Rusty is going through hard times? He’s not the only one, I think. Okay, this is something of a minor squeak to most adults. But if this is truly a “Rusty” story, then we have to accept that this could be a big deal to the kid. I remember one of my major disappointments as a kid. I was 12 and wanted to see The Beatles perform in Washington DC back in 1964. I was too young, my parents said, and it was a 4 hour drive one way. And I could not go on the bus, either. I was devastated for several days.
I never got over it. I became neurotic, a loner, and eventually turned to crime and eating Hostess Cupcakes. I started stalking Lois of Hi and Lois fame. She was a dish.
Well, only the cupcakes part of that confession was true. I did get over it. Still, it was traumatic for a teenager-in-training. In short, those negative vibes we see in panel 4 could very well express the anxiety and conflicting feelings “Russ” is experiencing.