Worst-Case Scenario Kid

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Man, the world is a dangerous place. That’s what makes it so great. The looks on people’s faces when Pete gives them the news. An entire candy store secretly poisoned, no evidence of tampering on the wrappers, just a batch of kids flopped dead on the sidewalk like a breadcrumb trail to a cottage no one meant to eat, their eyes bugged out and tongues dry and blue. A massive toxic cloud burning its way around  the world and leaving empty nations in its wake. The ozone hole through which the sunshine drills like a laser beam, smoking us like ants under a magnifying glass.

Each morning on the bus ride to school, Pete’s got another one and airtight evidence to back it up. He totally saw it on TV last night, or his brother Teddy swore he heard from another guy. Or, Pete heard the news straight from Uncle Lou, and no one’s going to argue with Uncle Lou — his knuckles are huge. Hear him crack his left fingers followed by his right and even a doubter knows Lou speaks the truth.

The killer bee one was the best, but Pete wrecked it. It should have been perfect. A swarm headed north from Mexico, murdering half the continent on its way. But, Pete got so worked up with the telling that he added crazy extra details, things Uncle Lou would never say. This story, it was great on its own but Pete decided to give it a little help. There he was on the bus, turned backward in his seat, knees bent and sneakers braced against the seat in front. All the kids were looking, silent for once, and Pete was twisting a handful of t-shirt in his lap to keep his focus, keep things on track.

“And then and then and then,” he stammered, and that’s when the dumb part came out.

He’d made it through the meat of the story just fine — a swarm of killer bees drawn north by the heatwave that lasted all summer. You could tell them apart from regular bees by their stripes, really narrow black and yellow bands, and the extra hair on their backs. Plus, when you tried to swat them, killer bees left only to come back with their friends, and that’s when you were done for. These bees never gave up a hunt once they picked up your trail. You couldn’t outrun a killer bee or outsmart it by ducking around the swings or doubling back to your beach towel and hoping the bee kept flying straight out over the lake. If you ran indoors, killer bees would just find a crack in the bricks to wriggle through. And remember, by this point that lone bee has been joined by, like, at least twenty others, all digging through weak spots in the walls of your house. You were toast.

So, there he was, the kids practically drooling for the rest of the story, one girl has even started to cry. That’s so great. He’d never had someone cry before. And, he took a huge breath and gave the front of his shirt another yank, and wrecked the whole damn thing. Pete started describing the bees’ home base. Ah, man. Everyone knows killer bees don’t need to sleep, they are way too strong to need sleep like a regular bug, but he started telling about the hive they built from extra-strong wax, a super-comb to store their honey and recover from a long day of swarming locals before heading out on more killing missions. And, a kid at the back of the bus started to laugh.

Crap.

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