|DEVICES Home Page | Contents | Authors||Wordrunner eChapbooks | March 2016 | echapbook.com|
Dan Holland didn’t doubt that his hangover and Joey Denton were cosmically and psychically connected. If a thought went through Dan’s head, it would travel a similar though corrupted path through Joey’s brain. That was the metaphysical nature of his hangover. A bruiser. A prize nauseator. A brain ripper. So while Dan’s hangover remained in the classroom, its counterpart psychic head fault, Joey Denton, stood outside, working in complete opposition to any coherent thoughts Dan could muster. Joey could do this. He was eighteen. He was all powerful. An adult. He could sign himself in and out of school at any moment. He did not need to be a student. Education was not important. He was Joey Denton, the // demon seed remake of . A citizen. An Archetype. If Joey didn’t want to come to class, he didn’t have to. This was the New Century Academy, charter school, 60% white, 30 % Asian, 10% white/asian. There would be no repercussions. The New Century Academy had the zip code. It had the country club. It had the test scores. It had Joey Denton.
Dan checked the flashing “missed call” alert on his phone. He knew without looking that Joey was outside, had his cellphone to his ear, was wiping his index finger over his nose as if he could dislodge a booger without having to stick the finger up the nose. His Cal cap was turned at an angle. His Lacrosse team polo shirt was flipped up at the collar. He was carrying a mid-sized backpack. Joey was talking to his dad. And Dan was communicating with Joey. His brain was firing on antithetical brainwaves to Joey’s, one pulse going up Dan’s teetering hippocampus as another ran down the flashing cerebral cortex of Joey’s gray matter. Not only could Dan hear Joey’s conversation with his dad, he saw exactly what was inside the backpack without looking. Joey was holding three grams of indica, five hits of adderall. One gram of pot was for his consumption. Two were for sale in the boy’s bathroom closest to the gym during morning break. The adderall was for the A- Asians and the B- white kids who desperately wanted to hold onto their grades and get into a good college, the first group to the UC’s, the second to State. Beyond that, there was a collective of assorted “to be described later” drugs that haunted the backpacks of many young men enrolled in The New Century Academy. Nothing new there, a stereotype confirmed by reality. They had the zip code.
Dan felt his guts moving, a sharp pain behind his eyes, and then the impending bowel movement arriving by morning break. He remembered the martinis had been followed by the glasses of two buck chuck. A disaster. The whistle worn kind. The fifty year Burnt Out Teacher kind. His eyes blurred. His brain began to exude, thoughts crumpling and collapsing, telling him, “You can’t drink three martinis with friends after work. You are a middle aged man teetering on the edge of becoming a dirty old goat. And flirting with that waitress, great move. Can’t you see your hair is gray at the sides and falling out on the top? You cough for a half hour in the morning. You get hemorrhoids if you drive for more than two hours in your car. You don’t think about sex as much as you used to, in fact, hardly at all. You drink a whole mess of martinis because your closest colleague in the department is retiring early. In fact, all the seasoned teachers are retiring early. You are a charter school now. You have core curriculum. You have state mandated racial segregation. You have less pay, less benefits, and you are observed by a camera installed on the wall to observe you. Your students are not rated. The camera is for you. Holy God and Jesus, you wish it were you leaving this place.”
He gazed at his class. The smartly dressed girls with the moderate IQs were texting friends in other classrooms, hiding their electronic devices in the hems of their skirts. The two out-of-district gargantuan varsity athletes were exchanging friendly blows and rabbit punches. The nerdy computer kids were checking notes, planning their attack on the modern world, glancing every few seconds at the smartly dressed girls with the moderate IQs. The sophomore girl with the plunging neckline and equally plunging reputation was applying lipgloss, checking her Facebook account, making sure the bandy-legged sophomore boy next to her saw every detail of this operation. There was a rumbling noise as their voices competed to be heard, rising in teenage crescendo. Dan ran a hand over his face. Any minute now Joey Denton was going to walk through the door and it was going to explode. This was how it was every morning. Joey walking in, the nightmare from hell descending. Dan grimaced. This class. The life sucking freshman screamers mingled with the sophomore duds and the senior underachievers class. All of this cherry topped by Joey Denton, the incorrigible. And now they were a charter school. Hell buckets full of shit. What was he doing here?
