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 (8 page)

Carla opened her mouth to ask about the
meaning of “
bolilla”
but had to watch him walk away. She
envisioned him in a tux, arm-in-arm with Sandra, she in a
powder-blue strapless gown. Then she imagined Sandra disappearing
in a cloud of dust. Maybe she could try that on T. J., she thought
to herself.

And there right in front of her, as she
turned the corner, was T. J. himself with brother Jace. This time
she walked past them quickly, just as Jace handed T. J. a small wad
of bills.

* * *

She had only one commercial on her hook to
record, an easy thirty-second spot with a generic music bed, and
she finished it in about ten minutes and then stepped into the
studio to see if Bob had anything else for her to do. He motioned
at a computer displaying the AP news feed and sat down and ran
through the sections: Local, National, Features, Weather, Misc. One
feature story headline caught her eye, and she printed it off and
plopped into the newsroom chair, legs swinging, to read it: “Gang
members tabbed in LA murders.” She recognized the name of the gang
that supposedly Jace had belonged to when he lived in LA. Was he
still connected with gang members? Would it be likely that someone
would follow Jace to Kansas and deal with him, and his brother? She
shuddered, and she knew that it wasn’t just because they’d turned
down the thermostat in the newsroom.

* * *

She was ready to accept Bob’s offer of a
ride home instead of having to ride the bucking, chilly city bus
and walk several blocks, and she wasn’t surprised when they ended
up at the Dairy Spot. She ordered a hamburger and hot chocolate, no
fries, and was wiping ketchup off her chin when Frank and Sandra
walked in. Frank gave her a perfunctory wave, and Sandra eyed Bob
and tossed her head and led Frank to a booth as far away from them
as possible.

“Friends of yours, I suppose?” Bob nodded in
the direction of their booth.

“You suppose a little too much. Let’s just
say that we end up at the same building from eight to three every
day.”

Bob shot the two another glance. “Cute
couple.”

Carla snorted. “You must be quite the
romantic in real life, huh?”

Bob bit a fry in half and chewed and
swallowed before he answered. “I saw the look in her eyes when he
nodded at you. Green, as in jealous. And the look she gave us could
cause permanent damage. I hope you three don’t end up in the same
room very often.”

Carla grimaced. “Ya know, I don’t think that
would ever be a possibility.”

“I bet.” He tossed his napkin onto his plate
and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one.

Without thinking, Carla helped herself to
one and leaned towards Bob. He pulled his lighter out of his pocket
and lit it without a word, and she puffed a cloud in the general
direction of Frank and Snooty. Neither noticed her, as they were
now in a deep conversation, faces just a few inches from each
other’s. She rolled her eyes, and Bob cocked an eyebrow at her.

“What? You never saw a midget smoke a
cigarette before?”

“I didn’t think I was further contributing
to your bad habits when I pulled the pack out. When did you start,
anyway?”

“Oh, when I was six, right after I knocked
off the bank. Made me so nervous that I had to do something to calm
myself down, and this was it!”

Bob just shook his head. “Well, puff up, and
let’s get you home.”

* * *

The house was dark when she opened the front
door, which meant that her father had not been home yet. She
dropped her backpack next to the sofa and considered what homework
she should be working on and decided to go easy this evening. She
retrieved a box of caramel popcorn from the kitchen and then lugged
her lit book upstairs to her bedroom, flopped across the bed,
dipped out a handful of sticky popcorn, and turned to Edgar Allan
Poe.

Around 10:00 pm she heard the front door
bang shut. She waited for her father to appear at her door, but
after the bathroom opened, all she could hear was his uncertain
footsteps on the way to his bedroom and the door closing. So it had
been one of those days for him. She tried to concentrate on the
words of “The Raven”, but the bouncing rhythm of Poe’s famous poem
kept bringing her back to the song that had been playing in the
Dairy Spot when she walked out with Bob.

