Imagine if you showed up for your senior year and learned your high school was closing. Worse- students will have to attend their hated rival school. Teachers are leaving, clubs and teams are dropped, no one wants to be principal. In midst of the chaos, the newly elected student president promises it will be one hellava year.
The promise will be kept.
Author_Bio: John Rubisch has over thirty years of experience as a high school counselor. Other works he has published are Mill River Junior High, an audio/text program for middle school students, Christopher's Story: An Indictment of the American Mental Health System, as well as numerous articles in publications on counseling, education, and sports.
In 2001 his video production Video Magic won the 2001 Mahnke Award, a national award given for excellence in amateur, educational productions. Rubisch has made many presentations nationwide on education, counseling, and the use of technology in the classroom.
He holds a PhD in Instructional Systems from Penn State.
His proudest achievement however, is assisting many, many of his high school seniors reach their post-secondary dreams.
Keywords: Young Adult, Adolescence, Multi-Cultural, Romance, Sports, Humor, Neutropia, Juvenile Novel, Teenage Novel, Degrassi, High School, Senior
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|Publisher:||First Edition Design Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
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Mill River Senior High
By John C. Rubisch
First Edition Design Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2016 John C. Rubisch
All rights reserved.
A Day in Early August
As Rhett Dixon drove the car on route 115 through Capital City, he checked the passenger side mirror to see if he could merge into the right hand lane. All he could see was a bare, dark-skinned foot.
"Do you think you can put your foot down?" he asked his passenger.
"Do you think you can get some air conditioning in this ... vehicle?" The response emphasized the word vehicle as if there was doubt it was the appropriate word to use. The boy removed his leg from the open window as he straightened his body from its slouch in the passenger seat.
"Whadya think? I'm like Michael Smith the multimillionaire? You know that the only reason I have my brother's car is because his unit went overseas," Rhett responded as he slid into the right lane. "You'd think you'd treat your ride back from your court ordered community service a little better."
Cy Freemen nodded his head in agreement. He said, "You'd think. How is ol' Jimbo?"
"We got an email the other day," responded Rhett. "He was his usual surly self."
Sweating profusely, Cy stuck his face out the window. "Man, it must be over a hundred today."
"Did you finally get the "R" out of the football field?" Rhett asked.
"Think so," responded Cy, examining the grass stains on his jeans. "My Dad is still ticked."
Mimicking his father's voice, he said, "You'll be the only valedictorian on juvenile probation."
Rhett snickered at Cy's imitation of his father as it sounded very much like Mr. Freeman.
"I can't believe you put it there in the first place," Rhett said shaking his head negatively, half in admiration and half in sheer amazement of the audacity of Cy's act.
"It was relatively easy," said Cy. "Last fall we took the field at Morningside Glen for halftime. While marching in place atop of the MG emblem at midfield, some band members ..."
"I know," interrupted Rhett as he slowed the car for a red light. He had heard this tale many times. He continued, "You let some grass seed fall from holes in your pants pockets onto the field."
"Not just any kind of grass seed," protested Cy. "Winter rye grass seed! It had to be that kind! We tramped it into the ground while marching. This past spring a nice big, green "R" grows into the center of the Morningside Glen football field. So now, instead of a "MG" in the middle of the stadium, the Griffins have a "MR" for dear ol' Mill River Senior High."
Cy concluded by bowing his head in mock homage to his school.
The light turned green, and Rhett pushed the gas. He said, "And once they figured out it was you, what did it get you? Was it worth it?"
"Let's see," said Cy. He played with the air conditioning controls on the dashboard before giving up and resigning himself to the heat. "Kicked out of the band. Same for the honor society. A whopping fine. Community service in the form of removing the "R" from the grass of the football field. The everlasting enmity of my parents. Loss of use of the car. But I did gain a juvenile probation worker. And I did one up Morningside Glen, the best school in this valley and as far as they are concerned, any other valley. And you gotta admit it was awfully funny. Worth it? I'd say I broke even."
