MARGATE, FL—In a rare act of upperclassman generosity, Mangrove High School loser senior Chris Payack announced Monday that he is tending to the well-being of loser freshman Anthony Martelli.
"You might think he and I wouldn't have much in common," said Payack, a 17-year-old campus nonentity. "We definitely occupy different spots in the pecking order. I've been a drum major, done time on the principal's honor roll, even made a little name for myself hosting the teen center's 'Weird Al' karaoke night. But Tony reminded me of the loser I used to be, and I wanted to help him."
According to Payack, he met Martelli during the first week of class, when he spotted the 14-year-old adding his name to a sign-up sheet for the school's Latin club.
"I decided right then and there to do something," said Payack, who last year went to a regional competition with the club and brought home "some major hardware" for placing first in conjugation. "I wanted to be the guy I never had to look out for me back in the day."
Soon after approaching Martelli, Payack learned the freshman required immediate assistance in his physical education class. Martelli had been struggling with basketball to the extent that he feared he might receive a failing grade and be unable to participate in forensics competitions later in the semester.
"The first thing I told him was that you never, ever take a shot," said Payack, who during his sophomore year secured a doctor's note permanently excusing him from gym class and now spends the class period up in the bleachers doodling interlocking triangles. "The guys on your team are gonna try to keep the ball out of your hands, but if you somehow end up with it, you pass it immediately. You pass that ball."
While Payack's mentoring has been met with some resistance, the senior attributes it to "the willfulness of youth," and the fact that Martelli didn't realize at first he was speaking face-to-face with the person who leads the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom every morning.
Still, Payack claims to have imparted much wisdom to the freshman, including the locations of bathrooms with working locks on the stalls, the perks of being a media center aide, and the names of sympathetic teachers who will let you eat lunch with them in their classrooms.
"Man," said Payack, shaking his head. "I wish I'd known someone like me."
For all the progress Martelli has made, Payack said he has concerns about what will happen to his pupil next year.
"I'm leaving for Florida State soon enough," said Payack, who will likely spend this spring's senior trip to Disney World sitting alone at a performance of the Country Bear Jamboree. "I just hope I have time to teach the kid everything he needs to know. I could spend two semesters on locker anxiety alone."
"But who knows?" Payack continued. "Maybe Tony will end up at the same college, and I can show him a whole new set of ropes. I mean, I hate to think of him out there all alone, trying to figure out which frat parties to avoid like his life depended on it."
When reached for comment, Martelli said that, while he appreciated Payack's good intentions, he only began hanging out with the fan of obsolete computer languages because he assumed a senior would have a car.
"He doesn't even have a learner's permit," Martelli said. "And now I can't figure out how to get rid of him. I know I'm a little awkward, but that's just because I'm new here."
Added Martelli, "That guy's a total loser."