A Class Act

I never let schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

**********

Elin found herself struggling to stay awake.  She tried to sneak in a nap on her desk, but she encountered the same problem that every student at John Quincy Adams High had.  student-desk-mdThere was only one way to sit comfortably in the chair-desk combination.  If one tried to lean forward, fold their arms, and use the desk as a pillow, they quickly found that the desk was so high that it dug into their chest.  If they tried to limply slouch against the attached chair, the low lumbar frame threatened to send them falling backwards onto the ground in a majestic head-over-heels one-eighty.  Elin had seen it happen many a time.  Once, after a particularly fun weekend made up of a hot date and some movie marathoning, she had almost succumbed herself.  That’s what friends are for.

At the desk to her left was Katelyn and at the desk to her right was Stan.  The three of them made for an unbeatable team.  Katelyn was practical and organized, Stan was creative, and Elin kept them focused.  On that almost-fateful morning, Katelyn had kicked Elin awake and Stan had slid forward and quietly pushed her back into her chair when she started to tumble from her chair.  The desk had squeaked and squonked.  Elin had shrieked in surprise.  Yet, thanks to her friends, by the time Mr. Simonds had turned his attention away from the board and to her, there was nothing to see.

Mr. Simonds was quite the sight himself.  He was a flurry of energy.  Mr. Simonds was sometimes on time for his Applied Civics class.  (“It’s History, guys.  Just call it History class.  Social Studies if you want to feel like you’re special”, Mr. Simonds had said.  On the first day he removed his special occasion-fedora and took off his glasses.  Elin had heard him mutter something about “politicians” and “frickin’ board” as he breathed on his glasses and rubbed them on his wrinkled shirt.)

There was an ongoing bet as to whether or not Mr. Simonds would make it inside the door before class started.  Elin had no spare income to risk when it came to the wager.

“We want you to enjoy your youth”, her parents had cooed with matching grins.  “You have plenty of time to be an adult later.  You’ll be making money for decades.  Don’t worry about it yet.”  The no-job mandate necessitated her asking for money every time she had a date.  Which meant that she had to find out the nicest way to ask them each time.  Which invariably meant that her parents wanted to meet the guy first.  Whether or not her parents would approve of her next suitor was enough gambling for Elin’s life.

The rules were simple.  Linus, the most timid person in class, was in charge of holding the bets.  He was a threat to no one and therefore the least likely to think he could cheat the winners out of their cash.  (“Suspenders?  Really?  Oh Linus”, Elin often thought to herself.)

three-men-gambling-sitting-at-poker-table-playing-cards-betting-party-pen-ink-drawingThe odds were fifty/fifty that Mr. Simonds would be on time.  Other days he had a shot at having his briefcase open before the bell, but he always seemed extra rushed on Mondays.  The betting was always the most active then.  (Mr. Simonds often wondered why his class was always so punctual.  The truth was that no one wanted to miss out on the action; not even the never-bets like Elin.)

Monday was also coffee day.  It was guaranteed.  A sure thing.  Once Geoffrey, the mastermind behind the betting, had offered odds that Mr. Simonds wouldn’t have a cup of coffee.  Only once.  He got cleaned out that day.  Geoffrey adapted.  Now Linus held stacks of ones dependent on whether or not Mr. Simonds would spill on himself.  Those odds were pretty well set at five to one.  It was Elin who had made the best suggestion.

She saw him rush to get out of his car once.  There had been no one around him, the ground was clear, and no puppies were nipping at his heels.  Yet, Mr. Simonds proved himself to be incapable of getting out of his car without dropping half his things.  As he leaned to retrieve them, he dropped the other half.  Then, apparently out of nowhere, Mr. Simonds tripped.  Not a simple, catch the edge of one’s toe on the crack in the sidewalk, skip from one foot to the next to regain one’s balance, thus resulting in an undignified gait.   No, this had been a full-on, no coming back from it, tripping over one’s feet, arms flailing out to the sides, shoe flying off of one foot, face slamming into arm which slams onto the concrete, cavalcade of clumsiness.  Had he not left his coffee cup on the top of his car, he would have been inconsolable.  (As it turned out, he dropped it in the hallway; trying awkwardly to open his classroom door.)

