Once upon a time, in the small town of Dulland, there lived a young man who was desperately lame. Every day his father would go out into the fields and tend to the sheep, with hopes that his son would one day take interest in his work. The child was the only heir to the flock, but unfortunately it seemed that the boy had other ideas. While his father herded the bleating balls of fluff, he would simply stare out the window, watching the local children laugh and play. He knew that there was one thing he sought after in life. The humble life of a shepherd held no allure for him; he simply wanted to be cool.
In his window watching, there was one young man who always caught the dork’s attention. The shepherd’s son did not know the young man’s name, so he simply called him Jude, because he looked like a Jude. Jude wasn’t like the other kids. While most of the children in the town played stick and hoop, or boasted of whose father grew the most crops, or just, like, stared at grass, Jude was busy doing exciting things. Dangerous things. Cool things. Jude had fashioned a crude skateboard out of corn, and shredded asphalt around the town, doing all manner of grinds and ollies and… other things probably (“grinds” and “ollies” were the only skateboard words the little loser knew). On top of that, in all his years of window watching, the boy had never seen Jude without his pair of slick black shades. He was the envy of all of the town’s children, but none more so than the young shepherd’s son. He dreamt, more than anything, of one day being half as cool as Jude.
He first asked his father if he knew how to be cool. The Shepherd was a man of great wisdom, who’d taught him everything he knew, and yet when posed with this quandary he simply told him to go to the fields and tend to the sheep. He wasn’t about to learn how to be cool from some dumb sheep, so the boy told the shepherd that he wasn’t the boss of him, and that he was the real sheep. He stormed off into the town, dead set on learning the art of coolness from the assortment of radical dudes who resided there.
Seeking cool guidance, the child first went to the town wizard. He sprinted as fast as he could to the wizard’s tower on outskirts of town. He ran with his body tucked down, head out in front, and arms thrust out behind him, for he thought this was very cool. It was not.
The boy arrived at the massive spire and ascended the spiral steps to the old magician’s chamber. Colorful light poured in through the stained glass windows, illuminating all manner of magical trinkets and knick-knacks scattered about the room. He stepped meekly up to the wizard. He was an old fellow with a long beard, sitting, half-asleep, in a rocking chair.
“Um… Mr.Wizard sir?” the boy said sheepishly.
“Hm?!” the old man awoke, startled by the sudden noise. “Who said that?”
“It is I, a mere nerdy loser, and I want you to make me cool!” the boy said.
“Ohhh?” the wizard leaned forward in his chair and squinted at the boy. “Yes, yes, cool, should be easy enough.”
The wizard cleared his throat and raised his arms, twirling them around in the air above. The boy watched in awe as brilliant lights swirled and danced around the wizard’s twirling hands.
In a deep, booming voice, the sorcerer shouted the incantation, “Similis Factus Fonzarelli!”
A bolt of blue lightning struck the boy from the sky, coursing energy through his body. The wizard sat back and smiled, pleased at his work.
“Now boy, how do you feel?” the wizard asked.
“I… I feel great!” the boy exclaimed with a grin.
“Good, good—now, why don’t you take your newfound coolness for a test ride, hm?”
The boy nodded vigorously, then pulled a mint condition razor scooter out of his pocket. He had never been able to ride it before, totally wiping on every attempt, but with his newfound coolness, it would be a breeze! He jumped on and rode it in a figure 8 across the wizard’s domain. The old man slowly lifted a wrinkled thumb to express his approval. The boy was just getting warmed up though.
As he built up speed, he braced for his big trick. Timing it so the wizard could get the optimal view, the boy leapt from the ground, twirling his scooter beneath him. But all was not well. Alas, in its descent, the scooter whipped around and struck the boy in the back of his ankle. He cried out in pain. Now, control of his momentum lost, he tumbled across the room into a stack of the wizard’s spellbooks.
“What?!” the wizard cried. “That’s impossible! The spell I cast should’ve increased your coolness tenfold! There’s no way you could still be this lame, not unless…”
The wizard reached for the table next to his chair and grabbed a pair of spectacles. As he slid his glasses on, his expression changed from surprise to horror.
“It’s you! That loser son of a shepherd! You have to get out of here, now! If any of the other wizards know I cast a spell on you, I’ll get magical wedgies for the rest of my life!”
“Bu-but…” the boy stammered.
“Out!” the wizard barked.
The boy sulked out of the wizard’s lair, no cooler than when he entered.
