The fat and shrill woman holding a stick of chalk paced up and down the front of the classroom.
"As some of you may not know--but as a few of you certainly do," she started angrily. "Somebody, this morning, thought it would be funny to key my car." Her eyes rested on Aarron Robinson who was, as usual, sleeping in the back of the room. "Isn't that funny, Mr. Robinson?" She almost spat, but instead settled for screaming, "isn't it?"
The entire class turned to look at the slumped figure wearing a yellow hat.
"No, not at all Mrs. Gordon," Aarron said, sitting up. "I can't imagine who would do that to you."
"Well you can't imagine much, can you. Try imagining this: you, or one of your recalcitrant friends, or your delinquent girlfriend Allison, on his or her way into the building this morning decided that it would be a good idea to key their math teacher's car on the day before graduation. If I find out who did this, they will not receive their diploma as long as I am working at King High School!"
In his front row seat, James Eastwood was waving his raised hand. James had always been dismissed as being the class nerd, but there was more to his personality than that. His parents - and he had come from a fairly good home - had always encouraged him to be intelligent, and had instilled in him, from a young age, the idea that brains were far more important than beauty. He had also heard, on TV, women talk about how they wanted an 'intelligent' man; surely he could show the girls how intelligent he was, and earn their affection, by doing well in class. Or, to be more precise, surely he could make Claire Goldstein - the girl of his dreams - fall in love with him if he proved his intelligence. He still remembers the day when he overcame his nerves enough to call her up and asked her on a date, but ended up hanging up on her when she burst out laughing at the thought (although he still told some of the kids at school the next day that she had agreed to the date).
James was a boy who was - socially - both naive and yet highly manipulative. His reputation as the class nerd - if it had been in doubt - was earned the time when he nominated himself for class president - and no-one voted for him. Yet the same time he was also, in a sense, Machiavellian; he realized that what teachers thought of him would determine his grades far more than the quality of his work. And, given that Aarron and his friends were getting in trouble for scratching Mrs. Gordon's car, this was the perfect opportunity to brown-nose.
Mrs. Gordon tried to ignore James, but his puppy dog expression always melted her heart. “What is it, James?”
James lowered his hand and replied, “My uncle Hank runs an auto body shop. I can get you a great deal on a paint job.”
Mrs. Gordon suddenly felt herself being swept into a fragment of memory she had not touched in decades. In a classroom just three doors down the hall, she had seen Henry Eastwood (Hank) for the first time. He had just transferred into King High and Mr. Bishop introduced him to the history class. “We have a new scholar among our ranks now. This is Henry.” Mr. Bishop scanned a note from the school office. “Henry just moved to town from Philadelphia.”
Mr. Bishop folded the note and handed it back to Henry. Henry put the note in a pocket of his leather jacket and went to take a seat. Mr. Bishop, as usual, started talking history from the first available vantage point. “Last time, I was telling you about Benjamin Franklin and Henry just made me think of an acquaintance of Ben Franklin; Thomas Bond, of Philadelphia.” He wrote the name on the board. “Henry, do you know who Thomas Bond was?”
Henry shook his head. “Not really, but I think I’ve seen a statue of him where my mom used to work.”
Mr. Bishop clapped his hands together once, very loudly. “Wonderful! Let me guess; your mother is a nurse?”
Henry was surprised. “Yes. How do you know that?”
Mr. Bishop explained, “Because Doctor Thomas Bond, along with Ben Franklin, started the first hospital in the Colonies, in Philadelphia. I do not remember the exact year, but it was not too many years before the Colonies declared independence from Britain. Ben Franklin was involved in many “firsts’ for America…”
Lucy Gordon did not really hear anything said that day about Ben Franklin and American history. She was too busy learning every crease of the leather that stretched across Henry’s broad shoulders. She felt sure that leather jackets were banned by the King dress code and she let her mind run wild with fantasies about the big city gang that Henry must have been a part of. Mrs. Gordon felt the strands of her memory of Henry spreading outward from that first day in Mr. Bishop’s classroom.
She forced those thoughts away and said quietly to James, “I think I knew your uncle Hank, many years ago. I may just have to take you up on that offer.” She then looked up and noticed Dana Brooks - sitting in one of the middle rows of the classroom - rolling her eyes. "Ms Brooks," the teacher exclaimed in a nagging tone while staring at Dana, "...is there something you want to contribute to this discussion? Perhaps you want to join your friends, Allison and Aarron, in detention?!"
Dana was a misfit, although in a manner very different to James, and was certainly no friend of either Aarron or Allison. The intelligent and tomboyish brunette was too weird to ever fit in with the 'cool' kids at the back of the class. In contrast to the feminine, priss, and often bitchy Allison, Dana often came to class wearing torn jeans or army fatigues, and the t-shirts of grunge, punk, and heavy metal bands like 'Bratmobile,' 'Babes in Toyland,' 'Calamity Jane,' 'Bikini Kill,' 'System of a Down,' or 'Megadeth.' In a school, and a town, in which the men were men and women were women - Dana was a girl spent her free time playing electric guitar (or, being a multi-instrumentalist, any other musical instrument she could get her hands on), read (and drew) comic books, was active in a number of open-source projects, had a blackbelt in kickboxing, and was the striker on the girl's soccer team.
