Tyson Bagley has a once in a lifetime opportunity to be someone else for a day. But when he chooses to be the coolest kid in school things don’t exactly go according to plan. (20:57) Theme music by Kevin Macleod – Incompetech.com. Want to listen offline? Click the download icon on the player above to download this episode to your device.
Episode 2: Same as Sam
High above the County Fair is a roller coaster stuck on the loopty loop. Sitting upside down in one of its cars is a boy. Take a good long look at him. His blank expression. His black eye and raggedy blonde wig that’s tilted to one side and has chunks of hair missing. The pair of fake white teeth that thanks to gravity are falling out of his mouth in a drooling mess. His stained over-sized tank top is scrunched up to his neck. What a sight. This poor guy is Tyson Bagley. How did Ty get into such a predicament you ask? I’ll tell you, but it isn’t gonna be pretty.
It all started back in preschool. Mrs. Hinton ran a tight ship with her operation. Every cubby was organized in alphabetical order and color coded. The mats the kids sat on for story time were perfectly arranged across the room. And if a single crumb during snack time fell onto the carpet, she would either have a panic attack or dive and catch it before it could contaminate the floor. To most, it was a mystery why she bothered running the place at all. But obsessive quirks aside, she was actually quite good at it.
Tyson remembered one day in particular when Mrs. Hinton was having an especially hard time. First Tom Tom went potty in the corner on her heirloom chest. Then Sophie decided it would be a good idea to eat Cheetohs in the formal living room and then finger paint powdery cheese stick figures all over the wall. Mrs. Hinton was at wits end. She resorted to plopping the little monsters in front of the TV and turning on ten straight episodes of Purpo the Purple Dinosaur.
Secretly, Tyson didn’t mind watching Purpo. In fact, he kinda loved it. But to save face in front of his miniature friends, he made the usual disgusted noises along with them. And it was then that it happened. He happened.
The front door burst open and in walked Samson Nightslasher. To this day no one knows if that’s really his last name, but no one dares to question it either. Anyway, the door burst open and in walked Sam, his black and blue velcro shoes lighting up with every confident step. He stopped next to his inferiors on the mats and said nothing. He just ran his hand through his perfect blonde hair, popped a bubble, and then sprawled out over Mrs. Hinton’s antique sofa.
Everyone froze. Tyson’s head swiveled to Mrs. Hinton waiting for her to explode. But to Ty’s surprise, she didn’t seem to mind. At all actually. She didn’t scream about the door being left wide open. She didn’t growl at him for wearing his dirty shoes in the house. Her eyes didn’t stare him into the fetal position when he laid on the forbidden sofa. She didn’t even seem to care that he had arrived unaccompanied by an adult. Nope, instead she welcomed him with a smile.
She sat by while Samson took the remote and turned the channel to an episode of COPS. Bad boys, Bad boys! Whatcha want! Whatcha want! Whatcha gonna do!- The theme song rang out. During snack time they all choked on dry crackers while Mrs. Hinton handed Sam a candybar for each hand and two liters of caffeinated soda. He smiled at the teacher with his perfectly white teeth.
Yep, that was the life of Sam. No one knew why he was treated that way. He just was. There was an energy that shot out of this kid that somehow convinced everyone within reach of the shockwave that he owned the world.
It was on this day that Tyson, jaw dropped and goggle-eyed, realized he would forever be in the shadow of the coolest kid on the planet.
From there the legend continued. Sam brought his books and supplies in a spike leather bag rather than a backpack. In second grade, he could touch the rim of the basketball hoop. And we’re not talking about the little kid’s court. In third, he got sent to the principal’s office and came out eating the man’s apple and making him laugh. In fourth, he got his first tattoo. Fifth, he took over doing the morning announcements because his voice was deeper than the vice principal’s. And in sixth grade, he started a heavy metal band that Metallica opened for. No joke. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. The kid was immortal.
Meanwhile, in Tyson land, also known as Loserville population one. Ty sat in the library looking for a book on romance. Specifically, a book on how to win a girl using very little charm or talent.
