Authors: C. A. Huggins
opyright © 2013 by C.A
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locals is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America.
Writing this novel was definitely the most difficult task I have ever completed. And that’s saying a lot as I am someone who has assembled boxes and boxes of Ikea furniture. All of the days and nights of staring at my computer’s blank screen would not have been possible without the help of my support system. My parents, Byron and Felicita, who have instilled in me a work ethic to accomplish my goals. My sister, Alyssia, and my brother-in-law, Sean, have cheered me on throughout the writing process. And my lady, Adaobi, has read and re-read drafts upon drafts of my manuscript, provided me insight, and honest feedback along the entire journey. Thank all of you for the time and encouragement.
’ve been sitting
in classrooms for the last thirteen years of my life while teachers have stood in front giving us students the keys to becoming successful adults. This classroom isn’t much different from the very first one I ever occupied. Sure, there are no colorful tables standing two feet off the ground or a naptime area, but it’s all the same. Kids are still napping, because nobody really has any interest in high-school biology, unless you’re a nerd who gets off, literally and figuratively, on science or a future serial killer who likes hacking up defenseless amphibians for fun. I am neither of those, but I’m unlike most people at my suburban high school.
In theory, this classroom should be filled with future congressmen, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and Nobel Prize winners who’ll cure rare diseases. But this is Redbrook Regional High School and that’s just a theory adults have been feeding us since I stepped into that colorful-tabled classroom twelve years ago. Now, I know better. All we have in here are future Walmart clerks, garbage men, welfare recipients, gas pumpers, and low-grade porn stars. You can’t lump me in with that lot of losers though.
With the shades pulled down, there’s a hint of sunlight seeping into the room, allowing me to see all of the uninterested faces of my classmates. You can’t really blame them. With only two weeks left in the school year, you’re either passing or failing—most failing. And that’s practically set in stone. No more tests, pop quizzes, projects, or extra-credit assignments to save them. And let’s be real, if they had a chance to take action and change their grade, they’d probably end up with a worse grade.
The school district’s curriculum recommends students take bio in the tenth grade, but I just got around to it my senior year. I opted to take my tougher classes earlier, before I became a senior. I’m blessed with unbelievable foresight. Plus, I’m a complex young man who can’t be bothered with regimenting my life to the school’s coursework suggestions. A few of the kids in here are seniors like me. Well, there’s one other kid, and I don’t know if he’s actually a senior. I do know he’s been going to school here for a long time, and I think he has a five-year-old of his own. Anyway, I’m used to being the elder statesman of large groups, whom others can lean on when they seek wisdom. The younger kids can look to me as someone who’s achieving his dreams. Two more weeks and I’m out of here. Then, in the fall, I’ll be off to the prized four-year college of my choice. Not like the rest of the graduating class of 1995. They’re more inclined to enroll in the thirteenth grade: Redbrook Community College. It’s basically the same as Redbrook Regional High School with permitted cigarette smoking and no dress code.
Being one of the few brown faces speckled in the sea of suburban white faces leaves me with no other option than to stick out. But my race isn’t the only thing that sets me apart from the rest of the student body. Unlike them, my identity isn’t solely dependent on my popularity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely popular and well-known, but not for the same reasons they are. I’m not an athlete, so I never get lauded for catching the game-winning touchdown. I’m not the best dressed or the class clown. I can go on record saying I’m the most handsome, but would never get voted as such due to politics and whatnot. I’m the people’s champ. And my notoriety comes from my wealth of positive traits, not because it’s in people’s best social interest to like me. I’m not a part of any particular clique. I’m just me. I have a confidence that exudes way past these cramped halls. I don’t need a class presidency or the prom-king crown to be respected. I lack the same insecurities most teens cling to that lead them to constantly seeking validation from their peers. I’m intellectually and emotionally superior compared to the rest of the student body, and possess a maturity of someone twenty years older (according to a test I took in an issue of
during study hall). I notice things that others don’t.
For example, I’ve noticed that not only have the other students mentally checked out but our young twenty-something teacher, Ms. Denning, has done the same. She sits in front of the class reading her
magazine. I’m guessing she’s planning how to spend her next two months away from kids who still laugh hysterically when she shows diagrams of the human reproductive system. She’s only in her second year, meaning still young enough to have some semblance of a life outside of the classroom, but has enough experience to recognize when it’s time to stop teaching because the students have given up on learning.
