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 (5 page)

It was a dismissal, and she stood. “Yes,
sir.” She carefully removed them from his desk, squared them up,
and turned to leave.

“Miss Cross, one more thing. Kindly think
before you do stuff like this. All right?”

She nodded, turned, and stalked out of the
office; she could feel tears starting up at the corners of her
eyes, and blindly she ran right into someone. It was passing time
already, and the halls were beginning to fill with students.

“Oh. Sor …”

It was Frank. A smile played at the corners
of his mouth.

“Sure, half-pint. You nearly knocked me
over. And what’s this?” He touched a skeleton finger gingerly with
a thumb and forefinger.

“Like you never heard of the Day of the
Dead, either?” She sniffed and realized that if she didn’t get a
tissue to her nose soon she would drip and totally embarrass
herself.

Frank shook his head. “Surely not. I’m one
hip Mexican dude, and I don’t know about one of the most important
celebrations in Mexico?”

She fished in her purse and came up with a
slightly-used tissue and held it to her nose. “Well, the principal
didn’t know from Joe about skeletons and
El Día de los
Muertos
. And he told me to keep them out of sight. Might scare
the kiddies. Or something really bad.”

Frank chuckled and reached into a side
pocket of his backpack. “Dude’s an ign’ant fool when it comes to
la raza
, isn’t he? Here, hold out your hand.” And he dug
into his shirt pocket and then dropped a white skull with garish
pink coloring in the eye sockets and teeth into her hand. She
dropped the tissue back into her purse.

“Um … what …?”

“Listen, Carla, your dancing skeletons are
old school, and from the looks of these, they’ve been out of school
for a long time. Now,
mi abuelita
sent me this from
Monterrey. My grandmother. This is what we use nowadays.”

Carla examined it. If the skeletons would
frighten a child, this object would either push one over the line
into a hissy fit, or leave it on the floor with uncontrollable
laughter. It was garish, like a ’57 Chevy lowrider with extended
tail fins, and yet it had a grim appearance.

“It’s made of sugar, so if the principal
spots you with it, you can just eat it on the spot.”

Carla sighed. “Well, I certainly made a
complete fool of myself in his office when I tried to explain the
Day of the Dead.”

Frank nodded. “You’re not the only one. He
doesn’t much approve of ethnic celebrations. Says that they’re too
‘disruptive’. Whatever.” A thoughtful look came over Frank’s face,
and he studied Carla’s face.

“What?” she muttered.

“About what you said about being part white
and part Hispanic yesterday. You know, there’s no such thing as a
full-blooded Mexican. Way back to the time of the Aztecs and the
Spanish conquerors, we’ve had to deal with our dual heritage, both
Indian and Spanish. And we don’t even quite know what to call
ourselves … are we Mexican? Hispanic? Chicano? Brown? You ever
watch any of the soap operas on Univision?”

Carla shook her head. She had no idea of
what he was talking about; basic cable service at home provided
only the local TV programs from Joplin and Pittsburg and the PBS
channel and a few others, not including any Spanish-language on
them, except for “Sesame Street”. And she hadn’t watched that
program for years and years.

“Well, half of the actresses are platinum
blondes or redheads, which means that THEIR heritage is probably
almost pure Spanish, although I suppose most of them got their hair
color out of a bottle.”

A warning bell sounded, and Frank looked
down the hall.

“I gotta run; one more tardy and it’s an
hour of detention for me. We’ll talk some other time, okay? I want
to show you a photo of a plaque just off the
Zócalo
in
Mexico City. It will explain everything.”

Carla grimaced. American History was
complicated enough without her trying to get into Mexican history,
too. “Look, I’ll think about it, okay?”

Frank’s face fell. He nodded and turned.

“Wait! Frank!”

He turned, an expectant look on his
face.

“Just what does
bolilla
mean,
anyway?”

His head dropped. “I’ll tell you later,
okay? I gotta run.” And he disappeared into the crowd.

Carla sighed. No fair. I get called names,
and I don’t even know what they mean. She reached into her bag to
pull out the call slip, but she felt a tap on her shoulder and
turned to look squarely up into the face of Miranda.