The library was Tyson’s territory. A glorious place full of quiet echos and people shushing each other. Rows and rows of books both well read and un-touched lined the big room. Above them were motivational posters from decades ago with cheesy phrases like “Today is a great day to learn something new!” or “The Library: A great place to get checked out.” Beyond those were sitting nooks for you to quietly read. It was here that you could find Ty in there between almost every class, researching new techniques on playing Goblins and Wizards or to simply learn about something new and interesting. You could say it was kind of his go-to mentor. The only place he could turn for advice. Sure his parents helped out sometimes, but when it came to romancing his dad wasn’t exactly the expert. Balding and with a laugh that sounds like a dying hyena, he’d won over Tyson’s mom with his brains.
He needed good advice now more than ever because he was about to do the unthinkable. He was going to ask Jennifer Payton to the county fair. Holding a beautiful bouquet of roses, Tyson looked down at his book that had a picture of a man handing a woman flowers. After a long nervous breath, he walked up to Jennifer. As soon as he reached her and opened his mouth to speak, the lights went out.
A cloud of fog seeped out of the library closet and across the floor. One by one, disco balls dropped out of the ceiling vents and sent colorful lights dancing circles around the room. The sounds of an electric guitar built until in through the library doors strutted none other than Samson Nightslasher. Behind him, marching in full uniform, was the school choir doing backup vocals for him as he sang to, yep you guessed it, Jennifer. After a fifteen minute guitar solo and a harmonized serenade through his head mic, he got down on one knee and said,
“Jenn Jenn, will you do me the honor of being my most precious date to the county fair?”
Both Jennifer and the 64 year old librarian answered at the same time. The librarian snapped to and shuffled back behind her desk. Jennifer wrapped her arms around Sam and gave him a hug like they’d be spending the rest of their lives together. All the while, Tyson stood inches away holding his roses like a pathetic goob.
Jennifer turned to him and looked down at the flowers confused. “Oh hi…Trevor,” she said.
“Uh, it’s Tyson. No biggie…Weeeeelll, yeeeeeah.”
Sam nodded at the bouquet, “What’s with the flowers, Tasha?”
“Close, but wrong gender. Flooweeeers? Oh, these flowers! Duh! I was juuust planting them. Yep.” Tyson crammed the white roses into the fake planter by the librarian’s desk. “I’m the library gardner. Congrats by the way, on the performance and the date, and being the best at everything.” Halfway through his sentence the couple had already forgotten Ty existed and were lost in a loving gaze.
Hopeless and void of any date backups, Tyson went to the Football game that night alone. Not because wanted to, but because he had to. Ty belonged to the newspaper club at school and he was assigned to write an article on the game as well as the lame county royalty ceremony.
During the halftime ceremony, Ty clenched his teeth and pressed his pen hard as he made notes of the event.
Samson Nightslasher – First ever to be crowned Royal Family, being crowned County High King, Queen, Prince, and Princess.
It didn’t make sense. But neither did any other reaction to Sam’s greatness. Hold on, it gets better. In the final seconds of the game the home team was behind and the other team had the ball. The second the quarterback said hike, Samson Nightslasher, who was not even on the team, came running down the bleachers towards the field, his many crowns bobbing. The crowd stood as he did so and pretty soon Sam was hopping the fence and running after the other team’s running back who was sprinting for another touchdown. Before he could get there, Sam in his token tank top, tackled him, picked up the ball, and ran 90 yards to score the winning touchdown. And yes, beyond all reason they counted the touchdown. Tyson wouldn’t have believed it himself had he not been there to witness it.
That night, Ty decided it was time for a change. He bought a blonde wig, a pair of fake white teeth, a tank top, and a leather bag with spikes. As he walked to school the next morning, he imagined Sam noticing the striking resemblance and recruiting him into his coveted inner circle.
“Dude, you have big blonde hair and I have big blonde hair. I hereby make you my right hand man! Here, have one of my girlfriends!” He imagined him saying. Instead, something completely bonkers happened.
During first hour, his teacher stopped him in the doorway. “What are you doing here? I thought your mom called you in sick?”
Ty shook his head. “No, I’m fine.”
“Okay. Well, I’m glad you’re feeling better, Sam.”
“There’s an open seat over here, Sam!” said Courtney Bicker.
“No, sit by me,” the other kids whined.
Tyson looked at himself then back at the class. He smiled, They think I’m The Nightslasher, he thought.
