Read High School 2 - Diversity - The Clash Online

Authors: Paul Swearingen

Tags: #relationships, #el dia de los muertos, #corvette, #day of the dead, #mexican american, #car chase, #hispanic, #mustang

High School 2 - Diversity - The Clash (11 page)

“Speaking of hooking up … you know it’s not
the right thing to do to skip school and hook up and run off with
some dude that you barely know. Right?”

She sighed. Lecture time. Here it comes.

“Of course you do, Carla. I don’t need to
tell you that running away from your problems is ever the right
answer, and I know you’ll go back to school and deal with them. I
think you learned a valuable lesson today. In fact, I’m give you a
ride back to school as soon as you finish eating, and I’ll even
write an excuse … THIS time only … so you won’t have to deal with
more than you need to today. In fact, if you want me to come in and
talk to that teacher who insulted you and me by saying that I drink
…”

“No, Pop. I’ll take care of that one. I’ll
just track him down and apologize for running into him. Turn on the
old charm and all that. Works every time, ya know?” No finger
kissing. But it would certainly be better if she worked out things
with him, and maybe some others.

“You’re just like your mother when it comes
to that talent. And maybe your father, too, in some ways. I guess
I’m not the best father to his daughter, either. I never told you …
back in the day I raced a guy and won. It was just about like in
American Graffiti
; I even had a ’56 Chevy, too, although the
other guy’s car was a ’51 Merc that turned over just like a big old
turtle at the end of the race. He wasn’t hurt, and we all turned
his car back over and shook hands and went home. He had a little
explaining to do about the bashed-in top on his car … I think he
convinced his father that all his friends tried to stand on it at
the same time, or something like that. Anyway, I hope you’re done
with adventures and ready to take some responsibility for yourself,
Carla.”

Carla just nodded. This was not what she’d
expected; maybe groundation wasn’t in her future after all?

“Something else I need to tell you. I don’t
think it will ever come up, but your mother had some relatives …
cousins, I think … in prison for selling drugs. I don’t know if
they got out or what, but I don’t expect ever to see them.”

“Oh, my, I hope not. Druggies in the family,
Pop? What scumbags.” She remembered the feel of the bags under the
seat and shuddered. With any luck they’d gone up in smoke with the
rest of the Corvette, and the cops had found only the bag on
Marv.

“Just something to think about, Carla. And
don’t start thinking that everyone on your mother’s side of the
family is bad, either.”

“Don’t worry about me getting into that sort
of thing. Never happen.” Again, she thought. Once, this morning,
was enough to last for a lifetime. She avoided the reference to her
mother’s side of the family.

“Carla, you know I don’t want to lose you.
You’re all I have left.” He reached across the table and gently
caressed her hair. “I just want you to think before you go and do
something dumb like getting in a fast car with some jerk again.
Promise?”

“All right, Pop. I’ll think. Maybe I’ll blow
him off, too.”

He shook his head. “You’d better do more
than just think,
mija
.”

She laughed. “You know what I mean. I’ll try
to do better.” She looked at the clock over his shoulder and gulped
down the last bite of her sandwich and washed it down with a quick
slurp of chocolate milk. “How about that note now and a quick ride
to school?”

* * *

Lunch was still in session when she returned
to school, and she decided to check out the action in the cafeteria
before she headed for her algebra class. The first person who
spotted her was Justin, and he waved her over to the seat in front
of him.

“Have a nice day off, did you?” He seemed to
be struggling with a slice of gooey, sausage pizza, and the words
were a little muffled. He flicked the wedge of pizza in an effort
to consolidate several strings of congealing cheese between his
mouth and the slice, and a couple of gobs of sausage flew off and
actually bounced on the table right next to her arm.

“Eww. You trying for a food fight or
something? Yes, it was a very productive time. Thanks for asking.
Film at eleven. Not!”

“Okay, I can take a hint. But I’m going to
need for you to pencil in a little time for me, too, so you can
help me with my American History project. If you can, that is.”

She fixed him with her usual “What now?”
gaze. “First T. J., and now you, Justin. What’s with you sports
stars – you all getting helpless? Don’t you even open a book any
more?”

