Bound for the Baptism

A Transient Visitors Very Tiny Tale by David O’Boyle

Bruno bent down one of the horizontal slats with his finger, permitting a few rays of Texas Sun to enter his dorm room. Temporary blindness was a relief, a shield from his worries beyond the window, the biggest one being what waited for him in the river behind campus. Such relief was short lived, however. A puffy cumulous cloud soon swallowed the sun, returning all freshmen heading down to the river back into view. All of them, Bruno too, were bound for the Baptism, a freshman rite of passage on day one of fall semester. Everyone new to campus climbed the sacred tree, swung on the sacred swing, and splashed into the sacred river.

Sure, it sounded fun, breaking the ice with the other newbies while waiting to receive the sacrament. Every guy wanted to talk football, smoke weed, and chug cheap liquor. The girls sunbathing on the river rocks did too.  

But for Bruno, this ‘fun’ was a nightmare. Traditions like these ate up fat kids who couldn’t swim. Howard, another portly freshman he met down by the water, was proof of that. Unwilling to take off his shirt or swing into the river, Howard was already persona non grata—the resident outcast, the betrayer of tradition. Bruno was Howard all through high school. He would not be Howard in college.

Bring on the river.

A familiar face from his dorm floor, Sam was his name, was handling the rope for everyone. Sam sat on the horizontal branch above the river where the rope was tied. After someone swung into the river, he caught the recoil and brought it to the next person in line. In exchange for his labors, he could skip the line and jump whenever he pleased.

Nobody minded. When Sam swung, each twist and turn was a separate stanza to his poetry in motion. The show was meant for brighter lights than sun rays reflecting on the river.

“Bruno, right?” Sam asked when Bruno reached the front of the line. “Nice to meet you. I think we’re in the same dorm.”

Bruno stayed quiet. Sam sensed his silence as fear rather than rudeness and responded accordingly. “It’s no big deal, man. The scariest thing about it is thinking you jumped in with your phone,” Sam said.

Bruno laughed. “That’s why I kept it charging back in my room. Hang on to my wallet for a bit?”

“Sure thing,” Sam said as he took the wallet and handed Bruno the rope.

“I’m here. I won’t let anything happen to you,” Sam whispered in response to seeing his dormmate’s two trembling hands.

Bruno knew Sam was someone he could trust. So, he gripped the rope tight and swung out onto the river.

Panic set in as soon as he splashed into the water. Sam jumped in the second he started screaming and pulled him to shore.

Already anticipating Bruno’s humiliation, Sam said, “Psyche!” to all the worried freshman crowding the bank. Bruno went with it, the continued look of panic on his face fast appearing like performance. A few folks considered fake drowning a non-laughing matter. Most found it hysterical. At least for now, the freshman class found their campus comedians.  

“Thanks for saving my ass out there,” Bruno said when he and Sam had a moment alone. 

“No problem. You got me next time,” Sam said.

“If there is a next time,” Bruno said.

“There’s always a next time in college,” Sam said.

Bruno smiled and asked for his wallet.

Sam’s smile changed to a look of alarm. The wallet was gone, likely lost to the bottom of the river during all the commotion.

“I can pay you back,” Sam said.

But it wasn’t about money. Bruno’s wallet contained his fake ID. When it disappeared, so did his nightlife, a fact that became all too real when he departed one way from the river—to the dorm— and everyone else went the other—toward the bars on main. Yet rather than mope, Bruno appreciated the positives. For one, him and Sam seemed friendship-bound. That would never have happened in high school. To have it happen on the first day of college was worth ten fake IDs. For two, his current isolation was a bit overblown. He still had his phone. And Sam kept him updated.

Up until the last text message that correspondence was going great. Then Sam sent him a snapchat of a fat kid grinding between two beautiful girls.


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