AN: Senior year was rough, okay? Now I'm in college and I don't know when I'll have time. But mark my words, I'll finish this someday. Also, props to anyone who gets The Golden Ticket reference.
Once, Augustus had gone to a water park.
It was during the summer holiday between his his fourth and fifth year of primary school and he had mostly spent it in the butcher shop doing some of the same menial tasks he was charged with seven years later - wiping off the counter, sweeping the floor, pushing boxes around in the freezer, getting lectures about meat grinder safety as he tied up sausage.
But that year had something of a somewhat friend. The apartment above the store next door belong to an elderly woman who had fallen ill. Her daughter and the daughter's ten-year-old son on came to live with her a while to help her in her final days.
Waiting for a grandmother's imminent passing was definitely a morbid way to pass a summer and Augustus' mother felt pity and so his mother basically gave him the afternoon off and shoved him over to the apartment. "Don't be shy," she had told him before she rang the doorbell and "ding dong ditched" (a phrase he learned in America) him there.
The boy, Oliver, was just as awkward, if not more, as Augustus and they kinda got along. They weren't pals or anything of that nature, but they would sit next to each other when they were forced to go outside and people watch the tourists visiting Mittenwald in high summer. They'd eat ice cream until the clock tower of Saint Peter and Paul rung out six o'clock before they'd go back inside.
Not what his mother had hoped at all. Oh well.
But there was one day when Oliver's father was in town (he was some . . . something officey, Augustus guessed and couldn't leave his job.) Seeing his son and "friend" mope around the cathedral stairs, licking lemon pops, avoiding the tramps of tourists, sent him into some kick into inspiring pairing them to enjoy childhood.
Most of them were failed attempts. Frisbees. A football. A four hour hike through the forests. Finally, he settled on a water park because free fun wasn't cutting it.
So into the car they went, to some place. Bayern-Park if memory served him right. To enjoy the fading days of summer with a whole bunch of tourists.
Never being a fan of water, Augustus did as little as humanly possible. Fear wasn't the right word. He was never afraid of going hip deep in water, but something about . . . submersion? Yeah, that was the right word. Submersion. Well, enclosed spaces really. That wasn't enjoyable either. Basically those two phobias? were the perfect storm for Augustus freaking out on the first covered water slide he ever rode.
So Augustus could only imagine how cramped and uncomfortable and terrifying the ventilation system must have been.
Thank god he was too fat for that.
Michael was currently the center of attention, his booze bottle in hand, perched on top of his seat instead of in, retelling the story of how he has first scurried through the system. Detention freshman year, he was scrubbing pots and pans in the Home Ec room and when he finished, he sat day-dreaming about all the "kick-ass action films" he had seen and if that could really, actually, factually happen - the crawling through the vent.
There was some truth in television.
He looked so smug, so proud that he did something so crazy, but clearly Violet was not impressed. "Why?" she questioned, the bridge of her nose between her fingers before rephrasing her sentence, "What compelled you?"
Michael was apparently very smart - Augustus didn't have any classes with him and with the peak into Mike's little school world, it was because he was in AP Everything. But yeah, deciding on a little whim to do something like that was a little bit dumb.
Mike shrugged. Popped open the top of the booze bottle. Took a swig. Because apparently, answering Violet required alcohol.
"So, you would do anything if they showed it on TV?" Violet cocked her head as she said this, like a scolding parent. Not that Augustus knew her personally, but from the bits and pieces of what leaked in conversations, she was seventeen going on thirty seven.
"Well not anything; contrary to popular belief, I'm not a dumbass." He sat straighter on his perch of the library chair, like a defiant child.
Charlie - who was again, in his spot, sitting next to Violet - decided to speak. "He could do a lot worse then crawl through the ventilation, Violet."
"I thought you were on my side," Violet groaned.
"I am!" Charlie insisted. "But I just think there are worse things he could do than decide to imitate a movie after he did what he was supposed to do."
"Like sneak Vodka into school on a frequent basis?"
Mike, noting the uncomfortable, shifting nature in which Charlie and Violet took whenever he swung the bottle anywhere close to them, thrusted it closer to them. "Look, Chuck. I'm going to be frank with you. You ready for this hard truth? Consuming alcohol is not the worst thing a person can do. No matter what that lady with the penguin puppet said in third grade. Getting drunk is not on the same moral level as murdering a guy and keeping his dick in your refrigerator Jeffrey Dahmer style."
Charlie was blushing but didn't respond. Even Augustus, who had known this so-called truth since he was a kid, was a little taken aback by the crassness of what Mike said.
"I mean, it's not like any of you squares would have ever ingested booze other than what a priest gives you while wearing your Sunday best," Mike concluded, hoisting the blue bottle up as if to bless it.
"I have," Augustus said.
(The only reason he decided to chime in was because maybe - maybe for once - he could seem kind of cool.)
"Well, you're German," Mike scoffed. "You don't count."
"I mean," Mike continued, "it must have been like Oktoberfest every other day at your house, with the legal drinking age being like, fifteen. You're into Beck's right?"
"Well -" Augustus was taken aback by Mike actually taking interest again like he did with the tuba. "I didn't drink all that often - usually with dinner." (What kinda friends would he ever have that would want to go social drinking with him?) "But we mostly had wine. My aunt lived in Dusseldorf and there are a lot of vineyards up along the river."
"My mother favors the stuff that grows along the Neva, comrade," Mike added the Russian accent at the end. "But she's not prejudiced or anything. She is into all kinds of booze."
