Hard to Say No

     Josh was on his way to a party across town at Mike's house. He really wanted to be friends with Mike but wondered how that could ever be, since Mike was one of the cool guys.

    Josh had to ride the bus to the party, and he wasn't happy. Other guys have their own car, already, he fumed.
    When he arrived at Mike's house, he saw and envied the cars of guys in his school. My stupid parents won't let me have anything I want! I'm always on the outside.  Josh's anger bubbled to the surface.  He blamed his parents for making him feel like such a dork.
    No one seemed to hear the doorbell over the loud music blasting inside, so Josh pounded on the door. Finally, some guy he didn't know answered the door and looked at him with a drunken grin. 'C'mon in,” he slurred. 'The party's just getting started.”
    'Cool,” Josh said as he entered the living room. All of the guys seemed to be drunk already and were draped across the furniture. Man, this was the way life should be. He knew that his parents would never have let him come to the party if they had known that there would be beer and no parents around.
    Someone shoved a beer into Josh's hand. 'C'mon, Josh, betcha can't drink it in one gulp,” two guys taunted.
    Josh poured the golden liquid down his throat and tried to keep from gagging. 'Josh! Josh! Josh!” chanted the others. It tasted horrible, but he kept at it. He didn't want these guys to think he wasn't as cool as they were.
    Finally the can was empty. He laughed and everything seemed kind of fuzzy. He giggled again. 'More!” he shouted.
    After downing two more cans, Josh felt woozy and sick to his stomach. Mike came over and threw his arm around Josh's shoulders.
    'Hey man, maybe you aren't the dork we all thought you were,” Mike said.
    Josh felt a wonderful glow—partly from pride and partly from the effects of the beer. Life was good. Listening to his parents seemed like another life. This was cool.
    Everything was spinning so he made his way to the couch. His stomach was churning. One of the guys plopped down on the couch next to him with a paper plate full of food. They grinned at one another. Talking was an effort.
    'Hey, watch out!” The food slid off the paper plate and onto Josh. Nachos covered his lap.
    Josh knew he had to go home soon. How was he supposed to get in the house unnoticed since he was covered in food stains and smelled like beer? Suddenly, his stomach lurched like a roller coaster and he ran outside to throw up over the side of the porch. Josh felt so bad he could barely stand.
    It seemed like he waited hours at the bus stop. The bus finally came and he flopped into a seat. He dozed off on the bus and woke up with a throbbing headache. His heart jolted at the sight of his parents' cars in the driveway.
    Josh's parents were shocked when he came through the door, reeking of salsa, beer, and vomit. He stood there not wanting to look at them.

    'What happened?” they demanded.


      Josh told them. He knew he was busted, so he might as well salvage something by being honest.
    His parents didn't yell at him. They grounded him and told him he would have to prove that he could be trusted again. The sadness in their eyes was worse than the punishment.
    Later, he heard that one of the guys at the party was in a wreck and broke his neck on this way home from the party. The music was so loud that Mike's neighbors called the police, and some of the guys were arrested for underage drinking.
    Josh thought a lot about what had happened. How could something that seemed so fun end up such a disaster? He realized being cool wasn't the most important thing in life and decided that no matter how hard it might be, he'd say no in the future.