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 (7 page)

 

Chapter Eleven

The fare for the day at the cafeteria was,
wonder of wonders, pot roast, mashed potatoes, and gravy, plus peas
and canned peaches. Carla stared at her portions and mentally shook
her head. Just great – a déjà vu cafeteria meal. She glumly stirred
her mashed potatoes and then tasted her fork. Even worse – instant
mashed potatoes. Eww.

Justin, Buck, and Kerry arrived at the same
time, slapped their trays onto the table, and started forking in
the noon fare. Buck even smacked his lips. She wondered who had the
responsibility of feeding him at his house; maybe the
superintendent didn’t make enough money to keep his wife at home to
do the cooking?

Buck stopped long enough to eye her. “What’s
the problem, shrimp? I got mashed potatoes on my chin or
something?”

She realized that she had been staring at
him. “Oh, no; I was just wondering if you needed to replace the
batteries for that headlight on your nose!”

He dropped his fork and felt his nose. “Why,
you little …”

“Just kidding, Buck. Really! No, I was
wondering how your father could let a gang-banger like Jace Watkins
slip through the filters and join our lily-pure faculty.”

The rest of the group stared at her.

It was Kerry’s turn to break the silence.
“Explain.”

“Well. I just happen to have a friend in LA
who checked up on the Watkins clan. Turns out that Coach Jace has a
history as a banger.”

“Wait a minute!” Buck jabbed his fork at
her. “Where …”

“Public knowledge, my friend. She has access
to court records where she works, and it turns out that he was with
a gang when another banger was shot. And he turned state’s evidence
afterwards, with all charges against him being dropped. So she
says.”

“Oh. Well, it actually takes a conviction,
not just charges, for anything to show up on the records that our
district has access to,” Buck said. He took another forkful of
roast and chewed on it vigorously.

“Yeah. So what is it going to take for him
to get bounced?”

“Carla, you really, really don’t like our
star coach much, do you?” Justin tried to get a forkful of peas to
his mouth and succeeded in doing so, at least with most of them.
Two bright green objects bounced off his leg and under the
table.

“Justin, my tall friend, I really don’t have
anything against your favorite basketball coach. But T. J. … well,
I don’t need to tell you why I am less than enthusiastic about
anyone named Watkins, do I?” She tried not to think about the back
hallway scene that she’d been the only witness to, and the look on
T. J.’s face as he stood over his latest sparring partner, barely
moving on the floor.

“And we don’t need to remind you that we got
your back, do we?” Kerry finished her mashed potatoes and started
in on the peas.

“I know that, and I appreciate it. But I
can’t depend on you all to be around me twenty-four/seven. And I’d
rather be safe than sorry, and safe to me means NO Watkinses in
town. Dig?”

“Carla, we understand that,” Buck sighed.
“But really, you’re in more danger of injury in your strength
conditioning class from dropping a weight on your head than from
almost anyone in this school.”

Carla fixed him with a stare. “Almost
anyone?”

“All right. Everyone. No one’s out to get
you, Carla. Word’s out that you’re our pet munchkin, and they’re
terrified of us. Especially of Kerry.”

“Munchkin!? Why, you …” She aimed a kick at
Buck under the table, but her leg was simply too short to reach
him. However, Kerry took care of him with a short jab from an
elbow, and he doubled up. Carla high-fived her across the table and
giggled.

“All righty, then. I get the point. And yes,
I trust you all.”

But she couldn’t forget T. J.’s rep. Friends
were for now, but enemies were forever, she thought. “Enemies”, as
in plural, if Jace and T. J. were really alike.

* * *

Today was her day off from KNTK, so she
found herself in the school library instead of in front of a
microphone after school. The room was rather crowded, and Carla
made sure that she was sitting at a table with two other students
whom she recognized as jayvee basketball team members. She spread
out her papers and book before T.J. slouched through the door,
spotted her, and dropped into the wooden chair opposite of her. She
hit him with her most dazzling smile.

“Good evening, star pupil. Hope you’re ready
for an hour of hard work.”