Mike fiddled with the bottle in his hand, tossing it back and forth to himself - the pitcher and the catcher. It looked like he was considering what the bottle contained - considered his mother and her bottle at home, maybe -before he settled on popping it open and taking another sip.
Then Augustus did something that the Augustus he had known prior to that moment - the awkward butcher's son who played the tuba in the band - would ever say, "May I have a sip?"
Four heads whipped his way, caught his distinct whisper. Violet looked agog. Charlie looked aghast. Veruca's nose scrunched and and Mike's eyebrow hovered above the other.
"What was that, Gus?"
"May I have a sip?" Suddenly, as he said this unexpected questions a second time, he felt the need to explain himself. "I never had any vodka when I lived in Germany; it is illegal for people under 18 to have."
"Go for it, Lard."
Mike's long hand extended the bottle to Augustus sitting next to him - completely in his seat unlike the former - and passed it.
"Salut," Mike said as the blue water bottle slipped hands.
"Prost," Augustus said weakly as he popped it open again and took a long sip.
It was terrible.
He coughed after he swallowed.
But Mike, he laughed.
Augustus wiped his mouth on the back of his cardigan, though he almost instantly regretted it, knowing that the scent of alcohol would linger. He could barely imagine what his Mama and Vati would say if they knew that the detention (the detention they thought he never deserved in the first place) was spent like a party, making him the delinquent he never was.
"Not quite the fancy-ass flavor of the Rhine, now is it?"
"No," Augustus gagged, shaking his head. It was decently strong, and already he was feeling the alcohol rush to his face, a small, small layer of fuzz coat his head.
"I mean, I'm more partial to Smirnoff but you know, you take what is easily disguisable," Mike said. "Trust me, that is way better than this shitty vodka."
"Yeah?" Augustus laughed. Because this tasted like cough medicine. He wasn't up for another sip, so he handed to bottle back to Mike.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Violet tisked, her voice dripping with disgust.
Mike scoffed. They had been playing this game all day and it was getting kind of old. But that didn't Augustus was sure Mike wasn't able to create more ways to insult the girl.
"Violet, when will you ever pull that stick out of your perky, aerobised ass?"
Violet's face glowered and this was the closest that Augustus was sure that the girl was going to get up from her seat and smack the boy across the face. She said something low, something dangerous, something along the lines of, "The hell did you just say to me?"
But Mike ignored her. " It's a Saturday for chrissake. Can't we have a little fun? Look, where he comes from, this is nothing. This is normal for Gus."
Augustus didn't know what happened at that moment, why at this exact moment of time, he decided to speak what had been on his mind for the whole day.
The sentence came out quiet, but it wasn't whispered. It was strong. (There might have been some truth in the phrase "liquid courage.")
Mike asked the question, but when Augustus looked over at the other three, he could see their mutual surprise.
"My name is Augustus," he said, stronger. "It is not 'Gus.' Or, for that matter, 'Lard.''"
Augustus looked over to Charlie. He had been subjected to this nicknaming, too. Augustus didn't know how exactly the other boy felt about being called "Chuck." But Charlie smiled at him, encouraging in that Charlie-sort of way.
But Mike? He snorted. "Well, Ah-goo-stus," Mike mimicked his accented pronunciation. "Don't you think that your name is a little . . . old fashioned? And long."
"Well - " Augustus began. He had come so far and no was left standing vulnerable. "My mother -"
"Didn't think of any sort of acceptable nickname for you in what, sixteen, seventeen years?"
Schnecke. Liebchen. Schnuckeli.
" . . .No." She had called him Augustus or one of many pet names. She had said that Augustus was his name - a good, strong name - and he shouldn't hide it with nicknames.
"So then what am I supposed to call you? Gus? Auggie? Gussie?"
For some reason the last one made him cringe. "Don't call me Gussie."
Mike scoffed. "Alright, Augustus."
And then they were left with a weird silence. This had been a weird turn of events, despite all of the weird things that had happened this detention.
He looked around.
Veruca, behind him, rolled her eyes at the whole thing. From their brief conversation from fetching refreshments during lunch time, he knew she was stand-offish. Clearly wealthy. Better than this. Better than him, for that matter.
So the strangest thing of all that happened from that little sip of vodka was the small smile that played at the corner of her perfectly pink lips as she rolled her eyes.
Augustus was willing to take that.
Mike uncapped the vodka bottle again and took another swig, before glancing at the clock.
"Hey, so we have only three hours left in this hellhole," Mike announced to the group. "So we could write these essays - " a nod to Charlie and Violet.
(Augustus looked down at the grease-stained, scribbled-on piece of paper sitting underneath his German-to-English dictionary. Not much of a basis to find his soul in that time. He guessed he was giving up as well.)
"Or," Mike continued, "we can just said 'fuck it' and have bit of a party. We already have the booze. The Idiot took my phone so I don't have any music, but somebody has to have some tunes. Who's with me?"
A manicured hand shot up.
"I didn't write anything, anyway," Veruca admitted to the nasty glare of Violet.
Mike looked down at Augustus, smirking. "Augustus? You seem to like taking risks today."
A shrug. "Sure."
3 to 2. Majority rules.
"Well -" It was Charlie who spoke up and admitted defeat first. "I'm almost done with my essay. I guess I can join you guys for a little bit."
"Alright, alright," Mike approved.
"But I'm not drinking," he hastily added.
Then, eight pairs of eyes darted over to Violet, who had her arms and legs crossed. She looked to the essay. Then back to Mike and Charlie and Augustus and Verca.