The following is an excerpt from Chapter 13: Standardized Tests or the Crosstown Mix-Up. Click here to read the chapter in its entirety for just $0.99
Chapter 13: Standardized Tests or The Crosstown Mix-Up
Not a desk was empty in Spurlock’s classroom. It was midweek, early February, after a couple of relatively quiet weeks since the garbage incident chased Hugh and Lucy into the same classroom. It had become time for the students to pull off the Math Standardized testing as part of their earned high school diploma. It was the only one that Ruth had not completed, and she therefore was not just the only senior, but the only student sitting in the classroom that failed to offer a sense of street wisdom in her visual appearance. As the test had completed, and Spurlock had no other means to threaten their silence the classroom became a venerable madhouse with as many students sitting on desks as in them. One corner had a group of boys singing while blasting music through an earphone. On the opposite end one guy had a series of girls joking and engaging in R-rated flirting at an exceedingly high volume. The third had more girls intermittently threatening violence they wished upon people who were fortunately not present. And finally the last section had some characters working hard to appear unimpressed with the other corners’ activities and simultaneously tougher than they actually were.
Then, in the middle of the mayhem was Ruth. She worked to busy herself with her i-Phone, but it failed to bring her the sought after oblivion. Rather, by the third day of the testing she was consistently jostled about as the dancers became too rowdy and more consistent in their efforts to make Spurlock believe that they were about to jump off of desks. This would cause greater consternation with the cool and angry corners, who would vocalize their disapproval that someone in their presence would dare behave so foolishly. Naturally this escalated to the point where words were exchanged and Spurlock would be frantically pounding his intercom in pursuit of security.
By the time the security personnel arrived ten of the test-takers had squared off and were screaming at each other. Spurlock vainly stood in the middle of them directing them to take the same seats that had exhausted the hoodlums’ interest. The security guards swarmed to the back of the mob and began forcing them toward the door and into the hallway where Ruth heard the beginning of a scuffle. She put her chin toward her chest and began trying to breathe deeply as the scene had left her more than a little distressed.
“Hey, white girl, you’re not used to this stuff yet?” one of the makeup artists asked her, “Cuz, this stuff ain’t getting’ no better, and, you know, your boys got a lot to do with that.”
Ruth glanced up. Her eyes were red as she neared tears and her lips were pressed firmly together to prevent quivering. “Yeah, you know, don’t go cryin’ to me. You might mention the tears to those boyfriends of yours. I betcha they could make it all stop, you know what I’m sayin’?”
The bell rang as she finished and the remaining heard stood up muttering, “Let’s go check out the rest of that action,” as they hurried toward the cafeteria. Alone in the classroom, Ruth finally allowed her emotion to show itself in clarity as she broke down and allowed for a school year’s worth of tears to descend.
The door to Spurlock’s classroom was closed by the last leaving student and remained that way for minutes until CC, Hugh and Swanson opened it with the promised lunch. Their entrance revealed the nature of Spurlock’s extended absence as the sounds of a heated conversation with Dotter quickly filled his classroom. “It’s just been a little obvious that you are having to summon security a lot more than any of the other teachers is all I’m trying to point out to you!” Dotter loudly said.
“What’s all that about?” CC whispered to Ruth while handing her popcorn chicken, “Hey, are you all right?” he asked as she wiped at her face.
“I don’t know, and…I don’t know,” she admitted, “A bunch of the thugs that I had to take the test with decided they wanted to throw down and Spurlock wound up in the middle of it. When they went out to the halls it sounded like they were really fighting and… I don’t know.”
Swanson lingered by the door, and then put the stop at the bottom to allow the conversation into the classroom. “You haven’t told me what I was supposed to do,” they heard Spurlock exclaim, “You guys shoved all these clowns into our classrooms, most of them don’t even bother coming to school much anymore, and then you come and bark at me when they decide it’s time to fight?”
“There have been a lot more people around then there has been the last few months. Since football, really,” Swanson observed.
“Shh,” Hugh hissed.
“I didn’t come here to talk about that,” the principal was replying, “What the real issue is you seem to be asking for security so much more than everyone else. We need to figure out why that may be.”
“I ask for security when people are about to start hitting someone. Should I not do that?”
“No,” the principal continued, “You should, but why is it you more than anyone else?”
“I don’t know, maybe I’ll just let them duke it out? Huh? Then we won’t have to have this conversation anymore. Right, now security needed then…,” Spurlock looked down the hall and said, “Anyway, I’d bet you’re needed in the cafeteria. You know, with all these academics here earning their diploma, the added weight on the already thin ice your school’s been skating might just force it into the chaos we’ve all been watching for months now and others have been ignoring for months now.”
