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|Enter The April Fool (standard:adventure, 2008 words)|
|Author: G.H. Hadden||Added: Apr 05 2007||Views/Reads: 1908/1125||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Cole should’ve known better than to think a simple change of address would wipe the slate clean. This excerpt is from a work in progress entitled Country Dark.|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story somehow it'll solve everything for me. But it won't—so just tell me something to keep ‘em happy.” Cole laughed. He was being evaluated—sized up! He smiled and dutifully told his story. Here's a chance to move up a notch. Maybe he'll even get Jeff to smile. Wilkinson greeted Cole with a bright smile and warm handshake. “Welcome, welcome!” he gushed in his gray business suit and pinstripe tie. In much better shape than your average middle-aged bureaucrat, he had that clean-cut look of a seasoned educator—like the kind that takes no bullshit and tells no lies. And he genuinely did seem pleased as punch to have his new “charge” join “our little family here in Stony Creek.” His office was small and warm as his greeting, well ordered (with a place for everything) with a whiff of Old Spice and Lemon Pledge in the air. His educational degrees were proudly displayed on the walls and pictures of his children adorned a corner of his desk... “Ya, that's Sally.” Jeff pointed out her fiery red hair—natural (NOT dyed), a tall girl sitting at a table with some of the other bussed-in kids from Jarett. She often dressed in tight blue jeans and likes to wear Ocean Pacific tees. “And he's got another in the third grade, James.” Jeff was saying, (but Cole doesn't hear him, he's taken completely by her, and has been since that first day he arrived. He's got his crush on.) “They're the ones in the pictures.” “Nice ass. “ Cole said automatically, but in truth it's totally her hair he's into. “What a hottie!” “Don't even think about it. Wilkinson'll eat you alive.” “He already has.” ...Cole took his place in the hot seat, and when the formalities of the meeting were finally out of the way Mr. Wilkinson's face changed into that serious figure of authority every school kid must learn to respect, if not fear outright. “You come to us with a past, young Master Slater.” Wilkinson said, and his index finger tapped down upon the manila folder he had ready for this occasion, the one Cole so desperately hoped might have been left behind in Queens with his old life. Those wily principal's eyes narrowed wolfishly and fixed upon Cole like bayonet blades. “I speak of a past of shame—a past of gang activity.” He opened the folder, and allowed the pictures to spill out in all their bright Kodachrome grandeur. Now the accusations came in an evangelical torrent of righteous indignation. “You were a member of the Conrail Boys, an organized criminal band that specialized in stealing cargo from freight trains, were you not? You were a THIEF, a HOOLIGAN; you were a common street thug—a vandal, an illiterate TAGGER! You were a child with no direction, no sense of morals, no legitimate goals, no honor, and no understanding of what society EXPECTS of you. OR OF WHAT, I, EXPECT OF YOU!” Damnation lay before Cole's eyes. The mug shots, the graffiti sprayed railcars and even those long forgotten camera blow-ups of an elementary aged Cole hard at work on his F word wall mural from long ago. There were photocopies of the typed up reports and sworn statements he gave to the railway police, his court transcripts, and his youth rap sheet, complete with record of community service that concluded his time served. He's still on probation. And even if he's put the days of train watching in Sunnyside Yard behind him now, oh well, the fun still goes on, doesn't it? “I was an associate.” Cole explained. “I did what I needed to do. The Conrail Boys gave me protection.” It sounded like a little kid's whining, even to Cole's ears. He promptly shut up, wishing for a do-over. But Wilkinson's got game, and he plays for keepsies. “You were a CRIMINAL, but all of these things are in the past. For HERE, in Stony Creek, you have been granted a second chance. You have an opportunity to become SOMETHING in a community that will watch over you. You see, it takes a village to raise a child, and I TRULY believe this. Here, you WILL become SOMETHING. NO MORE GANGS, NO more DRUGS, NO MORE TAGGING! Am I making myself perfectly CLEAR?” In the uneasy silence that followed Cole realized Wilkinson was breathing through his nose, and his nostrils were flaring. He could hear a slight wheeze, and he recognized it for what it was—a touch of Asthma. After the interview this proud man in his high backed leather chair might well pull out an inhaler, but not now, because he will never, ever show weakness in front of a kid. “Well?” Cole felt humbled. Honestly, what could he say? “Like you say Sir—what's in the past is in the past. My dad took a new job and moved us from Queens to keep me an' my brother out of gangs. I want to succeed here, cause there's no-wheres else to go.” “Hmmm. So you WANT to succeed then.” Wilkinson mused, although it felt more like an act, because a man with so many educational degrees on the wall always knows the right words to keep a kid on his toes. “Tell me, Master Slater, what do you think it takes to succeed?” More silence, awkward and tongue-tied for Cole, but just what Wilkinson was counting on. And now that he has Cole's full and undivided attention, here comes the gospel from Upon High. And if Martin Luther King had a dream; and Roosevelt nothing to fear but fear itself; then so too did Wilkinson expect “the COURAGE to succeed.” This “From the man you will call God Almighty until graduation day, when I expect you will top the honor roll and deliver the most stirring valedictory address ever! That, my boy, is what I EXPECT of YOU!” he paused again for effect, and slumped back into his chair, delivering the coup-de-grace. “This is the lofty goal I have set—for both of us—YOU and ME!” At the end of it all, Cole was too ashamed to admit he had no idea what valedictory means. That's the punch line he tells Jeff —putting his own positive spin on things. Cole left out the part about beating a sheepish retreat from Mr. Wilkinson's office, feeling wounded and shell-shocked. Once again, illusions were shattered—and what a fuckin' April fool he's been! He should've known better than to think a simple change of address would wipe the slate clean. ...So now they'll all know. He's Wilkinson's pet project, kept on a short leash. Zeke's bit of Confederate Sergeant wisdom holds true after all, (“You know Son, in a town this size, everybody knows everything about everybody else.”) even if it was offered up in a puff of blown smoke and a curse on his lips. Man, that smelt like good weed! Like burnt grape-fruity bubble-gum! But that bitter battle-scared man in uniform is the biggest fool of all. What with that General Lee flag flying from his army surplus store, does he even know who won the Civil War? There was real hate in his eyes that cold December afternoon. He all but accused Cole's dad of profiting from Jeff's family tragedy; he made it clear Cole was NOT welcome! Not a man you want as an enemy. Cole shuddered. Just thinking about Zeke creeps him out, those chiding crickets creep him out—and the dark, that creepy country dark—that creeps out a city kid like Cole most of all. There it was again; that strange feeling, like he'd somehow awakened the dead and the spirit of this old churchyard had yawned, stretched, climbed his spine like a tree and tapped him on the shoulder. (Boo!) He's got a bad vibe about tonight, but what can he do? ‘No guts; no glory—Jeff's here now and its GO TIME! Tweet
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