Was she really jealous of Sandra? In other
words, did she want to be more than just friends with Frank? Just
how much of a threat was Sandra to her? And what about Bob, who was
more like a big brother to her? Should she tell Bob anything about
her problems with Frank, and T. J., and Sandra, and Jace, and her
principal, and Marv, and … hm-m-m … the rest of the world? Was she
going to be a little girl with a big chip on her shoulder for the
rest of her life, fighting with everyone around her every time
someone sent a pointed word in her direction?

Nevermore!

 

Chapter Thirteen

The weather was almost balmy the next day,
and the sun was coming up over a cloudless horizon as she walked to
school. A better day, she thought to herself as she shut her locker
door and turned to walk down the hall to her American History
class. A tap on her shoulder brought her to a stop.

“Jace told me to come talk to you
again.”

She turned and looked into T. J.’s face,
which looked almost pleading, a look that Carla had never seen
before on that face. Nevertheless, she gripped the locker latch
firmly.

“Look, T. J., I told you I’d see what I
could do about getting someone else to help you out. And it’s
nothing personal. I just have a job; that’s all.”

“Well, Jace already checked with the
counselor and the American History teacher. They couldn’t come up
with anyone else. Or at least that’s what they said. So he told me
to come and talk with you again to see if you can work something
out.”

“I told you, T. J., I’m booked solid until
6:30 every day. I’m not going to give up my evenings, because I
need some study time, too, and I’m not going to give up my job,
either. It’s not great money, but it’s better than nothing.”

“All right, I understand all that. What
about a half-hour or so before school? The library opens up at
seven. Would that work for you?”

Carla rolled her eyes. “You want me to give
up some of my beauty sleep now? I don’t know, T. J. I think it
would be easier for you to scare up someone else.”

She was about to walk away, but that
pleading look in T. J.’s eyes held her.

“Tell you what. Let me check around today,
and maybe I’ll find someone with some extra time to spend after
school. I’ll let you know.”

T. J. shook his head. “I need to know
something pretty soon, or I’m going to be off the team. We’ve got a
test coming up tomorrow, and … well, I’m clueless about the Civil
War. I read the stuff, but it all jumbles up. All those battles and
stuff. Doesn’t make much sense. And there’s no one in the Weener’s
Circle after school that knows anything more than I do.”

The five-minute bell rang, and Carla glanced
down the hallway. “I’ll try to get someone. Meet me here after
school. Okay?”

“Okay. Help a brother out, will ya?”

Carla almost smiled. This was a far call
from the T. J. that she had heard about just a few weeks ago. That
Jace must have more influence over his little brother than she
realized. “I’ll do my best, T. J. But no promises.”

* * *

The school was in an upbeat mood, with the
usual banners and streamers in the hallways and cheerleaders in
uniform, football players wearing jerseys, and volleyball players
wearing t-shirts embossed with a picture of a rather buff chick
with an oversized hand serving an oversized volleyball. Carla
stopped two students, a boy and then a girl who were in her class,
and tried to ask them if they would be willing to tutor T. J., but
as soon as the initials of his name passed her lips, she was
instantly refused. She slid through the American History classroom
door just as the tardy bell sounded and went directly to her seat
in the back.

The usual off-key band music sounded through
the window for a few minutes while Carla jotted down some random
ideas in response to the bell-ringer exercise printed on the
chalkboard. Mr. Brady was pretty much a pushover, she thought. And
for bonus points, say nice things about his stupid pets. Lord knows
what a girlfriend might do if faced with his menagerie that he
usually found some time to describe during slow times in the class,
she thought, and almost laughed aloud. She caught herself in time
and looked around to see if anyone noticed that she’d almost made a
fool of herself. No problem; two guys were almost asleep already,
and the girl to the right of her had already slipped out a sheet of
notebook paper and was inscribing a long note to someone, probably
her boyfriend.

Hm. Maybe she could go right to the source
and see if she could convince Mr. Brady to come up with someone.
She laid her pencil above her notebook so that it wouldn’t roll and
approached his desk.

“Mr. Brady, could I talk to you in the
hallway for a second?”

He glanced at the clock and at the
classroom. It was too early in the day for anyone to be awake
enough to cause problems, and he nodded at her. He followed her
into the hallway.

“What’s up, Carla? You got a problem?”

