Chasing Alpha: Chapter Two

Chasing Alpha – Chapter TWO

Starting out, I have to tell you. My story is not that big. I don’t think so. Getting into the service was not my ultimate plan or anything like that. I really didn’t have a plan to do much of anything. It just hasn’t been my thing.

Average all the way. It’s the best way to describe how I was in school and all that. I don’t really care to talk about my whole childhood since it was just me being a dumb little kid. Come on, how book worthy is that? The Little Rascals already have that corner covered.

When I was a kid I did play sports; badly. It’s not the fact I was terrible of it, but I was mostly unforgettable. Those who are usually remembered in an organized sport are the ones who made the play every time and those who never made the play. I was in between. Never put in just to make the big decision to shift balance to favor. Sometimes I made the play, and then other times the play was over my head. It was mostly baseball. Sometimes soccer.

Really I had a better time just hanging out with my friends. It was always way more fun playing with a group you choose over a group which your parents basically through you together with. Plus I didn’t have any brothers. Just a sister who was older and lived in her own world as it was. So I ended up just keeping more to myself at home. Maybe I was smart enough to know then how to get it all out of my system before I came home. Then all I had was homework and sleep. My parents should probably thank me for all that. I left all the time for them to deal with my sister rather than have to keep tabs on what trouble two kids could be. They never had to come bail me out at the principal’s or anything. Welcome parents. Maybe it was even back then I taught myself to be self sufficient. And learned also to follow orders when I had to. Authority and I got along fine.

A lot of my better times were still when I spent time with other kids in the neighborhood or kids I knew from school. If it was a school day it was usually more whoever I knew from school. We could walk to one of their houses a little ways away and mess around. It usually depended who of them were around. Sometimes there would be practice on one of the fields at school. After school. There would be some youth sports stuff that practiced. So sometimes we’d all do that. We could usually get into a PUG otherwise. That’s a pick up group I mean. When you game that’s one of the slangs. Gaming now that is, not when I was a kid.

But anyway, back to the usual school process. I’d most often go out with a few of us. I had an advantage that some did in elementary school, or school overall. My parents never had a ton of money so we just kept the house we lived in. I mean I grew up in the same house pretty much until high school. And by that time it didn’t make a difference. I got my way and went to the same high school still, even after we moved. It wasn’t that huge of an argument to get my way or anything. But I didn’t think my parents knew how strongly I wanted to stay where I was. Maybe they felt I was ambivalent. Whatever it means such as to not care one way or another about what someone feels about something. Indifferent I guess. My parents thought I didn’t care where I attended school, so I let them know. Then they listened. Like I said, I had an older sister. I  rather just do my own thing and stay out of trouble rather than to have more for my parents to deal with. Or to suffer the wrath of my sister on the warpath. I never know if I did thank my mom and dad for listening to me, at least about that. Thanks parents.

When I think about it now, I guess my parents did care about me. I mean they always cared, but I didn’t try to get much of their attention. They were there for me, and things were cool. One of the examples was how they let me do my thing when I got out of school. Eventually it got to a routine where I would just get picked up a lot later. Most times from in front of a friend’s house or a nearby corner. On the bright side it got me a digital watch. I thought it was cool since most of the kids in school didn’t seem to get one. I may not have gotten the shoes I always wanted, but at least I had the digital watch in the process. Thankfully the one I wanted had an alarm. It was set so I’d hear it go off and then meet my mom or dad, whoever the one was driving at the time or home from work. It always depended the situation. Actually most of my friends thought I was lucky to be able to stay out late. A lot of them never had the luxury of getting picked up. They would be in the bus with their face pressed to one of the side windows while pulling away, watching me with whoever friends I had, and we’d sometimes all wave while whoever it was looked sad and that big old dirty rolling bus drove away. I guess it was not so cool looking back. Being mean and waving while our friend had to go home. But oh well, we were kids. Thanks again to you mom and dad.

