Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don't be late to class. Don't ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific NorthwestNirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an optionLuis will destroy him. Told in Sam's raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words.
About the Author
Patrick Flores-Scott currently teaches struggling elementary readers and math students. He's written for theatre and the slam poetry stage. Jumped In is his first novel. He lives Seattle with his wife and two young boys.
Read an Excerpt
By Patrick Flores-Scott
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2013 Patrick Flores-Scott
All rights reserved.
nir·va·nan def: an ultimate experience of some pleasurable emotion such as harmony or joy
Nir·va·nan def: a legendary kick-ass rock-and-roll band from my hometown of Aberdeen, Washington
I'm thinking about Rupe and Dave.
My buddies from Aberdeen, out on the Washington coast. It's where I used to live before I was "temporarily" moved away. And it's where Rupe and Dave and I used to dream of becoming the next Nirvana.
The next hard-rocking, ass-kicking, world-famous band from Aberdeen.
A movie rolls in my brain. I'm watching us fish for cutthroat trout from the muddy banks of the Wishkah River. I see Rupert smiling at me with his big ol' buckteeth, his long, rust-red hair flowing in the wind as he baits his hook with a massive, wriggling night crawler. Dave zips back and forth along the bank, a blur of Coke-bottle glasses, dirty blond buzz cut and turbocharged ADHD, pointing and shouting, "Cast here! Cast here, guys!"
We're just little seventh graders fishing and having a good time, but all we can do is argue about Nirvana.
We argue about what Nirvana would be like now if Kurt Cobain hadn't decided to leave this world.
I argue that "Scoff" is a way better song than "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is awesome, but there's no way it rocks as hard as "Scoff" does.
And Rupe and Dave argue over who should play what when we start our own band.
We wipe the mud and worm and fish muck off our hands and rock-paper-scissors it for who's gonna be Kurt and who's gonna be bassist Krist Novoselic, the two original members of Aberdeen's Nirvana before they added drummer Dave Grohl and became Seattle's Nirvana.
We take our Nirvana Tour of Aberdeen and walk in the shadows of our idols, sneaking into Aberdeen High School, strutting the halls like we don't give a shit, peeing in the weeds on the banks of the Wishkah, smoking stolen cigarettes beneath the pier at night.
Stalking their ghosts.
Because those guys had something we want.
And we're not gonna stop until we find it.
We hang out at the abandoned old house where Kurt and Krist and a parade of drummers used to rehearse before their band had a name. Dave carves our initials into the peeling white shingles, and we stuff our faces with fat blackberries plucked from the tangle of vines taking over the yard. Sprawled out on the front porch, Rupe writes list after list of possible band names while I scrawl lyrics in my blue spiral notebook and imagine my voice belting those songs out over thumping drums and bass.
We dream of making Aberdeen rock again.
Making the country rock again.
Making the world rock again.
On summer nights, my mom stuffs us full of her incredible barbecue chicken and homemade mac and cheese and s'mores. Lying in the tall grass, under the ancient cedar tree, we press Play on the boom box and lose ourselves in "Scoff," "Paper Cuts," "Swap Meet." We leave our troubles behind, shredding air guitars, pounding imaginary snare drums and tom-toms as we sing like rock stars and float way up to the clouds — then higher and higher, and far, far away, to a whole 'nother world of head-banging nirvana.
That was then.CHAPTER 2
FLEEING PUGET HIGH SCHOOL
I'm on a pissed-off walk in the gray, drizzling rain.
I'm thinking way too much.
I can't stop fucking thinking.
My socks suck up water through worn-out boots. Watching for potholes and mud puddles is nothing but a frustrating waste of time. You're wet if you do, wet if you don't.
It's just the way it is around here.
From Puget High School to my grandparents' house, it's four blocks up Twenty-fourth Street. Eight massive blocks down the steep, never-ending hill on 216th. Every step of the way, the fir trees drip gray and the fat black clouds droop low, dumping buckets of rain into the murky waters of Puget Sound. It cracks me up how people here in Des Moines, and up in Seattle, all love to say that this is one of the most beautiful places in the country. All the evergreen trees and Vashon Island and the Olympic Mountains to the west. Massive, snowcapped Mount Rainier to the southeast. ...
But who gives a rat's ass if you never get to see any of it? This place is covered in a blanket of gray mush for about nine months a year and it wears on you. It's like the dripping, wet gray takes everything you could see, all the nice stuff, and pulls it out of focus so there's nothing in front of you but fuzz.
Nothing to distract you.
Nothing outside of you to think about.
So you're forced to turn inward, to go deep into the world of your own dark mind.
And that's the last place I wanna go.
So on days like this, I fight to stop the dark thoughts. I struggle to fill my brain with lyrics. I try to think about the most useless crap I can come up with. I think about stupid kids and the stupid things I see them do at school. I think about idiot teachers and the idiotic stuff they say. And I make up lyrics about them.
Lyrics exposing their stupidity.
Lyrics for great songs I'll never write, for cool bands I'll never join.
