2002 draft - wth (an original web-published novel) - chapters 1-10
Chapters 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60
Complete novel - chapters 1-60 (415 KB)
WTH (May 31, 1999/Ag 21, 2002)
By Eric Nakao
The wheat in the fields was growing mighty fine…but enough about that. For in the hallways of Schlicter Valley High, discontent grew. Discontent and malaise. Discontent and bad feelings. Discontent and queasiness. For in the hallways of Schlicter Valley High, that paragon of mediocrity, that pot of semi-cooked lentils, they were in the nascent throes of that mostly American of past times, trying to do something about something.
"Good idea," said someone when told of the plan.
"Great!" said someone else. "Let's do it! Let's make Schlicter a great school."
Not that they were bad people. But, to paraphrase something a great mind once said about our canine friends, sometimes good people do bad things. And when people think of you as a pot of semi-cooked lentils, then clearly something has to be done. And that they could embark with such enthusiasm, such optimism, such pride, well, it's rather touching, isn't it? I mean you just hafta root for them.
"We could be as great as East Nareen!"
East Nareen, needless to say, was the great school in the district. Maybe the universe. Its students won all the awards: Best Student, Student of the Year, Best Dresser, Best Kisser. Its teachers were involved, enlightened, brilliant, like lamps unto the darkness. Never too busy, always there. In each and every way, for each and every student. Always there. Really. And the parents? Well, you can't have such wonderful teachers and students without having fabulous, outstanding parents as well. They were supportive without being intrusive. Caring, but not needy. And, boy, were they attractive. You could see where little Suzie and Robbie got their good looks. Every hair in place, every tooth just sparkling clean and shiny. It was a wonderful school. No doubt. And it was what Schlicter Valley High aspired to be.
"No," said another. "Better."
"Better than East Nareen? Is that possible?"
"If you can imagine it, it can happen."
"I couldn't imagine."
Juney Frackle was a nice person, as were many of the people connected with Schlicter (woof woof). But she lacked drive, she lacked ambition. In fact, she thought that Schlicter was a nice school, as nice a school as she was. She liked it. It liked her back. What more could a person want?
"I'd be very happy with Nareen," said Juney wistfully.
But the thing was, the truth was, they were talking about closing down Schlicter. Schlicter Valley High. The oldest high school in the valley. Before there was an East Nareen High, before there was an East Nareen, there was Schlicter. Home of the once mighty Schlicter Emus, lords of the gridiron, fast, graceful. They couldn't fly, but boy could they run. Academically sound, too. Impressive even. Good kissers. At least for Schlicter Valley. But back then that's all there was. Schlicter Valley High was Schlicter Valley. The hopes, the dreams, the future of the kingdom. Then came the people, the divisions, the subdivisions, the incorporations, the new, the modern. Suddenly, it wasn't Schlicter Valley anymore. It was Naperville and Kindrake and St. Halperin. At the top was Nareen. And when it divided, East Nareen. The new hope, the new dream. East Nareen was the future and Schlicter Valley was the past. East Nareen was progress. Schlicter Valley was history.
Or maybe it was the name. Schlicter. It sounded like a kind of razor blade or motor oil. Or maybe a brand of beer. And not fancy designer beer, but big boozy sudsy beer, the kind of beer that people in flannel drank.
"Then why don't you just move to Nareen," said Amelia Abladoglio.
"East Nareen," said Tsu.
"All I'm saying is East Nareen is nice. Why do we have to be better? Why do we have to be like East Nareen at all? Why can't we just be a better Schlicter?"
Amelia couldn't believe her friend sometimes. She was so stupid. Why couldn't Juney see the potential of her ideas, how they would make things better for everyone?
"Because East Nareen is the standard," said Amelia. "East Nareen is the top."
"It's the future," said Tsu.
"And Schlicter is…. Schlicter is…." Amelia searched for the right word. The bottom? The crack beneath the bottom? Nothing seemed adequate. She would try a new tact. "And they're gonna tear down Schlicter," she said looking her friend square in the eye.
"Not if it's better," said Juney, meeting her friend halfway. "Besides, that's just a rumor."
"I believe in rumors," said Amelia. "Especially when they're based in fact."
"The fact that Schlicter sucks."
"Schlicter doesn't suck. It's just…. It's nice."
"It's not nice!" cried Amelia. "It's a terrible school! I hate it here! It's hell with lockers and a pool!"
"Juney's nice," said Tsu, patting her friend on the shoulder.
"I don't care!"
"Well, maybe you're the one who should transfer to East Nareen," said Juney.
"You don't think I've tried?" cried Amelia. "I've filled out applications! I've faxed! I've e-mailed! I've f-mailed! I've bounced signals off of satellites!"
"Well, maybe it just wasn't meant to be," said Juney. "Maybe you just need a little break."
"No," said Amelia. "I don't need a break. And I don't believe in fate. I believe we're masters of our own lives."
"Then you're getting what you deserve," said Tsu.
"No," said Amelia. "I'm getting what I'm getting. But after I'm through here, I'll get what I deserve. Besides," she continued, "they need me here."
"It's nice to be needed," said Tsu with a smile at Juney.
"Yeah, they need me here," said Amelia, digging her finely manicured nails into the dull formica table. "The students need their favorite counselor."
