AUTHOR'S NOTE: I find it only fair to warn you, this one is one of my darker fanfics. As always, The Impossibles and Big D belong to Hanna-Barbera. Everyone else you encounter belongs to me.
It was a Saturday afternoon at Megatropolis Mall. Sixteen-year-old Jamie Phelps was spending the day at the mall's arcade with his best friend, Billy Bradley, and kicking his butt in air hockey. Jamie managed to get the puck, and he shot it into the goal.
"I win again," he said. "That makes three wins in a row. Hey, I'm on a roll today!"
"I hate this game," Billy grumbled, practically throwing his mallet on the table.
"You've said that about every game we've played here today," Jamie said, setting his own mallet down, and following his friend. "What, just because I beat you at everything . . . . ."
"You don't have to rub it in my face!" Billy snapped. "I can whip you any time, you know! And I usually do! I let you win everything, you know that? I let you win!"
"No you didn't," Jamie said. "What's the matter with you, anyway, Billy?"
"Come on, man, you can tell me. I know when something's up."
"Nothing is up, so just drop it, okay?"
Jamie dropped it. He knew Billy was testy. He'd been that way for awhile now, ever since his mother died from cancer four months ago. Since then, his father had begun to drink, which cost him his job, so his twenty-year-old sister, Judy, had no choice but to get a job, just so the family could make ends meet. Fights between Billy and Judy were appearing more than usual, as well. Not only that, but both Billy and Judy would get into huge shouting matches with their father. Billy's schoolwork was starting to suffer as well, which only made the fighting among the family a lot worse. The only peace and quiet Billy ever got was when he was out of the house.
"I gotta tell ya, Jaim," he said, as he loaded a couple of quarters into a pinball machine. "I hate it at my place!"
"I know," Jamie said. "You've only told me about a hundred times in the past couple of months."
"You're lucky you have a normal, functional family!"
"I wouldn't say that. And I wouldn't say your family is dysfunctional, either. You're just going through some tough times since your mom . . . . ."
"Yeah, well . . . . I don't want to talk about that right now, okay, Jaim?"
"Yeah, okay, Billy."
Jamie then watched his friend take his frustrations out on the pinball machine. He knew Billy didn't like talking about his mother, and he really couldn't blame him.
"Look man, I know you don't want to talk about it," he said. "But if you ever want to, I'm here for ya. You know that, right?"
"Yeah, I know," Billy said. "But living at my place has become a pain in the neck! First my mom . . . . . well . . . . ."
"Yeah . . . . ." Jamie said. "I know."
"Yeah," Billy said, and then he cleared his throat. "Anyway, after that, my dad starts drinking and he loses his job because he got caught drinking booze on the job, so now my sister has to take on two jobs just so we can pay our bills . . . . . and she's trying to talk me into taking a job as well . . . . . and my dad isn't even trying to get a new job . . . . let me tell ya something, Jamie, it is the pits!"
Jamie nodded. He really couldn't say much. Sure, he had his troubles with his own family (who didn't?) but they were never quite like Billy's troubles. After about ten more minutes of practically killing the pinball machine, Billy stopped, and he and Jamie left the arcade. Jamie had to find a pay phone so he could call his parents for a lift home from the mall.
"Doesn't it bug you that your folks won't let you have a car?" Billy asked.
"They can't afford another car," Jamie shrugged. "Besides which, I flunked Driver's Ed."
"But you have to rely on your parents all the time for rides and stuff. Doesn't that make you feel like a little kid?"
"Not really. It just shows they're looking out for you, ya know?"
"Not mine. My dad couldn't care less about what I do. That's why I'm gonna leave for Hollywood."
"What are you gonna do in Hollywood?"
"Become famous overnight, of course! I've got the looks, I've got the talent, I've got the charisma! All I need is to get outta this place!"
"And just how are you gonna get to Hollywood anyway, genius? You don't have a car, and I doubt your sister'll give you a lift."
Billy walked over to a bench, grumbling, and sat down to wait while Jamie made his phone call. Jamie just sighed, and put a couple of quarters into the phone. Someone finally picked up after about three rings.
"Hi, Dad," he said. "Yeah, Billy and I are finished here. We'll probably hit the food court for a couple of sodas on the way out, though, so we'll wait for you outside there, okay? Great, thanks. Bye."
Jamie hung up, and he and Billy started for the food court. They grabbed a soda at one of the counters, and then went outside to wait for Jamie's father.
"I'm headed west tonight, Jamie-boy," Billy said. "The next time you see me, it'll be on the big screen, playing right in this mall!"
"Yeah," Jamie said. "Billy Bradley stars in Rebel Without a Clue."
"You don't think I can do it, do you? Well you just watch me."
