Alex has purchased tickets to the Homecoming dance despite not having any prospects for a date. He and Roger enter the cafeteria for lunch, only to encounter bullies Todd and Kevin. After Alex prevents Kevin from stealing Roger's lunch, Todd grabs Alex and prepares to rearrange Alex's face.
12:05 p.m. on October 2nd, 1987. Magnolia High Cafeteria.
Alex holds his breath, eyes scrunched closed, waiting for Todd’s impending punch.
“End him, T-man,” Kevin chortles.
“FOOD FIGHT!” It’s Roger’s voice, high-pitched and frightened, cutting through the rumbling babble of the cafeteria. Alex opens one eye. Todd is frozen, fist still cocked, but now he’s staring at Roger.
Roger grabs a fistful of red Jello from Franny’s tray. Todd narrows his eyes in warning as Roger faces him, weighing the jiggling desert in his hand. So Roger turns and flings the Jello into the midst of the suddenly silent room.
And a moment later food fills the air, crisscrossing the cafeteria from all directions. Kids squeal, run, hide – it’s chaos.
A handful of grapes pelt Todd and Alex, doing no real damage, but Todd releases Alex and grabs Franny’s plastic tray to use as a shield against the incoming edible projectiles.
Unexpectedly free, Alex looks for a hiding place. He sees Roger dive under a nearby table and scrambles to join him. But Alex’s high-top Reebok hits a puddle of coleslaw and shoots out from under him. Alex sits down hard, a jolt of pain shooting up his lower back. No time to recover, though. A spray of macaroni and cheese flies past, narrowly missing his head. Alex rolls to his hands and knees and crawls up next to Roger. “Nice save. Thanks.”
Roger shoots him an annoyed look. “Again, it would help if you didn’t always have to be the hero.”
Alex ventures a peek out at the battlefield:
A stoner twitches as he’s peppered with flying meatballs.
A preppie crawls across the floor leaving a trail of sloppy Joe sauce.
A new wave girl weeps as she cradles her chocolate-sauce-splattered Espirit blazer, moaning, “Why did it have to be build-your-own-sundae day?”
Alex ducks back as a box of chocolate milk arcs in. It strikes a chair and falls to the floor in front of him, somehow staying intact. Alex picks it up, muttering, “Amateurs.” The box is still sealed.
Alex peeks out again, scans the room until he spots Todd crouched behind another table, hurling tater tots blindly. Todd’s back is to Alex. Alex grins. He unseals the box of chocolate milk, takes a swig, winds up, and hurls the milk toward Todd.
But Todd moves at the last second – the milk continues past him – hits the edge of a table – explodes, spraying pale brown liquid onto–
Ms. Pfeifer’s eyes burn with fury as the chocolate milk soaks into her silk shirt. “Stop it!” she yells, “Stop it now!”
When Ms. Pfeifer yells, the students listen. The food fight quickly subsides. Ms. Pfeifer strides over to the epicenter of the chaos – Todd, Kevin, Roger, and Alex. “Okay, who started this?” she demands, tapping her foot. Alex admires her chiseled calves. Ms. Pfeifer clearly aerobicizes.
Todd points at Alex and Roger. “It was those two spazzes!”
Alex scoffs. “I’m sure. Ms. Pfeifer, we’re honors students. Why would we start a food fight? We were just sitting here doing our homework when T-Man started throwing food.” It’s not the first time Alex has used his good grades and studious reputation to get out of a sticky situation.
Ms. Pfeifer grabs Todd’s arm. “All right, Todd, come with me.”
“No way!” Todd protests as she drags him toward the exit. “I’m innocent!”
Alex and Roger share a smug smile.
Until Heidi runs up. “Todd’s telling the truth, Ms. Pfeifer! I saw the whole thing. Roger was the one who yelled ‘food fight.’” Heidi waggles an accusing finger toward Roger.
Ms. Pfeifer releases Todd. “I see. Roger, my office. Now.”
Roger glares at Heidi. “You’ll do anything to sabotage me, won’t you?”
As Roger trudges after Ms. Pfeifer, Alex does his best to fade into the crowd before Todd or Kevin remember he’s the one who nearly got them busted on the day before homecoming.