129272-049-d6bf85edElin almost felt bad suggesting the bet to Geoffrey.  However it had been too delicious to pass up.  Geoffrey set the odds at an hundred to one and even let Elin name it.  She christened it “The Dick Van Dyke”, and looked around in mortification as she realized no one else had been exposed to the classics like she had.  Still, she felt the name was perfect and stuck to her conviction.  (Also, unbeknownst to them, she wanted to salute her parents’ love of the classics.)

With a payoff that high, Geoffrey had established a hard set of rules.  He and the bet-maker had to be witness to the event.  Geoffrey was a stickler when it came to an hundred to one odds.  No one had ever collected before.  “I just saw a Van Dyke”, kids would scream as they pleaded for money.  Geoffrey would only shake his crewcut-covered head.  “No really, look at him!”  “He always looks like that”, was everyone’s standard reply.  Mr. Simonds was a bit of a mess and it was on display for the school to see.  That was part of the reason why people still took the Van Dyke.  Everyone held out hope that they might see it.  The rumors would be borne out in some epic explosion of limbs and paperwork.  Perhaps there would be some caffeine splashes to top it off.  Hope ran eternal in the halls of JQA; especially where Applied Civics was concerned.

Turning to her right, she saw Stan fidgeting.  Stan’s creativeness never really came out neat and tidy.  Little sparks of creative energy shot out of him, scarring any bystanders that got too close.  He was always a sight to see.  This morning, as Stan tried to get his hair under control, he was in rare from.

“You doing okay there Stan?”  Elin spoke quietly as she checked in with her friend.  Her concern and subdued tone had a two-pronged purpose.   One, she knew Stan hated having his picture taken.  Two, she knew it must frustrate him having his ex-girlfriend watch his frustration from two seats away.

Elin had tried to be happy for Stan and Katelyn.  Quietly, and sometimes in frustrated rants to her parents, she knew that her two friends dating was never going to work.  Katelyn was pretty, contained, and organized.  Stan was a bit spastic, sometimes incoherent, and fraught with self-doubt.  Elin had been a bit confused when the two started lingering behind her in the halls, whispering a short conversation between classes or just happening to be talking when she arranged to meet one of them.  She had her suspicions, but wasn’t prepared for seeing the two of them kissing and groping each other like two octopi super-glued together.  And behind the school dumpsters?  Elin knew that sort of tackiness had to have been Stan’s doing.  She just couldn’t believe that Katelyn had gone along with it.

Sitting between the two of them, once an innocent situation; had turned into quite a chore.  A month ago it had required Elin to pass notes between the two.  Their mutual love could not possibly wait that extra fifty-five minutes to describe how they pined for the sight of each other and how they yearned to proclaim their love.  Elin had considered switching seats with Katelyn, but she was afraid that Mr. Simonds wouldn’t remember her name and his seating chart would wreck her GPA.  Sure, Katelyn’s grade was only .2 lower than Elin’s.  But when hitting your parents up for cash, every grade point counts.  So she had been relegated, quite literally, to the friend caught in the middle.  And that was only last month.

This month, she was struggling to be the post break-up friend.  And both of her friends had equal claim to her.  When Elin would ask Katelyn how she was doing, her English-loving friend would pull out a pad that she kept just for this sort of correspondence, and scribble out a detailed note, full of adjectives and adverbs, heartily fleshing out with alarming precision, exactly how she felt.  However that turned out to be the key to the three’s current status.

vector-illustration-of-two-high-school-students-sitting-at-their-desks-passing-a-note-which-is-actually-a-blank-sheet-of_16362691As Mr. Simonds had strolled up and down the aisles, trying to find the way to best present the information about the electoral college, he passed by Katelyn’s desk.  Katelyn was scribbling furiously and therefore did not notice Mr. Simonds approach as he discussed the pros and cons of Texas and California’s weighty presence.

