Hard To Get To A novel by Antony Hammond
Chapter 6: Lunch Time
Monday, August 20, 1984, 12.03 pm
It is midday and a busy and packed cafeteria stretches out in front of Danny and Motor. The hall is filled with various sounds, music and laughter, conversation and debate. There is a group of perky cheerleaders practicing their routines in the corner of the lunch hall with particular vigour and athleticism lead by Jennifer Harley. There is noticeable attention being given to them by the male contingent who are finding it hard to eat their food without spilling it everywhere whilst viewing such lovely perky athleticism, as you can imagine. The cafeteria is filled with row upon row of tables and chairs and the place is practically filled to the brim with the usual lunchtime rush. Although they all seem to make one giant gathering, upon closer inspection you can quite easily make out the divisions. We see huddles of Jocks, clusters of Nerds, the aforementioned gaggle of Cheerleaders and various other social groups. Danny is standing in line for lunch with Motor. Danny has his packed lunch that his mom made for him and Motor is holding a tray which he is using to hit the head of the boy in front until he turns around and glares.
‘I had this all of last year and I’m not going to put up with it anymore!’ The young boy screams and runs away.
‘Sheesh, what a baby’ says Motor. Motor moves forward and start hitting the next pupil in the queue. The boy turns around, looks at Motor and then shouts, ‘Jake!’ loud enough for the huddle of jocks to hear. One particular jock, apparently called Jake, makes his way across to the lunch queue.
‘What’s going on little bro?’ Jake asks his brother.Jake towers over Motor. He must be at least 6ft tall and built like a football stadium. Motor decides to take evasive action.
‘Uh, me and your brother were just wondering what position you played big guy’ and looks at the little brother pleadingly. The little kid takes his opportunity.‘Yeah that’s right Jake. He bet me $10 that you were a wide receiver but I told him you were a linebacker, little did he know you were my big brother.’
‘Yeah that’s right little bro, and I’m going to play pro when I leave school,’ he says banging his fist into his hand, excited at the prospect of smashing skulls legally on the football field, ‘so everything’s ok here then?
Did you get your $10?’ he says looking over at Motor.
‘Oh, I was just about to pay up. Well done man, and well done to you sir for being such a big, strong, talented representative of this school’ Motor replies as he fishes around in his pocket for $10 which he hands to the little kid.
‘Thanks’ the little kid says and smiles. His brother heads back to the huddle.Danny is looking around the lunch room coyly trying to spy the new girl. Motor is next to be served by a hard-looking woman behind the lunch counter. The woman appears to have odour problems judging from the large sweat marks under her bulging man-arms that squeeze out of her white, starched uniform. There is a tattoo on her left forearm that reads ‘Daddies Girl’ across a big red heart. She growls at each child that passes her as she serves them, throwing huge spoonfuls of disgusting, indistinguishable food onto their passing plates. As Motor approaches the woman she forces a smile out of her muscular mouth.
‘You know I’ve heard that they give prisoners better food than this in Jail.’ Motor flippantly comments toward the man-woman. ‘Yeah but I bet they don't even get any spit in their food.’
The woman replies wiping her mouth, handing over the plate.The plastic plate has some sort of brownish meat on it that has been brutally burnt, sparsely accompanied by a selection of dead greenish vegetables, although, to be honest, they all seem to be mashed into one dreadful mass. Motor looks down at the slop that has been dropped onto his plate from the woman's spoon and then back at the woman.
‘Amazing, thank you,’ he chirps sarcastically, ‘I bet they don't get such great service though, huh?’
The woman probably mutters something under her breath and looks angrily at Motor then turns toward the rest of the lunch line.
‘Come on, hurry up you little twerps! I’m not getting any younger here!’ she shouts
‘Too true’ someone says.
The two boys walk with their food to two spare free seats situated somewhere in the middle of the floor of the busy cafeteria. Placing his brown bag of sandwiches, apple and drink on the table, Danny is still preoccupied with finding the strangely alluring girl from last night and can't seem to stop thinking about her. He is so desperate to find her that as he sits down he almost misses the chair and has to readjust quickly. Motor just can't help but notice Danny’s pathetic desperation.
‘Danny,’ he says, ‘you haven't stopped looking around for your new 'beau' since your eyes met across darkened street last night.’
‘My 'beau'?’ Danny replies defensively, ‘what are you talking about? And besides, you have been obsessed with Jennifer Harley ever since your passion in the hallway this morning.’
WHAT?? Are you kidding me?? I have absolutely not been obsessed with her… merely inquisitive.’
