Chapter Three: Homeroom
“Oh, for Pete’s sake! Death of a Salesman? Again!?” Beth asked while shaking a small book, “Good grief, almighty, we read this like, last semester!”
Ruth smirked, “Yeah, it was probably our junior year, and it was when we were drama-freaks, and we weren’t even on stage, but, you’re right, we did do something with it.”
“Whatever, something’s up. Either you are complete computer with the memory access and what-not, or this is the most backwards school that ever let Neanderthals drag their knuckles into attendance,” Beth said as they made their way to their homeroom. “Seriously, I feel like a zoo animal with all these gawking eyes staring me down with each step. What’s with them?”
“Maybe they think you’re pretty…,” Ruth offered while casually using her eyes’ corners to discover that they were the objects of interest from boy and girl alike. “You may be right, though. This is starting to feel like we’re all up in the Fergalicious video.”
“Fergie? What is this 2007?” Beth asked.
“Right. Apologies…computer…,” Ruth returned.
“Students, be advised you are to attend your assigned homeroom today and every day,” a voice interrupted and warned throughout the halls via the public address system, “If you fail to attend your assigned homeroom today and every other day, disciplinary action may be taken. Refer to your schedules and report to your assigned homerooms.”
“All right, you heard it,” insisted a handful of security guards, “Everybody move! Get to your homerooms!” they shouted in general. Then individual exhortations came, “Your legs broke, Martinez? Get it moving!” and, “All right, that’s enough, keep your hands off him, you’ll see him soon enough,” to a passionate couple.
“Hello ladies!” Mr. Spurlock was greeting his students at the door, “How’s your first day and a half been?”
“Uh,” answered Beth as she walked through the door.
“She always this…charming?” Spurlock asked Ruth.
“No, she’s just going through a zoo-animal thing,” she answered, “This is just a little different than we were thinking.”
“Yeah, I thought it may be,” Spurlock returned while gazing out into the corridor, “Go choose a good seat. The first real day of homeroom is always a show.”
Ruth passed through the same door as she had the previous day, but this time into a classroom that had seemed to shrink because of the heavy poster content on each wall. Spurlock was far from old, probably around 30. And since he was a U.S. History teacher the taped clutter seemed to be designed to demonstrate how hip his class was and how cool he thought learning history could be. More than anything it provided the atmosphere of drowning in papered confusion.
Slowly some other students trickled in, and they were generally tough looking characters. The class would not rise to its capacity, and the few other students who came in were wearing sunglasses either over their eyes or across their foreheads. Regardless of race, the male entrants wore enormous baggy pants with a T-shirt hanging loosely and low below their belts. The girls all had very tight and low-cut tops that left nearly nothing to the imagination. As the warning bell sounded Hugh strode in and took a seat next to the girls.
“You ready for some homeroom action?” he asked.
“I’m sure I don’t know what that means,” Beth giggled, “Did you make this official?”
“Nah, Spurlock said we can do it today. You guys have this sort of homeroom thing at your other school?”
“No. Our second hour was five minutes longer, but it was just for announcements,” said Ruth.
“Yeah right. What are we supposed to do in here for a half-hour?” Beth asked as the tardy bell rang to start class.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Spurlock as he moved to the front of the class. He had a scant population as less than half of the seats were occupied. “Looks like we’ll have an easy bunch. All right, first thing is the homeroom rules,” he began while removing a blue sheet of paper from his desk and saying, “Some of you may remember how this went last year. Well, this year it’s going to be worse. For example, how about a little seating arrangement?”
What seemed like a normal request to the three newcomers was met with what seemed like an inordinate amount of grumbling from the returning students. “You kidding me! For homeroom? Come on, man!” came the disagreement from one of the guys who remained hidden behind his shades.
“I won’t!” said Spurlock, “You know how this works. This is when you are supposed to get caught up on your work, or get a head start on your homework. And…yes, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you have to, you know, read every day. You will either be reading or working, those are the only things you will be doing in here. If you don’t like it, well, I can’t officially tell you to find another homeroom to waste 30 minutes of your young lives, but I also won’t officially stop you. That said, take a look around and let me know if these are the people you want to be sitting with this school year, because these seats that you have seem to have chosen are your seats when you come in here.”