"Yeah, it was funny," admitted Rhett. A slight smile came to his face. In all the years he had known Franklin "Cy" Freeman, he had never known Cy to earn less than an "A". His friend was a fountain of knowledge, which was both useful and useless. In elementary school he had been tagged with the nickname of "encyclopedia", which was eventually shortened to Cy. As he had grown older, perhaps bored by a lack of academic challenge, Cy had demonstrated a proclivity for pranks. Although never malicious, unfortunately, as in the case of the R on the football field, they often seemed to backfire.
Cy glanced at a girl walking down the street. "Hey, that looks like your old girlfriend, Andy Stockton."
"Can't be," said Rhett. He quickly peered over his shoulder before returning his eyes to the road. "She moved to the other side of the country."
"Did'ja hear that Matt Wallin is going to Japan?" said Cy, changing the subject.
Rhett slowed the car as a bus in front of him stopped.
"Yeah," he said. "Exchange student?"
"Un-huh," replied Cy. "That leaves us without a school president."
Rhett looked unsuccessfully for a way around the bus. He said, "Wouldn't Sharonda Williams get it?"
"No," Cy shook his head. "She is VP, but the school constitution states that the president must be a senior and the veep a junior."
Cy waited for a reply, but his friend was still preoccupied with the stopped bus.
"Who do you think will get it?" he asked.
"I dunno," replied Rhett. He had little interest in politics of any kind, particularly Mill River High School politics. "Probably the usual suspects, those people who run all the time: Gina Roberts, Jimmy Lee ..."
The bus was finally moving, and he concentrated on the traffic.
"Or somebody in this car," Cy said with an odd tone in his voice.
"Why don't you run?" Rhett said. "You're the smartest kid in the school if not the entire valley."
Rhett noticed a smile come across his friend's face. He was clearly pleased with this compliment.
Cy shook his head to indicate no. "I would never win," he said. "Too many people don't like me. Some envious. Besides, the last non-jock, Black, male student to be elected president was Jonathan King in 1970."
Cy went on, but Rhett was only half listening. 1970? How did Cy know this stuff? No point in looking it up. Cy would be right.
The bus had stopped again. He slammed his hand on the steering wheel in frustration. He turned back toward Cy just as his friend said: "No, I was thinking about the other person in this car. You."
Rhett was stunned. He said, "That's crazy. I'm not popular. Who would vote for me?"
Cy raised his finger in the air as he spoke. "Perhaps you're not one of the social elite. But more importantly nobody dislikes you. Let's face it: people like Roberts and Lee have kids who hate their guts."
Cy looked for a response but only got a puzzled look from his friend. He continued to state his case.
"You run track so the jocks like you. But you're not as obnoxious as say ... Rusty McNaughton. So others don't perceive you as a jock. You get along with the Techers like Jack Billet. Some of your best friends are the preps like Holly Henry. With the right brains as your campaign manager, you could pull this thing off."
Rhett smirked, "Those 'right brains' would be yours, wouldn't they?" "I knew you'd say yes," said Cy his voice rising with excitement. "I know we can do this!"
"I didn't agree to anything, yet," said Rhett. "I'll think about it."
The bus had emptied out the last of its passengers: a tall, tawny girl with a bandana wrapped around her head. She was carrying a basketball.
"That looks like Mousey Brown," said Cy noticing the girl. "What would she be doing in Capital City?"
"Probably is," said Rhett. "There is a court over there. Holly tells me Mousey has been playing basketball constantly this summer."
* * *
Here we are, Mouse, the girl said to herself. The playground at 15th and Aikens in Capital City. The best pick-up games in the entire valley. You are ready for this: playing on four different teams this summer, team camp, individual camp. All preparation for senior and last year of basketball at Mill River.
Then, why did she feel less than confident? Because these were inner city guys and not the small town jocks from Mill River who she played against on a regular basis.
Unsure of herself she moved toward the court where some boys were picking up teams. She leaned down to tighten her shoelaces hoping to melt in with the crowd.