From there it only got better. At lunch, random people kept coming up to him giving him high fives, asking for advice, and giving him their lunch treats as a tribute to his awesomeness.
On his way to Math class, Principal Bladder stopped him in the hallway. “Excuse me, Sam?”
Ty kept walking until he realized Principal Bladder was talking to him. “Oh, um yes Principal?”
“You called me principal. I like that. You’re such a respectful boy. You really are the best. Where was I, ah yes, I’m running into some issues, you see, with the Connelly Brothers again. I’d love to hear your advice on how I should proceed with their discipline.”
The Connelly Brothers? Thought Tyson. Psh, I know exactly what those mean goons need. He thought of all the times he’d been picked on by the destructive duo. Ty cleared his throat and did his best to channel Sam’s cool deep Clooney tone, “Detench.”
“Ehem, detention? Well okay, whatever you say, Sam. Thank you so much for your time.”
Tyson couldn’t believe it. The power he was feeling and growing by the hour was incredible. I could get used to this, he thought. Being Sam is everything I imagined it’d be.
His thought was interrupted by Secretary Schneider grabbing his arm. “Sam, you’re late for the announcements!”
Uh oh, the announcements?
Minutes later Ty was sitting in front of a microphone in the office, sweating profusely. He looked around at nearly half of the school’s faculty that were standing around him like they were witnesses to the best Radio Disc Jockey in the Tri Cities. Their smiles and thumbs up gradually faded as Tyson read the announcements from the card.
“GoooOOOOood afternoon, Cheetahs! Howdy do da gang!” The announcements only got more cringe-worthy from there. Honestly, they were down right awful all the way to the end when he closed it by shouting, “Cheetah Pride!”
By the time he was done there was nobody left standing around him. There was Gunther, the 83 year old janitor who was looking in his direction and slow clapping. Tyson bowed to accept the praise only to realize Gunther was just trying to squash a fly with his hands.
Depressing, really. It was all downhill from the Gunther clap. The football team invited him to their practice to show them how he’d made that monstrous tackle. But when he dove at the kid with the ball he bounced off him like he’d hit a brick wall.
During science, Mrs. Doffer handed back everyone’s tests from the week before and when he was handed Sam’s paper it was a D! A D! Sure the grade was written with flowers and smiley faces all around it, but a D?! Tyson had never gotten below a B in his life. Mrs. Doffer patted him on the shoulder and congratulated him on his effort. When she called out for Tyson to give him his rightful score, it took everything in him not to respond.
That night, since he’d already gotten in this deep, he figured he might as well continue posing as Sam and take Jenny to the fair. The boy was a gentleman after all. But when he picked her up she didn’t seem too impressed. “Where’s your dad’s Corvette?” were the first words out of her mouth.
Ty looked over his beat up Prius, hoping it wasn’t offended. “It’s in the shop. Sorry.”
“I thought you were sick and couldn’t come tonight?”
“Psh, the Nightslasher never stays sick.”
Yeah he actually said that. But could you blame him? The poor kid had never read anything about how to properly imitate someone way cooler than himself.
Once they got to the fair it took all of ten minutes before the talent booth was asking him to sing the song he’d written for Jenny. That Sam had written for Jenny. So Tyson improvised. Oh he sang his heart out all right, desperately trying to the remember the lyrics to a song he’d learned from one of his library books.
“Do you believe in Love after Love!”
“Get off the stage!”
The crowd wasn’t impressed. And missing from the angry mob was Jenny. She’d flat out ditched him. Defeated, Ty hopped off the stage and looked for the the nearest exit. But before he could reach it he was stopped by the Connelly Brothers.
“You must think it’s pretty funny sending us to detention for the rest of the day, eh Sammy?”
“Our mom grounded us for a month!” Said the other.
Before Tyson could even try to explain himself he was clocked in the face. The black eye formed in a matter of minutes. Ty tried to go get ice for it at the soda station, but on his way there a flock of crows swooped down and pecked furiously at his wig, mistaking it for something they could make a nest out of.
“Get…off of me!” Ty shouted, waving his arms around like a lunatic.
“Shoo! Shoo!” Came a voice through the cloud of feathers.
Tyson looked up as the last birds scattered and saw Laura Piper.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Tyson didn’t respond.