“Forget it! I ain’t coming back to this one,” one kid said.
“I know! What happened to Brenderson? That guy was awesome!”
“Brenderson took his awesome to New Mexico. They were running a little short,” Spurlock quipped.
“Hey, man! I’m from Albuquerque!”
“And now we know why,” snapped Spurlock as the hoodlums feigned outrage and murmured to one another about the slight. “While you work on that, let me tell you about some other policies. No cell phones. I mean at all! If I see one you will be written up on the spot; consider this strike two. I know what you’re going to say, ‘But Spurlock, homes, I was only checking a message.’ Indeed, you were only checking a message on your cell phone. It doesn’t matter if the cell phone was only removed for a short period of time, it only matters that the cell phone was removed, and for that I will write you on up. Same thing goes with the iPods. You use one of those in here, and I’m going to send you on up. This is a zero tolerance homeroom. For those of you who are math-challenged, that means I don’t allow any of it. Zer-OH. Any questions?”
“Yeah, man, I have one,” a young man in a ‘South Pole’ t-shirt raised his hand, “What if I need my iPod to read, you know? I can’t read when it’s all, you know, quiet and stuff. I’m saying my iPod helps me to concentrate. You can’t tell me not to do nothing that helps to learn and stuff.”
“I know you can pull it off,” Spurlock replied.
“So I can use my iPod then, right?”
“Absolutely not-,” Spurlock answered and was interrupted by a string of vulgarities that took Ruth and Beth by complete surprise. Hugh merely looked on in amusement as what had been a simple discussion regarding school policy began to resemble any jungle as Spurlock and his young nemesis worked to claim territory like any two animals in any jungle in the Earth. The student left his seat and pointed and cursed and moved and stomped. As this went on Spurlock casually pressed the intercom button while repeating such things as, “I’m sorry you feel this way, but these are the school’s rules.”
“Front office,” a response eventually came from the loud speaker.
“Security to Spurlock’s room,” he coolly responded.
“Right away,” was the response.
“Oh, so now you called the cops on me!” the vulgar hood shouted.
“No, I called security, the office will decide about any cops,” Spurlock returned.
“Forget that, and forget this! I’m outta here, man!” the hoodlum was moving toward the door.
“Good, that always works,” Spurlock said while looking at the rest of the class.
“Why are you making jokes when he’s so mad? You’re supposed to be a teacher, you know? That’s messed up!” one of the girls he was sitting with commented.
“Yeah, well, what are you gonna do?” Spurlock asked with shrugged shoulders and evident sarcasm as their hoodlum friend had finally made his way to the door. Upon swinging it open he found two black-shirted security personnel about to walk in.
“This him?” they asked.
“You got him,” affirmed Spurlock as they flanked him on either side to prevent him from running off, yet doing so without laying a hand on him.
“You know what, you’re a terrible teacher! We’re not going to sit here while you do this stuff! Forget it!” the girls screamed as they gathered their things to leave. Their retreat was laden with vulgarities as they walked around the class to better glare at Ruth and Beth on their way out while leaving the class now roughly a quarter-full after the exodus.
When the door slammed, Spurlock said to the remaining six students, “Welcome to homeroom!”
“Does that happen every day?” Beth wondered, “And, my gosh, what’s their problem with us? Seriously, do we know them? Because, I don’t think I know them.”
“Every year,” Spurlock corrected, “It happens every year. And I wouldn’t use a lot of grey matter on what inspires their dagger-looks. I like to set the tone. So, you guys like your seats?” The class muttered an affirmative in dismay. “All right, let’s just make sure that you are working on something other than your cell phones!”
After those fireworks everyone largely settled down and found something they could work on. The class of six students remained silent, not willing to find out if Spurlock had only wanted to make an example of one student or if he was customarily short-fused. Slowly they removed reading material, unwilling to test the waters he had already made run rapid.
“Oh…my gosh,” Beth began after they found Meghan waiting for them at the previous day’s table, “You wouldn’t believe what happened in our homeroom!”
