A/N: Hi. I haven't written for this fandom in a long time. I haven't written a multi-chaptered fic in forever. THIS ALL FEELS WEIRD, forgive me. Rest assured, I haven't been new to the former since 2004, and the latter since God knows when.

Warnings: This fic is long. Each chapter is at least 10K words and one is 34K. The creek doesn't really happen until for a very long time, with the focus more on Craig as an individual than the pairing itself. This is in Craig's POV and I write him like an annoying asshole. A lot of this was inspired by my romantic history from high school (I am a girl. This is inspired by the romantic history of a high school female. Please take that into account.) This story is largely slice-of-life. This is an in-progress chapter fic whose plots and events are constantly changing, so there are inconsistencies and nothing, nothing about it is finalized or perfect.

if any of these things don't appeal to you, please don't read this.

thanks, and happy reading! :)

Once in awhile I wish that I could see my life—and live my life, and even tell people about my life, as I'm doing right now—just like a Quentin Tarantino film. You know, backwards. Even the middle will do. It's confusing to watch unfold, yes, but at least you know what's coming before it roundhouse kicks you in the face.

I say "once in awhile" because sometimes those little surprises I get thrown are actually kind of delightful, like a birthday party or the presents dad would bring back from business trips. I also say "once in awhile" with as much bittersweetness as possible because we all very well know that there's no way to just jump into the future like that. Even reliving the past is something you just barely coast over.

…I mean, I could tell it all to you like that, backwards or middlewards or what have you. In media res. But I didn't get that luxury, and you won't either.

So, as life goes, let's start at the beginning. No, I'm not going to give you any unsavory details of my birth—we're not going that far back. But before we can start at the beginning, we do have to go back a little further, just for a second, enough so you understand the type of storyteller you're dealing with here. I need to start, in as much brevity as they deserve, with Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick.

That's right: years before any of the events of this story take place, those four bastards already had a hand in tainting my life.

It's no secret: I hate Stan and his friends-I really do. And it's no secret because I make sure everyone knows it as often and as vocally as possible. I've spent so much time trying to forget the stupid things they put me through that, what with the shoddy memory I have to begin with, I've ended up forgetting what little normal stuff I did as kid. Yeah, they're assholes, they're dicks, they're all sorts of insulting body parts-but I got to hand it to those douchebags, they really helped me find myself in my skin.

You see, when we were kids, all that bullshit they made everyone go through, all their crazy schemes and wacky adventures, they all made me realize several facets about myself—I hated doing a lot of things, and I was perfectly content doing nothing.

Everyone thinks I'm enormously boring. I know; I've heard the talk. And it's okay that they say those things, because everyone can go fuck themselves. I, for one, love my boring life. I love my boring nothing, where the most I have to look forward to every day is watching Red Racer when I get home from school or feeding my guinea pig or doing my goddamn laundry.

I know I sound like a huge loser here, and don't get me wrong; I don't just sit at home all day watching wallpaper grow or grass dry or however the goddamn saying goes. My friends and I go to the movies and my parents take me on vacation outside of Colorado sometimes and I take the bus to Denver when there are film festivals in town. I do shit, but I just do normal boring shit that doesn't require any emotional strain or effort. Hell, what's so special about going out of my way to punch a hole in the ozone layer of my comfort zone and inviting in a bunch of unnecessary bullshit? With an empty fishbowl and some creative noises, eight-year-old me had all the adventures in the world sitting in my backyard playing pretend spaceman.

So when Clyde says, "hey Craig, wanna go explore an old abandoned building?", I say, "if you want to fall through some rickety floor boards and get gutted by a hobo, be my guest, but count me out." When Token wants to take us with him on vacation to the Amazon, I tell him the humidity is gross and they've got snakes the size of cars. When Eric Cartman comes to my door asking me if I want to double my money in one afternoon, I slam the door in his face, go upstairs, open the window above my doorstep, and pour a bucket of water on him. Living in South Park is bad enough without all that extra stuff that could get us killed or in trouble.

I'm not scared. I'm not lame. It's just not worth it. I don't know how to have fun? Okay. Fine. I have enough of my own brand of fun right where I am, nice and boring, with my own imagination, goddammit.