 

Chapter Eight

Carla froze and considered her options. Oh,
wait; she was still standing directly in front of the principal’s
office. She would be safe for the moment, at least.

“Why, Carla. I’m so fortunate to have run
into you today.”

Carla grimaced. “Yes, I’m sure it’s your
lucky day.”

Miranda took another step forward. Again
their noses were about four inches apart. “No, it’s YOUR lucky day,
and you can just consider me your guardian angel. Maybe it escaped
your notice, but Frank is taken. He and Sandra are a couple now. So
unless you feel like getting slammed, you might want to think again
before you get too friendly with him. Just a word to the wise.”

Carla nodded her head slowly. “Well, maybe
it escaped your notice that both Frank and I happen to be Hispanic.
That’s “Mexican” to you, okay? It just so happens that we were in
the middle of an intellectual discussion about
El Dia de los
Muertos
. It’s a very important day in the life of your average
Mexican person.” She flipped her hand. “But of course you wouldn’t
understand.”

The final bell rang, and Carla pretended to
look at a watch on her empty wrist. “My, my. How the time does fly.
Sorry our little chat made you late for class.” Carla crossed her
arms and regarded Miranda, who appeared as if she might break into
a two-alarm fire at any second.

“Oh, no problem for me, anyway. I just
happen to be the office proctor this hour. And, hey, I have full
access to student records … you know, like where people live and
stuff.” Miranda smirked at her for a second, flipped her purse
strap over her shoulder, and stalked into the office.

Carla pretended to wave bye-bye to her
through the glass windows. So much for that bitch. Records? Her
father was listed in the phone book. Who needed records?

She again dug into her purse for the call
slip; it was good for maybe another five or six minutes out of
class, just enough time for her to hide in the bathroom and think
about what Frank had said. But she felt a tap on her shoulder
again. What, Miranda again?

She turned to give her a piece of her mind,
but this time the face behind her was the face of an older black
male, although for a second she thought that it was T. J. Watkins,
another American History classmate.

“Hi, Carla, I’m Jace Watkins, but you
probably know that.”

“I … guess so. Um … hi. You must be T. J.’s
brother.”

“That’s right. Unfortunately, so to speak.
Listen. Can we talk for a few minutes? It’s about T. J.”

He looked around; a few students were still
visible in the hallway. One was hurrying, the other two appeared to
be walking as slowly as possible. “The library is just down the
hallway, and it will be a little more quiet in there, okay?”

She nodded and followed him. Maybe she’d get
ten, even fifteen minutes worth of time out of class out of this
little interlude.

Jace pulled a chair out from a large table
and motioned for her to sit and then pushed the chair in for her.
He sat across from her, leaned forward, and spoke in a low voice
that barely carried across the table.

“Okay. I think the whole school knows that
my brother isn’t a saint …”

That wasn’t news to Carla; she had heard
that often his disagreements with females ended with a backhand
from a large hand, and she shuddered a little.

“But way down deep, he’s not a bad guy. He
needs … well… guidance now and then. Look, you probably can tell
that things didn’t exactly go his way when he was younger. Both of
us grew up on the streets of LA, so to speak. And do I have to tell
you what that’s like?’

She took a breath and expelled it slowly.
“No, I suppose not. But … well, I know that he’s struggling in some
of his classes, and I have a feeling that you’re going to ask me to
work with T. J. in American History, and I don’t know if I’m ready
for that.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ve had some talks with
him about those incidents, and I think I can guarantee that he now
understands that girls are NOT for hitting.” Jace rubbed his hands
over his face. “We’re lucky – T. J., my mother, and me – to be out
of that LA scene and here in Niotaka. Only T. J. hasn’t quite made
the adjustment to this life. He still thinks he has to fight for
everything and that if someone doesn’t agree with him immediately,
they’re the enemy. He doesn’t trust anyone, even me. But he’s
coming around, except that this is the second time for him in
American History, and his grades aren’t good enough for him to be
guaranteed a spot on the basketball team right now, and … well, I
need for someone to help him out with some of his studies.”