“Ummm, some teacher told the class to read, some kids flipped out and screamed at him and he had to call the security people,” Meghan said with a pseudo-quizzical look. “Was I close?”
“Wait…what?” asked Hugh, “Is that how this place rolls or is that how the teachers are told to do things?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Meghan shrugged, “Students didn’t yell at teachers in your old schools?”
“Uhhh,” the three looked at each other in surprise, “You mean like…ever…”
“No, I can’t say that they did,” Ruth finally clarified.
“Welcome to St. Bart’s!” Meghan laughed while giving the three a group hug. “What’s funny is they made the change to that homeroom thing to try and cut down on all the fights. Some of our students really like to throw-down. Or so they say. Anyway, I guess before my freshman year, I’m a junior, thanks for asking, but before my freshman year they had one class at a time in here and it was like a circus or something. Now they spend the first few days screaming at teachers, then use the cell phones we’re not supposed to use, and figure who to fight and where. Paging Tyler Durden,” she said while pinching her nose.
The next day in homeroom Ruth, Beth and Hugh were the only ones inside. “Works every time,” boasted Spurlock. “You guys seem all right, so don’t feel like you have to come in here with books open and pencils working with ferocity. Just keep the phones away. But seriously, I would really prefer that you were in here, you know…working.”
And so they did, but apparently they were the only ones, for as they were making their way to the cafeteria they noticed a small group of boys in a poorly lit corner of the Spanish pod circling and moving around each other like they were dancing. “Hey-oh,” said Hugh, “What do we have there?”
“Just keep walking,” said Ruth, “I don’t think it’s anything I want to know about.”
“I don’t know,” said Beth, “If Meghan’s right, someone could make a killing laying the odds for the daily lunchtime fracas.”
Meghan was again waiting for them at their table after they had bought their lunch. “You guys don’t mind me crashing you like this? My friends all have first lunch, it’s forcing me to meet newbies, I guess.”
“Nah, you’re all right,” said Beth, “We just saw what looked like an orgy in the Spanish pod…”
“Don’t you wish! They were probably fighting. I told you! They talk junk all through homeroom. They send each other all these ‘I fight you…scum’ messages during homeroom, that is the ones that bother to go to homeroom, and then they decide where they are going to meet and throw down. It’s the digital age!”
“All right, I don’t get it,” said Hugh, “Were they mad at each other before, or do they get fighting mad from the texts?”
“Oh I don’t know.”
“So, were there only three people in your homeroom?” Ruth asked.
“No, but there won’t be in yours either, because if that’s what you have going on I will be crashing it!”
Thursday she made the official request to be switched into Spurlock’s homeroom. She was a welcome addition for only a few minutes. Throughout that period she worked hard to initiate conversation with anyone who seemed willing to listen. “What’s with you guys? You’re really going to sit in here and…study?” She was alarmed when nobody would take her bait and engage her in conversation. Eventually, when nobody proved willing to listen she pulled out her cell phone and began hammering out a message.
“Meghan, since you weren’t in here on Tuesday I’ll try and let this one slide, but in the future you need to remember that this is a zero tolerance cell phone classroom. That means I don’t tolerate them…” he paused to allow her to put it away, “Meghan, put it away now, please.”
“Oh my gawwwwssshhh,” she whined while sliding the phone in her backpack, “You guys didn’t tell me he was so-.”
“Awesome?” Spurlock interrupted, “I know, I told them to let it be a surprise.”
“Whatever,” she muttered as she flipped open a book from under her desk.
“Well, I just made a huge mistake,” Meghan monlouged as they walked to the cafeteria, “That guy is so uncool.”
“Yeah well…,” Ruth started saying as they turned the corner and bumped into a crowd of about 100 people, “What’s all this then?” she asked.
“OH!” Hugh exclaimed while peering over the crowd, “Look’s like somebody wants to try and rough up CC!”
“Ah, you haven’t met Cisco Costa?” Meghan demanded, “You have to meet him!”
“I think he’s a little busy,” mused Beth.
