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Authors: Maria Padian

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BOOK: Out of Nowhere
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That’s one thing you can say about luck: it’s not fair.

The sun was setting by the time Uncle Paul released us. Most of the wood was stacked, we had bills in our pockets (he’d paid us ten bucks an hour—sweet), and I told Donnie I’d give him a lift home. As we pulled out of Paul’s driveway, I signaled left, toward Donnie’s neighborhood, but he reached over the steering wheel and flipped the directional.

“Other way, son,” he said. He settled back in the passenger seat with this mysterious smile on his face.

“This had better be good,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” he said.

“Where am I going?”

“Head out of town. Due east. I’m hungry.”

We ended up at McDonald’s, and over a Quarter Pounder and shake I got Donnie to tell me what was up.

“So last night? Morin and I drove to Maquoit.”

“That’s a long way to go to do donuts.”

“I know, right. Anyway, near the back parking lot, right next to the refreshment stand—”

“Wait. What parking lot?”

“Dude, the
school
parking lot.”

“You went to Maquoit High School? I thought you just went to town.”

“That’s what I’m telling you. At the
school
, there is this building where they keep all their supplies. I mean, everything from
lacrosse goals to rakes. Morin and I were checking it out, and it was unlocked.”

I laughed. “Gimme a break, Donnie.”

“Seriously, man, there was a latch for a padlock, but the lock was nowhere. I swear.” He leaned back, put both hands up, and made his eyes go all round and innocent. I’d seen that look before.

“Fine. The shed was conveniently unlocked. So?”

“We found the paint. And brushes. You know, that they use for their rock and bridge?”

Maquoit High School is not only known in our conference for its over-the-top athletics; it’s also known for the rock and bridge. The cement walls that line the old bridge leading into Maquoit, plus this massive rock behind the school, are time-honored spots for painted displays of school spirit. Every time they win something they slap on more black and red. It’s so thick, sometimes it peels off in huge, gummy sheets.

“What did you do?” I asked him.

“Nothing. Morin is such a chickenshit. But I know how much
you
love Maquoit, Tom-boy.”

He had me there. Years of getting crushed by Maquoit had made me a hater for sure. I could live with the fact that most of their players drilled in a private dome all winter, hired personal trainers, and even traveled to Europe to play. That was just their luck, to be rich and able to afford all those extras. What bugged the crap out of me was that their coach let them run up the score against schools like ours, where none of the guys belong to private club teams. And let them act all chest-bumping proud of kickin’ our butts.

“What did you have in mind?” I said.

We waited until it was completely dark before pulling into the school. The parking lot was empty, and I cut my lights as we drove around back. I parked near the rock, and Donnie led me toward a long shadow, which turned out to be a supply shed. One of the doors swung easily open.

“You were telling the truth,” I said as we stepped inside.

“I always tell the truth, Tom-boy. It’s my downfall,” he said. He was stumbling around in the dark. “I’m gonna turn on the light.”

An overhead bulb revealed the contents of the shed: nets, goals, balls, grills, tarps … gallon buckets of paint. A plastic tub filled with brushes.

“Bingo,” Donnie said softly.

It probably took us a full hour to cover the rock in black paint; that mother is huge. We started with brushes, but then Donnie, impatient, just started dumping. Whole gallons. I had to explain to him that if he did that we’d be there all night waiting for it to dry so we could write the words in red.

“See, that’s why we’re such a good team,” he said. “I come up with the ideas, but you know how to execute.”

We decided to turn on the headlights of the car just long enough to write
You suck, Maquoit!
There weren’t any houses nearby, and we figured we’d do it quick, then peel out. Still, I was starting to get a little nervous; it felt like we’d been there a long time.

“C’mon, let’s go,” I said when we’d finished the lettering.

“Not until we put all our supplies away,” Donnie said. “Cleanup time is the most important time, Tom-boy.” He giggled. Like he was high.

“Don, seriously, let’s
go
,” I said.

“No, really, I want them to find all the buckets and brushes right where they were in the shed.” He grabbed a couple of the now-empty paint cans and took off into the shadows. I grabbed the others, plus the brushes, and followed.