What's great is that just as I began to outgrow my make-believe games as a kid, the most beautiful prospect of being a filmmaker walked into my life and graciously permitted me to continue residing in the comforts of my boring little world. Let me tell you, it's like playing pretend professionally. I actually realized how much I liked this shit because of Stan and company, as if they don't invade my life enough as it is. It started in the fourth grade, with me wanting to one-up them and expose their idiocy by creating a TV show that was better than theirs via little to no effort on my part (like that was so hard; I'm surprised those guys can dress themselves in the morning). Being behind a video camera, I found, even if it was just using a wide-angle lens to film my neighbor's beagle in a funny hat, was beyond addicting. In the past seven years, I've went from dogs in newsboy caps to, these days, trying to capture the complex psyche of a teenage boy who doesn't know if he truly exists (from my latest work; my best friend Token agreed to star in it, even though he thought the script was trash, but that just shows what he knows).

But the point is not that I love being an aspiring filmmaker, it's why I love being an aspiring filmmaker. Besides making movies being totally sweet in of itself, one of the best things about this stuff is that it saves me from both feeling like an antisocial loser devoid of a life and having to actually do anything. It enables me to have a "healthy and creative hobby" and play pretend without even playing. I get to enjoy the world and a plethora of life experiences I never do otherwise without lifting so much as a finger. I just sit back, think it up, and then watch it all happen.

Basically, let other people do the living for me.

That's really me in a nutshell, and I wasn't expecting that to change any time soon.

It's funny, though; when I look back, the irony of such a thought is kind of delicious. Like a sumptuous hunk of meat, or something. That kind of delicious.

So. Now that we got all that out of the way, let's get this started. And I know just the perfect place to do it.

During spring break of my junior year at high school, I got my first job. That's right: first, I said. It's not that I never wanted to make money before that time; it's just, well, that I didn't really care. Dad thought I was still qualified to receive allowance for doing nothing short of everyday chores, so what kind of dumbass would I be to stop taking advantage of that? It's like I was getting paid twenty bucks every two weeks to be this guy's son, and, let's be honest, I really should have been earning more than that.

But before I get ahead of myself, let's backtrack a bit. I'll admit, though: how I came to be working part-time at Mr. Johnson's local grocer is background info so long and cliché it's almost boring. Normally I wouldn't even bother telling it, but the rest of the story just wouldn't be the same without it, so hear me out.

It starts with the fact that one of my best friends, Clyde Donovan, is a fucking horndog and needs to learn to prioritize with his brain, not his dick. This wasn't news to me, mind you. I mean, Clyde's a big goofy dork and I love the guy...when he's not prattling on about girls and how he wants to sleep with them and how many he's gotten numbers from and especially when he whines about getting rejected. With him, it gets old so fast it could set world records. And let me tell you something about Clyde that really speaks volumes of his character: the kid not only had porno mags in the fourth grade, but he'd categorized his 400+ collection alphabetically, by date, and favoritism, and had them expertly stashed in a compartment under his bed that you couldn't open unless you tugged on the string attached to the door a certain way. Look, we'd all seen porn when we were nine-years-old, but if any of us owned any that didn't belong to our parents, it was one or two issues and we certainly didn't care that much about them.

Anyway, so, long story short: Clyde's a horny bastard, but I already knew that. When we were playing Call of Duty 4 on Token's Xbox 360 the Monday before spring break junior year, however, Clyde managed to confirm that, well, times had not changed in the past seven years.

It had started innocently enough.

"So, I was thinking about asking Red to junior prom, guys," Clyde had said, and it was really random, too. We weren't even talking about anything before he said it, we'd been five minutes into a new round, and I think what we were talking about, like, ten minutes ago was something along the lines of which 'N Sync member we'd all go gay for.

Token and I were silent after Clyde had spoken. It wasn't that we honestly cared, though, more that it wasn't important enough for me to interrupt tossing a grenade at Token's hiding spot behind a decrepit building as he shot at me with his AK-47. For the record, I ended up killing him.

