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Everybody Needs Some Time - On Their Own

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“The one event every high school student looks forward to is graduation. After putting in your four years, you’re finally ready to move out into the real world and make a name for yourself.  No more homework. No more books. No more of Musso’s dirty looks.

The only problem is that when you’re too busy trying on your cap and gown and thinking about the future... you may forget what you leave behind - like your best bud.”

 

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He is sitting in their usual booth at the Atlas diner. His arms are crossed over one another on the table, with his head resting upon the sleeves of his jacket, while he’s staring at a half-filled glass of Tang and an untouched ice cream sundae. He’s sighing to no one in particular as he’s clearly lost in his thoughts and unaware that the diner has closed for the evening.

Nick is too polite to toss Jerry out.

Especially when he can clearly see that something is bothering the boy.

Nick instead continues his routine in closing the diner for the night. He’ll stop every few minutes to see if he needs anything, but Jerry ignores his inquiries. Nick continues to sweep the floor and wipe the counters, stopping only for a few moments to make a call at the payphone for backup.

When Parker Lewis and Mikey Randall arrive at the diner, Nick greets them at the door to explain the urgency of the situation.

“He’s been here for the last four hours,” Nick says calmly, but pauses for a moment to lean in closer to the boys, as if he’s sharing a secret. “He’s been nursing the same cup of Tang.”

Parker’s eyes widen as the realization sinks in and a sinking feeling develops in the pit of his stomach.  “If Jerry’s Tang is left untouched, we know there’s a situation that needs dealing with.”

Nick grants Parker and Mikey entrance to the diner as he resumes his chores, which by now involves refilling the salt and pepper shakers. They head back to their usual table -  and just as Nick described, there’s Jerry looking defeated and lifeless as he sighs once more.

Parker and Mikey halt their approach as they huddle together to discuss the situation.

“I haven’t seen Jerry look this bad since he found out that Crystal Pepsi was pulled from the shelves of grocery stores,” Mikey comments.

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“Six months ago Jerry locked himself in his bedroom for a weekend upon hearing the news about Crystal Pepsi. And if Mikey thinks we’re in for another Pepsi meltdown, then it’s time to intervene.

When a bud gets down, it is the responsibility of his other buds to step in and cheer him up. Only... I am not quite sure what has Jerry feeling this way. It’s time to step in and initiate Operation Jerry  Intervention.”

 

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Parker and Mikey slide into the booth across from Jerry with smiles on their faces - they’re ready to begin their intervention. A few moments pass as they wait for Jerry to acknowledge their presence, but  are instead  left hanging as Jerry continues to stare at his glass of Tang, still lost in this thoughts.  

Mikey leans over to Parker and quietly whispers, “Park, this may be worse than the Crystal Pepsi situation.”

“Not a problem.”  Parker doesn’t miss a beat and lets out a loud cough to get Jerry’s attention. Two blinks from Jerry and his attention is now focused back on his buds.

“Mr. Lewis? Mr. Randall?” he asks, adjusting his glasses on his nose as he lifts his head up from the table. He looks at each of them for a moment . “How long have you been here for?”

A grin spreads across Parker’s face as he begins the intervention - a perfect opportunity.  “Long enough to know that you’ve been sitting here for four hours staring at your glass of Tang.”

Jerry’s eyes drop to the glass and back across the table at his friends.

“We’re buds, Jer,” Mikey explains. “Park and I have been looking all over for you after you took off this earlier evening. We didn’t know where you went and we were worried about you.”

“I’m sorry, Sirs. Things have been a little hard to handle this week,” Jerry says as he starts to feel his cheeks blush. His lowers his eyes back to the half-filled glass of Tang, remembering what he had been doing for the past four hours. “I just needed some time alone.”

“Alone? Without your buds?” Parker pauses as his eyebrow perks up in confusion when Jerry nods his head. He knows something is wrong and continues. “Mikey and I were worried about you. We looked in all your favorite hiding places - on top of the gymnasium, inside your locker, and even in the science lab.”

