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Unreasonable Progress


J. Wilder

Chapter Three

Some Adult Content

I bolted out of the classroom as soon as the bell rang for lunch. Jeez, I had almost forgotten how much it sucked to sit still for that long without switching rooms. I got in the lunchroom line behind Evan. I could tell him and Daniel apart already, even though nobody else could. The lunch lady was spooning out brown glop onto plastic trays. I couldn't tell what it was. I involuntarily made a face.

"Hey, what's in that crap?" I asked one of the hairnet people.

"Beef," she grunted.

"I'm vegetarian," I said. I heard a voice from behind me.

"It wasn't on your forms." Great. Fallows.

"My parents filled them out," I explained truthfully.

"They're kind of in denial...They're carnivores..."

By this time some kid that actually wanted to eat the Brown Glop was pushing me forward. I was hoping there would be mashed potatoes or something, but instead there was Yellow Glop that was supposedly mashed bananas. No thanks. At the end of the lineup, there were mushrooms. I took the mushrooms. All they had to drink was milk, and only the regular kind, not chocolate. I hated milk. You had to wonder, how had the first person ever thought of milking a cow? I mean, had they just seen one and thought, I wonder what happens if...?

I followed Evan away from the lunch line, and faced the cafeteria. Whoa. It was incredible--all the guys were on one side of the room, and all the girls were on another.

"Dude," I said. "What's up with that?"

"What's up with what?" asked Evan, who clearly wasn't seeing what I was seeing. If you lived in Gilroy all your life, you didn't smell the garlic.

"The segregation." I pointed. He didn't seem to understand. He shrugged.

"What do you mean?" I pulled him over to the girls' side of the room and sat down.

"Hey--" he said.

"Hey, Daniel! Insect Boy!" I called, and gestured for them to join us. Soon we had enough guys at the table for it to be within normal range.

"What's going on?" asked Daniel.

"Don't look at me," said his twin.

"Look, guys," I said.

"This is the seventh grade. You gotta get out of your girls-are-icky stage."

He and Insect Boy seemed somewhat confused. Some of the girls seemed understanding, and some of them looked like they were wondering what the hell was going on.

"It's time for a change." I stood up and jumped onto the table. "At my school, girls and guys sit together every once in a while." I meant my old school.

"I think it's a great idea," chimed in Madeline, who was a pretty nice-looking chick, probably the only one in the whole damn place.

A few of the other kids seemed enthusiastic, and the rest kind of shrugged. Insect Boy looked scared. Tristin O'Malley, who was probably the coolest guy out there by my judgment--which, of course, still didn't say much--joined us pretty soon, with his friend Jarred tagging along. After a while there were just a couple of guys at the old table. Evan went back to join them, kind of trying to get away from Daniel, I think. Since the two of them had to spend every second of their lives together, I could understand that. They even had to share a birthday. Most identical twins were good friends, though.

It was the fraternal ones that really got on each other's nerves, which made sense because they weren't as alike genetically. I sort of wished that I had an identical twin so we could switch places and confuse people, and because it would make me stand out. On the other hand, I was sort of glad I didn't because I wouldn't like it if the twin was different from me. That was because I liked to believe that genetics meant more than situation, at least when it came to me. At that time I usually believed whatever I wanted to believe--along with everybody else.

I looked around the table. I was sitting between Daniel and Madeline. She had red hair, like the twins. I liked red hair. Beside Madeline were two Asian girls whose names I hadn't heard yet. Across from us were Tristin, Jarred, and four girls. Tristin was tall and blond like me. We looked enough alike that I wouldn't have been at all surprised if people mistook us for brothers, but I was better looking than him. Jarred was short, with chestnut-colored hair and freckles. The four girls were Kimberly, Karen, Judith, and Lynn, which I figured out from hearing conversations and from the nun calling on them. I was pretty good with names. I even remembered Karen's, even though she didn't talk a lot and seemed uninteresting.

I'd never been that interested in kids that don't talk. I still liked these kids, mostly, except for maybe Judith. Judith looked about two years older than she really was, was only a few inches shorter than me, and seemed to lord it over everyone. She was bossy, and I could tell it right off. Tristin seemed to take her bossiness as maturity. A lot of idiots mix up the two qualities, and Tristin was an idiot--the nice kind, though.