(bgn: th ag 22, 02)
Counselors can be a good thing, I do believe. Of course it depends on the counselor. And the student, I suppose. Juney was a counselor like Amelia. Except that she was nice. In fact, that's how many of the students divided up members of the faculty: the mean and the nice.
"So, how've you been, Mavis?" said Juney, the nice counselor, to the thin young girl seated before her.
"Fine," said Mavis after a moment. She didn't look fine though. She looked thin. She looked worried. She looked disturbed.
"Fine?" said Juney.
"Yes," said Mavis. "I don't like it here."
Juney could believe that. Mavis didn't look fine. She looked worried. She looked…preoccupied.
"Now by here, do you mean here with me or here at Schlicter?"
Juney was easing into it.
"Schlicter," said Mavis. "I like being here with you."
"Oh," said Juney.
"I want to go to East Nareen though."
"East Nareen," thought Juney. That school. Amelia's dream job.
"Well," said Juney. "East Nareen is a very nice school."
"The best," said Mavis.
"Maybe the best…"
"The…best," said Mavis enunciating every word.
"Well, maybe the best," Juney said again. "But Schlicter's a nice school, too, don't you think?"
Mavis shook her head. "I heard they were going to tear Schlicter down," she said.
"This wasn't fair," thought Juney. Having to defend a place that may not even be here tomorrow.
"And what do you think about that," said Juney. "About Schlicter being torn down possibly."
"Good," said Mavis.
"Good?" said Juney. "But why?"
Nobody cared. Everybody was happy. But happy about a negative thing. That's what bothered her.
"Well, Schlicter is…. It's bad. It's bad," said Mavis shaking her head.
"Why, why is Schlicter so bad?" said Juney.
"Well, it's not so bad," said Mavis, emphasizing the so. "It's just plain bad. I don't mean it's just bad, like there's nothing good about it. It's just…"
"Bad," said Juney.
"Well," said Juney. "Do you think there's anything good about Schlicter?"
Mavis thought for a moment.
"You," she said.
"Besides me," said Juney with a little sigh and a little laugh.
Mavis thought for a moment, but appeared to be stuck.
"Well, what about you?" said Juney.
"Yes, you," said Juney.
"Me," said Mavis, like the thought had never occurred to her. "Why me?"
"Well, why not you?" said Juney. "You're, you're young and smart and, and…"
"Not bad?" said Mavis.
"No," said Juney. "Better than not bad. You're good and caring and wonderful and, and…I like you!"
She had said that last part a little louder than she would have liked, but it was too late to take it back.
"Really?" said Mavis.
(bgn ag 23, 02)
"Yes," said Juney. "I like you. Very much." She was beginning to feel a little tired. She didn't know how Schlicter High would end up or how she or Amelia or Tsu would end up, but she was happy, at least, to see a little life in the unremarkable girl seated before her.
"Oh," said Mavis. "I guess I can stay then."
(end ag 21 & 22, 02)
The counselor - student relation can be a tricky thing sometimes. The student comes, or is sent, to the counselor with a problem, sometimes academic, sometimes personal. The academic problems can sometimes flow into the personal and the personal into the academic. A good counselor can spot this and offer various good-headed solutions. But the personal can also flow into the too personal sometimes and this was something that a good counselor should be able to spot and handle as well.
Mavis sat in the back of her civics class. "Ms. Frackle was so pretty," she thought. Ms. Ablodoglio was pretty, too, but in a different way. There was a softness to Ms. Frackle, a warmth. Not that Ms. Ablodoglio wasn't warm as well. Or maybe she was more, like, hot. No, not hot. Heated? Sizzling? No, no, that's not what Mavis meant either. And she certainly wasn't soft. Not like Ms. Frackle. Not like Mavis herself. At least that's how she thought of herself. Maybe other people didn't. Come out of your shell, they would say. But shells were hard. Like ice. Like granite. And they protected, like an egg protecting its hidden charge. But she didn't feel protected. She felt everything. And if she felt everything, how could she have a shell? And if she didn't have a shell, how could she come out?
"Mavis?" said a voice from within. "Are you with us?" No, not from within. Where was that coming from? And what was that other noise?
"Ms. Frackle?" said Mavis beginning to come out of her analytical daze.
The other students laughed.
"Ms. Frackle!" said Eppie Lemieux. "Oh, Ms. Frackle, Ms. Frackle, could I make an appointment, I'm having emotional problems."
The sound of laughter surrounded Mavis, like a shell, like an ocean.
"Eppie, you are an emotional problem," said Tsu.
The class howled again.
It was Ms. Min, Mavis's civics teacher. She had always been nice to Mavis. Never mean. Always fair. Always kind. And she was friends with Ms. Frackle. Mavis had seen them together, in the teacher's lounge, in the hallways. And with Ms. Ablodoglio, too. They were friends. The three of them.
"I'm sorry, what was the question?" she said.
"Earth to Mavis," said Eppie.
Eppie was new this year, a transfer student. From East Nareen, the perfect school. Is this what people were like there? Is this how Mavis would be treated if she went there? Maybe Eppie was a reject. "Not Perfect" stamped on her file and shipped off to Schlicter Valley. And yet Ms. Min was also from East Nareen. At least that's what Mavis had heard. And she was nice. She was kind. But was she there as a student or a teacher? Mavis wasn't sure. Ms. Frackle would know. They were friends. Ms. Min and Ms. Frackle. She would know.
