The following is excerpted from Chapter 6: The Bathroom. Click here to download the chapter in its entirety for just $0.99
Chapter Six: The Bathroom
“…Remember, midterms are at the end of the week, so if you need help in any of your classes it is your responsibility to pursue it from your teachers. They will not chase you down, you must ask them. And finally, congratulations to the Mighty Bears as our football boys won again. They’re now 6-1, and that only loss was a squeaker to Mountain View, and that’s the top ranked and undefeated team in the state. Keep checkin’ them out! Those are your announcements. Study hard!”
“Six and one, Hughie! How do you do it?” Beth asked as they filled chairs in homeroom. Spurlock had been checking on their grades and as they continued to be repeatedly in the neighborhood of excellent his homeroom requirements had become more and more lax. Thus, the study period had been adjusted to a study-as-needed period, and per their grades, there was not much studying that was required.
“How do I do it?” Hugh pretended to be deep in thought, “Well, I lob it to my boy CC here.”
“Word,” CC whispered while nodding the affirmative to Gwennifer.
“I’m done! I’m done, bro!” someone shouted across the hall. The emotion amplified the twang in the accent as the sound of flat hands slapping walls accompanied. Spurlock’s homeroom curiously went over and into the doorway to investigate and saw a short white kid with his hair gathered in a faux-hawk throwing a football jersey and pads at a classroom door. He finished and turned to walk away only to recognize Gondola and Swanson in observation and screamed, “Good luck trackin’ down some more rich boys to take my playing time!”
“Hunter! Now who are we going to find to never catch anything that’s thrown at them?” Costa asked.
“What’s going on? That’s like the…I don’t even know, but stuff like that seems to be happening an awful lot lately,” said Ruth as she returned to her seat.
“Yeah, nobody’s really sure if they are sick of watching us play or if they are about to flunk out anyway. They have to be passing this week or they won’t get to play at all until the playoffs,” Hugh explained.
As the week wore on it was discovered that such eligibility issues were not confined to the football team. Throughout that week many new faces showed up during Spurlock’s homeroom and lunch as his different students came in search of magic answers to help them through the midterm exam at the end of the week. The campus was palpable with a desperate feeling as hundreds of students who had wasted the previous eight weeks in an academic sense were now trying to salvage quarterly grades with one week of binge learning.
Most of them failed fabulously in those efforts. That is to say that they failed in their effort to learn at the last minute, and on their report cards as well. All of the students discussed both the process and the ultimate mailed-home result with one another freely. Because of those exchanges, after the three-day weekend that separates the first and second academic quarters, it was clearly established who had earned excellent grades, who had earned passing grades, and who was going to have a similar string of anxiety at the end of the semester when ultimate credit is earned. As the also-ran students had come to view their greatest effort as having been way short, the atmosphere in most classrooms had started to degenerate.
Ruth had happened onto the nucleus of the deterioration one morning during the first week of the second quarter, and after her parents had ordered Chinese takeout the previous night. She had been yet to use any of her hall passes in her AP English class, and a toilet-emergency necessitated the first and fast. The pass was signed and she beat a near-frantic path to the ladies’ room. With disaster looming, she swung the door open wide completely ignorant to any illicit activities that may have been taking place on the other side.
“What are you doing in here!?” a question was shouted as soon as Ruth attempted to set foot in the bathroom, and was done so with such force it shook her entire frame before leaving her stiffly erect. The query was shouted by a heavy-set Latino girl who was standing over two other corpulent young ladies who appeared to be grappling on the floor. If it were a contest, a gruff-looking white girl would have seemed to be winning as she was paired against an equally fierce-looking Hispanic girl. They were wearing blue jeans that were becoming brown as they wiped the filth off of the floor and the messages on their large t-shirts were likewise indecipherable while hidden behind a fight’s worth of gunk. Their wrestle paused for but a moment as the initial question was reiterated, “I said, what are you doing in HERE!?”
“I…I gotta use the bathroom…,” Ruth stammered with increasing desperation from her bathroom needs and consternation from concern over her physical well-being. She was dressed in her typical skirt, dressy top and flat shoes that tied at her ankles was taken in from floor to head by her three antitheses. “Great,” she thought as her stomach bubbled, “Did I just drop a common enemy into their laps?” Her nerves bounced between worry over being beaten up to her trembling stomach as she weighed which was worse, being flattened by fat girls or becoming known as ‘That Girl Who Accidented’ throughout school.
