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 (12 page)

“Yeah. Well … you want to give me a ride to
school this morning? It’s cold out there.”

Right on cue, Mike finished the newscast and
weather report: “… Outside it’s 27 degrees under cloudy skies. And
that’s the news, brought to you by Herbert West Chevro …” She rose,
snapped the volume knob off, ran some water into her bowl, and
dropped it into the sink.

Her father chuckled. “Sure. I need to get
some stuff at the hardware store anyway. Need a ride after
school?”

She shook her head. “I can get to work all
right. Might even see if I can get Frank to give me a ride.”

“Frank? Who’s this Frank? If he’s anything
like …”

“Oh, cool it, Pop. Frank’s a nice guy,
president of Hispanic Club and all that.”

He crossed his arms. And then uncrossed them
and shook his head. “Okay. Bring him over some time. I suppose I
should meet him, huh?”

“No problem. You’d probably even let him get
out of the house with minor flesh wounds and powder burns, I’d
bet!”

He pretended to mess up her hair, and she
ducked and giggled and pretended to box him with her tiny fists.
“Enough. I need to get to school a little early; I got a deal going
to tutor Justin and T. J. and some other dude in American
History.”

“And who are …? Oh, the sports stars. All
right; get your coat and stuff and let’s get a move on.”

* * *

It was early enough when she walked into the
library so that no one seemed to be there except the librarian, who
barely gave her a glance before she returned to her computer
screen. No T. J., huh? Some scholar he was. And what had happened
to Justin and the other guy? Was her career as an early-morning
tutor finished already?

She turned and walked back to her locker.
Sandra was coming from the other direction, and they met in front
of a window overlooking the parking lot.

“Early, huh?” Sandra said. “Get some sleep
last night?”

“I slept like the dead. I guess when you get
that close to it you can sleep like it. You hear about Marvelous
Marv?

“In jail. Serves him right for kidnapping my
friend.”

“Yeah, talk about a bad influence. Next
thing you know he’ll be pulling a knife and stuff on people.”

Sandra looked at her, tried to hold in a
laugh, and failed. “Carla, you’re … terrible. How’d it go with your
father yesterday?”

“He’s pretty cool with it. And he knows
everything, except about how I hold a steak knife when I’m getting
ready to start carving on things.”

“Oh. I thought you’d hold back a few
things.”

Carla shook her head. “Not with my pop. He’s
too much like me, I guess. You know, smart like that?”

Sandra cocked her head and looked down at
Carla. “I’m sur-r-re. Okay, we cool with each other? And our
stories? I went out to sell ads; I happened to see you yesterday
and took you with me, and it all took a little longer than we
planned?”

“Sounds good. Hey, you seen Kerry or Buck? I
need to talk with them.”

“’Fraid not. But how about if I send Frank
your way instead?”

Carla crossed her arms. “Don’t even think
about it. But if you get a phone call from a guy named Bob … just
be nice, okay?”

“You gave out my phone number to some guy I
don’t even know?”

“Not yet, silly. But how about it? I work
with him; he’s a nice guy, working his way through college … and
he’s not nearly as ugly as the guy I pulled the knife on
yesterday.”

Sandra shot a look at Carla that reminded
her of the times she’d seen her with Frank in the hallways. Then
she shook her head. “Okay, fine. I’m certainly no expert when it
comes to picking them. Do it. But if he turns out to be another low
life … “

“Not going to happen.”

Behind Carla, a voice floated across the
hall. “All right, ladies.” It was Justin, who was followed by Buck
and Kerry.

“Justin! I’ve been looking for you!”

“Lucky me. What’s up?”

“Carla, I gotta go. Thanks … for
everything.” Sandra arched an eyebrow, smiled, and swirled around
the four and down the hallway.

Kerry watched her go, one hand on a hip.
“New friend, Carla?”

“You could say that. We sort of came to an
understanding yesterday.”

“So … “

“Well. Justin, it’s probably just as well
that you’re a little late and T. J. didn’t show up this morning.”
Carla drew the three closer to her and whispered. “How do I deal
with a situation that involves drugs?”

“Just go to the hospital and tell them that
you need to be pumped out!” Justin high-fived with Buck.