“What’s this?”  He pulled the pad out from underneath Katelyn’s leaden arm.  She leaned on it with all her might, but offered no audible response.  Katelyn was obedient; the good one.  She might indulge in a little wager once a month, but she’d never be risky enough to take the Van Dyke.  She behaved.  So when a teacher caught her, she had one response.  She sat there like a frightened rabbit. One could almost see her nose twitch and her eyes go wide, ears flattening down as she awaited her demise.

“That’s mine”, came a voice to the right.

“Yours?”  Mr. Simonds looked to Stan with a skeptical eye.  “This”, he said, holding up the piece of paper with damning words written in feminine cursive, soft and flowing, “is yours?  How so?”

“Oh, well, that’s easy.”  Elin still remembered the look of concentration that had been evident on Stan’s face as he worked out the answer.  “See, Katelyn and I, we broke up.”

“You were dating?”

“Sure.  Everybody knew that.”

“Everybody?  Did you hold a press conference that I missed out on?”

“Huh?”

Mr. Simonds shook his head.  “Never mind.  So is this some sort of communal property?  A  hotly disputed matter in your distribution of shared treasures?”

“No, nothing like that”, Stan replied.  “See, I might have gone off on her when we broke up.  Said a few things I shouldn’t have.  You know how it can be when you end it with someone you care about, right Mr. Simonds?”

A look flashed over Mr. Simonds face.  He quickly hid it as he looked out the window, his fingers holding the note reached to adjust his tie.  Then they returned to their previous position as he remembered he wasn’t wearing one.  He took a slow breath and turned his attention back to Stan.  “I fail to see how my relationships have a bearing on this matter.”

“Well”, Stan continued.  “I was all mad saying this and that.  Katelyn was all, ‘You’re gonna eat those words, Stan!’  Got quite upset.  And now, well, I realize that I shouldn’t have said what I did, y’know?  And I tried to apologize before class.  But she got all mad.  Starting writing on that pad.  She muttered, “Oh, you’re gonna eat these words all right.”

“These words?”  Mr. Simonds, for the first time, started to look at what was written on the paper.  Katelyn’s eyes somehow got even wider before she buried them behind her hands and shrunk into her desk.

“Well lemme see”, Stan sad as he leapt up and grabbed the paper from Mr. Simonds hand.  “Jerk, selfish, not worth…”, Stan pretended to read as he nodded his head.  “Yep.  These are them, Mr. Simonds.  So now, you know what I’m obligated to do.”

“And what exactly, is that?”

“This.”

crumpled-paper-ball-14477875Stan quickly crumpled up the paper and shoved it in his mouth.  Feverishly he worked to squish the paper down, chomping and gnashing with gusto.  Incredibly, by the time Mr. Simonds had collected himself, Stan was just swallowing the paper with an audible glump-like sound.  He turned to Katelyn, but his volume was raised for all to hear.

“Are you happy now, Katelyn?  I ate those words.  Now give me back my headphones.”

The class cheered.  Rumor had it that Geoffrey had stood on his desk and even Linus had managed to clap a few times until the fear of discovery overtook him.  Elin never knew for sure; she was too busy staring at Stan.  Part of her wanted to jump up and hug him.  Another part wanted to punch him in the stomach.   She knew he would pay for his moment of valor.

“See me after class, Stan.”

“Certainly sir”, Stan replied as he victoriously sat back in his chair.

“And Katelyn.”

“Yes sir?”  She had removed her hands from her face just in time to see Stan’s performance, but the fright from before was now replaced with disbelief.

“Please restrict your writings and notes to those of a scholarly nature.”

“Yes sir.”

“And for goodness sake child”, Mr. Simonds said before shuddering.  “Give the boy his headphones back.  You don’t want to risk his questionable hygiene.”

“Yes sir”, Katelyn said with a smile.