“Well … not really me, Mr. Brady …”

He held up a hand. “Wait. I think I know
already. A certain football player needs a tutor. Right?”

She opened her mouth but just nodded.

“Hmph. I can certainly understand why you’d
want him to find someone else, Carla.” He sighed and leaned against
the wall. “I’ve already talked with his brother, and I told him
straight up that it would be hard to find someone to work with him,
given his reputation, and that maybe it would be better to find
someone on the football team to help him out. You know what I
mean?”

Carla nodded again.

“I mean, I’m impressed with you trying to
help out, considering … well, never mind. No, I can’t really
recommend anyone. Sorry.”

The sound level of voices from the classroom
increased, and he shook his head. “Let’s see what we can discover
about the end of the Civil War now. Okay?”

She nodded for the third time. Bobble-head
Carla. Well … she tried. Mr. T. J. Watkins was now officially on
his own

She was able to stay awake for the rest of
the period, but she almost missed her name being called after class
in the hallway. She turned and found herself face-to-face with a
boy who was only slightly taller than she.

“Carla. I … tried to … ah … would you like
to go to the Winter Dance with me?”

Carla blinked. Who was this? She didn’t
recognize him at all.

“I’m sorry. I guess you don’t remember me
from consumer ed class. I sit in the back of the room. I’m Tim.”
And he stuck out his hand.

Automatically, she took it. What a geek, she
thought.

“Ah … pleased to meet you. No, I guess I
don’t look around in that class too much. Sorry.”

“No, me either. Well …”

She realized he was waiting for an answer to
his invitation. “Tim … I don’t think … that is, I already … well,
you know. Thanks, and all that.”

Tim took a step back. “Yeah. I just thought
I’d ask you early. Well, thanks, anyway. Have fun.” And he brushed
past her and walked away with his head down.

Okay, Carla, shoot yourself in the foot
again, she thought. Dang it, why do they always have to sneak up on
you? She wasn’t ready for surprises like that. And he probably
wouldn’t bite. Or hit.

The restroom was right on her way to English
class, and she ducked into the doorway and into a stall, ignoring
the smell that would become unbearable by the end of the day. She
felt in her purse for a cigarette but then quickly decided against
it. Too obvious, too dangerous, too stupid, too many people around.
She leaned her head against the door for a second. It was a nice
day before she got here, she thought. Maybe it would be a nice day
outside.

She waited until the voices and sounds of
running water stopped and then stepped out of the stall and towards
the doorway but halted at the sound of male voices outside. She
recognized T. J.’s voice and then Jace’s, but the echoing acoustics
in the bathroom made them hollow and hard to hear.

“Tony … wanted me to … steroids … field …”
That was T. J.

“Don’t think that you … LA source … courier
…” Jace, that time.

Then the voices trailed off, and she
realized that they were walking down the hallway. She cautiously
poked her head out the door as the pair went around the corner and
the one-minute warning bell sounded, and she headed in the other
direction at double-time speed, her mind racing.

Steroids? Courier? LA? Was Jace running
steroids and having T. J. sell them? And who was Tony? She needed
to find Justin and Kerry, and fast.

 

Chapter Fourteen

She knew that in order to avoid being tardy
to English class she needed to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down, and
she clutched her backpack and ran around a corner right into a
teacher she didn’t know.

He bounced off the wall, his face a study in
anger. “What … slow down, young lady. Who do you think … ?”

His nose wrinkled, and he touched her
jacket. “Have you been smoking?”

The tardy bell rang. She was going to catch
it from Mrs. Hill, too, when she got to class, and Mrs. Hill wasn’t
one to forgive when it came to kids not having paper in hand when
they walked into her class late. Damn!

“No way. My dad smokes when he brings me to
school.”

“Ri-i-ight. And drinks when he drags you
home, I bet.”

“Wha …? You don’t know me. OR my father, and
you have no right to …”

She turned and stomped away before she could
add more, down the hall and out the back door, book bag slapping at
her hip. She expected to hear the teacher yelling at her to stop,
but maybe he was on the way to his own class. Whatever. Just as
long as he didn’t follow her.

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