"Why Red?" Token finally bothered to ask as he waited for his character to respawn.

Here's where it stopped being so innocent.

"Because, dude," Clyde said, his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth as he half-concentrated on the game. "You know guys always get laid when they take a girl to a dance, and I heard she's totally great in the sack."

I had been winning for the past ten minutes, but when Clyde said that, I accidentally pressed my right trigger, shot a rocket into a nearby wall, consequently killed myself, and allowed Token to take the lead. I would've flipped my shit at this point (brutalizing my friends at video games is very important to me) if I wasn't too fixated on what Clyde had just said to even say anything myself.

"Who told you that?" Token demanded, sounding faintly annoyed.

"Kenny McCormick!" Clyde answered, sounding way too cheerful and bubbly for the stuff coming out of his mouth. "And you know it's legit with Kenny. He's done, like, everyone."

Token scowled at that, but said nothing further. He would be mad. Guy's had a crush on Red since the sixth grade. The only reason he didn't care when Clyde mentioned asking her to prom in the first place is because Token is the greatest best friend in the entire world. It was only when Clyde introduced his ulterior motives that Token gave a shit. Let Clyde the Perv talk about boning any girl he wanted to, but the minute you drag Red into this, Token suddenly has to control his inner Hulk. You couldn't really blame Clyde too much for being tactless about this particular girl, though, because I was the only one who Token had told about the crush.

Anyway, even with Clyde making an ass of himself, Token still valued him as his friend just a little more than choosing to start an argument, so he kept quiet. That left the blunt insults to me, but, then again, that had always been my self-appointed job.

"You are some kind of dumb shit, you know that?" I sighed, shaking my head. I picked up my controller from where I had dropped it in my internal bitchfit from earlier and started playing again. "Kenny makes stuff up all the time. He hasn't done 'everyone' and Red is a bit classier than that poor asshole anyway."

"Yeah, dude, and she's pretty tough," Token added defensively. "I heard she gave Jason Miller a black eye for trying to get to second base with her. She'd murder you if you pull anything like that—Hey, aw, no!"

I had shot him while he was talking.

"Oh, you guys!" Clyde chortled—yes, chortled, like what we were saying was the silliest fucking thing in the world. "I love that you worry about me, but I'll be fine! In fact, I'm more than fine; I'm like the hottest thing at school right now. I turned Bebe Stevens down last Thursday, did you know?"

No one wants to explicitly embarrass their best friend (that, and detailing here how much we ripped on him would take too long) so let's just say that this comment from Clyde spurned about ten minutes of Token and I bagging on him about how Bebe turned him down and how he'd cream himself for ten minutes with just her red sweater. He could only blush and stubbornly persist something about how Bebe was old news: "been there, done that".

Also, I killed Clyde and Token seven times, while they got me twice.

Eventually we got here:

"I'll show you guys. Watch, I'll make Red's fucking week and ask her tomorrow."

Our game finished ten seconds later (with me as the victor), and by the time eight o'clock Monday morning rolled around, I had forgotten we'd even had this conversation. The last thing I cared about right now was whether or not Clyde was going to get a date to a stupid dance and then fuck her afterward. One, I already knew he wasn't going to do either of those things; two, anything even remotely related to dances or girls or Clyde's problems makes the top five list of things I enjoy thinking about the least; and three, I had problems of my own.

So, that movie I mentioned earlier, the one I wrote and directed about the kid who was struggling with his place in reality, the one Token starred in and quite lovingly continues to remark to me as being "one whopper of a shitty idea"? Yeah, that was the last project I had worked on and that was over nine months ago. Nine. I'd never gone that long without making a movie, even a little one. It was weird and it was unpleasant. I'd also had a long-term goal (whose term was getting shorter and shorter) of applying to some top-notch film school next year with a kickass portfolio, so this hiatus really wasn't helping my cause.

I used to carry my video camera around with me in my backpack so I could capture anything I found interesting and then hopefully use it for something later, but I realized that this was an invitation for theft, which I honestly wouldn't have put past the assholes at this school. Then I started bringing a notebook everywhere specifically for jotting down ideas as they came to me, but for some reason, inspiration was taking its sweet fucking time. I spent every waking moment where my mind wasn't occupied with anything else thinking of something engaging to make a movie about, so I sure as hell had no time for Clyde and how clueless he was.

