Comeback Kid

My New Mission

Found among the papers of the destroyed home of Dr. Anton Slayman, a very prominent Professor of Elemental Science at Columbiana University, South Columbia, during the Second Columbian Revolution.

My name is Obie and I have a very important job that many would not particularly enjoy. For starters, I work for free and even in these modern times, I live in isolation from society. Secondly, I am bound to this Earth for eternity until I am called back to where I came from. Third, I have to continually follow certain individuals around and give them advice on life so they won’t repeat their own mistakes. Again, I don’t get paid to do this. I am merely volunteering and that’s it.

My job is to help people, but to help them in a different way. I am not a part of any charity organizations or churches. I also cannot help any more than one person at a time, as it would create way too much confusion among myself and others. See, I have to take this job one individual at a time and this takes a good part of ten to twenty years to complete. I am writing this entry because I am embarking on what looks to be a twenty-five year journey through a life of a man I have been called upon to help him fix his past and improve his future. Wish me luck.

My story starts in a city near the Atlantic Coast known as Fort City, South Carolina. The place has grown substantially in the past several decades and it is one of my favorite spots to unwind after taking on a long job. Today, I am anxious because I finished my job with one individual and I know my name will be called in due time to take on another challenge in a journey in the life of yet another individual.

I happened to be people watching in a public park when I noticed a man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties walking towards the park bench at which I occupied. He appeared to be walking from the site of what looked to be a family gathering under a large shelter. The family must have rented the shelter out for the day for a family reunion because that’s the only time it’s ever that full. There had to be close to sixty people under it today.

The man looked somewhat agitated when he took a seat and with me being the curious individual that I am, I decided to spark up a conversation.

“What’s wrong, stranger?” I ask brightly.

“Just got a phone call from my boss,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Lost my second job this year and it’s only July.”

“Two in one year?” I ask, appalled. “What’s the big idea?”

“It’s one thing or another,” he said, staring off into the distance.

I stared off as well and nodded my head. I guess this is my new project then, I thought. I know it is because they always come to me and I never go to them. That’s how I know they’re sent to me. It makes my job easier but sometimes the selling point is not the easiest, so I decided to cut straight to the chase.

“How long has this been going on?” I asked.

“Well this is a new personal record,” he replied. “But I’ve probably been through ten jobs since high school! It’s outrageous. It’s like I can’t get anything right.”

This man was in luck today because I just very recently finished up with one of my toughest challenges yet. This one was a bad case and he had his ups but he certainly had his downs. Some people sent my way are easy and others are not. Some succeed and some fail. See, it’s my job to attempt to ensure these people avoid their pitfalls before they fall into them. Sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s very long, hard work.

“Let me tell you about someone who was in the same exact position that you were in,” I said. “Some of this story is very unbelievable but I can guarantee you it happened, because the individual I’m talking about likes to do a park workout here towards the evening hours. Will you still be here?”

“I have all day and half of the night,” he replied. “I may as well have some entertainment.”

“Good, because you are in for some awesome entertainment,” I assured. “Because I am going to talk about someone who went from worst to first. And it took a good twenty years to do just that.”


September 4th, 2026: Brock Patrick isn’t your average, ordinary individual. He is actually far from it. Brock is a thirty-five year old high school graduate who has barely held onto the lowest level jobs for the last nineteen years. He shifted between positions such as grocery store clerk at a store called Lucks in Summersville, West Virginia and a cashier at Victory Electronics in neighboring Muralville, West Virginia. Brock has worked these past fifteen years as a part-time employee. In addition, he received zero job benefits in this time and he still makes just above the new minimum wage of nine dollars and twenty-five cents per hour.

In essence, Brock has been miserable at life and and his typical daily cycle proves this. In any given day, Brock goes to work, returns home, and spends the rest of the day playing the latest popular video games, goes to sleep, and repeats. If he isn’t scheduled to work that day, he’s either surfing the internet, playing video games, or simply lazing around the house, making zero contribution. To put the icing on the cake, he still lives at home with his parents, Jay and Ana.

Brock loves to place the blame of his situation on his parents and various others. He likes to say they helped his younger brother, Jed Patrick, with school, sports, and work. As for all of the other people on the planet who have what they want, Brock will say they all had help getting to their destination while he had zero help whatsoever and that not a single soul believed in Brock since he started middle school all the way back in 2001. As a result, Brock has become one to hate and despise those satisfied with their life and anyone associated with success and happiness.

Being the family slacker, Brock is  constantly confronted by Jay for this lifestyle habits. Deep down, Brock knows his father has a point, yet as mentioned earlier Brock considers himself to be a victim in life who was never given an opportunity by anyone or anything. So, about ten years ago, at age twenty-five, Brock decided to throw in the towel and accepted this pitiful life and ultra low social status. He came to the harsh realization that he would never, ever be anything but an insignificant loser dwelling in mom and dad’s basement. Brock thought if being a nobody is what people wanted him to become, then he was going to become one and blame all of society for it. Brock claimed to take no responsibility for his life and if it weren’t for the actions of others, he would be living a much different life today.

Since Brock has zero ambition these days, his favorite hobby is playing video games on his days off at noon, when he usually wakes up. He will mob his father’s television set (to Jay’s very vocal dismay) in the basement well into the early morning hours, sometimes until six o’clock the next morning. Brock will go to sleep for an hour and a half before dragging himself out of bed thirty minutes before he starts work at eight in the morning and remains there sometime between noon and four, or whatever his work schedule dictates. Often, he just makes it there just in time to dash into the store and clock in right before the clock on the wall reads eight zero one. Other times, he’s a minute or so late which often results in a visit to the store manager’s office after this happens a few consecutive times, and it’s usually bound to happen at least once per week.

As previously mentioned, Brock knows he’s the bottom dweller in the entire family and by family, I mean both his immediate and extended family with whom Brock has a self-imposed serious problem. While Jay has been a successful car salesman who annually earned six figures after his forty-fifth birthday and Ana supplemented that income with an additional forty grand as a department store supervisor. Yet Brock’s anger and bitterness really stems towards his extended family, especially his brother and relatives who are around his own age, give or take a few years. Each and every one is living in an area other than River Valley, the name of the area Brock and his family currently live where major opportunity has been scarce since the decline of the steel industry decades ago. Every single one of them are either bringing in some serious cash or on their way to doing so while Brock dwells in the basement, watching the game from the sidelines.

Brock’s thirty year old brother, Jed, works as an exercise physiologist in South Carolina where he makes a very nice annual income judging from the pictures of his larger than life house complete with a double garage. Jed routinely sends pictures to Jay, who proceeds to proudly show them off to anyone who will take the time to listen. Oh, they’re all so proud of Jed, sulks Brock in his miserable thoughts. If one asked Brock about Jed, Brock would answer with “It wasn’t even him! Unlike me he had help from mom and dad at any given turn!” All it does is make Brock feel even more anger and hate. Jed also has a family who live quite comfortably consisting two very young kids, aged one and three and a very beautiful wife named Andrea. Jed is currently finishing his master’s degree in Kinesiology and aspires to become a boss one day in his position and at that level he will consistently pull in well over one-hundred thousand, a lot like Jay but about a decade earlier in his life.

Brock’s once favorite cousin is Lenny. Lenny is four months younger than Brock so of course they grew up together and as kids, constantly competing against one another from one on one basketball to academics to anything and everything under the sun. Even in their younger days, Lenny was the successful one, soundly beating Brock at everything. Lenny was the better athlete, the better student, the more popular student, the role model to others, and he was either at the top or near the top of everything he did. Surprisingly, and much to Brock’s annoyance, Lenny didn’t even look as if he were trying to accomplish anything. Things simply worked out for him. In everything Lenny attempted he was good at. Hypothetically, it didn’t matter if the person across from Lenny had twenty more years of experience than he did in a game like chess, baseball, or poker. Lenny was going to beat them. Some way, some how, Lenny was just going to win. Everything just came naturally to the guy. Lenny is now the CEO of Victory Electronics, working at their headquarters in Annapolis, Pennsylvania, where he and his family are living very large. Lenny has two kids, aged six and eight. Like their father, each appear to get a quick grasp on anything they do. They are both at the top of their classes, much like Lenny. They also excel at every single sport they participate. These two kids are far and away the crown jewel in the eyes of everyone, much like Lenny back in the day. Lenny is married to girl named Belinda, who routinely thinks of Brock as some heinous criminal who should be locked up behind bars somewhere. She never enjoys the fact her kids have to be around someone of his nature and only tolerates Brock because Brock is a relative of Lenny’s.

As for the rest, Brock’s older cousins Maria and K.J. are living in Fort City, South Carolina, heading up a very successful alternative clothing line. Both are multi-millionaires and are currently looking into expanding their line overseas, going international. As for Brock’s two younger cousins, Riley is living in New Mexico and working on getting an advanced degree while Lonnie is living in North Carolina, also working on his postgraduate studies. In all, Brock is the only one in the generation of his family who failed to earn a college degree.

Once upon a time in his disgruntled life, Brock actually wanted to succeed badly and he constantly dreamed of doing so but he was continually discouraged by a multitude of obstacles that he usually brought on himself. For starters, he was never exceptionally good at anything. His overall grades were never at honor roll level or even close for that matter, and he was never accepted into any college or university except Thomas Community College, mainly because embraced an open door policy. He dropped out after only one semester because he could did not find the work to be conducive to his unseen ambitions. As of what these ambitions were, no one ever knew. It’s safe to say Brock was very self entitled at a young age and if he thought work needed to be put in so he would gain recognition, it wasn’t the field for him.

So Brock bounced around from job to job in his late teens, and early twenties strictly to remain under Jay’s roof. First, he worked at the local Quick Burger, where he worked grill, filled up the various milkshake and pop (those on the north panhandle of West Virginia refer to soda as ‘pop’) dispensers, prepared the fries, breaded chicken, and washed the dishes among other activities. Brock hated the place so he walked out after a few months, narcissistically thinking of himself to be way above that of a low paid Quick Burger employee. Someone should have told him then that he was too brash to believe he had any right to think in such a way. Months later, Brock landed at Lucks Foods in Summersville. While at Lucks he was a bagger. He started out making seven dollars and sixty-five cents per hour, working twenty hours per week on average. Again, a job he felt was way under him.

Despite believing his was above his job positions, Brock wasn’t a great worker. In fact, he was one of the least productive employees in the entire store. He bagged groceries at his own chosen pace and carried them out to the customer’s vehicle, again at a speed he deemed appropriate, which was much slower than what management preferred. He very rarely spoke to the customer because most of the time there was nothing to talk to them about or if he opened his mouth he figured he would accuse the customer of thinking they felt he or she were above him for being a bagger. On the contrary, Brock actually felt he was far above this customer, and he would make a leap far above them in terms of social status soon enough. Brock figured at that point he would be the one laughing.

Much like he is to his own family, Brock preferred being rather anti-social to most. Brock kept his head down as he went about his work, rarely speaking to or looking at anyone and he became known to many as the “weird guy who didn’t say much.” His mind was always at home on his video games and he looked forward to spending quality time with himself and his online colleagues in their online gaming world. Brock also felt he was better than all of these people he worked with, although the sad truth is he was constantly outperformed at even the simplest job task, such as sweeping the front area by the registers. Sometimes, he would be called out to work in the grocery, dairy, or frozen sections if there was a call-off, but he mainly allowed his phone to ring since he was busy with what he believed were more important issues than going into work in the place of someone else. He routinely believed he shouldn’t be subject to management on his day off. They weren’t his boss unless he was in that store and in uniform, so he wasn’t about to go in and be subject to the rule of someone else for a few short hours.

On most days Brock was always stuck at the front, making his low wage and would receive a raise about once a year during his three month evaluations and that wasn’t a good thing. Usually, management found something wrong in Brock’s work so many times he did not receive a raise. In fact, he had to make improvements in his unsatisfactory areas or he would face termination of employment. During these times, Brock would do just  good enough of a job in his needs improvement areas to avoid being terminated. This would force management to keep him, or so he thought because at age twenty-four there came a time where Brock went three consecutive ninety day evaluations where he was unable to improve his weak areas despite the slightly more effort he claimed to put in. This time, there was a new management team in place. They were in the process of cleaning house and Brock, along with a few others who had been at the store for a few years were suddenly out of work. Brock blamed capitalistic greed, just like the others who had been, in their minds, wrongfully terminated.

