Despite Chad’s preposterous claims, I assure you I’m doing nothing of the sort. Rather, Chad’s hitting me while perched on top of my chest with his sizable girth.
Worse than this, though—and it’s pretty bad, believe me; I’d swear he was made entirely of Cheet-Os, old Whoppers and cement—is that he’s hitting me with my own hands.
I’ve had my hands for most of my life, dear reader, and I guarantee you that if left to their own desires, they’d never stoop to hitting the face and genitals of their master. Tenderly bringing the mouths of long-necked beers to my face, certainly. Grasping anxiously at money, breasts, car stereos through broken windows, I’ll grant you. But never, up until today, direct and continuous smacks to the forehead.
“Ow! Owowow! Stop it!” I yell, my face buffeted by limp slaps from my own Judas appendages.
“Why do you keep hitting yourself?” Chad asks again, ignoring me.
“I don’t know!” I yell back, losing my patience. “Why do you keep putting food in your mouth?”
The question strikes me as a fair one; but it only serves to enrage the enormous butter-fed monster further. His mouth turns downward into a scowl, and he increases his hand-smacking tempo.
“Shut up!” Chad yells. “I’m not fat!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, of course you are,” I say, the voice of reason in a storm of insanity. I get the nagging suspicion I’ve forgotten something, and suddenly I remember.
“Also, make me shut up!” I yell—perhaps foolishly, since I’m basically daring him to pummel me while yelling over the sounds of him pummeling me.
* * *Half an hour earlier I am in the Principal’s Office, staring somewhat guiltily at my shoes. I’d always assumed it would feel different to be sitting in here once you were a member of the faculty—but no. The way Mr. Garrity drums his fingers on the desk, I can tell I’m in totally for it. And not even detention; I’m a teacher, after all. I’m not clear on the laws in this state, but it’s entirely possible he’s now free to kill me.
Stupid Mr. Garrity. Thinks he’s so big. Mr. Garrity? More like Mister… Fucky. Ha. Yes.
Hmm. Okay, that needs work. I leave a mental post-it note to drop back in on it before the interview’s over, in case I suddenly have the need to yell something while being pulled out of the office by the armed policemen.
“So, Mr. Roth,” Mr. Garrity asks pleasantly, slowing down the rhythm of his finger-drumming. “How was your first day at Fairfield High? No problems, I trust? No… incidents?”
It hits me like a sack full of door of old doorknobs: one of those punk kids ratted me out.
“No incidents that I can think of, sir,” I reply. I fold my hands into my lap, trying to look saintly. Ungracious whores. I’d make every last one of them swallow live grenades for this.
“Really? Interesting. Interesting,” Mr. Garrity says in the face of my lie, leafing through some papers on his desk. He finds his reading glasses and holds up the page. “So you didn’t… violently throttle a student to near death this morning?”
“Hmmm,” I say, rolling my eyes up in mock-thought, pretending the throttling was minor enough that it might have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of teaching and stapling and sitting.
“Okay, perhaps one small incident,” I admit, after enough time has passed.
“So… so you admit that you assaulted a member of the student body?” he asks me, incredulous. He works with these kids every day, so I’m wondering why he’s so surprised. Maybe there’s something I’m missing here.
“Wait… I get you,” I say in sudden understanding. “Alright. Okay, ‘No, I didn’t assault a student’.” I tap the chair a few times, then my nose a few more, then—just so we’re crystal—I point a friendly ‘You got me!’ finger at him.
“You fuckin’ guys,” I chuckle.
“Mr. Roth,” Mr. Garrity says, removing his reading glasses with care, “please don’t take this the wrong way, but you strike me as the stupidest person I have ever met.”
“No offense taken,” I reassure him.
“In fact, I’m wondering how on Earth you even could have progressed far enough to become a teacher. Surely our educational system must possess safeguards that filter out people such as yourself from the profession.”
“Our schools are going straight to Hell, sir,” I agree, nodding in commiseration.
“Where did you study again?” he asks me, a note of suspicion mounting in his voice.
“The School of Education,” I reply without hesitation. “In Australia.”
I pause. Does this lie need something else to back it up? At the last minute, I realize maybe it does.
“No worries, mate,” I add. “Apples.” There. Poetry.
“I’m calling the police,” Mr. Garrity explains calmly. I nod in complete understanding, then decide it’s time to spill the beans.
“Mr. Garrity, I’ll be frank,” I say, grabbing the phone from him and putting it back on its rest. “I am an award-winning ace investigative reporter from the most pre-eminent body of journalism of the new century, JayPinkerton.com.”
“Never heard of you.”
“My card,” I say, offering it to him from the recesses of my sleeve without breaking my train of thought. “I was sent here at great expense by my editors to write what may just be the most important story of our time. I was tasked to find out what our nation’s young people thought about the movies of tomorrow.”
Mr. Garrity nods in blank horror, holding my card, which I see now may or may not be an ace of spades, depending on which sleeve I reached for during my speech. Nevertheless, I take his silence as an encouraging sign and plow on.
“I also figured I might be able to sell the data back to the studios—incognito, of course—thus getting three paychecks. One from my publisher, one from Universal Pictures, and then my paycheck for teaching, which—yikes, by the way—is dogshit. I don’t know how you can afford to clothe yourself. Ten bucks says your tie’s made of paper.”
“I don’t…” Mr. Garrity sputters, turning mauve. I head for the final lap.
“Anyway, the little incident this morning was just a misunderstanding. I offered to sell the kids drugs, one of them got lippy, and I had to take the little bastard down. If you don’t give the alpha male a good booting, you lose the respect of the herd, but I don’t have to tell you this stuff. Anyway, one thing led to another, somebody throttled somebody else, you know how it is, and blah blah blah the kid stopped breathing, God knows why.”