Eight o'clock shows up, though, and turns out Clyde did end up asking Red. I was at my locker while they were about ten rows away at hers, and I saw it all happen. Clyde cornered her, attempting to be suave while she appeared hugely confused, like an unsuspecting rodent being circled by a hungry (or, in this case, horny) falcon. His voice carried over to where I stood, and I distinctly heard his winner of an opening line: "Hey, baby, you tired? Because you've been running through my mind all day."

Chuckling, I nonchalantly shut my locker and walked to first period.

I had hoped that, after the aforementioned rodent-falcon scene from this morning, we were done with this whole stupid fiasco and could move on with our lives. Unfortunately, while I sat idly and innocently trying to tug open a bag of baby carrots during lunch, I watched in grave irritation as Clyde stalked over from what-the-hell-ever direction, looking like someone pissed in his soda. I assumed the worst and attempted to run while I could.

He caught me before I was halfway out of my seat, though, and, sighing really loudly, I was forced to slide back into my chair and pray God would have mercy on me for the next twenty minutes of whining.

"You-!" was all he could say, which was fine. It was all I needed to hear to know exactly what was going on. Plus, the less of his bitching I had to hear, the better.

"Did she reject you, buddy?" I relented, glancing at him with half a smirk.

"You knew this was going to happen!"

"Calm down, tiger. I'm not psychic, just intuitive. What'd she say, exactly?"

He folded his arms, looking extra cross. "Oh, wouldn't you like to know…"

No, truthfully, I really wouldn't, but caring seemed to come with the whole "friendship" package, so I feigned some interest. Luckily, Token walked up right about here, so I didn't have to suffer alone.

"Did Clyde get rejected?" he asked curiously, though I'm sure he knew right off the bat as well as I did. Clyde doesn't just stand around seething unless some unnecessarily-blown-out-of-proportion "disaster" occurs.

"See? Token's intuitive, too."

"Hey, Craig, buddy, shut up," Clyde growled. "For your guys' information, I did not get rejected."

I balanced my elbow upon the lunch table and leaned my cheek against my open palm, watching Clyde in amusement. "Tell me, did she seem at all put off as you put the moves on her?"

Clyde was silent for a moment, looking-I kid you not-honestly confused. "She did. I even used these really kickass pick-up lines I got on the internet. I don't know why they didn't work…"

One could only wonder.

Unfortunately, he seemed to remember that he was pissed at me for whatever reason and got right back to it. "Yeah, and then she went on to say that she already had a guy in mind to ask. Wonder who it could be, Craig?"

I groaned loudly, hands instantly flying to grip my temples in frustration. It seemed like every consecutive thing Clyde said kept turning into the last thing I wanted to hear, but this one definitely took the cake.

"God, don't tell me she wants to ask me."

I felt lucky knowing that Clyde's eyes couldn't shoot lasers because I'd probably have died quite early into this conversation. He continued to seethe as violently as he could possibly muster instead, which seemed like an adequate response to what I had asked him, seeing as how I was beginning to feel the same way.

Token, once again being the most sickeningly sweetheart of a bro any guy could ask for, appeared not to share our sentiments. On the contrary, he looked downright cheerful. "She's totally into you, man. Any guy would kill to be with her, so do us all a favor and take advantage of that."

I don't know whom he was referring to when he said "us all", but I know for a fact that this entire situation benefitted me in the very least. I did not want to go to this dance or any dances for that matter. They're expensive. They're a waste of time. The music sucks, and I can't dance anyway. The people I'd have to socialize with are the kids who actually like doing this crap (coincidentally the same group of kids I'd least like to be stuck in a high school gym with). And don't get me started on all the drama that comes out of the woodwork even after the night is over. The whole school being like, "oh are you guys going out? How CUTE," or, "you look so GREAT TOGETHER. Blah blah blah blah!" and I never get to hear the end of it.