I spin the loudest Nirvana — the old stuff — the wailing wall of sound stuff, and I fight to leave this place, to float away, to get back to the coast. Back to Aberdeen. Back to Rupe. Back to Dave.
Back to my mom the way she used to be.
But today, the music doesn't come.
I'm stuck solid on the dark, wet, messed-up side of my brain. And it's all the fault of one kid.
Luis Cárdenas.CHAPTER 3
A THUG IN NO-MAN'S-LAND
It happens in Ms. Cassidy's tenth-grade English class.
"Scholars to the ready!"
It's one of Cassidy's spring-in-her-step days.
"I'm sooo excited about this poetry unit, people! Seriously!"
She bounces around talking about metaphor and the senses and the end-of-the-unit poetry slam. "Poetry is meant to be spoken and heard," she says. "So we're going to have to trust each other."
I look around at my "trusted peers," and I know I'm not gonna write a fucking thing for this woman.
"For today's assignment, we're talkin' personification. When might one choose to personify?"
Cassidy's voice melts into the never-ending drone of jumbo jets skimming Puget High School's rooftops. I figure I'm home free for the period, so I pull my hood over my head and tight around my face and lean onto my desk.
Then the door to the class opens and he walks through it.
A Mexican gangster with a shaved head and a linebacker's body, he saunters on in and everyone — everyone — shifts their focus. All eyes are on this kid.
It's like you can hear the shift. Like you can feel it. Like a bunch of tipsy, whale-watching tourists scrambling from one side of the ship deck to the other to catch a glimpse of a breaching orca and they almost tip the boat over.
He's one of those types. The type that every girl wants to do and every boy wants to be. The boys all wanna be him 'cuz the girls all wanna do him. The girls all wanna do him 'cuz he's a bad boy and girls love bad boys. Or maybe it's that he's six feet tall and good-looking.
He hands Cassidy his transfer slip. What does she do?
She looks right at me.
It's the seat!
The seat next to mine. No-Man's-Land. The empty seat I fight to keep clear in every class. So no one bugs me. No partners. No one to turn and talk to like they're always telling us to do. That empty seat means teachers forget I exist. It means I don't have to act like a fake-ass dumbshit like everybody else. And when the bell rings and class starts, I can lay my head down and disappear under my coat and under my hood and escape from everything.
But right now, that seat is the only empty spot in the whole class.
Cassidy starts walking him my way and they're all looking.
Looking at him.
Looking at me.
I feel the glares pelt my skin. My heart thumps hard. The blood rushes to my brain and the red to my face. Cassidy and the kid keep on coming my way and I'm like, Do not sit there. DO NOT SIT DOWN! The words ricochet inside my head. I glare at Cassidy with all I got, hoping I can change her mind.
She ignores me and the thug does it. He sits in No-Man's-Land.
"Sam, this is Luis Cárdenas," Ms. Cassidy says fake sweetly.
I don't say hi. I don't say anything to him.
And he doesn't say anything to me.
He just turns away, in slow motion. It's like an action movie where you see a creepy dude for the first time, and you just know he's gonna end up being the bad guy. And he's gonna do something awful to someone before it's over.
He sits there and looks straight ahead without a word.
I look straight ahead too.
To show him I don't care he's there.
We go almost the whole period without even looking at each other.
Until I sneak a quick one.
And I see it.
He's got the gnarliest, sickest scar on his neck — the side of his neck facing me. Four inches long, just beneath his jawline. It's one of those thick ones that puffs up like a mini mountain range.
I space out and visualize Luis getting his neck slashed in so many ways.
A rival gang member stabs him in a dark back alley.
A bunch of his cholo homies jump him and cut him for his initiation.
He stands in front of the bathroom mirror and coldly does the deed himself because he knows it's gonna make him look like a badass.
The pictures keep on coming until ... "What are you looking at?" One mighty vein pops red from his forehead. He clenches his jaw, glaring at me like I'm a complete idiot. Like he's about to kill me.
"Nothin', man." I turn away, trembling.
He huffs and shakes his head.
I see kids tap one another on the shoulder, pointing. Whispers are firing from all directions. Their eyes are accusing me, wondering what I did to him, what I said to him to piss him off. And I know they're all wondering what method Luis is gonna choose to kick my ass.
I plant my head back on my desk and throw my hood over it. I try to block out all the eyes. All the whispers.
I fight hard to breathe.
I plead with my heart to slow its massive pounding.
I wait for the blood to flow from my face and make a pact with myself: No staring. No peeks. No glances.
I'm not looking his way ever again.
Dearest Poets of Room 108,
We've read and discussed examples of personification in the poems of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and William Carlos Williams. Soon we'll discuss examples of personification in your poetry. Write about an item from your daily life. Give that "thing" human characteristics. This will shed light on both the human experience and the subject of your poem. Deep stuff, poets. You're deep kids, so I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, make me proud. Make me weep, laugh, think. ... Make me happy I went into teaching. Please! Now get to it!
