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"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the
unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man."
--George Bernard Shaw
"Locking a teacher in the supply closet," accused the principal, Cynthia Wood.
She looked concerned.
"He got in there voluntarily," I insisted.
"Leaving him there for TWO PERIODS," she went on as if she just couldn't see how
anybody could have done something so terrible.
"He said he wasn't hungry," I justified.
"Jordan, Jordan, Jordan."
She always repeated my name like that, as though it would somehow make me
totally remorseful all of a sudden for everything I'd done. Like that was
"Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia," I said.
"You know we can't just let you go with a warning this time," she told me
THAT was stupid. When had they EVER let me go with just a warning?
"J.T., you know very well that this isn't your first offense."
"I've never locked anyone in a supply closet before yesterday," I informed her,
putting my feet up on her desk.
"I don't just mean this incident, J.T. And I am not only referring to the fact
that you are failing over half of your classes. For the last year and half,
we've been putting up with your pranks, your practical jokes, your lack of
I took out my headphones and prepared to put them on, letting her know that I
didn't care to hear the list.
"...your defiance, your complete disregard for the rules...and then of course
there's your drug problem..."
"I'm not on drugs," I interrupted.
"I'm not here to judge, J.T."
What the hell? "I'm not on drugs!" I persisted, although it WAS, for some
reason, a pretty common misconception.
"What bothers me most," said Ms. Wood seriously, "is that the entire student
body LOOKS UP TO YOU. If J.T. Tyler locks a teacher in a supply closet, seven
hundred and nineteen other children are going to lock teachers in supply
closets. Don't you see the fix I'm in?"
"Don't you see I don't give a shit?"
She sighed. When I'd first come to the school and said something like that,
she'd freaked out. Now it was expected.
"Look. J.T. They follow you. They want to be like you. For some reason that I
can't possibly comprehend, you're a role model--so you should try setting a good
example every once in a while."
"You don't get it," I realized, leaning back to balance the chair on two legs,
holding onto the desk to stay up. "Maybe this is WHY they look up to me. I have
the guts to do what they want to do but don't. Listen. I locked McDillan in the
closet because he was being a jackass. The WHOLE CLASS KNEW he was being a
jackass. They ALL WANTED him to be locked in a supply closet. Any one-a' them
woulda' been the one to do it if they weren't so fuckin' scared of YOU. Dig?"
She had her arms folded now. Something about this meeting was different than all
the other times I had been sitting there in Ms. Wood's office. I should have
known what it was, because I'd already been expelled from four elementary
schools. This was a middle school, though. Plus it had been a full two years
since I had been expelled. I guess I'd forgotten what it was like, talking to a
principal when he or she was about to tell me not to come back. At least, it was
usually a principal or vice principal. Sometimes it was just a guidance
In my boredom, I looked around the office. It was bigger than it had to be. All
that was in it really was the oak desk and a few chairs.
"I've called your parents, Jordan," Ms. Woods informed me.
"They should arrive at any minute."
She was right, because they showed up pretty soon after she said that.
The last time they had been in the office with me it had been pretty
embarrassing. I'd been in trouble for a repeated offense of public displays of
affection, which basically meant I'd been making out in hallways too much. They
made a huge deal about it. In high school they don't care, but they crack down
on it pretty hard in middle school. And in elementary school. And in preschool.
I thought the whole thing was pretty stupid. It was just kissing, really, but
they acted like I was hosting orgies in the middle of the cafeteria. The
overreaction of adults was often hilarious.
"Please sit down, Mr. Tyler, Mrs. Tyler."
My parents sat. They were pretty normal people, actually. People thought that
because of the way I was turning out, I must have had a broken family, or
abusive parents, or something. Nah. They were jerks, but not criminal jerks, and
they even had a perfect marriage and everything. I never understood what the big
deal was with broken families, anyway. If my parents had been divorced, I
wouldn't have given a damn. If they had never been around, I wouldn't have given
a damn about that either. I guessed that it would have sucked to have abusive
parents, but you didn't really think of stuff like that living in River Heights.