After revealing the news to his parents and receiving an earful from Jay that evening once again about his lack of ambition in life and of how well his cousin Lenny was doing in Forest City at the moment managing an entire store at Victory Electronics. Ana had an idea and she called Lenny. Brock was convinced Ana was trying to embarrass him further but a few moments later she revealed Lenny would be able to secure Brock a job interview at the local Victory Electronics in Muralville. Now Brock really believed Lenny was going to do his best to embarrass him. Nevertheless, Brock started work there, still feeling the job was beneath him and his true calling in life was to stomp on those he felt stomped on him and consistently put him over in favor of others. But soon after he started to realize just how wrong he was and proceeded to accept his fate as a bottom of the barrel citizen.

A few years had gone by and Brock, now twenty-nine and still working the front at Victory Electronics saw on the news board that none other than Lenny himself was returning close to the area to take over as CEO at Victory Electronics headquarters in Annapolis, Pennsylvania. With that, Lenny decided to visit the store with another former classmate of theirs named Dale Detmer and his fitness loving European girlfriend. With this, both Dale and Lenny proudly announced a deal with a workout distributor Dale worked for. Under Lenny’s leadership and at the constant urging of Dale, the well known electronics chain was now issuing a mandate that all employees of Victory Electronics pass health fitness screenings. At this, Brock decided it was time to plea at Lucks for his old job. For the first time in his life, he actually succeeded at something, convincing Lucks management to hire him back although he did have to start all the way back at the bottom again, which wasn’t any lower than Brock’s position during his first whirl at Lucks.

Brock was re-hired at Lucks and he was almost as poor of a worker now that he was during his previous run, simply going through the motions once again with no desire to move up in the company because he now thought it didn’t matter whether he tried or not and that he was destined to do this forever while watching others succeed around him. His wage was also at rock bottom once again at the new minimum. These days, a new kid almost thirteen years Brock’s junior would surpass him in everything from recognition, to earnings, to opportunities. Everytime this happened, it would burn Brock up. Oftentimes, he attempted to come up with reasons why these people are successful while he wasn’t. Brock’s reasons were far out, as if the parents of these kids were good friends with Lucks management or had connections he didn’t have. Other reasons according to Brock were because these people happened to be more vocal than the often introverted Brock and yet another bizarre reason was because they mooched off of the work Brock did and took credit for it, all of which were false claims.

So there he was, still at the bottom of the rung, getting passed up by nearly every single individual he crossed paths with. The saddest part of the story is that most of these kids were starting grade school when he got the job the first time around at age nineteen. Yep, Brock was destined for the sidelines, watching others step in front and walk all over him while he played the role of grunt since it was supposedly what he was meant to do and was expected to do this with pride.

Today was Labor Day in the year 2026, and it felt like that typical early September one would fell a small chill in the air and pristine optimism about the upcoming football season. Fall was going to come early this year. The sun was out, but the days were noticeably shorter and the cooler air was making its trip back to River Valley once more while the leaves were just beginning to change to their fall colors of red, yellow, and brown.

Brock managed to get to work two minutes before he had to clock in, as his twenty-seven year old Cavalier had a very tough time getting started this morning. Brock was to work from nine in the morning to two in the afternoon. Not a bad shift, and then it was to Uncle Ben’s for the annual Labor Day cookout and get together. Brock always traveled with his parents to the party, each year being a repeat of the previous.

Now thirty-five, Brock had not looked forward to this party or any family function over the past ten years. Like at work, it appeared that everyone else was continually getting ahead of him in life. To make matters worse, he was about as important as a coat rack to most of his family these days. Brock’s living situation was now common knowledge to everyone in 2026. He was in the same line of work, driving the same car, and making almost the same amount of money. Only the year was different.

As a party ritual, Brock, his aunts, uncles, brother, cousins, and aging grandparents would take their turns in Uncle Ben’s kitchen or back porch eating anything and everything he and his wife Aunt Tia had to offer. During these times the entire family would catch up and discuss all of the new accomplishments they achieved thus far during the year. These days, not only was it Brock’s brother and close relatives getting the attention, but in 2026, the new additions to the family received a lot of love as well as if the entire world had to know how much more advanced they were than the rest of the children in America’s society. Or at least that would be how Brock described these types of conversations in which he typically sat and had to listen in on.

So there sat Brock, a look on his face that told anyone in the vicinity that he did not want to be there. In fact, the second he walked in he tried to look as angry as he possibly could. His face looked rather aged mainly due to his unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle. His face still contained blemishes while his teeth were yellowing at an alarmingly fast rate. On his face he wore a large set of glasses, complete with a bridge over the top of the frames. He was also very thin in the chest, arms, and legs although his stomach stuck out to a large extent. He stood no taller than five feet, four inches and his weight had to be roughly one hundred and forty pounds. He also possessed a very poor posture, usually hunching over rather than standing upright while he slouched in his chair rather than sit properly. To his right sat Lenny and Belinda. It was safe to say that Brock was not very happy with the seating arrangements.

Lenny and Belinda were usually the center of attention, being boasted on by Lenny’s parents who always took the opportunity at every little family gathering to provide updates about this “overachieving dream couple” as Brock liked to call them. It was one hundred times worse when the two were actually in attendance. Brock thought they may as well be offered thrones since they were such a high priority to just about everyone. It evolved over the years from what Lenny and Belinda had done to what their children were now doing. It appeared each of them had won some type of award at least twice during the year, and it was only September! Lenny, being the CEO of Victory Electronics, received a huge bonus for making several deals with other large and well known companies and he also made one with pro football’s Steel City United. He went on and on how he was “in” with several of the players and player’s families these days and how his kids had become very good friends with the children of former United running back Glenn Bell and linebacker Ryan Slayes. Brock was informed by his father that Lenny’s oldest kid, Stanley, played quarterback on the same pop warner football team as Bell’s son, who happened to be the running back. The two were supposedly the best one-two combo in the league and this year they looked to win the championship.

Brock felt Lenny was a bully who would just whine about how he wanted things done at work and forced his inferiors to do much more than what they were hired to do. Negotiating with others, making deals, and making sound business decisions to Brock meant that Lenny was just abusing his power as CEO of Victory Electronics and inflating his own six figure salary and prestige at the expense of others.

Jed and his upstart family walked in about fifteen minutes after Brock and his parents walked in with his two young kids and wife of three years, Andrea. A few minutes later, Brock was now seated at the round kitchen table in between Jed, Andrea, Lenny, and Belinda while the four of them spoke over Brock in a little clique while he did his best to zone them out of his already more than annoyed mind. A conversation such as this would certainly boil his temper in this environment. Sadly, their aunts and uncles could not resist but keep up with Jed and Andrea’s grand life in South Carolina.

“So, how has life treated you, Jed?” asked Lenny’s mother, Maya, taking  seat next to Lenny.

“Oh, you know, working hard and taking care of these two,” answered Jed, bouncing his three year old daughter, Leah, on his knee while Andrea held their one year old son, Trey. “It’s been a blast. I’m in consideration for that big promotion and if I get that, we can afford that beach house I have been talking to dad about for the past five years. That will be a milestone. I’ll have to have you and Uncle James come down to see it. I’ll get the entire family to come down and we’ll all spend a weekend together on the coast.”

“That would be great!” said Lenny’s father, James, with loud such excitement from behind Aunt Maya that the entire kitchen turned their attention to him. “I tell you, Jed, you are going to go far in that field. You know I mean it when I’m telling you the work you and Lenny have put into your crafts have exceeded our wildest expectations. You guys stuck with it and are doing very, very well. Jed, allow me to let you in on something. Lenny has gone very far and you’re going to do the same. I can see it now. Your path will lead you further than you will ever imagine. That was a reality for Lenny and, Jed, it’s going to be a reality for you.”

At that moment Brock’s two youngest cousins walked in. There was Lonnie standing there with his girlfriend of five years, Savannah. Both Lonnie and Savannah were going to graduate school for Computer Engineering. Brock always boiled with fury whenever Lonnie would bring Savannah around. Brock never had a girlfriend in his thirty-five years of existence but if he had to build a girl from scratch, Savannah would be the result. She had perhaps the greatest look of any young girl he had seen. She possessed pale skin, a very athletic physique, and straight black hair. She was also a former Division I college track athlete who Lonnie had met a few years ago while attending Zip University and participating in track. The two started dating and would probably marry in due time, presumably when they were first finished with school.

Then there was Riley, who was on his way to a graduate degree in Physics. Riley hailed from Utah and was also a former Division I athlete himself. While Savannah found her niche in track, Riley played soccer and was one of the best players in the nation a few years back, leading Steven Joseph University to a playoff berth and a run all the way to the semi-finals.

“How’s school, you two?” asked Brock’s eighty-four year old grandmother.

“Been great,” said Lonnie, playfully bumping Savannah with a rather muscular arm while Brock shook with fury, shooting a glare under his large glasses at Lonnie who took no notice of him. “I’m currently working with a team on a research project that we will present to the head of our department as part of a final due at the end of the spring semester in which I will graduate and receive multiple letters of recommendations to a diverse selection of jobs.”

“My response would echo Lonnie’s,” said Riley importantly. “I’m currently looking to get into S.P.A.W.N. It’s one of the newer companies out there but there’s potential. I like my chances a lot.”

Brock was gazing in on the scene in a view far outside himself. He looked around the room while Riley was talking and noticed his grandmother leaning heavily on the counter, looking rather frail in her old age. Seemingly from a distance he saw Riley, Savannah, and Lonnie standing in front of the cabinets while Brock’s mother came inside from a portion of the party conversing on the back porch.

“Brock, let your grandmother sit down,” snapped her stern voice from behind him. “Why on Earth would you keep yourself in that seat when she obviously looks very tired?”

Typically Ana was the more caring and sympathetic one to Brock’s life of misery and living situation but her demeanor tended to change when there were people around. At these times her strict side would flare up like an inferno. One of the main reasons why Brock hated seeing the whole family was because he never managed to do anything right in front of Ana and she nearly always found a reason to be hard on him such as right now when he was merely sitting in the middle seat at the long kitchen table, doing nothing wrong except for picturing himself throwing the table aside and throwing a vicious punch in Lonnie’s face.

Brock turned and looked directly his mother, who was frozen in the doorway, glaring right at him.

“What?” asked Brock, taken aback at her remark.

“Get out of that chair and let your grandmother sit down,” said his mother, a little more harshly, the room’s attention now dawning on the situation at hand. His mother was an overly dramatic person and this trait was showing now as she seemingly escalated such a minor situation. To be honest, it wasn’t horribly long ago when a rather serious incident involving Brock at a Christmas party unfolded and it may be in the best interest of everyone in the room that a situation like that not happen again.

“She’s eighty-four and you know she can’t be on her feet for too long. You let her sit down. Now. Right now!” she snapped, her voice starting to rise.

Brock looked around, face reddening in embarrassment as had been the norm at parties for the past twenty plus years. Literally everyone went quiet and had their eyes on him now. Jed, Andrea, Belinda, Lenny, Riley, Lonnie, Savannah, and everyone else in the kitchen were now studying him with deep observance as if he were some freak sideshow. Silently, and keeping his mother in his direct line of sight, Brock slowly got up out of his chair and walked solemnly over to the counter, leaning up against it carelessly and folded his arms, pouting. He didn’t take his eyes off of his mother this entire time as he continued to glare at her from his new base.

“Cut the attitude,” said his mother sharply in front of the entire kitchen, taking a few steps toward Brock as everyone else continued to look on the scene unfolding in front of them.

Brock turned away, facing the refrigerator, where no one was standing. “Do you really need to act like this in front of everyone?” he whispered, doing his best to keep this conversation private. He felt the eyes of everyone on him. Even his younger cousin Stanley looked on with curiosity with a little bit of a smirk on his face as if he knew his dork of a cousin was in big trouble.

“You know better than to make your grandparents stand for too long,” she said, her voice unfortunately carrying to the others who were seated, where they maintained their interest on the scene unfolding in front of them. “They are both in their eighties and yet you think you’re the one entitled to a seat? Well you better think again!”

“What did he do now?” came the drawling voice of his dad.

Brock looked and saw Jay striding up behind Ana as if he had known something was going on in the kitchen that involved his son. Brock was now doing his best to wake up from this horrible nightmare. Unfortunately for Brock, it was no nightmare.

“He thinks he needs to hog chairs when his eighty-four year old grandmother has nowhere to sit,” his mother relayed to his dad, her voice very well within earshot of the still silent kitchen. Now others squeezed their way into the vicinity out of curiosity to find the source of commotion. Apparently his mother’s voice carried beyond the kitchen and into the living room and the back porch.