“Not like that, you moron. Yesterday I was
in the bathroom and heard voices outside, talking about steroids. I
recognized T. J.’s and Jace’s voices. I didn’t catch it all, but it
really sounded as if they were going to deal them to the team,
maybe by using Tony as a courier.”

“Whoa, little girl,” Buck said. “That’s
pretty serious hearsay. You’d better be sure of what you heard
before you start accusing anyone of running drugs, even a low-life
like Tony.”

“I know, and that’s just it. I didn’t really
hear much besides the word “steroids”. But …”

“Not enough,” Kerry interrupted.

“Listen, I know what I heard.”

“All right. I suppose you’d better go to my
dad and tell him about it. He’ll know how to handle the situation,
but he’s going to tell you the same thing that we just did.”

Carla looked at the three in turn. “Okay.
But only if you go with me. For moral support.”

Justin shook his head. “I’d rather just stay
in the background on this one, if you don’t mind. Under the radar
and all that.”

Buck looked at Kerry, and she nodded. “We’ll
go with you, Carla. Been there, done that. And I can assure you
that my old man doesn’t bite, and he’ll take you seriously.”

Carla looked down at her feet. Why weren’t
they moving down the hall? She looked back up at Buck and
Kerry.

“All right, guys. How about right now before
I change my mind?”

 

Chapter Nineteen

“Carla, I appreciate your coming with Buck
and Kerry to tell me about all this. But what you don’t know is
that yesterday afternoon both T. J. and Jace were here to talk
about steroids.”

Carla leaned forward in her chair, only the
tips of her toes touching the floor. Here it comes, she thought.
The headline will read something like “Young girl busts drug ring;
offered reward; turns it down”. No, “accepts it and … “

“Turns out that this Tony you mentioned was
indeed involved in all this. He’d approached Jace about running
steroids and other drugs for him; he tried to threaten him, but
Jace, being from LA, knew how to handle him. He’d offered to meet
Tony in the evening somewhere outside of town and then made a call
to the sheriff, and when Tony took him up on the offer, Tony was
arrested on the spot and now calls the county jail home. Seems that
he had certain samples on him that he got from some character named
Marvin, whom it seems crashed and burned in the next county and is
in jail, too.”

Carla’s eyes widened, and she tried not to
breathe too deeply.

“That’s all a matter of public record, but
what I’m going to tell you next isn’t. Carla, we’re aware of T. J’s
past problems and the fact that you went out of your way to help
tutor him. But what you’re not aware of is that T. J.’s home life
situation has been going downhill. Let’s just say that his mother
is … incapacitated and unable to … be a parent to him, and Jace has
been trying to get a temporary guardianship of T. J. established so
his mother can be hospitalized for her … problem.”

“She’s a lush, dad?”

The superintendent glared at his son. “She
has a problem, son, and you’re going to have a problem pretty soon
too if you keep talking about our parents like that.”

Buck shrank into his seat, but Carla leaned
forward, most of her weight on her toes now. “Wait. You mean that
T. J. and Jace tried to deal with a problem; I misunderstood them,
and then I came in here and almost ruined T. J.’s reputation and
probably jeopardized Jace’s job?”

“Well, we have to look into allegations
pretty carefully, and sometimes when a staff member is involved
they are suspended with pay until the investigation is complete.
But Jace came to us right away, and the situation has pretty much
been taken care of. Tony will be expelled as soon as we have a
mandatory hearing and get the papers signed. He’s eighteen anyway,
so you’ll never see him around this school again.”

Carla leaned back. What might have happened
if she’d gone directly to the superintendent from the restroom
after hearing Jace and T. J. talking yesterday? Again, she
shuddered. Maybe she owed one to that nasty teacher after all …

“That’s it, folks. Except for the disclaimer
where I have to tell you to keep what I told you about Jace and T.
J. under wraps. That’s personal and confidential, and if you
weren’t directly involved in all this, you never would have heard
any of that from me. All right?”

They all nodded. The superintendent
scribbled on three passes and handed them to each of them. “Back to
work for all of us. Thanks for coming in.”

* * *

“All right, people; you have two minutes to
get at your stations. Extra laps for the laggards.” Coach Greene
was always delivering ultimatums in weight training class, but
Carla wiggled her way through other students and plopped down next
to T. J., who looked at her sideways.