Nobody I knew back then had ever been abused. My dad had hit me once a year or
two ago, but I had just hit him back harder--so it never happened again. I still
thought, though, that it would have happened again if I hadn't hit him back.
My dad was a tall, balding guy, with a pretty clueless expression on his face
most of the time when it came to stuff about me. He had a pretty high IQ--not as
high as mine, but pretty high. He was an electronics engineer. He wasn't stupid
about everything. He was just stupid when it came to me. He was smiling then,
like this was a tea party or something. My mom had the same clueless expression.
She was a few inches shorter than my dad, and was not going bald. My parents had
been hippies when they were my age. Basically that meant that they used to have
long hair and made love not war.
Oh, I don't really know if I can call what my parents had been hippies. Now they
seemed too square to have been mixed up in drugs or anything. Plus they'd lived
in Canada at the time, where there was no war to protest. They had sure as hell
dressed like hippies, though.
They weren't a thing like hippies now. Their clothes and
hairstyles had changed with the times. My dad had even been in the Canadian Air
Force at one point, after his hippie stage.
I had seen a picture of my parents taken in the sixties and laughed at it,
wondering why anyone ever would go out in public like that. But a second later
I'd had an image of a later generation of kids looking at a picture of the
middle school me and laughing at IT. Still, I thought anyone would be able to
see that my generation dressed better than hippies. I was against war, and I'd
always wanted to go to a protest, but even if I had lived in the sixties I
wouldn't have been a hippie. I would have looked really bad with long hair, I
didn't like tie-dye, and I didn't like drugs. If I had lived in the sixties I
most certainly would have been a hood. Man had they been cool.
"I assume you're aware of the trouble your son has been
causing," Ms. Wood said strictly, frowning like this was important. She didn't
wait for an answer or anything. She talked to my parents for a pretty long time
about boring grown-up stuff.
I put on my headphones, and they didn't even notice until I blasted "Smells Like
"J.T., it's hurting OUR ears..."
Yeah right. Then they went telling us kids not to exaggerate. Oh well--it wasn't
as hypocritical as some other things people did. Everybody was a hypocrite. Even
I was a hypocrite.
"So I can't imagine what it's doing to YOU," my mom finished.
"I'm alright, really," I said. I could hear her because at that point I was
"J.T., you should be listening to this," said Dad.
"I am listening," I informed him. "I have an incredible ability to double-task."
But I shrugged and took the headphones off. "What's up?"
Ms. Wood cleared her throat. She didn't realize that the only reason I was
willing to take off my headphones was because I wanted to switch CDs. I took out
Nirvana and flipped through my CD case.
"J.T.," Ms. Wood said. "J.T. Listen to me."
"I am beginning to think..." She took a deep breath.
That's when I realized what was coming. I had mixed emotions about it. On the
one hand I had a lot of friends there, but on the other hand I figured I would
probably end up at River Heights Junior High, where all my friends from
elementary school went, including my best friend, Dave.
"That's good," I said. "I begin to think sometimes, too."
"Yes, well...J.T., we're beginning to think that West Street Middle School is
not the right place for you."
No shit, Sherlock. I almost laughed. West Street Middle School wasn't the right
place for anybody who wasn't a studious square who got straight A's, and
actually liked history class, or at least thought it was okay.
"You're kicking me out," I said emotionlessly.
"She's only saying that maybe you should try something else, J.T.," my mother
started. My mother was a very deluded person.
"I'm kicking you out," Ms. Woods said honestly. It sounded weird coming from
her. You'd think SHE'D have had some more polite way to say it. The bitch.
"It's okay," I told my parents. "RHJH has openings."
"J.T., I don't think you'd do any better at River Heights Junior High than you
are doing here," warned Ms. Wood.
"Me neither," I agreed. I didn't think that meant anything.
