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Coming of Age High School Fiction

His parents had to have known his name would curse him. Even he, admittedly not the not the most educated in the field, knew Greek Mythology had famously barbaric endings—suicide, torture, that one woman turning everyone to stone. But he’d been born soon after the death of his mom’s sister, and she loved myths. So when he came along, his parents paid her tribute, naming him Prometheus after the Titan that stole fire for humankind. 

“You know Prometheus gets his liver ripped out every night right?” He asked his mom one night when he’d had the wherewithal to research his namesake.

She sat down at the table, glass of wine in hand. “I know,” she said, taking a sip.

He settled across from her, drumming his hands on their oak table. “That screamed baby name to you?”

Her laugh rang of warmth and lilies of the valley. “The name means foresight. And he helped those who couldn’t help themselves,” she took another sip, “mythological Robinhood.”

“Sure,” he said, regarding her. He’d gotten her caramel-colored hair and her ever-knowing brown eyes. She would call his other features, the ones from his dad, aristocratic, a diplomatic way of saying she carried the better genes.

“He’s also attributed with providing humans access to the arts and sciences.”

“A real benefactor.”

She ran a hand through her hair, shaking out the strands so they shimmered in the light. “Why the sudden interest?”

He shrugged. “Prometheus isn’t a normal name around school.”

“Oh Theus,” she sighed. “Being normal is overrated.”

Theus grinned, pushing back in his chair. “And that’s such an overrated, parental expression.”

He remembered her laughing, calling after him “At least the Greeks invented wine!” as he ascended the stairs and flopped, unceremoniously, onto his bed. 

“Theus!” Andrew’s voice snapped him out of his reminiscence, a warning of the soccer ball that flew past him and into Jacob’s possession. 

“On it!” He called, chasing after his opponent who expertly dribbled around two of his team’s midfielders. Theus loved soccer, had loved it ever since he started passing a ball around with Andrew in middle school. They’d come a long way from the school playground, two of the four juniors to make the Varsity team this season. 

He managed to overtake Jacob, positioning his body between the forward and his team’s goal. Jacob had unparalleled ball-handling skills for their team. Their usual defensive midfielder and Jacob’s closest match, Colin, sat on the bench with a torn ACL, yelling at Theus to watch his right side. Theus, solidly second-string, had stepped in a couple of weeks ago and was, well, still getting the hang of things.

“Not that way—Theus!”

Theus swore, trying to recover from the Jacob’s feint. 

“Lotta backseat driving, Colin!” Andrew called, not fazed by Jacob moving the ball past his last line of defenders like a well-executed flick in foosball. Jacob lined up for a shot, placing it in the bottom left corner of the goal and right into Andrew’s gloved hands.

“Lucky break, Carr” Jacob yelled.

Andrew laughed, bouncing to his feet and rolling the ball back onto the field, “Whatever lets you sleep at night.”

They wrapped up practice shortly after that, heading to locker rooms to shower and change. As much as he wanted to analyze his performance in practice, Theus’s mind kept wandering to the conversation he’d had with his mom about his namesake. What did it mean to have a namesake, to carry that mantle? Was that the answer? If he had a namesake did he carry some part of that person’s legacy with him? He pulled a t-shirt over his head. After that original conversation with his mom, he’d thought a lot about Prometheus. Theus had always assumed he was a daring Robinhood, but what if he was a traitor? After all, he did get graphic cyclical torture every night. Maybe he deserved it. 

“Yo, Theus,” Andrew said, punching him in the shoulder. “You good to go?”

“Uh yeah,” Theus said, grabbing his duffel and slinging his backpack over his shoulder. “I’m good.” 

They walked in companionable silence through the hallways, pushing two glass doors open into the rapidly setting sun. They grew up in the same neighborhood and knew the route from their houses to the high school well.

“Where’s your head at?” Andrew asked, zipping his sweatshirt and pulling the hood over his corkscrew curls.

Theus shoved his hands into his pockets. “I don’t know man.”

Andrew bumped Theus’s shoulder with his. “Talk.”

Letting out a sigh, Theus considered his words carefully. “I’m thinking about what my name means to me.”

Andrew coughed, but Theus could still hear his muffled laughter.

“You asked!” He said, shoving his friend. They didn’t do the whole deep conversation thing too frequently, didn’t need to. Instead, they played soccer and video games, studying when they had to and challenging each other always. 

“Sorry sorry,” Andrew chuckled, straightening his smile and his shoulders. “What your name means to you.” When Theus glared at him, he threw his hands up. “I’m doing my best here.”

“Well you know how Prometheus is this badass Titan who steals fire from the gods and gives it to the humans?”

“Sure,” Andrew nodded, the wrinkle in his nose a dead giveaway that he did not, in fact, know.

“Does that mean I also have to steal fire from the gods and give it to humans?”

“We’ve come a long way since then.” He glanced at Theus and saw him bite his lip. “Right,” he continued, “not the point.” He paused for a minute. “Where is this all coming from anyway?”

