Chapter Three: School

John’s appetite Monday morning was not appeased by two bowls of corn flakes, but he was too apathetic to fry up some eggs and bacon. Despite having a surprisingly good sleep the night before, John felt like shit, and not even the usual remedy, a good hot shower, had helped. God bless the morning people, and keep them away from the people who are not, at least until ten o’clock.

John walked to school. What ever else could said about Mr. Poleshaw, he was determined not to spoil his only son by purchasing an automobile. It would be awhile before John would experience that sort of freedom that only comes from being in the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, the farmboys of the Prairies could tool along the backroads in their fifty-dollar clunkers (without insurance or registration), and the Toronto teenagers of the upper middle class had the luxury of choosing between Volkswagen and Honda (something sensible mind you). However, the rest of the adolescent masses generally provided funds for their transportation through a part-time job, if they were lucky. John was a jock in football, so his loss in social status by not having a car was more than made up by his involvement in sports.

He didn’t mind the walk to school even though the day was chilly. The Poleshaws lived close to the borderline of East Vancouver and the suburb of Burnaby. The latter had developed much of the traits of its inhabitants, urban, upwardly mobile, pleasing parks and a relatively efficient municipal government. The housing, in comparison to Westside Vancouver, was still relatively affordable. It wasn’t as bad as Toronto anyways.

East Van (never East Vancouver) was a different story: Skid row, low-income housing, greasy spoons, Chinatown, industrial warehouses, factories. To the north, bounded by the CN rail line forbidding public access to the Burrard Inlet, and to the west, the reserve watertanks on the hill in Queen Elizabeth park, demarcated the two divides. The municipal dump for Vancouver was situated in East Van, and even today, many interesting old bottles and tin cans, as well as other bits of trash, can be dug in many an East Van backyard. In 1987, courageous pockets of working class neighbourhoods and hippie communes dotted what otherwise would be a gigantic slum. Within a square mile of the center of East Van there were three welfare offices and two unemployment centres, the former always doing more business than the latter. Laurentian high school occupied the northeast corner of East Van, in between Broadway and East Hastings Street about a quarter mile from Boundary Road, the demarcation line shared with Burnaby.

On days when the wind blew strongly from the west, one could smell rotting fish entrails wafting from the canning factories. The shoreline that was devoted to industry was not far from the school’s football field. Mercifully however, there were a few blocks of restored houses with planted trees that gave the immediate neighbourhood a benign, if not friendly, atmostphere. The school itself looked neither gloomy nor cheerful but the graffiti on the walls gave it a sense of decay. In the spring, the vibrant vegetation of trees and grass (even in the city) gave the school a pleasant scenery that made it almost pleasing to the eye. But in autumn, it only looked utilitarian.

John did not take note of the school’s appearance however, because on Mondays before 1 pm he usually did not take note of very much. He walked past the designated smoking area in the school parking lot, choosing to ignore its charter members with their dull stares and cooled-out gestures of rebellion towards the system. He opened one of the large, heavy side doors and slipped inside before it could slam shut on his fingers. There was something wrong with the springs, rendering it treacherous. The hallways were so clean they practically glistened; the graffiti had been removed during the summer from the interior walls and none yet had taken its place. Curiously, that depressed John. Leaning against the lockers was a student with a T-shirt that read “Revolution ‘85.” In the age of Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney, the revolution was over and the yuppies had won. John entered one of the classrooms.

But one man’s spirit had not been crushed by the thousand-and-one burdens of teaching under a groaning bureaucracy. Instead, it had metamorphesed into something that delighted in poking holes in the envelope of sanity, or at least the normal decorums of human behavior. Students did not give Mr. Chretian their love, for many loved no-one, least of all themselves, or their respect, so most times they gave him the next-best thing, their attention, for he commanded it. As soon as he spotted John, Chretian went into one of patented mad-dog routines:
“Pole-shaw! Ohmigod, you mean to tell me you’re still in this school? Didn’t we kick you out or something like that?”
“Sir, I have been attending your French classes now for over three weeks without an absence.” “You have? What period?”
“Three.”
Chretian quickly shifted through the attendance records. “Holy shit, you’re right,” he said.
Then he swiftly wheeled about to the freshman who looked upon the proceedings with frank astonishment.
“Hey you,” Chretian snarled, “Do you know what happens to students who go around spreading lies that certain teachers use four-letter words and bullshit like that?”
His madness was infectious.
“I heard him, I heard him!” John cried out in a high-pitched voice, jumping up and down like a hyper-active four-year-old. “You sweared, you sweared.”
John blew a large raspberry at Chretian, whose face contorted as if in agony.
“Ohmigod, my professional reputation is ruined.” He buried his face in his arms. Then suddenly he arose, with a murderous gleam in his eye. “Unless…”

