself together.” Janet said with her arms around Dave who was still sobbing and blowing his nose. What a sap, I thought to myself.

“Hey Dave. Maybe some games will cheer you up.” Craig suggested

We all went to play games at the arcade again, and there was no way I could ever be bored with these games. I could be trapped in this arcade overnight and I wouldn’t complain. In fact, if that did happen, and someone tried to ring the police, I’d probably stop them. After we finished playing at the arcade, we all had dinner in the food courts of the shopping centre, which were the only places open on a Wednesday evening now. We all ordered food from different eateries, but ended up meeting in one place to eat and chat. Though this outing started with me being bored out of my mind, there was the silver lining when Liz messaged me. It was like a message from the heavens telling me to get out of hell.

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