Samuel Gaitan
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High School: Junior Year (Chapter 2)

The Year That Solidifies Your Place in the High School Food Chain

Chapter Two:

Luis David High School had sort of a big front lawn. From across the street I could see people already claiming their spots . At Luis David, we weren’t confined to sit only in the cafeteria for lunch like most schools. We had the freedom to eat where we wanted, except eat in any of the classrooms or offices and we obviously have to pick up after ourselves. It reminded me of a warden letting his prisoners out for recreation. Straight away I could see who were the new fishies, incoming freshmen, and who wasn’t.

After being here for a couple of years, I could tell who was new and who wasn’t. They all had the same dazed and lost look in their eyes. Take the line of people who just stood in the front steps of the school looking like they didn’t know what to do next. Those were the freshmen. I remember standing on those very steps asking myself, “am I really supposed to go to the office and check-in? am I supposed to go to class?” Alex told me that the entire freshman class had to go to the office and check in. I wonder why he was being so nice to me but when I got to school I noticed that nobody was going to the office they just stood on the steps. So Ralfie and I just stood on the step with them until someone did something and we weren’t going to be those kids who did something but got themselves laughed at.

Ralfie and I headed to our usual spot on the lawn under the massive tree. I remember last year Alex told me that a long time ago the science geeks of the school got together and did this experiment and made the tree three times bigger than any other tree. I knew it wasn’t possible but he really looked like he believed it, so I didn’t say anything to correct him. I just let him tell that story to people who laughed in his face.  It was funny to see the faces of other people when they realize the Alex all sport and no brain.

Like every day for the past two years, mine and Ralfies friends were there: Erik Hewitt who was president of the chess society, Emma Purell who the students of Luis David called Madame Paintbrush because all she ever does is sketch, draw, and paint. I’ve seen her sketch book and she's really good. Then there was Wesley MacClaim. The other kids just called him Mr. Mac because he was good with computers. Our freshman year the wrestling team tricked Wes into hacking in the school grading system to change their grades. Wes was suspended for an entire month and the school had the local police department come and interrogate him. He was on the news and everything. It was his first offense so his punishment wasn't that bad. The wrestling team's little stunt got all six guys expelled. Rumor was that three of them got themselves locked up in a juvenile detention center because of behavior inside the slammer.

Under the shade of abnormally large tree, this was our friend group. Erik the chess nerd, Mr. Mac, Madame Paintbrush, Ralfie, and of course me.  

Most of the Seniors drove their cars to school and they took pride in showing off what they had. Even the junkiest cars got praised by the sophomore Cheers. Some of the junior class drove to school but the senior made sure that those who did had to park in the very back of the parking lot. Even senior Steve Stalenski’s crappy hippy van had a spot in the front row.

“Dang Ralfie, when did you start taking steroids?” joked Wesley. Wesley had no muscle on his body whatsoever. Even though he hated working out or doing anything outside for that matter. His skin color was a caramel color that made him look like he actually went tanning. How he was so skinny was beyond me because this kid could literally eat two whole large boxes of pizza by himself.

“Going out for the varsity team this year, it took me all summer to get in shape,” he said.

“Do you mind if I drew you some time?” asked Emma.

“Naked?” Ralfie smiled.

"Yeah, but then everyone would find out about your micro-penis." Emma didn't usually tell jokes, particularly dirty ones, but when she did she would make it worth it.

“Hey Sam how are things with Becky?” Wesley asked me. Ever since Wes met the replacement mom he had this really big crush on her.

“To Hell with her,” I said.

“Nah she can’t be that bad,” Emma laughed.

“Yeah how dare she make you breakfast every morning,” Ralfie joked. Referring to what I had told him about what happened this morning.

“She can make me breakfast any day. Hell, she can be my breakfast whenever she wanted. I’d eat her,” Wesley said.

“Y’all are such pigs. Why do I even hang out with y’all?” asked Emma. Before any of us could make a hilarious, yet totally anti-feministic, snide remark the bell for homeroom rang. Since freshman year we all had the same homeroom but this year was different. We each had different homeroom teachers.

Last year, the school made us fill out this survey asking us what we wanted to do with our lives and they told us that our class was going to be the first class to have students in homeroom classes that pertained to their chosen career path. Wesley had Mrs. Palace, the Computer Science teacher for his homeroom, Emma had Mrs. Ritenminute, the Art teacher, and I had Mr. Paul, the web design/photography teacher. Ralfie had Mr. Bilbanks the Science teacher because he wanted to be the next Steven Hawkings. Which isn’t surprising. The way that Ralfie spoke and acted isn’t what you’d think a stereotypical person interested in science would speak and act. Most recently he’s been going on and on about how the differences about dark matter and dark energy.  Since we were younger he has always been fascinated by science.

Luis David High School was a big two story building that was built around the early nineteen hundreds. The building was made up of weathered brick showing off its acid rain scars at the top of the building. Everything in the school was ancient to match its exterior. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the school started to invest in Wifi, electronic projectors, and new computers rather than the DSL hookups, overhead projectors, and the big bulky computers.