"All right, class," said Ms. Min, turning away from Mavis and looking at the clock. "It's almost noon…"
"High noon. Bye noon," said Eppie.
"So remember your assignment. What does living in a civil society mean to you? Five pages. Double spaced. No late papers."
"No late papers!" cried Eppie. "That's not fair. I want to speak with my attorney. I want to speak with Ms. Frackle."
The class let out a final whooping laugh as the noon bell rang.
"Oh? I heard your attorney was Ms. Ablodoglio," said Ms. Min.
"No," said Eppie as she began filing out with the rest of the class, "Ms. Frackle is my attorney. Ms. Ablodoglio is my shrink."
Lunchtime is a nice time if you're in school. That is, if you had no alternative. If you could decrease the amount of time you had to spend in school by skipping lunch, but they wouldn't allow you to skip lunch, then lunch would not be a good thing. It would be a burden. A penalty. An elongation of time served. But if you had to spend the same amount of hours in school no matter what, then lunch could be a nice time, especially if you had a nice place to go.
Eppie sat in her usual spot with a can of soda by her side and a notepad in her lap. "No late papers!" she wrote at the top of the page. That was funny what she had said about Ms. Frackle being her attorney. Everybody thought so. But she was beginning to feel bad about making fun of that girl, Mavis. She seemed OK, Mavis, and had never done anything to hurt Eppie. And Eppie certainly wasn't the type of person who needed to step on other people to feel good about themselves. Maybe they could be friends, that girl and her. Not that she needed any friends. East Nareen, two years, Schlicter Valley, two years - maybe one if she played her cards right - then it was off into the real world, whatever that was.
"What does living in a civil society mean to you," thought Eppie. She began to write. "Civil, civilian: not a soldier, not a war. Civil, civility: not an asshole, not a bore." "It's like poetry," thought Eppie, pleased with the rhyme. She crossed out "bore" (b-o-r-e, meaning boring person) and wrote "boar" (b-o-a-r, meaning hairy pig with tusks). Eppie looked up and saw that girl, Mavis, going into the counselor building. "Probably to talk to Ms. Frackle, my attorney" thought Eppie. Counselor is another word for attorney. If Ms. Frackle had been an attorney than calling her a counselor would not be wrong, but it would not have been funny. It would have been boorish. It would have been ass holy uncivil if you asked Eppie. She wondered what Mavis and Ms. Frackle would talk about. Would she tell her about what had happened in class? Probably. But maybe not. Mavis had seemed a little out of it. She might not have even heard what Eppie had said. But the other students probably would have made fun of her after class. Eppie's fault, partly. And Mavis didn't seem to have any friends, except for Ms. Frackle, if that counted, which it didn't. If Eppie were her friend though, she would have supported her. She would have told her how terrible that new girl was to have made fun of her, how assholy of her, how East Nareen of her to have treated Mavis like that. And she would have meant it. Even though she herself was the girl who had made fun of Mavis, Eppie would have meant it. After all, she wasn't the type of person who needed to step on other people to feel good about herself. She was ass holy sorry for what she had done. She felt like hell and would willingly burn in said location for what she had done, for what she had thought, for what she had felt.
"Society. Social? The study of ice cream socials?" Eppie thought some more. Five pages. It didn't seem fair. Where was the poetry in that? She wondered what Ms. Frackle was like. Why would a girl like Mavis be so interested in someone like Ms. Frackle? She seemed kind of quiet, Ms. Frackle. Mousey. Mousey soft. Like Mavis. "That's why she likes her," thought Eppie. Mousey Mavis and Mousey Ms. Frackle, huddled together in that little office, talking about cheese and holes in the wall. But there she went again. Making fun of poor Mavis. She had just vowed to be nice to Mavis, to be her supportive friend and here she was making fun of her again. And of Ms. Frackle too. What had Ms. Frackle ever done to her?
"Oh, what a pain," thought Eppie as a group of whooping students rushed passed her. She had too much responsibility. Too much to think about: Mavis, Ms. Frackle, civil society. And this school was just too crowded. She couldn't concentrate. Should she go to the library? But the library was one of the noisiest places on the planet. Should she go back to East Nareen? Though not problem-free, at least there were quiet places you could study there. Not like this school. Schlicter Valley (sigh). She had transferred here because she had heard that it was going to be torn down. Graduate, then blow it up. That would suit Eppie just fine. No records, no fingerprints, no class reunions. But in the meantime, look what was here, look what Eppie had to put up with. Nothing and everything. Boredom and chaos. Maybe she should have stayed at East Nareen, with all its problems. But East Nareen would always be there, mocking her, taunting her, at least until
(bgn ag 24, 02)
something came along to take its place. No, she was better off at Schlicter, with all its problems. At least they were problems she could handle. Or so she thought.
(end ag 23, 02)
Mavis made her way down the counseling hall. The more she came here, the more familiar things became. They were becoming part of her, the walls, the paint, the tiles on the floor, she could feel them softening underneath her feet, warming to her touch, her presence. There was Ms. Frackle's door, a thin crack between it and the jamb, the frame, the pillar, the post, the unhinged edge working in concert with its swinging, well-connected opposite to form a narrow opening into the tiny room within.