"J.T., I think there is a better alternative," stated Ms. Wood.
They kept on saying my name. I don't really know why. Ms. Wood had said my name
about a thousand times in this meeting. I guess I was kind of curious about the
better alternative. I wondered if they could get permission from the government
to let me drop out of school completely. I wondered if that were at least
possible. I wondered if I'd like that if it were.
"J.T.,"--there it was again--"when my son was your age, I sent him to St. Joseph
"What is that, some PRIVATE school?" I asked. I had kind of a grudge against
"Yes," she said, but she sounded as though there were more to it than that.
Oh, no, I thought. It's a juvenile correctional facility. I had never been to
one of those, but there had been some close calls. My cousin Jace had been in a
reformatory once and juvy a couple of times, and he was only a couple of years
older than me. Of course he wasn't from River Heights. I bet a River Heights kid
would get killed in juvy.
"It's a Catholic boarding school for boys."
I burst out laughing. That was, of course, a million times worse than a juvenile
She went on and on about the great education I would receive in--get
this--Oregon. Like my parents were going to send me out of the state because she
My parents sent me out of the state because she said so. It was insane!
Thank god St. Joseph Hall had gone co-ed, or I probably would have gone even
more postal. My parents really thought that sending me to a school in
Oregon--where for all I knew nuns might teach the classes or something--was the
way to go. Ms. Wood had them absolutely BRAINWASHED! They weren't COMPLETELY
sure about it at first, but she gave them about a million pamphlets to continue
the brainwashing process.
They told me to read them but I didn't. I didn't want to encourage them. I guess
I did read part of one pamphlet, but that was just to find out when I had to get
up and when classes ended.
Pretty soon, they were telling me St. Joseph Hall was one of the best-ranked
schools in the country, wasn't that great? (By the way, so was RHJH.) And hey,
guess what? They had a golf team. Wasn't that great? I didn't LIKE golf! And yet
they went on and on as if I had begged them for years to let me go to a school
with a golf team. It was as though when they were hippies the grass made them
want to try something stronger, and the effect was still messing them up. (I
didn't REALLY think that, in case you were wondering, since like I said they
were probably too square even for grass.)
"I don't want to go, Mom," I said plainly.
"You'll love it there!" was her response. That was their response to everything
I said, just like my response to everything they said was a blandly sarcastic,
"happy, happy, joy, joy." This phrase had perhaps been inspired by REN AND
STIMPY or some other Cartoon Network crap. That was strange, as I really hated
REN AND STIMPY and all other cartoon TV shows besides LOONY TOONS.
My parents were insane. They kept telling me we'd see each other every month--as
if I WANTED to see them every month.
Not only that, but I was pretty sure the food was going to suck. That was
terrible. I was big on food.
As if all this--the potentially bad food, my parents seeming to suffer lasting
effects of LSD they'd tried thirty years ago during their hippie phase, and
going to a school with a fucking GOLF team, but no BASKETBALL team--wasn't bad
enough (considering how great my life had been so far), my plane was delayed. I
got stuck waiting in the airport for hours. My parents were there. They
seriously thought that I WANTED them there. Like I would want to be with people
who sentenced me to bad food and everything.
"You can go, really. I'll be fine."
They acted like they were gonna miss me so damn much. They
were the ones who were sending me there! It was their fault! Some of my friends
wanted to come to the airport to say goodbye and everything, but my parents said
it was a family time. A FAMILY time!
I absolutely, positively did not want to go. Before we left in the car to go to
the airport, I tried to consider all the other options, until I realized there
were none. I hated that. I was going to Oregon. At least I wasn't the type who
Because of the delay, I got to St. Joseph by taxi at about one in the morning.
They had to wake the headmaster up and everything to get me "settled in". I
could tell he was tired as hell. He was this thin, curly-mustached guy--kind of
young for a principal and looked it, but he also seemed ancient somehow. I don't
know if you know what I mean or not.
