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By James Robb
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 James Robb
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe monotony of detainment in the unventilated classroom quickly got to my head, and my friend, the one person worth talking to, slept heavily in the desk beside my own. I looked at him and rolled my eyes. It was the first time I'd seen him in about three months, and he still found sleep to be more opportune than a conversation. His name was Luca Romano, a single child from Howard Beach, Queens.
He was Sicilian, made obvious by his jet black hair and olive skin. He'd moved here in the fourth grade when his dad got a job at some tech corporation. Mr. Romano was too busy with work to raise Luca, and spent most of his time off jamming women around the office like a printer cartridge.
Like his old man, Luca was troublesome. Adults called him names, like jail-bound and juvie-headed. Even that morning I remember wondering how many kids in that class would be switched into another when their parents found out he was sharing the same space with their litter. His mom practically disowned him by time he'd reached high school. She probably saw him as a spitting image of what she'd divorced, but I think all he really wanted was to have his dad in his life, even if it meant a phone call to pick him up from the police station. Generations have rolled in their graves at the acts ours pulls for attention, and Luca had them spinning in their coffins like eggbeaters.
He let out a loud snore, and Mrs. Williams realized he'd been sleeping through her lecture. She motioned me to wake him up, and I happily complied, trying a few different things before smacking him on the head with my textbook. Luca shot up in his desk, his mouth covered in spit. He wiped his lips and looked around the room in bewilderment.
"What the fuck?" he moaned.
"I'm sorry about that; she made me do it," I explained.
Luca shrugged and adjusted his shirt.
"I was having a vision, man; you ruined it!"
I examined the dent I'd made in the book.
"Was it another sticky one about one of the prophets?" I joked.
"Not exactly, but I won't rule out that it wasn't a religious experience," Luca told me. He cleared his throat and put up his hands to help him tell his story. "So I was at the zoo, right? I looked through the bars of all of the cages, but there weren't any animals in them. The whole place was empty. After I searched a few different cages, the sun started to get to me, so I sat down on this bench next to a tree to get some shade. The next thing I knew, a voice from up above me said, 'Luca, take me down.'"
"What happened next?" I asked.
"Well naturally, I jumped my ass off of the bench and ran like a fuck who finds out he's got a kid. However, curiosity set in after a while, so I went back to check it out. When I did, I saw that it was peacock pruning itself up in the branches. I couldn't figure out how it got up there since peacocks can't fly, but they can't talk either, so I didn't think about it too much. So anyway, it says to me again, 'Luca, take me down.' I thought about climbing up to get it, but I got a real sharp pain in the back of my head and woke up. You think my dream might've meant something, though, like maybe the peacock was angel?"
There was a long pause of silence between us where I couldn't think of words to insult him with. My speech had been taken before by the shock of pain, but never by sheer stupidity, the kind that puzzles and penetrates all logic. In other words, it was a model case of mind-fucking.
"Luca, peacocks can fly; they can roost in trees or fly to escape danger," I finally managed. "If it was an angel, it would tell you to read up on natural selection, you dumb fucking ape."
Luca's mouth dropped in disbelief, like he'd been exposed to fresh air for the first time or a really mangy flasher.
"That's fucking ridiculous!" he yelled.
The girl in front of him turned around and looked back at us. I smiled at her, but she scowled and continued to take notes.
Well fuck you too, I thought.
Luca put his head back down on his desk and started to hum to himself quietly. I had an important question to ask him but it'd have to wait until he'd come down from his high; a time when he wasn't daydreaming about the flight of counter-culture-colored pheasants.
I started to listen to Mrs. Williams. After all, she'd been talking for about a half an hour and I hadn't gotten much out of it other than sore eyes and a headache. There was this one large predicament that kept me detached from her. The way it hung over the lips, red and prominent, made me fidget every time my eyes caught it: a mole crisis—though surely an understatement.
"There are to be no cell phones out for any reason whatsoever. If I see it, I will take it from you. If you have any questions about that, you can go downstairs to Dr. Sullivan's office and discuss it with him. I also don't allow food or drinks. This room is carpeted, so I think that's pretty self-explanatory. Are there any more questions before we begin the overview of this semester's curriculum?"
The girl in front of Luca asked about the policy on gum. I watched the mole on Mrs. Williams' face rise up into a snarl, riding the wave of her lip's motion. It made my leg twitch a little. "Thank you for reminding me, Emily. There is to be absolutely no gum in my classroom," Mrs. Williams said, followed by disgruntled moans.