Mavis knocked and pushed the upper half of her head through the crack and there she was, Ms. Frackle. And Ms. Ablodoglio, her friend. They were eating. At least there was food in front of them. And they were talking, laughing, for they were friends and that's what friends did. Mavis began to pull her head back.
"Mavis, wait," said Ms. Frackle, letting out one more laughing sound as she held up her hand. Mavis stopped. "Did you want to see me? Come in."
Mavis didn't move. She felt her hand begin to slide off the doorknob when Ms. Ablodoglio reached over and yanked the door open from her side.
"Get on in here, Mavis," she said. "There's always room for one more."
Mavis stood in the doorway and took in the scene.
"I can come back later," she said.
The two women looked at each other.
"Uh oh, she doesn't want to see me," said Amelia. She got up and guided Mavis into her chair. "Here, honey, you sit here and talk to nice Ms. Frackle and I'll go back to my lair and stir the cauldron."
Juney tossed a slightly disapproving look at Amelia.
"Uh, could you close the door on your way out?"
"Oh," said Amelia as she exited, but did as she was told.
Mavis looked at Ms. Frackle. Their chairs were closer than last time. Mavis could have touched her with her knee if she had swung her legs just a little to the right. Ms. Frackle had a plastic container on her lap. It was filled with different types of fruit, diced and covered in a sweet-smelling white cream. Ambrosia, she thought they called it. She was holding a small plastic fork in her hand. It was stained slightly red. From her lipstick, she guessed, her blush. No, not her blush. What did they call it? Her gloss, lip gloss, little pots of color for the mouth. She hoped Ms. Frackle wouldn't eat anymore. It always made her nervous when adults ate in her presence. Except her parents, of course. It would have made her nervous if her parents never ate in her presence.
Juney saw Mavis looking at her lap.
"Would you like some?" she said.
Mavis shook her head. Juney took the container from her lap and set it on the desk.
"So Mavis, how have you been?" she said. "Weren't you just here? Did something happen?"
Mavis wouldn't look up. She could still feel where Ms. Ablodoglio had touched her shoulders to guide her into this chair. Ms. Ablodoglio's chair. And it was still a little warm, like Ms. Ablodoglio had left a part of her behind. Her essence. Her aura. Mavis tried to slide to a cooler spot, but it was difficult to find. Who knew that such a small woman could have so much heat in her?
"Are you all right, Mavis? Did you want something to drink?"
Mavis shook her head.
"Maybe I should come back later," she said, still not looking up.
Juney studied Mavis. A plain-looking girl. No, a pretty girl. Pretty face.
Pretty eyes? She hardly ever looked up, it was hard to tell.
"All right. If you'd like. I'm always here if you need me, though."
"I've been thinking about what we talked about last time. Do you
"Yes," said Mavis in her thin voice. In her mind, she did remember. But something had happened between then and now, something unpleasant, that made the memory somehow unpleasant.
"Did you want to talk about that again?"
Mavis shook her head. Why would she want to talk about that again? She was just here, wasn't she? That's what Ms. Frackle had said: Weren't you just here? She should leave, she thought. She should transfer to East Nareen. Not because they were going to tear down Schlicter, but because it was a better school. They would have better counselors there. Counselors who wouldn't ask, weren't you just here, when so clearly, you were just here. Being nice wasn't enough sometimes. You had to be good, too.
On the other side of school, the bad side, a small gang of girls sat, mulling over the events of the day. Though they weren't criminals, they were bad enough. They were tough, they were slovenly, and people tended to stay out of their way. Especially from Lulu, the self-proclaimed leader who harbored an ability to find fault in others, take offense at the slightest provocation and hold a grudge till any semblance to reason had long since vanished.
"Who does she think she is?" said Lulu picking at a scab. "That wasn't funny."
The other girls nodded in agreement, except Barelle (accent on the "relle"). Barelle had known Lulu since second grade and they often disagreed. She was like a lieutenant in Lulu's imaginary army.
"They laughed," said Barelle referring to their classmates in Ms. Min's civics class.
"They laughed because she's from East Nareen, because they think she's cool, but she's not."
"You laughed," said Barelle.
"I was laughing at Frackle, at Frackle's expense," said Lulu. "Not at what East Nareen said."
The other girls began throwing little bits of paper at Barelle.
"We all laughed because it was funny," said Barelle. "What did you think, Wendy?"
Wendy stopped throwing paper and shrugged, a silly smile dancing across her face. Of the four girls, Wendy looked the most out of place. She was pretty, sort of delicate, with big green eyes and straight arrow red hair. Her only problem was that she was a little insane, given to wild laughing fits and other forms of inappropriate behavior that made people want to avoid her, except for Lulu, of course.
"I don't pay Wendy to think," said Lulu. "Here." She took a dollar out of her pocket and handed it to Wendy. "Go to the candy machine and buy yourself something stupid."
Wendy took the dollar and went, taking Technita, the big, hulking fourth and final member of their group, with her.
"Anyway," said Lulu. "It doesn't matter if it was funny or not. The point is is that she thought it was funny. She's only been here three weeks and she thinks she can try and be funny. She's trying to be popular. She's trying to score." Lulu leaned in close to her reluctant friend and spoke in a knowing, confidential tone. "It's not her place, Barelle. You know that as well as I."
"I don't know," said Barelle.