“Mom, it’s only one seat and-” Brock attempted to explain a little loudly as if he were trying to justify his position with the entire kitchen, but his father interjected.

“Don’t talk back to your mother,” he said loudly, pointing a threatening finger right in the center Brock’s face. “You want another showdown right here? Because I’ll hand one to you right now and show you how tough you are in front of everyone and don’t think I won’t! Maybe you ought to remember what happened last time, kiddo, because I can guarantee you I will not be so easy on you this time around, tough guy.”

“So, what time is the dessert coming out?” asked Riley’s dad, tall, thick, and balding Uncle Sev, who was seated at the end of the table. Uncle Sev looked as if he were attempting to ease up the tension but it didn’t do much good for Brock. “Anyone know? I’m ready when everyone else is. It should be about that time, shouldn’t it, Grandma Sadie?”

“Guys, I’m thirty-five,” Brock pleaded, still trying to keep his voice low.

“Then act like it,” said Jay even more loudly, drowning out his grandmother’s reply to Uncle Sev.

Brock drew a breath. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” he said. “Can we please just let this pass?”

“Start acting your age,” said Jay, walking over to the other side of the kitchen and grabbing a beer from one of the coolers before making his way back into the living room as his mother swept back outside to gossip. “And learn how to show respect to other people. If you’re a mature thirty-five year old you should have figured out how to treat others by now.”

Brock looked around. All eyes were still on him, except for Uncle Sev who was still talking about the desserts, now doing so in a very loud and obnoxious tone.

“Yep, I hope we have some awesome stuff,” he yelled, looking wildly at everyone else who were still gazing at Brock and his parents. “What do you think, Lenny? More good stuff, right? Yep! Yes sir, yes sir!”

No matter how badly Uncle Sev tried to lighten the tense mood it wasn’t working. Brock took one more look around at the faces in the kitchen and then impulsively decided to tear through the party. He bolted in a beeline from the kitchen to the porch, accidentally stepping on someone or something but not stopping to see who it was as they groaned in pain while his dad yelled from behind him to apologize to whomever he just tripped over. This just catapulted him to run faster. He made his way to the door and tore off into the the cool, clear evening of the dying summer.


The Meeting

Uncle Ben always had the best decorated house in all of Milltown. In the winter, it was lit with a Christmas scene unlike any other, with Santa and his reindeer, a large, inflatable snowman and Christmas tree and many different ornaments. It sure was a sight to see. Brock would usually take time to look at the current fall decorations depicting many Halloween characters with orange lighting, but right now he just wanted time to himself, so he ran all the way to the street corner.

He pulled out a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes and lit one of them up with his lighter. He walked down the brightly lit block as he smoked and once he was finished with one, he started on another. Other than his mother, Brock was also the only one out of all of his family, that being his immediate aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who happened to smoke. He smoked at least one half pack of cigarettes per day. He liked Pall Mall, but could also go for Malboro. His two favorite pastimes were smoking and video games, both of which he was rather good at and smoking was the one thing at which he could top Lenny, who would never touch a cigarette.

Yep, Brock’s lifestyle as well as his personal style of dress were probably better off being compared to the so-called everyman of another time period. He liked to smoke, eat foods that were very unhealthy, such as fast food, boxed food, ice cream, pastries, cakes, and whatever else he could afford that week without breaking his meager budget. It was cheap and Brock was always on a very small budget. As for his clothes, they were nothing more than faded straight legged jeans usually with some kind of overlarge t-shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the time of year.

Contrast Brock’s lifestyle from Jed who took rather good care of himself, as did Andrea. When Jed was twenty, he started getting more and more health conscious and broke into a rather serious fitness regimen. Jed wasn’t crazy into it, but he went at it enough to at least look like he hit the gym five to six days per week while he ate somewhat healthy and boasted a rather defined, muscular body. Andrea was the same way, except she and Jed could not have had different frames. Whereas Jed had a naturally larger build, Andrea was short and petite, a good six inches shorter than Jed and eighty pounds lighter. Much like Belinda, she had a disdain for Brock from day one, also possessing a very low opinion of him and would probably not want her kids to be around Brock too often since she too would be scared that they would follow his ways. At least they would be in South Carolina on a beach somewhere while Brock was stuck up in River Valley pushing carts.

Brock thought back to the day Jed first brought Andrea around. It was the Fourth of July, 2021. Brock was twenty-nine and Jed was twenty-five. She was Jed’s first known girlfriend and he revealed that day they had been seeing each other since March. She took kindly to everyone else in attendance, but she barely even took notice of Brock. Jed mentioned Brock’s name in passing and Brock merely glanced up and back down, saying nothing until his mother forced some kind of interaction against Brock’s will. Perhaps it was Brock’s less than warm welcome that turned her off. Or maybe Jed had told her about his brother’s lack of ambition, very dull personality, and outright laziness along with his victim of life mentality. Despite her disgusted attitude toward her brother-in-law, either no one in the family paid attention to this or they simply acted as if it were not a problem. And Brock’s parents surely took no notice of it whatsoever and that meant Brock would have to fend for himself in this avenue as well.

The grudge that Belinda held against Brock really created a strain on the ever so declining relationship between Brock and Lenny, who had once been Brock’s best friend despite their differences throughout the years in cliques, styles, and success. However, when Lenny really making a name for himself at Victory, he and Brock began to grow very, very distant. Brock felt Lenny left him in the dust and Jed soon followed. It was sad, really, how Lenny and Jed became their own dynamic duo in a sense while Brock was shunted somewhere behind them.

Brock strode over to the mill row, a line of old apartments the steel mill workers of the past once lived and also the neighborhoods Milltown was named after. It was getting even cooler out, and as Brock checked the time on his phone, he noted that the current temperature read sixty-three degrees Fahrenheit. Cool, even for this time of the year. That was when Brock first spotted me, standing right there, enjoying the beautiful scene of the reddening trees on the foothills that surrounded Milltown. It looked like a classic fall scene that I always felt God wasn’t too fond of due to the old pagan rhetoric it implied yet I always found to be amazing and breathtaking. It just goes to show only God has the ability to master the art of perfection, and he does so very well. If I could only be half the individual He is, then I will be okay with that.

Brock stopped dead in his tracks as if he thought I was some kind of criminal getting ready to make Brock my next victim but due to my Sherlock Holme’s kind of attire, I couldn’t have been too threatening at the moment. I beckoned him forward with a vigorous wave of my hand. Brock looked around and hesitated for a few seconds before very cautiously approaching me.

“Hello, son,” I said, greeting him enthusiastically.

“Hello,” he said in an uncertain voice, still looking around wildly as if mapping out a possible escape route.

“What’s your name?” I asked him, already knowing the answer to this question.

“Brock Patrick,” he replied.

“You don’t say much, do you, Brock Patrick,” I said lightly, trying to break the awkwardness in him.

“Uh,” said Brock, looking at me uneasily.

“Don’t worry, boy, I’m not a mugger!” I said kindly. “Tell me about yourself.”

Brock spent the next fifteen minutes telling me about who he was, why he was walking the streets at this time of night, and what was going on inside his Uncle Ben’s house.

“I just had to, you know, get out of there for a bit,” he said, checking his phone again. “But it’s getting late, I should really get going.”

He turned to walk away but I called him back.

“Brock, wait!” I yelled, catching up to him, realizing it was he God wished for me to work with. Why God likes to do things by vaguely hinting me without telling me is something I’ll never know but as creator of billions of galaxies and seventeen dimensions, I can see why He doesn’t have much time to talk since His favorite hobby after saving souls is continually expanding His ninety billion light year creation.

Brock turned around quickly. “What?” he called back.

“Brock, what if I told you I have something to give you?” I asked.

“What’s that, an early Christmas present?” he asked, crossing his arms and looking tentative.

“In a manner of speaking. What do you want more than anything?” I asked. “Trust me, I can make the unthinkable happen for you.”

“What do I want more than anything?” he asked, astounded. “What are you, some kind of magician?

“No,” I assured him, laughing a little at that accusation. “Just tell me and I will make sure you get it.”

“Oh I don’t know, what about a second chance at life,” he said sarcastically. “I obviously blew this life out of the water. Why can’t I just start over? I must’ve messed up somewhere between middle school and tonight. But hey, what are the odds of that ever happening?”

“What if I told you that you could start over?” I asked, putting him on the spot.

“Start over?” he inquired, shaking his head quickly. “What are you talking about? I wasn’t being serious, you know?”

“Why not start over?” I asked. “Where do you think you went wrong with life?”

“Where do I think I went wrong?” he retorted, his voice rising dramatically as he lit another cigarette. “Wow, I don’t know, maybe at every little turn in my worthless life! Anything I’ve ever done must have been wrong. I was never anything. Always a nobody. I was always that guy who finished last or close to last in everything. I never stood out or impressed anyone. I’m thirty-five and I’ve never even had a single girlfriend. My brother is married and very successful as is my favorite cousin. Well, not so favorite now, but you get my gist.”

“Why do you think you’re worthless?” I asked in a calm voice.

“Let me see, I make less money than anyone I know, I have a car that’s almost as old as I am, I live in my parent’s basement, I don’t do anything but lay around and play games all day and night, and I have no friends to hang out with! Do you need to know more?” he ranted, throwing his arms up.

“That’s sad,” I said, nodding. “Because if you allow yourself to do it all over, you might be able to change your past a bit.”

“You’re crazy, that’s impossible,” said Brock, turning away a second time.

“Nothing’s impossible,” I replied. “Just sleep on it, we all deserve a mind blowing gift. Of course, it may never be guaranteed money or personal material will make you happy. Even if you have those, you will need something else that will.”

“A good looking girlfriend or wife?” he inquired. “Or a real career?”

I shook my head.

“You, Brock, actually have a very bright mind that will understand exactly what I am talking about,” I replied. “Just do something for me tonight and believe you can move mountains.”

Brock gave me a look and started walking back to where he came from, finishing his third cigarette in a span of twenty minutes. It was nearing ten by now and in about an hour or so he and his parents to go home, sleep, and celebrate Labor Day in a few hours. Well, they would be celebrating, Brock would be punching the timeclock at 8:00 in the morning. It was another year, one with events, one with a few different people, but the same sorry Brock still lingered.

As Brock strode back he thought harder and harder about how miserable he really was. He was thirty-five years old and still lived at home, but that was the least of the problems. His parents still treated him like a pesky child every time he was forced to go to these stupid parties with them. It was actually worse when they had people at the house, where he had no escape unless he happened to be working. It was during these times he tried like none other to get work hours so he didn’t have to deal with his grandparents and other family. Since all of his immediate cousins were elsewhere, he was very often the only one his age in attendance. To make matters worse, aunts and uncles were giving his parents frequent updates on what the others were doing these days and how each and every one of them were doing so very well in their chosen line of work. Brock’s parents would then boast on how well Jed was doing in South Carolina and how proud they were of him. Usually Brock did his best to isolate himself from these conversations, because they only upset him, especially when he was asked how his shameful occupation was going. Yet his mother, overly strict as usual in these settings insisted that he’d be social and stay around people so he had no choice but to stick it out and be miserable for three to six long hours.

He had no one else, which was even more depressing. Jed and Lenny were his two companions during his childhood but they were both grown up and doing their own thing these days and it was only Brock who lived in the past. He never had a girlfriend in his life, and was sure he had set a world record to be single for thirty-five years. What did he have to offer? Nothing but pain and misery, just like everyone he worked with, complaining about being a victim of life and that they would never, ever move up at Lucks as long as the place was in operation. Okay, so maybe a girl in his league would be one of the deli girls who had been there for a substantial time, such as Mindy.

Mindy was a short, squat thirty-one year old who had taken a liking to Brock since she started at Lucks a few years ago. She was much like him. She still lived at home with mom and dad, made about nine dollars an hour working twenty-five to thirty hour weeks, was an avid gamer and loved every second of it. Brock did talk to her during breaks quite frequently and the two would exchange texts to update each other on their online journeys. Despite this, Brock could not bear to bring a girl like this home, especially if Jed or Lenny were in town with their families. Mindy did not come even close to Andrea or Belinda in anything and all Mindy would do is reinforce Brock’s embarrassment in front of everyone. And worse yet, she would probably reinforce this in a proud manner. Speaking of comparisons, comparing Mindy to Savannah was no different than comparing a Yugo to a Porsche, at least in the eyes of society.

