Episode 37, Part I – The Big Day
The next day, my first day back at school, is surreal to put it mildly. I figure I’ll take the bus, but when I look outside, there’s a new swarm of media clones. Fuck! Don’t they get it? The big disappearance is over…maybe they heard about the race…the big confrontation, or maybe they’re just covering my return to the Griffin chamber of horrors? Who the fuck knows, but my heart sinks. I just want my fucking life back…minus the assholes!
I inform Mom, who calls a limo, which totally sucks, because kids bust your balls about being a pussy and not riding the bus or subway…plus it’s the kind of privileged bullshit which turns my stomach! After that, she buzzes the doorman, Pete, and they figure out an escape plan to sneak me out the alley, which is sort of absurd, because I still end up on the sidewalk a couple doors down.
Pete takes me down the service elevator, and we get out in the basement which, in contrast to the lobby, is a total shit hole…hasn’t been fixed up in, like, fifty years. The place is a maze of shadowy, rat-infested storage rooms filled with machinery, old furniture and limitless crap of every description. We take a few twists and turns…end up in the alley where I pull up my hood and run for it….like fucking Justin Bieber.
The limo’s up the block on Broadway, so I’ve got a ways to go, and as I’m running, I hear shouts, and the fucking reporters start chasing me! I crank up to full speed, and beat them to the limo. Jeez…what a fucking hassle! Like a paparazzi drama…but real!
One reporter tries to block the limo, but my driver leans on the horn, and we fishtail onto Broadway, barely avoiding a multi-car pile-up.
School’s wild too. A boatload of kids, plus some reporters, seem to know I’m due, and are outside with posters. Chloe’s holding a big one that says “We love you Hunter!” which is really sweet…and as I wade through the crowd, kids pat me on the back, tell me they saw me on TV and the net.
Frankly, I’m dying to get back into my normal routine, but the minute I get to homeroom, Mrs. Hyde tells me the headmaster wants to see me, so I hoof down there. How do real celebrities handle all the fucking intrusions???
As I approach the office, I see Nutt-job outside the door, but he pretends not to see me. Guess he’s pissed I’m popular for a change, and his ass-kissers are suspended. It’s very weird the way so many kids love me all of a sudden. In the hall, I’m the center of attention…even without extreme clothes. Due to the craziness, I’ve decided to follow the dress code for a change…blend in with the crowd. Unfortunately, my dress-code duds were stuffed in the corner of my closet, so they’re wrinkled and dusty…feel like I’m sabotaging my fashion image, but at least I’m not a starched prepster.
Ms. Simmons smiles as I walk in the office. “Hunter, my goodness, you’re here under different circumstances today!”
I nod, “Yup, I’m not a juvenile delinquent for a change.”
She suddenly looks concerned. “Are you okay? It must have been awful on the bus!”
“It was seriously disgusting…out of control. Nobody should have to endure that stuff!” She’s stunned by my strong reaction…and I am too, so I apologize…no point antagonizing an admirer! Still, the fiendish faces stick in my head. It was definitely horrible…like somebody flipped a switch and everybody went totally bat shit. In a way, I’m not sure it was all about me. Kids are always looking for excuses to go fucking wacko.
Ms. Simmons interrupts my thoughts. “The Headmaster can see you now.”
I walk into the office…the Headmaster’s standing at his desk. Looks me up and down. “You look conventional today, Hunter.”
“Thanks, sir. There’s so much going on, I didn’t want to cause a mass uprising.”
“That’s very prudent. The reaction has been strong…not just here, but throughout the city?”
“Yeah, and media goons are on the prowl. I didn’t want to look like a freak and complicate things.There are a lot of ramifications.”
“How do you mean?”
“I dunno. I used to think attention was great, but it’s not so fantastic if it attracts psychos, and people who want to use you.”
He nods, tells me to sit…and he does too. Perkins seems more relaxed than I’ve seen him…like we’re just two guys bullshitting away. He’s not big on protocol and formality like the Nutt-job…doesn’t mind letting the conversation take you wherever.
“So, Hunter,” he says. “We’ve carried out our own investigation, but I’d like to hear your side of the story.”
I shrug. “No point rehashing the food throwing. Honestly, I’m not into antagonizing people…I like most of my classmates, but I dress differently, because I want to be myself, and the dress code seems incredibly crazy and old-fashioned. I mean, have you read it lately? It’s like an advertisement for preppiness. If you’re not into that, you’re screwed.”
Perkins leans toward me. “Point duly noted, but on behalf of the school, I’d like to apologize for the whole incident. It was barbaric and cruel, and we’ve made that very clear to the entire student body…made the school a no-bullying zone. The impulsive actions of a few hooligans resulted in an untenable situation for you, your family, the school and the authorities.”
“Thanks. It was bad. Everyone went totally nuts.”
“Clearly. Are you feeling better now?”
“Sort of, but it taught me a lot.”
“Well, after it happened, I was determined to drop out of school and run away for good, so I went up to Harlem, and got a job in a cool clothing store. Everybody appreciates my taste and opinions up there, and I even have a place to stay if I want.”
“Do your parents know?”
“Yes, sure. That’s how they found me. The store owners saw my picture on the news and called them.”
“So, if they hadn’t called, you’d still be there?”
“Definitely! Up there my talents are worth something. Here, everybody wants to convert me into something I’m not.”
“I dunno…a businessman, a jock. Whatever’s socially acceptable.”
Perkins is not as relaxed anymore. He’s leaning across the desk rubbing his forehead like he’s in pain. “Hunter, it concerns me to hear you say that. You’re an excellent student…the kind we want to cultivate. You participate actively in student life…you’re creative, interesting, and have well-formed opinions. I hate to think of you leaving Griffin.”
I feel bad. I like Perkins and a bunch of the other faculty, but the one’s I don’t like are so bad, nothing makes up for them. They forget they’re at Griffin to teach, and not instill snob culture…or force kids to grow up, whatever that means. And, a lot of them have superiority complexes…because they’re older and kids look up to them…but, they take advantage of it…buy into their own bullshit.
Perkins watches me expectantly. Obviously wants me to commit to staying.
“Don’t worry, sir,” i tell him. “I’m sticking around for now, but I’m definitely keeping my job too. I love it!”
“How are your classmates reacting?”
“Fine, but the ones that got suspended are pissed. Max and I are having a challenge race at 4:00 this afternoon, 79th and Riverside.”
Perkins eyes widen. “A what?”
“A five-mile race…sort of a fight to the finish.” I fake a laugh, so it doesn’t sound too intense.
Perkins smiles. “I suppose that’s a good way to vent hostility. Are you a good runner? You’re not on the track team.”
“Not bad. I love it. I’d run all day if I could.”
“Sounds interesting. maybe I’ll come and watch.”
To be continued…Read next episode!