"Agh, I don't pay you to know," said Lulu, disgusted at Barelle's intransigence. She took another dollar from her pocket and attempted to give it to her stubborn friend. "Here, go to the candy machine and buy yourself something stupid."
"I'm not Wendy," said Barelle, her hands remaining at her sides.
Wendy and Technita returned.
"Did you have fun?" said Lulu.
Wendy nodded, a licorice whip hanging from her mouth like a wet noodle. Technita had a Ho Ho.
"That could be you, Barry," said Lulu. "Resistance is futile. Isn't that right, Wendy."
Wendy nodded. Technita nodded, too, the Ho Ho bobbing up and down from her mouth like a miniature flashlight.
"I don't think she's trying to be popular," said Barelle. "I think that's just her personality."
"Wendy, do you know what she's talking about?"
Wendy shook her head.
"Then shut up."
"Hey, don't tell Wendy to shut up." Barelle was getting angry.
"I can tell her anything I want. She takes my money. Eats my licorice. Here, give me one of those."
Wendy handed her a piece of the hollow, tube-like confection.
"It's not part of her personality. It's because she's from East Nareen. She thinks she's better than us."
"I don't think so," said Barelle, beginning to rise, but Lulu grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back down.
"Yes, she does. She doesn't pay us the proper respect."
"Nobody respects us."
Lulu threw her licorice whip at Wendy.
"That's because they've known us longer. We've earned their disrespect. But this East Nareen chick. She don't know us yet. She's got no business disrespecting us."
"She hasn't disrespected us."
"Yes, she has," said Lulu. "Do you see her here? Do you see her hanging with us? Does she ever say hi to us in the hallways?"
"I don't think she says hi to anyone," said Wendy.
"Exactly. And to top it off she's trying to be funny."
"I think that's just her personality."
"It's not her personality. It's East Nareen. She thinks she's better than us. She disrespects us. She disrespects our entire school."
"But she's here."
"She's here. She hates being here."
"But you hate being here. We all hate it here."
Lulu looked away. "I hate her more," she said, grinding her teeth.
"Why! Because she's here! She doesn't belong here! This isn't her school! She belongs at East Nareen!" screamed Lulu. The others fidgeted slightly. Lulu calmed down a little, trying to contain her rage in order to be understood. "Listen, she has to be taught a lesson, OK?"
"Maybe she can teach us something," said Barelle with a shrug.
Lulu gave out an involuntary snort and looked away.
"I think she's pretty," said Wendy.
"You don't think she's pretty," said Lulu. "Give me those." She grabbed the rest of Wendy's licorice whips and tossed them into the bushes.
"Maybe she can teach us something," said Barelle again.
"She ain't gonna teach us nothin'. She don't even say hi to us in the hallways. I know her. She's East Nareen. She's just gonna stick to herself, get her perfect little grades, say funny little things in class, then it's adios to the losers."
"I didn't know East Nareen people liked saying funny things," said Wendy.
"Well, you do now," said Lulu nodding her head.
Wendy nodded along.
"And what are we going to do about it?"
Wendy kept nodding her head up and down, a silly grin beginning to spread across her pretty face.
"Technita, what are we gonna do about it?"
Technita took out her other Ho Ho and squashed it like a cheap pastry.
"That's right," said Lulu transforming her usually gesticulating hand into a tight little fist. "The next time East Nareen tries to say something funny, we're gonna squeeze her Ho Ho till it just ain't funny no more."
Tsu and Juney sat in Juney's office, Juney in the chair behind her desk and Tsu in the visitor's chair.
"I'm not sure what happened," said Juney. "She came in this morning and she was talking about wanting to transfer to East Nareen, then she came in again during lunch and, I don't know, she seemed kind of distant."
"It's early," said Tsu. "You know."
"Yeah," said Juney. "But you say she said my name in class today." Tsu nodded. "The class between the time she came to see me in the morning and lunch when she saw me again."
"Right," said Tsu. "I think she thought I was you. That my voice was coming from you, I mean. She was in like kind of a daze."
"And then that other girl…"
"She said what?"
"That she wanted to make an appointment with you because she was having emotional problems."
"But she was mocking Mavis when she said it."
"Uh, not really mocking, more of a joke."
"Mm. And does this girl do this kind of thing often?"
"Not really," said Tsu. "She hasn't really said that much this year."
"So why do you think she said it?"
Tsu thought for a moment, then shrugged.
"I don't know. A joke, I think."
"After three weeks?"
"I don't know. I think she's new. From East Nareen."
"Oh really. What's her last name?"
"Uh, Lemuel? Lambly? I don't quite remember. Something French. With an L. Is she one of yours?"
"I don't think so," said Juney. "Maybe Amelia. And you said she said I was her attorney or something?"
Tsu sighed and shook her head at the memory.
"I had said that their papers couldn't be late, then she said that she wanted to speak with her attorney, Ms. Frackle."
"Why would she say that?"
"I don't know. Another joke?"
"After 3 weeks?"
"Yes, but she's new, maybe she's starting to feel comfortable."
(end ag 24, 02)
(bgn ag 25 & 26, 02)
The next day, Tsu stood in front of her class once again. Same room, same student, same teacher, but everyone had changed just a little bit. Everyone had their personal little experiences that pushed them forward or backward in their life's journey. Everybody was different. Nobody was the same.
"Hi, Ms. Min," said a cheery voice.
