Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 14

Zach returned to campus on foot, heart throbbing down low in his gut. He regretted the decision the second he entered math class, slinking into the back row. A half hour later, later his fingers tapped against the two sheets of completed busywork. It was called classwork, but all it was actually busywork— and not enough to keep his mind off the morning’s events. Shame hung in the back of his throat and the depths of his eyes, which restlessly scanned the posters on the wall.

The Principal is Your Pal, next to a GSA poster and something about helping the people of Africa. Save the Congo Presents: Fight hunger in Africa. Free Pizza! Math felt especially long today.
The largest poster had a bunch of smiling people of different races, all standing together looking very serious underneath the bold headline “School is a Bully-free Zone: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.”
“Bullshit.” Zach thought to himself, “How can they even hang this bullshit up.”

Gentry watched him from across the room. Amused that Zach thought he was fooling anyone by sitting so quietly, frown carved into his brow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 13

The car screeched to a halt across two parking squares. Zach bolted out— feet pounding the asphalt— racing over cracks and parking lines, between parked cars, to the double-doors—

“What are you trying to do?” The man popped up from out of nowhere, wedging himself between Zach and the Church door.
“I’m here for the Arithmetic Standards Scale,” Zach panted out, palms sweating against his clenched fingers.
“That test began ten minutes ago.” The man said, looking him over as if he had caught someone attempting armed robbery.
“— I still have time… here’s my ID…”
“I can’t let you in.”
“Look… it’s two and a half hours… I paid for this test, I have ID.”
“I can’t help you.”
Zach looked up again— and it hit him. He recognized that heavy-handed gait… the meaty face and its cowboy grin. It was familiar, even if he now wore one of those official-looking nametags that marked him as a “test helper.” A mark of distinction.
“Can’t, or won’t?”
“You should’ve been on time.” The man drawled, “There’s nothing I can do if you aren’t on time.”
Zach caught his breath, then looked him in the eye and said,
“Yeah, you can’t do nothing. That’s all you’ll ever do.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 12

Zach raced out of the office and onto the curb. No sooner had the door slammed, then the whole office rushed to the window. They stole glances on their way to the water cooler, made excuses to carry around papers, or just planted themselves in front of the window, sipping lukewarm coffee.

“Are we just going leave him there?” a staff member, Mr. Brokeshaw, asked Ms.Nasty. “I mean, I can drive him?”
“No; he has to learn to read instructions. This is not our problem.”

Gentry looked down as the man walked past his door, then stole a look out the window.
“Moron.” he thought to himself, watching Zach pace back and forth while talking on his cellphone. Was this really worth watching?
Gentry just shook his head, and went back to drawing circles. His father sat on the other side of the room, loudly typing on a keyboard.
“There’s no signal on that part of campus. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, is he?”
“He’s not a tool.” Gentry replied without glancing up.

“I know; I see him …” Ms.Nasty said to the principal, “I’m not sure what he’s doing.”
At this, Gentry stole another glance out the window.
In the middle of the street, Zach stood with arms outstretched, as cars either swerved around and swooshed past him.
“This is ridiculous…” Gentry murmured under his breath, shaking his head. He was about to look away again, when a car screeched to a halt. Zach leaned in to the windshield, then climbed in in to the passenger seat— just as Ms.Nasty raced outside to holler how standing in the street was against the rules.

But the car had already sped off. Gentry held a bemused silence, as his eyes watched it disappear along the horizon. Johnson also stared, closing his mouth with a deep breath and furrowed brow, “He’s something else.”

“He’s mine.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 11

Note: Thanks for putting up with my insanity.

At that moment, the glass door swung open and slammed shut.
Secretary A gave a wry nod towards Secretary B, who quickly glanced up. No one could look away once Zach entered the room—

And the moment he walked through that door, Gentry’s heart skipped a beat.

He looked him over once, peered down, then stole another look. He licked at his dry lips, and began drawing circles on his notepad.

Behind the glasses, high above polite conversation, underneath the creased pants and knee-length skirts… crept unspoken fears and desires. A good secretary was seen, not heard. But the office talked— about others. Through whispers, knowing glances, and the click-clack of private e-mails being written and sent. This was how they maintained a studied silence in his presence, even as they wondered things they would never ask him. What kind of people parented this problem child, any problem child? And every school had a problem child, or a child the office had problems with.