Had this not been enough to make it difficult for her to fit in, she also had the issue of her sexual preference in a largely homophobic town. She publicly described herself as 'pansexual,' stating to anyone who asked that she fell in love with people for who they were and not their gender, but disliked being called 'bisexual' because she believed that it was a label that contained connotations of promiscuity that she didn't agree with. In truth, however, while she did occasionally feel sexually attracted to guys, she had never even kissed - let alone dated - a guy, yet had prolonged relationships with a number of girls. It was a fact not lost of many of her classmates, who called her 'butch,' 'Riot Grrrl' or 'the bad-gurl.'
But, unlike James, she was no sycophant of authority figures; in fact she was downright anti-authoritarian. For while she didn't fit in with the 'cool kids', she smoked (including both cigarettes and marijuana), and would out-drink most of the guys at any party she went along to. Her broken home led her to reading the works of a range of libertarian, left-libertarian, anarchist, and anacho-feminist philosophers. Her favorite writers included Michel Foucault, Robert Owen and Ayn Rand. She was not afraid of talking back to authority figures. And Mrs. Gordon's challenge provided the perfect opportunity.
"Gees, someone's very secure in their authority, aren't they?" Dana sarcastically retorted to Mrs. Gordon.
In mere moments, the teacher had been snapped from her fantastic fantasy about Hank into a furious rage. "DON'T TALK BACK AT ME YOUNG LADY! OR ELSE..." - Mrs Gordon began shouting back to Dana, but was promptly cut off mid sentence. "...or else you'll give me a detention? You'll withhold my diploma so I'm not 'employable' within YOUR system? Wow. I'm scared!" Dana responded dryly. Against the background of giggles from her fellow classmates, Dana continued, "...see, the truth is, school isn't about education. And YOU aren't about education. Do you know why you were so happy to let that *NERD* - James - bring up his Uncle's car detailing business in class? It's because this is an indoctrination session, where the students are indoctrinated to be subservient cogs in the machines of industry and society, blindly following the orders of the political class and the bureaucrats in Washington, or their masters on Wall Street. You - standing in front of the class - represent that authority, holding the masses down, but yet all I have to do is roll my eyes and you lose control. Because ultimately you, like most other teachers, like most other authority figures, are ultimately incompetent. You don't scare me. I won't play ball. Thus, you have no power." Then, Dana finished her tirade when she laid the psychological knockout blow to the teacher, by stating that "You are nothing but a frumpy, fat, shrill OLD cow who probably hasn't been laid in a decade because deep down you know the truth - no-one loves you. You will die alone."
There was - quite understandably - a stunned silence in response to Dana's tirade. Some of the kids in the class - particularly Aarron and his friends, were giggling because it was obvious to them that Dana would get in trouble. Some were also relieved that Dana had introduced herself into the firing line - perhaps she would now be the subject of Mrs. Gordon's rage instead of them.
One girl closely paying attention to every word was Claire, the short brunette who was the object of James' secret desires. Claire privately idolized Dana and her willingness to stand up to people, and to speak her mind. Sometimes, Claire secretly imagined being her, or being able to play guitar like her, or being 5'10 like her. This having been said, Claire didn't know anything at all about Dana's broken home. Given Claire's sometimes strict Conservative parents, she wondered how much they would freak out if she introduced them to her would-be girlfriend: 'the bad-gurl.' But, given the town's often hostile and homophobic attitude, she dare not ask 'the bad-gurl' out. At least, not yet. Of course, if Dana were to ask her, that would be a different matter.
And Claire wasn't the only student in class with a secret desire for Dana. In the twisted world of high-school melodrama Steve Latham, the class clown, also had a crush on 'the bad-gurl,' but never had the will to tell her openly. In many ways, the two had a lot in common: Steve's mother had died at a young age so he was primarily raised by his dad, who in turn was often out of town on business or worked long hours (while not attending the local bar or strip club). Steve had a gift for self-deprecating humour, rather than the often dry sarcasm and blunt attacks of Dana. He was also secretly more intelligent than he let on, having a near encyclopaedic knowledge of World War II, though he didn't openly share this for fear of being dubbed a nerd. In spite of his intelligence, he was more often in detention than getting A+'s. He and Dana would often hang out at the local park getting drunk or stoned together, although while he secretly desired her, she had no similar desire for him. By being the class clown (and masking his intelligence), Steve was one of those kids who could hang out both with Aarron and his friends, as well as kids who sat in the middle row in class like Dana, without any impact on his standing in the school pecking order.
At the same moment, Mrs. Gordon was at a loss with how to deal with Dana. After all, when Dana was interested - in music or art class, for example - Dana could be the model student. But where the kids at the back of the class - the car scratchers - could be scared straight - for a while - Dana was a different kettle of fish. When she came to identify a teacher as an authoritarian, she would become a nightmare to deal with - no-showing detention, staying put when being sent out of class, walking out of class while being shouted at, and using a host of other tricks to passive-aggressively undermine said teacher's authority. And Dana's misbehaviour could, in turn, quickly incite Steve and Aarron into action, leaving her out of control of her own class. That having been said, Dana's attack - particularly the line about her dieing alone - hurt the teacher more than she would let on, and she was still angry about Aarron and co. scratching her car. And, finally, such a rude comment from a student could not go unanswered. How did Mr. Bishop ever manage?
If only she had paid attention in class!
And Mrs. Gordon could not stand anymore. She took her submachine gun and fired at Dana. Now Dana was full of blood. Alter Mrs. Gordon did that, she killed herself.