"Tami," said Tsu. "You're here bright and early."
Tami sat next to her friend, Tamika, near the window.
"It's that paper you assigned," said Tami. "I need more time."
"More time?" said Tsu. "But you have three more days."
"I know, I know," said Tami. "But, you know, I can tell already that I'll be needing more time."
"But you have three more days."
"I know, but the third day is like Friday and Friday is kind of my day off."
"Yeah," said Miguel, another student. "We need more time. It's not fair."
The other students voiced their support for Tami and Miguel's proposition.
"Well, everybody seems to want more time," said Tsu. "Should we take a vote?"
"Yeah, yeah," came the reply.
"I'll have to make the paper longer though."
"No no," came the reply.
"All right," said Tsu. The vote will be a five-page paper due on Friday versus a seven-page paper due on…"
"Tuesday," said a small voice from the back.
"…Monday," said Tsu. "Now, all in favor of five pages on Friday raise your hands."
Half the class raised their hands with Tsu counting.
"OK, now all those in favor of seven pages on Monday raise your hands."
Tsu counted the hands once again, but didn't see Mavis or her hand. Or Eppie either.
"Well, I regret to inform you that we have a tie," said Tsu.
"Kill the opposition!" cried someone.
"No no, there are other ways to respond to differing opinions," said Tsu as Eppie made her entrance, notebook in hand.
"Eppie," said Ms. Min. "We just took a vote on whether to extend the deadline for our first paper but with the length increased or to retain paper's original length and deadline. How do you vote?"
Eppie slowed down slightly on her way to a desk near the back.
"I'm, uh, too young to vote," she said as she slumped into her chair.
"You have to vote," said Lulu who, unfortunately, Eppie had chosen to sit in front of. "Everyone else voted, so you have to vote, too. Or isn't that how they do things at East Nareen?"
She kicked the back of Eppie's chair.
"Oh, East Nareen is a fine school," said Tsu. "Eppie. What does living in a civil society mean to you?"
"Oh, uh, I haven't started yet," said Eppie flipping through her notebook.
"No shit," said Lulu under her breath.
"I think I'm noting some tension here," said Tsu. "Lulu. What does living in a civil society mean to you."
"Oh, uh, I'm not sure," said Lulu in a mock retarded voice.
Wendy and Technita howled with laughter.
"Sure you do," said Ms. Min. "Come on. A civil society. What does that mean."
"Well, it means a society where everyone knows their place. Where everyone's friendly."
"Where everyone says hi in the hallways," said Wendy in her squeaky, high-pitched voice before flinging her face onto her desk with a shower of giggles.
"Miguel. Do you say hi in the hallways?" said Tsu.
"Miguel is high in the hallways," said one of his friends.
The class let out a burst of laughter.
"Oh, man," said Miguel. "Yeah, I say hi if I know them. Why not?"
Lulu kicked the back of Eppie's chair.
"So that's what living in a civil society means to everyone. Being nice?"
"It's more than that," said Tami. "You need rules. You need justice."
"Why?" said Tsu.
"Then everyone would just do what they wanted," said Miguel. "There'd be fighting and tension and nobody would get anything done."
"Ah," said Tsu. "If everybody did what they wanted, then nobody would get anything done. Now there's a thought."
"Is this a new paper?" said Tami.
"No. Same paper," said Tsu. "OK, here's my decision."
"What about our vote?" said a small voice from the back.
"In the U. S. Senate, when there is a tie vote, the President pro tem gets to cast the deciding vote. So, as President pro tem of this Senate, my decision is to not cast a vote and that those of you who want to turn in a five-page paper on Friday may do so and those of you who want to turn in a seven-page paper on Monday may do so as well."
"What about East Nareen?" said Lulu.
Tsu was beginning to get a little impatient with Lulu.
"As I said, East Nareen is a fine school. And if you're referring to any particular person in this class, that person may turn in his or her paper on Friday or Monday as per the decision, as you may all. Now, let us turn our thoughts away from papers and deadlines and towards the topic of today's discussion."
(end ag 25, 02)
Eppie wandered through the streets of Schlicter Valley that surrounded the embattled little high school. "Surprisingly leafy," she thought. Borderline serene. Nice houses. Nice lawns. Like East Nareen, but bigger, like a cemetary. And the houses weren't houses, but mausoleums wherein lay the mouldering remains of a bygone era. And up ahead, a park. And in that park, a bench, whereupon a weary traveller may seat herself in comfort and repose, the sole reflection of the living, to rest among the many dead.
(Je 7) Eppie set herself upon the bench with her can of soda by her side. She had purchased a newspaper with her soda today and opened the paper to catch up on the events of the day. Threats of war in the Middle East, a shooting downtown. "A house awaits you," thought Eppie and set the paper down to concentrate on more urgent matters. Like her own paper. So Eppie set the paper down and opened her notebook to take another shot.
