Stratford-On-Guy Series 4

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Fifteen short stories recounting the high school days of the late 1990s and early 2000s of eleven teenagers 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.

Humor / Thriller
Age Rating:

Pokémon Cards

Year 10 - 1999: February 10

Throughout the car ride on the way to school today, I was finding it hard to believe that my friends and I had finished the first half of high school already. I still remember being nervous as hell on my first day, with my mother being more excited than me. Then walking into the classroom and sitting next to Tiffany and introducing myself to her, thinking she was the most gorgeous female I’d ever seen. I still thought she is beautiful, but my crush on her had definitely died from then. I introduced her to the rest of the group, who were welcoming towards her.

A few weeks later, I was lumped into working with Liz and Craig on that music assignment that was nothing but trouble for all of us, especially Steve who had no choice but to work with two students that had no interest in music or the project in the slightest. Since nobody was ready to present on the last day of term 1, our teacher Ms. Verso gave us until the start of next term to work on the assignment. Even with that, Steve’s project was incomplete and went up to the class to announce this and ranted to us and the teacher about it, much to her dismay.

It seemed like all of this had happened yesterday, but really, it was three years ago. I remember at the end of 1995 or start of 96, an extremely drunk James walked up to me, or however the hell he was manoeuvring, telling me that my days in high school were gonna pass by quicker than I thought. Even though he had no control over his thoughts or actions at the time, he definitely wasn’t lying. I even remember my mum telling me the same thing.

What was also quite amazing to me that being halfway through high school meant that while we finished three years of this crap, there were still three years to go. My mind couldn’t decide whether that was a long time or not; it was a long time period for a 15-year-old, as it made up one fifth of his or her lifespan, but as I mentioned earlier, these last three years felt only like a few days, so there was no reason why the next three won’t be any different.

I had mixed feelings about graduating high school in less than three years’ time. On one hand, it seemed liberating to get out of school and do whatever the hell you wanted with your life. You were no longer in an indoctrination centre that forced you to spend 36 to 42 hours a week there, having no control over your thoughts or any of the things you did. On the other hand, I was also a little scared of graduating.

For 15 years, I have been living with my parents and I really couldn’t imagine myself out of the house and residing in a small apartment by myself or with a roommate by 2002. It didn’t seem possible to me at all. One thing I never understood was this ridiculous social norm that one has to become an adult by the time he or she is 18 years old. Why 18? Why not 20, or 22, or 24, or fucking 30? Why a random number like 18? I guess it made sense a few centuries ago when people were only expected to live up to their 40s or 50s, but that isn’t the case anymore. Still, the norm stuck that if you didn’t have your own house, car, partner, and income by the time you were 18, it essentially made you a loser. If that’s the case, then by 2003 or 4, I would be considered a loser. Hell, my last name is Beck, so the boot fits, I guess.

The biggest problem with teens these days is that things are getting too damn expensive now. Not just in rent and mortgage and all that other bollocks, but with everyday essentials like food or even a bottle of water. Do I really need to pay three fucking dollars for a 600 mL bottle of a liquid that I need to fucking survive? That’s just ridiculous! Not to mention that there is an increasing shortage of jobs across the city and even in Australia as a whole. Still, the older generations consider us lazy. We’re not lazy. If you actually gave us decent fucking incomes and sold your shit at reasonable fucking prices, then maybe we’d be driving relatively new cards and moving out of the house before we were 28.

Sorry for the excessive cursing, but this was something that had been on my mind for the last week, especially after turning 15 and realising that my life is catching up with me. I really didn’t think that adult life was going to treat me well at all, but I guess that was all in my control. My guess was that that was the thing that scared me; I have to make decisions for myself. I’ve never had to do that before. That was probably for the best since if it were up to me, I’d just sleep, play video games, and eat junk food all day. If I were only doing these things and nothing else at 30, my landlord or whoever I was living with would kick me out on the street within weeks. I needed to find a job to stay afloat.

