Episode 4 – The Nutt-job
I’ve broken a personal record, second trip to the headmaster’s office in one day. Yikes!
Mrs. Simmons welcomes me pleasantly. “My goodness, Hunter. I guess this isn’t your day.”
I nod glumly. “Mr. Erickson sent me.”
“What this time? You seem like such a nice boy.”
“My mouth got me in trouble.”
“Well, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Headmaster Perkins had to leave unexpectedly. You’ll have to talk to Mr. Nutt.”
My heart sinks. The evil gnome! “Can I come back later?” I ask hopefully.
She shakes her head. “I’m afraid not. The chairman of the Planning Committee’s in town. He won’t be back today.”
“Just my luck,” I whisper.
“Hunter, don’t be discouraged. I’m sure everything will work out all right.” Mrs. Simmons is always s-o-o-o nice, a jolly widow with apple cheeks, and curly gray hair. “Come on,” she says. “I’ll take you over.”
We cross the hall. Mr. Nutt’s surrounded by his entourage. “Excuse us, gentleman,” she says. “We need to borrow Mr. Nutt.” They look surprised, but shuffle out.
Mr. Nutt looks annoyed. “What is it Adele? I thought we were finished with Mr. Hooker.”
“The headmaster’s left unexpectedly, and Mr. Erickson wants Hunter to speak to him.”
“A disciplinary matter?” There’s a gleam in his eye.
“Yes sir,” I say.
“Thank you, Adele,” he says, and I’m on my own.
Outside the open door, I hear the ass-kissers snickering. “Boys,” Nutt-job calls, “close the door and give us a minute.” I know they’re hoping I’ll get thrown out or something.
Nutt focuses his pig eyes on me. “What is it this time, Mr. Hooker?”
I smile, trying to turn on the charm. “Honestly, sir, I said something totally inappropriate in class. I used the word ‘bullshit.'”
“Can you give me the context, Mr. Hooker?” He asks in his snootiest voice.
I give him the full flavor.
“Your visits are variations on a theme. Conformity seems to rub you the wrong way.”
“Yes sir, exactly.”
He clasps his crinkly hands and glares at me. “What do you plan to do with your life, Mr. Hooker?”
“I want to sing…go to Julliard.”
Nutt scrunches up his face like I’m sewage or something. “You think you have the talent to compete against the thousands that flock to New York with similar fantasies.”
I shrug. “I dunno, but I’m willing to give it a shot.”
He grunts. “You plan to sponge off your family while you pursue an impractical career?”
“As little as possible. I’ll work part time, wait tables…whatever it takes.” I’m pissed about the “sponge” remark, but keep my mouth shut.
He leans toward me. “Don’t you think it would make sense to take school more seriously, so you’re at least employable?”
“I take school seriously, sir.”
“You don’t act like it, Mr. Hooker. I’m sure you realize a respected institution like Julliard expects appropriate decorum…just as we do.”
‘Sort of,” I say, “but it’s hard to compare. Julliard’s full of artistic, creative people.”
Nutt’s eyes narrow. “You don’t think there are creative people here?”
“I didn’t say that, but it’s different, right?”
“Not as much as you think. Musicians have to be disciplined to enhance their performances. How many pianists dress like comedians.”
“I don’t dress like a comedian.” I’m seriously offended, but Nutt-job ignores me, takes out a sheet of note paper, and begins writing with an ancient pen. I check out the surroundings. Ridiculous! So fucking formal, with dark wood paneling, leaded glass windows, oriental rugs, plaques and pictures. You’d think he was president of the United States. Even his nameplate looks expensive: Terence L. Nutt, PhD.
“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what’s your PhD in?”
“Classical languages.” The pen continues to squeak across the paper.
“Did you pay your own way?”
“I was awarded a scholarship.”
“Yes.” He folds the letter, slips it in an envelope…extends it in my direction. It might as well be a hand grenade. “Give this to your parents when you get home. I’m suspending you for the balance of the week. You’ll be given an F in any tests or quizzes unless you make them up. My note requires your parents to call and arrange a visit, so don’t conveniently lose it on your way home, and Mr. Hooker, take the rest of the week to evaluate your priorities. Is your craving for attention more important than your studies? I think not…and another thing. A number of teachers tell me you’re a suck-up. That’s an unattractive habit that leads nowhere. Try to avoid it, or at least, tone it down.”
I’m stunned. Sucking up is one of the biggest sins at school, and I avoid it like the plague. “Respectfully submitted, sir,” I say, “I’m no suck-up. Whoever’s claiming that is delusional.
“Are you saying I’m delusional? Didn’t you try to act cute when you came in my office?”
“Well, yeah, I did a little, but what else could I do?”
“Face your your punishment like a man.”
I’m about to say: “Like all your ass kissers,” but manage to contain myself. “Yes sir,” I say, “but sucking up is so rampant here, I honestly try to minimize it.”
“Try harder. Don’t make the mistake many do. Intellectual camaraderie, based on mutual respect, is not sucking up. Sucking up is willingness to do anything, no matter how shallow and baseless, to influence your grades. Keep your cuteness under control at all times. People are susceptible to it.”
He’s flustered. “Well, yes, of course…you’re not an unattractive person.”
I’m not sure how to respond “Thanks for your insight,” I tell him. “It’s great to learn from someone with experience.”
He gives me a patronizing smile. “My pleasure, Mr. Hooker. You may not realize it, but I’m a friend. I want to help you get on the right track. You definitely have the right raw material.” He pauses. Stares at me, blinks. “Well…be on your way, and remember my advice.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m deeply touched.”
The minute I reach a safe distance, I curse like a motherfucker. Can’t believe Mr. Potato Head got his hooks into me…fucked me royally, but he’ll pay. No way I’ll let him get away with screwing me.
To be continued… Read next episode!