As I was saying, usually one of the kids always lived around nearby the school itself, or a couple streets over. We never seemed to care about walking when we were all together. The distance didn’t matter. We’d talk about what we’d want to do and all of that. Sometimes we did stay at the school and that was pretty cool too.

I’d be at a revolving door of friends in the area. Well at least three or four. It always depended on who was attending school at the time. I did have that advantage of going K through sixth at the same elementary school. It gives you kind of a status I suppose. At least a lot more know you so you can have friends easier or that sort of thing. Plus that living nearby and that group of us hanging out after school all the time made it a lot easier to have others want to be my friend too. Maybe we were looked at like some sort of rat pack, but we were nothing more than just a bunch of silly kids that all wanted to avoid our homework and hang out. It’s desirable for the kids that are the new ones in school year after year I guess. But I was just lucky, I fell into the right people at the right time. Maybe one of the stories of my life, getting into the right combinations of people. It certainly was not anything that I tried to seek out or do on purpose. Maybe a guardian angel over my shoulder or something.

We’d also be able to get away with a lot more. Not the thing with starting trouble or being tiny little terrors or anything. But I guess it’s just getting some favoritism or advantages. We could hang out after school and then get special treatment or something. Teachers just knew we were a big group so maybe they’d give us stuff after class was out. Sometimes we’d visit a teacher or something. Or we’d ask to borrow one of the balls and then we’d play a game of ‘five hundred’ in one of the little areas in front of some of the classrooms. Maybe some of the teachers thought it was better with us hanging out at the school rather than playing out in the streets. Not tossing bottles at cats in the alley or some dumb stuff like that.

Another advantage was when I was in sports. Kind of like when I actually was. It was off and on. I guess maybe I was more into trying something and then I was done after I tried it. Some kids were lifers. You know? You’d see them with a dad that’s the coach and that was all their life was. School and baseball. School and football. Soccer and school. Or whatever. Some would have to do every sport even. I guess their mom or dad would think it was something to do. Keep the kid so busy in every sport so he’d stay out of trouble in school. I did know a few like that. They were often pretty lonely to tell you the truth.

When I was doing sports in school it was never two years in a row. AT least not for the same sport. It would be a lot as if I did one year as baseball and then soccer. That sort of thing. I would take a year off, or switch sports. Once I did a basketball camp type of thing in the summer and that counted as my sports for the year I suppose. I mean for me, not so much for the family. They might have been hurting or something but I never had a notion of it at the time. I think if I really wanted to do sports, then I could have if I asked to. It just all worked out that way. I am glad I was not pushed by my dad or any of that. I knew some kids who did. I think it was a bigger deal when the kid played football, and I never played that one. There was too much practice involved, and it didn’t seem all that fun. I really doubt my mom would have been thrilled about the whole thing either. I did have a friend break his arm, or he sprained it I guess, and it was from football. His mom didn’t let him play sports ever again. It sealed the deal for me also I’m sure, me not wanting to miss out on playing from  a busted up arm. But the kids who were pushed, it was a chore to them just like taking out trash or picking up your toys. That doesn’t fly well. And the those kids…  Well, they weren’t friendly that much anyway. They were more tired or ticked off I guess rather than anything. They were sad types, looking back. But often they would just be bullies. They weren’t even that good at football usually when we’d play it at lunch or recess. Probably because in their eyes maybe we were just a bunch of amateurs. Or the fact it would just be another chore to really put effort into winning. Anyway, maybe that’s boring. There was kind of a point I was trying to make.

There was a bonus to the fact of when I was doing sports. Most of the stuff was practice optional and it was mostly weekend we’d have games. Remember how I was saying to you about us often getting a little extra privileges? This was all mine. I would often get to the coaches when there was practice on our school’s field. They would know me, or even if not I’d tell them how I know someone as a coach before, which I really did. I’d mention a name and I could practice along with them. By me, I meant all of us. We’d love it too since most of the times whoever was holding the practice would let us all play. Like me and my friends vs all of the rest of the team. Sometimes it was even better when one of them on that team was in our school too.