* * *
12:17 p.m. on October 2nd, 1987.
Roger settles into one of two guest chairs in Ms. Pfeifer’s office. Sun streams in through the windows that overlook the sports field, warming the small space. Roger shifts nervously. He’s been in Ms. Pfeifer’s office before, but other than the time after last year’s science fair, it’s always been for positive reasons – making the honor roll, getting an attendance award, things like that.
There was the one time on the second day of freshman year when Ms. Pfeifer caught Alex and Roger scrubbing the mosquito mascot mosaic on the floor of the school entry with toothbrushes. Roger had been terrified that time, but Ms. Pfeifer was focused on finding out who had forced them to clean the mosaic. Alex held his tongue, but Roger was dazzled by Ms. Pfeifer’s towering womanhood and caved almost immediately, ratting out the seniors who had caught them walking across the mosquito, a violation of a school tradition that the two freshmen were unaware of. If only Ms. Pfeifer had been as fiercely committed to investigating the sabotage of his science fair project last year as she was the hazing incident.
Ms. Pfeifer gingerly removes her blazer. She tsks to herself as she observes the chocolate milk spots before hanging the blazer on a coat rack next to a gym bag. Roger cannot help but stare at her soaked shirt, which clings to her boobs. Ms. P has major mammaries, and Roger can make out the lace of a black bra through the wet silk. As Ms. P blots her shirt with tissue, Roger places his books over his lap before any embarrassing issues can arise.
Finally, Ms. Pfeifer gives up and tosses the ball of tissue in the trash. She turns to Roger with a sigh. “I don’t understand, Roger. You’re in contention for salutatorian–”
“I could still make valedictorian.” Roger interjects.
“I suppose, though Heidi’s got a pretty big lead on you.”
Roger scowls. Heidi. It’s always Heidi.
“In any case,” Ms. Pfeifer continues, “Why would you risk all that by starting a food fight?”
Ms. Pfeifer bends over to fill out a slip of paper. Roger cranes his neck to peek down her shirt. “I guess I just got a little too excited.” She glances up and he quickly averts his eyes. “By school spirit. Because of Homecoming.”
Ms. Pfeifer tears off the slip of paper. “Well, you can think about how to control your excitement in detention this afternoon.”
Roger’s heart sinks. “What? No! Ms. Pfeifer, I have to work on my science fair project!”
“You should have thought of that before you got so excited.”
“Maybe we can make a deal. I know the school board got rid of corporal punishment, but if you wanted to just spank me, I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
“Detention.” She shoves the detention slip into his hand.
* * *
3:42 p.m. on October 2nd, 1987.
Alex sits on the metal bleachers at the edge of the school sports field listening to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” on his Walkman.
On the running track, students are decorating Homecoming floats – golf carts or flatbeds pulled by ATVs. The drama club float is a mock fifties style soda shop promoting the spring musical, Grease. The model U.N. float is festooned with flags of two-dozen countries. The class floats all feature some variation of their graduation year. Under Heidi’s direction, the senior class float, featuring a giant graduation cap emblazoned with an “88,” is nearly complete. The sophomore class seems particularly proud of their year: 1990. Their slogan is “First class of the ‘90s!” though Alex knows they’re technically the last class of the 80s. But Alex is mostly interested in the cheerleading float where the cheerleaders – including Jennifer – are constructing some kind of papier-mâché model.
Alex passes the time by sketching a picture of a sexy elf princess on the back of the brown-paper-bag cover he made for his Algebra book. He uses Jennifer as a model, and is pretty proud of the likeness. So proud, in fact, he worries someone might recognize his inspiration. He’ll have to make a new cover for his book this weekend.
A clang from someone bumping the bleachers directly underneath him causes Alex to jump, sending a pencil line across the elf’s six-pack abs. A moment later Bonnie emerges from under the bleachers. She smoothes her sweater and checks her make-up in a compact.
Jennifer spots her and yells, “Hey Bonnie! You’re supposed to be helping us.”
