Blaise was sure something would go wrong because something always went wrong even though he planned everything down to the minute he would be standing outside Shawn Stellar’s house knowing full well his best friend would be staying after school for a detention Blaise made sure Shawn got and would have to serve Tuesday, April 11. That was the most important detail because Blaise could only be sure Shawn’s father would be home after school on Tuesdays and he had something very important to ask him. But now that he stood outside the door on a cold and almost rainy and gray Tuesday in April Blaise couldn’t knock on the door. Maybe Mr. Stellar wouldn’t be working on his old car or had to go to the store for something that just couldn’t wait or maybe Shawn’s mother was going to be there when he really needed to talk with Mr. Stellar man-to-man and not with the whole family around. All this was too important to be entrusted to Blaise’s very full mind that was getting more and more full by the minute when the door opened and Mr. Stellar asked if he was going to knock or just wanted to stand outside all afternoon long.
Blaise walked inside. Mr. Stellar said Shawn had DT and Blaise could wait for him in his room if he wanted to and play video games. “Unless you want to come with — got to go to the store.” Blaise had to reorganize everything fast. He knew something would go haywire but couldn’t think of a plan for every contingency that might come up and now he stood the chance of not being able to ask Mr. Stellar if he could take his son to the Junior Prom. Blaise knew it was old-fashioned to ask the father first but that was what Shawn said he liked about him and Blaise took that as a sign he should follow through so he told Mr. Dobbs that Shawn was passing notes in class which was true because Shawn was always passing notes in class and Blaise could tell Mr. Dobbs without Shawn knowing it was him. After all that work Blaise didn’t want to inform the whole supermarket that he wanted the honor of escorting Shawn and he didn’t want to do it in the car either because that didn’t seem right for the occasion so he wondered if he should just be honest right now and tell Mr. Stellar that he needed to talk to him about something very important and he hoped the answer at the end of it was a resounding yes. Mr. Stellar walked away from the door after pointing the way to Shawn’s room which Blaise already knew and said “Gotta go pick up a new set of plugs at the parts store” as he walked down the hallway towards his bedroom. Blaise had never been to the parts store and wanted to go just to see what it was all about but he knew there would be distractions there too and he really didn’t want to account for all those possibilities. What would he do if Mr. Stellar got to talking with a friend who also needed plugs or if he saw Mr. Stellar who was very manly make eye contact with the girl behind the counter? It was all too much as Blaise stood at the door thinking as fast as he could as Mr. Stellar shuffled around his room and grabbed keys and put on a baseball cap in the hallway mirror. Shawn was the spitting image of his father with the same shoulders and strong way of standing and Blaise felt how lucky he was to be going out with his Mr. Stellar’s son or at least to maybe be going out with him to the Junior Prom and then getting something to eat at Denny’s that Shawn said he liked a lot because they always gave him double onion rings but only charged him for one. The waitresses all liked Shawn for exactly the same reason Blaise did because they always had a good time and laughed a lot. In fact Denny’s was where Blaise hatched his plan knowing that Shawn would eventually like all the trouble he was going through just to get permission to go out on a date with him. He felt a little bad about the detention Shawn had to serve but it wasn’t like Shawn wasn’t passing notes in class all the time to whatever girl was sitting next to him and waiting for her to respond instead of paying attention and answering questions.
“So what’ll it be Blazer — you wanna go with?” Mr. Stellar asked on the way through the living room. Blaise was happy that Mr. Stellar used the nick-name Shawn started way back when they were in the seventh grade and Blaise was getting mocked for his name which no one knew was the same name as a great French mathematician. Everybody loved the nick-name and even made a little sign with their fingers pressed to their lips like they were relieved to see him which didn’t seem to please Shawn even though they all said his name without mocking him now and most of the time with a smile. Mr. Stellar was a good man and waiting for an answer. Blaise knew this was his chance and didn’t want to risk it by going to an auto-parts store he didn’t know and couldn’t plan for even though that seemed enticing too. So Blaise said as confidently and as honestly as he could: “Mr. Stellar, there’s something I would like to talk to you about and I know it’s an inconvenience but I’d really like to ask your permission to…”
The phone rang. It was loud and tinny and hanging on the kitchen wall where it echoed off everything and then throughout the house. Mr. Stellar stood looking slightly annoyed that the phone had interrupted Blaise’s prepared speech and didn’t seem to know whether to ignore the ringing and continue listening to Blaise or answer it and tell whoever had interrupted that they had interrupted and to please call back later. Blaise knew something like this would happen and had his wits about him and announced in a loud, clear voice that he could wait because the phone call was probably very important. Mr. Stellar nodded seriously and went to the kitchen where the phone jangled loudly and insistently and picked up the receiver with a fast Hello just about the time the door opened behind Blaise and Shawn walked in.