It would be like…  We could always sit in on the drills or warm ups they’d do. And that was cool too, since we’d take whatever we learned and then put it towards recess or lunchtime. We’d take the little bit we were drilled on our pick up practice, then we’d remember it long enough to wipe the floor with the other schoolyard kids. That was a lot of fun, and kind of like a little secret we all had. Maybe what’s funnier is how we’d forget all about whatever tips and tricks if it got to be a week or so, at least once the weekend happened. That was a bummer of the whole thing.

The best part was more the actual playing other than the drills or warm up sessions of course. I mean we were kids after all. Kinetic, action kids. When we had the good side of one of the coaches, we’d get to play against the actual team sort of as a team building thing for their benefit I guess. That was the usual for soccer I recall. Sometimes we’d get to mess around with the baseball team in that same way, but it was rare. Usually that stuff was drilling, and we’d need to have equipment for all of that. They made the kids bring their own or whatever. That stuff was limited since the coaches were already getting paid beyond nothing so there’s no way they’d bring extra just for a bunch of goofy guys to mess around with. Logical enough from where I stand. We’d get to sometimes bat though when it was a lineup thing. I meant lining up and each person bats against the coach lobbing balls our way, or with a tee if it was a fielding thing. Baseball was too long to play a real game. But soccer was all about doing that sort of thing. The skirmish, and not much on the side of rules.

Probably every time we’d be outnumbered if it was a soccer thing. But we used it to our advantage. Honestly, kids don’t really worry about strategy. I even watched some real football. I mean the overseas soccer. And when I watched it, even that didn’t look like strategy often. I never watched a whole game or anything, but I swear if you watched that stuff you might be bored out of your gourd too. At least if you’re an American I guess. No disrespect, but I swear I never saw one score ever when I was watching a match. Maybe if I was at a pub and was in the john or something. I don’t know… But we would square off and since we knew each other pretty well, then we’d have enough of a connection to just go for it, you know? Hey I wasn’t even supposed to be going off or touching on any of this stuff. Here’s something that is useful though. I mean it is something which is probably going to make a lot of sense later on in my part of the story. Maybe you know or maybe not. It’s video games.

I didn’t want you to think I was some ideal kid who played hopscotch all the time or had one of those scooter kind of boxes built onto a skateboard like you see in those old fifties movies or something. I mean, hey, I was a modern kid. The only thing a lot of kids wanted to do was play videogames. I never had any, so that was one of the other benefits to hanging around with a group of other kids. It was playing the odds that one of them had a system to use.

There way this guy Becker. I forgot his whole name. I know he was in sports here and there. He did baseball and football at various points of his elementary time. He was doing “real baseball” as I remember his saying. It’s true too. That was the time you were supposed to have a youth sports team in a tee ball league or with some guy lobbing underhand. I think his had a pitching machine. That stuff seemed pretty hardcore. I got to site next to this girl who was friends with him. She was pretty tomboy. I mean like quite a tomboy, not the type who is trying to look like a boy but then tires to dress nicer or do her hair like a girl. I guessed that’s why they were friends since she seemed to live kind of a ways away from him. She was interesting. I wasn’t trying to get a read on a girl when I was young like that, but she’s one of the girls that stuck out in my head. At least, now she sticks out. I’ll tell you, it’s not like it’s anything I thought about until I was asked to start working up a series of chapters about our team. CT and stuff like when we served. But I’ll stick to this for now. Hope you won’t mind. It may all get cut out anyway. I was told no pressure. Edge is cool like that I suppose.

This girl though, I was saying how she’s full out boy basically. She’d always wear clothes like soccer clothes, and her hair was scraggily and almost like a shaggy bowl cut. I know I was really embarrassed when I watched one of his games and she was there. She and I never got along as in…  We just didn’t cross paths all that often. Maybe I was still kind of intimidated, or I did not know what the rules were. Maybe I thought I’d be out of the group of my buds or something. Becker wasn’t in our group anyway but we sort of popular all on his own. I knew him at least a few years. I think he was held back, but I never asked him. He seemed to be a year older than the rest so I just kind of figured it up on my own. But I know when that girl embarrassed me. Maybe her name was Kelly?