‘Oh really? Inquisitive? I beg to differ. In Gym class you hit Bobby Kajinski in the face with a basketball because when you saw her hanging out with the Cheerleaders you thought you saw her blowing you a kiss.’
‘I did not think she was blowing me a kiss, I knew she was. Anyway, I didn’t mean to hit him in the face, I was trying to perform a pick and roll and he got in the way of my amazing no-look pass’
‘As you ogled Jennifer Harley’
‘The poor kid didn’t stand a chance. One moment he was doing star jumps, the next thing he knew, stars were jumping all around him.’
Danny shakes his head, ‘That kid is now walking around with an imprint of Spalding across his face for the next couple of days.’ ‘What about you??! In Mr. Shelby's History classed? When he asked you to name a famous Chinese dynasty... and you said 'Nintendo'!’
‘Hey, I was just joking okay? And besides, you don’t stand a chance with Jennifer Harley anyway.’
‘You don’t know that. I have a one hundred percent record with girls actually.’
'Actually you’ve only ever been out with one girl so I’m not sure..’
‘So, it’s still a one hundred percent record and Debbie was a great gal,’ Motor remembers, ‘a real great gal’ he says holding out his hands in front of his chest to suggest rather large hands.
‘Well maybe, but come on, girls like Jennifer Harley only know your name if it comes with “owns a Ferrari” after it,’ Danny pauses, ‘or if you look like Chad Johnson.’
‘That’s not fair. You don’t know that. I bet she has so many hidden levels, you just have to care enough to spend the time to get to know her and discover them.’
‘And I’m sure you’d be willing to volunteer your time to get underneath her levels’
‘Come on, I bet she’s a really wonderful human being under all that fake crap.’
‘Oh sure,I hear she’s just signed up to the Peace Core, you know?’
‘She’s a regular humanitarian.’
Danny looks around the cafeteria desperately trying to find the girl from last night . It seems every moment he has free, and even some of the moments that he hasn’t, he spends it thinking about her. This girl is taking over Danny’s day and even getting him into trouble with Mr. Shelby, but at least it’s taking his mind off his impending failure in life. ‘Oh God, what am I going to do?’ he thinks to himself, again. There is no sign of her amongst the oodles of high school kids that sit eating their lunches and chatting amongst each other. They’re probably discussing what their morning has been like but more often than not they’re usually talking about what they might do after school or even what parties they might go to at the weekend. Danny zones out as he stares across the lunch hall. Motor starts to become tiresome of Danny’s lack of concentration and speaks up, noticing that he is becoming second in Danny’s thoughts and that this new girl whoever she is, might come between them.
‘Will you stop that??!!’ Motor shouts.
‘Being so desperate. Girls in the eighties, they don’t like that sort of stuff. You’ve got to remember to always play it cool with girls, just trust me on this one, okay?’
‘Trust you? Motor you’re in a relationship with a picture of a supermodel for Christ’s sake.’
‘Hey, I’m not in a relationship with Christy okay? Motor says whilst making quotation marks with his fingers to emphasize the word ‘relationship’, ‘it’s just a,’ Motor considers his next word, ‘fling.’
‘Yeah that’s right. Just an undeniable attraction, nothing serious.’
‘Yeah right,’ Danny scoffs, but he is still interested in Motor’s point, ‘Anyway, what do you mean, play it cool?’
‘You know. Girls nowadays don't like it when you let them know that you actually like them. You need to act like a jerk, almost.’
‘What? A jerk? You can’t be serious. Are you sure?’
‘Yes, I’m telling you man. They don’t like nice guys. Nice guys just end up as friends or shit on the bottom of their stiletto.’ ‘Really? My mom always said that a lady like to be treated like a lady.’
‘Hey, I’m not saying you don’t treat them to dinner now and again, but that’s way down the line, once you’ve nailed them, then they’re yours for sure, but until that point, pretend like they don’t exist.’
‘That sounds ridiculous. Why would anybody act like that? I thought a girl liked it when you showed interest in them and told them they look nice’
'No you idiot! Only geeks think like that! They get their retainers in a twist and all sweaty palmed when they just look at a hot girl they like. Cool guys like us have to play 'hard to get' you know? Show them who’s boss.’
‘Yeah, right.’ Danny says, unconvinced
‘Yeah man, play hard to get.’
‘Play hard to get?’ Danny quizzes Motor further.
'Yeah, hard to get. You’ve got to treat them mean to keep them keen. Do you know what I mean?’
‘Treat them mean? Yeah right ok Motor. Come on, you’re putting me on.’