T. J. stared at her for a long moment.
“Whatever. My brother told me to meet you here. Didn’t think you’d
show up.”

“Well, I did, and I hope you brought your
stuff.”

“Yuh.” He dug a notebook and textbook out of
his backpack and dropped them onto the floor with an audible thud.
The monitor at the central desk glared at him, and he waved his
hand.

Carla leaned in towards him so that her
voice would carry only to his ears. “Here’s the way it is, T. J. We
have permission to talk in here. We talk only about American
History. We meet only in the presence of others, including adults.
And we work only on American History. Dig?”

He stared at her. “Whatever, chick.”

Carla stared back for a count of five, still
gripping the table edge. “And so let’s get started. Chapter Seven.
Textbook.”

He muttered something under his breath and
slapped his book open.

* * *

Carla pulled her coat around her as she
exited the school building; there was talk of snow later on in the
evening, and her father had informed her that he had to work late
and she was on her own for the evening meal. She wasn’t as hungry
as she usually was at this time of the day; most of the reason was
because she had not been able to relax in front of T. J. Giving him
orders was a new thing for her, and maybe it would continue to be a
habit, as they were able to cover two chapters in the American
History book under her direction.

No snow yet, but the sky was darkening, and
the cars on the street – Niotaka rush hour, ha! – all had their
headlights on. She stopped at the crosswalk and waited for them to
slow down, but apparently she was now invisible, as six cars buzzed
by before one slowed and stopped in front of her. Again, a long arm
swung the door open and motioned her inside. It was Bob.

“Get in, short one – you’re holding up
progress here. Or do you want to freeze your little tushie off in
this weather?”

She dropped her backpack onto the front
floorboards. “You watch your mouth when you’re talking about my
anatomy, Mr. Radio Star. Show some respect.”

He laughed. “Sorry. Saw you standing there,
all alone, and thought you might go for some pizza. All right?”

“You think I would go just anywhere with
you, huh? How about Mexican food instead? I could get around some
enchiladas, maybe some
horchata
. You know, the real
stuff.”

“Okay, I know what place you’re talking
about. But does your father know that I’m taking you out to the
city limits?”

“Don’t worry about it. He’s working late,
but when he gets home I’ll just tell him that I was kidnapped and
forced to eat until my tummy popped. And he’ll deal with you at the
appropriate time.”

Bob pulled the car into gear, peered behind
him, and stepped on it. “I bet he would.”

* * *

Carla ended up ordering two
enchiladas
con
carnitas
and
horchata
, or cinnamon-flavored
rice water, and discovered that she actually was hungry. Bob
actually stared at her.

“What’s the matter; you never seen a hungry
girl before?” she tossed at him.

“Oh, is that what I’m observing? Looked to
me like a piranha ripping into a man’s leg.”

She wadded up her napkin and bounced it off
his head.

He picked it off the floor and dropped it
onto his plate. “Okay, fine. You’re a lady and need to be treated
like one. So wipe the sauce off your chin, madam!”

Carla giggled. “And you’d better watch where
you’re spitting crumbs, Mr. Manners!”

Bob brushed his shirt front and leaned
toward her. “Just in case you think this is purely a social
occasion, I’ve got some business news for you. Marvin is now
history since he couldn’t show up on time almost every day during
the past month or so. And the boss wants me to see if you’d be
interested in increasing your hours at the station. He wants me to
take over Marvin’s old air shift and someone else to take over
production, at least after school and into the evening, say from
3:30 to 6:30 or so, four days a week, possibly a few hours on the
weekends including a full board shift early Sunday. What do you
think?”

Carla stared at him. “Almost 20 hours a
week. Are you sure the boss really wants me? I’ve only been there
for less than a week.”

“Listen, kid. You might as well get used to
the radio biz. It’s a revolving door system in radio; you can get
out as easily as you can get in. Marvin found that out the hard
way. If you can be on time and punch buttons, you’re in.” Bob
finished his taco and wiped the fragments of grated cheese off his
shirt.

“Tell you what. I’ll let you know tomorrow,
okay? I’ve sort of committed to tutoring someone after school, but
I can get out of it.” Carla finished her second enchilada and took
a long swig of the cold, sweet, cinnamon-flavored
horchata
.