John quickly fled from the room, into the corridor where some adventurous student had his ghetto blaster playing some new break-dancing tune. John did a mental calculation on the odds on whether it would confiscated or ripped off by the end of the day. The first bell had sounded for classes, but John had a spare since the teacher who was supposed to instruct on the finer points of typing had instead elected to watch “Apocalpse Now” with some senior English students. In a blind fit of obedience to the rules John decided to go to the cafeteria to study. On the way he met one of his team mates Mike who was just shedding his jacket into his open locker.

“Did I miss homeroom?” Mike asked.
“Yep.”
“Really?” If one listened carefully, one could detect a note of surprise in Mike’s voice.
“No kidding.”
“Oh.” Mike, to all appearances, did not look very concerned about being late.
“Where are you headed?” he asked John.
“Cafe. I’ve got a spare, the teacher fucked off.”
“Great, let’s go.”
Out of curiosity John asked what class he had that period.
“History. Boring, I hate it, let’s go.”
When they reached the cafeteria, John set his books on the table with a depressed sigh of anticipation.
“Wait here a sec,” Mike said, “I’ve got to get something to eat.”
“You can’t. The food line is closed during classes.” Mike did not reply, but walked over to the door to the kitchen, and walked inside. Not five minutes later he returned with a massive plate of eggs and bacon, and a glass of orange juice.
“How did you get them to serve you?” John asked.
Mike stopped to consider the question.
“I think I `verbally assaulted’ them into it.” There was an audible click of the kitchen door being locked.
“Hey, how’m I suppose to return the tray?”

Five minutes later, the two boys were joined by Debbie and
Rhonda, who shared similiar classes.
“John, I need help with this chemistry test coming up next week,” Rhonda said.
“If I do help you, what will I get in return?” John asked, directing his gaze to a point a few inches below her throat. She did not take the hint.
“The pleasure of helping a fellow student.”
“Fellow student?” Mike said, in between massive gulps of bacon.
“How can you sit there in front of us starving people and eath that?” Debbie asked. “Very simply,” Mike said, and he shoved half a fried egg in his mouth.

***

“The bitch can’t do this to us,” Ken said in utter outrage.
“Correction, she already did,” John noted drily, and wondered why the last class of the day always had to be the toughest. The computer science teacher had advanced by two days the due date for an assignment.
“I’ll never get it done in time,” Ken wailed. Ken’s concern over the deadline unsettled John as he had even less chance of completing the assignment on time, so he ambled over to Allan, the resident whiz kid of Laurentian, to beg for guidance and a few correct answers. Allan didn’t notice John at first, as he was hunched over a terminal, muttering to himself.
“Now what the hell are you doing?” John asked.
Allan’s computer screen was filled top to bottom with cryptic symbols and cipheric phrases. He replied with a mutter something about machine language, deep in concentration. Finally, a light gleamed in his eyes, and he quickly tapped in a few lines of code, his mutterings building to a crescendo.
“Ta-da, done, God, I’m such a genius,” Allan said.
“Congratulation, now save it to disk,” John said, “if the teacher sees you she’ll shut you off. She thinks that sort of stuff hurts the computer.”
“Gimme a break, I’m her pet. She loves me and trusts me with her life. Besides, when’s the last time she cared about what we’re doing?” Allan spoke a little bit of truth for at that moment of time the teacher of that particular class seemed to be ignoring her students, while working industriously at her terminal. Of course, she was not working on a school-related matter per se, but was tryiing to solve the latest Zork word-text adventure game. In her opinion, the fifteen class computers should be enough to amuse the students and give her a refreshing break from the rigours of a working day.
“I really hope this thing works, It’s my masterpiece. I’ve been busting my ass on this for days.” “Whatever you’re working on, is it finished?”
Allan cleared the screen with a few keystrokes, and started to grin. “Yep, just type RUN and see what happens.”
John obliged and entered the execute command through the keyboard. Immediately, a computer on the other side of the room lit up, squawked once or twice, and generally began to go crazy. It was the teacher’s computer and she stared at with a mixture of incredulity and bafflement.
“Hey, what do you know, it works, I think,” John said.
“Huh, wait until she checks her disk for her records.”
“Erased?”
“Yep. Replaced by a file that describes in graphic detail the anatomy of her husband, including his tiny, tiny, penius.”
“Allan, you’re a poet.”
“Oh no, none of it rhymes. It’s just obscene.”
John sneaked another look at the teacher. He see the red on her face even at a distance. Suddenly one of the printers turned itself on and started to click madly.
“Hard copy of her hubby’s prick?”
“For safe-keeping.”
Just then, every computer, Allan’s included, blinked off. The teacher was standing by the power supply looking very pissed off.
“Well shit. That’s not playing fair.” Allan said.The teacher glared around the room until her eyes stopped on Allan.
“Um, sorry Allan baby, gotta go” John said, “Places to see, people to meet, things to do. You understand.”