Here’s the thing about luck: it doesn’t have to lock you in. I mean, yeah, it sets you up. Donald Trump’s kid is set up for college and yachts, while the kid whose dad got fired from the paper mill is set up for cavities because now they can’t afford the dentist.

But you still have choices, no matter how big or small your luck quotient is.

So it was not-great luck that some random cop, on his usual rounds, happened to drive by my dad’s car, parked next to the rock, just as Donnie and I were putting the empty paint buckets back in the shed. But it was choice that brought me there to begin with. I could’ve gone straight home and called Cherisse that night. Taken us both out for a nice dinner and movie with the money I’d earned from Uncle Paul.

Instead, I was in a shed, red paint wet on my hands, a flashlight aimed in my eyes, when a deep voice boomed, “Maquoit police. Put your hands up and step outside.”

Chapter Four

Until you’ve been on the other side of it, you don’t know how scary The Law can be. Those guys in the uniforms who visit elementary schools with the cute crime dog … what’s his name, McNab? McGruff? … and pass out goody bags?
Not
your friends. At least, not if they think they caught you doing something. You might have believed once upon a time that their job was to look out for you, but if you cross over? To the bad guys’ side? They are out to get you. And all those things you always took for granted, like soccer, your reputation, your future … they’re suddenly not so sure. It’s a whole new world, with a whole new vocabulary.

Like “criminal mischief.” That’s what Donnie and I did, apparently. They didn’t tell us that right away. First, Officer Smiley (not his real name) marched us out of the shed, demanded to know our names and what we were doing, and, when Donnie tried to sweet-talk our way out of it, made us get into his cruiser. I wanted to punch Donnie at that moment. The guy has no sense. I mean, you do not—do
not
—get into long conversations with the police. Simple, short answers to basic questions. Silence, if you’re not sure
how to answer. Don’t lie, but don’t offer anything. It’s not like I knew this from experience, but when I got my license last year, Uncle Paul took me aside and gave me some pointers based on
his
experience.

I have no idea whether the cop had a weapon drawn. But in the dark, with that tone in his voice, it felt like he did. Next thing I knew, me and Donnie were in separate interrogation rooms at the Maquoit police station, and they were asking me if we’d been drinking, how we’d gotten in, what were we doing there, that sort of thing. Not a warm and fuzzy conversation, despite my best efforts to convince them that, appearances aside, I was an upstanding citizen.

Because the door
was
unlocked (turns out the grounds guy at Maquoit is constantly forgetting to padlock the shed) and we didn’t destroy or steal anything, it wasn’t breaking and entering. But writing
You suck, Maquoit!
on their rock was considered tampering with someone else’s property, and that’s criminal mischief. I looked it up online, after the cops finally called my wicked upset parents, who picked us up at the police station. Donnie, too, since no one answered the phone at his house.

That was a fun car ride. First, we had to return to the rock-with-the-still-wet-paint to pick up the car I’d left there. And Don, who just
can’t
keep his big mouth shut to save his life, made it even better. We three Bouchards were silent as Dad pulled out of the station parking lot. But not Donnie. He launched right in.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bouchard, you need to know, this was
not
Tom’s idea. This was all my fault and I dragged Tom into it because I needed a ride. He actually didn’t want to—”

“It doesn’t matter whose bright idea this was,” Mom interrupted.
“The problem is that neither of you boys realized it was a
bad
idea.” She spoke in that way she has when it comes out all quiet but you feel like you’re getting screamed at. Actually, you’d prefer getting screamed at. Precise, clipped words, hissed from clenched jaws and razor-sharp. Ouch.

“I’ll call John Cantor first thing in the morning,” Dad said quietly to Mom.

“Of course!” she said in disgust. “What do you think his retainer will be?”

“Who’s John Cantor?” Don murmured to me.

“Lawyer friend of my dad’s,” I replied under my breath. Even in the dark car, I could see his eyes widen.

“Oh man, you don’t think we need lawyers, do you?” he said to my parents. That’s when I kicked him. “Ouch! What the heck, Tom?” he exclaimed.

My mother wheeled around in the seat, straining against her seat belt.

“What part of ‘this is serious’ do you not understand?” she seethed.

When we arrived at the rock, I stayed in the car with Dad. “Sorry, dude,” I muttered to Don. You don’t want to know the look he gave me, but as he and Mom drove off in the darkness to his house, I figured he deserved it.