Carla leaned back in her chair and put both
hands, palm down, on the table. “And I suppose that someone is
me?”

“Yeah. Your teacher recommended you. Please?
I’m not just talking a little help now and then, either; I’m
talking paid tutoring for American History class. I make enough
working part-time at the candy factory here in town to offer you …
ah … six bucks an hour. Probably two to three hours a week.”

Carla leaned back in her chair. At least he
didn’t ask me to tutor him in Algebra, she thought. “However. There
is one thing, Mr. Watkins. I already have a job after school. At
the radio station.”

Jace looked at her quizzically, as if she
wasn’t quite big enough to take on a real job.

“You’re a disk jockey?”

“No … at least not now. I do production and
stuff. You know, record commercials and help out.”

“Oh. Every day?”

“No. We haven’t worked out a schedule, but
it looks like about three days a week, maybe a little time on the
weekend.”

“Perfect. If you could slip in an hour or so
during your off days, I think that’s all he’d need.”

“Eight bucks an hour, you said?”

“Si … all right, seven. If you can work in
at least three hours a week. And you’d be meeting T. J. right here
in the library, during the Winner’s Group study time. I’ll make
sure that you’re designated as a tutor so you two will be able to
talk back and forth, even though that’s supposed to be a no-talking
time for athletes who don’t quite cut it in their classes.”

“I think I can do that. Deal. Only I’ll have
to see what kind of schedule they’ll be putting me on out at KNTK.
I don’t know yet exactly what days they want me. Probably towards
the end of the week, though.”

Jace extended his hand towards Carla, and
she took it. Jace’s grip was actually gentle, as if he didn’t want
to crush her hand. “And if there’s any problem, let me know. I’ll
take care of it.”

Carla nodded slowly. “Count on it. Look, I
gotta get to class. Um … can you initial this call slip? I can’t
afford to be counted tardy again, being as how I’m a tutor and
all.”

Jace initialed it and added the time.
“Thanks, Carla. Yeah, I gotta get back to work myself. Luckily
they’re flexible about me taking off for a few minutes from the
candy factory when I have school stuff to take care of during
school time. As long as I don’t overdo it. Okay, see ya. And
thanks.” He lifted himself out of his chair and disappeared through
the library doors.

Carla leaned back in her chair and gazed at
the call slip. Two jobs in hand, Frank is actually treating me like
a human being, Jace just promised to be my protector, and her good
friend Justin Jefferson had her back, too. Maybe she could deal
with Marv, Sandra, Miranda and her group, and the principal later,
too. Things were looking up for Miss Cross. Definitely.

 

Chapter Nine

Carla followed Jace out of the library and
made a right turn for the restroom. She really didn’t need to think
alone now, but why turn down a little free time? she thought.

The stench in the restroom drove her back
into the hall. She rubbed her nose in distaste as she stepped
toward her classroom. As she approached the last corner before the
hall leading to her classroom, she heard voices ahead of her and
stopped. Carefully, she poked her head around the edge of the wall.
Jace and T. J. were close together, and T. J. didn’t look very
happy. She couldn’t quite make out what they were saying but caught
her name and realized that Jace probably hadn’t told T. J. before
about her future with him as a tutor. Suddenly, Jace reached into
his pocket and pulled out a small package and stuck it into T. J.’s
jacket pocket.

“You know what to do with that.” This time
she heard Jace clearly.

“All right, bro.” She heard T. J., also.
Both brothers then headed away from her down the hall, and she
waited for them to round the next corner before she continued on
her way down the hall.

Mrs. Hill gave her the usual scowl as she
entered the English room, and she pointed at the bell-ringer prompt
on the chalkboard behind the teacher’s desk.

“Here, Mrs. Hill. Had to talk to the
principal. AND the basketball coach.” She slapped the call slip
down on the desk and waited.

Her teacher sighed. “Okay, fine, whatever.”
And she marked something in her attendance book.

Carla made her way to her seat, also behind
Justin in this class, careful not to spoil her little victory over
Mrs. H. by tripping over someone’s oversized backpack and falling
on her face, and she took out her notebook and pencil and wrote
some random stuff in response to the directions on the board.

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