He did own a car, but he bought it about thirteen years ago and today the car had over two hundred thousand miles on it. It routinely broke down and there were more than a few instances where Brock either forgot to change the oil or had simply blown it off, which resulted in a long lecture from Jay every time it happened. Not just that, repairs would often cost Brock a solid paycheck.

Brock finally made it back to Uncle Ben’s, somehow even angrier now than he was when he started this little walk to relieve his stress. If someone said the wrong thing to him, he’d wreck this party just like he did the Christmas party few years back and spoil this year’s upcoming Christmas spirit for everyone. At least he would have succeeded in something.

“Did you cool off, Brock?” asked his grandmother, now sitting down with a few distant relatives on the porch’s couch as he re-entered.

“Mmm-hmm,” he replied dully without looking at anyone, trying to weave his way through the thirty plus relatives that were now outside. He felt their stares on his back and he just wanted to get back to the kitchen, which appeared to be rather empty.

It looked as if the entire party was now outside, including his parents. But he had little time to dwell on this issue as Ana started on him once again.

“Where did you go?” she demanded loudly in front of the party. “Got angry at me in front of everyone again, didn’t you?” she added in a smart tone.

It was so ironic how she usually played the role of sympathizer unless people happened to be around. Whatever happened to her in these situations was anyone’s guess. Perhaps it was the sheer embarrassment of having a loser for a son in front of a family of happy people. All of whom had made a name for themselves in their chosen field?

“Well, I-I, just went for a walk,” he stammered, head down, trying not to look at anyone else.

“Brock, you’ve been smoking, haven’t you,” interrupted Riley loudly, seated in a chair on the left side of his mother. “I smell smoke on you. I can’t believe you engage in such a habit. Didn’t my reports wake you up?”

“Yeah, you will only see your health worsen, Brett,” said Savannah knowledgeably beside Lonnie, who nodded feverishly at Brock.

“Yeah, Brock, it’s terrible for you,” agreed Lonnie, without telling Savannah she once again called Brock by the wrong name, which she always did. “Nothing good comes out of it.” For a second Brock just wanted to kick Lonnie both because he had confronted Brock in front of Savannah and Brock had the displeasure of seeing Lonnie claim her to be his. What an arrogant piece of work, thought Brock.

As Brock shot a very nasty glare at Lonnie, there was a murmur and Belinda leaned over and said something to Jed and Lenny, her eyes on Brock, as if she wanted him to see her criticizing him to others. She then pulled Stanley close to her and whispered something in his ear, probably something derogatory about people like Brock. Brock further confirmed this the way Stanley nodded and then stared at Brock with a smirk and a flash in his eye that so resembled Lenny when he was that age for a few seconds before turning back to his mother, whispering something to her, still smirking and nodding at Brock in a taunting manner.

Talk about making a bad situation worse, thought Brock. It’s one thing when they confronted him in front of only the immediate relatives but now the entire party was staring at him, wondering what their slacking nephew, son, grandson, cousin, or in-law was going to do next.

Brock drew a breath and turned not to the kitchen, but instead stepped front and center into the back porch as every single eye was now on him.

“You all know what, I’m going now,” he said in a high pitch, with his voice loud enough so he was clearly heard by everyone in the room. “You all want to treat me like some seven year old, then please, I hope you’re all taking pleasure into doing so. Just what I expect from a group of arrogant, self important, self righteous people such as yourselves.”

“Brock-” started his mother but his voice drowned hers out after a second or two.

“I think every single one of you are the most self-righteous, barbaric, snobbish group of people I have ever laid eyes on-” raged Brock before being interrupted by his father.

“Brock, shut up!” shouted Jay, leaping to his feet off of his chair near the railing.

“No!” Brock yelled back, glaring into his father’s eyes while the stunned eyes of every single individual were now gazing on the pair of them, probably expecting to witness once again what had happened here once before as Jed, Lenny, and a few other men in the vicinity stood up, eyeing Brock, an ominous look flashing in their eyes.

“Brock, don’t do it, don’t do it,” warned Jed, giving Brock a very intimidating and piercing look. “You’re going to get manhandled if you do anything. Stop right now.”

“Not another word Brock,” said Lenny, trying to keep his voice calm as the whole living room now sat in silence. “We don’t want to force you out of here. Just sit and chill.”

Yet, Brock decided to continue yelling his thoughts at the top of his lungs. “I honestly can’t stand any of you people! All I’m wishing for right now-”

“Shut up and show respect to your relatives,” screamed Jay, his voice even louder as he rushed past Jed and charged towards his son, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt before Brock even had a chance to react. Even at fifty-nine, his father was still way too quick for the too short, too slow, too weak Brock. Those who stood up stepped forward a moment ago followed closely, ready to retaliate if the struggle turned to Brock’s favor.

Brock struggled as his father dragged him down the steps while Jed and Lenny kept close. Brock heard a few screams from the girls while Uncle Ben was now shouting Brock was no longer welcome at the house ever again. Finally, with the help of Lenny and Jed, Jay reached the bottom, still grabbing the collar of Brock’s t-shirt. They were now a few paces outside while Ana closely, as did Jed.

Now Brock was going to get it. A thirty-five year old man who still can’t figure out which age he should act was now in huge trouble. He was done and to add to the humiliation, the man having his way with Brock was a senior citizen despite being flanked by two men in their prime.

“We’re leaving,” said Jay, voice shaking and continuing to drag Brock to the car while he still struggled but Jed and Lenny now grabbed under Brock’s arms and helped Jay handle a kicking and profanity screaming Brock. “You’ve pulled this once before and now you’re doing it again. JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”

Jay shook his son as he asked the question over and over again while he, Jed, and Lenny threw brock into the backseat of their relatively new Ford Escalade.

“You’re the most arrogant, ungrateful, inconsiderate self-entitled person I have ever met,” he lectured to Brock as he and Ana got in the front seat while Jed and Lenny now started walking back to the house.

“I am not, it’s all of those idiots in that house who keep talking about themselves,” retorted Brock angrily. “That’s arrogance!”

His father started up the car, turned, and eyed Brock dangerously.

“You need to watch that attitude of yours,” said Jay through gritted teeth. “You are an embarrassment, an absolute embarrassment to your mother and I. You’re thirty-five years old and you live downstairs on our couch and you’re not even thankful for that. You don’t help out around the house, you don’t do anything but work part time and play video games, you-

Brock was now turning his attention towards something else instead of his father’s insults. He was thinking of me, and what I told him just a few short moments ago. He was drowning his father’s words out completely. Okay, if I could do it all over again, I would. I would do anything to do this all over again. This is my lowest of low points. I have lived a loser’s life up to this point in my mom and dad’s basement. What is it? Where did I go wrong? When did I go wrong? Let me do it one more time and make it right, Lord! Please!

Brock and his family got home as the sky darkened and Brock went straight to his room, shut the door, and sat with his back against the door for what had to have been hours. It was nearing four in the morning when he finally crawled into bed and went to sleep, hoping that the his work over the next few days wouldn’t be as bad as tonight’s was.


Back to School

When Brock woke up and put his glasses on he freaked out, believing his once again misplaced his very unfashionable frames as he looked at the pair in his hands, which were much smaller, wire rimmed, and much more fashionable. Eyebrows narrowing, he slowly put them on. He could see out of them perfectly. Uh, okay, weird, he thought, as he climbed out of his bed and began his search for his large glasses. He could not find them anywhere.

Sunlight was pouring into the room and Brock was now panicking that he was going to be late for work once again as he knew he already had two strikes against him in the last two weeks. One more and he may face yet another termination from Lucks.

Brock looked down at what he was wearing and it wasn’t the clothes from last night as he had fallen asleep in them. Instead it was a pair of shorts and a tee. Believing he had simply changed his clothes without knowing overnight and shaking his head, he heard someone walking to the door. Great, he thought, knowing it was Jay striding over, ready to bombard Brock for last night’s events and potentially on how late he was going to be for his seven to three workshift. Hadn’t he been humiliated enough?

But instead it was a much lighter rasp. Ana was tapping on his bedroom door, calling for him to wake up so he could catch the bus.

“What is she talking about?” Brock wondered out loud. “What bus?”

“Let’s go, Brock!” she yelled. “Come on, you only have a week left in the eighth grade! Let’s get moving! And bring your grades up these last two weeks!”

What was she talking about? It’s Labor Day, 2026, not eighth grade! Was his mother being delusional from last night? Brock peered through the blinds and looked out the window, expecting to see an old Cavalier, an Escalade, a Dodge Ram, and one of Jay’s dealership cars. When he did this, he gasped, looked away, and looked back over again.

“What?” he asked, not believing what he was seeing.

First off, the leaves were on the trees, which were as healthy as could be as if it were the middle of spring and not late summer. And in the driveway was a silver Ford Taurus, a black Chevy Monte Carlo, and a white Ford Ranger. All of these vehicles were from when Brock was in Edwin Middle School.

Brock took off his glasses and really studied them, thinking there was no way, but he was wrong. They were the same ones he wore from 2003 to 2005. He had not the slightest idea of what was going on. Then he heard the doorknob turn, with his mother entering.

“Oh good, you’re finally getting up,” she said. “I was going to pull you out of bed if I had to.”

She looked at least twenty years younger. Brock was praying she didn’t notice the dumbfounded look on his face, but he was wrong.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, gaping at her. “Insomnia last night, that’s all. I’m coming out.”

When he looked down at the carpet in his room, he saw it was white, just as it once was before it had been changed to an elegant shade of brown. He walked down the hallway and he felt as if he had stepped back in time. Everything looked just like it did about twenty years ago. Brock knew one thing; he was in the past. He was back in 2005. May, 2005.

“I’ve never seen you sit down and watch the news before,” said Ana.

“Yeah, just something different, I guess,” he shrugged. He knew he would worry her if he started asking weird questions, so he had to figure this one out on his own.

As he watched, he found out that it was May thirteenth, 2005. Brock was in the eighth grade…..again. It was then that he remembered last night, and then he remembered the conversation he had with me.

“Who was that guy?” he whispered to himself. “Or…what was he?”

Brock now knew how honest I really was and that it was now up to me to help him avoid the mistake he made on this day during his original timeline. Well, now he was being offered the chance of a lifetime and that was to experience his life all over again.

Brock dressed and went outside just as the sun was starting to show itself in the east and waited for the bus to take him to Thomas High School, where he would then transfer to Edwin Middle School where he and his classmates had just days to go until they moved on to Thomas High. Brock couldn’t believe he was back here, in 2005. It was at this moment he knew he was going to repeat the last twenty-one years of his life.

“Okay, Brock, that random guy you met last night wasn’t playing around,” he muttered to himself. “Let’s do this right this time. But how do I do it right?”

He boarded the bus and set off for the high school, stopping at various neighborhoods way out in the country. The bus route was just as Brock remembered it. First, it was Luther Drive and after that they took off past the baseball fields where Brock and many others played their little league baseball to an isolated hollow on a back road. Then, they went into a valley on a dirt road that was surrounded by woods and out onto a township road that was situated far out in the country. They went back into more isolated country roads until they finally reached the main road, a State Route and set off for the high school.

Wow, this is weird, he kept thinking. But why May thirteenth? He kept wondering why I not only took him back to the tail end of his middle school days, but what was significant about starting this journey at this date? Brock racked his brains and couldn’t figure it out, although he would remember why very, very soon, towards the end of the day.

He went about his day and I kept a close watch on him the entire time disguised as a janitor but I only needed to appear to him once, when the announcement came for those interested in playing football for the 2005 season.

“May I have your attention please,” began the secretary, Mrs. Wood. “Anyone in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade interested in signing up for football for both Edwin Middle School and Thomas High School please report to the auditorium.”

Brock, who was sitting in Language Arts class at the time looked up and saw about six boys, all athletes, get up and make their way down to the auditorium. Brock looked over at his English teacher, Mr. James, who looked on at the boys in the class as they exited through the door. Without saying anything and pretending he was not going to be seen, Brock stood up and turned to leave the classroom.

“Brock, don’t go down there and embarrass yourself,” said David, who sat next to Brock in the class. Brock referred to as a frenemy. Sometimes a friend, and other times not so much.

With a mere glance at David, Brock nodded and left the room, though he wasn’t really sure what he was doing. He had the strangest feeling that he had done this once before, but it didn’t turn out too well.