“I mean after he gets done mopping the floor with whatever chump wants to tangle,” Meghan assured as she tried to push her way closer to the action.
“You don’t know!” a girl standing next to them said, “Raul and Mikey were going to throw down, but that guy came and bumped into them like he’s all that. Now Raul and Mikey and some of their fellas are going to mess him UP!”
“Oh really,” asked Hugh as he forced his way to the front. Upon their arrival another two thugs had joined the posturing against a very tall, very strong looking Latino who was wearing a red polo tucked into the front of his jeans so as to show off a designer belt. His hair was very neatly cut and positioned firmly with a pomade and it shone over a face that could not help but demonstrate how firmly amused he was by the situation. He was at least eight inches taller than the largest of his four foes, and for that reason they all seemed more concerned about an altercation than he was with them.
“Why’d you put your face in this,” one of the four asked Costa, “Just back off, cuz this don’t concern you.”
“Hey, I’d love to, but there’s four of you standing in my way, soooo…”
“You think you’re so funny,” said the lone white kid, “Nobody’s laughing at you. So if you ain’t funny, what do you want to do?”
At that moment the situation seemed tense to the point of bursting into a brawl. The four-on-one ratio seemed to have confidence swelling on one side while ambivalence ruled in the second corner. The crowd hummed with excitement as the small gang of four began to appear more agitated and ready to club. But just when fists were being clenched CC began clapping his hands and stomping his feet while singing, “I can take on…anybody…I can do my THHANNNGGG! I don’t wanna…hurt nobody but a bee has got to STAAANNGG!”
“Ah, what’s he doing?” asked a girl standing next to Hugh.
“It’s Weezer! Come on!” answered Beth,
“Seriously!” she yelled at Costa, “You stupid coconut!” she bellowed as similar cries came from the rest of the crowd. Their outrage was contrasted with the few in attendance who knew the song who had begun clapping and dancing and singing along with Costa, “Imma fix it if you mix it up! HOO HOO! Talk smack and Imma gonna shut you up! HOO HOO!”
The crowd’s interest had shifted from a lust for violence toward mild amusement with the spontaneous sing-a-long as the air lightened in the hallway. Meanwhile the four fighters, after feeling the crowd swing in another direction, became less interested in fighting and more interested in continuing their macho thing. Gradually they sulked off after making those still in attendance aware that they had relished the opportunity by making whispered threats and subtle gestures at their momentary foe. Their efforts were met with amusement from the hulking Costa. It was a sensation that continued when he recognized Hugh approach and called out, “Hey, man!”
“What are you doing,” Hugh smiled.
“Oh, that thing I do so well. Who are these?” he asked looking at Ruth and Beth.
“Let’s go sit down and I’ll introduce you,” said Hugh as they ventured back into the eating den.
“So, what’s going on with the friend situation? It doesn’t seem as if you are tracking down any new…bros or…whatever,” Judy asked her daughter as they ate dinner.
“Yeah, well, we’re still trying to figure out which of the bros are anyone that we might be able to keep around without having to worry about roofies, gun shots and every other terrifying news story out there,” Ruth retorted.
“Oh, come on,” Judy responded while looking at her husband, “It can’t be that bad…”
“Well, I’ve seen more fights in a week than I did in a school year at Mountain Vista,” Ruth began, “I swear all of the girls want to scratch Beth’s eyes out, but I kinda also think she just might be asking for it. Hugh introduced us to one of his football buddies, you know, right after he almost fought four dudes…”
“Oh really. A real Fezzik is that one, huh?” Ruth’s dad asked while gently elbowing Daven to such a degree that her brother nearly looked up from his phone after feeling the contact.
“What? I thought the Oompa Loompas were supposed to be small?” Ruth quizzed her father.
“Uh, no, you’re thinking of the wrong…”
“What I think your father is saying,” Judy resumed, “Is maybe this guy is someone neat to hang around with.”
“Well, yeah, sure. I think we’re trying to catch less fights, than, you know…more.”
“Oh you!” Judy swatted at Ruth’s arm and said, “You just need to use this to make yourself a little more stronger and stuff!”
Contact DS Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org