“Jesus,” whispered Dan into his hand. “Why are you even here? Take a personal day next time.”
He stared at his computer screen, turned his back to the camera mounted on the wall. The usual jumble of high school teacher files and folders looked back at him. An e-mail alert flashed on Dans’ computer screen. He took a sip of coffee, opened the message. It took no time at all to recognize the tone of the message. It was The Grade Negotiation E-mail, the one in which parent, administrator, and legal educational specialists (lawyers) wrangled out a grade resolution for the failing student, in this case, Joey Denton. Dan sucked back an acid burp, realized quite suddenly that he was now caught in a long distance psychic three-way with Joey and his father, that the martinis and wine from the night before were the prelude to just this moment. Father, son, and the unholy ghost. Why this? Why today? Why even ever?
Dear Mr. Holland:
Regarding Joey’s failing grade. I spoke to Joey last night. He says that it is a mistake and informs me that he can come in and make up work during lunch (as per your stated curriculum on the district website), though when he came in yesterday, you were not there. I also spoke to his tutor and was told Joey had learned all the materials required for this semester’s final. Is there something I need to know here? Are you reaching out to Joey? Are his needs being met? Please get back to me as soon as possible with details so that we can resolve this amicably. Joey and I have both discussed that failure is not an option. I am available until 9:00. Will be in meetings the rest of the day.
Great. The father entering the class before the son, sending his message from his i-Phone while on the commute to the city. The son flaunting his independence from outside of the classroom, waiting to make his entrance, timing it for massive disruption. They had done this before, probably starting in the first grade. Probably the reason Dan’s “missed call” light was flashing.
Dan put his coffee cup back to his lips, whispered “Shithead dipshit punk, shithead dipshit father” to the steaming surface. He should’ve passed the kid. But a simple pity D- on the transcript was never that simple. Grades were published online now, updated daily. Everyone knew the progress. They were transparent and irrefutable records for the term. Joey at ten percent, his first progress report. Joey at twenty percent three weeks later. Joey at the quarter with twenty-two percent. At twelve weeks an “in danger of failing” e-mail. Joey now with a thirty percent, not even a real reflection of his perfect failure. His thirty percent was his participation in two group projects in which Joey’s contribution had been to repeat the same two words over and over, “Joey über alles” as he played a Hitler like school thug, the extent of his German language acquisition for the school year. Three words.
Dan took another sip from his coffee, repeated his this is not a career breaker, it’s not worth even a nano-second of your worry mantra. The first fantasy of the morning rolled across his eyelids. YouTube movie #1. Joey getting arrested in the school parking lot. Local DEA officer, Jim La Grudda, has Joey face down on the hood of his (5 Liter engine, dark blue paint, birthday present from dad). La Grudda’s partner, Ralph Cox, is rifling the trunk, comes up with scales, pipes, several Zip Lock Bags stuffed with ounces of super hot shizznastica crystal meth. Cox says, “Looks like little boy here is going to jail. Hope your cute face won’t get you in too much trouble.” Joey resists as La Grudda slaps on the handcuffs, says, “What the fuck, dude?” La Grudda slams Joey several times on the hood, scratching the paint, splitting Joey’s lip. Joey crying now, not used to being whipped around by a real man. Not like the wimp hits he’s being taking playing Lacrosse, the real sting without the protective gear.
The girl with the plunging neckline said, “Mr. Holland, are you collecting the homework?”
