Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1025263-My-High-School
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Other · #1025263
Short story based on--you guessed it--my high school.
My High School

         You new? Thought so. You've got this look about you that just screams it. Everyone's got a look about them, though. A look you have to listen for. I'm pretty good at it myself, listening. I don't have anything else to do but look and listen to people, so my ears are pretty tuned-in to these somehow-invisible sounds. But forget about me. I'm no one important. Just another face in the hall.
         Have you had the tour yet? By who? Oh. Well, guidance counselors don't know a damn thing about this school. Let me guess how it went: here's the cafeteria, you eat here; here's the math hall, come here when you need to go to math; this is Water Fountain #17, it gives you water. If that was a tour, you could have given it to yourself. Follow me. I'll show you the high school. My high school.
         Who's your homeroom teacher? Mr. Stenson? His room's over here. Look, see the guy behind the desk? Lanky fellow, disheveled hair, wrinkled shirt untucked on one side, coffee stain on his pants. That is Mr. Stenson in all his glory. He doesn't have much to live for. Not married, lives in an apartment, spends his Friday nights with his dog, Odie. He teaches psychology, but he mastered in chemistry/biological-sciences/physics. But no one reads the degree in the black frame above his desk. No one likes him. He sounds childish when he talks. When he tries to teach, talk with your friends like everyone else does. If he asks you to read, just say no. He won't do anything. He'll just keep asking people until someone finally reads. If no one does, he passes out worksheets that you shouldn't do. One time, a kid threw a paper ball in Mr. Stenson's face. Everyone laughed, even while he buzzed the office for Mr. Turner, the vice-principal. Once Mr. Turner had said his speech about disciplinary action and had left, Mr. Stenson got hit in the face again with another paper ball. Cory Hasting, the guy who threw it, made no attempt to hide his identity as the culprit. Mr. Stenson didn't do anything about it, either. He just passed out a worksheet and started browsing the internet for nothing in particular. Everyone laughed. Only a couple of kids saw that his eyes were red, shimmering, and bloated. If something like that happens again, make sure you laugh too. Even if you think it's wrong. In this school, you laugh to survive.
         Who's your next class? Mrs. G.? She's at the other end of the school. Let's go.
         Wait. See those two over there making out? The guy in the football jersey and the girl in the red skirt? That's Ryan Greer and Katherine Durante. She is madly in love with Ryan. Every other day, Ryan beats the living hell out of her. Even during school sometimes. If you are walking out back behind the building, and you see him smack her across the face or grab her by the arm and drag her, kicking and screaming, to the parking lot, look the other way. Don't pay attention to her tears or her trembling body. When you look away, don't listen to the sounds of him beating her behind his car with something harsher than his fists. And don't listen to her shrieking apologies for something she didn't know she did. You and I aren't listening for those kinds of screams anyway. When you see and hear all this, look away, because she is in love with him. It is not our right to break up such an affectionate relationship.
         Speaking of such, that junior walking on the other side of the hall is April Phillips. She is engaged to a college freshman that she has been seeing for less than a year. Her previous relationship that eventually ended with her saying, "I don't know why I ever started dating you!" lasted two years and nine months. Don't look at her. Keep walking.
         All right, here we are, room 206, Mrs. Giannettino. Everyone loves Mrs. G. She's fifty-nine and teaches Latin, runs the Latin Club, and can somehow donate blood to the Red Cross every year. She doesn't give homework, you watch a movie almost every week, and she tells funny stories more often than she teaches. Kids hang out in her class during their lunch time and stay after school just to chat with Mrs. G. Taped to her computer and the wall over the chalk board, she has drawings sketched on colorful construction paper with thick markers. They show misshapen hearts, stick people holding hands or even kissing, and one seems to spell ANDY in big, black crayon. If you talk to Mrs. G., comment on the drawings and tell her she has creative grandchildren. She will show a weak smile and say thanks. No one knows that Andy is her husband. He had a severe ischemic stroke almost three years ago. Never ask about her husband. If you want to keep the smiling, joking, Mrs. G. that everyone loves, never talk about him. It wouldn't be fair to her students if you made Mrs. G. cry from now on instead of tell funny stories for us to laugh at.
         Let's keep walking.
         See that guy over there? That's Nick Christian. He's never drunk one single can of beer. Never smoked pot either. Still a virgin too. He's weird. Something's wrong with him. Can't think for himself, apparently. Probably too much parental influence. If he ever invites you over, bring a pack of beer and make sure he learns to think for himself like a normal teen.