Elin wondered that day if the two of them hadn’t dated already; would that action have been enough to get them together?  Thankfully, it served the purpose of making the three of them friends again.  Yet the former-lovers still tried to hide their inadequacies from the other.  Elin continued to have the role of mediator thrust upon her.  One does not want their ex to see them struggle with everyday hiccups.

Elin looked to Stan, former eater-of-paper, a pathetic victim of his hair.

“This little clump is out to make a fool of me”, Stan lamented.  “And I’m irked that my parents cut back my lunch money.  Stupid picture day”, he said as he attended to his hair with no result.

“What, they won’t give you three dollars for lunch anymore?”11954269361175104003moneybags_john_olsen_01-svg-med

“Well, they will”, Stan said as he licked his hand and tried to subdue his locks in a cat-like manner, “but they won’t give me six bucks anymore.”

“What in the world do you need six dollars for?”  Katelyn looked over at Stan, looking past his hair issues for now and addressing his finances.  “How many lunches are you buying?”

“I was buying two”, he said to his two friends.  “Kind of.”

“Explain”, Elin said with a sigh.

“Well, my parents are trying to get Crystal to be responsible with money.”

“Your little sister is more responsible than you are”, Katelyn retorted.

“Yes, but my parents don’t know that.  So they’ve been giving me six dollars to buy both our lunches.”

“Uh huh”, Elin replied.  “And exactly how much of Crystal’s three dollars has found their way to her?”

“Two”, Stan said quietly.

“Stan!”  His two friends showed their disbelief in unison.  Katelyn looked at Elin.  Elin looked at Katelyn.  Katelyn shrugged and then gestured towards Elin.  Elin nodded.   She then turned towards Stan, ready to attack.

“Stan, how is a teenage girl supposed to buy lunch with only two dollars?”

“I dunno.  I mean, whenever I see her in the cafeteria, she always has this group around her.  She’s always standing right by the serving area with trays heaped with food.  People are always clapping her on the back, hugging her.  Maybe her friends give her food.  She’s certainly popular enough.”

“So you think that is acceptable that her friends feed her.  And they feed her because you, her brother, her kin, her family; are too selfish?  That you’re stealing nutrients from her body?”

“Oh come on”, Stan said.  “She eats plenty at home.  This is not some starving child in a third-world country.  You should see this gal and her snack foods.  I’m only keeping a dollar.  Well, was.”

“And what”, Katelyn asked, “were you spending all these extra dollars on?  It wasn’t on me.”

“Hey, this is not an ex conversation.  This is a sibling conversation.  We agreed not to have those before class, remember?  We get all mad and yell-y.”

“Well then I’ll ask it”, Elin interrupted.  “Hey Stan, where’d all that money go?”

“I had to pay back Geoffrey.”

“And what was so expensive that you went into debt with Geoffrey?  Some cool new techno gadget?”

Stan shrank a solid two inches in posture.  A sheepish grin appeared.

“Ugh”, replied Katelyn.

Elin responded by smacking Stan upside the head.

“I think you two know me a little too well”, Stan said.

“What was it this time?  What did you have to have?”

“Elin, you wouldn’t believe it.  This is like, the coolest thing ever”, Stan said as his excitement took over.

“What?”

“It’s a remote controlled truck.  Well, kind of.  The EMC-0815 is more like a remote-controlled platform.  You should see the bed on this sucker.  It can carry anything short of a toddler.  I mean, a dog could sit on this thing.  It’s huge.  Powerful too.  This sucker can zip all over the backyard.  Well worth the money, I assure you.  This thing is like a drone, but on ground.”

“Because buying a drone would be silly.”drone-in-clear-sky

“Of course.”

“Well, at least he has some common sense”, Katelyn interjected.

“Some”, Elin quipped.

“Come on girls”, Stan said.  “You think I would buy a drone?  Pff.  No way.  At least, not until the price point comes down.  Thus suckers aren’t cheap.”

“So you’ve spent all your sister’s money—“

“Not all, Katelyn”, Stand interrupted.  “Some.”

“—on a glorified food car?”

“What’s a food car?”

