by Steve Joos
When that perfect girl we all went to school with dreams, strange things happen.
|Feverishly, Mrs. Boldrey tossed and turned, trying to find refuge from the storms she faced.
She was back at Endres High, on her first day as a freshman, but everything seemed wrong.
Her classes weren’t the advanced level classes she excelled in; they were basic ones full of people who took pleasure in taunting her.
And where were all her friends?
They all seemed to ignore her, even Katie Farrell, who had been her best friend all through school. Mrs. Boldrey had to slap on the glass in the cafeteria to get her attention.
And why couldn’t she speak around Natalie Helton and Sally Jones?
There was Mrs. Simons, Mrs. Boldrey’s old English teacher, only she looked as young as when Mrs. Boldrey was a student. When their eyes met, Mrs. Simons flashed a sad smile at her former student, now a guidance counselor at Endres.
And why was Mrs. Boldrey’s last class of the day U.S. history? This was freshman year and United States history wasn’t taught until junior year.
Who was this teacher?
And why was he asking these accusatory questions to everyone in the room, even Mr. Delvecchio, the principal?
In the midst of this, a ghostly voice whispered menacingly in her ear.
“Oh, hello Peter,” Mrs. Boldrey sighed. “Why are you here? Is this about Sally? She’s married now Peter, She’s happy.”
“I know,” the spectral image said, a sad, sentimental smile crossing his face. ”But I wasn’t the only one. There were other kids who faced the same kind of trouble I had in school. There were kids we were in class with. There were others, Moeller. There were others.”
Suddenly, a massive chorus of voices repeated the same word over and over as Peter faded away and a series of grim-looking men glared back at her from a television screen.
The voices kept repeating that word over a rapidly changing dreamscape which finally ended with Mrs. Boldrey lying in bed at her girlhood home, singing along with the radio through tears.
“Elizabeth,” her mother called. “Are you all right?”
“Liz,” Jim Boldrey said groggily, jostling his wife out of her sleep. “Hey Liz! Are you okay?”
A look of embarrassment crossed Mrs. Boldrey’s face as she and her husband realized that she had been dreaming again.
She bolted out of bed and dressed quickly, stumbling through the darkened house and into the garage, where she grabbed a lawn chair, opened the garage door and waited for one of her students to deliver the morning paper, delivered by one of her new counseling charges, Jeremy Logan.
“Good morning Jeremy,” she said as the paperboy slouched up the Boldrey’s driveway. “”How do you like Endres?”
“I don’t,” Jeremy snorted.
“You put together my class schedule, you figure it out.”
“Don’t talk to my wife that way,” Mr. Boldrey said, suddenly appearing in the doorway. “You are on my doorstep, this woman is my wife and your counselor she’s trying to help you, so you should show a little consideration.”
“Sorry sir,” Jeremy shrugged as he handed the morning paper to Mr. Boldrey.
“Jeremy was one of my old students at Joanne Manor,” Mrs. Boldrey said. “Now we’re learning the ropes together at Endres. He’s having some adjustment issues.”
Mr. Boldrey smiled a bit.
“What’s her name?” he asked Jeremy.
“Jim!” Mrs. Boldrey exclaimed, taken aback at her husband’s question.
“I take it she’s not around to help with your adjustment issues, is she?”
Jeremy responded with a sad shake of the head.
“What was that all about?” Mrs. Boldrey asked her husband over breakfast.
“Just curious,” Mr. Boldrey replied. “It seems like Jeremy has a chip on his shoulder and I just guessed that he’s having woman problems.”
“Maddie said that her dad asked Jeremy the same question,” Toby, the Boldrey’s son, chimed in.
“Toby, please,” Mrs. Boldrey shot back. “I don’t need Mr. Stevens’ input. I work with him at school. Maddie’s father works with videos.”
“But mom,” Toby came back. “Jeremy’s been so bummed since school started and he really got down when Maddie asked him about Penny one day. Her coach’s boyfriend teaches over at Endres and he even offered to talk to Jeremy. He’s really mad at Endres.”
With a chuckle, Mrs. Boldrey tried to change the subject.
“How does Maddie like knowing that her stepmother and her volleyball coach were best friends in school?” she asked.
The family chuckled.
Once again, Mr. Boldrey changed the subject.
“What shook you up so much this morning?” he asked.
“Jeremy Logan’s lack of school spirit.”