I wish I could say I was overreacting, except this happened to me during Sadie Hawkins freshman year (y'know, the same year where you make mistakes like this that you try to never repeat again in the following three years). What's even worse is that this is the same girl, which means my obvious option of turning her down really isn't an option at all. If Red's going to ask me to that godforsaken dance, I just…I can't say no. If Eric Fatass Cartman can walk all over me when it comes to his get-rich-quick schemes, imagine how much harder a time I have when a cute girl's emotions are on the line. And, God, if I say yes, I'm going to have to go and it's going to suck. You'd think suffering through one evening wouldn't be so bad, but if she still wants to go out with me (as she made quite vocally apparent the first time around), I'm going to have one hell of a time getting out of it.

It's just going to be one never-ending nightmare after another. Just the thought was making me nauseous.

"Christ, are you kidding me?" I moaned.

Clyde suddenly slammed his fist on the table, making both Token and I jump. "You are not allowed to say no, you woman-stealing bastard! I did not bust my ass getting rejected by the girl who's going to get rejected by you! That is crap."

"What, you don't wanna go with her?" Token looked at me like I was crazy. "Red's hot, why not?"

"If she's so hot, why don't you ask her?" I demanded, aggravated.

"Dude, I would, but it sounds like she's pretty sold on your scrawny ass." Which was bullshit. Token's pretty confident about most things, but when it comes to Red, he's pathetically shy. He turns into a stuttering mass of stupid just being in the same room with the girl.

"Do you want people thinking you're gay?" Clyde suddenly interrupted. "They're gonna think you're gay, y'know, if you don't say yes. More importantly, they're gonna think I'm gay if I got rejected by the girl who got rejected by a gay kid."

"Your logic in that train of thought was almost as astounding as the blatant homophobia," Token mumbled. He turned to me again. "You really don't want to? Why can't you just say no?"

"I'm a goddamn pushover when it comes to this shit, you know that."

"Just face it, then, dude," he declared, putting a hand on my shoulder, "she wants you. Take it like a man."

Then Clyde, who, as of a minute ago, had been staring fixedly across the room, suddenly declared, "Hey, Heidi is totally checking me out, you guys. You think she'll say yes if I ask her to prom after seventh period?"

Jesus, this kid moves fast.

"I thought you were mad at me," I said plainly, staring at him.

Clyde waved his hand dismissively. "Water under the bridge. I've got a good feeling about this one."

"Does this mean your pride isn't on the line anymore if I say no?"

"No-fucking-way, dude! Now we can double-date!"

After that, Token and Clyde (now hugely invested in me going to this stupid dance) began discussing places Clyde and I could takes the dates we didn't even have yet for dinner the night of. I was then forced to sit, head in palm, and listen to these traitors plot my demise for another five minutes.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whose side you're on), I reflectively remembered that I'd blown the last of my money on repairing my video camera, as well as a new movie-editing program for my computer and other miscellaneous equipment, last Saturday. It's not like I planned to be broke just in time for this crisis, but if I had known last week that some girl was going to ask me to prom in a few days, I would have splurged more.

I told the boys all of this, and I figured I had finally weaseled my way out of this horrible situation, even when Token retorted with, "dude, even Kenny 'I eat cold waffles for dinner every night' McCormick somehow managed to save up for a ticket." I didn't care how many poor kids were able to save enough money for this dance; that wasn't going to change how expensive it was going to be. Most importantly enough, it's not like I simply had no money in my wallet: I'd just spent four hundred dollars.

Best four hundred dollars I've ever spent, though, if I do say so myself, even if it did mean I had to get a two-month advance on my allowance and essentially offer my dad my soul for the next summer. The first thing I did with my new junk was splice together a bunch of old clips I had of us pushing Clyde off this little bridge over the creek by Stark's Pond (which, I might add, is how I broke the camera in the first place). I was amazed at how much footage I had stored of that, and it made a real knee-slapper of a three-minute montage when placed against the Benny Hill theme.

Clyde was not having any of my excuses, though, apparently. "You can get a job! Prom isn't for another month and a half."

"Yeah, about time you got one," Token added.

"I can hook you up!" Clyde continued excitedly.