“I totally feel bad for him out there,” as she said when we watched him out in the field. Not much was happening since I guess he wasn’t in a very important position at the time.

“Why’s that?” I had to be dumb enough and take the bait. Why?

“Because. He totally has to wear a cup.”

That freaked me out like you would NOT believe. I can still feel it. Just like a split second sunburn poured over me like it was molten syrup. I know I tried to keep looking in the same direction  I was, but I was going haywire with my peripheral vision. Bonkers. I was scoping like crazy to see if anyone I knew from school could have not only seen me with this girl but if in actual earshot. Turns out I was safe, but that was such a long and awkward moment. Felt like forever. The worst part was how it seemed not to stop. I mean I guess I was just too chicken to just bolt and run off. Plus I might have lost Becker as a friend too which would have been very uncool too. He lived near the school a little ways and so I’d have to see him all the time. I don’t think all that was going through my mind or anything like that. But maybe that deep down part. I am just analyzing now or thinking way too much. The truth is how I guess I’d be better friends with Becker anyway if I talked with her. Realistically, I just knew it was bad manners to leave someone. I was taught to be nice to girls, respectful and all that. She didn’t let it up just like that though.

“You know?” She couldn’t just let it go. I guess she really was unaware. Maybe she thought it was something boys talked about? How in the heck can I guess that?

Just nodded my head, but I guess it was too tiny of a motion. I just had to whisper it out. Barely said that. “Yeah.”

“Dude…  It’s just-  It’s got to be totally uncomfortable. Right?”

Unable to help it, I looked back at her. She was moving around quite a bit. It was a reaction to it all I guess. Her face was wincing, and hissing a bit through her teeth – and I don’t think she was trying to boo the team on the field.

“I mean that’s got to be like- Dude, you know?”

“Yeah.”  Obviously nobody was paying attention to anything except the game, so I was able to just go along with it.

“It must be real hard to even think about because you’re a guy. Right?”

I jumped at that one. I saw an opening opportunity, and I went for it. “Um. Yeah.”  Not the most poetic. But it made the point. I was never known for my excellence in the English language. Especially when I was beyond uncomfortable. Then it got a little bit odder. She slid over. Really close, and then was almost behind me. She grabbed my shoulders with both hands.

“Oh…  I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”  She didn’t do it long. Just a small amount, maybe it was just six or so rubs up and down, then she sat back beside me. It was a lot closer. Funny as it was, it had me a lot less uncomfortable than the things she was saying. I was not completely comfortable at all, by any stretch of the imagination. But I was not complaining either. I guess I was more worried about if Becker saw it actually happen. I was afraid of it, even though he was way out in the field. Kids have a strange sense of logic I guess, never thinking what’s feasible and more of what could maybe happen. He never found out to this day, heck I don’t even know where that guy is now.

Anyway, Becker was an interesting guy. The point was him bragging about videogames. We all went over to his place and then he begged his dad to hook up their videogame system. The dad was hemming and hawing about it, then did it against his better judgment. I guess in a way he was right. He pulled out this big a yellowish object. It looked almost like that orange yellowish color like the original Walkman types of devices. The ones that were water resistant I think. I thought this was some brand new videogame system that you could play in the tub or something. Well it turns out I learned a valuable lesson. One about how looks are not everything.

This was basically some system that played eighty-two different kinds of Pong basically. It had different lines and ball sizes, and could have different this and that directions. It was very  unimpressive. I can’t describe the words. We were all polite and played, but it was not anything hot whatsoever. Becker dug it, but the rest of us knew there was far more stuff that beat it, even if it’s not like I was living in the age of all the amazing technology like the gaming revolution. Part of me feels sad for kids that didn’t grow up in that like I did.

