Sunday, March 24, 2013

Elmo High


Fred was a wunderkind at St. Elmo High. Top of his class in all the math and sciences courses. Not to mention a walking Almanac of obscure facts and figures. Even by his junior year, he had full scholarships to Caltech and MIT sitting on the kitchen table, in fat, unopened envelops.

Unfortunately, being a precocious scientific genius didn’t garner him the attention he truly craved. He was still invisible to girls–especially the really pretty ones.

Sitting in the cafeteria, he’d often glance up from his iPad to steal furtive glances at Buck and Tiffany. Buck was QB1 on the football team. The star quarterback. He’d already led his team to several state championships in junior high and high school.

Buck had awesome abs and teeth an orthodontist would kill for. At 6’ 4”, he towered over Fred like a Redwood to a dwarf pine.

Fred envied Buck’s enormous self-confidence. Resented Buck’s magnetic effect on all the girls. Roiled with jealousy every time he saw Buck wrap his manly biceps around Tiffany.

If Buck was a god, Tiffany was a goddess. A walking pin-up. Her hair was like spun gold. Her lips were like…oh, well…you get the picture.

Tiffany drove Buck to school every day in her Mercedes two-seater convertible. The one Dad gave her on 16th birthday.

Most of the time, Buck barely knew that Fred inhabited the same spacetime continuum. For one thing, it’s not as if Fred and Buck stood at eye-level. Fred would have to use a stepladder to pull that off. So Buck literally never met Fred face-to-face. That would be like making eye contact with a Chihuahua. It takes a conscious effort. And it’s not as if they normally took the same classes.

However, in their senior year, mandatory P.E. finally brought the two together. Watching Fred try to punt reduced Buck to gales of uncontrollable laughter. His square, dimpled chin quivered with mirth. Not just Buck. Tiffany too. She could barely catch her breath between fits of squealing laughter.

But that turned out to be a tactical mistake on Buck’s part. One slight too many.

You see, Fred had been secretly working on a body-swap machine in his basement. He hadn’t gotten beyond animal experiments. Transferring the consciousness of a cat to the body of a gerbil, and vice versa. That experiment was successful–at least from the gerbil’s perspective. There was evidence that the cat took a less sanguine view of the role reversal.

Thus far Fred hadn’t tried his hand at human experimentation. That would be unethical. But his recent humiliation put the kabash on his scientific scruples.


You can imagine Buck’s confusion when he woke up in Fred’s bedroom. And that was nothing compared to the double take when he caught sight of his new self in the bathroom mirror.

For his part, Fred reveled in his sheer, newfound dudeness. The quintessence of dudeness. A novel and heady experience.

He enjoyed taking Tiffany out on a date the first two times. But by the third date there was no denying the fact that Tiffany wasn’t a sparkling conversationalist. To Fred’s consternation, Tina couldn’t even deconstruct the relationship between Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. And her grasp of the Riemann zeta function was even more disappointing. Clearly Buck saw something else in Tiffany.

After the third date, Fred dumped her for Charlotte. Charlotte was a rather plain, but vivacious churchgoing girl with a passion for Victorian novels and ornithology. Her command of Diophantine Equations was admittedly shaky, but her company was so delightful that Fred found he could look past that entirely.

Initially, Fred was worried that he might not be any good at football, but it turned out that football was like riding a bicycle. Muscle memory. After years of practice, Buck’s body instinctively knew just what to do.

Meanwhile, Buck was floundering in the math and science. His grades plummeted. And Fred’s mom couldn’t fathom the overnight change in her son’s personality. It’s as if he was a whole nother person. Little did she suspect.

But that wasn’t the most surprising turn of events. Buck’s love life nosedived. You see, Buck wasn’t the supremely self-assured individual that Fred always imagined him to be. Inside the body of a jock was a shy, tongue-tied, stuttering, insecure adolescent. He was just as bashful and awkward as Fred had been. But as long as Buck had Buck’s body, it didn’t show. He never had to ask girls out on a date. He just waited for them to ask. Take a number and stand in line. He was used to having girls throw themselves at him. Stage catfights for the privilege. He could take his pick. All he had to do was play the strong silent type and let them do the rest.

But now that Buck found himself trapped inside the body of a gawky, ninety-pound weakling, he was Fred without Fred’s compensatory virtues. A total loser.

After savoring the succulent fruits of revenge, Fred had mercy on Buck. No, he didn’t give him his body back. Are you kidding?

But after Fred won the Heisman Trophy, and later became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Fred hired Buck to be his gardener.

1 comment:

  1. Musicians usually don't have those problems. One doesn't even need to share one's intricate knowledge of music theory, technique or showmanship. Communication of deeper things through the music itself is what's important. One needs only to play or sing something with a demure personality housed in an average frame and enjoy the company of cool people. Sure you get some jerks who are full of themselves, but you can usually lose them after the show.