“You ever heard of a Pandora tomato technique?” I asked Joe at lunchtime.
“Is that for Pizza?” Joe asked.
“No, I think it’s some kind of system to help students study.”
“Dude! Have we met?” Joe commented, “Of course I haven’t heard of it. Who cares anyway?”
“You know Alex’s older brother, Jeff? I heard he dropped out of school.” I said.
“Cool! For how long?” Joe asked.
“No, he dropped out of school. Like permanently.” I said.
“Permanently for how long?”
Sometimes I wonder if there’s a child somewhere holding the remote to Joe’s brain and playing with the switch button. Joe can be both the smartest and the dumbest person alive.
“Jeff dropped out of school FOREVER. I think the pressure got to his head, he couldn’t catch up.” I said. “I heard he got a job at the meat district. Scraping out animal guts doesn’t require a degree.”
“The meat district? Oh, I’d kill for a steak right now. And some mozzarella sticks.” Joe drooled.
How come Big Al never mentioned what Joe would be like ten years from now? Oh my God, do we stop being friends eventually? Does Joe choke on his slurpy and die?
He totally dies, doesn’t he?
“You ever think about the future, Joe? Like where you’ll be at in ten years?” I asked.
“What’s up with you Ali? That car accident made you a geek?” Joe asked.
“Just answer the question.” I insisted.
“Hmmm in ten years? I’ll probably be so da#$ rich they’ll name a country after me. Like Joe-orgia or California Joe or somethin’!” Joe said proudly.
“These aren’t countries man.” I shook my head.
It was time to go home and I suddenly got a heavy heart, every step felt like lifting weights.
I’m failing most of my classes and I’m stressed out of my friggin’ mind! Plus Big Al set camp in my room and won’t budge. I wish I could tell someone about him, but who?
Joe already thinks I’ve gone soft after the accident. Can’t imagine what he’ll say if I tell him I talk to ‘invisible me from the future’. It’s crazy!
And I can’t tell my parents, they’ll freak!
Nah she’ll tease me about it till the day I die. It’s like her golden chance to get me back. She’s still upset coz I stuck little notes in the cupcakes she made for the bake sale. The notes said: “You’ve been poisoned”
Man that was funny LOL
“Thin Mints?” A seventh grader came up to me.
It’s Girls’ scout season again. My sister Sara joined this year. She’s been selling cookies like a turbomachine! She’s totally winning this stupid thing.
The seventh-grader girl cleared her throat and asked again if I wanted to buy cookies. Her face was blood red I think she was about to faint. I wasn’t sure if she was blushing coz she thinks I’m good looking or if she’s scared I’ll snap at her.
I gave her a charming smile. She dropped the boxes and went running to a group of her dorky friends.
“I swear he smiled at me! He’s SO HOT!” She said.
Tell me something I don’t know, pumpkin!
“How was school Ali?” Mom asked as soon as I walked in.
She was busy making dinner and next to her Mr. Invisible Creep was busy making funny faces. And yes, she still can’t see him.
NO ONE CAN SEE HIM BUT ME!
“You’ve been awfully quiet lately, is everything okay?” Mom asked.
“I’m fine. I’m just tired.” I mumbled and went straight up to my room.
I admit it. I’m drowning this semester and I have no idea what to do to fix it. I procrastinate so much I need a new word to describe just how much I put things off. Watch me keep this up and I’ll be even more pathetic than Big Al!
“Yo Ali! You know what’s on now?” Big Al walked in, smelling like garlic-soaked pastrami. “Hunger Games! Remember that time you skipped school to go watch it. And then you gave Omar a wedgy? Man, I miss those days. I saw him last year. Cheap scum bag was still holding a grudge he never tipped me!”
“Tipped you for what exactly?”
“My excellent service?” Big Al boasted. “I used to work at the Multiplex down the street until I got fired.”
“Why did you get fired?” I asked, feeling smoke coming out of my ears.
“You see I had a system. Instead of cleaning up the spills and leftovers on the spot, I cleaned every four days. Like sparkling clean! Health inspector guy dropped in on the third day and got me fired. Ahhh it was a good job though. Employees get free popcorn on Tuesdays.”
“GET OUT!” I yelled, “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUTTTTTTTTTT!”
“Hey! What did I do?” Big Al asked.
I stormed downstairs and went outside to breathe. Sara was sitting on the porch counting the money from today’s sales. How long have I been up there? Was she done her homework already?
“YAASSSS! I’m rocking this contest, Ali. Last year’s winner sold 629 cookies. I’m closing in on 500 and I still have a whole week to go.” She giggled. “Hey, you okay?”
No, I’m NOT okay! I wanted to scream it out from the rooftop, but instead, I asked her if she wanted to go biking. She got the weirdest shocked-slash-scared look on her face like an ex-con had just asked her out on a date or something.
“Seriously?” She finally smiled.
“Yeah, let’s go!” I said.
“Shouldn’t we ask mom first?”
“We’ll only be gone 10 minutes. She won’t even notice.” I grabbed her hand and ran to the garage to get our gear.
Sara and I used to play together all the time when we were younger. She was sort of my best friend back then. The middle school turned her into this annoying, know-it-all diva nerd. I hated her the past two years! She hardly smiled, I forgot what her teeth looked like. But today, she seemed pretty cool. Maybe she was high on cookie-sugar, I don’t know. We had a blast! I’ve never seen Sara laugh so much.