The thought of having a job did scare me since I was never good with adult responsibilities. I could never remember any instructions my mother gave me since my mind would drift off somewhere else. I never did or liked doing housework. So what the hell made me think I could work at a place where they would pay me? Still, it didn’t hurt to apply at a few places. After all, I was eligible to work now, mainly in retail or some fast food place like McDonald’s. The latter wouldn’t work well since I would eat everything.

Another problem I had was procrastination, and though I did consider myself to be a slacker, I don’t think that was why I was such a professional at it. More often that not, I would feel overwhelmed from all the work I had to do. It would cause a similar anxiety to the one I would get when performing in front of the class for my oral presentation, though not to the same extent.

One of the other reasons why I didn’t feel like I could adjust into adulthood is because I was still a kid at heart, and I really couldn’t imagine myself changing, even if I got to my thirties. Just a few months ago, my cousin had her fourth birthday party at a kid’s play centre. Though I didn’t really want to go at first, when we got there, I remembered that ball pits exist, and there I was; a 14-year-old boy jumping into a pit of coloured, plastic balls. The age limit was twelve, but who the hell was actually enforcing this shit? It was like I was going to get fined or anything. Besides, I think they’d understand; it was a ball pit.

Something told me that many of my friends were also kids at heart and weren’t going to grow up anytime soon. Craig and Mike perfectly demonstrated that today at lunchtime. No, they didn’t wrestle each other or anything like that. Besides, if they did, Mike would probably have died. No, at lunchtime, Mike and Craig brought their Pokémon cards. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Those things were pretty much the talk of the town for the last year or so. Like the opening theme suggested, you had to catch them all, which obviously meant draining your parents’ wallet and them pretending to not give a shit since they love you so much. It was the same deal with the Ninja Turtles toys. There were only so many I could get before my mum couldn’t take it any longer. Craig, Steve, Mike, Melanie, Liz, and I still talked about the Ninja Turtles sometimes, even though the craze died out a few years ago. I could blame the third movie, but really, fads did come and go pretty quickly.

At lunch, Mike took out ten Pokémon cards from his pocket, as did Craig. Out of the ten, Mike traded nine of his cards to Craig, but Craig only traded one.

This left Mike a little suspicious saying, “Oh no. Let’s reverse the trade.”

“What? What the hell? Why?” Craig asked

“How come you gave me one card while I gave you nine? That isn’t fair.”

Craig scoffed, “Nobody told you to trade all those cards, you idiot.”

“Just give me back those 9, and I’ll give you the one I have right now.”

“Well, that depends. Which card is it?”

“I don’t know, like, Rocket’s Snorlax ex or some crap.”

“Hell yeah. I’m taking that one.” Craig snatched the card from Mike’s hands and gave Mike the rest of his cards.

“Ok then. Good.”

Craig got up and hugged Mike tightly. Mike, who clearly wasn’t comfortable, muffled, “Uh…Craig, could you let me go? I feel my intestines shrinking.”

“Oh, sorry.” Craig chuckled nervously, letting go of Mike, “Anyway, I’m heading off to the bathroom.”

There was really no need for him to announce that, now that I have an image of Craig doing his business. However, it kinda made me laugh because all I could picture was Craig sitting on the toilet, only for the poor toilet to be crushed as soon as he would rest his butt on it. Why was that so funny? I have no idea.

Steve pulled Mike and whispered loudly, “You idiot! What did you do?”

“What? What did I do?” Mike asked in confusion

“You traded a Rocket’s Snorlax ex?”

“Yeah…why? Is that a bad thing?”

“Of course it is! What the hell did you think?”

“I don’t know. Why do you even care? You don’t play Pokémon.”

“No, I don’t, but I know this; the Rocket’s Snorlax or whatever the hell it’s called costs $65.”

Mike’s jaws dropped to the ground and his eyes popped. I honestly didn’t blame him. That was a pretty stupid mistake to make, though not nearly as stupid as Yahoo refusing to buy Google for a million dollars. It was at that point Mike regretted his decision and should have stuck to his original trade.

The next day, Mike wasn’t at school and Craig had wondered why. Steve had told him that the reason was because he felt stupid for trading a rare card to him.

It made Craig chuckle, “Isn’t Mike always an idiot, though?”