The YouTube movie came to an abrupt halt. Dan replied quickly, “No, no, no time for it.” Because in the event of Joey actually having some work, there would be great fanfare. Joey would rush in from outside, flaunting his workbook, showing how on task he was. As if he were like this every morning. As if he really were the perfect student. As if this moment on this day, the three way mental mindfuck, was really a teachable moment, the Elysium prize of all teachers in educational history. No, there would be no homework collected today because there were no rules to the grade change or the lack thereof, just twists and complications. A point in the grade book now would mean progress. So Dan would focus on his e-mail response. Despite the hangover, he would have to craft his message well. The first volley in teacher-to-parent communication was how to demonstrate that the student was not college-of-choice bound in so many non-offensive words couched in hard to interpret edu-babble. Dan usually started with, “I’m seeing disparities in norm based assessments and criterion referenced tests.” That always knocked them back, set them thinking this wouldn’t be an easy pushover. He would then show he understood the parents’ position by employing standard platitudes like, “thanks so much for your concern over your child’s performance” and “I appreciate your involvement in his scholastic progress.” Never would he employ the truth. Real grades, the kind that were truly assessed, were never entered. In loco parentis, that was how the law looked at it. Dan must love all delinquents as much as if they were his own. He must offer extra help after class. Extra help in class. He must work his lunch breaks because now they were a charter school, there was a new work ethic. There were also extra student privileges to be decided on at some later date, during some later “official” conversation. It was, for all intents and purposes, a racket. They were in the zip code. Those who wanted to learn, learned. The remaining eighty percent faked it. Meaning, he would love Joey Denton, love him right out of his first choice school.
The sword cane incident, perhaps he should bring it up here, see how that flew. A test balloon. A sort of Zen curveball. A wham bam. A softening blow. Dan had nearly forgotten about it. That was months ago. A typical Joey Denton morning. Dan handled it on his own, not bothering to report it to the administration. Sometimes a teacher needs leverage. The moment that sword cane came into class, Dan saw his angle. He recognized it instantly, a cheap copy of a Victorian curio in the days of the rugged London crime scene. Dan waited for Joey to put the cane down during lab drills. He swiped the sword as Joey bungled a conjugation, then later snapped the blade in the men’s room garbage basket. Dan left the sword-less sword cane next to Joey’s desk the following day, watched as Joey inspected his defiled instrument, then the expression on the kid’s face as he scanned the room, looking for which one of his peers had done this to him. Joey’s scrambled eyed look of revenge... priceless.
Dan checked the e-mail again. He could possibly use the sword cane anecdotally, or maybe just a mention of “possibly violent” behaviors. When pressed, he would bring it up in a meeting with counselors present, invent a set of notes made on that day, invoke images of kids with guns. Counselors hated weapons. They feared the time when, instead of shooting teachers and peers, the aberrant teen came after them.
Joey took a second hit off his inhaler, came through the door.
“What’s up, Holland? Still chillin’ like a villain?”
“Good morning, Joey,” said Dan. “So glad you could join us. And just in time. We’re going to the lab to work on our oral competency final. Next Monday will be the real thing. This is your last chance to work on it, so I hope you take it seriously.”
“There’s a test?” asked Joey.
“Final exam,” said Dan. “Just like every few months at the end of the term. Not sure if you’re aware of that.”
Joey mouthed “Fuck me” to his lab partner Erik Han, the sophomore Korean-American with the ankle bracelet. Erik was the class screwup, the Asian bad boy, though he outstripped Joey in intellect by double digit IQ points. Erik gave Joey the “I know, it’s a fucked up system” look, leant further back in his chair.
The lab activity went well. Warm up was five minutes. Talk about your week. Use reflexive verbs. Then the oral exam practice. Speaking German for twenty minutes with various visual prompts and sound files. Thirty of the thirty-eight students were doing okay. Six stumbled through it. They would pass though. This was German II. Stumbling was okay. An otherwise perfect class except for Joey and Erik. They muttered a few words. Ich bin Erik. Ich bin Joey. Then they decided to blow off the activity and shoot the shit. They talked, like all senior boys, about drugs and pussy.
A second e-mail popped up on Dan’s lab monitor.
Have cleared my 9:00 meeting so we can get to the bottom of this. Please get back to me by 10:00. Am concerned the line of communication is not working.
Right. Joey’s dad was setting up his argument, showing that he had sent “several” e-mails. He would also call again, leave a second voice mail, CC his e-mail to the law offices of Christopher Martin, then get a hold of the principal, forward his two e-mail requests to the superintendent, maybe even talk to the superintendent personally, mention that he feared there were teachers “out to get” Joey. This disaster would need to be handled now before things went out of control. Two hours was too long to wait for a student “at risk.” E-mails would start to fly like darts on fire.
