My Dead Friend, Tony.

My Dead Friend, Tony

Twenty-six year old Mary is trying to make it big in the radio industry, despite the chaos from living with a middle-aged, raging alcoholic man who also happens to be dead.

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"Do you believe in ghosts?" I asked.

Long blonde ponytail with the pierced ear looked at me with a tiny glimmer of curiosity, but mostly apathy. He always looked like that. I don't think I've ever seen him smile. He once told me that he didn't bat an eye when the store got robbed and he had a gun to his head. I told him I didn't believe him, because the average person blinks fifteen times a minute, and a robbery like that would have taken two, maybe five at the most. He told me that after being in a drug cartel for a few years, nothing scared him anymore. And that getting robbed at gunpoint was better than being in prison, in his opinion. He asked me how I knew about robberies. I told him I watch a lot of crime shows on television. Sometimes I picture us getting married.

He slid my Snickers bar to me from his side of the counter and sighed. "Not really. I think it's all bullshit," he said.

"What if I gave you proof?" I said.

"Ha. You're fucking with me."

"I'm really not."

He stared at me blankly. There was no tiny glimmer. I could feel tension from the line of people behind me as they made exaggerated groans and passive coughs, but I didn't care. I stood there impatiently as I waited for him to say okay, fine, he'd believe me if I brought him a photo or a recording or something. Anything. I was desperate, and I just wanted to know I wasn't going completely fucking insane. I wanted someone to believe me, even if it was just the apathetic ponytail guy at the gas station. But instead all he said was, "Goodnight."

Fuck. I grabbed my candy as frustrated tears formed in my eyes. Ponyboy was my last hope. I stormed past the tweaker in the pink plaid pajamas, the up-to-no-good teen boys trying to score some booze, the rich white lady looking around hesitantly, wishing she hadn't stopped by this gas station, and a probably homeless man who stunk like shit. I opened the door and looked back at Ponyboy in case he changed his mind. No cigar.

I walked to my car and got in, but I couldn't go home. I looked at my watch and sighed. It was only four-thirty. Tony was probably up and about by now. He's not his best self when he first wakes up, or ever, really. I wasn't in the mood to deal with his shit lately, so I'd been sleeping in my car. My neck hurt. I took a bite from my Snickers and began to sob.

I guess I couldn't blame my parents and friends who didn't believe me when I told them that I was living with a middle-aged, Italian, raging alcoholic man who also happened to be dead. I know it sounded crazy, attention-seeking, and stupid. I wouldn't have believed it either, especially given my life track record. Word from the wise: don't become a drug addict. No one will ever take you seriously again.

The first time I told someone about Tony was over the summer. I'd figured it needed to happen, since people were starting to take notice of my mental state: constantly jumping at nothing, the random outbursts, the crying, always looking like I hadn't showered in days. Tony agreed to take a photo with me- he loves the spotlight- which I had showed to my mom one afternoon. Much to my horror, this was when I discovered I'm the only one who can actually see him.

"Oh, that's pretty, honey. I like your lipstick," she said.

"What about him?" I asked.

"Who?"

"Um. That greasy man in the wifebeater standing right next to me."

"What are you talking about?" She snorted.

My mouth fell open. How could she not see him? Tony was there, smiling, giving a thumbs-up to the camera. He even put on his clean wifebeater. I put my finger on the photo, over his stupid handlebar moustache.

"You really don't see him? Are you joking?!" I asked.

My mom's smile left her face when she realized I was being serious. Her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms. Hell hath no fury like a mother's wrath.

"Mary, you're not . . . using, again, are you?" she asked.

"No, I'm not fucking using!"

"Well, whatever you're on, get off it. You're twenty-six. Start acting like it." She glared at me.

"Mom, but I'm not-"

"And don't talk to me like that." She threw the photo at me and walked away.

And that was that.

In the following weeks I showed the photo to my friends, a few co-workers, the janitor, my elderly neighbor, my hair stylist, and a homeless guy. They all said the same thing as my mom did: "What are you talking about?"

I don't know, maybe Tony was my punishment. I got one too many get-out-of-jail-free-cards -literally- so in return, life gave me a ghost. Karma works in mysterious ways.

At first I thought it'd be fun, like a Beetlejuice type of situation, where we'd live in harmony and every now and then he could make me float in the air to "Shake Senora" but no. He's was worse than Beetlejuice himself, and he's definitely no award-winning Michael Keaton.

Tony's always drunk and always breaks my shit. He demands to sleep in my bed with me, because he hates sleeping alone, and he hogs all the blankets. He eats all my food. He'll pour cold water on me when I'm in the shower as a joke. He gets mad easily and yells a lot. Never does a goddamn thing around the apartment. Earlier this week, I mentioned that he should consider picking up after himself every now and then, because I was sick of coming home to his dirty dishes and puke, especially since he wasn't paying rent. It's not like he even could. He said he couldn't help puking because of his stomach ulcer.

"Here's a thought! Maybe if you quit drinking, you wouldn't have a stomach ulcer!" I said.