"Is that all you're eating?" asked Lynn, a short, blonde girl with a nose so huge I could hardly figure out how it fit on her face. Don't tell me I'm a jerk; I already know it.

"Yeah!" I said. "I'm not about to risk the Glop."

The other kids seemed to like it okay, except for Madeline, who seemed disgusted at everything but the milk. Insect Boy seemed to consider it the best meal he had ever had. Of course, insects ate some pretty damn weird things.

"Nathaniel, do you want my mashed bananas?" asked Madeline, because he had finished his in about two seconds and she didn't particularly want hers. I could relate to that.

He didn't respond. She turned to me. "Nathaniel hates me."

"How come?" I asked.

"This one time I was kind of annoyed with him, and I called him Insect Boy," she admitted.

"No kidding!" I said. "That's what I call him!" It was a real connection, you know.

I still couldn't get over how goddamn small the school was. Sixteen kids, including me, in the whole seventh grade. We had the cafeteria to ourselves, besides the eighth graders, because the younger kids ate earlier. It went from first up to the eighth grade. I tried to imagine what it would be like to go here from the time I was five to the time I was thirteen. I couldn't. The bell rang hella soon. I had trouble finishing my mushrooms in time, so I could hardly comprehend how hard it must have been for the kids with the Brown Glop, the Yellow Glop, the milk, and the mushrooms.

Somebody asked me if I really got expelled from my old school. I said, "Yeah," like I was proud of it. Oh, I kind of was, like the way I would have been proud of a criminal record if I'd had one. (I would have had one if I had gotten caught. I used to slash the tires of school faculty members and stuff like that. They would have cracked down hard on that stuff in River Heights, as the cops had nothing else to do but crack down hard on that stuff and, of course, give traffic tickets. More people got traffic tickets in River Heights than almost anywhere else. Excess free time was also why the five-oh had showed up to half the parties I'd been to. You knew a town had too many cops when they showed up to your ninth birthday party.)

"Davis and Leslie got expelled last semester," offered Kimberly, since we were on the subject. She was eating a lot, but she looked borderline anorexic--I was sure she wasn't, of course, just looked it--and had light brown hair, green eyes, and a hella long nose.

"What for?" I asked.

"They smoked cigarettes," Tristin told me. Everyone around acted like he had just said, "They committed murder."

"Repeatedly?" I asked.

"Just once," said Kimberly.

Very few people I knew smoked, since River Heights wasn't the smoking type of city, but still I hadn't been trained to think of it at the same level as homicide. A couple of kids at West Street got suspended for a few days for smoking joints. I had thought that was pretty harsh, and I used to hate drugs back then.

"They got expelled for one cigarette?" I asked. They all nodded.

"Well then," I said. "Shouldn't be too hard."


"Oh my oh my oh my!" screeched Tiffany, while we were walking towards the bathroom at the end of lunch.

"I can't believe he talked to you. I mean really talked to you. You are so lucky!"

"He's in our class," I pointed out as we entered. "He'll probably talk to you, too."

"But he talked to you first," sighed Tiffany.

"I know!" I let out my excitement and sort of squealed. "What do you think it means?"

"Oh please," Lily groaned. "He's just a boy, you know."

"How can you even say that?" I asked.

"Well, he seems like kind of a jerk," she explained.

"Who cares?" asked Tiffany feelingly.

"You two are so shallow." Judith Willis rolled her eyes as she put her brown hair up in the mirror. She was always rolling her eyes and the things we said.

"What's the point of being a teenage girl if you can't be shallow?" asked Tiffany.

"He's not a jerk," I insisted, a few seconds behind the times.

"Come on," said Lily. "Didn't you see the way he kept talking back to Sister Elizabeth? And the whole uniform deal? And haven't you heard the rumors about him? And...he has bad posture!"

"I love his bad posture," I said. "And I love the rumors. He's so bad. It's cool."

"He always looks like he'd rather be someplace else," observed Lily.

"I love that look," I said.

"That is such a great look," agreed Tiffany.

Chapter Four

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