Chapter 1: Rob Macker
NO ONE WAS ALLOWED TO WEAR HATS IN SCHOOL, NO EXCEPTIONS.
Exception: Rob Macker.
Yes, my friends, he was simply that cool. He would walk into class with a Twin Cities cap on, and while perhaps the teachers had motioned to indicate their objection when he was a freshman, by the time that first year was over they stopped even thinking about it because it was hard to imagine Rob without his hat, and they had to agree that he was indeed quite cool. Everybody knew it. People who had never met him knew it.
The formula for coolness and success started with athletics, for which Robert covered all the bases, starting with baseball in the summer, cross country in the fall, basketball in the winter, and sprinting for the track team in the spring. After that came good grades, great parents, a nice house that he could invite friends over to, and plenty of friends to invite over.
You might now suspect that this is a story about how in spite all of these things Rob still had some deep internal problem, that underneath it all there would be something depressing to talk about. This is in fact a false presumption. He was happy with what he had and stood as one of the rare few who lived a very good life. His senior year thus far was awesome, and though he knew he would miss it sorely once he went off to college, at least it wasn't the climax of his life.
No, the real problem in this story belonged to someone else.
The first scene for this story takes place in the workshop, where Rob was fixing up a blown out engine. It wasn't homework, but a hobby. He always had an interest for this stuff and had leaped ahead in it, figuring that working with engines first would give him a head start in understanding some of the intuitive basics when working with engineering. It was a nice upgrade from Legos. Yet, it was more than just a hobby. This was what he did before cross country practice in order to earn money.
His leather jacket was hanging up on the rack and he was wearing stained coveralls. His running clothes were nearby. This would have to be quick. It would start in five minutes. He began unzipping his coveralls.
Ruby, the new girl who came in a two weeks after the start of school, came into the workshop. She had long, dark brunette hair that was always held up by a red ribbon and conservative attire, although the nice girl image didn't conceal her quirkiness. "Oi! 'Ello, guvna!"
"OI!" replied Rob, except louder, and more zealous.
"Whatchya dooooin'?" she asked.
"Finishing up," said Rob. "Same stuff as I'm always doing here. The real question is, what are you doing around here?"
"Oh, I'm just asking for help with my American History," she said.
"Let me guess. You're currently covering colonial times, and you're at around the founding of Georgia, or just maybe at the French and Indian War."
"I'm at the French and Indian War," she said. "And a ton of other stuff. The book keeps talking about crazy things on the home front and it goes into ridiculous detail. I just need a study partner, and you're...really smart."
Rob grabbed his running shorts and hopped behind the car, where he changed out of sight. "That's very nice, but I have a college Calc II test coming up that I have to study for, and I'll be off in a few minutes to get running. At the front of the pack. There are plenty of other smart people out there, especially people who are already in your year. If I recall, my brother, Craig, looked through the book I used last year and just about memorized the whole thing. His genius in the area can only have increased now that this is his second time through." Already, he was changed.
He got out from in front of the car and jogged past Ruby to get through the other area of the shop and to through the class room and through the locker room and out into the hallway. It was a confusing and odd setup. This was hands down the weirdest place in the building, but then it was also the oldest.
Ruby ran with him. "Hey, wait, will you be hanging out after school? I really need somebody's help. Any of your guys will do!"
Rob stopped for a moment and faced Ruby, looking over her. He took off his hat and placed it on her head.
"I'll be hanging out with friends after school, and you're going to hang out with us, if only to give me back my hat," said Rob. "I simply cannot hang out without my hat."
"Do you sleep with this thing on, Rob?" she asked. The way she was looking up at him was just so comical, in part because she was officially The Girl in Rob's Hat. That title would change anyone presence considerably.
"As a matter of fact, I do," said Rob, and he ran off.