         Here comes Black Jack, one of the school janitors. No one, even the faculty, is allowed to wear hats, but the principal makes an exception for Black Jack. He wears a plain, faded yellow baseball cap with a frayed brim. No one has ever seen him leave the school. If you pass by him again with your friends, make a joke about how he can't leave until he's earned enough money to buy a bus ticket.
         Whoa, watch it. You need to steer clear of that thing. It's a homosexual. If you talk to it, that means you are one too.
         And don't look at that girl right there. Her name is Erika Hayer. She's pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby. Her ex-boyfriend is in jail now for rape and murder. That slut is baking a miniature felon in that oven of hers, no doubt. She has a new boyfriend, Matt Callahan. Everyone used to think he was a pretty good guy, too. He was brave enough not to laugh at others. But now look at him. On second thought, don't look at him. Just keep walking, eyes forward.
         You can look at this girl right here, though. Stare at her, actually. Whisper about her. Mention to your friends something about how fat she is or how she wears the same clothes every day or how she smells like moth balls. It doesn't matter if she can hear you. Rename her, quite creatively, Mothball Girl. Start rumors. Talk about her, never to her. If for some reason she talks to you, smile and tease without technically being rude. Say things like, "I don't mean to be mean, but I've got some old clothes you can have if you want them." If she gives you a look, tell her you're just trying to be nice. Make her feel like she's the rude one. Make sure to pass glances and smirks with your friends. Don't worry, the girl's too stupid to see these things or know what they are. But don't be mean to her. Never be mean. Just be companionably concerned. Keep in mind, there aren't any bullies in this school. There's no fights, no nerds in trash cans, no one stealing lunch money. We need to keep it that way. We aren't like all the stereotypes you see in movies or TV. This is a good school, and you are a good person. You're not mean, just concerned. Only say nice things.
         But still laugh at them. Even if it's behind their back. Never forget to laugh. You laugh to survive.
         Who's your history teacher? Mrs. Bardes? Poor thing. I feel sorry for you. I can tell you all about her, but we aren't walking past her door, I'll tell you that now. You see, most teachers in the school are sexist. The female teachers tend to favor the girls, and the male teachers tend to favor...the girls. Mrs. Bardes favors no one. If you talk in her class, you will most certainly get detention. If she catches you chewing gum, she makes you dispose of it without taking it out of your mouth. If you start to doze off, may God have mercy on your soul. Get to her class early. Look at only your feet when you go to your desk. Don't ever, ever smile. Sit down, sit straight, sit quiet. Never turn your head. You can figure out who else is in your class once the year is over. Ms. Bardes is dreaded by everyone, even teachers. During her lunch period she locks her door and pulls down her shades. She cooks a Lean Cuisine in her microwave and pulls a V8 out from her minifridge. (She feels inclined to uphold her trim figure, even though she frightens away every man that ogles at it.) On her computer, she pulls up an e-mail she has been writing, rewriting, and revising for the past five years. The header reads: TO: jsstenson@mlhs.rc.net, FROM: apbardes@mlhs.rc.net. No one has ever seen this e-mail besides her. She likes to portray herself as a woman without fear, but she is terrified of a simple button labeled SEND.
         Hey, check out this guy. Name's Dustin Danussi. Very few people have ever talked to him. He claims he can tell the future. He says it's a gift from God. During lunch, he'll stand by the condiments and hand you napkins and forks. For some reason, he won't give you spoons. Never say thanks to him. Just go back to your table and laugh. He has never been seen in any classroom or even ever holding hands with Mrs. Betty, the special-ed teacher. After everyone leaves school, he is here. Before everyone arrives, he is waiting in the breakfast line with a fork in one hand and a napkin in the other. Try to avoid him at all costs. Some kids have gone up to him before, though. You know, to be companionably concerned. Emily Ruthmire, in the midst of a coed group of friends, asked to have her palm read. She giggled and glanced around to make sure others were watching. Dustin said he didn't need her palm, that he just had to look in her eyes. He did, and he told her, simply enough, that she was going to die. There was a moment of silence, but the boys in the group eventually shattered it with, of course, laughter. The girls left disquieted. Dustin's prophecy was forgotten by the next day. A year from now, after Emily graduates, she will die in a car wreck after she gets T-boned by a drunk driver. Her group of friends from high school will meet at her funeral. None of them will mention the name Dustin Danussi, but it will echo in all their minds.