Brock wanted to get into that auditorium and sign up just like all the other athletes. The only problem was, Brock was no athlete, and much of the school had known it at this point. Sure, Brock loved watching sports, but playing them in an organized manner was something else. For one, he was terrible at anything he ever played. Furthermore, any sport he had gone out for at Edwin Middle School he either never played in the game or couldn’t manage to make it past a single practice. Worse yet, many of those same people heading down to the auditorium went out of their way to make him remember it, as if they wished nothing more for wannabe Brock other than to keep him at the bottom of the food chain in the Edwin Middle School jockocracy.

So Brock walked out of the seventh and eighth grade wing, made a right, and took off down the main hallway that led to the cafeteria, gym, and auditorium. He still didn’t know whether or not he wanted to show his face in there and when he reached the back of the line he knew he had made a mistake as he felt as if every single soul down here had their eyes glued on him.

Coach Hawthorne, the middle school football coach was the one handing out the forms to the prospective players. Hawthorne’s crazy tough practices were the reason Brock never made it into a game. He was so deconditioned it was laughable and even in the seventh grade reserve games, Brock only made it in for a play or two at best. This was honestly why he did not go out for football in the eighth grade despite Lenny’s insistence to Brock that he at least try again. Brock turned and started edging away as if he planned on bailing on this little outing when I appeared again, dressed as a janitor.

“What’s up, Brock?” I asked brightly.

“What are you doing here?” he hissed, clearly unsure whether or not he was happy to see me.

“I’m making sure you do what you’re supposed to this time,” I said, crossing my arms.

“Which is?” he asked, glancing back to the line of students as if he thought they were eavesdropping on our conversation.

“What did you come down here for?” I shot back, immediately putting him on the spot.

“I, uh, thought about going out for football, but now I’m having second thoughts,” he admitted.

“Yeah, you are,” I said. “What was your first instinct when coming down here?”

“To sign up to play football,” he said.

“Then go sign up,” I said. “Go on, you have to do this. Do not repeat what you did in the past. You remember what happened, right?”

Brock sighed and looked at the line, which was starting to thin out.

“Go, now, quickly,” I urged. “Before Mr. James makes his way down here.”

Brock had a look of realization on his face as if he now had the flashback fully in his mind and instead of walking away, he drew himself to full height. “Okay then,” he said, turning and walking up to Mr. Hawthorne.

“Here you are, Brock,” said Hawthorne, handing him his forms. “Great to see you down here.”

Brock had a confused look on his face as he took his seat by himself somewhere near the back of the auditorium. As Brock took his seat one of the self-proclaimed preps and star wide receiver of the Edwin Middle School team, Andy, turned to look at who sat a few rows behind them.

“Brock, you’re here?” he asked, but his voice didn’t have any sarcasm in it. On the contrary, he sounded shocked, yet impressed. “I like it!”

Brock said nothing but nodded in an uncertain manner but before he could look away Andy spoke up again.

“Come on up here with us, we have a few more seats that need filled up,” he said, using his head to direct Brock. “You’re an eighth grader too. We’re kicking the sixth and seventh graders out of our seats.”

Brock stood up and strode over, sitting between Andy and the star running back and linebacker for the middle school team, Mike Marcos.

“What up, Brock?” greeted Michaels, giving Brock a fistbump.

Brock could hardly believe what was going on and when he turned to look at me, I gave him a brief thumbs up and walked out of the auditorium. My work was done for today.

The Thomas High School Football Coach, Greg Lawrence, went over the policies and procedures about being part of the football team and what it meant to be a Thomas High Bearcat. He said that he expected effort, drive, and a positive attitude each and every day. He couldn’t guarantee that each of them would have a perfect season, but he could guarantee that they would be better players by season’s end if they gave full effort all season long.

What Brock just did was not part of the original timeline of events. What he did today, however, just set the stage for the rest of my entry. He did not know it, but going out for football in the year 2005 was the single most important decision he had ever made. Now he was on the right path to live the rest of his life as a winner and not what he was in the original timeline. Do not think for a single second, however, that Brock did not experience pitfalls in this new life. No, he was still human and still prone to error, and even the most successful people have that one chapter in their life they will never read aloud. He will still experience setbacks, some major, some minor, just like any mortal human being would. But, he was at least onto something where he would finish far above than where he started.

Before I go any further and reveal what happens to Brock in his new life, I want to revert back to Brock’s original timeline because in order to understand and appreciate his new life, it’s important to explore what made Brock who he is in present day and to avoid some of the pitfalls he fell into during his old life. Be prepared, as the next few chapters are going to be very painful to read but a lot can be learned.

The Stage Is Set

Original Timeline: Brock left class and went down to the auditorium, just like he did in the new frame of events. However, when he saw Coach Hawthorne, whom Brock thought of as the stuck up head coach of the Edwin Middle School team handing out the sign-up sheets, he became scared and discouraged, thinking Hawthorne of all people would just laugh him off and send him back to class since Brock mightily struggled through the three hour practices during hot summer of 2003 during Hawthorne’s first year as coach. Brock was so pitiful he didn’t even play in a single game and played in about eight total plays the entire year during the five reserve games. Instead of facing this fear head on, Brock turned and bolted for the restrooms. While there, he gave himself one long, hard look in the mirror.

“Okay what are we going to do?” he asked himself through his reflection. “Are we going in there or what?”

Brock continued to stare at himself for a few more minutes before he decided to take one last crack at it and finally seize an opportunity to prove himself. As Brock exited and turned right in the direction of the auditorium, Mr. James, an assistant coach for the high school, was headed down the stairs to the very same meeting just as Brock became visible in the lobby. Keep in mind that Brock had left Mr. James’s class to go to this football meeting. By this time, the meeting had already begun and Brock looked as if he were skipping out on class since he technically was not present in the meeting. To make matters worse, Mr. James is not one of those individuals who is very understanding of the youth of America. In fact, he’s far from it. So far from it that Brock probably would have had a better chance of staying out of trouble had he just told Mr. James he was skipping the rest of class, meaning he was going to be in big trouble whether he told the truth or not.

“What are you doing?” thundered the gigantic Mr. James so loudly his voice echoed off the walls, causing the aging gym teacher, Miss Lund, to come running out of the gym where she was overseeing the sixth grade gym class.

Not only did Mr. James have a nasty temper, he had a very short one indeed. He was also a big man, standing at roughly six feet, four inches in height and weighing a good two-hundred and eighty pounds. He was also very, very well built and he was known to hit the high school weight room at least six days per week twice a day, as he lived near the place. In summary, Mr. James was big, muscular, and scary.

Wow, this is going to be bad, thought Brock, staring up at the large, hulking figure of Mr. James, who looked enraged and breathing like a rhino chasing down it’s prey.

“What’s going on out here, Mr. James?” asked Miss Lund in a falsely sweet yet sinister tone, glancing at Brock and then back at Mr. James.

“I caught one of my students down here trying to skip class,” reported Mr. James, his loud voice still echoing off the walls. “He’s supposed to be in the eighth grade wing but he’s down here in the lobby, probably walking around the building and not giving a care in the world over his dropping English grade, which is a D minus! What are you playing at, Patrick? What is your excuse?”

“I was in your class a few minutes ago-,” started Brock with a hint of desperation, but Mr. James cut him off, not giving in a single inch to allow Brock to explain his side of events.

“Then what are you doing in the lobby?” yelled Mr. James, whose voice carried so far Mr. Hawthorne poked his head out of the auditorium to see the commotion. He and Mr. James caught each other’s eye.

“I caught this house cat red handed skipping class, Mr. Hawthorne!” exclaimed Mr. James across the lobby and sounding as if he had just unearthed buried treasure. “Does he look familiar to you? Does he need to be skipping anyone’s class at this point? What does he have in your class? An F?”

Mr. Hawthorne looked at Brock, laughed, and then shook his head at the scene and went back into the meeting.

“You’re grades in my class are poor enough and now you’re wandering around the school?” Mr. James raged on while Miss Lund walked up.”No wonder you’re almost failing in my class and failing Mr. Hawthorne’s math class! Oh yes, you didn’t think we teachers communicated about all of you, did you, kid! And don’t even get me started on Mrs. Triton’s class, I heard it’s a C minus and that’s because she was generous enough to curve them! Haven’t you learned anything at all this year?”

After that rant, Mr. James was now under Brock’s skin. Brock was feeling so much anger he did not care what was going to happen to him. So this was how it was going to be, so be it. Brock decided to push the envelope.

“Yeah, I learned how you ignore your students and gamble online during class,” smarted Brock with a half smile. “How much money are you winning these days all the while stealing from the school since you’re playing cards, fantasy sports, and who knows what else while on the clock?”

“Oh, you think you’re a comedian, do you, Brock Patrick? Miss Lund, take him to the office,” shouted Mr. James in a very dangerous voice, giving Brock and evil eye. “I’m late for a meeting and this worthless failure is not going to hold me any longer. I’ll see you in detention and if not I’ll know they shipped your worthless soul to the alternative school, son!”

“So you’re calling me-“, said Brock but this time it was Miss Lund who cut him off.

“You have no respect for teachers, boy,” she said through gritted teeth, towering over him. She wasn’t much taller than Brock, but she did outweigh him by more than a few pounds. Worse yet, she had an extremely vicious side to her which was ominous at this point. And despite her age, she is also in phenomenal physical condition, so much that she was able to wear sleeveless tops and look respectable in them.

“Honestly, half of you kids have no respect these days for any kind of authority,” she growled in a low, dangerous voice. You think you’re so tough, don’t you? You were a human pinball in while playing football in seventh grade, according to a few of your rather righteous classmates. You’re not tough, there’s not a single ounce of toughness or commitment in that little, tiny, wannabe tough guy frame of yours. Let’s go, boy, and if Mr. Douglas decides to put you in alternative school let me tell you, if you can barely survive football you will in no way, shape, or form survive a day in alternative school. I would like to see you try.”

And she grabbed him by the neck of his shirt and dragged him up the steps and away towards the direction of the office. He tried to pull away, but her grip was too strong for him. He had done it. He had one moment, just one moment of hesitation and what did it lead to? A trip to Mr. Douglas’s office.

“In!” said Miss Lund fiercely, pointing to a seat in the office as she opened the door.

“Miss Lund, who’s watching your class if you don’t mind me asking?” inquired Brock, taking a seat and reclining back in it, now thinking a little bit more offensiveness couldn’t hurt since he was in enough trouble as it was. “It appears to me that you are breaking the duty of your job. And you think of yourself as a good teacher? I beg to differ.”

“I have a student teacher in there!” yelled Miss Lund, putting her face inches from Brock’s, so close he could smell her hot breath. “We’re going to sit and wait for Mr. Douglas in silence and then he can sort your smart, wannabe tough guy attitude out. And if you say another word I’m going to write you up. Because let me tell you, Patrick, Mr. James is already going to see to that and Mr. Douglas does not take kindly to two write-ups in one day. Oh no, he doesn’t! You’re going to be a criminal in his eyes if you don’t shut up.”

She sat down in the seat next to his, across from a large desk that contained a single chair in the middle. They sat and waited a good ten minutes before the tall, yet stocky Mr. Douglas came into the office.

“What’s the problem?” he asked, addressing Miss Lund as he strode over to his desk.

“He was skipping a class and he became a smart mouth to both myself and his teacher, Mr. James, who happened to spot him down in the lobby while he was on his way to the high school football meeting,” she said, glaring at Brock the entire time. “I left my class in the hands of my student teacher, Mrs. Croft, and went to see if Mr. James needed any help. Lo and behold, this no name specimen thinks he’s Mr. Bigshot.”

“Okay then,” he said with a flat tone. He then turned to Brock. “Name?”

Brock was now so angry he wasn’t necessarily worried about what would come next, so he merely sat there in silence, staring at Mr. Douglas as if he didn’t understand the question.

“I said, name,” repeated Mr. Douglas, leaning in closer to Brock. “We can do this the easy way or I can call in Mr. Barr.”

Mr. Barr was the alternative school officer who had been called into the school more than a few times before. Typically he would arrest a troubled student and take them to the alternative school, where they would spend at least a few weeks. Alternative school housed student juveniles and the officers who led the school treated it as if it were jail. Partially because it was located within the confines of the Thomas County Jail.

“Brock Patrick,” muttered Brock, looking past Mr. Douglas.

“Brock Patrick,” he said in an undertone, as he typed into a computer set up on his left side. “I believe this is the first time I’ve had you in here. It seems like you’ve been involved in some minor incidents in the past but nothing too serious. But the way you’ve been talking today, it appears there’s more than meets the eye. What seems to be your problem? Talking back to teachers and wandering the halls, it appears. What’s the story?”