YouTube fantasy #2. Several police squad cars arrayed in front Charles Denton’s crumpled Mercedes Benz. In the background, two cars on fire. Air bags popped. A woman and her daughter bleeding on the pavement. Horns honking. Traffic snarled. Charles Denton, visibly shaken, nose broken, saying, “I was just sending a text from my i-Phone to my son’s German teacher. I didn’t see the other cars until too late.”
Dan’s second sigh of the morning. He pressed the record button for Joey and his lab partner. The light on the MSU flashed as the lab computer began processing the MP3 file of Joey’s final exam practice. Joey’s voice had static due to the quality of the microphone, but it was still his clarion pitch, his recognizable dudespeak.
“Dude, I still have like a semi-boner,” said Joey.
“Holy shit, Joe Dawg,” said Erik.
“Yeah, and I took the shit fifteen hours ago and it’s still working. I’m like boner hard.”
“Dawg, young dudes don’t take viagra. It’s... like... not supposed to work that way,” Erik pointed out.
Joey chuckled. “You do when you’ve downed two hits of Molly. It goes like soft. No activity down below. I mean, the chemical qualities of you know... like... um... ... are a known boner killer. So you’re tripping and you want to get laid, you hit the old viagra. Gets you hard like that.”
“Dude, I took the old bone to Julie Meyers for like six hours. I was on fire.”
“Six hours? Is that like a record?”
“Didn’t sleep a wink. I’m still jacked up. Had to take like ten vapes on the way to school just to chill out.”
“You vaped already, dawg?”
“Dawg, got to ask. Where’d you get the viagra?”
“My dad has like a medicine chest full of the shit. Like you say. I’m young. I only needed one.”
Dan frowned, turned his face as if he were listening to Jenny Long and Dennis Kamp delivering their usual stunning performances. The two were nearly fluent in German, took the class very seriously. The reason why Dan was still in the profession even after this place went charter. Kids that wanted to learn. Obviously going somewhere.
Dan pretended to put a grade in his grade book as Joey described detailed sex with Julie Meyers. It was your typical senior boy story. Lots of penetration. Lots of hell for leather riding. No finesse. No foreplay. Just athletic mattress pumping. Though Dan didn’t know Julie Meyers, he felt sorry for her. He wondered what age she was, if she were a Freshman girl, in which case he would be obligated to talk to the authorities. A hopeful prospect. Put that in there with the sword cane, he might have a chance. Still, a difficult matter. Reporting to the school no longer worked. He’d have to file it with the police, get a report, then have the school sent a copy. And if the girl were a senior, no luck. Just another young woman going to go off to college with strong perceptions of young men and love.
Joey finished by saying, “And then I kicked the bitch to the curb around five this morning. Drove home so my dad could see my car in the driveway when he got up. I was doing like a hundred and twenty on the freeway. But I had too. Fucker gets up early. Got to show him I’m around or he gets freak show pissed off. I mean, like scary shit.”
Dan smiled. The kid was so damned predictable.
A third e-mail from Joey’s dad came up on the monitor.
Regarding Joey’s failing grade. I’d also like to know about specific class behaviors you have addressed this term if you have time.
Specific behaviors? Dan let loose his third sigh. The hangover, which for a moment had receded into the back of his head, came pulsing forward, making his sinuses pound with dull pain. As if sensing his discomfort, the class began to talk louder. He leaned over, turned up the volume on his headphones.
“Yo, dude, you got the answers for tomorrow’s Econ Gov final?” asked Joey.
“I do. Got it on my new i-Phone,” replied Erik. “Talk about resolution. I got perfect photos of every question. Best thing I ever bought.”
“You got the questions and no answers?” asked Joey, troubled.
“No fears, dawg. Answers will be coming forthwith. But you’re going to have to hot box Phil Wong at lunch. He gives you the answers, you get him shitfaced stoned.”
“Dude, I’m so on it,” replied Joey. Then, “What about Geology?”