Nothing from Mr. Garrity this time, only silence and staring. I can see the finish line.
“And well, I am a practicing doctor. I might not have any fancy education like those stuck-up assholes at the hospital, but I’m pretty good at knowing what parts to take out in a tight spot. So I take out my pen knife and I’m just about to get his esophagus out of him when someone spots a Medic Alert bracelet, gives him his inhaler, and he’s good as new.”
I check my watch. “Ooo! That reminds me. I told him I’d fight him by the bike racks in ten minutes, so I should probably duck out to my car and get lost for the day, before anyone spots me.” I get up to leave. “Are we cool?”
“Please don’t hurt me,” whispers Mr. Garrity, ashen-faced.
“Fantastic,” I agree, pointing a reassuring finger at him. “And listen, if you ever need drugs — guy. Buddy prices.” I give him a thumb’s up as I back out of the door, then close it quickly behind me as I leave.
“Is everything alright, Mr. Roth?” Mr. Garrity’s secretary asks me.
“It’s nothing, Janice. Listen, can you do me a favor? Mr. Garrity’s very tense. I think he might be gay. He’s going through a lot of…” I struggle for words. “…changes right now, and he might not be thinking clearly. He might even ask you to phone the police. I’m sure we both agree how insane that is. It’s a cry for help, Janice. I know you’ll do the right thing. Listen, I’m double-parked.”
I sprint out of the building and through the parking lot, making it to my 1975 Dodge Dart just as the school bell rings its final ring of the day. Whew. I’ve just made it. I fumble for my keys.
“Hey, Roth!” calls a voice behind me, followed by chuckling. I turn around and see a gang of kids approaching, Chad in front.
“I thought we were supposed to meet at the bike rack, Roth,” he taunts. “You pussyin’ out on me?”
“Of course not,” I chortle. “I was just looking for my lucky kickboxing pants. I thought I said the bike racks at three?”
“We got tired of waiting,” says Chad. He brings up his dukes. “Let’s get it on.”
“Certainly,” I say, looking down at my own dukes. Then at the ground. “But first, let me just grab a handful of gravel and throw it in your face.”
“What? That doesn’t even OWWOWOAGHH!! Get him off me! He’s biting my EAR!”
* * *Despite my decision to cheat every step of the way, at some point Chad is on top of me, pummeling my own face with my own hands. It strikes me that this, above even a pantsless heart attack on the can, would be an immensely embarrassing way die; crushed to death by a portly teenager in a Slipknot shirt while trying to find out what he and his friends thought about Fantastic Four.
“Wait! Stop hitting me!” I say, my brain flailing for an out. “Linkin Park’s in town this weekend, right?”
Chad momentarily stops wailing on me. “Yeah? So?”
“So if you get off me and let me grab my wallet,” I explain, “I’ll buy tickets for you and your friends.”
Chad mulls this over in that giant cow head of his.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” he finally says.
“Don’t you trust Linkin Park, man?” I reply, incredulous. “The Park? You’ve changed, man.”
“You have changed, man,” agrees a friend with distaste. Reluctantly, Chad gets off me. I reach for my wallet.
“Okay,” I say, gasping for breath, with two enormous cheeks imbedded on my shirt like round faces on a pillow. “So how much are tickets?”
“Sixty bucks each,” says Chad. “And don’t back out on this, or I’ll friggin’ pound on you.”
“I understand,” I say, pulling my trusty Beretta 96 semi-automatic out of the back pocket of my jeans and firing a few plump rounds off into the air.
I pick myself up off the ground while they scatter, and try my best to limp to my car, with the sounds of distant sirens getting closer. I toss the gun in the back, hop into the driver’s seat and, after a few false starts, manage to get the Dart going. I’m a ghost of a whisper of a memory by the time the fuzz shows.
* * *Postscript: my article had originally ended as I’d written above, with me driving out of Fairfield High’s parking lot as quickly as my Dodge Dart would allow, barely eluding the police once again. However, my editor Karla suggested I take a paragraph or two to address some of the larger themes at play in this article.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I asked. “It’s over. I escaped from the police.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “Except I’d set it up for you to teach undercover there for a month. You were there for one day.”
“Right,” I say. She’s lost me.
“During which time you throttled a student, got into a fist fight and fired several rounds into the air in the parking lot.”
“All sound points,” I agree.
“A bit off-mission, is what I’m trying to say,” she tells me. “I was hoping you might be able to salvage the article.”
“The article’s fine,” I tell her.
“Or you won’t get paid,” she clarifies. Damn.
The modern teenager has long been a mysterious beast. Yet never has this been more true than in the Information Age, when most young minds have been exposed to a continuous stream of information and entertainment their whole lives. Perhaps because of this, predicting which of these near-infinite flickering and random infobizfax soundbites will attract their attention next like so much bright-colored bolts of cloth is a fool’s game, best left to entertainment journalists. For my part, I leapt headlong into the gaping maw of that beast, and though I returned empty handed on the “inner workings of the modern teen” score, I consider myself lucky simply that I lived to tell the tale.
I’d like to think, even though my time spent teaching at Fairfield High was brief (one morning), that I perhaps changed the lives of my students in some way. Because I know they changed mine. I’ll never forget what’s-her-name, or the horse-faced one, or that tall glass of water, for the lessons they for ever taught me about… well, life and whatnot.
Yes, truly the modern teenager is a mystery. But as I’ve completed my two-paragraph summation and thus earned my paycheck for this piece, a mystery it will have to remain. Until my next assignment, dear readers, I remain, as ever, your friend and intellectual superior.