“We even thought Musso had gotten to you,” Mikey adds.  “We were on our way to check in to her office when Nick let us know you were here.”

Jerry cringes at the last comment, but shakes his head once more. The last thing he wants  is for Parker and Mikey to clash with Musso for an unnecessary reason, especially one that involves him.  “Thank you for your concern, Sirs, but I just needed some space to think and clear my head.”

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“In the past a fresh glass of Tang or an ice cream sundae would cheer Jerry up. But seeing them left untouched on the table in front of us really had me concerned as to what could be the underlying problem. Was it just a simple case of the teenage blues?

As I pondered the reason, I watched as Jerry tugged on his trench coat sleeves and avoided looking at Mikey as he tried to find out what was bothering him. And there was my answer.  Jerry’s problem... was with us.”

 

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“You know Park,” Mikey says as he leans over to Parker and lowers his voice. Their eyes watch Jerry as he continues to tug on his jacket and stares at the half-filled glass of Tang and melted sundae on the table. “Maybe this situation is like what Guns N’ Roses sing about,” Mikey pauses for emphasis. “ Everybody needs some time - on their own .”

Parker’s face scrunches up in thought as he tries to place the lyric to the song. “November Rain?”

Mikey nods. “Guns N’ Roses may have a point. Maybe Jerry just needs to work out things on his own,” he thinks for a moment as Parker is now looking directly at him with a sour look on his face. “This may be too much for buds to handle.”

Parker shakes his head in disagreement. “Nothing is too much for buds to handle. Jerry needs us right now - no matter how much he may think otherwise. We just can’t give up on him.” Parker turns his head back to face Jerry. “Time to take this operation into overdrive.”

In a swift move, Mikey and Parker now find themselves sitting on either side of Jerry.  Parker slings his arm around Jerry’s shoulder while Mikey pushes the discarded sundae and Tang glass to the other side of the table.

“Jer, as your buds we are here for you,” Parker states matter-of-factly with a grin on his face. “And we will do whatever it takes to fix what is bringing you down.”

Jerry turns his attention to Parker, his eyes pleading for understanding. “Even if it involves both you and Mr. Randall?”

Mikey and Parker are taken aback at his words - this is definitely unfamiliar territory.

“What about us?”  Mikey asks, almost defensively. “Have we done or said  something to upset you?”

“Negative Sirs,” Jerry says with a sigh. “It’s just something that I knew would happen one day. And now that day is here.”

Parker and Mikey give one another a blank look and then focus back to Jerry. They’re obviously not following and urge him to explain.

“By my calculations Mr. Lewis and Mr. Randall, in precisely four days, sixteen hours and thirty-two minutes, you will have graduated from Santo Domingo...” he pauses for a moment to catch his breath. “ And I will be left behind.”



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“And there was our answer. While Mikey and I were excited to pick up our caps and gowns after school for our graduation ceremony, Jerry was sitting alone in this booth contemplating his future.

Mikey and I had been so focused on graduating that we forgot that Jerry was still one year behind us and wouldn’t be graduating for another year.”

 

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“You won’t be left behind,” Mikey says to assure Jerry, but Parker can sense a hint of uncertainty in his comment. “You’ll always be our bud.”

“How could we forget about you?” Parker asks as Jerry shrugs.  “You’re the glue that holds this operation together. You’re the one who keeps us organized. You do so many little things for us that we may have taken you for granted. But the last thing you want to feel like is that you have been abandoned.”

For the first time that night, Jerry’s face begins to turn to a smile as he feels better about the situation.

“You know, Park...” Mikey chimes in as an idea crosses his mind. “We could talk to Musso...”

Parker’s eyebrow rises in wonder. “Yeah?”

“I’m not sure why we didn’t consider this before” Mikey explains. “You hear about these situations all the time on the radio, the news, or on Doogie Howser M.D.”

It takes Parker a moment to connect the dots.  “Are you suggesting that we propose to Musso to have Jerry test out of his senior year?”

Hearing those words cause Jerry’s mood to instantly turn around. His head perks back up and he gives his buds a hopeful smile.