“I was just headed to the football meeting but had to go to the bathroom so I was running a few minutes behind,” said Brock. “Mr. James was coming down and just happened to catch me-”

“Mr. James must have waited until class was over, and that was fifteen minutes after Mrs. Wood called the football team down,” said Douglas, glaring at Brock. “That’s enough time to smoke a cigarette and down a beer in my opinion, which is becoming more and more of a problem at this school because of students such as yourself. I have a very hard time believing your story.”

“You weren’t headed to the football meeting anyhow,” grinned Miss Lund shaking her head, her eyes narrowing. “His football career in the seventh grade was beyond pathetic. He was a human pinball who was run over in practice by tiny Johnnie Gras. So supposedly this little wannabe thought about playing again two years later. Yeah right. What’s easier, Brock? A summer of waking up at the crack of dawn to running and conditioning in the heat or a summer of hanging out in an air conditioned room with junk food and videogames? I know you too well. We all know you too well. I know who you sit with at lunch and it isn’t the football team. You’re with those bottom of the barrel losers who will never go anywhere in life other than a halfway house!”

“That may be so that I was terrible at football then, but-” started Brock.

“What were you doing in there for fifteen minutes?” demanded Mr. Douglas, standing up, face getting very close to Brock’s. “You, sir, have concocted some sort of story that just doesn’t add up. There is far too much evidence against you at this point and you’re very lucky I’m not calling up Mr. Barr right now!”

“What else would you be doing other than lighting a cigarette up?” asked Miss Lund sarcastically, eyes still narrowed. “And that’s all it better have been!’

“If I investigate the matter and find anything recreational, you will be escorted out of this school in handcuffs in front of everyone,” threatened Mr. Douglas. “And if you think I’m lying, just try me. Try me!”

“I was just, I don’t know,” sighed Brock, looking down at his shoes.

“You were skipping class, Patrick,” said Miss Lund. “Stop your lying and just admit to skipping class and not caring one bit about your pathetic little life!”

“Because I wasn’t,” said Brock defensively. “Seriously, I-”

“Mr. James also said that Brock was doing rather poorly in his class, as well as the classes of Mr. Hawthorne and Mrs. Triton,” said Miss Lund cutting him off. “This probably isn’t the first time he’s skipped the class. It’s just the first time he was caught.”

“Wow, a D minus in the class with a one point eight overall GPA,” said Mr. Douglas, eyes wide as he looked up Brock’s grades on the computer. “Okay, son, so you don’t have a single care in the world about your grades then. You also aren’t scheduled in low level classes. Just another one of those cases where the kid just doesn’t care. I see that a lot and it’s just sad. When kids like you grow into adults they are either jobless, on drugs, living in their parent’s basement, or in a prison cell. Don’t you realize your entire future depends on academic performance?”

“Like it matters twenty years from now,” said Brock, rolling his eyes.  “It’s middle school!”

“Once again, do  you realize I can call Mr. Barr right now and he can personally shuttle you to alternative school in front of the entire building?” glared Mr. Douglas, with his hand now on a phone next to the computer. “And if you give one more remark I’m going to do just that. In fact, if you miss one more day of school these next two weeks, I will not hesitate to give Mr. Barr a phone call about you because I see you’ve missed a good two weeks of school this year. And that is not a good sign because it typically means you are up to something detrimental not only yourself but to others around you.”

“Okay,” said Brock, deciding it was best to concede.

“You’re going to serve two days of internal suspension,” said Mr. Douglas, drawing himself up to full height in his seat and pressing his fingertips together. “You will be in here with me, doing your school work without the luxurious assistance of your teachers. You will sit in silence for the entire day and focus on your work for eight hours of the next two school days. If you run out of things to keep you busy, I will find something for you to do and believe me, it will involve manual labor, something you’re obviously unaccustomed to. You’ll be scrubbing those steps you walked down today with a toothbrush in front of the entire school.  I will also be making a nice little phone call home to your parents and they will sign all fourteen demerits that you will receive by mail. Then we’ll see just how hard you really are. Because let me tell you something, you are not hard. None of you are. You got that?”

He sent Brock to his final period, which was art. There was only fifteen minutes left in the day and Brock handed the art teacher, Mrs. Horn, a slip explaining in great detail on why he was late.

“Where were you?” asked Lenny as Brock sat down next to him.

“Getting in trouble,” said Brock, head down.

“What did you do?” pressed Lenny.

“I really have no idea,” replied Brock heavily.

Brock was still kicking himself as he sat in Mr. Douglas’s office the next two days. Had he simply walked into the auditorium two days ago without hesitation the situation would have been much, much different. Sadly, this one event set the stage for the next twenty-one years of Brock’s original timeline.


A Long Summer

Predictably, Brock’s parents were beyond unhappy with him despite his insistence of innocence. He didn’t know how to explain himself except speak the truth but they didn’t believe him due to his more than poor work ethic the first time he played in the seventh grade. Brock, as angry as he was, didn’t blame them. Why would anyone believe that he would have put in his all this time around? His teachers provided no support to his side of the story and his parents were already having their doubts, despite the fact most parents would defend their kid in these situations.

So for this summer Brock had a nice long worklist to look forward to while his parents were at work and Jed slept in, doing whatever he pleased. Brock was really beginning to grow more and more jealous of both Jed and Lenny. Here they were, honor roll students who did all that was asked of them and did it well. Both were solid athletes as Jed played baseball and was already set to play football when his friends began play in a few years time. Lenny played and did very well in basketball and baseball, especially baseball, where he was the Home Run King in little league and one of the best Legion players in River Valley. Lenny was also first team All Mountain Athletic Conference in basketball and already gearing up for the 2005-06 season where he would probably make the varsity squad as a freshman. And then there was Brock, who held a one point eight grade point average, meaning was going to be put in lower to middle level classes next year while Lenny was graciously accepted at the college preparatory level. Also, not only was Brock unathletic, he had very recently come to terms that no one wanted him to be that athlete. No one was going to give him a shot in middle school and they definitely weren’t about to do it in high school. So if no one was willing to give Brock a shot, Brock wasn’t going to waste his time on them.

Brock’s little worklist was more than just cleaning around the house and doing yard and maintenance work outside the house. Jay had notified Brock’s grandparents if they needed any help on any home improvement projects since Brock’s entire summer was going to be dedicated to work. Oh, Jay let them know exactly why this was, and he filled them in on the little “stunt” Brock attempted to pull with his teachers two weeks ago. In fact, Jay told anyone who stopped by the house why Brock was the one doing all the work while everyone else sat and watched in the shade.

“I don’t get it, mom,” Brock overheard Jay one night as he talked on the phone with Brock’s grandmother, Leanne Patrick. “He’s doesn’t like anyone of us, he doesn’t like to put any effort into schoolwork, he won’t work at anything. And all he does every night he comes home from school is play video games. This has to change.”

Brock could not hear his grandmother’s reply to this statement but it was safe to assume that she was insisting Jay and Ana get extra strict with Brock and take these privileges away. This appeared to be accurate, as Jay came home from work the night after Brock’s charade with the teachers and laid out the policies that were in place this summer.

“You won’t be playing any video games at all this summer,” Jay started.

“What?” blurted Brock, gazing at his father from the other end of the round kitchen table with a horrorstruck look on his face.

“Don’t cut me off,” Jay said sternly. “Or I’ll take more than just video games away. Here is what’s going to happen. You’re to get up at seven, eat breakfast, and clean the house. You’re running the sweeper, doing the dishes, dusting the end tables, washing the clothes, drying the clothes, and folding them once they’re dried. You are not to go see Lenny at all this summer and if he asks you to come down you are going to tell him exactly why this is and if you don’t, I’m going to. Are we clear?”

“Like I wanted to see Lenny anyway,” sneered Brock, thinking of how he no longer appeared to be in Lenny’s plans since Lenny had sports and scholarly aspirations that did not include Brock, so as far as Brock knew, he was going to put Lenny in his back seat. “So what if I slack?”

Jay gave Brock a very dangerous look and stood up quickly, but Brock didn’t flinch. He pointed a finger in Brock’s face and Brock shifted his head back but remained seated.

“Your grandmother will be here to oversee all of this at eight in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” ranted Jay through gritted teeth. “And then your mother will be here and make sure this is done on Tuesday and her parents will be here on Thursday to make sure your work is taken care of! And don’t even get me started on weekends, because you’ll be dealing with me. I already received permission to take every Saturday off and I told my boss why I am doing so. Guess what? He was one hundred percent behind me!

“Not only are you costing yourself a summer but you’re making your grandmother, your sixty-seven year old grandmother, drive here three times a week because your mother and I can’t trust you,” Jay continued loudly, banging his fist off the table. “You’re costing a sixty-seven year old woman with little income weekly and on top of that you’re costing your mother her day off from work and you’re taking a day away from her parents. But I’m not finished yet.”

Jay’s clean cut and clean shaven face was now directly in Brock’s, a mere inch from his. Brock tried to look away, now fighting to keep his face straight, but it only made Jay angrier. Jay’s gray eyes looked without mercy.

“Look at me and stop that smirking!” he demanded, his voice rising even louder.

Brock didn’t intend to laugh when under stress. This was just a reaction. Could he help it? Maybe. But most of the time he was yelled at, it just happened. Luckily, it didn’t happen when he was being disciplined in school.

“Sorry,” said Brock, trying his hardest not to laugh.

“I have more for you, so laugh at this! Guess what? When your grandparents need help with their housework, you are going to go work for them as well,” said Jay, now mocking Brock’s sneering face. “One of the reasons my mother is coming three days a week is because you’re going to cut her grass, her neighbor’s grass, as well as her sister-in-law’s, your Aunt Rae. With a push mower! And your day isn’t over until the job is done, understand?”

“Yes,” said Brock. “Do I get any breaks?”

“You get a one hour lunch break and a one hour dinner break,” Jay replied, now pacing in front of Brock.

“What if I get all my work done?” asked Brock. “Seriously, I can’t just be working the entire time, can I?”

“Your day will start at seven-thirty and it doesn’t end until seven-thirty in the evening,” said Jay. “And if you run out of things to do, someone is going to find something for you to do. Also, when you’re working, there’s going to be a no T.V rule, got it?”

“What about evenings?” droned Brock.

“You’re watching what your mom and I are watching,” said Jay. “And that’s it. You’re going to be working seven days a week, with no days off. So when we have our Fourth of July party, guess who’s working the entire time?”

“Okay, I get it,” said Brock, annoyed.

“You better get it,” said Jay. “Maybe then it will teach you how to act right.”

Brock spent the entire summer doing exactly what Jay said he was going to do. Brock worked long days and Jay wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest when he told Brock his days were going to be twelve hours long. And they were a long twelve hours. First, Brock cleaned the house under the annoyingly close supervision of a grandparent or his mother, neither of whom were backing down to Brock’s constant whining and outspokenness as he cleaned.

It usually took Brock a good five hours to clean, and he was forced as his “supervisors” lectured to him that it typically took them two hours tops to clean their houses. This meant these old people were taking less than half the time it took fourteen year old Brock to complete a day’s worth of cleaning. But Brock didn’t care. He figured since it was their livelihood they may as well be experts in what Brock called their low status field.

Brock was washing clothes, towels, and dishes. He had to do a minimum of three loads per day unless there weren’t three loads to wash. When his indoor work was over he had an extensive outdoor list to do on three of the five weekdays at the house. This included mowing grass, trimming weeds painting the back porch, power washing the house, and various other outdoor activities. It didn’t end at the house either. If he wasn’t doing the outdoor work at his house then he was at a grandparent’s house or the church, all the way out in a tiny town called Richfield and doing outdoor work in ninety degree heat all day after his morning chores were completed. He thought this should qualify as child abuse, but everyone around him insisted this was to build character which was the truth. Brock’s character was nothing but self entitlement and laziness.

Meanwhile, Lenny came up to the house literally every other day, and sometimes even Lenny’s best friend David, who lived just up the road, came along. Brock still had to do his work during these times while Jed, Lenny, and David lazed around, ate what they wanted, played video games, played outside, and did anything and everything Brock did not have the privilege to do that summer.

One would believe Brock would have learned his lesson and become a harder worker who cared more about his grades and himself. Brock was one of those people who wanted big things, huge things and huge accomplishments. Yet he lacked the drive to go out and get them. He dreamed of making large amounts of money one day, being in the top one percentile of the American income bracket, and being in one of those super-pacs who controlled what his chosen elected officials said and did. Brock’s unsung dream was to join America’s Power Elite and force the laws that would control the entire nation. Then Brock figured everyone would see him as the boss over all, the ruler.