“Besides that, Liz?” Jim Boldrey intoned. “Are you having trouble sleeping again?”
Mr.s Boldrey started talking about the kind of football team Endres had and how they were going to beat her husband’s Central squad, but that was the wrong move.
Almost since the time she was assigned to the counseling staff at her old high school, Mrs. Boldrey started dreaming about the kind of things that haunted her during Toby’s fifth grade year at Joanne Manor.
Only this time, she was in what seemed to be someone else’s school days with Peter appearing to remind her that “there were others.”
The gridiron exploits of the top-ranked Endres Knights didn’t ease things, since someone had been defacing spirit posters in the hallways.
And Jeremy was a key suspect.
“You don’t know anything about who’s defacing the spirit signs?” Mr. Young, the principal, demanded of Jeremy the following Monday.
“No sir I do not,” Jeremy replied tersely.
“What a bout the messages and artwork on the championship pictures?” Mrs. McClaren, the assistant principal, asked in an accusatory tone.
“Did you see this?” Mr. Young thundered, slamming some of the most recent offenses on the conference room desk.
Jeremy shook his head no.
Two of Endres’ veteran teachers also looked at the offending items.
“He couldn’t have done any of this,” Mrs. Simons said quietly.
“And why not?” Mrs. McClaren asked.
“Look at what’s written.”
“She’s right,” Mr. Lenoard concurred. “All of these names are of students and teachers were here years ago. This list of classes and class assignments go through junior year and this boy just got here. Mrs. McClaren, I know you’ve been close to Miss Weissler since you were a student here, but she’s been going for years. She’s gone to work at the state athletic association.”
Mrs. Boldrey looked down at her desk, than glanced over at Jeremy as the others began to leave.
“You know nothing about these?” she once again demanded of Jeremy.
“No I don’t,” Jeremy insisted.
The young student tentatively began to get up.
“I’m not done with you yet!” the gawky freshman’s counselor growled.
Mrs. Boldrey glared at Jeremy and motioned him to sit down.
“Now listen young man,” she said firmly. “Just because you and Penny had the same teachers all the way though grade school doesn’t mean she’s the one you’re supposed to marry.”
“That’s how Maddie Stevens’ mom and dad met.”
“That was in some small town in Indiana. Most of the time that just doesn’t happen!”
Mrs. Boldrey dismissively waived Jeremy off to class, not even hearing him snarl “You mean denial actually works when you tell the truth?”
Mrs. Boldrey followed Jeremy at a distance as he slouched to class, slipping into the guidance department conference room for another look at the artwork which had been taped to the school’s athletic banners.
“See some familiar names Mrs. Boldrey?” a gruff voice inquired.
She concurred with a loud sigh.
“Jeff Callihan, Scott Hawkins, Tom Sheifling,” Mr. Leonard said. “Those are Joanne Manor names, right?”
“The crazy teacher who dreams about her old classmates before they die,” Mrs. Boldrey said. “All their names are on this list.”
“Except for the references to you and this Miss Helton, there’s no way the Logan kid could be responsible,” Mr. Leonard continued. “The names, these pictures, this weird limerick. All of this refers to things that happened over 20 years ago. You were a student here, weren’t you Mrs. Boldrey?”
“So were a lot of other people.”
“Yeah, the Godfather Part II was here, so was Missy McClaren.”
“Mr. Young was an all-conference lineman on the football team, wasn’t he?” Mrs. Boldrey said. “And Mrs. McClaren?”
“Honmecoming queen,” Mr. Leonard took a second look at the drawing which had been pulled off Mr. Young’s state championship team.
“You were here too,” Mrs. Boldrey shot back. “So was Mrs. Simons. So were a lot of other people.”
Mr. Leonard didn’t seem to listen.
“See? Look at this,” he said, explaining the sideways view of a human brain. “Freshmen don’t learn this. This looks like something from my psychology textbook.”
“Do you have Jeremy for anything?”
“He’s in my seventh hour study hall. I’m one of the monitors with TV’s Greatest Hits.”
“’TV’s Greatest Hits?’”
“Mr. Ackerman, the new music teacher.”
Taking a closer look at the drawing, Mrs. Boldrey tired to make sense of the images. One frame showed two students being pushed further and further apart by a large crowd, which seemed to be cheering and chanting “We’re number one!”
In another, the school mascot appeared ready to lance a dolphin with tow hearts drawn on it containing the initials “M.S. and N.H.” emblazoned on it.