Spurlock swung the door open and came back into his classroom with a clearly stunned Dotter still standing where their conversation had occurred. Spurlock used heavy footsteps en route to his desk and plopped into his chair with gusto. He looked at the four students who had already made it into his class with a queer combination of irritation and satisfaction that seemed likely to contradict each other in every other circumstance.
“Everything all right?” Swanson asked.
Spurlock’s ambiance turned to a glare as his gaze enveloped his small class and, after a moment of pause he admitted, “No. No it’s not. I don’t know what to do about any of this, but everything that this place has been trying has not been working. You see it, right? I mean, any time anyone who isn’t any of you come in here there’s nearly a fight. Now that has apparently been my fault? Look alive, because it won’t be long before it’s yours. You know? And this test thing! Holy cow! This test thing is ridiculous! How many of these ‘students’ have you not seen for weeks? Or months? But they’re all back taking the test thing because it’s the only way they can get a diploma. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think we should be given anyone a diploma if they aren’t, you know, attending school. But they herded them all back in here to take the test because without passing scores then the graduation numbers will be miserable. But now with the school on the verge of combustion, or whatever it is we’re calling it, they bring all of these truant idiots back in here, sit them in a classroom for hours at a time and appear to be genuinely shocked, SHOCKED that after a prolonged absence from little things like discipline and authority that they are now going bananas and fighting anyone and everyone?”
Spurlock leaned back in his chair and breathed heavily. The kids sat in a surprised silence. They looked between themselves sharing in the shock, not so much that he had told them what they had not already considered, but that he, a teacher, was voicing their concerns now with them. Spurlock leaned forward and continued, “I don’t mean to unload on you, and I know I’m not supposed to. But, listen, you’re good kids, I know you’re good kids, and I worry about what might happen out there.”
As if it were scripted, Beth, Gwenn and Lucy came staggering in holding each other as if they were in pain. None were crying, though they looked like it had been under consideration. Each of the guys hurried toward them as the calls from a harassing mob could be heard from behind the closed door. “What happened,” Swanson asked, “Are you OK? Do we need to call someone?”
Beth looked up at him as she poured herself into a desk. Her shoulders launched up and plummeted down as her breath continued to evade her. Lucy remained standing and clutched Hugh’s shirt with a hand on either side of him while she pressed her face against his arm. Gwenn and Costa moved to the far corner and began feverish whispering. Everyone waited in silence for any one of the three to have the willingness to address the class.
Beth found it first and began, “Well, we were doing like you guys said, and were coming from our test straight over here. But we just, like…I don’t know, made it around one corner and Cholo Rodriguez appeared, kinda like from nowhere, and started yelling at Lucy about you,” Beth pointed at Hugh.
“What’d he say?” Hugh asked.
“It was all like, ‘Hey, how’s the rich white boy? He payin’ you good?’ and stuff like that. Well, Lucy wanted to fight with him, but that Johnderson was inching closer because he’s still miffed that Gwenn dumped him for you,” this time Beth pointed at Costa, “So it looks like those two guys are teaming up, or something, and it’s all about to pop. I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but ‘it’s’ all about to just…pop. Because I started pulling Lucy away and we started hurrying over here, but more and more people were following and yelling stuff about bathrooms and sex and stuff. Lucy really wanted to get ‘em all, but…I don’t know, I bet there were like hundreds of people. White dudes, Mexicans, all of ‘em. It’s like a merger or something.”
“Johnderson?” Dave Swanson asked, “That guy again? I thought he was mopped up and had decided that he wasn’t quite as tough as he thought, or something like that.”
“You’re making it too simple,” Spurlock said to the puzzled Swanson, “So you’re out of breath because you were running from a mob?” Spurlock asked.
Beth shook her head ‘yes’, but this time Lucy answered and said, “No, a few of the football players and their friends were heading toward the cafeteria and saw that they were kind of chasing us, or walking after us or something and yelling and stuff. So they let us stand behind them and they were gonna take ‘em on…or something…I don’t know…”
“How many were they?” Spurlock asked.
“Not a lot, ten or maybe twenty,” Beth estimated.
“Yeah,” Lucy continued, “But they were football guys and maybe some basketball guys, the gangstas didn’t want none of ‘em.”
Everyone waited for someone to surmise something. “You guys better not let these girls go to their cars alone,” was all that Spurlock offered.
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