Brock was very power hungry, yet in a reality far distant from his sadistic fantasy, very lazy. He was motivated, but only until the going got tough. When things became too tough for him, usually fairly early in any endeavor, he had the bad habit of giving in instead of working harder to find solutions. Worse yet, he absolutely loathed those who did find success at his age, such as the students who were routinely on the honors list and made strides athletic-wise that deserved recognition. In essence, Brock wanted success yet hated others who had success. Being that Brock’s school schedule was full of  basic and mid-level classes, he already came to the conclusion that college was simply not for him even at this age and he decided that he just wanted to graduate high school in four years and then make his big moves, proving to everyone just how much better he was than the rest of them without a college education.

High School Horrors

It was the first day of high school and the only different thing about the bus route this year was that they didn’t have to transfer to another bus at the high school. Brock was actually relieved school was starting since his summer had been a very miserable, seven day work week. It was a long, tough, and worthless summer. Brock was so exhausted from his lack of summer break that his plan these days was to go into school and sleep all day. So what if his grades were terrible? For one, they were never any good in the first place and for another, his mission this year was to teach mom and dad a lesson. He wanted them to feel responsible for taking his summer away and he wanted to exert revenge by keeping his grades just barely afloat. He would use this as leverage to ensure their little escapade never happened again. The tables would soon be turned, and it would be he, Brock Patrick, they all would respect on a bended knee. Again, Brock had grown to be a very self-entitled teenager.

So there he went to first period, which was physical science with a teacher named Mr. Barnes, a very erratic looking man with light blonde hair. One of Brock’s worst middle school tormentors, Roberto Randle, was in this class as well. Randle spent the last two weeks of middle school taking every chance he had at humiliating Brock in front of everyone after he found out Brock was serving internal suspension for claiming to be on the way to the football meeting the previous school year.

“Look, boys and girls, it’s the wannabe football player!” he would yell to the crowd during lunch and in the hallways in between classes. Each announcement followed with immense laughter. Worse yet, Randle would typically wait until a teacher on lunch duty wasn’t looking and either put food down Brock’s shirt or trip him with the help of a friend as he entered the cafeteria.

Unfortunately for Brock, the only seat available to him when he entered the classroom today was the one right next to Randle. Brock had no choice now but to sit next to this pet peeve.

“Football practice tonight, Patrick?” asked Randle a little loudly after he turned and saw who it was sitting next to him. A head or two turned and looked at the pair of them.

“You know I’m not on the team,” said Brock, looking right ahead, trying to phase out Randle the best he could.

“What about basketball season?” continued Randle, his voice getting louder so people would start to take notice. “You’re not going to try to be a basketball player again, are you?”

“Probably not,” said Brock, now studying the empty blackboard, now having to relive a painful flashback in which he went to only one basketball practice last year when trying out for the eighth grade team. That sport too, didn’t work out since he was so bad he didn’t even bother going back to another practice.

“Because you do know that you won’t go back after poorly attempting lay-ups, right?” teased Randle while more eyes in the classroom now fixed on Brock.

“I’ll probably just do my own thing, I guess,” said Brock to the blackboard, turning a bright shade of red and praying Mr. Barnes would enter the room and start class already. “You know, something innovative.”

“Why were you working so much this summer?” asked Randle, pounding Brock’s shoulder hard, causing him to wince. “It seemed like every time I went to my sister and brother-in-law’s you were outside cutting grass or doing something. You missed a few spots, you know? If I were your dad I would have made you stay out there until it was done right. But of course he probably knows you aren’t capable of doing so and he obviously spent an hour or two fixing your mistakes.”

“Something to do,” Brock muttered quietly. “Keeping busy, you know.”

“You’re neither an outdoor type nor an outdoor worker, you were grounded. Come on, tell the truth, Brock” sang Randle loudly as others around them began laughing silently. “Not from what I’ve seen anyway. Are you good for anything? Come on, Brock, tell me how you can possibly contribute to American society.”

“I’m sure there’s something,” said Brock nonchalantly, trying his hardest to block out the buzzing laughter of the others.

“Well, I-”

“Welcome to physical science,” interrupted the voice of Mr. Barnes, who was walking swiftly to the front of the classroom where a podium stood and taking a seat on a stool behind it, briefly losing his balance before catching himself and throwing on a pair of readers that looked very crooked on his face.

Brock grinned at Randle and turned to face Mr. Barnes. Maybe he’d sleep a little bit later. This man just saved Brock from some serious embarrassment.

“You are taking this class because you did not have the grade sufficient enough to take the class at the college preparatory level,” explained Barnes. “With that said, the workload is going to be considerably less and the class is going to move at a much slower pace than your academically gifted college preparatory classmates across the hall in Mrs. O’Connell’s room.”

Mr. Barnes went on and on about what the basic level of physical science consisted of while Randle was telling anyone who would listen under his breath that Mr. Barnes was once convicted of stealing bricks from Edwin Middle School about ten years ago and went to jail for it. He muttered in such a low tone that Barnes didn’t catch him describing how his older brother and his friend once played a prank on Barnes by placing a stack of bricks on his desk a few years back.

Brock soon found out that the sad thing about starting high school was that there were a lot more people to deal with and either Mr. James or someone spread the story about Brock claimed to have wanted to sign up for football when he was real intention was indeed skipping class.

He had to endure this a few times today and it was even worse when he was continually inquired by his peers on why he quit football after one week in the seventh grade, which went on for a whole month. Ditto for his failure to make it past one day of practice on the eighth grade basketball team. During these miserable middle school days, his classmates often made the excuses for Brock, such as being unable to take the hitting in football and when it came to basketball, the harsh conditioning in that first day of practice.

“Skip any class today yet, Brock?” yelled Dale Detmer in front of a small crowd of students. Dale was another freshman who Brock went to Edwin Middle with. Dale was very gifted in football, basketball, and baseball.. “Why don’t you take a cigarette break in the bathroom? I heard you had a bad habit of doing that.”

Another period went by before Brock had to face another inquiry, this one from Andy, the tall, muscular go-to wide receiver who excelled in every sport he played, much like Lenny except with even more talent. Within a few years he would easily be at the very least, Division II college talent if not the top level.

“Coming to practice today, Brock, or are you going to go to the bathroom during class to think about it?” he taunted while Marcos looked on and laughed before shoving Brock hard into a locker.

And yet another identical question occurred not long after this, coming from a large football player named Derek Clend.

“You know they love taking the high school kids to the alternative school!” yelled Derek when he saw Brock at his locker on the top floor. “I hear the teachers gamble on who’s next, and you’re at three to one odds! But only after you gas out at track practice this spring. Wasn’t that the next sport you planned on failing at?”

Derek proceeded to take Brock’s head and actually put it as far as he could inside Brock’s locker before slamming the door, causing Brock to yell in pain that had now erupted on the backside of his skull. Clend did this one more time before taking off with Roberto and Dale.

If Brock had to rank the worst first day of school ever, he was ranking this one at number one, especially after he was intentionally tripped by Randle and David when he was making his way out of the building to the school bus. Brock fell right down the stone stairs and judging from the searing pain inside his pant leg, had scraped a knee. Even worse, Randle took a hold of his bookbag and dumped the contents right on Brock before slapping high fives with David. They boarded the school bus, laughing. No bus driver or teacher had seen the incident and there were no Samaritans among the laughing students looking on to help Brock. He struggled to his feet and put his books back in his bag before limping up the steps and onto the school bus and taking a seat near the back. Randle and David were only getting started and they berated him, both verbally and physically, all the way home . Okay, it was the worst first day of school ever. There was absolutely no question about it now.

Brock used to be a fan of going to the high school football games, but that was now a distant memory. If he had to guess, the last time he was well liked by everyone else had been during the grade school years. But at this point, the fourth grade was long gone. Jay and Jed were going to the game tonight against Steel High, which was the home opener. Brock opted not to go. Why would he? After Randle and David double-teamed him on the bus earlier that evening he was now almost certain Lenny was his only real friend, and Brock was even suspicious about Lenny. If Lenny were indeed a true friend, then why was he leaving Brock in the dust at both school and sports while providing him zero support when Randle, David, and others had their way with him?

So Brock decided to stay home watched television (his punishment was finally over) from six in the evening until ten at night, when Jay and Jed came back from the game after dropping Lenny off, which ended with Thomas High losing in a twenty-eight to nothing blowout.

School was just as bad these days as it had been in the past. Things were getting tougher and tougher for Brock and his classmates academic-wise, and Brock continued on his intentional downward spiral. By the time the middle of the quarter arrived, Brock’s progress report was not good. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. It was just a shade below average. Had the quarter ended today, he would have a grade point average of one point nine. This meant he had some work to do, which wasn’t going to happen. He was going to tank even further.

“What grades did you get, Brock?” asked Lenny after they sat down in the gym before class began.

Unfortunately, a kid named Richie Griesen was sitting right next to Brock on his right side while Roberto was seated in front. The game started a mere five seconds after Lenny asked this harmless question.

“Hey! Your cousin asked you a question, boy!” yelled Richie, slapping Brock hard in the leg, causing him to wince in pain.

Richie was a good five to six inches taller than Brock and about thirty pounds heavier. He was both gym strong and country strong, and his hits hurt a good deal. Needless to say if Brock were to physically retaliate he would be in for some trouble but he was now getting to be double teamed as Roberto Randle turned around the second he heard Richie begin this onslaught.

“You answer to us!” said Randle. Randle pushed Brock square in the chest and stole Brock’s book bag from beside him, opening the contents. He dumped them right into crevasse between the bleacher Brock, Lenny, and Richie were seated and his own.

Brock tried to reach for it, but a friend of Randle’s named Gene Max, saw what Brock was doing and easily countered Brock’s efforts by taking his arms and holding his wrists firmly, keeping him down on the bleacher.

Mrs. Saxon, one of the teachers on duty, should have been paying more attention to this but she was busy talking with several of those in the band and was paying not the slightest bit of attention to what was going on in the bleachers.

Richie hit Brock again, this time in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain and fall into the seat, coughing. Lenny looked on but did and said nothing. He never did anything when Brock was in trouble like this, which occurred quite often over the last few years, starting in the fifth grade. David, seated on Randle’s left side, turned to see what was happening but this time he looked away. David loved to partake in these little beatings Brock received but he did have enough sense to draw a line that separated what he thought of as harmless fun versus total humiliation. Sure, he would trip Brock outside and throw rather harmless insults at him, but this was too much for David. Gene, Richie, and Randle, on the other hand were just relentless, especially when all three of them were together as they were on the Friday evening. By now, Brock knew well enough that when these three were together, it was always going to be a three on one assault, as it had been for years now.

“Let’s see how old Brock’s doing in the middle of his first quarter of high school,” Randle announced to Lenny, Gene, and Richie.

Lenny caught Brock’s eye and gave him a guilty half-smile before looking down at his iPod and began shuffling through songs, pretending to block everything out, as did David who had now pulled out a book and began reading.

Lenny actually didn’t intend for this to happen as his question about Brock’s grades were sincere. The problem was that Richie overheard Lenny and hopped into humiliation mode, prompting Randle and Gene to follow suit. Another problem was that Lenny happened to be a bit of a coward even when he was the cause for Brock’s misfortunes. He would just stand by and do nothing about it, which was yet another reason Brock was getting more and more distant from Lenny.

Randle cleared his throat importantly and began announcing the grades to the ever increasing attention seekers made up of several ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders who were seated in the vicinity. Obviously not a single teacher was watching Brock get tortured in the bleachers.

“Physical Science, C minus, we’re off to a good start” he rambled. “Physical Education, D plus. Brock, how do you get a D in gym class? Wow, even I have an A in gym. No wonder you couldn’t stick out any sports if you’re so bad at them you can only etch out a D in gym.”

“Because he can’t take anything physical!” shouted Richie, thumping Brock painfully in the back of the skull. “You proved that two years ago, kiddo! And you’re proving it again!”

Seeing stars and eyes starting to tear up, Brock held the back of his head with both hands in a faint attempt to prevent another hit but Gene, who was on his knees looking over the seat took notice and Brock received a second blow to the stomach. He let out a dull moan and doubled over onto the seat.

“Yeah!” yelled Gene, throwing his arms up and slapping fives with Randle. “Knock-out punch! You like that, Brock?”

