Friday, March 16, 2012

The Weird Guy from Iowa (Part 3)

This is the third installment of my little story about the transfer student from Iowa. He's out of sorts, thinks too much, and forgets often, but he's a dreamer. Read part one and part two first. :)

When we lost saw the weird guy from Iowa, he had just saved Dana from an unpleasant fate involving a speeding truck...

          “Where are you from?” Dana suddenly questioned.
          “Iowa. I’ve already heard people refer to me as ‘that weird transfer dude from Iowa,’” John replied.
         She laughed. “Well, now you’re that cool transfer dude from Iowa who saves lives… and hopefully plays soccer.”
         With a smile and a glance at Dana’s bangs, which were slipping into her eyes again, John thought carefully about what she had just said. I think I’m okay with that.
          After they went to the nurse and John was bandaged up properly, the two walked back outside into the cold.
          "How many people live in Iowa?" Dana asked, absently rubbing her arms from the cold.
          John yawned. "Well, the population dropped 10% when my uncle died last year."
          Dana laughed. "Good one. I guess that was a dumb question." They stopped walking, and Dana leaned to the right toward the dorm building just a few paces away. "This is my dorm. I have to make a phone call before dinner."
          "Uh, okay. Thanks, uh, see you later." John waved at her awkwardly as she disappeared into the girl's dorm. He turned at the sound of voices from behind him. Soccer practice was over, and the guys on the team were walking down the sidewalk toward the cafeteria and also, inevitably, toward John. He stood up a little straighter. He hadn't actually met any of them, and he wondered which one was Dana's brother. They were all tall and wiry-strong like John, who had the stereotypical soccer build. John's first coach had tried to put him in as a goalie because of his height but had soon discovered that he was much more skilled as a striker.
          What should he say to them? They didn't even seem to see him. He pulled out his phone and pretended to text someone. None of them even appeared to notice him, but the nearest one knocked into him, pushing him off-balance as if he didn't even see him.
          John stumbled back a few steps. The guy who had pushed him just looked at him, stone-faced, then continued walking. Friendly group, John thought. 
         Now it was time for John's favorite part of college ever: finding a place to sit in the cafeteria. Just like high school, the sports teams always sat together. That would be nice. Then he could just sit with the soccer team. They'd already been super welcoming.
        John sighed and put his stuff down at a random table. Maybe someone would come and sit with him. He went to get some food and returned with an expertly made stir fry, some applesauce, and a piece of pie. John was almost ashamed of how good he was at cooking. The first bite of his masterpiece was sitting on a fork halfway to his mouth when a plate hit the table across from him. The plate was filled with pizza.
        He looked up. Yep, it was his roommate, Taylor. Big surprise. He didn't know how it was possible for anyone to survive eating what Taylor ate. John had never seen him eat anything but pizza. "I don't know where the heck Larry and Sear are," Taylor said. In other words, I'm sitting with you because my friends aren't here.
        "I don't know, man. I haven't seen them," John said absently. 
        Suddenly, John's phone lit up. It was her. 
        Taylor saw it, too. The girl's picture appeared on the phone. "Who is that?" he asked. 
        "My ex-girlfriend," John mumbled. "She's awful. Won't stop texting me."
        Taylor snatched the phone off the table, absently chewing a string of cheese that hung out of his mouth. "Wow. Dude, are you eating stupid for breakfast every morning or something? She's hot!"
        "Give me that!" John snapped, grabbing the phone from Taylor's greasy pizza hands. He opened the text. 

Jonathan, this is Miranda's mother. I've borrowed her phone because she refused to text you herself. She is coming to visit your college, and I expect you to be welcoming. You're the only person there that she knows, and I know she's so excited to see you! Thanks! Mrs. Sheckletrick.

        Old people always signed their names at the end of text messages. And how in two years had Mrs. Sheckletrick never caught on that John's name was just John, and that's it. It was his Christian name, the one on his birth certificate, and he must have told her one hundred times. She insisted on calling him Jonathan. He wanted to slap her. She was the only person in the world who was worse than his ex-girlfriend Miranda.
        When John looked up again, he noticed Taylor had been talking. Hadn't he seen that John was reading a text message? No...
        "I'd take her out for pizza," Taylor said, then stopped. "Were you even listening to me?"
        "Please take her out to pizza. That would be awesome," John said. He scooped up his unfinished dinner and stood up.
        "My professor? I didn't think you'd advocate bribery for grades," Taylor said, confused.
        John shoved his phone in his pocket. "I've got to go. Interview."
       "Oh, crap! Thanks for reminding me! I've got one, too," Taylor said, spitting a big chunk of pizza back onto his plate.
        John top lip curled involuntarily. He didn't know whether he should ask or run. His curiosity got the best of him. "What interview?"
        "For the last slot in the lobby desk job in the dorm," Taylor answered rapidly, almost starting to answer before John even finished asking the question. "Is that the same thing you're going for? Ha! Great roommates think alike, I guess! But good luck. I've got some pretty legit references!"
         References for a desk job? Taylor was so annoying the interviewers would probably give him the job just so he'd shut up. That was the same job John had been planning to get. Could this day get any more ridiculous?
        The interview was fine, and he made his responses short and sweet since the interviewers had just had to listen to Taylor give a fifteen minutes monologue about his extensive desk work experience, his "awesome people skills," and probably even how many slices of pizza he could eat in one sitting.
        The next day, John intentionally slept through his morning class. He only had one, and the teacher didn't take attendance. So he just went to lunch.
        Yippee. Lunch. So he could sit by himself again. Great.
        When he walked into the cafeteria, he did not see what he expected. In fact, nothing could have prepared him for what he was seeing.
        Red high heels. Miniskirt. J Crew designer mauve top. Perfectly curled hair.
        Miranda. Currently she was standing in the middle of the cafeteria shrieking at one of the workers. She gained more and more attention as she shrieked until literally twenty-five people near her had stopped what they were doing to stare at her. She waved her pink nail polished pointer finger at the bewildered—no, terrified—caf worker.
      "There are NO warnings on these foods! This soup LOOKED like vegetable chowder, but NO. It's got chicken in it! Chicken! What about the vegetarians!? How are they supposed to know!"
       "I'm—I'm sorry. They're supposed to have labels. I don't know why..." the caf worker tried to interject.
       She didn't allow him. "I don't eat meat! EVER! Where is your manager?! This is an outrage!"
       If only Miranda were stupid. Loud, stupid people were often dismissed. Loud, smart people just drew a ton of attention. John wanted to curl up and die. He was embarrassed, and he didn't even have anything to do with the situation. The people around her were laughing or just horrified. She was dressed to the hilt and making a huge scene over what—some chicken in soup?
       Dana was over by the salad bar scooping croutons onto her plate, but she stopped and also watched the scene. John wanted to get her attention, but then he realized he should probably be hiding right now. What if Miranda saw him? Maybe he didn't even want lunch today. He should just leave...
       Suddenly, the worst happened. As the caf worker struggled for a response, Miranda had been searching the crowd for the caf supervisor. Instead, she saw John.
       "JOHN!" she squealed. Of all the terrible sounds in the world, like fingernails on a chalkboard, a baby screaming, or someone's limb getting chopped off, this sound was by far the worst. If anyone in the cafeteria had not yet noticed Miranda's presence, they did now.
       She charged toward John, and before he could do anything, she'd planted a kiss on his cheek and snaked her orange-tanned arm around his elbow. "Thank goodness you're here. Tell these people that their food labels are unacceptable."

To be continued...

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