‘I give up. You’re a lost cause. You’re just too nice to girls Danny. You’re like a fluffy bunny, always with a box of chocolates and a serenade at the ready.’
‘Girls like chocolates’
‘Yeah, fat girls like chocolate.’
The boys start eating their lunch. All of a sudden Danny feels someone gently tapping him on his shoulder. He turns around slowly trying to anticipate who it could be. Could it be the mysterious girl from last night? Had she remembered his face and hunted him down wanting to know why he had been watching her from his window in just his underwear? Danny could feel his breathing getting harder and faster. It feels as though his heart is going to jump out of his dry mouth.
When Danny turns around he realizes it is just Irwin Gobbler. Irwin is the school's brainiest kid, and the geekiest. He is the top of all his classes, except physical education. Sport is the one area Irwin fails at and he usually has a letter from his mom excusing him from any exercise due to breathing problems. The breathing problems though are not caused by physical activity but more the thought of physical activity. Danny once saved Irwin from drowning when they were eight years old because Irwin started having a panic attack when he couldn’t feel the bottom of the swimming pool with his feet. He has been indebted to Danny ever since and been his biggest fan to boot. The same cannot be said for his feelings of Motor though who he is always arguing with. This is due to the fact that Motor loves winding Irwin up about anything and everything, especially his fear of sports.
‘Hey Danny.’ Irwin chirps up.
‘The Gobbler!’ Motor interjects, ‘Irwin my friend, you have arrived at just the right time.’
‘I have?’ Irwin replies suspiciously but at the same time, secretly, pleasantly surprised.
‘He has?’ Danny questions, equally surprised
‘Oh yeah,’ Motor continues, ‘we were just wondering how many times a human being could vomit before they'll die?’
Danny laughs silently at Motor, trying to hide his amusement from Irwin so as not to hurt his feelings. Irwin is pissed off and it shows.
‘That is such a childish question Motor. Who would be stupid enough to want to do that??’ Irwin continues angrily, ‘and it would depend on the digestion system of said individual and its contents… but it is a ridiculous question, I mean who in their right mind would do such a thing??’
‘Oh I don’t know Irwin,’ Motor retorts, ‘I’m guessing, anyone whose seen your sister?!’
‘Hey, Jackie has a slow metabolism okay? It is not her fault!’
The two boys start to argue with one another passing insults harmlessly across at each other in a childish manner, just like they always do. Meanwhile, Danny looks on growing increasingly tired of their incessant arguing and decides to put a halt to their bickering.
‘Hey you guys! Stop it!’ Danny shouts at the quarrelling pair, ‘will you two grow up for once?’
The boys are sincerely shocked by Danny’s outburst and in unison, decide to tease him about it.
‘Jeez Danny. We were only messing.’ Motor says.
‘Yeah Danny. Calm down, we weren’t being serious. We were just messing around.’ says Irwin slightly apologetic.
‘Yeah you big Spaz-ma-tron,’ Motor jokes cruelly, ‘cool down.’
‘I don’t think Spaz-ma-tron is a politically correct term to..’ Says Irwin
‘Aah, can it will ya Jock’ Motor interjects to tease
‘Okay, okay,’ Danny interrupts impatiently, ‘anyway Irwin, was there something that you wanted? A reason you came across?’
‘Well I just wanted to let you know that we are collecting for The Less Fortunate Children of the World Exchange for Better Fund'.
‘Catchy title.’ Motor quips.
‘Any donations are welcome.’ Irwin says, ignoring Motor.
‘Well I don’t have much money, I spent it all on my car, I did it up over the summer’ Danny says apologetically
‘Well if you don’t have money to give we still take money, clothes, food, comics or whatever you can spare. Just let me know okay?’
‘Thanks, I’ll see what I can do’
‘Hey,’ Motor cuts in again, ‘maybe your sister could offer a day’s worth of food. That should feed all the children in the world, not just the less fortunate ones.’
Irwin ignores Motor’s comments again and just rolls his eyes and sighs heavily. Danny looks at Motor with disapproval. ‘What?!’ Motor questions, genuinely shocked.
‘Thanks Irwin,’ Danny says turning back to Irwin ‘we'll try and find something to give.’
‘Okay thanks’ Irwin says ignoring Motor ‘bye Danny.’
‘Oh that is so immature.’ Motor says, not even recognizing the irony in his own comments.’
As Irwin walks away Motor grins and grabs Danny’s arm pulling him closer, whispering in Danny’s ear with a gleeful look in his eyes.
‘I wonder what they’ll give me for my old Playboy?’
Copyright Antony Hammond 2012
Chapter 7 Tuesday 21st August