As Bonnie joins them at the float, one of the other cheerleaders takes note of the large hickey on Bonnie's neck and says, “Looks like Bonnie’s been busy.” Bonnie gives them a good-natured middle finger as they laugh.
Alex belatedly understands what Bonnie was doing under the bleachers. He leans forward, peering between the metal slats to see who else might have been there. He spots the shadowy figure of a boy slinking toward the far end of the bleachers, but before Alex can identify Bonnie’s paramour, someone calls Alex’s name. It’s Roger, looking up at Alex impatiently. “Come on, let’s go.”
Alex looks back to the far end of the bleachers to see who emerged, but whoever it was has blended in with the jocks screwing around by the gym entrance.
Alex turns back to Roger. “How was detention?”
“Boring. We have to go to the mall. I need supplies from Radio Shack for the science project.”
* * *
4:47 p.m. on October 2nd, 1987. The Galaxy Mall.
Alex sucks on his Orange Julius as he watches a junior high kid play Tempest. The arcade is dark, Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” competing with the electronic beeps and jingles from the machines. Alex and Roger have stopped at the arcade because no mall visit would be complete without a few video games. But this kid is way too good, and Alex is starting to get impatient.
And then Roger comes up. “It’s getting late,” he says. “Let’s hit Radio Shack.”
Alex nods and retrieves the quarter he placed on top of the machine to hold the game.
The mall maggots are out in force at this hour of the afternoon. A cluster of girls sits by the fountain giggling and eyeing a couple boys leaning against the railing on the upper level. Alex and Roger pass the Merry-Go-Round clothing store, Musicland, and the piano store, where a skinny man with long sideburns plays Def Leppards, “Rock of Ages” on an electric organ. They pause at the multiplex to check out the movie posters: Dirty Dancing, Predator, Robocop, and The Princess Bride.
“Hey, do you want to see Princess Bride again tomorrow night?” Alex asks.
“I thought you had tickets to the dance,” Roger replies.
“Oh yeah. Right.”
“Besides, if I was going to see a movie for a second time, it would be Robocop.”
“Robocop was pretty bitchin’,” Alex admits. “Who do you think would win in a fight – the predator or Robocop?”
“I’d say Robocop. Robocop has thermal vision, so predator wouldn’t be able to use his cloaking.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. But how about the aliens from Aliens? Their acid blood is a pretty powerful weapon. And they’re sneaky.”
“I’d guess the predator could beat one alien, but not a lot of aliens.”
“You know, I heard Dirty Dancing is pretty good…”
Roger laughs. “How good can it be? It doesn’t have aliens, cyborgs, or rodents of unusual size.”
“Jennifer liked it.”
“Oh jeez. Come on, we’re already way behind schedule.” Roger strides off toward Radio Shack.
“What schedule?” Alex wonders as he hurries after.
They take the escalator up to the second level. As they approach Radio Shack, Alex stops at the display window, eyes wide. Perched on a pedestal is a giant black boom box with detachable speakers, twin cassette players for ease of making mix tapes, a handle for portability, and even a CD player on top. “Whoa, check out the size of that boom box! It’s massive. We’d look totally cool walking down the street with that.”
“A hundred and fifty dollars?” Roger exclaims. “Your parents would freak. And it doesn’t even have 8-track. I’m trying to convince my parents to get one of those cordless phones. Then I could make calls in my room and have some privacy.”
“Who do you call besides me?”
Instead of responding, Roger grabs Alex, pulls him behind a big poster for an upcoming Tiffany mall tour.
“What is it?” Alex whispers. He’s not sure why he’s whispering, but the situation seems to call for it.
Roger points across the hall to the Waldenbooks.
Heidi is browsing among the shelves.
“What’s she doing here?” Roger hisses.
“It looks like she’s buying books,” Alex replies.
“Right. That’s what she wants us to think. Pretty convenient that the bookstore is across from Radio Shack. She’s spying on me.”
“Duh. She probably wants to sabotage my science fair project again. I know she was behind what happened last year. You need to distract her. I’ll meet you in the arcade when I’m done.”
“Distract her how?”
“You’ll think of something.” Roger pushes Alex toward the bookstore.
Go to Chapter 4