***
“FOR GOD’S SAKE CAN’T YOU HIT THAT DUMMY ANY HARDER POL-SHAW?” The Laurentian High football team did not usually practice on Monday but the Tigers had lost their last two games so the coach had decided the team needed some character-building, quality-time togetherness. John hovered on the edge of exhaustion, too tired to even curse. The supposed warm-ups to practice had nearly killed the team. John’s formidable opponent was a six-foot dummy filled with sawdust that had settled and moistened over the years, taking on the firmness of a brick wall.
“Next!” said the coach and John staggered to the back of the line. To a man from Mars the exercise would appear to be a barbarous ritual as a row of men-boys methodically slammed themselves into an obstacle that was hard enough to make them groan with pain. The drill, in theory, taught the proper manner of blocking, which is to intialize contact with the face guard and slide contact down to the chest. However, because of the immobility of the tackling dummy (it was stuck in mud), proper execution of a correct block would force one’s head down to between the shouldblades. Therefore, with every improper strike of the tackling dummy, the coach grew madder and madder.
Meanwhile, Woody the fullback, was in agony. His back had been nearly broken in two at the last game by a vicious gang-tackle. He leaned against Scott for support who was either trying to comfort him or convince him to lie on the ground.
“C’mon baby, you’ve done enough. Everybody knows you’ve done enough. Drop out man, you’re killing yourself.”
“No, no, no, all I need is Rob, where are you Robbie baby, where the fuck are you?”
“Why does he need Rob?” One of the freshmen stupidly asked.
“Shut up rook,” Scott said.
“Robbie, where the fuck are you?”
John, an observer to all of this, wondered if Woody was delirious from the pain or the withdrawal.
“Right here, babe,” Rob answered, coming from nowhere.
Woody babbled on, blind from pain. “Baby, is that you? Man, I need some, I need some bad.” Scott told Rob to piss off.
“Now you watch your mouth Scottsie,” Rob said before his voice took on a soothing tone. “Don’t worry Woody-baby, after practice I’ll fix something up, something real nice. You just rest now, you hear?”
“Yeah sure Robbie, no problem.” Woody sank to his knees and was silent.
The coach tore himself away from further ranting when he saw his star running back lying on the grass, and hurried over. Rob floated out of the picture like a ghost.
“Okay, boys, that’s enough for today. Hey Woody, how’re you feeling?”
“Don’t worry coach, Woody’s just tired, ain’t ya?” Scott said. He and another player gently picked Woody up and half-carried him off the field towards the locker room. Scott shot John a glance full of meaning, and John understood. He jogged casually over to the freshman who had spoken before, and tapped him on the shoulder. The freshman turned his head and stopped walking. For an uncomfortable ten seconds John and the rookie stared at each other, the latter searching, the former inscrutable.
“I don’t know what’re talking about. I never saw fucking nothing,” the rookie said.
John broke into a wide grin and patted him gently on the side of the helmet.
“You’re gonna do fine around here, I can tell.”
The rookie did not answer but turned and walked away. John stood still for a moment and shrugged his shoulders to no-one.
* * *
The dream came to John only a few days later. He had dreamt the vision before but this time he remembered it more clearly after waking, as if the Jungian or Freudian sludge had found a hole somewhere to leak into his consciousness. In this dream he was strumming an accoustic guitar, an instrument he had only been playing for a year with no great success but in his dream he picked strings like a blues superhero. His fingers danced through the opening chords of “Smoke on the Water” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and other great guitar solos that he had vainly tried to emulate during his waking hours. As the dream progressed, John would be joined by rock-star luminaries, out of a orange cloud Pete Townsend would appear, playing the opening bars of “Let My Love Open the Door” and there, under a pastel moon, would be Clapton, quavering over “Layla.” John would play on, better and faster, improvising on blues riffs and manipulating the wah-wah pedal like a psychedelic refuge from the sixties. But like always, the pastel moon would suddenly wink out and the purple cloud dissipated and John, guitarless, would face a huge majestic door. He would feel, through intuition, that behind the door would be the ultimate song with its ultimate lyrics concerned only about the ultimate truth. However, as John would always reach out to push against the portal, dream would end and John would be sitting upright in his bed with his arm stretched out. Invariably he would be compelled to climb out of his bed and play his six-string accoustic. But he never played as well as he could in his dreams. After five or ten minutes of fumbling fingers on the fret and buzzing strings, his awkwardness would lead him to curse and put the guitar down.