“I got you this cold drink to hold over your eye. Those Connelly Brothers are chumps, don’t listen to them. They’re just bullies who aren’t comfortable in their own skin. So they have to take it out on people who are confident in themselves.”
Ty looked at the ground. There were a lot of things he was feeling in that moment, but confidence wasn’t one of them.
“They’re a couple of mouth breathers who have nothing better to do than prey on nice guys like you, Tyson.”
“What? How’d you know it was me?”
“Really? You’re voice is like three octaves higher than Sam’s and you’re swimming in that tank top. Come on, bet I could beatcha at the ring toss.”
Ty looked over his ridiculous costume and then touched his sore eye. “Thanks, but I think I just want to be alone for a while.”
“Suit yourself. Here, I have a couple extra tickets in case you want to do any of the rides. Maybe it’ll make you feel better. You know, forget about the meat heads.”
Ty decided to do just that. He handed his tickets over to the skinny kid running the Roarin’ Roller Coaster and climbed into his car. He figured he might as well enjoy something while he was there. Besides, it’d be a lot harder for people to see the tears in his eyes when he’s zipping around at 75 mph.
As advertised, the coaster roared down the track, jerking left and right, up and down. It blasted through the night and dipped down steep before curving up into a loopty loop. Ty held his breath and closed his eyes.
The coaster stopped hard, making him whip forward and then slam back into his seat.
He opened his eyes one eye at a time and could see the giant ferris wheel, all lit up and turning slowly. Only it was hanging from the sky. Not only that, but the booths and stages were all hanging as well. Then Tyson looked straight down. A hundred feet below him the skinny worker was panicking and trying to run for help.
That’s when Tyson realized he was stuck upside down. Now normally, Ty would scream his brains out in a moment like this. After all, his dignity was no longer at stake, he’d lost that about an hour ago when he tried to sing at the talent booth. Here however, something kept him from losing it. Maybe it was the fact that being stuck upside down in a roller coaster was the perfect touch to the worst day ever. The cherry on top of the end of his social life.
There he sat, with a blonde wig half off and half eaten, a black eye, fake teeth falling out of his mouth, and an over-sized tank top that was bunched up at his chin.
Flooding his mind all at once were images of the day’s ridiculous events. He thought about the books he’d missed out on reading in the library, the Goblins and Wizards tournament he skipped after school, about the A paper he didn’t accept and had studied so hard to get. The more he thought about it, the more he realized how much he missed being him.
It turns out, Tyson likes being Tyson. He likes the books, the studying, the nerdy games, and yes the occasional episode of Purpo the Purple Dinosaur. Without all those wonderful things, life was just, blah. In that moment, Tyson’s world was turned upside down.
It’s not worth being somebody else. Life’s so much better when you’re true to yourself and love who you are. And Life loves having you in it. Without you, the world, your world, big or small, won’t feel the same. There are people out there waiting for you to bless them with your unique personality and talents. The first among them being yourself.
All of this and more rushed to Tyson’s head, along with the blood from being upside down of course.
You know what, he thought. Sam can keep his beautiful hair for all I care. He took off the patchy wig and let it fall to the ground. “I like who I am,” he said with confidence.
Just then the coaster jerked and then gently completed its course down the track.
The next day, Sam was back in all his glory, trying to explain to everyone they were seeing things the day before – That indeed he’d been home sick with the flu. Meanwhile, in Tysonland, Ty sat in his comfortable corner of the library, reading a fascinating book on the techniques of stargazing.
“Ehem,” came a voice in front of him.
He lowered his book and saw Laura Piper reading something titled: Stars and their many Constellations. Laura’s eyes peaked over the pages and smiled at him.
Tyson smiled back. He thought for a second and then walked over to the planter by the librarian’s desk. He pulled out one of the wilting white roses he’d left behind and handed it to her.
Have your child make a list of what they like about themselves (traits, talents, etc.). Talk about their list. Then tell them what you love about who they are. Discuss the importance of being true to oneself.
Make a collage with your child that’s all about them. Include their latest school picture in the middle of the paper/poster and surround it with their favorite things.
Talk to your child about how they can make others feel good about themselves. Teach them how to give a compliment to others.