Your brilliant ideas:
My Scar: An Old Man in the Community Pool
My scar is old man Pyle
Floating alone in the Highline Pool
The shriveled viejito grandpa
Smiling in his tiny Speedo
With skin like prune fruit leather
That sags and folds and droops
You stare at Mr. Pyle in his microscopic trunks
Your jaw drops
Your eyebrows scrunch
You don't want to look
But no matter how hard you try
You just can't stop looking
— Luis Cárdenas
The final bell is still ringing as I bust through Puget's front doors.
The whole situation's exploded.
The gangster is not just in Cassidy's class. He's in all my classes. All six! And the brilliant teachers of Puget High School have seated him in No-Man's-Land in every one.
Every single frickin' one.CHAPTER 5
Gray skies cave in, shrinking the world. The rain pours harder.
I want out of this weather.
I want my bed.
I'm so close I can see Ginny and Bill's house.
But I can't move. I'm stuck boots deep in muddy water, trying to stop his voice. Gilbert's voice. That damn parrot is camped out in my head alongside Luis and the rest of them. And he's screaming it! I'm nowhere near the front door but I hear him louder than ever. I press my hands over my ears, into my brain. I fight to get Krist's bass line from "Scoff" thumping and Kurt's gravel voice surging in ...
But there is no way.
Gilbert takes me back.
Back to the day my mom's life fell apart. When she lost her crappy job canning juice at the cranberry plant in Aberdeen. When her idiot boyfriend, Lance, socked her in the jaw and she decided we needed to get away from Aberdeen and head to Grandma Ginny and Grandpa Bill's.
It was just after school let out after seventh grade. I had plans to go salmon fishing with Rupe and his dad. Dave had gotten a real electric guitar from his uncle and Rupe's grandma had bought him an old beat-up drum set. We were shopping for a used bass for me. This high school kid was selling what he claimed was the very first bass Krist Novoselic ever played. Who knows if it was true or bullshit? The point is we were finally growing our hair out. Finally kick-starting our band.
I picture myself reassuring Rupe and Dave that we'll be up and rocking as soon as I get back in a couple weeks. I tell them my mom needs this little break. I tell them she deserves it after what she's been through lately.
I grab some clothes and my blue lyrics notebook. My mom and I hop in the car and set out east on the Olympic Highway.
In the afternoon we get to Ginny and Bill's little Des Moines rambler. We walk in the door and there's a birdcage right there. Ginny introduces us to her new pet, Gilbert. She says he's an African Grey parrot and she calls him my cousin. She tells us he talks, but he's shy.
They feed us ham sandwiches and potato salad for lunch. Bill — all gussied up in his flannel shirt, bolo tie, and cowboy boots — motions for me to join him for a Fudgsicle in the living room. He shows off a model of the Boeing 737 jet he and Ginny used to build before they retired from the factory. He shows me snapshots from his hunting days, laughing from the gut about the time he and his buddy Anderson got treed by an elk.
From the kitchen, Ginny yells, "Don't believe a word that old man says, Sam." We all laugh and I figure these couple weeks won't be so bad.
He goes on with the stories and when he finally takes a breath, I hear Ginny — perky positive Grandma Ginny — turn serious in the kitchen, asking my mom all these questions like How long do you think you'll be, Anne? Do you have friends there? Wait, who is that again? Do you have a job? Money?
This whole thing is sounding like a big deal. So I head in there to see what's going on and my mom is like, I have to. I need sun. I have to go.
The words are a massive kick in the gut.
How long are we going for, Mom?
She grabs me by the shoulders and looks at me with a plastered-on smile. She says she has to leave me here in Des Moines for a short stay. She's heading for Phoenix, Arizona, to see an old friend from high school and get her head on straight. Then she'll come get me and we'll go back to Aberdeen and start over.
Excerpted from Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott. Copyright © 2013 Patrick Flores-Scott. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Fleeing Puget High School,
A Thug in No-Man's-Land,
Ojos Means "Eyes" Means "You Better Watch It",
I'm So Dead,
One Thing in Common,
I Won't Do That Again,
Tell Us All About the Life, Gangster Boy,
On a String,
Luis and the Go-To Girl,
Contemplating the Vortex,
The Revenge of Cassidy,
Luis and Sam, Meet Luisandsam,
I Can Take Care of Myself, You Crappy Teacher,
The New Deal,
Big Fat Stupid Joke,
The Only Way,
Not Getting Excited About Writing Poetry,
Must Be Nice,
Making Sure It Doesn't Suck,
Yelling at an Old Man,
The Blue Notebook,
Don't Look Back,
The Next Day,
Up Against It,
My Way or the Highway,
On a Team,
What Do You Say?,
Back on the Horse,
Another Shoe Drops,
The Moment of Truth,
When It Comes Right Down to It, I'm a Big Fat Baby,
The Twinge of Wanting,
What Is It?,
Learning What It Takes to Make Me Go Ballistic,
Sneaking into School,
Gregory, Mendez, and Díaz,
Stuff a Mother Should Know,
Looking for Luis in Second Grade,
Leyla and the Truth About the Scar,
Spilling My Guts,
Out to Sea,
I Got Something to Say,