Episode 32 – Apprehended

I sprint down the stairs wondering what the “emergency” is at the store. A number of possibilities cross my mind…they need me for a big sale…or, maybe they’re pissed…maybe Jasmine told Pearl she saw me naked? Yikes! That’d be bad! Or, maybe the police have tracked me down? Could be a zillion things…a robbery, whatever??? But my disappearance tops the list…especially with all the pictures on TV, in newspapers…not that I’ve seen any.

A half-block away, I see a big commotion at the store, police cars, media vans…a zillion rubberneckers. I feel like making a u-turn and taking off, but that’s be chicken shit, so I suck it up and walk toward the crowd.

Suddenly, someone yells, “It’s him!” and the crowd charges me. I’m immediately packed in like a sardine…people, screaming, bumping…trying to touch me. It’s totally insane. I didn’t know anybody cared??? I’m freaked until I see police working their way toward me. “Hunter Hooker?”

“Yes, sir.” They slip their arms in mine and literally lift me through the crowd. Carry me in the store, where my family comes running up in tears. Starts hugging me, crying….it’s totally embarrassing, except for my little sister Ava. I’m overjoyed to see her.

Overall, I’m not sure how to play it. Am I a criminal or what? I mean….I skipped school and totally disappeared for over twenty-four hours…didn’t call or do squat to get in touch with anybody. On the other hand, I was attacked on the bus. no way I want to go back to Griffin where thugs and snobs call the shots.
I mean….the faculty’s totally prejudiced…suck up to the richies and jocks 24/7. It’s seriously fucked up!!!!

We’re interrupted by a bunch of reporters shoving shit in my face….firing questions.

“Hunter, do you think bullying is out of control?”

“Hunter, face the camera.”

“Where have you been hiding?”

“Did you jump in the river?”

“What was your reaction to the food-throwing incident?”

“Do you agree with the headmaster’s comments?”

“Do you have a message for your attackers?”

I throw up my hands. “Guys, please! Can I have time with my family?”

It’s total madness, but we walk to the back where it’s not exactly quiet, but better. Pearl glances at me from up front…rolls her eyes. Know I have to explain everything. Ava’s draped on my shoulder sobbing. Mom…and even Dad, are teary which is surprising.

Mom speaks first: “Hunter, we heard about the terrible hazing. I can’t believe civilized people would do such a thing! We were desperate. Why didn’t you come home, or call?”

Good question…not sure how to answer. I was fed up with the whole scene, school…my absentee, professional parents…Jewel’s weird attitude and inability to commit….same bullshit 24/7.

“Don’t you love us anymore?” Mom asks.

“Yeah, I love you,” I reply, “but I need space…to be myself, and not who everybody wants me to be.”

“There’s been a strong backlash at Griffin,” Dad says. “Parents are outraged such an incident happened. The offenders have been suspended and I’ve complained to the board of trustees. They’re going to give a second look at the way your non-conformity was handled.”

I’m suddenly freaked. I can see it coming a mile away…they want me back at Griffin. “I’m not setting foot in that place…ever!” I exclaim.

Dad chimes in. “Don’t be too hasty. Let’s give the administration a chance to get to the bottom of things. Perkins is a good man.”

I haven’t the patience for the official crap. “Perkins is fine,” I tell him, “but Nutt’s an asshole, and the whole system’s fucked. if you’re different, you don’t have a chance!”

Pearl joins us. Gives my arm a squeeze. “Hunter, I’m sorry to do this to you, but my dad and I couldn’t let your parents go on thinking you’d drowned in river.”

Mom jumps in. “We were horrified when they found your backpack and cell in the trash. We thought you’d been mugged or worse! What happened?”

“I threw them away. I was so fucking sick of the same crap day after day…wanted to be rid of anything that reminded me of it.”

Mom gets teary again. “We had no idea this was going on. I’m so sorry!”

I shrug. “Same bullshit day after day. nothing changes.”

“We’ll get action!” My father says…the big-shot executive.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Mom says. “A girl named Jewel has been calling almost hourly. Who is she?”

“Somebody I met running, a friend. She has a boyfriend.”

Mom shakes her head. “I don’t know. She seems so upset.”

Dad leans over and whispers in my ear. ” Watch your language, son. they’re listening to everything you say.”

Mom glances at a group of policemen standing nearby. “They want to speak to you. There’s been such a furor over this, the police are making a full inquiry.”

I turn to Pearl. “This shop is the best place ever! I’d like to keep working here if you still want me.”

She smiles. “Of course we do, Hunter, but take the time necessary to get things sorted out.” Turns to my parents. “Hunter’s our star salesman…great with people.”

Dad looks amazed I’m not a slacker.

I shake my head. No way I wanna lose the connection to the Darnells “Pearl,” I say. “If it’s okay. I’ll work every night starting tomorrow. I love this business!”

Mom’s freaked. “How in the world will you keep up with your school work and hold down a job?” Mom asks. “Why don’t you work a few days and see how it goes?”

“No!” I reply emphatically….kind of shock everybody. “I’m legal working age, so I want to work…plus, I really like everybody around here. It’s too stuffy where we live.”

Mom’s speechless. Stares in disbelief. Finally mumbles, “I thought you liked the Upper West Side.”

“It’s not bad. The parks and river are great, but the whole school thing is out of control. Calhoun, Collegiate, Riverdale, Griffin are all so elitist.”

Dad’s offended. “That’s not accurate, Hunter. That may have been true years ago, but now they’re totally multicultural, some of the best schools in the country. They attract students from all walks of life.”

I shake my head. “The New York education system sucks. It’s either crummy unionized schools, or prepped-out palaces. Have you read Griffin’s dress code? It’s a joke!”

Mom hates my cursing…totally loses patience. “Hunter, go talk to the police, so we can get out of here.” She knows we’re about to get into it. I get unbelievably pissed the way they swallow so much traditional bullshit.

I spend, like, half an hour talking to the cops. They want to find out if any laws were broken…apparently, the mayor’s using my incident to launch a campaign against bullying. From what they say, it’s obvious my hazers, and even the bus driver, are in big trouble…but they fucking deserve it! Kids should be able to live their lives in peace.

To be continued…Read next episode!