Mr. Brandt had informed the class earlier that Gym was to be held outside in the schoolyard, and so that was where Arnold went after his meal with Tyrone.
The schoolyard was divided into two main parts: the first part, which was right outside the school building’s back entrance, was a large square piece of land where Arnold’s class was now gathered. The second part of the schoolyard, located farther away, consisted of two basketball courts and a handball court.
Arnold looked around, wondering where the teacher was, when the sound of a shrill whistle penetrated the air. Arnold’s hands immediately flew to his ears as he looked for the source of the whistle. Coming out of the school building was a plump, potbellied, balding man who looked to be in his forties. The man, wearing a wrinkly sleeve-less shirt and red shorts, had a rusty whistle hanging around his neck.
“Alright, students, I’m Mr. Johnson. You guys can call me Coach J.” The man said. “Now, I want half the class to move to this side and line up.” Mr. Johnson motioned to his left with his hands, and half the class followed suit, including Arnold. “Now, the rest of you, choose a person from this side and go to them. You guys will be gym partners for the rest of the semester.”
Arnold quickly looked at the crowd of potential partners and realized Carl was among them- and Carl was staring at him.
No, no, no, no, no.
As Arnold dreaded, Carl walked up to Arnold and smiled. “Let’s pair up, Arnold.”
Before Arnold could protest, Mr. Johnson blew his whistle again. “Alright, looks like you guys are paired up. Now, I don’t want any complaints, all right? I’ll let you guys know right now- I hate complaints. This is gym class, and I’m not going easy on any of you guys. I’m here to turn you soft kids into hardened students.”
“Why don’t you start with yourself?”
All eyes immediately turned in Arnold’s direction. Arnold looked around curiously before it struck him.
…Oh, shit. Did I just say that out loud?
Mr. Johnson, now red-faced, yelled, “Who said that?” A deadly quiet permeated the air around the class. The teacher scanned the crowd of students and ended up looking at Arnold. “Everyone’s staring your way. Was that you, young man?”
Arnold was about to admit what he did, when Carl stepped forward.
“It was me,” said Carl.
Arnold’s eyes widened. Why are you…?
“Come over here.” Mr. Johnson’s voice was quiet but demanding.
Carl walked up to the gym teacher, head held high. Mr. Johnson wrapped his arm around Carl’s shoulder, and Arnold was sure the teacher was about to trap Carl in some sort of headlock, when Mr. Johnson’s face broke into a grin and he laughed into the air.
“Yes!” Mr. Johnson cried. “That’s what I’m talking about!” He patted Carl on the shoulder. “What’s your name, boy?”
“Carl, you have guts. And I like that.” Mr. Johnson patted Carl again on the back. “The rest of you can certainly learn something from this brave young man.”
Carl beamed proudly at the praise, and patted Mr. Johnson's belly. "You've got some guts yourself, Coach J!"
“Hahaha! Now, I want you guys to run five laps around this half of the schoolyard! Pronto!” said Mr. Johnson. “Carl, I’m expecting great things from you!”
“I won’t disappoint you, coach,” said Carl, turning to Arnold. “Come on, partner.”
Arnold, debating if he’d had either a stroke of good or bad luck, began to run. As he passed the first lap, a sudden feeling of impeding doom rushed over him, and he stopped immediately.
Oh god no.
Arnold’s hands clutched his stomach as pain throbbed throughout his body. That damn fried chicken.
Carl, who was running beside Arnold, stopped as well and turned around. “What’s wrong?”
“I…don’t feel so good,” Arnold was barely able to talk.
“Hey! Why’d you stop? It’s only the first lap! I won’t hear any excuses!” Arnold heard Mr. Johnson yell.
Carl patted Arnold on the shoulder. “Can you run?”
“Hell no,” Carl winced as another wave of pain pierced through his abdomen.
Carl stood for a second, then kneeled down, his back facing Arnold. “Hop on.”
Arnold stared at him in disbelief. “…What?”
“I’ll carry you. Hurry, Coach J is watching. Your ass is screwed if you don’t go through with this.”
“…You’re making me look pathetic, you know,” Arnold muttered, and walked past Carl.
Shouldering through the pain inside him, Arnold began to run again. Despite his newfound willpower, Arnold made barely three steps before the pain quickly overtook him, and he collapsed onto the ground.
After what felt like an eternity, Arnold felt his body being lifted up, princess-style. He looked up and saw Carl’s smiling face looking back at him.
Arnold looked to the side, his face turning red. I don’t get this guy at all. “What’s up with you?”
“I want that picture of your cousin,” said Carl, looking forward. "I'll do whatever it takes to get it."
Carl began to sprint as Arnold again struggled with the Kentucky-fried agony inside him. After four grueling laps that tested both Arnold and Carl’s endurance they were the last ones to finish and were met with applause from the entire class.
“That was amazing, Carl!” the girl who had taken Carl to the nurse walked up to the pair, and flashed Carl a smile
“Thanks, Emily,” Carl smiled back.
Emily turned to Arnold and her smiling face instantly transitioned into one of disgust. You’re damn lucky you got Carl as your partner, Mr. cousin-freak.”
Just as Arnold was about to utter a rebuke he decided it was pointless. The last twenty minutes had effectively skyrocketed Carl’s reputation to celebrity-status, and Arnold was 100% certain he’d get torn to pieces in a battle between his word and Carl’s, especially with Emily. Anything he said to her now would only make her impression of him worse.
Anyways, there was a more pressing issue brewing within Arnold’s digestive tract.