"I'm not getting a job just so I can go to something I don't want to go to-"

That was when I thought about it, all of it: why I didn't want to go to this stupid dance, why I couldn't, why I didn't even want to be thinking about any of this in the first place. Then I thought about the prospect of having a job and why I had never had one. The joys of the almighty dollar aside, a job meant I would have to interact with a bunch of people I probably didn't like. I would have to take orders from some cranky old asshole and wake up early and stay late doing shit I didn't even know how to do and most likely didn't want to do. Talk about punching holes in comfort zones; this was starting to sound almost as unappealing as going to the dance in the first place. I was supposed to be working on my next movie, not dealing with all this crap.

That's when I got the most brilliant idea. It wasn't even so much that I got the idea as the idea itself swung a sack full of bricks in my face.

"…A job. That's it."

Token and Clyde exchanged glances at this, but I was too busy being deliriously excited to alleviate their confusion. In fact, that I suddenly sounded so excited was probably what made them confused in the first place. Few things excite me, and the way I physically expressed this foreign emotion was actually pretty awkward: a fraction higher of a pitch in my tone and (as I've been told) this creepy twinkle in my eye. Once in a blue moon I even smile in a way that isn't patronizing and sarcastic.

"Clyde, you said you'd get me one, right? You work at a grocery store?" I demanded, feeling anxious even as I spoke the words. When he slowly nodded, I cracked one of those weird genuinely pleased smiles. "Perfect…"

It seemed like the two had shared a telepathic rock-paper-scissors game in that look a second ago, to see who would be brave enough to ask me what the hell was going on, because Token had to nudge a nervously confused Clyde before the kid said anything. "So you'll take it then?"


"And you'll go with Red to the prom…?"


As I said this and watched my two friends take a minute to process what had just happened, the bell for sixth period rang, bringing with it a resounding scrapping of chairs, rattling of trays, and amplified chatter of teenagers all around the room. With that, I shot up from my seat, grabbing my tray of untouched food and tossing it (tray and all) in the trash, before I bolted out the cafeteria doors. I was on a mission and first things first: I didn't need anything (or anyone) distracting me.

About five minutes after I'd left the cafeteria, I found Red at her locker, supposedly changing out her books but really fixing her makeup. I strolled in her direction, pretending as if I was going to pass her but making sure to put myself directly in her line of sight as I did.

Just as planned, she caught me walking behind her in the reflection of her mirror. I watched the look of surprised delight cross her face before she spun around, slamming her locker shut in the process and reaching out to tug on the sleeve of my jacket.

"Craig! Can I ask you something?" she asked. I said nothing as I allowed her to guide me by my sleeve away from the middle of the hall, but silence was typical behavior of mine so she didn't appear to mind.

She released me when we got to her locker, tucking hair behind her ear before hiding her hands behind her back in a posture that I guess was supposed to be innocent. I also noted that she was several inches shorter than me; if I was a normal guy I'd probably find this adorable, but unfortunately for her, I was still Craig.

"I was talking to Clyde this morning about junior prom and it reminded me that, even though it's all the way at the end of May, it is coming up, and I don't want the person I actually want to go with to get asked before it's too late!"

Ouch. Sorry, Clyde.


"So…are you going?" she asked sweetly. I found it a bit obnoxious that she didn't just get to the point, but whatever. I played along so it didn't feel like I just came here with the intent of rejecting her.


This made her smile. "Well, do you want to?"

"…I'm pretty sure I just said I'm not going."

Then she giggled, for God's sake, and I was almost afraid my guilt would force me to change my mind. "No, I meant with me!"


I sighed, crossing my arms and leaning against the lockers. She could already sense that this was not going according to plan, and her face faltered. "Look," I started, glancing sideways at her. "It's nothing against you, honestly. I just don't want to go. I think dances are kind of lame."

Red was silent after that, and I made myself look away because, God help me, if her eyes showed so much as a hint of moisture, I was going to flip my shit. I quickly continued talking. "You know what, though, you really don't want to go with me."