“I looked for you this morning in the
library, T. J. Where were you?”

“What?” He stopped tying his shoes.

“I thought you needed tutoring the worst
way. Was that a big story or what?”

“Um … no … I didn’t realize … “

“Listen; if you’re going to be a big star on
the field, you need to be a big scholar in the classroom.
Right?”

T. J. sighed and resumed tying his shoes.
“That’s what they tell me.”

“So tomorrow and from now on you’ll be in
the library sharp at seven … make that seven-ten. Right?”

This time T. J. looked directly at her. His
mouth opened and closed, and he seemed to be struggling with a
decision.

“Okay. I’ll be there.”

“Book, paper, pencil; the whole bit.”

“Sure. Whatever you say, boss.” The corner
of his mouth seemed to be twitching, but he leaned back and
nodded.

“And if you don’t show up with the rest of
the team … like Justin and I don’t know who all … they’ll probably
hunt you down and drag you into the library. You dig?”

“All right, I got it. I’ll be there,
okay?”

Coach Greene blew his whistle. “Ten seconds,
people.”

Carla and T. J. stood. “See ya,” Carla
mouthed at him.

* * *

The cafeteria, as usual, was crowded, noisy,
and steamy hot, and Carla had troubling finding Frank, who was at a
corner table with his back to the rest of the students. She circled
his table. “Um. Frank? Mind if I join you?”

His head snapped up. “What? Oh. Sure … “And
he waved vaguely at the seats across from the table.

Carla sat and pinched her burrito. It didn’t
give.

Frank snorted. “Some authentic Mexican food
today, huh?”

“Yeah, right. More like authentic bricks.”
Carla poked a fork at the burrito, and this time she succeeded in
denting it a little.

“Frank … you’re pure Mexican, right?”

He eyed her. “That’s like saying someone is
pure American. No such thing.”

“What do you mean? I thought you were
Mexican. Not Guatemalan or whatever.”

“Okay. Take my name. It’s “Frank”, not
“Francisco” as it would be in Spanish. My parents named me “Frank”,
and that’s what’s on my birth certificate.”

Carla gnawed carefully on her burrito.

“Frank” is really an English name, but that
name came over to England from France, and lord knows where from
before that. Does that make me French?”

Carla shook her head. “I don’t understand
what you’re getting at.”

He put down his fork and rummaged in his
backpack. “Here, take a look at this photo. I took it a couple of
years ago when we were in Mexico City. It’s of a huge bronze plaque
just off the Zócalo, the city center of Mexico City.

She looked at it and read a few of the
words: “
De Dónde venimos? Adónde vamos?”
“Okay, I understand
a few of the words, but not all of them.”

Frank took the photo from her and
translated: “Where do we come from? Where are we going? Carla, the
author is talking about the dual heritage of the Mexican people, or
at least most of them. You remember the other day when I was
talking about the
telenovela
actresses, the ones with red
and blonde hair, that don’t look much like me? Many of them are
descended directly from Spanish or even other European families
that settled in Mexico. Well, of course most of us are from not
only European descent but also native people.”

He tapped the photo. “This inscription,
written by a man named Ignacio Ramirez, describes the problem. If
we call ourselves “Spanish”, we are on the side of the conquest of
this country when the Aztecs ruled. But if we try to call ourselves
“Aztec” or Indian we are trying to call ourselves something that no
longer exists as one entity in us.”

Carla nodded slowly. She’d never thought of
her so-called ancestors; she couldn’t even remember a grandparent
in her life. So … English, Spanish, Aztec … and who knows what
else?

“There’s a lot more on the plaque. And I
won’t lie to you; it’s pretty flowery and my Spanish isn’t quite up
to translating all of it. But the point is, it got me to thinking
about what being Mexican means. Carla, it’s pretty complicated
stuff when you consider that at least on the Aztec side our history
goes back quite a ways, probably further than on the Spanish
side.”

“Yeah. I see what you mean. Frank, I think I
understand a little better now what I am.” She giggled. “You know
what I mean; my heritage. And if that offer’s still open, I’d
really like to help out with the dance decorations tonight. I think
I can get off around six if I don’t get overloaded with commercials
and if Bob doesn’t keep dragging me off to eat somewhere.”

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