Tony is not very receptive to criticism. My little comment caused him to projectile vomit all over me and tear apart my Barney stuffed animal with his teeth, because he knew it was my favorite. I called him an asshole and asked him how it felt to be a drunk loser even when he was dead and threw one of his dirty, ketchup-stained plates at him. It went right through his body, since he's dead and all. It shattered against the wall and broke into pieces. He jumped at the noise and tears streamed down his face, soaking into his stupid moustache.

"Why would you do that, Mary?" he cried.

"I fucking hate you, that's why!"

That's when I packed a bag, and told him I was leaving for a couple of days. He begged me not to go, and that he was soooo sorry, and that he could fix Barney for me, and that he'll try cleaning every now and then. I told him it didn't matter, and that I wanted him gone, and I slammed the door in his face. As I raced down the stairs and into the lobby, one of my neighbors noticed my puke-stained clothes and smiled at me.

"Newborn?" she said.

"Yeah, basically."

I was out of there before she could ask me a follow-up question. It really wasn't worth trying to explain.

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Why An Athlete Is Not Defined By Their Level

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With tryout season among us, it is so important that this be addressed before the teams for this upcoming year are formed.

So many athletes that tryout, don't make the team they want and either quit to "take a year off" or jump ship to a gym that promises them to place the athlete on a higher level. I know that every athlete wants to be on level 5 team, the division is the most prestigious of all of them, especially because going to worlds is the end game for most athletes.

The problem these days in the cheerleading world is that our athletes are trying to level up at a rate that is just not quite realistic. If an athlete is on a level 1 team, the chances of her being on level 4 next year are slim. It is necessary for athletes to experience each level for at least a year to learn all of the fundamentals of the level and build on them for their foundation as an athlete to be more concrete. This produces the best athlete possible.

A lot of athletes think that all that they need to jump levels is tumbling and that is just not the case. When teams are formed, coaches take a look at many different things, these qualities include but are not limited to: mental toughness, dedication, tumbling, stunting abilities, pace of learning, dance and attitude.

Contrary to popular belief, there are so many factors that go into forming a team. This team not only has to be suitable for individual athletes but putting a team together is like a puzzle and as coaches we have to put a team together that will work well and have all the necessary percentages of skills to be competitive in their division.

We are concerned about building well-rounded athletes, not an athlete that is only capable in one facet of cheerleading. Some athletes are great level-4 tumblers but have level-2 stunt ability and those two will not equal a level 4 athlete until we boost the stunting ability of said athlete.

Putting an athlete on a team to just tumble is doing a disservice to not just the team, but also the athletes themselves. If this athlete joins a level 4 team to just tumble all year, when their tumbling progresses to that of a level 5 athlete, they will still have level 2 stunting skills and won't be put to good use when they are level 5 eligible. A well-rounded athlete is the kind of athlete that wins Worlds.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When athletes take their time and learn their level, they are not just learning completely new skills each year, but building on them. If done correctly, each year an athlete should improve on all points of cheerleading and not just one. The rules in each level lead to progressions for the level that it directly follows, so that athletes can safely learn skills by going up the ladder one step at a time.

What most don't realize is that skipping steps is such an unnecessary practice. If Susie stays on level 2 for an extra year, she is not "learning nothing", she is improving on the skills that she didn't quite execute completely the year before, this will perfect her performance in this level and give a more solid foundation for her to build on when she is on a level 3 team.

Pressure can drive athletes crazy. Parents, your athletes have so many years ahead of them to be on a level 5 team and go to worlds, so pushing for a 10-year-old, that is just not ready, to be on a level 4 team is unreasonable. Let your 10-year-old learn maturity and mental toughness at a level that is more appropriate, when your athlete is pushing herself too hard it takes the fun out of the tryout process and creates unnecessary stress on the athletes.

Lastly, please be sure to support whatever decision your coaches make for your athlete's placement, they know your child and they are not trying to hurt their pride, but build them up so they can accomplish all of their goals as an athlete. Know that the level your kid makes this year doesn't define him or her as an athlete, but helps them grow into the cheerleader they have the ability to become!

Cover Image Credit: National Cheerleaders Association

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The NBA Draft Lottery In A Nutshell

A quick overview of the 2019 NBA lottery and which teams got the best picks.

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The NBA draft lottery took place on Tuesday night where all of the NBA teams were looking to see their fate heading into the 2019 draft. Many people know that anything can truly happen with a lottery. This year proved that statement again as the New Orleans Pelicans claimed the number one overall pick. The Pelicans had just a six percent chance of claiming the number one pick yet they still beat the odds. The Pelicans are now in the driver seat with picking up top prospect Zion Williamson from Duke University. Most teams that knew they weren't making the playoffs tried to tank this year in order to pursue the college basketball icon.

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The teams that got the most out of this year's lottery were the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Atlanta Hawks. The Atlanta Hawks, in my opinion, got the benefit of the doubt this year as they have secured two spots in the first 10 draft picks of the 2019 NBA Draft. There is a lot of talent in this draft class so this is a make or break draft for a lot of these struggling teams. Prospects like RJ Barrett, Ja Morant, Jarrett Culver, and Cam Reddish. A lot of these prospects are ready to make an impact on whatever team they end up on. As for the projected number one overall pick Zion Williamson, he has gotten compared to NBA greats such as Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley.

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