The last panel showed a young man forlornly reaching out for a girl across a hallway.
That stretching, grasping hand especially drew Mrs. Boldrey’s attention. Soon, she found herself replicating the move, throwing her own right arms into the distance.
Mrs. Boldrey even thrust her hands out that night while reviewing some school memorabilia her mother had brought over.
“You helping Toby with his receiving drills?” her husband asked with a smirk.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mrs. Boldrey replied. “We’ve had this phantom running around school, taping over the spirit banners and some of the pictures in the athletic honors hall with these pictures and charts. In the pictures, a boy seems to be reaching for a girl that he can’t touch. There are also these rundowns of old class rosters and this terrible limerick.”
“What’s it about?”
“And is there a certain rookie guidance counselor mentioned?”
“So is Natalie Helton.”
“Maybe Gary Ackerman is behind it.”
Mrs. Boldrey shot an icy glance at her husband, and then double checked her dream journal.
She kept thrusting her arm out, trying to make sense of the drawings.
“Hey, it’s Liz Namath!” a ghostly voice called out behind her.
Startled, Mrs. Boldrey looked around to find herself in the attic, with Peter grinning deviously.
“Now what Peter?”
“Just looking at my old yearbooks.”
“These are my-” Mrs. Boldrey glanced down to the aged page of her eighth grade homerooms, only to find a pair of crude hearts in colored-pencil red drawn around the pictures of Natalie Helton and Sally Jones.
Suddenly, Mrs. Boldrey found herself back in school, in a gym class square dance formation with Natalie. Another boy burst into the gym, grabbed Natalie and threw her over his shoulder. Brandishing a gun, he held off everyone, crying “All right! We’re gonna play your game---BY MY RULES!”
Mrs. Boldrey looked down briefly, and then shot back quickly. A copy of her old school yearbook was on the floor and she recognized the gunman as Michael Stover, a former classmate.
Just as quickly, the scene changed and she was back in her attic. Drawn by a commotion, she found Mr. Delvecchio, her old principal, and t other administrators from her school days, chasing after someone.
They were stopped dead in their tracks by a grim-looking man with dark, teased hair glaring back them. They turned in a different direction only to find—Mr. Ackerman?
He looked off as Michael cleared the back yard fence on his bike and escaped with Natalie.
Why was the music director at Endres helping Michael take his former classmate?
And he was everywhere, jumping out of the way of the administrators’ car as they doubled back and tried to catch the fleeing adolescent lovers and then helping an older man in western garb who blocked their way with a car bearing old Illinois plates?
“Liz?” her husband’s voice startled Mrs. Boldrey awake.
“Oh sorry Jim, I must have fallen asleep while I was looking at my old school yearbooks.”
Mrs. Boldrey scrambled to clear up her memories, stopping to look at a pair of letters from Katie Farrell included among them. Three years apart, both pieces of mail expressed concern over an old classmate, Mike Stover.
“Something’s troubling Mike,” Mrs. Boldrey read aloud as her husband grazed on his midnight snack. “We’re both taking Ancient-Medieval History, but he’s not happy with his class. He tried to talk to me about it, but Tom Scheifling was giving him too much trouble and Mike just walked away.”
“What was in the other letter?” Mr. Boldrey asked.
“About the same thing, Huh? Hmm, from the way she talked, Mike was, oh my goodness---Michael Stover.”
“He was someone I went to grade school with. He died freshman year.”
“Nobody knows for sure, but to read these letters, its sounds as if he was depressed over a girl—and his class assignments.”
“Kind of like the Logan kid.”
A chill ran down Mrs. Boldrey’s back as she reluctantly tried to turn in for the night. Again, she heard Peter leading that loud chorus of voices.
“There were others, Moeller! Others! Others!”
A twinge of nostalgia eased her discomfort as Mrs. Boldrey entered the music classroom to meet with Mr. Ackerman the next day.
“You’re one of Jeremy Logan’s study hall monitors, aren’t you?” she enquired of the music teacher.
“Yes. Myself and Mr. Leonard.”
“How is he doing?”
“Well, in study hall he’s getting along well, but I had moved him around a bit today.”
“I understand you and Nat Helton have been talking to him about his adjustment issues?”
“Well, he was one of Nat’s former students, she noticed him day while visiting a friend of hers and she just started talking to him.”
“What happened today?”