"What does living in a civil society mean to you?" Ms. Min had asked. Eppie had said she didn't know. And that was true. For after all, what does living in a civil society mean anyway? It means nothing. She wondered if Ms. Min would accept that. A nothing paper. An anti-paper. Teachers loved those. At least they had at East Nareen. But Eppie wasn't sure she had five pages of double-spaced, anti-paper inside of her anymore. Maybe she was becoming soft like Ms. Min. Like Ms. Frackle. Like that girl. Mavis? Was that really her name? And that scruffy girl who was giving her a hard time in class. Lulu. She would hate to have that be her obituary: Eppie Lemiuex, formerly of the award-winning East Nareen High School, transferred to Schlicter Valley High, where she was beaten to a pulp by a scruffy girl named Lulu. And Ms. Lemiuex let it be known through her attorney, Ms. Frackle, that she wished the sum total of her possessions - a cereal bowl in the shape of an owl's nest, a heart-shaped locket filled with filings from the Eiffel Tower and a ten year supply of double-spaced anti-paper - to be bequeathed to her dear friend and esteemed colleague, Mavis.
Where was Mavis anyway? She hadn't seen her in class today. Mavis struck her as the type of girl who was never absent. The type of girl you never noticed, but was always there. But if that were the case, then why was she even thinking about her? Maybe she was the type of girl you never noticed till she was gone. But that wasn't quite true either. For Eppie had noticed her yesterday. Had made fun of her (not really) with her Ms. Frackle remark. And had felt sorry for her and wanted to…what? Apologize? Be her friend? Maybe. Maybe Mavis: she tries harder. Besides, that scruffy girl, Lulu, appeared to be gunning for her. And Lulu had a posse: that skinny pale girl with the nervous giggle, and that big hulking girl, (Tectonic?), and that serious-looking girl, Barrel. Eppie would need a posse, too. Her and Mavis. Eppie and Mavis. Mavis and Eppie. Battling the evil Lulu and her Posse of Doom.
But where was Mavis? Where was her partner, her superhero partner? Eppie had never even spoken to her yet, had not apologized, did not even know her last name. How could they be partners if she didn't even know that? Eppie looked off into the distance. Was that her? No. It was the other. Lulu. The anti-Mavis. And she had her posse with her. "Come on, Mavis," thought Eppie. "Eppie needs you now."
"Hey, East Nareen," said the scruffy-looking girl.
"Hey, Lulu," said Eppie. "Hey, Barrel."
"Barelle," said Barelle (accent on the "relle").
"Oh. Sorry. Is that French?"
"Shut up," said Lulu, her doughy face scrunched up tight and angry. She studied Eppie for a few moments. "You think you're funny, don't you."
"You think you're funny, don't you," said Lulu, moving in closer. Eppie could smell the licorice whips on her breath.
"She's from East Nareen where everyone likes to be funny," chimed in Wendy.
"Yeah," said Lulu, moving in even closer. "Say something funny."
Eppie thought, but nothing funny came to mind.
"She's from East Nareen where everyone likes to be funny," squealed an excited Wendy.
"Well, uh, let's see…Barrel!" shot out Eppie suddenly, causing the skinny excited girl to whoop with delight and giggle helplessly against the hulking girl who stood beside her.
"Barelle," said Barelle gloomily. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
"No," said Lulu. "I want her to say something funny."
Wendy let out another whoop and rolled to the ground.
"She did," said Barelle gloomily. "Let's go."
"No. That wasn't funny. She cut you down, she cut us all down and now she's gonna pay." Lulu held out her hand and snapped her fingers. "Technita!"
Technita scowled darkly and began to make a move towards Eppie. Wendy suddenly grew silent and looked up, her pale green eyes rimmed pink with laughter.
Eppie didn't know what to do. The big hulking girl was quickly descending on her and her backup, Mavis, nowhere in sight. She would need a plan. A fast plan. Lulu? No. There'd be no help there. Barrel? Barelle? But Eppie had made fun of her and she didn't appear to be someone who could make things happen right away. Eppie took a step back. Technita continued to press ever closer, she raised her massive arms and let out a mighty roar. What about Technita? If she could just turn her somehow.
(bgn tu ag 27, 02)
"Wait!" cried Eppie, holding up her hand, then turning quickly to Barelle. "Barrel! Help! Save me!" And from down below, Wendy let out another delighted whoop and rolling over, buried her face in the green, green grass, her thin, frail body shaking with excitement.
Technita stopped suddenly. She looked down at her friend, then at Eppie who held up her palms, shrugged and smiled. She looked at Wendy again who peered at her from over her shoulder, her pretty young face flushed pink and glowing, her emerald-green eyes sparkling through the shadows. Technita looked back at the smiling Eppie, then at the scowling Lulu, then at the sullen, silent Barelle, then suddenly, a deep, gutteral sound began rising from her throat and her massive body began to tremor. She opened her thick-rimmed mouth and from within the cavernous depths, a sharp barking sound shot forth. Her mighty shoulders began to shake, her enormous head to bobble, then she fell to the ground and hugged her friend as the two rolled through the grass, convulsed with laughter.
Eppie looked down at the two laughing girls as they rolled through the grass, then at Barelle who was frowning, then at Lulu who was screwing up her mouth. She shrugged at Lulu and turned to leave. "What does it mean to live in a civil society?" she thought, then fell to the ground as she felt a sharp pain in the back of her head.
A civil society can mean different things to different people. To some, it may mean the ability for everyone to get along, to others, the right to be left alone. But how is it possible for two seemingly contradictory positions to exist simultaneously? Is a civil society only possible when all its members share a similar world view? And if so, how wide (or narrow) must this world view be to be acceptable to all of its members?