John had a premonition that today was going to be a bad day. The too hot, too cold shower (damn heater screwing up again) chased him out of the bathroom into the kitchen, where soggy cornflakes cut short his breakfast. He left early for school, thinking a change in the normal schedule might shake the doom and gloom. It turned out to be a bad idea. John walked to Scott’s locker to kill some time by conversing with his friend but Rob had gotten there first. The two were looking to beat the shit out of each other.
“All I want you to do is to lay off, okay?” John heard Scott say.
“But I don’t want to lay off Scottsie,” Rob said it calmly enough, but there was a dangerous undertone. Scott made ready to poke Rob in the chest, the male-to-male invitation to get it on, but John smoothly put himself between the two. Some sadistic bastard, John thought, would like nothing better than to see blood flow. Instinctly he knew that a fistfight with Rob would not be taken as an isolated incident, but as a challenge. Scott could not hope to win, Rob had the power.
“Hey, hey, hey guys, let’s all cool down now for a couple of secs. Come on now.”
“Out of the way” Poleshaw, Rob said in a bored, tired voice, “Scott’s gonna get what’s coming to him.”
“Nah, nah, you don’t understand Robbie… maybe you should take a walk, you know, just so we can all cool down and get rational.”
The wide grin on John’s face disappeared and his face became hard all over, like a rock, just so that Rob couldn’t possibly miss the hint. John no longer sat on the fence when it came to the animosity between Scott and Rob. But he had picked the side that had fewer soldiers. Rob’s eyes spoke of mild disbelief, asking John if knew what he was doing, and then:
“That’s a good idea John. Real good. Too bad it was you who had to think of it.” He then walked away, his $300 snakeskin boots clicking on the marble floor. The small crowd that had gathered wavered and dispersed, as if deciding Rob’s words had been a curse.
It took a second for John to realize what he had done. Then, he wheeled about to face Scott: “This is very interesting, Scott. I didn’t know you had sucidal tendencies.”
“Eh, all I wanted to do was to talk to the man,” Scott said.
His flippant act grated on John and his temper rose.
“Talk? It looks like you were ready to take a swipe at the main man of Laurentian you goddamn clown.”
“It’s about Woody.”
“And who the fuck are you? Woody’s keeper? His bum buddy?”
“Rob’s fucking him over, Woody’s turning into a walking dead man.”
“It takes two to fuck! Rob’s not forcing it up his nose…”
Scott grabbed John by the front of his shirt and slammed him into the lockers.
“Hey asshole,” he practically shouted, “Have you looked at Woody’s face lately?”
His knuckles were dead-white, and something inside John broke, leaking away the anger and fear. He laid a hand on Scott’s fist.
“Man, it’s no use saving a dead man from the dogs.” The ties that bind brothers together had turned into a snare, dragging John also into the trap. Scott released his hold from John’s shirt and stared into space. John was reminded of a look Scott wore not long ago, on a night when they had found and buried the coke. But we can’t bury this so easily, John thought, Rob will demand a price in pain for losing face.
“I owe Woody my life man,” Scott said. “You don’t know what we’ve been through.”
“Brothers in spirit okay man, I understand you. But even if you two shared the same mama I still say this: Look after your own ass first. Rob will be looking to bury you now.”
“I can handle Rob.”
“But not all his merry men. You’ll be doing fine one minute and the next breathing out of your asshole, and Robbie will be just miles away.”
Scott shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll handle it when it comes up.”
Just as he spoke the warning bell sounded meaning it was only five minutes until first class. The corridor began to fill with people.
“Shit, we’re gonna be late for class,” John said.
An evil gleam came into Scott’s eyes. “I don’t feel like attending class today, do you?”
John read his mind. “Nah, neither do I.”
Scott’s voice increased in volume and the tone became belligerent. “Okay pole-head, where the fuck is my five bucks?”
“I do not know… what the fuck… you are talking about.” Scott snarled, and John almost cracked up. As Scott tapped his index finger on his adversary’s chest, a few people looked their way, suddenly interested. Yum yum, blood.
“Don’t give me the bullshit, I want my five buck now, goddamn it!”John glared at him.
