The 12 Rules of Survival | Episode 29: Everything Goes Wrong


Nicholas Belardes is a dual-ethnic Chicano writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the YA-themed edition of The Latinx Archive: Speculative Fiction for Dreamers (Ohio State University Press), Southwestern American Literature (Texas State University), Carve Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Barrelhouse, and others.

He illustrated map drawings for the New York Times best-selling novel West of Here, and is the author of the first twitterature in novel form, Small Places, which has been studied as part of digimodernism in literature by scholars who seek to discover the fusion of art with digital technologies, in specific, electronic fiction as a new literary current.

Sometimes a ghostwriter of contemporary fiction and YA, he currently lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his wife Jane. The 12 Rules of Survival is his first MG novel. You can find him at or on Twitter @nickbelardes

Artist: Timothy Banks or on Twitter  @teabanks

Part Eleven

Eleventh Rule of Survival: Stay Mentally Strong

Everything Goes Wrong

They’ve widened the drill hole at site No. 1 just enough so that Peter’s mom and Marcus Jones can be rescued via a one-person, cage-like container that’s slowly lowered into the bore hole.

This makes me jealous because the video feed between the rescuers and the Final Four have been out for twelve hours. I need to be happy for Peter. It’s the right thing to do. Kindness toward his outcome means hope for mine. I fight with my feelings over this.

I’m at school next to the basketball courts watching the live feed on my phone when the two trapped workers are pulled out of the ground. Everybody is happy and hugging. First out of the ground is Peter’s mom. I can see Peter cheering, then he and his dad hugging her, who I imagine like Dad must smell like a giant earthworm. I wish I could be there but Mom had some stuff to do this morning and I stupidly told her I wanted to be at school.

I don’t want to be at school.

CNN says it’s a miracle that the rescue happened so fast, that even drill site No. 2’s bore hole is being widened at record-setting speed after communications were lost. This isn’t anything like the Chilean mine disaster of 2010, they say. In that disaster, a megablock of stone the size of a 45-story building broke free and smashed through the mine’s many layers. It took sixty-nine days to pull out trapped miners. I don’t know how those families didn’t go crazy. Okay, maybe some of them did.

I’m glad we’re not setting any records. And I need to hear from Dad. I’m getting really nervous about it and want to run out the school gates.

Clayton bounces a basketball next to me. “That’s cool they got them out,” he says. “Your dad’s next, right?”

“In a few days. I want to be there when he gets out,” I say.

“You will,” Clayton says.

Mason sits against the wall of one of the buildings. Call me crazy but I want to talk to him. I don’t know why but I feel like we’re even. He didn’t get suspended but that’s okay. It was horrible what he did but maybe he learned for once not to be a bully or to vandalize the school.

“Hey, I’ll be right back,” I say.

Clayton seems to instantly read my mind. “Are you nuts? He doesn’t want to talk to you. He doesn’t want to talk to either of us. He finally knows not to mess with us. I bet he hates probation. One more stupid thing and he gets suspended.”

I turn to Clayton. “I have to, okay?”

Clayton takes one look into my eyes and shakes his head. “Suit yourself. I think you’re being dumb. He’ll just want to pound your head in.” He bounces the ball between his legs and dribbles onto the court. “Just remember I warned you.”

After a deep breath I head toward Mason.

When I arrive he doesn’t look up right away. He seems bored, scribbling on a paper on top of a folder. He doesn’t even act surprised when I stand over him.

“Hey,” I say.

He squints and looks up. “What?” he says.

“I was just wondering something.”

“No, I’m not going to teach you how to draw moles.”

I don’t laugh though I kind of want to. “I meant something else.”

Mason’s hair has been getting long. He pushes bangs out of his eyes. “I’m not going to hold your hand when your dad gets squirted out of Space Mountain.”

This hurts but I feel like he’s just being a jerk as usual, that he cares about more than he lets on. “Can we be friends?” I’m still thinking of the last rule, Make Friends.

He stops scribbling. “Really? Oh boy. Oh wow. Can we?” He stuffs the paper he was writing on in the folder, then says, “Get lost, mole lover.”

I let out another breath. I don’t allow myself to completely relax in case I need to run for my life. “I just think all this hating each other is getting old. Being mean to me to hide your problems is kind of dumb.”

“Now you’re calling me dumb?” Mason gets up. He’s a head taller than me. “Hasn’t your dad died yet, French fry? Hasn’t he got cooked or frozen or got smashed by a rock named Fred?” He shoves me, but not hard enough that I fall. “Get out of here.”

I feel tears in my eyes but fight them off. “Why do you do that?” I say. “Does your dad hate you or something?”

This time he screams right in my face. It’s totally unexpected because I think he’s going to punch me. “Yessss!” he yells. “Yes, he does. He does. Okay?” He stares at me, tears in his eyes. He stares like he wants to punch my face into lumpy Play-Doh. His lips move too and at the same time he seems to be holding his breath. Finally he lets out a kind of gasp. “Okay?” he says again. “Get out of here!”

This time I walk away. My nerves are completely rattled. I head straight for the office. I don’t even notice Clayton running up behind me.

“Hey, where you going?” he says. “I thought he was going to hit you. I ran over as fast as I could. Did he do something to you? Man, I’ve never seen him freak out like that.”

“I’m fine,” I lie and take off running. I need to get out of here.