"You can't play with us," she heard a voice say. She looked and saw a Black boy with a Lakers jersey. Mousey judged him to be about fifteen. He continued, "But I'll tell you what. After we're done running, you can play with me. We can go one on one."
His remark was met with raucous laughter. Other crude remarks were made until a voice from the back interrupted, "I'll take her."
The laughing stopped. The boys parted as a 6'-5" figured emerged. He had an air of confidence, which was unmatched by the others. His body was sinewy, and he moved with a litheness that seemed graceful yet strong. He said, "She's on my side."
Mousey was stunned. She recognized Pizzaro Jackson immediately. And who would not? The best player in Capital City, the state, and some even said the country.
Play started. Mousey raced down court toward the basket. A boy on her team threw up a wild shot. She placed herself in position for the rebound.
A hip came flying into her from seemingly nowhere. It sent her crashing to the pavement of the court. It was the boy in the Lakers shirt. He grabbed the rebound and raced up court. Turning to her as he ran he said, "Welcome to the big league, sweet cheeks."
"Ain't no officials here," said Pizzaro to her as she scrambled to her feet.
OK, Mouse, she thought. You wanted to play against the big boys and that's what you got.
She chased after the boys and picked a player to guard. He eyed her contemptuously. Languidly, he dribbled the ball with first his left hand and then his right. He bounced the ball between his legs. Suddenly, he faked right and dribbled the ball to his left toward the basket.
I'm with him, thought Mousey. She saw a sudden blur appear in her right field of vision, and she crashed into a huge body. Mousey staggered but held her feet. The boy with the ball drove to the basket and laid it in.
"Moving pick," muttered Mousey.
"Maybe. Illegal in an official game," said Pizzaro. "Anything goes here."
They're testing me, Mousey thought. I can't let them intimidate me!
Someone on her own team turned the ball over, and she was back on defense. A shot went up. She went for the rebound but found the boy in the Lakers shirt blocking her path. Knowing that he could not see her, she came up beside him and gave him an elbow in the midsection.
The blow surprised the boy. Mousey leapt and gathered in the rebound. Dribbling the ball upcourt, she saw Pizzaro breaking free of the others on the right wing. With both arms she lofted a high, long pass just in front of his path to the basket. Pizzaro left his feet and seemed to fly in the air. His hands grasped the ball at the apex of his jump. Still flying forward as he descended, he sent the ball through the basket with a dunk that shook the backboard.
Boys on both teams resounded: some compliments, some cursing, some with mocking taunts.
Pizzaro pointed at Mousey to acknowledge her assist that led to the basket. The next time on offense, Mousey got the ball. Finding herself loosely guarded, she sank a medium range shot. The next time down the court, she hit another uncontested shot.
A few minutes later she found herself in the same position.
"Don't you give her that shot again," said the boy in the Lakers shirt. The boy guarding Mousey moved up close on her. She fired a pass to Pizzaro and cut to the basket. His pass back to her on the "give and go" was perfect. She laid the ball into the basket easily. The boy in the Lakers shirt swore.
"I saw you score your 32 against Richmond," Pizzaro said as they trotted down court. Mousey was stunned he knew who she was. As she stopped to glance at him, her man blew past her to receive a pass and score an easy basket.
"Hey, your headlines don't matter here," said Pizzaro.
They continued to play the rest of the afternoon. Her shot was blocked more than once, but she didn't let it bother her. With the score tied in the last game, Pizzaro fed Mousey for an open 25 footer. The ball hit off the front of the rim. Their opponents raced down court and scored the winning basket.
The boys started to leave. Mousey surveyed them. They were drenched in perspiration. She caught the eye of the boy in the Lakers shirt. He nodded his head at her in response in a sign of respect.
With sweat pouring off her body, Mousey entered the bus that had just pulled up at the stop. She was surprised to see Pizzaro climb in behind her.
"This bus goes to Mill River?" he asked.
She nodded. "After it goes uptown. I'm surprised you don't have a car or something."