“Oh come on”, Elin replied.

“The food car”, Katelyn repeated.

“No really.  What’s this food car?”

“In the cafeteria”, Katelyn answered.  “You pay five bucks and it zips your food to you?”

“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about”, Stan said.

“You eat in the cafeteria every day!”  Elin shook her head.  Stan could be very selective in what he allowed his senses to perceive.

“Lunch is thirty-five minutes”, Stan replied.  “That’s two and a half minutes to get there and two and a half to get to class.  If I scarf down my food in five, that only leaves me twenty-five minutes for video games.  I don’t look around and see what others at doing at lunch.  My guys and I have high scores to battle over.”

“You’ve never heard someone call out, ‘Food car!’ during lunch?”

“No Elin, I don’t think I have.”  Stan stopped and thought.  “Wait, you mean ‘Football!’?  That?”

“No Stan.  Food.  Car.”

“I always thought they were yelling ‘Football!’.”

“Why would they be yelling that during lunch?”

“Why would they paint half their face one color and the other half another color?”

“You know Elin”, Katelyn offered, “I’ve always wondered about that one myself.  He has a point.”

“And that’s why you two dated”, Elin responded.

“Unfair!”

“Can we get back to this food car thing?”  Stan was confused and it didn’t sit well with him.  “There’s an EMC-0815 roaming the halls of this school and I don’t know about it?  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We thought you already knew”, Katelyn replied.

“Yeah”, Elin said.  “You pay five bucks, they put your food on the thing—“

“EMC-0815.”

“Sure, that”, Elin continued, “and it drives right over to your table.  Gives you more time to visit with your friends and you don’t have to get up.  Put your order and your money on the thing—“

“The EMC-0815.”

“Stop it.  –and it zooms your food right to you.”

“We thought you knew, what with your sister running it and all”, Katelyn said.

“What?!”  The look on Stan’s face was one that Elin would remember for years to come.  She never knew her friend’s face could go so white without a fever or plague involved.

“She really must rake in quite the tidy profit”, Elin said.

“Makes you wonder who the real scam artist in the family is, doesn’t it?”

“She’s dead”, Stan said as he started to get up from his seat.  “I’m going to her class and I’m gonna crush her.”

“Really?”  Katelyn looked across Elin and shook her head ever so slightly from side to side.

“You’re not going to do a thing”, Elin replied.

“Why wouldn’t I?”  Stan fumed with rage.

“For one thing”, Katelyn offered, “we have school in two minutes.”

“But think it out, Brainiac”, Elin ordered.  “If you want to get her in trouble, you have to tell your parents.”

“So?”

“So that would involve telling them that you bought a gizmo.”

“EMC-0815”, Stan said, much more subdued than previously.

black-and-white-vector-illustration-of-teen-arguing-with-parents_133942358“Which would involve telling them that you’ve been taking money from her.  And really, from them”, Katelyn pointed out.

A sigh was the only response Stan had.

“Although at this point, I’m pretty sure Crystal has enough money to buy her own gizmo”, Elin said.

“Yeah.  Probably one that can go up hills faster or have some sort of amphibious capabilities”, Katelyn added.

The bell rang, signaling the beginning of class and the end of Stan’s rage.  He sighed again and went back to fidgeting with his appearance.

“I think you resign yourself to calling it a draw”, Elin replied.

“And what’s with your hair today”, Katelyn asked.  “You look all, I dunno…, funny.”

“Mr. Simonds better be very entertaining today”, Stan said dejectedly.

The door burst open and Mr. Simonds, stumbling over himself, half fell into the room.  He was struggled to carry his briefcase, stacks of papers, a coffee cup, his keys, and his special occasion-fedora.  His necktie was thrown over his shoulder and one of his shoelaces had just come untied.

A look over horror swept over Geoffrey’s face.  He cast a panicked look at Linus, whose hands were quite full of bills.  Geoffrey reached for his wallet.  He worriedly kept one eye on Mr. Simonds as he scrambled to see how much cash he had brought today.

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