Being one of the younger teachers at Redbrook High automatically vaults her into every male student’s “top five hottest teachers” list; although, she’s not attractive enough to distract me on a daily basis and interfere with my learning. I mean, I made it through Mrs. Montoya’s remedial Spanish II, and she’s twice as hot, even though she looks to be at least five years older and has three kids. Must be the unfair edge she has with her accent, as it appeals to my worldly sensibilities.
Ms. Denning has waived the teacher’s version of the white flag: the classroom video. She either hopes this oft-recycled biology film,
The Wonderful Life of Lemmings
, will hold our attention for the miserable forty-five minutes we’ll spend in class today or doesn’t mind if her students doze off while she decides if she has the financial means to spend an entire week in the Bahamas this summer. Probably not on her salary, but at least she can dream. I hope she didn’t get into teaching for the money. But then again, if she got into the profession to help mold young minds, then this class probably would depress her more than her paycheck, as I’m the lone bright spot, being her prize student.
My eyes stay fixed on the clock placed right above the classroom door. I’m waiting for the right time to spring my surprise on the class, as I alternate between clock-watching and reaching into my pocket to make sure my trump card hasn’t disappeared. I’m a pretty skinny kid, so I tend to shift back and forth in my desk, especially when I’m not comfortable, but my shifting is even more frequent now that I’m anxious. The anxiety is a direct result of my appointment. In an attempt to keep my cool, I stroke my ill-fated goatee. My facial hair is not quite grunge, because I’m black. And quite frankly, I don’t know any grungy black people. However, it does have somewhat of a Malcolm X vibe. At least, that’s what I’m shooting for. Menacing but intellectual and masculine. It’s all a part of my plan of demanding respect from others. I think it looks fresh, but all the girls in my grade—and the eleventh and tenth grades—think it looks ridiculous, which leads to a day planner in my Trapper Keeper that’s completely empty on Friday nights and weekends. High-school girls simply can’t grasp my complexity anyway. They do nothing for me, because we have nothing in common. I need a grown, cerebral woman, someone who’ll understand me.
I glance at the projector’s screen at the front of the room for the first time all period, and an army of furry little creatures that sort of resemble Optimus Prime, the pet guinea pig I got for my eighth birthday, stand on the edge of a cliff overlooking an ocean. They must be the lemmings. I wonder if they do acrobatics. Optimus never had that ability, even though it was the lone requirement I gave my dad for my birthday present. I hope I get to see their backflips and somersaults before I have to leave. One of the lemmings takes a plunge off the side of the cliff, and he proceeds to hit his head on the side of the cliff like a rodent Greg Louganis in the Seoul Olympics. The rest of the lemmings follow suit, jumping off the edge, plummeting to their deaths. Thankfully, the director of this inappropriate horror show spared us from the visual of splattered critters on the rocks, much to the dismay of some of my bloodthirsty classmates. So we are left only our own assumptions of their fate and the horrifying organs of the soundtrack, which I’m guessing are supposed to mimic the lemmings screaming.
The cultish mass suicide allowed me to take a break from my clock-watching, and it’s now 11:25. I spring up out of my seat as if I’ve been granted pardon from biology death row. Waddling up to the front of the class, I can feel the onset of jealousy from my classmates. Well, the awake ones at least. I would run up to Ms. Denning’s desk, but I can only move at a slow pace due to the outfit I’m wearing: purple Cross Colours jean shorts and a matching purple T-shirt with the slogan “Peace and Colours.” Both pieces of clothing would be considered too big on a man twice my size, but much like my goatee, I’m convinced I look good, even if Sheryl on the school bus said that I look like what would happened if Grimace from the McDonald’s commercials was casted as a backup dancer for a TLC music video. Everyone laughed. I didn’t find it amusing. That simple bitch.