“Sirs, I believe we may have a chance at making this proposition successful.”  He pauses for a moment to pull a stack of paperwork and a calculator from his jacket. He quickly flips through the stack of paperwork and punches a few buttons on the calculator. “By my estimations, I’m currently three classes short of graduating when you factor in extra-curricular activities and test scores.”

Parker looks over Jerry’s shoulder at the data  contemplates for a moment what this could possibly mean for his bud. “But will Musso go for the idea? Everything seems solid on paper but what about her?”

Mikey shrugs, and opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by Jerry. “With the amount of trouble we have caused her the last three years, I think she’ll gladly agree to the idea. We just have to arrange a meeting with her to discuss.”

“Not a problem,” Parker says as he holds up his wrist. “Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches. Operation Graduate Jerry is go.”

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“It was like walking willingly into a lion’s den. I can’t say that Mikey, Jerry and myself had ever planned on meeting with Musso without trying to get out of detention. And here we were, sitting across from her in her office …  hoping to reach some sort of bargain to let Jerry graduate with us.

Sitting across from her I couldn’t help but wonder - had we miscalculated? Would she agree with our proposition?


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Grace Musso addresses each boy by his last name as they enter her office. “Lewis.... Randall.... Steiner...”  They take the open seats in front of her desk and all are all smiles - cool, calm and collected.  “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Jerry pulls a presentation folder from his jacket and hands it to Parker, who then hands it to Musso.  “We wish to make you an offer you cannot refuse.”

The wording of Parker’s comment intrigues Musso as she thumbs quickly through the document. She listens as Parker explains the circumstances - Jerry feels that he is no longer challenged at Santo Domingo high school and wishes to test out of his three remaining classes so that he may graduate with the current class at the end of the week.

Musso places the document on her desk and simply looks at the boys. While the proposal sounds good in theory, her instincts are telling her that something else is afoot. This information and proposal is coming from Parker Lewis after all.

“You three are always up to something,” she finally states as she turns her attention to Mikey and Parker. “Especially you two.”

Mikey and Parker look at one another for a moment, uncertain as to where Musso is going with this, but don’t let their guard down as she continues.

“Lewis... Randall... for the last four years, you two have been nothing but a headache for me and I have counted down the days for your graduation,” she smiles wickedly, not hiding her disdain for the trio. She turns her attention to Jerry, who lets out a squeak. “Steiner... your test scores are off the charts and it is likely you will be bored your next year. If his means I am finally rid of you three - then I don’t see why you can’t test out of his classes.”

Musso raises her thumb in the air, and the door to her office opens. The glass shatters as she gives Parker, Jerry and Mikey the order to leave her office.

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“The one thing we didn’t anticipate was Musso giving Jerry his test after school  - which gave Jerry little time to prepare. Jerry would be tested in advanced Spanish, Chemistry and British Literature - subjects that should be a piece of cake for him as long as he didn’t panic.

And like the good buds we were, Mikey and I waited outside the classroom for the duration of his examinations.”

 

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Parker’s hands clinch tightly around the fabric of the graduation robe in his hand as he wonders if maybe they should have waited to hear if Jerry passed his tests before buying Jerry his cap and gown. He watches as Mikey fiddles with the tassel on Jerry’s hat, noting that he’s probably as nervous as he is.

“It’s has almost been three hours, Park,” Mikey finally says as he breaks the silence. “Shouldn’t we know something by now?”

Parker shrugs as looks back at the closed door. “Should be any time. And we promised Jerry that we would be here waiting for him - no matter the outcome.”

As if on cue, the door opens and Jerry walks out of the examination room looking exhausted, hair messy and glasses askew on his face.

“Well?” Parker asks.

“I regret to inform you, Sirs,” Jerry pauses as he looks at Mikey and Parker for a moment  “...that Santo Domingo will not have Jerry Steiner next year.”

“You passed?” Mikey asks.

Jerry nods. “With flying colors.”

Parker and Mikey high-five Jerry as they wrap the graduation robe around his shoulders and place his cap on his head. The buds were all going to graduate together and move on to the next phase of their lives together - college!