He sighed. “Listen, Carla, Brady is getting
more and more weird. I think he’s talking about make-believe pets
now. You should have been there today; it was like a puppet show.
He was waving his arms around and had one hand talking to another,
and then the last thing he said today before the bell rang was
‘Projects are definitely due next Friday.’ I need that class in
order to be able to play basketball; know what I mean? C’mon. Help
a brother out here. In fact, if you’re still tutoring before
school, I can get you more than just T. J. and me. And we might
just chip in for lunch and stuff.”

Carla reeled her memory back to the
conversation that she’d heard between T. J. and Jace. Justin would
be the perfect person to have around if T. J. started anything in
the morning. “Lunch, huh? How about for a week in advance; in other
words, if you had three guys chip in for five days of lunch after
five tutoring sessions in the morning, it wouldn’t cost you more
than a couple of bucks apiece. Right?”

“Something like that. Okay?”

She sighed and looked at her knees. “Okay,
deal, but no jokes about the midget taking on half the basketball
team and getting hooked up with some cash, all right?”

Justin spread his hands in mock horror. “Oh,
no, no, no. Never happen. We’re all gentlemen, ya know?”

“Right. If you say so. Okay, then, you know
the time and place. Be there tomorrow, and pick your pockets by
Friday. Let’s say … three guys, five days, fifteen bucks. Four
guys, twenty bucks. Dollar a dude a day. Okay?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

The five-minute bell rang, and she stood.
Miranda and the followers were visible past Justin on the other
side of the cafeteria, and they were headed in their direction.

“Don’t look now, Justin, but trouble is on
its way.”

Justin looked. And laughed. “Man, those
chicks have been in everyone’s business lately. Tell you what – no
charge, I’ll head ‘em off and deal with them. You take off. No
problem. I still got your back.”

“All right. Thanks. See ya tomorrow morning.
Seven-ten.” She tossed another look in their direction and skipped
out the door.

* * *

Both algebra and consumer ed classes were a
crashing bore. Even the guy who’d asked her out earlier in the day
avoided her in consumer ed, and it was a relief to be out of school
and at work, occupied with cutting commercials and trying to make
them fit into 30- and 60-second times. What were the continuity
writers thinking? Maybe she should try her hand at writing spots;
she’d show them.

As she emerged from the studio, Bob came
around the corner pulling on a jacket and stopped. “You up for some
Subway? It’s past 6:30.”

She thought of the ham sandwich she’d had at
noon but nodded. “Sure, but this one’s on me this time.”

“Okay, I fly, you buy.”

“Deal. Let me file these and get my coat and
we’re outta here.”

Tuna fish would be different enough, she
decided at the restaurant. On wheat bread. No
bolillo
for
her tonight.

The room was almost empty, with only two
older couples in the room, and she decided that the time was right
for a heart-to-heart talk with Bob. “So, Bob. You got a steady
girlfriend stashed away that you’re not telling me about?”

He almost choked on his sandwich.
“What?”

She laughed. “I’m kidding. You never talk
about anyone.”

“Oh. Well, no. I don’t have time or a lot of
money to spend on some girl. College guys aren’t rich, and they
certainly don’t have a lot of cash to throw around.”

“Oh, come on. There’s always room in your
life for a certain someone.”

He gave her a funny look. “Meaning …”

“Well, it’s not me, in case you think I’m
coming on to you. I don’t date people I work with.” She waved her
sandwich under her nose as if it were a microphone. “News flash –
midget goes out with radio star, trades him for a bag of chips.
Film at eleven.”

Bob shook his head. “You know, you’re
something else. If it wasn’t for your entertainment value, I’d
trade YOU in for a Ho-Ho.”

“Watch your mouth, radio star. But I mean
it. Going out for a sandwich is one thing. Dating is another. You
know what I mean?”

“Sure, whatever. Not such a good idea.”

“On the other hand … let me see if I can
guess your type of girl. How about tall, dark-headed, pretty, sort
of elegant …”

Bob eyed her. “You trying to set me up?”

She laughed. “Of course, you idiot. I just
happen to know someone who’s free. And she’s almost your age; she’s
a senior, was one of the Homecoming queen candidates, and likes
older guys. Says she’s tired of high school guys.”