(end ag 26, 02/bgn ag 27, 02)
(Je 8) "Oh, look," said Tami. "Student elections.
Tamika looked at the brightly colored sheet of paper. "Student elections. Sign up now. Make a difference," it said chattily.
"Should I run?"
Tamika was Tami's best friend. They were both cheerleaders, but Tami was the cheerier of the two. And the more leaderly.
"You should," said Tamika, knowing that Tami had already made up her mind.
"I should," said Tami. "Vote Tami Tanaka for a cheerier tomorrow."
It felt good. It felt right. Apparently, cheerleader just didn't have the impact it once had on college applications. Student body president would be just the thing to fatten up her resume.
"You should run, too," said Tami, always looking out for her friend.
"I should," said Tamika, but without Tami's optimistic enthusiasm.
"For your resume," said Tami. She nodded encouragingly at her friend.
Tamika studied the flier again. Somehow the thought of putting herself out there, even to fatten up her college app, did not fill her with glee. "Make a difference?" She was already swamped with schoolwork. Did she really have the time?
"So which one do you want?" said Tami.
Tamika studied the list of possible candidacies. Council member, Secretary, Treasurer. Strange titles. She wasn't even sure what they were for. Was she even qualified? Did she have the time? Would the colleges she planned to apply to really be that impressed?
"President," she said suddenly. President? Tamika was a little surprised at her choice. Totally involuntary. For despite her misgivings and despite the knowledge that Tami had probably planned to run for that office, the word felt right as it passed through her sensitive, yet vivacious lips.
"Hm," said Tami through the corner of her mouth. "I was gonna pick that one."
"Oh, did you want it?"
"No no, you go ahead," said Tami, always supportive, if with varying degrees of enthusiasm. "I run not for the glory, but to participate in the race."
Tami looked over the list of remaining offices. Vice President? "I don't think so," thought Tami. She loved Tamika like a sister, but to be Vice President to Tamika's Chief of State, especially since it was her idea to begin with, just didn't shake her pom poms. Treasurer? Council member? Attorney General?
"I choose council member," said Tami.
"Why not Attorney General?" said Tamika. "You like rules."
That was true. Rules were good. Rules were fun. But she'd rather follow the rules, then enforce them. And if she were on the student council she could make the rules and have someone else enforce them. What could be better than following your own rules?
"Council member," said Tami.
Tami's mind seemed to be made up. But council member seemed like a step down to Tamika, especially after President. Maybe she should let Tami run for President and she would run for student council.
"Are you sure you don't want to be President?"
"No," said Tami. "Council member is fine. Representative of the people. Champion of the oppressed and downtrodden."
"I thought that was my job."
"It is," said Tami. "It's both our jobs. It is the job of each and every elected official to champion the will of the people, to bring forth their better angels in times both good and ill."
"But I've got a lot of homework," said Tamika gloomily. "Maybe I shouldn't run at all."
"Nonsense," said Tami. "We run, we work, we cheer, we win. You in your branch, I in mine."
"Oh," said Tamika. "I thought we would kind of run together. Like gazelles or those women who run with wolves."
"We run separate and we run as a team," said Tami.
"But how can we if we're in different branches? Why don't you run for Vice President, then we can enter the race on the same ticket?"
"Hm," said Tami, mentally raising her pom poms to waist level, back straight, eyes focused. "No."
She saw her Tamika slump a little before the flier.
"Cheer up," said Tami, placing one hand on her friend's shoulder and executing a Hand Movement Number 7 with the other. "We can still run on the same ticket if we form a party."
(Je 9) "A political party?"
"Yes!" cried Tami. "And you know what we're gonna call our party?"
"The Cheerleader Party?"
"No," said Tami. Tamika could really come up with strange answers sometimes. "We're gonna call it People First."
Tamika thought it over.
"I don't like it," she said.
"Shouldn't ideas come first?
"No," said Tami. "If ideas come first, then people come second. And when you come second, anything can happen. You saw what happened to the Communists."
"Oh, that's right," said Tamika. "But wasn't America an Idea First nation?"
"No. America was a People First nation."
"Unless you were black (like Tamika) or Native American or a woman or…"
"America was a People First nation with some bad ideas," said Tami. "And when those bad ideas came first, people (i.e. blacks, Native Americans, etc.) came second and you saw what happened to them."
"Nice guys finish last."
"Correct," said Tami. "People First, People First, People First. Remember that and you shall not go wrong."
1) The dates in parentheses throughout WTH show when each part
was written. Most of the 2002 dates show when writing began or ended
for the date indicated. The 2002 date next to the title is a begin date.
All 1999 dates of this novel are begin dates. The dates without years
are 1999 dates from the original 1999 draft. The content indicated by
the 1999 dates has been revised by the 2002 draft.
2) Wendy, Connie and Tiki are the same high school character. Miguel
and Carlos are the same character, also in high school. I was trying
out different names.
3) Typos, etc. have not been corrected.
4) The 1999 draft of this novel was based from memory from notes for a
possible screenplay written in Los Angeles sometime between 1987
and 1990 that were lost in Chicago while fleeing across the country
in the summer of 1990. For background, see Joseph Yanny letter.
WTH copyright (c) 2004 eric nakao (part of the collection "WTH and Doctor, My Boy Is Cracking Up") - pending
novel posted: december 17, 2004
web page update: january 2, 2005