Alfred was supersmart—out-of-this-world smart. Because of him, his friends passed the early grades. Nevertheless, they used to beat him up and embarrass him in class and other public places. Then one day, Ernie the Eyebrow, leader of the gang, got the clever idea that Alfred could make them money. He saw it in a movie, he said. Alfred was promoted.
It was summertime. School was out. They took the bus downtown to show off Alfred.
A bunch of boys, 10 to 12, with skateboards, smacking gum and wearing in-your-face T-shirts can be intimidating, so Ernie told the gang to hang back. Meanwhile, he and Alfred buttoned up their short-sleeve shirts, spit out their gum, and headed over to the city plaza. It was about half-past noon.
The boys approached an enclave of benches where some office workers were taking their lunch breaks.
Ernie cleared his throat and said “Ladies and gentleman, I wanna interduce Alfred, local progidy and genus who holds the world record for knowin stuff. He’s only 11, but he knows more than anybody ever. Ask him somethin and he’ll tell you the answer faster than a computer.”
The lunch crowd didn’t buy it, but they were amused and willing to be entertained. After all the boss wasn’t around and it was a pleasant summer day.
Alfred took their questions.
“Who was the Orioles’ rookie DH in ’77?” asked the fat, bald guy with hot dog relish dripping down his shirt front.
“Eddie Murray,” answered Alfred.
“That’s right, kid!” exclaimed Relish still chewing as he tossed a couple of coins into Ernie’s cap.
“What’s a lepton?” fired the lanky, acne-pocked Bluetoother in between words spoken to no one present.
“A family of subatomic particles–“
“What do you mean, where’d I get that question?” snapped Bluetooth looking over at Relish who was cleaning his tie. “It was all over the news last–“
“How much are this year’s hybrid cars?” interrupted the chipper blonde who lived to deny herself food.
“Base prices: the Civic around 24K, Camry 25K, the Lexus GS 55K, the Malibu under–“
“Impressive!” said the chic twenty-something with slit-eyed glasses. “Now, how about this one?” she asked furtively. “What’s going on between the boss and Ted?”
“Why wouldn’t he know?” asked Glasses facing down a menacing stare from Chipper who had a crush on Ted in Sales.
“OK. Here’s one,” butted in the re-connected Bluetooth. “How many light-years away is the nearest intelligent life form?”
Alfred was stumped. They weren’t ready. He wasn’t ready. And they’d never believe that’s what he was here to find out.
The clock tower struck one. The rest of the gang raced out on their boards with ollies, boardslides, and kickflips. The lunch crowd scattered like pigeons and then got sucked back up into the building.
Ernie came over with 50 cents in his cap. Alfred, hands deep in his pockets, started to apologize but the Eyebrow interrupted, “That thing with the clock, can you do it again?”
Peter McMillan is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. In 2012, he published his first book, Flash! Fiction.