He didn’t give up hope yet though. In his quest for raditude, the boy ventured to the humble abode of the town rapper. He entered the rapper’s crib, which smelt distinctly of marijuana and crisp hundred dollar bills. Stacks of money and CDs were laid out haphazardly across the room. The rapper himself sat in the center on a purple leopard-print throne, tossing cash out to the two scantily clad women gyrating at either side of him.
“Um… mister town rapper, sir?” the boy mumbled.
The rapper looked down at him. He motioned to the women and they exited to the right.
“So little chump, what brings you to my humble abode?” the rapper said.
“W-well you see…” the boy said, “I’m trying to learn how to be cool, and you’re one of the coolest people-”
“One of?!” the rapper interrupted “Fool, I am the coolest cat in this entire kingdom. If you came to learn the art of bein’ ill, then you came to the right place.”
“Great!” the boy was beaming. “How do I become cool like you?”
“Okay, so,” the rapper began, “bein’ cool is all about findin’ yo own personal swagger, and to do that, you gotta—well let’s just say a dude is at his illest when he’s got a flock of fly honeys at his side, ya hear?”
“I… don’t understand,” the young boy said.
“Bitches, man, you gotta get bitches!” the rapper said.
“Oh, of course! Well uh… how do I do that?”
“Aw man, do I gotta spell it all out for you? If you wanna get bitches, you gotta make bank!”
“Make… bank?” the boy tilted his head.
“Ya know, bank! You gotta that Moolah, the cheddar, the dead presidents. You need them ducats!”
“Money, kid, you need money.”
“Well,” the boy said, fidgeting around in his pocket, “I’ve got about 5 dollars and 23 cents. Is that enough?”
The rapper just stared for a second. “Boy, that ain’t even money. Ya know when they say ‘coin’ they don’t mean it gotta be actual coins, ya feel me? You gotta get racks on racks on racks dog, and then ya gotta get racks on those. Man, you gotta get so much dough that them dudes on the space shuttle look at yo bank roll and say ‘damn, homie, that’s high’.”
“Oh,” the boy said, having understood approximately 10% of what he’d just heard. “And um… how do I get it?”
“Man, you really are a fool! You gotta rap, lil’ man. Here, spit a few a bars, let me see what you got.”
“Okay,” the boy said, readying himself. “I’ll try. I-”
“Nope, stop, shut that whole thing down”, the rapper said, shutting his whole thing down. “I’m sorry, kid, but you ain’t got it. You only said one syllable and it was 31 flavors offbeat. How do you even do that? Look, lil’ dude, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you ever gonna be cool.”
“O-oh… okay…” the boy said shakily, holding back tears as he sulked off once again.
After the advice of the coolest people he knew failed to get him anywhere, the shepherd’s son hung his head in shame and trudged home. When he arrived, he told his dad of his troubles, of how he wanted so badly to be cool, and yet no one he met could tell him how to do it. His father simply told him once more to tend to the sheep. Resigning to his fate as the loser son of a shepherd, the boy sighed and walked out to the field.
Much to his surprise, as he got out into the field, he noticed a peculiar sight. In the far corner of the large pen, one lone sheep wearing sunglasses stood out from the herd, leaning nonchalantly against the fence on his rear hooves. The boy waded through the sea of fluff to get to this uncanny ungulate.
“C-cool sheep?” he said timidly.
“Sup,” the sheep replied with a relaxed nod.
“Cool sheep, I’ve asked everyone for tips on how to be less lame, and no one has been able to help me! Do you have anything that you could teach a loser like me about being cool?”
“Dude, you’re already cool just the way you are man! Coolness is all about owning yourself, walking with confidence, and just being a good person. The coolness has been inside of you all along!”
“Really?” the boy said, his eyes wide in awe.
“Nah, I’m just messing with you. You’re lame as hell dude. Here, take these.”
The cool sheep reached into his wool and pulled out a pair of aviator shades and handed them to the boy, who donned the sunglasses readily.
“Now that is a fresh little dude,” the sheep said, admiring his handiwork. “Go forth, and be the coolest dude you can be.”
And so, on that day, the boy learned that it wasn’t money, magic, or confidence that made someone cool; all it took was a nice pair of shades.
J. Quentin Murray is a junior fiction writing major at Columbia College Chicago. He can usually be found lurking in the halls of the city’s many museums, absorbing mass amounts of trivia to spring on unsuspecting victims. His work can be found somewhere, probably, if you look really hard.