         Let me show you something. We need to walk out back to see it. Ignore Katherine's wails from behind the greenhouse and look at this window instead. It's Mr. Stenson's. When he was hired as a teacher, they gave him the classroom that had the window with the graffiti on it. It has been here for years and years, and the graffiti just gets worse and worse. If you look in the top-right corner, you'll see a white heart. Written inside this heart are the initials J.S. and A.B., followed by 4EVR. No one ever cleans this window. But Mr. Stenson never asks.
         Check out this girl. Her name is Stephanie Holland. She is a kid that is typically different. Pink hair, plaid tie, camouflage cargo pants, pierced nose and lip, and a black t-shirt with STOP READING MY BOOBS printed in hot-pink across the breast. She only has one friend, and that is Mothball Girl. In Stephanie's locker, every inch of the interior is covered with magazine clippings and photos that she has taken. Next year, on the morning that it is announced over the intercom that Mothball Girl committed suicide the previous night, Stephanie will run from her classroom to her locker. The thick layer of makeup on her face will be melted by tears. After she opens her locker, she will carefully peel off any picture with Mothball Girl in it. She will stare at all of these for minutes, sobbing. Then she will tear them up and throw them on the floor. The entire history hall will hear her scream. No one, except maybe Stephanie, will be clueless as to why Mothball Girl did such a thing. They will talk and whisper about how weird she was, anyway. They will think that if—what was her name, again?—had just talked to someone, this would never have happened. They will say how thankful they are that at least they are sane enough to prevent such a thing from happening to themselves. Some will even laugh.
         Keep following. I've just got one more place you need to see.
         This is the principal's office. The principal doesn't come out much. No one is allowed in the office, either. If you need to relay a message to the principal, slide it under the door. If there is a phone call for the principal, the secretary's orders are to say, "Sorry, but the principal is in a conference right now. Call again later." Only in spirit does the principal attend the school sports games. In the yearbook, under SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, is the writing PICTURE NOT AVAILABLE.
         Let's go inside. Don't worry, the principal isn't in. I asked the secretary. A quick peek in the room, and we are done.
         Let me show you the minor things first: the oak desk, the black leather office chair, the computer with the school insignia as the desktop wallpaper, the large window overlooking the tennis courts, the curtains proudly displaying the school colors, the television in the corner behind the door that the principal uses to watch the school and its affairs. None of that is what we are here to see though. If you look over here, at this wall, you will see what I am talking about.
         Framed documents, photographs, ribbons, trophies behind glass, sports jerseys—on this wall is everything the school is and ever will be. There are even things on this wall that have no meaning except to the principal: a paper ball, a construction-paper drawing of a rose, a snake-skin belt, an unopened heart-shaped box of chocolates, a plastic fork. But all of these things are still the school.
         And look over here. This is every newspaper article ever made and to be made about the high school. This one reads: TWO HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS COMMIT SUICIDE IN SAME WEEK: SCHOOL MOURNS, and I want you to see the reassembled picture, stuck in the corner of the frame. It's the one showing the two girls. One of them is obese and one has pink hair. They are both giggling as they try to fit both of their faces in the picture frame.
         And read these over here. LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT GETS CHANCE TO SPEAK WITH GOVERNOR, and JACK HOLMES WINS STATE-WIDE WRITING CONTEST, and an obituary that just reads JACK HOLMES: 1937-2011 and nothing more than that. See the picture tagged to all of these clippings? That's a photo of the ‘54 homecoming king and queen. The queen's name is Shelby Anne Mayes, a girl that became a doctor and will die from breast cancer. She is not important, though, only the king is. This is Jack Holmes. Everyone loved Jack. Isn't it funny how he's dressed? A black suit and tie, polished shoes, a corsage pinned on the collar, and a bright yellow baseball cap. It was Jack's trademark. On that night, no one had the heart to tell him to take it off.
         Read all of the headlines in the articles. See all the awards on the ribbons. Feel all of the names engraved in the plaques. Look for the screams and listen for the laughter. Know the things with no apparent meaning. The tour ends with them. This wall is the principal's wall. It is his high school.
         My high school.
© Copyright 2005 Noah Black (noah_black at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1025263-My-High-School