And the office never changed— it had always been a place where memories lingered like a bad smell. High school was not a place for growth or experimentation unless it fit the prescribed categories of normal growth and acceptable experimentation. There were charts and forms for that… everything you didn’t know would be held against you for future reference—
Or used for water cooler conversation. Gentry looked up again, and perched his head on one first.

Zach asked something to the receptionist, and she leaned over the counter just as Ms.Nasty was moving past.
“The Arithmetic Standards Scale?” Nasty said loudly, “I don’t know where that is.”
“It’s today, don’t you have anywhere you can check?”
“Do you have that booklet you were supposed to pick up, along with your test ID?”
Zach promptly turned away and pulled it from his backpack, pushing it into her hands.
She flipped through it casually, then laughed sharply.
“You haven’t even looked through this?”
“Where is the test? Which room?”
“It isn't here. It’s at the Holy Summit Church.”
“--- What the hell’s a math test doing in a Church?”
“It was your job to read the book.” Laughed Ms.Nasty, “What time is it? Ohh. 7:45. That means the test will start in ten minutes … at, 7:55. Good luck getting there.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 10

Note: It's the 251st post! erpotrtyrtohyrotihopi!~!!

Drama started out of boredom.
Few people were more bored than the office personnel. They sat listlessly in their corner rooms and blue-walled cubicles, watering their undergrown office plants and drinking watered-down coffee to keep from falling asleep.
School was boring. Down the road, most of their work didn’t matter. Nobody ever won a Nobel Peace Prize for office work. All they could do is try to make someone fail, or help them pass. How many people came in to say Thank You? None.
To keep things interesting, they reinterpreted rules and created Red Tape.

“Yes, I’ve noted that on my account balance I’m being charged $25 for student health service fee here?”
“Yes, we always charge that.”
“I want to waive this fee since my daughter already has health coverage… through my job.”
“Sir, does your daughter depend exclusively upon prayer for healing?”
“… No, not really.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“Please, I just want to cancel this fee… My family is religious. Does that help?”
“Sir, you can only cancel it if you depend on prayer for healing, and you must provide a completed Application for that over at the District Office. And to go there, you must have a written statement from your religious denomination affirming that you rely on faith for healing.”
“… But no Rabbi will sign a paper for faith-based healing! Jews don’t believe in that.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“— We do believe in not paying unnecessary fees.”
“Sir… there is nothing I can do.”
“Look. My daughter’s already insured… is there any form for that?”
“Sir, I can’t help you.”
“You can't help yourself!” the man huffed and stormed out the door.
The woman shrugged back in her seat, her face impassive with heavy-handed certainty that she hadn’t done anything wrong… just following procedure.
“Can you believe how rude that man was? People these days...” she drawled with annoyance. “Where do they get their manners from?”
“At least he isn't claiming to be some special exception.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 9

Wednesday dawned, heavy on the Horizon.

A stench hung in the air that day, and no one was sure where it came from. It was a greasy smell which blanketed the campus and trickled into everything it touched, including air that was so cold and dry that breathing resulted in a sickly burning sensation. Every so often, cold winds blew apart the low-hanging clouds whose silver-gray lining smothered the sun, and brought out the few hesitant rays of sunlight that luke-warmed the cement. The sun occasionally peered though holes in the cloud-blanket, casting airy strokes of light over the blue-brick office building--- before the blanket of steely gray cloud smothered it again. This weather did what it wanted, no matter the season. Gentry called it

Weird weather.

He watched it unfold from the office window. Raindrops flecked the glass, and poured in through the small crack Gentry had made on the side. Outside, storm clouds multiplied to block out the remaining light. Inside, pale white florescent beamed down on his damp red hair.

Here, there was no weird weather, just unnatural lighting, and the smell of stale mints currenting through the blue-carpeted spaces through a dusty old ventilation system. The office was a severely lit den in a constant state of stuck.

Gentry often lost track of time.