“Git your finger pointed somewhere else.”
“What if I don’t, dickface?”
“I’ll break it off your hand and shove it up your ass!”
“I wanna see that, yeah, I’d like to see you try.”
By now quite a crowd had gathered, some chanting “fight, fight” in a low murmur, enacting a high school ritual dating back from time immemorial. John decided it would be a shame to disappoint the fans.
“You got it,” he said and tackled Scott mid-section high.
Scott responded by bringing up his knee to John’s chest and John recoiled in exarggerated shock, making a satisfying smack against the lockers. Scott threw a right overhand which missed John’s face by a good six inches. John jabbed him in the stomack and Scott made a loud oommph! and he fell down holding onto John. They began to wrestle on the floor, cursing each other at the top of their voices.
“Bastard!”
“Asshole!”
“Dickface!”
“Coochi-coo,” Scott whispered, and he jabbed his fingers under John’s armpit, who gasped to conceal a giggle.
But John was very ticklish, and he finally roared with laughter which he tried to conceal by yelling “Prriick!” at the top of his voice. That ejaculation finally brought the authorities to the scene. A patrolman and a teacher jumped into the fray. John and Scott were in luck, for the teacher who separated them had absolutely no sense of humour.
“Alright, break it up, just break it up!” The patrolman held John in his arms from the back, who looked quite ferocious with his face red from suppressed laughter, and the teacher stood in front of Scott.
“You boys are in very serious trouble, big trouble,” he said.
John growled and made a move towards Scott but the patrolman pulled him back.
“Asshole!” Scott said.
“I said THAT’S ENOUGH… Take them down to the principal’s office. We’ll deal with them there.”
Thus, it came to be, that John and Scott were escorted down to see the right honourable Benjamin Black, sneaking winks at one another and exchanging lopsided grins. Glory of glories! The fracas could actually result in a one-day suspension, and the afternoon promised sunshine. While they were waiting for Mr. Black’s undivided attention in reception, Scott whispered to John that he really dug the principal’s office. It smelt of upholstery, and the overstuffed leather chairs were comfortable enough to sleep in.
“Poleshaw and Shartrande… front and centre.”
The two marched into the office and assumed respectful, contrite sitting position in the overstuffed chairs. The teacher, called Jones, stood off to the left and glowered at the two. They heard him give a highly colourful account of the tumble to Mr. Black. The teacher was new, which may have excused some verbosity, but any fool should have taken the trouble to learn through the grapevine that Mr. Black wouldn’t stand for any B.S., unless it was inventive or funny, or both. Both Scott and John knew this. Mr. Black lounged comfortably in his swivel chair, staring at a point on the far wall as if that was the least boring place to rest his eyes. The habit disconcerted both students and teachers alike. He had been a principal for twenty years and the last belly x-rays had shown no signs of ulcers. But he had only been at Laurentian High for the last two, and he thought more and more often about his golf game.
“Well boys, what have you got to say for yourselves?”Scott and John glanced at each other. “Well you see sir, it’s like this,” Scott said. “John and I were walking down the corridor when, all of a sudden,” -Scott coughed nervously and looked away- “I had an epilectic attack.”
The teacher’s eyes bulged: “That’s a lie!”
“Let them continue.”
John detected the faintest note of amusement in Mr. Black’s voice and let out an inward sigh of relief.
“Thank you sir,” Scott said. “Anyways, John knew exactly what to do about it. He tried to hold my jaw shut during the fit, so I wouldn’t bite my tongue off. Well then, just before the attack subsided, Mr uh, ah…”
“Jones,” said Mr. Black, unreadable.
“Yes, Mr. Jones came over and broke us up, and obviously -begging your pardon sir- misread what had actually occurred.”
“John, is this true?” Mr. Black asked sharply, suddenly.
“Why, uh, yes sir,” John replied, in a tone of voice that implied a note of surprise, like, of course it was true.
“Mr. Black,” Jones protested, “You can’t believe them, they’re obviously lying.”
“Now, now, Mr. Jones, mistakes can happen. Don’t about it. I think you can go to your class now.”
“Yes sir.” Jones knew he was beaten for the moment but he vowed to bring up the incident at the next teacher’s union meeting. How the hell was one supposed to maintain discipline if the principal wouldn’t back you up? Mr. Black could guess what was running through Jones’ mind, and he could care less. He was too close to his retirement, and if the fool decided to carry a grudge, well by God that was his problem. He noted Jones could not resist leaving without giving one last dirty look at the two boys. Cardinal rule number one, never let them see that they can get under your skin. Mr. Black did not envy the new teacher at all.