“He was trying to write something and another kid kept looking over and trying to find out what he was doing. Finally, I split them up.”
“What was Jeremy writing?”
“I don’t know for sure, but it seemed like something personal.”
Mrs. Boldrey paused, looked at Mr. Ackerman’s desk, a slightly exasperated look crossing her face.
Mrs. Boldrey got up to lave, but quickly changed course and sat back down.
“Why does Mr. Leonard call you ‘TV’s Greatest Hits?’” she inquired with a bit of a laugh.
“The kind of music I select, I guess,” Mr. Ackerman replied. “I’ve always been fond of movie and TV theme music and Broadway show tunes, so I use a lot of those in my programs. Henry Mancini is my favorite composer.”
“If you’re into theme music, you’re into Mancini. After all, if Peter Gunn and Hawaii Five-O had both died after 13 weeks, we pep band directors would be up a creek. I’ve also had some success with it. My old orchestra played Route 66 at last year’s concert and a lot of the kids in the band told me how much their parents really got into the music.”
Mr. Ackerman chuckled a bit and then continued.
“We’re including Charade in the fall choral program,” he said. “My, mom used to kid me about having a crush on Audrey Hepburn, but she usually had to get in line behind some girls from school.”
“That’s very nice Mr. Ackerman, but Endres has a reputation for some higher standards,” Mrs. Boldrey replied. “One of your predecessors wrote the words and music for the school fight song.”
Mr. Ackerman then turned the tables on Mrs. Boldrey.
“What with all the nostalgia around here? It seems like ever since the school year started, we’ve been partying like it was 22 years ago.”
“The football team’s doing so well,” Mrs. Boldrey replied. “Endres was number one in the state back them and Mr. Young and Mrs. McClaren were big part of that, as were a few of the coaches and they want the current team to feel a connection with their legacy. Mr. Leonard always read spirit poems on game day and that was fun too.”
Mr. Ackerman was thoroughly unimpressed.
“You know that not everyone was having a good time back then,” he said. “Lawrenceville won the state basketball championship my junior year. I went to school there and am always reminded of this girl who moved away and then died in a motorcycle wreck right before school started.”
“Sorry to hear that. Were you close friends?”
“We were in grade school,” Mr. Ackerman said sadly. “Maybe a little too close. You know, like Jeremy and his lost love. She was a lot like Natalie Helton.”
Mrs. Boldrey left the music room and ran smack dab into Mrs. McClaren.
“Who were checking up on?” she asked.
“Oh Jeremy Logan again,” Mrs. Boldrey replied. “There was some episode in study hall.”
“I don’t know what is wrong with that kid. His mom tells me that he tries to do good, none of his teachers are dissatisfied with his class work, but he doesn’t seem to be happy here. His mom also said that he shows some promise as an artist. If that’s the case, Jeremy should help making banners, not destroying them.”
“I thought it was determined that Jeremy wasn’t defacing the banners.”
“We don’t know. No, he wouldn’t have that much intimate knowledge of what happened 22 years ago, but a lot of old TV shows from that era can be just as popular today, thanks to cable reruns. It appears that he then there are those charts and graphs. It turns out that there was an uncle who went to school here, but was run over by a car and killed while trying to chase some girl.”
“What was the boy’s name?”
“Well we’ve got security cameras and if there’s another incident, we’ll get it. I’m not going through another weekend of this. Not with homecoming creeping up on us.”
“The dead boy 22 years ago. What was his name?”
“I think it was Stover. In fact, I’m sure his name was Michael Stover.”
Mrs. Boldrey stood stunned in the hallway.
Michael Stover. Michael Stover.
The initials in one heart on the surreal image of a dolphin harpooned by the Endres Knight, along with “N.H.” for Natalie Helton.
Once again, Mrs. Boldrey found herself in the middle of a crowded hallway during the school day, one long ago. Again, she went through the day, but what was shoe doing in a senior home room? And why did Mrs. Simons look at Mr. Young and Mrs. McClaren with such a grim glance?
Then it was back to U.S. History and those accusatory questions. From a poster in one corner of the room, the Presidents from Washington to Nixon looked on, each with looks that could kill. Once again, she saw Natalie and desperately reached out for her. The whirlwind once again ended in Mrs., Boldrey’s girlhood home.
“Elizabeth,” her mother seemed to whisper softly before Mrs. Boldrey bolted upright in her bed.