He worked alongside his father, quietly widening the crack in the glass by poking the tip of a pencil in it. Neither had spoken a word since the shift had started. Occasionally there was a rustling of papers or a climper of keys, the crackle of a walkie-talkie.
Gentry sat at a table beside his father’s, elbows on the surface and head resting on one fist. His free hand poking and prodding at that tiny crack.
The rain had started to loudly tap against the glass… slowly, rhythmically. Zach was coming.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 8

Zach stared down at Ms.Nasty, who glanced up at him with sharply raised eyebrows.
“State your first and last name.”
“Tyler, Zach.” murmured Zach.
“I’ll need to see some ID.”
Zach nodded curtly and reached into his backpack, but noted with barely-concealed annoyance that the ID wasn’t there. It was probably in his locker, exchanging comments with his algebra book. The line behind him suddenly felt a whole lot longer... the foggy clouds that escaped with each murmur seemed to weigh down on him.
“I don’t have it. Can I go to my locker and get it?”
“Sure. But you’ll have to wait in line again.”
Zach eyed her with apparent disbelief.
“Come on… I’m obviously Zach Tyler. Can I just get it anyway?”
“I’ll need to see ID.”
Zach exhaled forcefully, then leaned with his fists on the table to leer straight into Ms.Nasty’s eyes.
“Look. You know who I am. I’m Zach Tyler. You always manage to find me when you don’t like my clothes, and you definitely recognize me now. I paid $75 for this test, and no one’s desperate or stupid enough to steal my identity.”
“I can’t do anything unless you show me ID.”
“I can bring it to your office later. Would that work?”
Someone pushed Zach aside and flipped his ID. Ms.Nasty handed the girl the ID sticker as she coolly explained to Zach in her slow pitched drawl,
“The time to pick up your test pass is right now, during lunch.”
As the girl left, Zach pulled back to the table.
“This is freaking ridiculous. I know my ID number by heart, 698822, you can ask anyone—”
“I can’t make a special exception for you.”
“I am a special exception. Woman, look at me! How many people look like me? How many other biracial Estonian gays are there in this school? I’m alone here, it’s just me!”
Nasty opened her mouth, gaping for a moment before replying,
“I’ll need to see ID.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 7

It was dark out, and cold for for a summery Tuesday. Tree branches stretched out like tall and lonely shadows, creeping low in a pale gray sky and hanging over the line that snaked beneath them. Zach looked up at them, and wondered what would happen to forests if trees were people. Maybe they would get up and walk away, tell people, “We’re not gonna stand where you put us!” Maybe they would revolt, and people people would declare a war on trees, until someone would start a Tree Rights campaign. Maybe then, if the trees won, people would talk about their tree friends and “tree experiences” in their college applications. If trees could talk, they would probably laugh and point their branches at the line which snaked past rectangular blue office building. Trees never took standardized tests. Then again, trees also got chopped down.

It was so damn cold.

Couldn’t have been higher than 50 degrees, where the hell was that warm summer weather? Even the season seemed to be cheating, going back on the weatherman’s promises. Well, Zach decided, it better get its act together before Nationals. If there was one person in this school who could stand up to the weather, it was Zach Tyler.

Today he stood in the middle of the line, shivering in a t-shirt, because today was the day to get your passes for the Arithmetic Standards Scale. And today people would wait over half an hour to get an ID for several more hours of standardized torture. That privilege, that mind-numbing rite of passage, made you a Leader of Tomorrow…


Monday, May 17, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 6

“I lay on the floor for an hour.”
“How often do you feel depressed?”
“I would’ve like… stayed there longer, but Nasty made me get up. And I did… but for what? Seriously. What do we do here?”
“Have you ever tried to harm yourself?”
“No, but, people are calling me a faggot, and today some ass burned a hole in my jacket with a soldering iron. I’m not gay! Ms. Nasty says I'll have to leave the class if this continues, like I’m some distraction—”
“Is anyone in your family depressed?”
“—Everything you tell me ends up being wrong. My team is not really a team, my friends are not really friends, and my parents say they care— but they send me here. To this fucking— no offense— fucking place where just talking to someone… I mean, really talking, not that stupid fake-talking I do everyday… is like defying gravity. They don’t see me for twelve hours a day, but they make decisions about what I should do. They think I have it good since I’m not starving in Africa. And when I grow up, I already know that the best I can be is to be like them. What’s the point?”
“Why don’t you tell me…”
“Are you even listening?”
“People with depression often view situations as hopeless. It’s a chemical imbalance that can be corrected with proper treatment. You can be tested for it, Mike. I have the form right here...”
“Maybe this stupid school causes it— the people. Maybe it’s normal to be depressed.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 5