“What? That’s not what we do in here,” the upright girl explained as Ruth grimaced, “You have to go somewhere else, and you don’t tell nobody what was going on in here. Got it?”
“I do,” Ruth began, “I really do, but I really have to use the bathroom… Please,” she insisted as politely as circumstances would allow.
“Hmpf. It’s your time, is it?” the spokeswoman asked, “Of the month?” she clarified.
“If I say yes can I please poop?”
At this the girls on the floor began laughing. “What are you laughing at?” the standing girl asked the Mexican girl.
“Nothing, I-,” she failed to finish as the standing girl stepped back and kicked her in the mouth.
“You better clean yourself up!” she said as the official loser of the fight slumped forward while blood leaked through her cupped hands and onto her brown-blue jeans. “Have a good time,” the kicker said to Ruth, “And if anyone hears about any of this…you’re next,” and to make sure the message was understood she grabbed a handful of the wounded girl’s hair and jerked her bleeding mouth upward.
Ruth waited until they had all left, used the toilet and then slowly made her way back to class. She was shaken by what she had seen but curious if it was going on in every bathroom. “What are you going to do,” she thought, “You can’t go talking about this and why would you want to go snooping around about it?”
She continued to study it out, but even without a clear answer, and despite the sickness from witnessing the violence having taken the place of the previous stomachache, Ruth could not turn down the chance to see how violent other bathrooms potentially were. En route to her class, she slowed a stride or two as she approached a boy’s bathroom and paused for a moment by the door. The unmistakable sounds of flesh cracking against skin echoed softly into the halls as running water went and the hand-dryers were in a constant hum to muffle the fight’s natural sounds.
“Weird,” Ruth whispered as she started making her way back to class at a normal gate. As the haze induced by the trauma started to lift, she realized that the flow of traffic involved more than a few passers-by. None of them went out of their way to pay much attention to her, but they realized that she was amongst them by sneaking obvious glances out of the corners of their eyes. As she returned the side glances all of the pedestrians seemed to be in their normal working order. But second and third looks revealed puffy faces and hands, though all of the blood one would assume to have been present with such appearances had been cleaned without a trace.
“Are you all right?” Beth whispered when she returned to her seat. Ruth shook her head no in an assertive manner as if to insist the subject be dropped for the time being. She remained shaken and silent as they walked to their homeroom and continued to be so even after they sat next to the sum of their homeroom bunch.
“Everything all right?” Spurlock asked Ruth as she shook her head yes, “Ohhh…Kay,” he offered unconvincingly, “I have something from the office to read to you, so listen up, all of you,” Spurlock removed a red sheet of paper and began reading, “Since midterms, cell phones have been used in excess. To cut down on traffic outside of class, teachers will no longer issue passes if they suspect you had been using a phone in any way prior to asking for a hall pass. Additionally, no passes will be permitted during homeroom. Thank you for your cooperation. Any questions?” Spurlock asked, “All right.”
“Girl, what’s with you?” Beth demanded of Ruth as Spurlock assumed his seat.
When all of the attention that a room has to offer descends on an individual it provides a feeling that is nearly tangible. It is as if one could take that attention, whether it be good or bad, and walk out of the room with it. At this moment, Ruth was afflicted with such an impression as everyone in her homeroom shifted to wait out her response. She spent a brief moment looking at those who had been and had become her friends and hoped desperately that they could be trusted. She had that hope because she was unable to keep herself from blurting out, “I know why they’re doing that,” in a coarse whisper.
“Who’s doing what?” CC asked.
“They’re going to fight in the bathroom. I saw them…,” she trailed off as Spurlock glanced up from his papers.
“You saw who?” Hugh asked.
“It’s nothing. Forget about it,” Ruth insisted.
And for 24 hours, forgotten it was. But the next day during homeroom the school’s fabrics seemed to be on the verge of tearing. Spurlock’s hallway was filled with outrage and angst as seemingly countless students lamented the inability to obtain and use a hall pass during their pre-lunch period. No words could be understood as the series of students insisted loudly that they had business that needed to be attended to right then and there and others yelping that emergencies needed to be likewise attended. It was all to no avail as the teachers up and down that hall proved willing to make the fight against hall pass abuse.