“Fair enough. The Sunday board shift is sort
of optional and up in the air anyway. No one likes to get up at
5:30 Sunday morning, and right now I’m doing it and wouldn’t mind
getting rid of it, even though I can get some studying done. All I
do now is punch buttons from six until eleven anyway; we run
nothing but syndicated programs. The news is network news, so all I
have to do is to record a weather forecast once or twice and run it
between the programs. I’m licensed so I take transmitter readings,
but you wouldn’t even have to do that.”

“Like I said, I’ll let you know. I’ll have
to get permission from the parent.”

“Okay, and I give you permission to leave
the tip. This one’s on me.”

Carla nodded and rubbed her tummy. She’d
have to be careful with Bob; first doughnuts and now Mexican food –
what was he trying to do, fatten her up?

 

Chapter Twelve

“What do you mean, you’re not going to be
able to tutor me any more?” T. J.’s nose was a scant five inches
from Carla’s as they sat in the bleachers before the roll call
lineup for weight training. Carla turned away and tried to retie a
shoelace. Her fingers felt like bananas, but she knew that she had
to keep at the laces so that her hands would remain steady.

“It’s nothing personal. They just added to
my hours at work, and I need the money. Know what I mean?”

“Listen, I really need some help with stuff.
My brother is on my butt, the coach is about ready to dump me, and
I just had a talk with the principal that didn’t go very well. Know
what
I
mean?”

“T. J., I’m sure I’m not the only person in
this school who can help you. Why don’t you get Jace to scout
around a little? Tell you what; I’ll try to come up with someone.
I’ll let you know. Okay?”

T. J. stared at her. “Fine. Thanks a whole
lot.” He looked at the coach in the middle of the floor, back at
Carla, and then rose to his full height, still staring at her.
Slowly, he sauntered to the middle of the floor and took one look
back at her.

Carla met his gaze. “Sorry,” she mouthed at
him and then bent to concentrate on the knot she’d just made in her
shoelaces but not soon enough to miss the gang sign that he shot at
her with his fingers.

* * *

She made sure that she was dressed and into
the hallway before any of the boys in the weight training class,
and the first person she ran into was Frank.

“I was looking for you, Carla. How’s the new
job?”

She didn’t remember telling Frank anything
about her personal life lately, but she shrugged. “All right. More
work now. Three hours a day, until 6:30, and a possible board shift
on Sundays if things work out.”

“Oh. Busy, huh? I don’t know how it would
work out now, but I just wondered if you could find a little time
to help the club out with decorations next Thursday for the winter
dance on Friday. We’re co-sponsors, and we’re way short of people
to work.”

She looked at Frank carefully. Visions of
Snooty Sandra on Frank’s arm danced through her head, but she
decided not to shoot him down with the same ammunition that she’d
used on him when he’d asked her to make burritos.

“I don’t know … Pop expects me to show up at
home after I get off work, and then there’s the question of getting
my tummy filled.” She patted that part of her anatomy, and in
response a low rumble ensued. Dang, if she talked to Frank much
more she’d miss lunch.

Frank smiled. “Luckily, we have the
cafeteria reserved and some people are bringing slow cookers, so
along with decorating we get to snarf up chili con queso, so you
won’t have to worry about supper. We’ll probably finish up around
9:30, so even if you didn’t get there until around 6:45 you’d still
be able to help us a lot.”

“Just a fast minute here. This is the
Hispanic Club that’s the co-sponsor? I don’t remember joining
Hispanic Club.”

“Oh, well. I had Sandra add your name to the
list a couple of weeks ago. It’s free … well, it doesn’t cost
anything to join … but you have to volunteer a little time for
activities. And I thought you might like to help us out.”

So Sandra was in on this, too? How nice! “I
don’t know, Frank. I’ll have to let you know. Can … um … anyone
come to the dance?”

“Sure, couples, singles, whatever, as long
as you register beforehand.” Frank looked at his watch. “Okay. No
promises. I understand. Let me know when you can. I gotta catch a
few more volunteers before lunch is over. See ya!”

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