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His real name is David Cameron, but everybody calls him 'The Captain', or 'Cap' for short. He transferred to Winport Middle School last year from California and became unofficial class clown thanks to his hilarious performance in the school musical. Watching his tall, lanky form shooting baskets in the empty gymnasium, I realized Cap was the only person I'd ever met who was actually born in Hollywood. At times I wondered how he felt about moving to the Boston suburbs.
Cap's big dream is to become a professional actor. Not that he looks like those cute guys you see in the movies. Actually, he's kind of homely. His ears stick out, he wears wire-rimmed glasses perched on his sharp nose and he's weird, sometimes very weird. A few kids claim he takes night walks on Winport Beach with a mysterious character called 'The Wolfman'. But Cap doesn't have a self-conscious bone in his body. He smiles nearly all the time and most of the kids like him even if they can't figure him out.
Glancing toward the bleachers, I saw my forgotten gym bag sitting atop the highest bench. I sighed because I'd have to pass Cap to climb up and retrieve it. Cap's in most of my classes and I like him a lot, but he teases me and sometimes it gets embarrassing. My best friend Marcia says it's because he has a thing for me, but I'm not so sure. I think he teases me because I can't resist teasing him back.
"Hi, Lori. I've been watching that bag for you," he called out, making a great show of aiming the basketball as I hurried by.
"How'd you know it was mine?" I called back from the top bench. "It looks just like everyone else's."
"That's easy. I saw you dump it there and forget it after your gymclass."
"And you let me leave without it? Some friend you are, Cap," I grumbled, grasping the handle and making my way back down to the shiny gym floor.
Cap finally made a shot, but missed. "I knew you'd come back for it, so I've been hanging around, waiting."
"Waiting? Why? I thought you'd be at Ms. Bosco's election meeting by now. It'll be starting any minute."
"Oh, I'll get to Ms. Bosco's homeroom as soon as Coach Burke's finished with us here. I've been waiting because ... because I wanted to see you alone."
The side door opened and Coach Burke, followed by Cap's teammates, trooped noisily into the gym. "Cap, you know I'm running for class treasurer. I don't want to be late. Can we talk after the meeting?"
"Looks like we'll have to," he replied, taking another shot. This time, the ball dropped neatly through the hoop. Grinning broadly, he dribbled the ball toward his teammates at the opposite end of the gym. "I'm pretty fast, huh, Lori?"
"If my feet were as big as yours, I'd be fast, too," I retorted, sweeping past him toward the door, where Marcia had appeared. She gestured anxiously for me to hurry. "See you later, Cap."
Marcia grabbed my arm and began dragging me in the direction of Ms. Bosco's homeroom. Her freckled face wore that glow of excitement I knew so well. "Where have you been, Lori?" she scolded. "I waited for you after science class."
"I left my stupid gym bag in the bleachers where we were sitting earlier. What's going on, anyway?"
Marcia lowered her voice dramatically. "I overheard a bunch of kids in the cafeteria talking about David Cruise. He plans to run for eighth-grade class president."
I rolled my eyes upward. "Marcia, that's not news. He was president of the seventh grade. He got the whole school working together for our mini-Olympics. The coaches were thrilled. We raised a lot of money for the student activity fund and had a great time doing it, right?"
"Not to mention all the cash and refreshments his father donated," Marcia recalled.
"Exactly. So why shouldn't David run again? Everyone expects him to."
"But that's not the good part, Lori! Bobby Troup told Susan Levenson that David wants YOU to be his campaign manager! Of course, he doesn't know that you're running for class treasurer and I'm going to be YOUR campaign manager."
I must have looked stunned because Marcia broke into her most triumphant smile. "David wants me? Why me?"
"Because your mother was elected to the school board and you came in second in last year's essay contest. He thinks you know politics and you're one of our smartest students."
"Are you kidding, Marcia?" I hissed, unable to believe my ears. "This is impossible! I've had a crush on David Cruise since sixth grade. I gave up trying to get his attention. Plain old smiling and talking just never worked. Remember how we used to walk by his old house at night so I could peek at him through the living room window?"
"Yeah, that was before he moved to the penthouse," Marcia giggled. "It's kind of hard to spy on a guy who lives on the fifteenth floor. I wonder if he ever found out who was sending him those sappy love notes."
It was my turn to giggle. "I certainly hope not. That was probably the dumbest, most immature thing I've ever done. Let's face it, David doesn't know I'm alive..."
"Shhh! There he is, over by the water fountain with Bobby."
I dared to smile at handsome David, and he smiled back. A big smile. As Marcia and I entered Ms. Bosco's homeroom and found desks in the front row, I floated on cloud-nine. Was the cutest, most popular boy at Winport Middle School really going to ask me to manage his campaign?