Pizzaro laughed. He slid into a seat next to her. "Those reports of recruiting bonuses are greatly exaggerated. At least so far."
"Where are you going to go to college?" she asked.
"IU, UCLA, Duke, I dunno. Some place that's easy to spell. We're all dumb jocks, y'know," he laughed.
Mousey laughed as well. The papers were full of stories about Pizzaro being an honor roll student as well as a great athlete.
"How about you?" he asked.
"I've got some letters in the mail but nothing definite yet," said Mousey. The sweat continued to roll off her face. She said "Don't these buses have air-conditioning?"
"Maybe in Morningside Glen," replied Pizzaro. He stood to open the window as far as it could go. "But this is Capital City."
He returned to his seat.
"You missed that last shot," he said referring back to the final game. "Gotta hit that. MG gave you that shot in the playoffs."
The smile disappeared from Mousey's face. She didn't need to be reminded of last year's season ending loss to archrival Morningside Glen. The Griffins had packed in their zone daring her to shoot the outside shot. And she had missed most of them.
Pizzaro noticed the change on her countenance. "Working on the 3 pointer this summer?"
Mousey nodded. "I take one hundred shots every day. Last Thursday, did it in a downpour. Also did a hundred foul shots."
Pizzaro gave a low whistle of admiration. He said, "That's some serious shooting."
The bus continued to roll along, belching out pollution, which rolled through the open windows. They continued to talk about basketball, Mill River, Pizzaro's high school Dunbar, and other schools in the area. The bus passed an old, large, brick building. Pizzaro pointed at it.
"March 19th, baby!" he said.
"Oh?" said Mousey.
"The Arena, Mouse!" Pizzaro said in disbelief. "State championships in basketball both boys and girls, March 19th in the Arena."
"I didn't know," Mousey lied.
"The Poets are going to be there." Pizzaro was now on his feet obviously excited by the mere thought. "How about the Hawks?"
"We'll see," said Mousey. "A lot can happen in eight months."
Pizzaro started to head to the front of the bus.
"My stop's coming up," he said. "Hey, can you introduce me to Champ Trammell some time? I wanna meet the fastest guy in the state."
"Sure," said Mousey with a smile. "He's the boyfriend of my best friend."
The bus continued to roll beyond the city limits of Capital City toward Mill River. At last she seemed to be cooling down. March 19? She had a note with the date on her bulletin board in her room. There was another one on the refrigerator at home. There would be one in her locker once school opened. It was why she shot one hundred three pointers a day. Yeah, she knew what March 19th was.
The bus was pulling into Mill River. Mousey read a dilapidated sign, which hung from one of two chains that was attached to it, "Mill River- a Friendly Place to Live." She had to admit her adopted hometown looked dumpy compared to Capital City and many other places. People said Mill River was dead. She could never understand why her father moved to Mill River when her mother died.
The blaring of a car horn interrupted her thoughts. She heard it again. She turned to see two girls in an old but sleek sports car parked in front of a gas station. Jack Billet's customers must be impatient.
The horn blared yet again.
* * *
Jack Billet rolled himself out from underneath the car that he was working upon. Hopefully, he yelled, "There's a self-service pump."
"I don't know how to do that," came a girl's voice. She and her friend laughed.
Covered in grease and sweat, he cursed. He would never get Mr. Barkley's car finished for him by the end of the day. He walked toward the car at the pumps and saw two very attractive girls who were approximately his age.
"Wow! A real grease monkey!" said the girl in the passenger side, noting Jack's appearance.
Turning to her friend, the driver said "Or with those biceps, maybe we should say grease gorilla!"
They both laughed.
If it was suppose to be a compliment, Jack didn't take it that way.
"The customer is always right," he muttered to himself, repeating the phrase he had so often heard from Mr. Perez, the owner of the garage. He tried to be pleasant. "Whatta it be, ladies?"
Excerpted from Mill River Senior High by John C. Rubisch. Copyright © 2016 John C. Rubisch. Excerpted by permission of First Edition Design Publishing, Inc..
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