"But…" I heard her say, and thankfully there wasn't a trace of a sob anywhere in there. "You're really cute and smart and…"

"Boring. You know who's really cute and smart and actually fun, though?" I risked making eye contact (no tears, though, thank God) and gave her a genuine grin. "Token. He can play bass guitar and do magic tricks, too. And he doesn't have a date! And, best part, he was just telling me today that you have gorgeous eyes and a breathtaking smile and he thinks your laugh is cute." That last part was a lie: he didn't tell me that today, he told me that last week and the week before and every week before that, it felt like. Oh, and he told me it yesterday after Clyde went home after our video game. He'd probably tell me this again today anyway, so I guess it was only half a lie.

"Yeah?" she said, brightening noticeably.

"Yup. And I can guarantee you that if you ask him right now, he will most definitely not be an asshole and say no." I paused. "Also, if anyone asks, you turned me down." If I was doing Token a favor, I might as well do Clyde one too.

She smiled distantly. "Well, thanks, Craig. I think I will ask him." She turned back to her locker, grabbed a book, and shut it. I shifted to let her pass as she began to move in my direction, but instead of walking by, she pulled her arm back and socked me in the arm.

I'm not going to lie, that actually hurt like hell. I pulled back in alarm, gripping the spot and rubbing at it tenderly while staring at her like she was batshit insane, which I wouldn't have been too surprised to discover.

"No offense, but I wasn't going to cry, dumbass, not over some boy," she said before sauntering past me. "See you in history."

Long, long story short, I ended up explaining my whole plan to Clyde and Token on the bus after school. Since Red had managed to ask Token to prom at whatever time they had ran into each that day, he was happy enough not caring why I did anything. Even Clyde, who had used the same stupid pick-up line on Heidi, somehow landed a date. So that, combined with the fact that he still had a buddy in Token to double date with, meant he wasn't peeved in the slightest.

Clyde had to go to work after we reached the bus stop, and he promised to talk to his boss about me when he got there. Later that night, as I was half-doing my homework, half-practicing drawing old people on my homework paper, my younger sister Beatrix kicked the door of my room open, toting Clyde on the house phone in her right hand. I think I caught her saying something like, "I've been yelling at you to get the phone for three minutes, you deaf idiot," as I shoved her out of my room, but it all sounds like gibberish coming out of that little gremlin. Clyde then kindly informed me that his boss wanted to meet me tomorrow after school.

Before I knew it, it was a week and a half later on Friday, April the ninth, the first day of spring break, and I was standing in the middle of Johnson's Grocer donning a macaroni-colored smock and a nametag inviting people to approach me and ask what aisle had the pork rinds or RC cola. I had a dirty mop gripped in my right fist and a bout of optimism swelling in my chest as I surveyed the store before me: the rows of food-stocked shelves, the Campbell's soup can display, the flickering yellow lights above, the scuffed linoleum. Despite my pessimism toward the idea of a job, I had good feelings about this place.

For someone native to a small town I didn't know much about anyone, let alone Mr. Johnson. It was probably because I was such a big recluse, but who can tell, really. The extent of my knowledge of this man was that he lived two houses from where my elementary school's old cafeteria chef used to live and really liked to go jogging in the same blue tracksuit at four in the morning every day. But the store he ran on the corner at the end of South Park's Main Street was pretty legit; a cute, small grocery business that succeeded in keeping me from feeling like a sleezy tool. All I had to do was bag groceries for old ladies and mop up the same clean spot about five times a day, and I got paid $8.50 an hour, which seemed reasonable enough. All this extra cash would come in handy later down the line; I did need a new tripod, after all.

And the best part of all was how this factored into my new movie. I don't know why I never tried fishing for inspiration in an unfamiliar situation like getting a job, but, the potential this particular little godsend of a gig had in producing my next big hit was endless. A documentary, a mocumentary, a tragic romance, a apocalyptic horror, a slice-of-life comedy, a psychological action-thriller—I could already see it all from behind my cash register, the store coming to life through my imagination's eye in ways the milling customers had no idea they were a part of.

It was beautiful. Nothing was going to stand in my way now. Nothing was going to detract me from my vision. All I had to do was live and my muse would hit me before I knew it.

I just had no idea how hard.