She was not moved by the loathing symphony of the students. "Last year some of the kids thought it would be funny to stick their gum under my desks, and I had to go to hell and back to get it off. I'm not going through the same thing this year. Once again, if you have any questions about that you can go downstairs and talk to Dr. Sullivan about it."
Enough of this, I thought.
"Hey, Luca," I said.
My friend sprung up in his seat like he had done before, stricken wide-eyed with terror.
"Did you say my name?" he asked.
I laughed and nodded.
"Yeah, I was trying to get your attention," I said.
Luca took a deep breath and eased up.
"I thought I got called on. That scared the shit out of me. What do you want?"
I pulled a bag of chips from out of my backpack and held it out in front of him.
"Here, take some before she turns her head," I told him.
Luca went wild at the sight of food, and for a split second I saw some truth in reefer madness. He leapt from his chair to take the bag from my hands and then crashed to the floor. The entire room watched him as he stood back up and got into his seat, holding the bag above his head like a trophy.
Mrs. Williams quickly walked over to his desk and put her hands on her hips. I pretended to be oblivious to what had just happened, but I felt her brood over us like a storm—her mole at the eye of it, the Great Red Spot by definition. Luca grinned at her as he shoveled a handful of chips into his mouth.
"How's it going?" he asked casually.
His indifference was not humored.
"Could you please tell me why you're eating food in my classroom after I just went over my policy on food?" Mrs. Williams asked.
A simple sorry probably would've sufficed as an answer instead of an actual reason, but Luca started to overthink the question, a tendency of someone blazed and helpless to wanting to be a smartass. Luca used his eyes to search the ceiling for words and licked his lips slowly like he was trying to appear in some kind of state of deep thought. He cleared his throat and put up his hands again.
"Well, when you take a think about it, uh I mean think about it, chips aren't actually food. They're separate. Like, they have their own ways," he said, looking sure of himself at first and then giggling uncontrollably.
Mrs. Williams sighed, letting her arms fall back down to her sides.
"I've been a teacher for fourteen years and I'm still amazed by the immaturity of some of the sophomores," she lectured to the class. "You'd think that by the end of the freshman year, the petty, childish behavior would be left behind. It's a shame for those of you who are here to learn; your education is constantly interrupted by it."
I was too stunned to listen to any more of her rant. Somehow, she'd failed to realize that Luca Romano, my good Sicilian friend, was higher than anyone I'd ever seen. A teacher for fourteen years but an idiot since conception, I thought. Of course the conflict was not over yet because Luca was still eating the chips as though the confrontation had meant nothing to him. Mrs. Williams held out her hand in front of him and put the other back onto her hip.
"Give me the bag," she said.
A look of fear swept over Luca and he hugged it tightly.
"No, these are his. I can't just pawn them off," he yelled, nodding to me.
Mrs. Williams turned and faced my desk, suddenly putting me under the heat. Her mole was like the beam of a laser, ready to zap my ass if poor communication pulled the trigger. I tried to rationalize with her like any hostage would attempt, but she wouldn't have it. Besides, at that age, most of what I wanted to say in those situations came out as panicked stutters. She pointed to the door, her face pale with anger except, for the mole, which smoldered like an ember.
"Go to the office and get your schedules changed. I don't want to see either of you in my class again, is that clear?"
Luca and I nodded and got up to leave. I tripped over someone's backpack and the class erupted into laughter, making me smile in embarrassment and then slam the door behind us as we left. Luca looked around the empty hall and yawned.
"I'm glad we're out of that place; this is a lot better anyway," he said.
"Why don't you go fuck yourself?" I shouted, finally letting off on him.
He seemed dazed by my outburst.
"I saved your chips for you," he said.
I grabbed the bag from him and threw it on the ground.
"Why'd you do that?" he asked as he frantically scrambled to the floor to pick it up.
"This isn't about the chips, Luca," I sighed as I began to walk down the hall.
I heard him eating from the bag again and running to catch up with me.
"Well if it wasn't about the chips then why'd you take it out on them?" he asked.
"Don't play dumb with me. You know exactly what this about. We went through this bullshit last year," I said.
"You gave me the bag. I was sleeping when she went over the rules. How was I supposed to know what they were?" Luca asked.
"No, you took it from my hands and then fell onto your pasta-eating ass. When she asked you why you fucked up, you didn't say you were sorry. Instead, you gave her a spacey answer and then told her the bag was mine. Now we're on our way to explain to the principal why we're switching out of English on the first day of school, and I get to be the one who does all of the talking because you're way too fucked up to form a sentence without being a wiseguy. Not only that, you look higher than a pair of fucking giraffe's nuts. That's the situation, Luca, in case you're too busy creating it to tell that it's happening."