Mr. Pauls classroom was in the West wing of the school. It didn’t take long to get there from the front steps but with the traffic the freshmen made it took almost years to finally get there. Mr. Paul had setup his classroom differently than most teachers. Instead of desk to sit and write on he had made this huge square of desk with computers on them that lined the wall. In the corner opposite the door, the first thing you see when you walk in, he put up what looked like actual green screens and in front of it sat a nice Sony PDW-F335 XDCam production camera. That must have been new because I didn’t see that there last year. I’ve had Mr. Paul for a class for the past two years and he was a great teacher. He wasn’t like all the others. He was more of a “let’s have fun while we learn something” kind of teacher. I mean yeah he knew what he was doing but the way he teaches seems like he’s learning along with us. He is known to wear his Hawaiian shirts to school tucked in which set him apart from the entire regular stuffy button down shirts all the other male teachers wore. 

I took my seat on the far wall, a couple computers down from where the green screen was. The tardy bell had rung and I looked around and apparently not many people were interested Photography and Web Design. Including me there were seven people in the class but there were two that I didn’t expect to see here. Eddie Paige. He was one of my brother’s friends. He was dumb but still smarter than all the other jocks in this school, probably the one who would actually make it to a university rather than a junior college. And then there was Franky Anthor. I didn’t talk to him much. Come to think of it no one talks to him much; he’s just a quiet guy who dressed like an emo kid.

“Alright y’all, hopefully you all already know each other so I don’t think there’d be a reason for the name game” said Mr. Paul holding his famous clipboard that he always carries with him. Just after he said that a small knock came from the door, “why have seven students when we can have eight and have a party in here”. At least that got some chuckles from the seven of us, he was goofy like that. He answered the door, “oh hi and who might this be?” he asked.

“Jeanette Rose, Sir,” she said.

I saw Mr. Paul look down at his clipboard. “Ah, yes. Mrs. Rose. Do come in, but I warn you, we may not have a seat for you seeing as how crowded the room is.” She looked around and just smiled. “You’re kidding me right?”

“Mrs. Rose I never kid, but I do so often make jokes. Now please come in so that my summer of preparing how to torture you students by educational means can begin. And don’t be alarmed if I point a camera at you and yell ‘Do for the vine.’” The whole class and I couldn’t help but laugh.

She walked past him and looked around. She had on this white shirt with blue and purple flowers on it with some jeans. Her dark brown hair looked like it was naturally curled around the nape of her neck and draped a few inches below her shoulders. I saw her and she looked right at me with her brown eyes. She looked away suddenly and took a seat a few chairs from where I was.

“Now that you’ve found your seat, let the torture begin,” he said with a mockingly evil smile. “Since we didn’t have a reason to play the name game before Mrs. Rose came in why don’t we play it for her?”

“Ronald let’s start with you. Tell us your name and something about yourself.”

“I’m Ronald Word and I can’t see without my glasses” he said.

"You're not wearing any" Mr. Paul pointed out.

"Sorry, contacts. I keep forgetting I don't have glasses on," he said.

You know how some people say that their school didn’t have cliques that they just all got along with each other? Well that is definitely not how Luis David worked. Here we did have a status quo and we did have cliques and Ronald Word had his clique. The clique that was full of nerdy, glasses wearing, sweater vest wearing, too smart for human kind kids. And then there are cliques like the jocks and the cheers that upheld the status quo and made sure that each of us stayed with our own group.

“Alright Vladimir you’re next,” Mr. Paul announced.

“Sup I’m Vlad,” was all he said.

“I can already tell you’re destined to be on a remake of Jersey Shore. Right, well, I guess he thinks his cool clean cut hair just talks for itself,” joked Mr. Paul.

“Hi I’m Sam and I want to work for the New York Post as a photographer someday”. I really wasn’t sure what to say. It’s always hard to talk about yourself.

“Mr. Paul do we really have to do this?” Eddie asked.

“This is a game were Mrs. Rose will be able to learn your names Eddie.”

“Cool. Sup Jeanette, I’m Eddie, that’s Vlad, Frank, Sam, Zoey, Josh, and Martin. There she knows us now.” he said pointing to all of us as he said our names.

“You’re Eddie?” Jeanette asked.

“Damn straight” he said. “Why you ask?”

“Just wondering how a jock like you would be interested in Web Design and Photography. Wouldn’t you rather smell someone’s jock strap than be here?” she said. I couldn’t hear it but I know that the other kids where saying “ooohhh” in their heads but instead we all wide eyed look at Mr. Paul. I think this is the first time anyone has said anything like that to Eddie. He was captain of the wrestling team so basically everyone tried not to get on his bad side. Although she did have a point on why he was here.

“Well I guess that ends our round of the name game. Uh, Jeanette, why don’t you tell us where you came from?” If Mr. Paul was mad about Eddie cussing or Jeanette calling Eddie a typical jock and/or gay, he didn’t show it.

“Well, I moved down here from Sacramento.”

“I don’t think I’ve been there. How is it over there?” he asked.

“It is completely boring. All you see is men and women in dark suits. It’s depressing” she said. The time must have flown by because the bell just rang and no one hung around.

I had just walked out the door when someone’s hand grabbed my shoulder. I was used to getting bumped into and sometimes pushed, but don’t think I’ve ever had someone grab me from my shoulder. Not even my friends have done it. This was a new experience for me so I didn’t know what to expect and when I turned around I didn’t expect to see her.

“Is that how he always is? You’re Sam, right?” Jeanette asked. She was even more pretty up close.

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