"So you're Jordan Tyler," he said, like he was meeting some famous outlaw. That
made me kinda' proud.
"Yes," I muttered.
He gave me a short tour, which could hardly be called a tour, since it was
basically just pointing to the cafeteria and what I suspected was my first
period classroom. Then he handed me this folded sweater-vest, tie, slacks, and a
"What the hell am I s'post to do with this?" I asked.
"Wear it. It's your uniform. And don't talk to me like that."
"I'll talk to you however the fuck I want, and there's NO WAY I'm wearing a
sweater-vest," I said. I said it loudly, but he didn't even hear. He was halfway
down the hall by then and he'd told me on my arrival he was hard of hearing. I
realized that I was supposed to follow him. He stopped, and slowly opened a
door. He told me it was my dorm room. Then he left--just like that. I was
starting to wonder if this was one of those freaky lockup schools you read about
I dropped my stuff by the empty bed. I surveyed the room. It was small
considering that it was supposed to house four guys. There were two sets of bunk
beds, and I was stuck on the bottom. I stood on the end of my bed and held onto
the rail of the top bunk to see who the other guys were. Above me was this kid
who looked as much like an insect as he could have without actually being one.
In the other two bunks were identical twins, big, red-haired kids with freckles.
At the end opposite the bunks was a bookshelf. I wasn't tired, so I thought
maybe I could use a flashlight to read something, but there were only textbooks
and four different copies of the bible. I went back to my bunk and lay down,
with my arms behind my head. Man, this was gonna be hell. I had thought it would
at least be cool to live with three other kids, but come on, INSECT Boy?
I sat up, bumped my head, and cursed the bed for being too low, myself for being
too tall, my parents for giving me the genes to make me so damn tall, and God
too, because everything was supposed to be His fault, wasn't it? I thought about
waking up the other kids to say hey, but I knew some people didn't like waking
up at one in the morning. I personally didn't like getting up at six o'clock,
but according to the many pamphlets, that's when everybody had to get up in this
damn place. I didn't think I would be able to survive that.
I fell asleep after awhile. A few hours later--I thought it was a few MINUTES
later, but my watch never lied--a bell rang real loud, so I put a pillow over my
face until it stopped. A couple of minutes later, when I'd just managed to fall
back to sleep, somebody was shaking me. I moved the pillow so I could see. It
was that Insect Boy. I was so tired that I was kind of delirious, so I think I
actually called him that. I said, "Hey, Insect Boy." Those three annoying guys
spent half the morning trying to get me out of bed. The human insect's name was
Nathaniel McAllen, but he was already Insect Boy to me permanently. The twins
were Evan and Daniel.
Back in River Heights, I'd sometimes had to get up that early for hockey
practice, but THAT had made sense; we'd needed the ice time. Here, it was like,
why, why, WHY? I yawned. The others were dressed already. Nathaniel looked even
more like a bug with his glasses on, and the twins had uniforms that must have
been bought years ago, because they were much too small. Basically, they looked
like total losers. Maroon sweater-vests never added to anyone's appearance.
I kicked my legs over the side of the bed. I tried to start a conversation, but
my new roommates seemed focused on getting ready for class--going over homework
and everything. Plus, I was trying to talk about music, and they seemed to have
no idea what rock and roll WAS. It was SCARING me. The annoying thing was, they
were looking at me like I was the idiot. They were such dorks they didn't even
recognize cool when they saw it.
They left in a hurry, telling me I'd better be ready soon. I pulled on some
jeans and a sweatshirt, and packed my backpack with some binders and paper and
my CD player.
The bell rang telling me I was supposed to be in class in five minutes. I had
already missed breakfast, and I still had to gel my hair and everything.
I did show up eventually. As I pushed open the door, fifteen faces turned
towards me. Standing at the front was--get this--a real live nun, in a habit and
everything. I choked back a "holy shit" and almost swallowed my gum.
"You gotta be kidding me."
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