I approach Ms. Denning’s desk, dig deep into the pocket of my shorts, and pull out my hot-pink hall pass and hand it to her. She doesn’t even look up from her magazine to give my hall pass a once-over. Show some pride in your job woman, I think to myself. Must’ve been a really engaging article on low-cost restaurants in Aruba. She nods me along. Doesn’t know where I’m going or what I’m up to. Shit, I could’ve showed her the freaking liner notes from a Cranberries CD. I don’t let her lack of enthusiasm dampen my mood as I pull my pants up and coast to the door while feeling the other students’ eyes burn with envy upon my exiting back.
to learn sitting in the school administrative office evokes different emotions depending on your reason for being there. I’ve never been called down to the office for disciplinary purposes, but you always see and know the kids who are regulars. For example, the girl to the left of me, wearing the tight black biker shorts and a neon-pink tank top with slits down the back of it hanging off one shoulder. I think her name begins with a
. Tina maybe? Or Tamryn? Probably has aspirations of being a featured dancer on MTV’s
. Even on a sweltering day like today her outfit still isn’t within the dress-code guidelines. She’s almost certainly getting sent home, and she already knows it. It’s not the first time, because I’ve seen her around a lot, always pushing the boundary between what’s appropriate attire for a teenage girl and what’s more fitting for a lead character in a late-night Cinemax movie. If that’s not a cry for a strong female role model, than I don’t know what is. Hopefully, she’ll find someone who’d plead with her to ease up on the cheap pharmacy-purchased perfume. I don’t think she knows me, though. That’s how I like to play it. The mystery man.
The chubby long-haired kid to the right of me must’ve mouthed off to a teacher. He just seems like he’s a difficult jackass. All of the characteristics of one of those weirdly dressed misunderstood kids who hang out by the mall entrance smoking cigarettes and looking sad only because Hot Topic has kicked them out for loitering. The teen mom-in-training over there has next to nothing on, but he’s sitting here wearing a black duster jacket and faded black jeans tucked into military boots with caked on mud hugging onto the soles for dear life. He smells like a cocktail of failure and farts. I scoot over closer to the girl so she doesn’t think I’m with him or that I’m in trouble too. I’m here for a greater purpose: to see my guidance counselor. I have a future, unlike these two. But in the meantime, I’m gonna try my luck with the whore, hoping she can pick up on the vibe of my impending success.
“What are you in for?” says Chubby Kid.
I know he’s not talking to me. Because why would he be talking to me? Jesus Christ, he
talking to me. It’ll be impolite not to respond, plus he already looks like a nut case. Who knows what he’s liable to do if I ignore him? He might lunge at me and start gnawing at my cheek like a ferret or something.
“I’m here for Mr. Jenko, my guidance counselor,” I say. Bet he doesn’t even know what a guidance counselor is. I hope I don’t have to explain it.
“Me too! For what?” he says.
What? That has to be a lie. And why would he have the same guidance counselor I have? I’d think the board of education would assign a special one who deals solely with the special-needs kids. I really don’t want to tell this loser what I’m going to talk about. There has to be some sort of unwritten student-counselor confidentiality code. But he needs to be put in his place, plus there’s the off chance Tina might overhear and get impressed.
“We’re discussing colleges. You know? I’m weighing my options right now. Sifting through the different scholarship offers and all of the schools that are trying to woo me,” I say loud enough for everyone in the entire office to hear, let alone Tina, my biker-shorted seductress.
She’s not paying attention to me, probably thinking about fucking her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend or whoever that guy is who picks her up every day after school in that red Pontiac Grand Am. Unfortunately, I only have the undivided attention of Chubby Kid.
“Me too! Colleges and shit. Still looking for the right one. He’s supposed to be helping me out today. This is my third time down here this week,” he says.
Ain’t this a bitch? Mr. Jenko has been guidance-counseling cheating on me with this kid right under my nose. I can’t believe it, but at least I can impart some of my wisdom on him. “It’s tough, this whole process,” I say. “There’s a lot of excellent choices out there, but you need to have a life plan. I believe that’s the first important step.”
“I hear you. I’ve narrowed what I want to do to two things. I want to either be a ninja or a superhero. If he can find me a ninja school, cool. But the superhero school would be a lot better to suit my strengths.”
I laugh, but then I realize he’s totally serious. Why is he serious? I don’t want him to go on a retard rampage on me. And I notice his face starting to twitch. He must be sensing that I’m making fun of him; I deflect by taking him serious. “What do you mean, ‘superhero school’?”
“A school where I can go and train. Learn how to harness my abilities to fight criminals.”
I’m speechless. Not sure what answer I was expecting, but I couldn’t have possibly braced myself for that one. I can’t believe they let children like that in the same school as the regular kids. He’s truly mental, but what do I expect for public school? I mean, he’s entitled to an education too. Just not here. This kid should probably be forced to take classes in a trailer in the alleyway or parking lot of our school and only allowed to come into the building for lunch and gym class. But that’s just another one of my groundbreaking ideas.