“Tell you what.” he said, “I know you’re also in my math class, and you’re doing well there. Have you heard of the Arithmetic Standards Scale?”
“No. What’s that?”
“It’s a test I contributed to … a sort of SAT for math.”
“Isn’t there already an ACT, SAT, and SAT II for that?”
“… Yes.” Handson said flatly, upon which Zach promptly resumed an expression of startled stupidity. “But the College Board has a monopoly on tests, so I created this one to give colleges an idea of how much math students really know. After all, what does one or even three tests really say about someone?”
“Not much?”
“Exactly. The more tests you take, the better you are. The Arithmetic Standards Scale takes place after the SAT II, and I’m encouraging all the Seniors in my geometry class to take it. I know you aren’t a Senior, but I’ll make an exception for you… the fee is $75. I expect the money by tomorrow.”
“You’ll have it.”
“If you pass, Zach, you stand a fair chance of getting a B in literature.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 4

He quietly leaned against the wall at the back of the classroom, blearily eying the loudly-colored posters on the room walls. Some teachers had drawings or schoolwork, but Handson only had glossy prints of cartoon kids. Only none of them were fucking or stumbling around naked.
Mr. Handson sat at his desk, grading papers with a red felt pen. Slowly, he peered up and exclaimed,
“Oh! It’s you.”
“Yeah. I’m here to talk about my grade.”
“Yes…” Handson shuffled his papers and remarked, “you’ve been doing a lot better. Gentry has been quite a friend to you. I’m actually surprised you have learned anything, or ah, how quickly you have caught up with him… I mean, especially how you found the time to...”
Zach stared at him impassively.
“I want to redo the Romeo and Juliet assignment.”
“I don’t give retakes, Zach. You know my policy.”
“The script I gave you wasn’t mine. Gentry wrote it. But everything else I’ve done here was my work. Gentry tutored me, and that’s it. Please. I just want a fair chance.”
Handson sighed, “Cheating is absolutely unacceptable. I can flunk you out of my class for this. You are an adult—”
“I am not an adult.”
“You are expected to act like one—”
“— Adults cheat. Adults cheat all the time, and if I were adult, I wouldn’t be stuck in a place where people call me faggot, and I’d get paid for my work. You people always tell us to act like adults, but almost all the adults I know lie so they’ll look better than the kids they’re criticizing. They pretend like they’re better than us, and get mad when people notice they aren’t. I’m told to be polite, to not cheat, to be respectful, but most adults here don’t follow any of that. You tell us to be organized, but if all these adults are so damn organized, why do we get weekend homework, summer homework, and homework over breaks? So if you want to fail me for telling you something you didn’t notice before, go on!”
Handson furrowed his eyebrows and exhaled deeply, taking off the old brown-rimmed glasses he wore to rub his dry eyes.
“No, Zach. I won’t do that.”
Zach sat down.
He put his elbows on the desk and leaned forward on them, “I’ve done everything I can to avoid cheating, but I see everyone around me do it while I get threatened. My grade stinks, and all I want is a fair shake. I don’t cheat, and I don’t want to. Just tell me what to do so I can make up that credit, give me at least the chance to pass.”
“Show me the paper.”
Zach reached into his backpack, trying to pull the paper loose without taking out the entire folder. After a few minutes of futile tugging, he pulled the entire black plastic binder out from the backpack, to the thump of everything else collapsing in. It flew open in his hands, yet Zach lurched forward just in time to save all the papers from sliding out. He noncommittally whipped out Gentry’s piece from the empty back pocket of the folder that he never used, and slapped the papers down on the table. Wuthering Heights lay bruised and beaten in his drooping backpack. Handson gazed at it briefly, and his sunken eyes lit up at the mardi gras beads that hung out from one corner, shining like wax in the fluorescent light. That rainbow cake was bigger than anything on the Spanish teacher’s table, and had beaten out anything in her Fiesta Party’s food selection for the front page of the school website. It showed up great in high resolution, too. Yet the Spanish teacher was going to get an award because her test scores were higher than his were.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 3

The next day, the library walls were stripped back to bare brick, marked only by the remnants of a GSA poster half-covered by a crumbling banner for Nationals. Zach passed them by, and took a sharp detour towards Mr. Handson’s classroom.

“She ran around naked?”
“Yeah, isn’t that crazy?”