“Check your Twitter account. There’s a tweet fire blazing as we speak. Seems like people are taking the essay very seriously.”
Joey extracted his cellphone. His face was lit with the glow of the screen as he read. “Epic,” said Joey.
Dan put another “note” in his grade book. Joey and Erik talked more about drugs, mostly peppermint schnapps, oxy, grass and meth. Then Joey announced he had three hits of acid for sale. He assured Erik acid was much cleaner than LSD, that the two were almost, like, similar drugs. Erik said he wouldn’t take LSD but he was down with scoring some acid. Dan wondered if Joey and Erik watched Breaking Bad. He was pretty sure they did. Though they wouldn’t see themselves in this show. They wouldn’t realize how much they sucked at chemistry, that LSD and acid were the same drug. From drugs they moved to parties, fights, and gangsters. Dan rubbed his temples as they broke into a quick rap redux of .
“Keep a vest for protection, from the barrel of a Smith & Wesson. And all my niggas in the pen, here we go again. Ain't nothin’ separatin’ us from a Mack-10.”
YouTube fanstasy #3. Dan dropping Joey off on International Boulevard in Oakland. A few pimps and whores are on the corner at the bus stop. Dan putting a thousand bucks in Joey’s hand, saying, “Here’s your get home money if you run into trouble.” Joey making a drug score, flashing his wad. Two brothers jacking up Joey. Joey saying, “Whut’s up, my niggaz?” The brothers saying, “You sayin’ what? You think you gots a ghetto pass?” Joey getting the living shit beat out of him, a well deserved black-on-white violence clip goes viral.
“Yo, I think Mr. Holland is looking at us,” worried Erik as he peered at Dan over the glass of his cubicle. “He’s got that look. Check it out.”
“Yo, Mr. Holland dude, you listening in?” asked Joey.
Dan leaned over the monitor, clicked on the young men’s intercom. “You boys have a question?”
“You listening to us, Mr. Holland?”
“No,” said Dan. “Though I hope you’re working on your oral final. You look pretty excited. I mean, you know, into learning.”
“We’re all over it,” said Joey.
“Yeah, we got this,” agreed Erik.
“Good. Very Good. Keep it up.”
Dans turned off the intercom. This digital age and they were so damned naive. Didn’t they know Big Brother was all around? Christ, the lab alone was a damned gold mine of teenage mind filth.
“Hey, dude, you think Mr. Holland is a faggot?” wondered Joey. “You know, like a dick smoker. I been thinking that. I’ve been getting this vibe for a while. You know, like, I’m thinking he’s into young boys. You know, like he’s blowing them in between periods. Doing it in faculty men’s room.”
“I don’t know, maybe,” said Erik. “Hadn’t thought of it.”
“I think he is. He’s always so freaking uptight, like he disapproves of us. Always looking at me weird. Kind of like my grandma. She can’t stand me. Always yelling at me and getting in my head. Like that bitch knows what I’m thinking. Freaky too, just like Mr. Holland.”
“Your grandmother’s uptight?” said Erik. “You ever had an Asian grandmother? You would know what uptight means. Asian grandparents have a whole new uptight register. They’re like ninja control freaks. And when they’re not hitting you for doing something stupid, they stare at like you are just there. You know what I mean? Just there.”
“Kind of like Mr. Holland?” asked Joey.
“Yeah, a bit like that,” agreed Erik.
“So you see what I mean?”
“I see your reasoning,” agreed Erik. “Quite possibly gay.”
Joey nodded. “That’s what I’m saying. I’m saying Mr. Holland loves cock. My dad too. He says he’s got this gaydar thing going on. You know, he works in the city, says he can spot a homo from a hundred yards. Says Mr. Holland is straight up butt welding.”
“Dude, you got to send that out, warn people,” said Erik. “People need to know.”
“Tweeting as we speak, dawg.”
The bell rang. Dan looked up from his grade book, clicked the CAPTURE button on the screen, typed in Joey and Erik’s name. The class shuffled out. Joey and Erik, normally the first to leave, were the last. Dan reckoned that they wanted to make their “acid but not LSD” transaction in the classroom as he shut down the lab.