“Liz?” her husband said. Awakening her from her sleep and then flipping on a light. “Liz? Your eyes are red. Have you been crying?”
She said nothing, but nodded and tried to go back to sleep.
A sense of dread consumed Mrs. Boldrey as she drove to school the next morning. The walls of the school seemed to close in on her as she moved towards the office.
Mr. Young and Mrs. McClaren were both apoplectic as she entered the office,
“Better be careful,” Mr. Leonard told Mrs. Boldrey as he prepared to read his spirit poem. “The phantom struck again.”
They all but grabbed Jeremy off his bus when it arrived and angrily carried him into the office. They slammed him down on a chair in Mrs. McClaren’s office and then prepared to play their parts in the intercom spirit session.
“I want to show you something,” Mrs. McClaren said sternly. “We’ll deal with this after the announcements.”
Mr. Young did his thing and then it was Mr. Leonard’s turn, but said nothing about the football game.
“Miss Helton is lonely,” he began in an eerie, singsong voice. “Mrs. Simons is blue. Oh, Mr. Delvecchio, what will we do?”
Mrs. Boldrey raced to the intercom room, followed by the office staff.
“Endres High’s evil secrets, so dark we must keep, will all be revealed when Mrs. Boldrey sleeps.”
Mr. Young and Mrs. McClaren soon burst into the intercom room.
“Mr. Leonard, are you all right?” Mr. Young asked.
The teacher turned and glared angrily at the principal.
“Mr. Young,” he began. “Isn’t it true that..”
“Hi Mike,” Mrs. Boldrey said softly.
“Oh, hi Liz,” Mr. Leonard said, glancing sadly in her direction.
“How do you like Endres?”
“Where is your school spirit, young man?” Mrs. McClaren demanded.
“It died my first day here,” Mr. Leonard snapped before turning back to Mrs. Boldrey,
“I’m not in any classes with Natalie,” he said, choking back tears.
“Oh Mike,” Mrs. Boldrey said. “I’m so sorry, but I’ve heard that Natalie.”
Mr. Leonard violently shook his head and gestured towards the school’s main administrators.
Mrs. Boldrey then turned to face them.
“Second hour p.e.,” she began, reading off the latest phantom message. “Jim “Buddha’ Young. Asterisk: includes three weeks of dog obedience with Miss Weissler’s class.”
The principal and assistant principal retreated, with Mr. Young falling into a chair and Mrs. McClaren leaning on a filing cabinet, guilt over some long past offense hitting her.
“We were senior leaders,” she said, biting her lip. “There was one boy who didn’t seem to want to be there. We were just kids, we were just having fun.”
“His was name was Michael Stover,” Mrs. Boldrey said. “And he was hit by a car near the end of that year. Now history repeats itself with a nephew he never lived to meet.”
Mrs. Boldrey looked back at Mr. Leonard, who was now being led out of the intercom room by two security guards. The tapes will probably find him hanging things over the spirit banners, Mrs. Boldrey thought to herself.
“Natalie still likes you Mike,” she whispered to Mr. Leonard as he was being led out of the office. “She talks about you all the time.”
As she returned to the counseling department, Mrs. Boldrey peered into Mrs. McClaren’s office to see Jeremy looking down with a sullen glare.
“You could use some cheering up,” she said softly before turning to an office secretary. “Would someone please call Penny Webb to the office?”
“You heard about Penny?” Maddie Stevens asked Mrs. Boldrey as she drove her and some of her teammates home from volleyball practice a few weeks later along with Toby.
“What about her?” Mrs. Boldrey asked.
“She’s been awesome,” another girl replied. “Coach Helton said that she heard that Penny almost got benched cause her head wasn’t in the game, but then something happened and after that teacher at Endres cracked up. It’s really been kind of weird.”
“Maybe there’s new man in her life,” Toby joked.
Mrs. Boldrey rolled her eyes and smiled a bit as her van passed Jeremy’s house.
“Jeremy’s feeling a lot better too,” Maddie said. “He’s not as sad as he was when school started.”
“Maybe he was having woman problems and they worked out,” Toby chuckled.
The van pulled into the driveway of Maddie’s teammate for the first stop.
“Thank you,” she said, hopping out.
“You’re welcome,” Mrs. Boldrey said. “Good night.”
“Good night Mrs. Boldrey,” the girl replied darkly. “Pleasant dreams.”