“Just thinking.” Theus’s hand instinctively went to his phone, a heavy weight in his pocket. Earlier in the day, he had forgotten his math textbook in his locker. He’d rushed there before class and overheard a conversation between two of his classmates. 

“Yo dude,” Matthew said. “Check it out.” 

Chris whistled, then asked, “Where’d you get these?” 

“Doesn’t matter,” Matthew replied. “I’ll send them to you and a few of the guys. For good luck.”

“Appreciate it man,” Chris said.

Theus, sifting through items in his locker with increasing frustration—he could have sworn he brought his textbook to school—hadn’t thought much of their conversation. He didn’t know Matthew or Chris too well, and the prospect of losing credit for his work preoccupied him. That was until his phone, which he’d set at the base of his locker, buzzed with an airdrop. He accepted it out of habit, barely glancing at the content as he successfully found his textbook.

“Did you get it?” Matthew asked, as Theus closed and locked his locker.

“Not yet,” Chris replied.

Theus walked off as Matthew said, “Shit, who did I just send it to?”

It was only when Theus made it to the locker room for gym class that he remembered to check his phone to see what he had mistakenly accepted earlier in the day. He unlocked it, went to his photos, and saw…no it couldn’t be. He zoomed in. Was that the official stamp? How did his classmates have access to the SAT scores for the upcoming test that month?

“Didn’t the gods eat Prometheus or his kids or something?” Andrew asked, his excitement for the gory details overwhelming the details themselves. 

Theus winced and reoriented himself. “Uh, an eagle devours his liver every night.”

Andrew pulled the strings of his hoodie down. “Brutal,” he said.

“No good deed I guess,” Theus replied. He still hadn’t deleted the answer key from his phone. He wanted to say something but couldn’t rule out proverbial liver loss. The whole situation struck him as unfair. Many of his peers worked hard to study for the test. Why should only a few benefit? As he said goodbye to Andrew, he turned down his street and walked up the driveway to his family’s house. Their weathered Victorian slumped in greeting, the faded green paint peeling. As he opened the front door and kicked off his shoes in the front hallway, he wondered what his namesake would do. 

Later that night, he sat at the dinner table with his mom, dad, and sister, Allie. Flattening out the mashed potatoes on his plate, he paid attention on and off to the conversation around him.  

“When do you need to figure out roommates?” His dad asked, severing a green bean.

Allie, a year older than Theus, headed to college in the fall. She took a swig from her water glass. “There’s a form I’ll fill out sometime. They’ll send it to me.” She pulled her blonde hair into a ponytail. “And before you ask about classes, I have to wait on those too.”

He concentrated on turning his mashed potatoes into a mound. Allie had always known how to navigate their parents. Even through this college process, she had taken it upon herself to set a schedule and send her essays to their family friend, a former admissions rep. Their parents only weighed in when she needed to decide between in-state or out-of-state tuition. She probably would have immediately spoken up about the test answers. 

“Theus, eat your food, don’t play with it,” his dad said. 

Theus nodded, shoveling the rest of the food on his plate quickly into his mouth and depositing his dishes in the sink. “Gotta go,” he said through a mouthful, “homework.”

“Finish chewing before you talk and put your dishes—” his dad yelled after him, but he was already upstairs.

“Alright,” Theus said to himself, pulling his chair up to his desk and navigating to private mode on his computer. “How do I go about leaking SAT answers?”

The next morning, he sat in the computer lab with his finger hovering over his cursor, worrying his lip. He’d made it to school early, filing in with other students rushing to clubs or tutoring. Heading straight through the main glass doors, he ascended the central stairwell, and turned left before entering the darkened room. The lab itself had one window, and hazy blue lights cast a glow over the bulletin board walls which were papered with crinkled flyers. This was the older part of the building, and the security cameras that dotted the main hallways hadn’t been installed in the hallways around the computer lab or the lab itself. Theus knew going early meant he’d be in right before Secret Code, the school’s computer club, met. He hoped that would make it harder to pin him down, on top of having logged in with the school’s local credentials, but he knew he had to move quickly before anyone saw him. 

“Okay,” he said, under his breath. “Bring on the eagles.”

With one swift click, he scheduled a release of the SAT answers. They would hit his school’s website in the form of an anonymous tip right in time for the after-school pep rally. At the very least, he joked to himself, it would provide more entertainment than the rally would. He closed out of his tabs, cleared the computer’s history for good measure, and logged out. Then, he grabbed his backpack and slipped out of the lab.

June 24, 2022 22:29

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1 comment

H.R. Glick
12:26 Jun 30, 2022

I love your writing style. So many juicy tidbits from the expressive wrinkle of the nose to flattening out the mashed potatoes. I appreciate your knowledge of Greek Mythology, and were you to expand this story at all, it would be fun to see how Theus's friends have similar attributes of other Greek titans, Gods, and mythological beings.

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