Zach sneered at the gaggle of gossiping girls, and opened his mouth to speak— when suddenly a whining voice yelled:
“Shut the hell up!”
Mike stood there with the sun against his back, thumb-shaped head tilted to one side and lips parted in a grimace of disgust. He reminded Zach of a dog that had just barked at a passing car. The girls ignored him and whispered amongst each other, until Zach exclaimed,
“You know what’s crazy? Cathy fucked Vivian’s boyfriend. They were sitting in the car this morning.”
Vivian looked to Cathy with a bemused expressed, searching for a sign that this was a joke. Instead Cathy blushed and defensively snapped,
“It wasn’t like that—”
“Then what was it like?” snapped Michelle, “I saw you, too. You were sitting with him.”
Vivian loudly bawled, “Oh my god, how could you—”
“—Nothing happened, I was just sitting in his car!”
“Yeah, for two hours.” Zach scoffed, as he turned to leave.
“Two hours?!”
As the dramatics began again, Mike dejectedly lowered his head and trudged past Zach. Perhaps it was his dejection, the hopelessness in each step, that prompted Zach to remark, “It’s a game— don’t believe everything you hear.”
Mike ignored him and kept walking, so Zach looked away as well. He pulled open the heavy door, and let it loudly slam behind him.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 2

Nothing was clearer than the writing on the blue brick wall, inches from the gate. Mikey passed it first, and Zach followed close behind, stopping to read aloud every word in a deadpan voice:

“Don’t cheat. Just don’t do it; it’s not worth it.”
“Cheating will get you suspended.”
“ZERO Tolerance! Cheating is not acceptable.”
“Just say NO to cheating.”
“Friends don’t make friends cheat.”

On flyers and posters, on 12 x 8 papers with cartoon drawings of smiling children. In Gamma Green, Lunar Blue, Planetary Purple, Re-Entry Red and Stardust White. Stapled to the corkwood, right next to the advertisement for an $1,200 SAT prep class and a photo of the Save the Congo Club.

“Mikey.” Zach said, after a long moment of deliberation.

Mikey stopped and turned around.

“Why are people in school books and on school posters always smiling? What are they so happy about?”
“Maybe they got away with cheating?”
Zach moved to walk beside him, and followed him into the library. No sooner had Mikey sat down at an empty table, then Zach sat opposite him, leaned forward and said:
“I cheated on you. Nothing to smile about.”
Mikey looked up briefly, then remarked, “…That’s an interesting segway.”
“I’m serious.”
“I know. But what can I say? As disappointed as I am, I won’t look back in anger. It was nice being with you, Zach.”
At this, Zach turned and gave him a sly over-the-shoulder glance. “Know what I know?”
“Your locker combination. I also know that that’s where you hide things.”
Mikey furrowed his brow, “Zach…”
“I found it. Don’t make excuses— I know you went through my things. Was that the only one, or did you make copies?”
“… Yes, it’s the only one.”
“It better be.” Zach stood up and moved towards the door. Then, he suddenly turned around and said: “If you hurt him with this; if you say even one word about it… I’m coming after you.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 22: Part 1

Note: A warm-hearted comment made me want to post the rest of the story (There are only two chapters left: 22 and 23.) You know who you are, and you are AWESOME. There will now be updates at least once a week, because.

Mike fell into a locker as Zach hurried past him. It wasn’t much of a fight. Mike met the floor without protest, cheek against the cement; and students walked past him, some over him. The Principal stumbled over his body, stopped, glanced down and quickly looked away.

His sweaty hand slowly pulled a Danish out of a brown paper bag, and sniffed back the wetness in his nose as his teeth sank into the dough. No sooner had the taste of sticky-sweet frosting fill his mouth, then Nasty stormed into him. The Danish hurled into the air and splattering onto the ground, where the soft pastry was marked by the imprint of her stiletto heel, which smeared gooey white frosting across the cement as she stormed up to Mike to remind him that participation still mattered senior year.

The principal took his leave, hungry and confused, when suddenly a bold black headline shot out in front of him. Mikey’s voice rang out, “The school newspaper made a big mistake. Tolerance and Laughs at Kennedy Prom cited the head of the GSA as Mike Gonzalez. I’m Mikey Carmichael. That guy over there there’s Mike Gonzelez.”
“This is a pretty big deal, and the school needs to announce the correction so that people know who to contact. I have been preventing gay youth suicide and violence in the halls of Kennedy for over two years—“
At that moment, Gentry ran in between them, elbowing Mikey to the ground as he sped past.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Because You Suck: Chapter 21: Part 1

Gentry caught Zach’s eye passing the study room door, where the Estonian stormed up to him like a bat out of hell. One dark hand slapped his face, but Gentry caught the soft fingers before they drew back, and pulled him into a kiss. No sooner had the heat left his lips when it was returned with an equally forceful shove. Zach pushed a gold-yellow envelope in his hands and stormed out.