The only thing running through Brock’s head now was a plea that Mrs. Saxon or someone would notice what was going on back here but nope, she was still being entertained by her band students. Brock also knew he couldn’t yell for her, as he would have only gotten a punishment from Richie, Randle, and Gene during school hours when he would be seen either in between classes, definitely on the morning bus, or in the hallways. These people do not forget things.

“Attention please!” said Randle loudly, clearing his throat a little bit louder this time. “I have more! Technical Math, D minus. That’s disgusting, Brock, you have to do better there! Integrated English, B. That’s as close to an A as you’re going to get. At least you know how to write.”

Brock was now almost completely doubled over, one hand over his stomach and the other one over his throbbing head. He wanted to fight back but he knew he couldn’t. If he got one more suspension he would be working weekends from now until Christmas doing who knows what. Nevertheless, he was in checkmate. If he tried to retaliate to anyone, this gang would blame him for starting the fight. He was cornered and the others knew it. Brock wanted to look over at Lenny for help but he knew it was just worthless. As far as Brock’s concern was growing, Lenny was worthless. Not only that, if they saw him asking for help, this beating would be ten times worse.

“He won’t answer you,” said Randle, now grabbing Brock by the back of the shirt and pulling him back up.

Brock could only look up at Randle and gape at him while Randle stretched the back of Brock’s shirt, his grip tightening. This was only going to get worse and Brock knew it wouldn’t be over until these three were finished having their way with him.

“No, he won’t!” confirmed Gene, checking the clock on the wall and seeing if any teacher was headed in their direction.  “But hurry up, Roberto, the bells’ going to ring any minute now.”

“World History, C,” continued Randle, shouting to everyone who was paying attention to him, which was almost half the crowd seated here. “Intro to technology, C minus, and Spanish, C minus. Wow, Brock, that’s a B, three C’s and a two D’s. It can’t get much worse.”

Richie made a quick maneuver and grabbed Brock firmly, locking his hands behind his back. Randle crumpled up Brock’s progress report and returned it to him halfway down his throat, causing Brock to choke for the next few moments while everyone looking on erupted in a burst of laughter.

“Need help, boy?” asked Richie in mock concern, slapping him as hard as he could on Brock’s back, causing Brock to spit the report onto the the crevasse below him and Richie pulled Brock back into the seat, holding him down and letting Gene and Randle throw in some last second punches to his face, stomach, and kidney.

The bell finally rang and Gene got off while Brock was now taking refuge inside the crevasse, laying on his side and clutching his stomach. The got up and rushed into the lobby while Brock climbed back up into his seat and fortunately most of the kids had now left the gym.

Still, Brock sat there in agony, wild thoughts running through his mind on how he would never, ever get out of the situation he was in on being at the very bottom of the totem pole of life. Not only was he terrible at just about everything so many others took any and all opportunities to remind him of his place in this life. Sure, David had his line that he refused to cross and at the very least Richie and Randle didn’t attempt to beat Brock beyond repair. They were just out to damage his psyche to the breaking point of where Brock would be forced to remember where he stood in this lifetime.

By the end of the first quarter of the school year, Brock’s already worsening grades had slipped a little. He had a one point nine grade point average when the progress reports came out. On report card day, he found out that he finished the first quarter with a one point seven, with his grades in World History and Spanish slipping one letter grade. However, the going got easy for Brock during monotonous lectures from Mr. Morris and Brock found himself falling further and further behind on note taking days. Brock actually felt like a winner for a change since he did accomplish something in his own mind.

Brock had nothing to do after school when he got off of the bus at quarter after four so he played video games the rest of the evening, not even thinking of giving his school work a look.  So this usually meant that he would rush his school work five minutes before he was to turn it in as he had done so often in the past. He quickly found out that this did not work as well for some teachers in high school like it did in middle school. It didn’t take Brock long to realize some of the high school teachers actually cared about their student’s well being. Too bad Brock didn’t care about his own well being in any of their classes.

So as the ninth grade wore on Brock’s grades did not improve in the slightest and he often found himself in a hole early in the following quarters. But, he kept to his plan of making his parents guilty over what happened last summer, so he continued to allow his grades to decline in order to show them last summer didn’t teach him a thing.

While Brock was winning in that avenue, he was still losing in the friend making and popularity game. He was often ganged up on by Gene and Randle. David sometimes joined in and sometimes he didn’t. Lenny would no longer be on the bus ride home the rest of the school year for the most part as he was on the basketball and baseball teams, so Brock had no near ally on the bus or before class, even if Lenny offered nothing more than a guilty smile.

It was safe to assume that the worst beating he had sustained at the hands of his tormentors so far this year was the progress report incident. They usually enjoyed making a mockery out of Brock due to the speech impediment that had haunted him since first grade and it still had not been fixed. He no longer took a speech class being in high school but it had not fixed his eight year long problem in the first place, so Brock didn’t really see a legitimate use for it anyway.

When it wasn’t Randle, Gene, or David making his life as miserable as they could possibly make it, it didn’t stop others he had went to school with, such as Andy, Marcos, and Dale. Often, Brock was picked on because of his smallish, skinny physique that lacked a muscle tone. The freshman athletes loved pointing this out and no matter what Brock did he just would not commit himself to the weight training regimen many of these kids were now on, being high school athletes. For one, it was too much work for Brock and for another, since Brock found it useless, he gave up on it. Instead he kept telling himself he would prove himself to everyone at a class reunion one day. As for these claims, if he told even someone who was even close to being a friend, it was often met with laughter and disbelief. No one at this school had a high opinion of Brock Patrick. As far as they were concerned, Brock was going nowhere in this life and at this point he had done nothing to prove these people wrong.


Another Long Summer

Brock’s summer in 2006 to a small extent was light years better than the previous summer. At least this year he didn’t get in trouble in school and become enslaved by his father for a crime he didn’t commit. But that didn’t mean Jay had more plans for his son who never did anything but play video games all day and binge eat on junk food during his endless hours of free time.

“It’s time to get a job, Brock,” he said during the second week of summer, interrupting Brock’s game of Jim Madison’s APFL 2007 which was the official game of America’s Pro Football League.

“What?” asked Brock, trying to stand and look past Jay, as he controlled the Forest City Cursebreakers, but Jay was now standing right in front of the TV.

“Work,” his dad said, standing tall and crossing his arms. “Not sit and do nothing all day.”

“I am doing something,” Brock shot back, indicating his controller and pointing to the TV. “Can’t you see that?”

Jay smartly walked over to the video game console and turned it off along with the TV.

“Hey! I said I was doing something!” Brock pouted, now brandishing the controller violently.

“Yeah, sitting and manipulating controls,” his dad taunted, now grabbing the controller from Brock’s hand.

Brock glared but Jay wasn’t fazed.

“Just like last year, you’re going to be working for me and your grandparents,” Jay announced so loudly Brock wouldn’t have been surprised if the whole neighborhood heard. Jay drew himself up to full height in front of Brock.

Brock did not like it when his dad’s posture was beyond it’s fullest. Jay was already five feet, eleven inches tall when standing tall, he towered over the short and slim Brock. Jay also had a broader build than Brock, further dwarfing him. This definitely had to have been something Jay learned during his military days from 1984 to 1992 in order to attempt to get his kids to listen to him. With Jed, it worked quite well. With Brock, he still faced some resistance.

“Why?” asked Brock, throwing his arms up.

“Because this isn’t all you’re going to do this summer, that’s why,” countered Jay. “And since you’re still in my house you are to play by my rules. End of discussion.”

And amidst Brock’s protests Jay turned around without a word, unplugged the video game console, and took the cords upstairs with him.

“What about Jed?” asked Brock, following Jay up the thick carpeted stairs and into the narrow hallway on the main floor.

“When he wants them he can have them,” said Jay calmly, stowing them in a shoebox on the top shelf of the closet of the master bedroom. “Now for this summer’s worklist. Get in the kitchen.”

He followed his dad down the hall and to the kitchen table.

“Why are you picking on me and not Jed anyway?” asked Brock, crossing his arms as he took a seat, slouching low in his chair like he always did.

“Maybe if you worked a little harder throughout the school year I wouldn’t have to be so hard on you, Brock,” replied Jay. “Did you happen to see your final report card yet?”

“You read it without my permission!” said Brock aggressively.

“I don’t need permission to read your mail,” said Jay, walking over the microwave stand and retrieving a piece of paper. “Especially when you live under my roof, under my watch, under my rules. If you don’t like it, then get out.”

Brock knew this was only going to lead to more humiliation, despite the fact it was only Brock and his father in this discussion with no witnesses. Hadn’t he had enough of that from Randle, Gene, and sometimes others during the school year? Now he had to do even more work for his family due to his poor grades while Jed, Lenny, and sometimes David got to watch from afar as they swam, biked, played video games, and walked the neighborhood nightly. As for Brock, he was going to be treated like a worthless grunt for a second straight summer. If one asked Brock, he would say everyone treated him like this to begin with so he figured he could have some peace and quiet at home, away from being taken advantage of by others. But nope, even at home Brock was still at the mercy of anyone and everyone.

“You better get used to this, Brock,” said Jay, taking a seat across from him with Brock’s report card in his hand. “Because this will be your future if your grades don’t pick up. Nothing but odd jobs and part time jobs will be in your future unless you decide to turn things around pronto. What do you want to do after high school anyway?”

“Get rich, famous, and powerful,” replied Brock. “I’ll be the one making the policies to run the lives of people such as yourself so you can see how it feels to have someone tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.”

“How?” asked Jay, glaring over the report card, throwing a very intimidating glare in Brock’s direction.

“I don’t know,” answered Brock stupidly, drawing a blank as his dad put him on the spot before he tried to redeem his lame answer. “I’m sure there’s a way. Just get with the right people, push a few buttons. I’ll figure it out, I will assure you that, and you of all people will be in absolute awe.”

“You better find a way,” said Jay, looking to the report card. “So without further ado, your average grade for each class.

“Technical Math, D,” Jay continued. “Integrated English, C minus. Physical Education, C minus. Health, C  minus (they took Health with Physical Education during the second half of the school year). Introduction to Technology, D plus.  Spanish I, D plus. World History I, B minus. Physical Science, C minus….. Brock, this is terrible. A one point eight? Really? Did you happen to see how Jed did? It was straight A’s up and down the board. In fact, after weighing everything down, he finished with a four point two on a scale of four point zero!”

Brock sat there and looked ashen faced and looked on as his father glared at him, looking dangerous.

“You didn’t do so well in school either,” shot Brock, raising his eyebrows. “And look at you, you’re a successful car salesman. But I can outdo even you because I’m pretty sure I know things that you don’t.”

“This isn’t about me!” yelled Jay, throwing the report card at Brock. “And I was never this lazy around the house when I was your age! Ever! Who cares about my grades? At least I knew how to work, especially when I joined the service after high school. Also, when I was fourteen years old I started working for pay! My work life was way more rough than yours is and the military is by no means a joke.”

“You conformed to the system,” said Brock lowly as he looked down at the report card that was now right in front of him.

“Look at me and look at you!” raged Jay, veins bulging in his arms that were visible under his orange polo shirt. “This little fantasy world you’re living in is going to lead you straight to the poor house if you keep it up. You have three more years to prove yourself! I suggest you do it.”

“Okay, well I’ll just go to Thomas Community College for two years,” said Brock. “And it’ll count then.”

“It counts now,” snapped Jay, pounding the table hard with his fist. “How are you supposed to do well in college if you’re just going to develop a habit of sitting there and doing nothing?”

“Okay, well I’ll just do better next year, that’s all,” said Brock, yet in actuality thinking he was going to tank his grades again. Not so much that he would have to repeat a year, but just barely enough to pass by. Brock figured he knew what he was doing.

The summer came and went and although it wasn’t as bad as it was in 2005, it wasn’t good by any means either. Brock only had to work five days per week and only eight hour days, which was much better than the twelve hour days he was doing last summer. Better yet, he did get to play video games, watch TV when he wanted, and do what he wanted after his work day ended at three in the afternoon. That was a positive change. It was clear Brock failed at making his parents, or at least his father, feel guilty about his wrongdoings. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to get even worse, thought Brock. He was going to prove that he didn’t need the grades to succeed. Again, he didn’t plan on failing as he would just have to stay in school another year. But he did plan on tanking big time once again.

On the other hand, Jay was hoping this would instill a sense of work ethic in Brock and that Brock would begin taking life seriously now rather than later, because Brock really had to get the dice rolling quickly before it really was too late.

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