“Let’s race downhill! No breaks. What do you say?’ I suggested
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea” She hesitated. I think she was terrified. She does that thing with her finger when she tries to hide her fear.
“C’mon! It’ll be fun.” I said.
“What if I fall? I can’t risk getting hurt now. Big contest prizes at stake!” She said.
“You’re such a girl!” I teased. “Tell you what. You race me down this slope and I’ll buy 25 cookies from you. Deal?”
It was like roller coasters with no seat belts. We both screamed with excitement at the top of our lungs. I was totally beating her. Like zero competition! She wasn’t even in sight anymore.
Oh my God! She had crashed her bike and was lying motionless next to a huge tree. How did I not hear her? I swerved my bike as fast as I could.
“Sara! Oh my God are you okay?” I asked, feeling my hands and feet go completely numb. She was whimpering hardly making any sound. There was blood on her face and her tears were rolling down non-stop.
“Sara, talk to me.” I panicked.
“Ali… I can’t move. I think I broke my leg…”
Yup! I’m DEAD MEAT!
I don’t need to ask Big Al coz I totally know what’s gonna happen now.
Dad will go buy a gun, kill me and spend the rest of his life in jail.
No dad around means no income and no food.
No food means my family will starve to death unless someone gets a job.
Looks like mom will get that career in knitting after all!
“She never forgave you, dude.” Big Al said, munching on stale chips.
“Shut Up!” I snapped.
They put Sara’s broken leg in a cast and said she wasn’t allowed to step on it for at least three weeks.
THREE WHOLE WEEKS!
The look in her eyes is still haunting me. She didn’t say anything, not even ONE word! She didn’t blame me for ruining her life or threaten to poison my food. Nothing!
The lack of drama at home is scaring the cra@ out of me.
I feel HORRIBLE….
“I’m telling you. She never forgave you.” Big Al insisted. “Sara couldn’t sell any more cookies and this red-head fatso…. What’s her name? Tanya! She outdid everyone. Sold 944 cookies man. She won a free fashion design course thingy. The instructor was so impressed with Tanya’s work, she sponsored her all through college. Now the redhead is one of the top fashion designers in the country. But Sara never got over it. It broke her! She said I stole her dream. Since then we haven’t been talking. I’m lucky if I hear from her once a year. You know what? Now that I think of it… it sucks to be you, man!”
Sara’s dream is to be a fashion designer?
How did I never know that? I thought she wanted to be a doctor…
That’s all she talks about… how she will find a cure for cancer and save millions of lives. She even jokes about performing surgery on me to fix the ‘glitch’ in my ‘system’.
Now all of a sudden she wants to be a fashion designer?
And she thinks I stole that dream? What did I do?
Big Al is speaking out of his bum for all I know!
Sara wants to be a fashion designer? Seriously?
“How’s she doing?” I asked mom on her way downstairs.
“She’s sleeping” Mom replied, hardly looking at me.
“Mom, it’s not my fault Sara broke her leg,” I said.
“Did I say it was, Ali?” She asked in her most intimidating tone.
“No, you didn’t. But the way you’re all looking at me…. It’s like you’re accusing me of something.”
“No one is accusing you of anything. You said it’s not your fault and we believe you!” Mom said firmly. “Now will you go finish your studies, please?”
“Yeah” I mumbled.
“How did you do on your Geography test?” Mom asked.
“It was really hard. Ask anyone! Our teacher has a vendetta against students!” I fumed.
“So what did you get?”
“A D minus…”
“A WHAT?” Mom gasped.
“It’s Geo mom. Why do we need to learn about the latitudes and longitudes and the Zambezi River? How is that gonna help me get a job? Excuse me if I have ZERO motivation to memorize that useless stuff!”
“You think you need to be motivated to do everything you’re supposed to do?” Mom asked. “Why? Do you think I’m jumping up and down every time I have to do your dirty laundry or iron your shirts or run to the grocery store coz we’re out of milk? Do you think your dad is doing the happy dance now coz he’s so excited the insurance company won’t pay Sara’s medical bills and he has to deal with all sorts of problems? No! We are NOT motivated to do all that, but we still do it. Coz that’s our job! Just like it is your job to study so you can get into a decent college and secure a good future.”
“I have to take out the garbage, which is actually YOUR job. But you know what, I’m so excited to do it my heart is FLUTTERING WITH EXTREME MOTIVATION!” She yelled before slamming the door behind her.
I suddenly miss the lack of drama!
I went upstairs to check on Sara. She was still sleeping, with a little notebook in her hand. It wasn’t her diary coz I know hers is smeared with pink glitter and lined with bird feathers or somethin’. Yuck! She locks it with a fingerprint, too. What a geek.
I looked around to make sure no one was watching and slid the notebook out of her hand slowly. I had a strange feeling it had something to do with me…. A revenge plan maybe?
I took it and ran to my room.
Yeah, it’s a 911 situation so I have no option but to invade my sister’s privacy. SUE ME!
It was a ‘cookie-sales’ diary. How many she’s sold so far, a marketing plan, predictions of how many boxes she’ll sell every day. Even a whole speech if she wins. She really IS a geek!
But now none of that is going to happen.
The only reason she went down that slope is coz I said I’d buy 25 cookies. She knew it was dangerous but I guess that’s how desperate she is to win!
It’s not my fault….
I closed the notebook and thought about it for a sec.
I suddenly couldn’t stop smiling….
“What’s so funny?” Big Al yawned.
“I have an idea,” I said.
Drum roll, please!
I know how Sara can win this stupid contest…
To be continued….
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