Once back chez Bouchard, it took me less than two minutes on Google to find the meaning of
serious:
“A person is guilty of criminal mischief if that person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly: (a) damages or destroys the property of another, or (b) tampers with the property of another, having no reasonable grounds to believe that the person has the right to do so.”

Criminal mischief carries up to a year in jail, plus fines. Now
that
sucks. Even if it does earn you epic props at school.

It’s not like there was a banner with my name draped over the front doors of Joshua Chamberlain High School on Monday morning, but there might as well have been. I mean, I had spoken to
no one
besides the police, my parents, and John Cantor. Whose fee, if I got charged and he got hired, would be five thousand dollars. That was just to retain him. After that, he’d bill my parents by the hour. So long, college money. What little my parents had saved, anyway.

Oh, and Cherisse. Who called me on my cell late Sunday night. Which, of course, is how word got out. No one can spread a fire faster than Cherisse Ouellette. She programs her phone to simultaneously dial, email, and text everyone she knows the very moment she has a scrap of information worth sharing. And Cherisse knows a lot of people eager to gobble up her scraps.

“That sucks!” she exclaimed when I told her what happened at the rock. Correction: it’s what she said after I told her that I was grounded as a result of what happened at the rock. “For how long?”

“Indefinitely,” I said. “Hopefully they’ll let me out of the house for graduation.”

She made a sound bordering on a wail.

“But I can come over, right?” she said. “They’ll let you see me?”

I didn’t tell Cherisse that she was probably the last person in Enniston my mom would allow over during my groundation.

“I doubt it,” I said. “They’re pretty mad.”

I heard a bona fide wail.

“Look on the bright side,” I replied. “As long as I’m under house arrest, I can get my college apps finished. So when they spring me, we’ll have more time to hang out.”

“I don’t want you to go to college,” she said in this pouty-little-girl voice. “Promise me you won’t go.”

“If I don’t get the apps done, it’s pretty much a promise,” I said quietly.

“Yay!” Cherisse said. “But if you have to go, go to U. Maine. So I can visit you. Or maybe I’ll go there, too. Wouldn’t that be cool? If we went to college together?” I tried to imagine my mother’s face if she heard that suggestion.

“Yeah, sure. And who knows? Maybe I’ll go for free.”

“Free?” Cherisse asked.

“Yeah. All Maine valedictorians can attend the University of Maine for no charge.”

“Wait. You’re number one in our class?” She sounded skeptical.

“Well … no. I’m number three right now. Liz Painchaud is number one. But they’ll recalculate in January, so you never know.”

“God, that girl is such a dweeb,” Cherisse said with a laugh. “Didya see what she was wearing yesterday?”

“Uh … didn’t notice, actually.” There was a pause. I had less than zero interest in talking about Liz Painchaud’s fashion mistakes.

“You should totally beat her,” Cherisse finally said. “But God, I can’t believe I date a geek! Number three!”

“Sorry. Don’t tell anyone, okay?”

“But you’re such a
hot
geek, Tom Bouchard.” Another pause. “Have I told you recently how hot you are?”

“Kind of an oxymoron,” I said, laughing.

“What?”

“Hot geek,” I repeated. “You know, like jumbo shrimp? It’s an oxymoron.”

“No, I mean, you’re really
smart
, Tommy. Not a moron!” Cherisse persisted.

There was a tap on my bedroom door at that point. Mom, carrying an armload of folded laundry. I signed off with Cherisse (I didn’t have the energy to explain that an oxymoron is not a moron), who evidently spent the rest of the night texting most of Joshua Chamberlain High School that Tom Bouchard was a juvenile delinquent.

I would’ve been good with hot geek.

I hadn’t even made it to my first class when it started. Seriously, I walked into the crowded lobby and heard, “Hey, Bouchard! Maquoit sucks!” People laughed. Someone else called out, “Tom, you’re the man,” and a few others cheered. Of course, the vice principal was hall monitor that morning, and he moved right in. He materialized at my side like he’d been waiting for me.

“That’s enough, people,” he said loudly. I felt his hand on my elbow. “Tom, you’re to head straight to guidance.”

BOOK: Out of Nowhere
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