I started to storm off in anger but turned around again when I heard a loud thud. Luca was on the floor laughing hysterically. "How the fuck is this funny to you?" I asked.
"I can't talk to you right now," my friend said through tears. Eventually, I had to laugh too. In all the years I'd know Luca, I'd never seen him so happy.
"All right, just forget it," I said as I helped him off of the ground. "You'll never feel bad about this anyway, will you?"
"I wouldn't count on it," Luca said.
"Well fuck it then, we should go get something to eat when we're done talking to Dr. Sullivan," I told him. The mention of food seemed to pull Luca out of his giggling state.
"Yeah we should get some pancakes," he suggested as he started to put drops in his eyes. I went through my pockets, looking for my wallet.
"Where the hell would we get pancakes from?" I asked.
"I don't know. Someone should build a pancake store by the art room or something," Luca proposed.
"Well that's never going to happen, so where do you want to go that's close? We could just go to the school store. I've only got five bucks on me."
"I think I have a ten. What if we go to the grocery store and pick up some pancake batter?"
"No, we have only an hour and a half before the next period. We aren't going to be able to buy them, make them at your place, and then eat them before it's time to get back for class. Let's just get something from the cafeteria," I said.
"Okay, well we should buy the pancake batter after that then," he said.
"How would that even be an option Luca?" I laughed. "You want us to take more time from the time we already don't have?" Luca raised his eyebrows and looked at me like it was a trick question.
"I don't know. Will it get us pancakes?"
I took a deep breath and started down the stairs to the west wing office, figuring he'd follow behind me. I saw Kurt Darling and Bruce Maxwell at the bottom of the stairs, and walked over to say hello. They were also baked, but unlike Luca, it was usual for me to see them that way. I'd known both only since the year before, from a botany class that we'd shared. Kurt had gotten suspended halfway into the second semester for smoking pot in the greenhouse—a bad idea by anyone's standards, but comical nonetheless.
His hair was long and brown, and he wore a green beanie over it that reeked of bud that only the most trained lungs could handle. Bruce, on the other hand, usually wore a funky puzzle-piece jacket over his t-shirts and his hat always sat either backward or to the side on his head. He had a pair of silver-rimmed sunglasses that he kept on his face most of the time. Since he was the shortest person in our group of friends, we always picked on him about his height.
"What's up, Kurt?" I asked. "How was your summer, man?" Kurt laughed and gave me a weird, uncoordinated high-five.
"It was ridiculous. Bruce and I just got slammed every day. I can't believe we're back in school already."
Bruce checked both sides of the hall for anyone watching and then pulled a baggie out of the front pocket of his jacket.
"Take a look at this," he said. "It's some Blueberry. A college kid who works at the bowling alley slung it to us. It's beautiful, huh?" I scoped the halls the way Bruce had just a second before and grabbed the baggie.
"God that smells amazing," I admitted. "You guys shouldn't be holding at school though. Haven't you learned from getting fucked last year, Kurt?"
Kurt sighed and adjusted his beanie. "Nah, well the judge was a major cunt but I played her game so most of my shit got dropped. I just had to pass a few piss tests and agree to go to some group meetings. I had to take a yoga class too. I hacky sack like a fucking ninja now," he said. "So what've you been up to?"
I took a deep breath and shrugged. "Nothing new, really, just trying to make things work with Cassie I guess."
Kurt raised his eyebrows up to the point where they almost reached his hairline and disappeared under his beanie. "You mean you still haven't fucked her?" he asked. "You spent the whole summer with her and you still haven't even fucked her, man?"
"It's not my fault," I said. "What am I supposed to do, tell her to stop being depressed about her parents' divorce and spread her legs for me?"
Kurt shook his head.
"No, dump her ass. Who needs a moody bitch around when you have a mother?" he asked.
Asshole, I thought.
Bruce stepped in and offered some compassion. "Don't worry, man, she'll warm up to you. She's just insecure right now with the way things are going. The best thing you can do is offer her support. Just keep doing what you're trying and she'll appreciate it eventually."
Kurt waved his arms like a red flag. "Fuck all of that!" he yelled. "If you don't make a move soon she's going to think you don't want her. You tried the nice guy thing the whole summer and it didn't get you any closer to dropping that V-card, did it?"
"That's not the only thing that matters to me, you know; I love her," I told him.
He and Bruce both had a good laugh at that.
"You're fifteen years old; don't insult my intelligence," Kurt said. "The last time I checked, fifteen-year-olds don't look up love stories online when their parents aren't around and jack-off to the one-liners."
Excerpted from Corona Rapture by James Robb Copyright © 2011 by James Robb. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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