“Say, you boys into rap?” asked Dan as he sent the copy of the recording to his classroom computer. “I thought I heard you throwing down the lines, you know, like busting those sixteens.”
Joey and Erik exchanged glances.
“You know, old school stuff like Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.?” asked Dan.
“Mr. Holland, you into that old school stuff?” said Joey incredulously. “Please. Shouldn’t you be rebuying your Sonny and Cher albums on Amazon?”
“I have a decent sized rap collection,” replied Dan. “Goes way back. I got my tastes. Mostly , you know, the Straight Out Of Compton album. Classic. . Here's a murder rap to keep yo dancin’ with a crime record like Charles Manson...Give a little gust of wind and I'm jettin’. But leave a memory no one'll be forgettin’. What do you say about that?”
“Holy shit,” said Joey.
“Legit,” said Erik.
“You like that?” asked Dan.
“I knew you were listening to us,” said Erik. “I could see it on your face.”
“Good thing no one else was listening to you,” warned Dan. “You need to be careful of what you say. Everything is digital nowadays. See where I’m going with this?”
Joey and Erik laughed in high pitched voices, then rushed out of the lab before Dan could confront them on the homophobic comments.
“Ain't no tellin when I'm down for a jack move,” whispered Dan as they disappeared.
Good old NWA. Classic old school rap. Calling it like it is.
Dan returned to his empty classroom. Second period. His prep. He sat at his computer, considered his dilemma. Warning the administration wouldn’t help. No drug bust there. Joey’s backpack would be gone before they even came through the door, handed from one delinquent hand to the next. This was a school in a high-end neighborhood. The young men took their drugs seriously. Even the police were too scared to bust them. No sense in biting the hand that fed them. In contrast, the apartment dwellers got arrested daily. It was part of the show to let the community that they were doing something. And then there was the girl. Poor Julie Meyers. He would make a call to her counselor, give Mrs. López-Bermann the heads up, note the date in the grade book, send a follow up e-mail to cover his ass. But that’s as far as it would go. Underaged sex amongst the wealthy was properly hidden. And if she were a Cerros Verdes apartment dweller, well, no one really cared.
The recorded conversation. His ace in the hole. Still a tough call. Joey was an adult. His father would litigate, say it was evidence gathered illegally. The twenty percent grade? Another tough one. A tutor was mentioned in the first e-mail. Dan knew who it was, an out of work German language specialist from UC Santa Barbara, Dieter Braun. Dieter would be preparing Joey for the final. As Dieter worked part time for the Get Ahead Fast Tutorial Center, he would have a huge database of exams, many of them Dan’s. All gathered questionably, of course, but how to prove which high definition cellphone they came from? So Dan would be asked to base his assessment of Joey on the final. This would be the counselor’s call. The principal would agree. This was just what charter schools were meant for, to give the kid a break, a real chance at eduction. The administration had cc’d copies of Denton’s e-mails. They got it. Mr. Denton was hitting the enemy with softening up blows. A good tactic. It would work. The admin would roll over. It would be prudent to let this go. This was the right zip code, after all. Dan would agree to base the grade on Joey’s final exam. Everyone would be happy. A win win. During the test Joey would be wearing a knitted acrylic ski cap manufactured by “factory girls” in Dongguan City, China. In the rolled up edge of the ski cap would be pockets for earphones, from which would imperceptibly whisper his prerecorded oral responses and his essay samples. Getting the cap off Joey’s head would constitute assault or “improper touching.” Joey would get a 72% on the exam. Dan would pass him. Joey would play LaCrosse in a private college somewhere. End of problem.
But that gay comment. That one stuck in Dan’s craw. Dan didn’t like haters. He had seen Jarred Laetner, his best friend in high school crushed by the jock homophobes. The daily ritualistic gay bashing was not unlike what went on in the district nowadays on a quiet level, but more pronounced, more in the open. Then one evening the jock homophobes took Jarred to Franklin Canyon, made him pleasure them, then left him bleeding and unconscious in a drainage ditch. Jarred was broken after that, a teenage nightmare victim. Dan watched him cry in the afternoons as they walked home, asking why people were so cruel. Two weeks later Jarred killed himself. Five students from school came to the funeral, four girls and Dan. It was as if he had almost never existed, as if being gay in the 80’s was a crime. And there was Joey’s shithead dad, a homophobe teaching his son the same shit. Dan clenched his teeth, went over his this is not a career breaker, it’s not worth even a nano-second of your worry mantra a second time, began to respond to the e-mails.