He snorted. “Like I’m ancient. I’m only a
junior in college, so I’m like three years older. So … tell me
more. Got a picture?”

This is too easy, Carla thought. Guys are
such pushovers.

 

Chapter Eighteen

A cold front had come through during the
night, and the sky outside was steely gray and much darker than it
had been the day before. Her father was at the kitchen range,
stirring oatmeal for their breakfast, and she pulled the box of
brown sugar from the upper cabinet and waited for the oatmeal to
finish cooking. Not her favorite, but not a bad idea, either, on a
day like this. Captain Crunch would just have to wait until
spring.

“Water problems at work still, Pop?”

“That’s what they said last night. Told us
not to come in this morning unless they announced otherwise on
KNTK. Oh, hey, better turn on the radio just in case. The news
comes on in just a few seconds.” He spooned oatmeal into a bowl and
placed it in front of her. She poured milk and dumped a generous
amount of brown sugar over the mound and glanced at the clock:
6:59.

She reached behind her and flicked on the
radio. The clock was a little slow; Mike the morning man was just
starting the news: “… brought to you by Herbert West Chevrolet.
Cloudy and cold today is the forecast, with a possibility of light
snow later this afternoon. In the news … a local man was arrested
yesterday morning just west of Ft. Fremont and charged with
possession of crack cocaine. He was pulled from his burning car by
sheriff’s deputies after it apparently spun into a field after a
high-speed chase in which the car caught fire and burned several
acres of open land. The suspect, Marvin Ord, 23, who listed Niotaka
as his home, was injured slightly in the crash but was treated and
released into custody. Deputies say they are looking for a
passenger in the car who disappeared after the car crashed and
burned.”

Carla almost choked, and her father looked
at her questioningly. “Too hot, honey?”

She took a swig from her glass of orange
juice. “Almost, Pop. I’ll be all right.”

Mike was finishing the story: “… did not get
a good look at the passenger, whom he said was either very short or
hunched down in the seat. A sheriff’s spokesman stated that the
suspect said he didn’t remember seeing a passenger in the car. One
deputy clocked the car at 121 miles per hour as it passed him. The
investigation of the incident is continuing.”

Her father spooned oatmeal into his bowl,
carefully scraping the pan and dropping it into the sink. He sat
across from Carla, poured milk over it carefully, spooned brown
sugar on top, and took a bite.

“Just right. Not too hot. So Marv had drugs
on him, huh?”

She stared at him and opened her mouth to
ask, “Marv who?” But what came out was “I … guess so, Pop.”

He took another bite. “I wonder if they’ll
ever find his companion?”

She eyed her father. “What do you
think?”

“I don’t think they’ll ever find … her.
Probably a hitchhiker that he picked up, don’t you think?”

“Probably. The silly goose. Imagine getting
into a car with that scumwad.”

“Oh, fast car, slick talker. Probably had a
bag of candy with him. No young girl can resist candy. Right?”

She sighed. “Okay, Pop. I didn’t tell you
that he had drugs in the car, and you know that if I’d known he was
holding that I would have run like hell. Cross my heart. And I
didn’t tell you about spinning out into the field. I didn’t want to
worry you.” That sounded lame, even though it was completely the
truth.

“Anything else that you forgot to tell
me?”

Carla pushed the vision of the steak knife
out of her head. “Well, he spun out once before in gravel when he
tried to get around a hay wagon, on the wrong side of it. I thought
it was all over then.” She stirred her oatmeal so that the brown
sugar ended up as a swirl in the middle of the bowl.

Her father eyed her and shook his head
slowly. “Listen, daughter of mine, I’m not going to go into a lot
of detail. But if I ever find out again that you got into a car
with a druggie …”

She waved her hand. “Pop, I swear I didn’t
know what was going on until we were halfway there. But, yeah, I
get it. I’m staying out of cars driven by scumbags from now on. I
promise I’ll be careful. I had enough adventure yesterday on the
highway to last me a lifetime, and I suppose I was lucky.”

“Lucky isn’t the word for it. Someone was
watching out for you.”

Carla rarely heard her father discuss
anything remotely concerning religion, and she looked up at him. He
looked away, and she saw that he was somewhere else for a
moment.

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