“We choose our battles,” Spurlock said as the homeroom period came to a close, “I’m pretty sure we chose a good one.”
The next day was Thursday, and the students exacted their revenge. “Would you look in there…,” Beth said while pointing into the cafeteria as they marched toward Spurlock’s classroom. She and Ruth were walking to their homeroom, but the first lunch had packed twice as many students as ordinarily ate at that period into the mess hall. “No hall passes? No problem,” Beth said.
“Dude, they all want to fight. It’s crazy,” Ruth said, “I mean, if you’re just coming to school to go to the bathroom and kick faces, why don’t you go find a Circle K and kick till your heart’s content, or your leg’s tired?”
“Stop trying to make sense,” Beth warned, “Besides, the cops don’t enforce convenience store truancy laws. Just lay low.”
An uneventful homeroom made that possible as the six friends expected to see a near empty cafeteria after Ruth and Beth reported on the overflow crowd for first lunch. “Dude,” Swanson promised, “You guys go get the food and I’ll go save us a table against a wall. You know, like the cool kids!”
They laughed at the potential coincidence as they left Spurlock’s class and made way to their officially sanctioned lunch. To their surprise they saw that the number of students had remained largely unchanged for second lunch. “So what’s a ‘home…room’?” Beth asked sardonically.
“Seriously, this was a well-thought plan,” Swanson complained, “It does keep everyone from using those hall passes though, right?”
“Oh…my…gosh!” Meghan was fast approaching, “They’ve been at our table as long as I’ve been in here! Look at them! It’s like, where are we supposed to eat?”
“And how long has that been?” CC asked.
“Don’t you judge me! You guys missed it. Your friend Mikey,” she began while looking at CC and Gwenn, “Well, his South Side got into this BIG fight with Cholo Rodriguez from the West Side. It was wild! I bet like, 15 guys were in there totally brawling. Can you believe it?”
“I can, really,” Ruth said, “They used to do that in the bathroom, right?”
“I don’t know why they’d stop. Everyone is just hanging out in here. Of course they’ll fight in here too. Why didn’t you guys come in here? Don’t tell me you went to homeroom!”
“We’re chumps I guess,” Hugh said.
“Oh yeah, your coach will suspend you or something, right?”
“Or something…,” Hugh agreed.
The final day of the week and day two of the hall pass elimination experiment was an even greater madhouse. As Ruth and Beth sat in English they noticed someone run across the hall. Moments later two others ran in the same direction in a full sprint. Then three, and then five and then a steady stream of guys were seen hurrying around the corner and then down the hall. As the flow of traffic became thicker and thicker, and as it should have become obvious to any lucid adult that an exodus was taking place, a boy’s hand shot up as he blurted, “I need to get to the bathroom right now!”
“Good for you,” Ms. Sanchez replied, “But I see your phone so, absolutely not.”
“I gotta go! All right, I gotta go!” he said with an emotion that was more geared to panic/outrage than panic/embarrassment.
“You know the rules. No passes after cell phone use so-,” but Ms. Sanchez could not finish as he and two other boys leapt from their seats, cell phones in hand and began rushing in the same direction as the rest of the crowd. “Hey!” she futilely called out as the first boy followed suit and rushed out.
“Oh no!” a girl gasped in the back as she held her hand over her mouth to conceal her laughter.
“Brittany!” Ms. Sanchez barked, “Brittany, what’s going on?” she demanded.
“Nothing,” Brittany said while putting her phone away, “It’s nothing.”
But it was not nothing. The passers-by were growing louder and one of them was heard plainly describing that girls were purportedly offering sexual favors in one of the boys bathrooms. No sooner had the rumor been articulated than Ms. Sanchez was pounding the button on the wall that connected her to the office. The class erupted in a series of laughter while rumors flew surrounding who could possibly be doing such a horrible, or wonderful thing, depending upon who was discussing it.
“Holy cow, what a mess,” Ruth said as they walked to homeroom. The revelation had prevented any further learning, even amongst the college preparatory crowd in their English class. “I mean, I guess this happens in politics all the time, right?”
“You don’t think it was really going on, do you?” Beth asked…
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