“Now you realise, Craig?” Janet asked

“Yeah, it’s like trying to notice that you’re fat; it’s pretty obvious.” Tiffany smirked, which made Craig roll his eyes.

I love how Craig didn’t give a single shit that Tiffany just called him fat straight to his face. I was a fan of direct and honest language, but whenever James would call me that a few years ago, it used to make me feel self-conscious. I guess I could dish it but couldn’t take it. Great. I didn’t wanna be those kind of assholes.

What I also loved was that Mike had skipped school just to buy some worthless cards. Hell, since the card he was looking for was rare, he probably wouldn’t even find it, making this a waste of time and money. If my mum found out that I was skipping school for something as trivial as this, she would probably kill me, or at least ground me for a month. Little did she know that for the last three years, I had been missing out on quite a few days of school, mainly for sleeping in on days that I’d forget to set my alarm clock. Hell, even on some days where I’d put on my alarm, I’d sleep through it by a good hour or two. I was surprised that my mum never checked up on these things, considering how overprotective she normally was.

Later that night, Mike joined Dave and I on an online chatroom.

Mike: Hey guys. I need to ask you something

Sam: What is it, Mike?

Dave: Is this relating to those Pokémon cards you gave to Craig?

Mike: For your information, I only gave him one and now I know how much of a mistake this is

Sam: Yeah, we know. Steve told us. The card is worth more than 60 dollars

Mike: Well, nobody told me this!

Dave: Dude, even I knew that and I don’t even buy the goddamn cards. Albeit, I used to

Sam: Anyway, what did you wanna ask?

Mike: Do you guys know a place where I could find Snorlax or whatever? I went to every fucking shop in Greensborough Plaza and spent a good $200 on these stupid cards, and didn’t find the one I want.

Sam: Oh…shit. Where did you get that money from?

Mike: My dad, but he doesn’t really care

Dave: Well, I know there’s a really good comic book store that sells like every Pokémon card ever, and super rare comic books and action figures too.

Mike: Sweet!

Dave: One problem; it’s in Dandenong Plaza

Mike: Oh, for God’s sake! Who the hell is gonna take me there?

Sam: You can always go by train. Plus, you said your dad doesn’t really mind

Mike: No, no he doesn’t. I’ll go tonight since the shops close late tonight

Mike left the chatroom just ten minutes later and headed off by train to Dandenong Plaza, almost 40 kilometres away. When he got there, it was pouring down rain, despite it being February. He walked into the store, and asked for the Snorlax card he was looking for, which they actually had, costing him $67. However, since Mike is an easily manipulated jackass, he was tricked by the clerk into purchasing all these rare and old comic books and baseball cards that Mike never had an interest in. Still, he was able to spend over $200 in one night. This really cracked me up. My mum saw me spending more than $20 at a store, just 10% of what Mike had spent and she would crack the shits. It just goes to show how different our parents were. Though I did get annoyed with my mother’s overprotection, I’d definitely rather be sheltered than have the upbringing Mike had.

The next morning, in the first lunch break, Mike started waving the Snorlax card in Craig’s face, shouting, “HA!! I got the Snorlax, bitch! Wouldn’t you know it, he looks just like you, Mr. Taylor.”

Craig laughed, “Mike, please don’t tell me you went looking for that card just to get back at me for whatever reason.”

“Don’t play dumb with me, you fat fuck! I know what you were trying to do. When I gave you those cheap, worthless cards, you looked unhappy, tricking me into giving you that expensive one. Sabotage!”

“What in fucking God’s name are you talking about? You were the one who decided to change the trade, you dummy. Besides, I didn’t want the card because of its price; I was happy because Snorlax is one of my favourite characters.”

“Oh…was that it?” Mike said, his voice quickly transitioning from a yell to a whisper so quiet we could barely hear it


“Well, I feel like a fool.”

“As you normally do since you’re Mike.”

That was another thing that was different about Mike and us. All he was focused on was the money while Craig just wanted the card because of the character. Again, this could be because of upbringing. Craig was just as sheltered as I am so we weren’t really focused on money or sex at the moment. At least not to the same extent.

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