Mr. Black stared at the wall again for about three seconds, patiently waiting until Jones was well out of earshot.
“What bullshit,” he said.
“Uh, pardon me sir?” Scott said.
“You can cut the ass-kissing for now Shartrande, Jones has left the room.”
“Sorry sir.”
“God! What an old trick, staging a fight to get out of classes. I’m going to have to talk to Mr. Jones and wisen him up. If I had been there, I would have booted you both in the butts and sent you off to class.”
John and Scott said nothing.
“Well I suppose I’ll have to buy your story although I would be willing to bet that if I looked up your medical records Shartrande, I wouldn’t find any mention of epilepsy. Okay, the next time I have to see either of you two, there better be a city championship trophy in my hand, and you both better be in football uniforms. Now beat it.”
“Yes sir,” John said.
“Yes sir, oh thank you sir,” Scott said in a high-pitched niggling voice.
John shot him a wary look then realized what Scott was doing; ass-kissing so blatantly as to cause insult. The thought only took a moment and John reacted in less than a second, almost shoving Scott out the door. Mr. Black had frozen, shot a hard glance at the two boys, and had opened his mouth to speak. But they were gone.
John pushed Scott through the sectarial office and out into the corridor.
“Smarten up!”
“Oh pleeeze, pleeze master, don’t a whip me, I’ll be a good nigger from now on, just don’t a whip me, pleeze.”Scott was acting a bit crazy.
“Goddamn you, smarten up,” John could think of nothing else to say. Scott got off his knees, where he had posed in mock supplication. He suddenly turned all serious again, turned into normal Scott.
“Damn,” John said, looking for anything to break the lull, “We should have known better than to try a bullshit trick like that. Now he’s gonna be watching us.”
“Nah, it made his day. I have the feeling he doesn’t like Jones.”
“He did seem to be be something of a prick.”
“I’m glad we don’t have him in any of our classes. Actually, I’ve never seen the dude before. He must be new, fresh, fresh, fresh.” Scott and John decided it would impolite to break the concentration of their fellow classmates by interrupting in the middle of a teaching session, so they walked quietly around the hallways, waiting for the bell, gently rapping.
At one point Scott asked John: “So what are you doing here anyways?”
“Huh?”
“A nice white boy from a good respectable family in a school like this? And don’t shit me either; you get good grades and everybody knows it no matter how hard you try to hide it.”
“Hey, I live in the district, same as you.”
“So do a cross-boundary transfer, like all the rest of the nice white, middle-class boys. At Laurentian, nobody going nowhere, except maybe trade school.”
“Hey, all my friends are here.”
“Dumb reason,” Scott said, but he let the matter drop.
The bell for the ending of first class rang. Scott and John met Mike at his locker.
“Hey guys, too bad you missed math class. It was in-teresting,” Mike said.
“Who are you kidding?” John said. “Denlaw is the most boring teacher in whole goddamn school.” “Oh we don’t have Denlaw anymore. He quit, or got transferred, or died, I dunno. We’ve got a new teach, boy is he a prick.”
Scott started to laugh like a crazy man after John asked the question.
“Jones. New teach’s name is Jones. Man, I ain’t kidding, talk about vanilla.”
***
The high spirits of the morning did not extend into the late afternoon, as John worried about the confrontation with Rob. John was young, so when he should have been wary, he allowed depression to dim his senses. A clouded state of mind was at least partially responsible for the nasty hit he received in football practice. He had always prided himself on being impossible to blind-side. Except the hit had not occurred during a scrimmage but while the team was jogging around the track to warm up. Someone came up from behind and stuck an elbow in his kidney that knocked him clean off his feet, and later left a blossoming bruise the size of a shot glass. John saw pretty stars for a few seconds, before the cinders of the track came into focus. He had no idea who had done it, except that it couldn’t have been Rob personally. All the same, one question ran over and over in his head, a mantra cutting through the web of pain:“Already? The cocksucker’s got his network on my ass already?”
Scott was absent from that day’s practice, because as John thought later, he hadn’t been that stupid.
Copyright 2008 by DJ Dunkerley. All Rights Reserved

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