"Billy, come on, man. You've gotta be nutso. What's your dad think about you going out to Hollywood?"
"Psh. You'd think I'd tell him? Please. The only thing he's concerned about is running out of Budweisers before the weekend!"
"I don't know. I don't think running away from home is gonna do you any good. I tried it once, and I nearly got killed by this crazy cult leader. Besides which, not only did I nearly get killed, I nearly got somebody else killed along with me! I still want to know how you're gonna get out there."
"I'll probably bike it or something."
"Bike? Geez, man, you'll never get to Hollywood that way!"
"Sheesh, you're such a dweeb, Jamie."
Jamie was about to say more, but stopped when he saw his father's car pulling up to the curb. Jamie got into the front passenger seat while Billy got into the back. When they got to Billy's house, Billy climbed out, and Jamie went out to follow him.
"Give me a couple of minutes, Dad," he said. "I gotta talk to Billy about something important, but I don't want to get you involved just yet. He might get mad."
"Sure," Dr. Phelps said, nodding. He respected his childrens' privacy. Jamie ran up to the front stoop while Billy was fishing for his house keys.
"Listen, Billy," Jamie said. "You're my best friend. We've been best friends since kindergarden. I know you're still bummed out about your mom, and I don't blame you. I mean, you don't get over this sort of thing over night. I know your mom died four months ago, but I know you don't really get over it."
"How would you know?" Billy asked. "Both your folks are still living."
"My friend, Flu . . . . I mean, my friend, Franky," Jamie said, catching himself from using Fluid Man's code name in front of Billy. Jamie was so used to calling the Impossibles by their code names, since the three of them rarely went by their given names.
"What about him?" Billy asked.
"He lost both his parents when he was three," Jamie continued. "He says you never really get over it, and he still hasn't gotten over it. I just want you to think a little more about this running away to Hollywood without telling your dad or your sister before you actually do it. And, in any case, you're just gonna chicken out."
"Yeah, well . . . . . whatever Jaim."
"You know you always chicken out! Remember you said you were gonna send that demo tape of yours to that record company? You never sent it, did you?"
Billy unlocked the front door, and went inside. Jamie sighed, and started going back to his father's car. Before he did, however, the front door opened.
"And don't you dare tell anyone about this, Jamie!" Billy shouted. "Cause if you do, you're gonna get it!"
"Good night, Billy," Jamie said, ignoring his friend's threat. Then he climbed into his father's car, and Dr. Phelps drove off.
"Having some trouble, Jaim?" Dr. Phelps asked.
"Yeah," Jamie said. "Billy's just having some issues. He says he's going out to Hollywood tonight and become an instant celebrity. But I don't think he's serious. Billy's never been serious about doing anything he says he's gonna do, anyway. Last week, he said he was gonna become a recording star overnight just by sending a demo to some recording company, but he chickened out. He'll chicken out this time again, I'm sure."
Dr. Phelps nodded. He wasn't exactly sure what the heck his son was talking about, but he decided not to press it.
At around two thirty in the morning, Billy stuffed some clothes into his backpack, and left his house, quietly. He didn't want to wake up his father, or his sister. He was pretty sure they'd never even notice he had left, not until he became famous over night, he thought.
Billy retrieved his bicycle from the side of the garage, and pedaled off. He made it to the highway a couple of hours later, stopping here and there for a burger. After awhile, he realized this was not going to get him anywhere. He needed a ride out to Hollywood. There wasn't that much traffic out on the road, but there were some vehicles passing by. So, Billy got off his bike, stuck out his thumb, and tried hitchhiking. This wasn't getting him anywhere, either, due to not much traffic, and he figured it was too dark out, and nobody could see him. He continued pedaling his bike down the highway for awhile, but stopped when he hit something in the road, resulting in a flat tire.
"Crud," he grumbled. "I'm gonna have to keep thumbing for a ride. Hollywood is too far to walk to."
Billy stood on the side of the road, and stuck his thumb out, hoping for the best. Most of the drivers passed by him completely. Finally, lady luck dealt Billy the card he was looking for. A large, white van approached, and slowed to a stop. The driver, a man in his late thirties, or early forties with dark brown hair and blue eyes, rolled down the window on the passenger side of the vehicle.
"Where ya heading, kid?" he asked.
"Hollywood," Billy said. "I'm gonna be a star overnight."
"Is that a fact?" the man said. "Well, you certainly got the looks for movie stardom. Hop in. When you're rich and famous, I'll get to tell my pals I helped you get your big break."
"Hey, thanks, man!"
"You can load your bike into the back of the van."
The man then got out of the van, and opened the back doors for Billy. Once his bike was stashed, he and Billy went back around to the front of the van, and climbed in. Once they were both in the van, and their seatbelts were buckled, the man started his car, and drove off.