“What’re you doing here?” Shawn asked and then said Blaise knew he got DT and wouldn’t be home for an hour except that Old Mills got sick and canceled DT. Blaise crossed his arms and shrugged because this was not going at all like he had planned and in anger and some frustration he said “I have something important to discuss with your father.” Shawn raised an eye-brow and asked what Blaise wanted to talk to his father about and Blaise said it was personal but that he would know soon enough so Shawn walked past him and said fine and asked did Blaise want to play Pitfall. “I’ll be there in a minute” Blaise said as adult-like as possible and then waited for Mr. Stellar to get off the phone so that he could ask his question.
“Okay” Mr. Stellar said finally walking out of the kitchen and looking back to Shawn’s room. “Guess you’re not going for plugs.” He patted his pants pocket making sure he had his keys and passed right by Blaise to open the door before he remembered Blaise wanted to talk to him about something important. “Are you alright or did you still want to talk?” And Blaise looked directly in Mr. Stellar’s eyes and said: “May I have the honor of taking Shawn to the Junior Prom?”
Mr. Stellar’s hand fell away from the doorknob and he turned to face Blaise squarely before he said “Does Shawn…does Shawn want to go to the prom with you, Blazer?” It made Blaise feel good again to be called by his favorite nick-name and see the same smile in Mr. Stellar’s eyes that he sometimes saw in his friends’ at school and even a few teachers who for some reason didn’t use the nick-name but didn’t stop the kids from using it. Blaise stood before Mr. Stellar even straighter and taller and said in a clear strong voice: “I sure hope so Mr. Stellar but I didn’t want to presume I had your permission.” That was when Mr. Stellar’s eyes grew soft and he took hold of Blaise’s shoulders just like a father would and said after a couple of starts and stops: “Listen, Blaise..” and Blaise was confused because Mr. Stellar used his full name and seemed very serious, not at all like he had expected even though it made sense because it meant Blaise was asking a serious question that deserved serious consideration. “Blaise, Shawn isn’t…”
There was a knock on the door and Mr. Stellar was going to ignore it and continue speaking right to Blaise but then Shawn came out of his room and saw his dad holding Blaise’s shoulder and said “Who’s at the door and what’s going on?” and then saw that Blaise looked very serious and angry at the same time. Mr. Stellar reached back to open the door and Tom Manley walked in who was on the baseball team and everyone knew. “Hey Steve” he said to Mr. Stellar before saying “What’s up Blazer” with a nod to Shawn. “Hey I heard you asked Amy Alexander to the prom. Dude. Pretty tight.” Suddenly Blaise felt Mr. Stellar’s hands on his shoulders again, this time more tenderly and almost sad. Shawn seemed pretty embarrassed or unsure and stared down at the floor and said yeah but he didn’t seem very excited about it and said to Blaise “I didn’t have a chance to tell you about it because of DT.” Blaise was glad Mr. Stellar’s hands were on his shoulders and that Shawn had explained to him why he didn’t know he was going to the prom with Amy Alexander and that Mr. Stellar whispered behind him “I’m glad you tried.” Blaise was sad but happy also because this was one of the possibilities he had planned for because he knew the early bird gets the worm. Mr. Stellar turned Blaise around like no one else was there and looked right into Blaise’s eyes and asked if he was okay and wanted to go to the auto-parts store with him. Blaise thought for a second but then said no because he was really looking forward to playing Pitfall with Shawn and now Tom Manley who was still confused but looking like he wanted to talk more about the Junior Prom and playing Pitfall. “Plus I knew someone would get lucky because Shawn is really cool and knows everybody.”
Mr. Stellar patted him on the shoulder and said “If you’re sure” and then told Tom Manley to stop calling him Blazer and if Shawn heard anyone calling him Blazer he should “stop that shit yesterday.” Shawn perked up and Tom Manley said “Okay” but Blaise knew he would miss his nick-name and if that wasn’t the worst thing that had gone wrong he didn’t know what was.
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