We’d often have a go-to kind of house for playing games. I know we tried to be more into whatever the latest system was. We were products of tv commercials, so whatever looked the most hyped would be what we ended up with I suppose. We’d have enough people to be friendly competitive at least. Four of us or more from how I remember it. That was when it was two player and not much to offer in the way of cooperative play. So it would be you against the other guy. I was more into team games really, all along I was. But that’s all we had. If you wanted to play a team-up kind of game, you were usually stuck trying to find others to play with you in a movie theater lobby – something like that. Arcades would barely let you have a chance. And usually the people playing those games wanted you to put five bucks into a machine to get a full out game going. I couldn’t afford to drop that much in one sitting. Maybe I think I can only remember it once happening like that.

I was playing an old Double Dragon machine in some convenience store. It was me and another guy. We just happened to both be there and wanted to play. Maybe I spent five bucks but he used a lot less. He was a much better player. He carried me through a good part of it. It was pretty fun. That was certainly when someone is at the right place during the right time. For me at least. The only bummer was neither of us knew how to win the game. It was a really brutal game actually if you look back at it. Not just the violence but the story part itself. When we were playing, we saw the guy’s girlfriend strung up. I mean she was all tied up hanging from a rafter or the ceiling somehow. You never saw that high up, just her dangling hung up and struggling a bit. Come to think of it, she was also maybe shouting out a digitized, scratchy  “Help” too. But he said that he heard we had to cut her down after we beat all the guys in that room. It was a side scroller. That just meant you play the game moving most often from left to right. So stuff comes at you from the right as far as the scenery and all that.

The whole story behind it all is there are these two brothers. They aren’t supposed to be twins that I know of, but they didn’t have complex graphic processors. So it was one wearing blue and the other wearing red. Heck, they could be twins. I never memorized the thing. But the whole basic story is the girlfriend of one of them, her name’s Marrion I think. Marrion is kidnapped by some rival gang and you have to get her back. Your girlfriend you have to get back by yourself if you are a single player. But if you’re in two player mode with a partner, then it’s your brother helping you get your girlfriend back. You are both in some dragon gang or something like that. I think they had a tattoo also but that was the opening part of the game, like the title screen or whatever.

So when we got to the end, he told me we had to jump up and cut her free. There were these weapons you could pick up along the way while fighting. Stuff like chains, pipes, oil drums. Sometimes the item would be on the ground ready to use, and other times you would attack a person and they’d drop it on the ground. This guy told me we needed a knife and then the idea was to throw it at her to cut the ropes and save her. But you had to be in the air since she was hanging from above, off of whatever that was. The really stupid thing about it all was how she was above and there was this big pit below. So if you fell down, then it meant your guy died. Sowejumpedand threw. But the knife wouldn’t come close to her. So we had to jump closer, and thought it would cut her. We just died.

I guess we must have spent st least a dollar each for trying to jump and slash. Then we gave up, but at least we were able to put our names into the game. And that was pretty cool all on its own since they kept the high scores on there too. Sometimes they’d get erased or I guess the save thing on the machines wouldn’t work so it would be a total bummer later when you’d see nothing. But the long and short of all of it was just how we didn’t win the game. And that plain stunk out loud.

Later on I found out the real ending of the game. You basically had to keep going then fight one more guy. We had to keep moving forward, but we had no clue or idea. There was another boss I guess and I suppose we could have spent a dollar just like when jumping, but that time for destroying the last guy, the big boss. Then after he’s taken down…  Well, this is the dark part. You fight each other! What stupid stuff. Do you and your brother have to go toe to toe before the game can be over when you’re playing in the two player co-op mode. So whoever wins the bro vs bro fiasco, that person is the one who the girl ends up going for. Told you it was some dark stuff. What a way to warp a young mind. That gives issues I suppose. Especially to a little kid that never dated or whatever.

So to sum all things up…  I guess a lot of what I did learn while a kid or my life experience. That all ended up coming into play once I enlisted. Not just then, but later when it was all of us. The five of us. I liked being in a team, I was good at taking orders. I could also get things I wanted, or get my way with persuasion. And I was heavily into games. Sports too, with friends mostly, but mostly videogames. All the making of a good support squad member.

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