Dear Mr. Denton. Thanks for your e-mail. In response to your question of Joey’s behavior, I find him no different than any young man of his age. He is eager to participate and provides stimulating subjects to discuss in German in the lab. I also find...
Cyberspace fantasy #1. The truth. The honest to God veracity of it all e-mail. The telling it like it is moment. The Straight Out Of Compton truth. No sugar coats. No platitudes. No lies. Dan slinging the sixteens like a master rapper. Dan’s e-mail going viral, being copied and forwarded a million times around the country. It begins, “Regarding your malicious underachieving homophobe child.” Parents and grandparents reading it and discussing the fall of the American Educational system. Quotes of it showing up over the AP. Tea Party pundits calling for more teacher accountability. Conservative columnists talking about making more cuts to education. Dan getting calls from NPR and daytime talk shows to discuss the failure of today’s youth. A spokesperson for Apple denying that i-Phones are the dominant cheating device in America, calling teachers’ unions terrorists. Dan speaking at an LGBT conference entitled “The Compassionate Teacher.” The sound file attachment of Joey and Erik’s conversation in the lab being edited by hackers around the country, then placed on YouTube with pictures of young delinquents destroying school property, backed by pumped up dubstep electronic beats. The lyrics are infectious. “Ich bin Joey. Ich bin Erik. Dude, I still have like a semi-boner. Dawg, you’re like young. Ich bin Joey. Ich bin Erik. Young dudes don’t take viagra. Dude, I took the old bone to Julie Meyers for like six hours. Ich bin Joey. Ich bin Erik. Hell yeah. Epic. Totally. Epic. Totally. Epic. Totally. I was fucking tripping. You were tripping all last night? Didn’t sleep a wink. Ich bin Joey. Ich bin Erik. I’m still jacked up. Had to take like ten vapes on the way to school just to chill out. You vaped already, dawg? Ich bin Joey. Ich bin Erik . Hell yeah. Epic. Totally. Epic. Totally. Epic. Totally. Young dudes don’t take viagra. Didn’t sleep a wink. Epic. Totally. Epic. Totally. Ich bin Joey. Ich bin Erik.”
Dan rubbed his eyes, checked his clock. Ten minutes left to the period. He reviewed before him his e-mail and felt his stomach do a turn. What was going on? Was it his hangover that had done that? Was it his mood? Was he that close to becoming the Burnt Out Teacher? How could he have done this? Somehow his fantasy and his edu-babble e-mail had become entwined and it was all there. The drug sales. The Viagra enhanced Ecstasy sex. The cheating. The homophobia. Joey’s chronic lateness. The sword cane incident. The attached MP3 conversation from the lab. The cc’d copies to the principle, the counselors, the superintendent, the education editor for the LA Times, several of Dan’s colleagues in the East, and his mother. The career ender e-mail.
“Jesus,” said Dan. “What am I doing?”
He clicked the “new message” icon and began to write again.
“Fucking get a clue. Stay on task.”
But as he wrote the official message, the one that was going to get Joey Denton his passing grade and out of high school and into that small private college, he left the fantasy truth e-mail behind it on the screen, clicking back every few seconds to look at it, just to wish for a while to really say what was going on. Just for once to tell the truth. It would be so nice. So damned real.
He was done by the end of second period. Break time. Kids were moving in the hall, shouting. The only time he was going to get to the bathroom in the next two hours. He knew he should get up and move, find something for his headache. Instead he found himself clicking between the two messages, facing this choice, thinking about his world, public education, his old friend Jarred, his place in this whole thing, playing over and over again the this is not a career breaker, it’s not worth even a nano-second of your worry mantra. And then, the inevitable “tink” of his mouse and the “whoosh” of his incoming breath.
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