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Enter The April Fool (standard:adventure, 2008 words)
Author: G.H. HaddenAdded: Apr 05 2007Views/Reads: 2085/1259Story 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 

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. 


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! 


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