Nickel

Nickel

by Robert Wilder

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780997020700
Publisher: Leaf Storm Press
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Pages: 332
Sales rank: 1,279,437
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Robert Wilder is the author of two critically acclaimed essay collections, Tales From The Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs A Drink , both published by Delacorte Press.

A teacher for more than twenty-five years, he has earned numerous awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. He has published essays in Newsweek, Details, Salon, Parenting, Creative Nonfiction , plus numerous anthologies and has been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition . Wilder lives in Santa Fe, NM.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 12

I finally made it back to school on Agua Fria with crazy cars honking at me and tagged signs, Stop ( It ), Stop ( War ), Yield ( To My Power ), Speed Hump ( Me ). Stupid crap like that. When I reached campus, end of last lunch had just begun. The cafetorium waited empty except for a few kids sitting around trays piled high with milk containers, burrito wrappers, napkins, to-go cups, and a few plastic silverware sculptures. Near the long-ago-bailed-upon concession stand, a student band was playing “Message in a Bottle.” Believe that? I had forgotten that this was the week Pornstache was “trying out” having student entertainment during lunch. He’d made this huge deal at assemblage about how this was just a test (everything at school’s always a test), and if any of the groups used profanity or crude gestures or incited inappropriate conduct, he’d shut it all down. Nothing the school did was ever out of fun or niceness or, as the teachers always say, “The right thing to do.” Everything from the principal or vice came with a warning, strings attached, assessments, surveys, or a series of things that had to occur to make this happen or that happen. Stipulations, I think he called them. Nothing was free or easy or, um, I hate to say it (makes me think of The Outsiders ), pure. And what Pornstache never realized was that the more complicated it got, the less people gave a tit.

But “Message in a Bottle?” Bitch, puh-lease. I was drenched with sweat from all that walking, and that’s what greeted me? I bought a microwave burger from the vending machine, nuked it in the nasty hot box. My burger: wet. Me: wet. And these four retro hippie dudes were playing the Worst. Police. Song. Ever. The bass player was a dead ringer for John Lennon, with his greasy curtains of hair and round glasses. The drummer was Hispanic, with lip pubes, and the singer thought he was Billy Idol or something, with bleached hair and sawed-off driving gloves, hopping around like there was an adoring crowd. He didn’t look baked, but the act wasn’t a goof either. Idol scrunched his face up like a balled dishtowel while Lennon looked blankly at the bulletin board with the monthly menu stained with dots of gravy. The drummer pounded his kit, and I thought how out of hundreds of kids, from the wall huggers to the pale-skinned cutters to these retro hippies to the AP ulcer kids, Monroe was my only friend at this entire school, and how if she got really sick, I’d be on my own, and as she would say, I didn’t even know karate.

I met Monroe on the first day of seventh grade. We had about an hour of orientation, and I’d just moved to the district with my mom and Dan. We were on the football field, broken up by elementary-school mascots—Wranglers, Criminals, Sand Devils, Sultans. I was in the “other” category: homeschoolers, transfers, kids from special ed, Montessori, Waldorf, little hippie communes, and last-ditch learning centers. I can’t say we would’ve won any beauty pageants. Have you ever talked to someone who’s been homeschooled for seven years? They’re like the Amish, only even less deodorant. All the other elementaries had developed their own fashion and style. You could spot the handshakes, chest bumping, jump hugs, air kisses, haircuts, sunglasses, cell phones, movie clips, theme songs. Each group had its own microcosm except for us: Zah zah loozahs! I’d been through this kind of shite before, and I knew you just wait it out, wait until classes start. Then everyone funnels through the same maze, rats follow rats into different compartments. I tried to walk away from the field toward Red Rock so I wouldn’t feel so pathetic, and no one from any of the other groups would remember that I was in the tard one. These types of labels stick if you don’t watch out—forever. And with a name like Coy, the meatheads don’t need any more fuel.

So. “Dig the shoes,” someone said behind me. I was wearing this pair of checkered Vans that Dan had given me. I turned. Pre-Monroe, before she was sick. She could have been in a magazine, with her blond hair that flipped up at the ends. Mom said she looked like a punk-rock Mary Tyler Moore or Bettie Page, whoever that is or was. Her black dress had all these white pockets crawling on it, and her black Docs were so polished they gave off mad glare.

Her eyes shot to the ground. “So Breakfast Club cool.”

“Okay.” I wasn’t sure it wasn’t an insult. “You like eighties stuff?”

“Best decade ever,” she said, tapping a finger to her temple. She had drawn elaborate rings on her digits with a Sharpie. She shot my Vans the eye again. “Maybe Fast Times at Ridgemont High .”

“Thanks very little,” I mumbled to be funny.

“You a Waldork?”

“Nope. Too much knitting.”

She scanned me up and down. “Montesorry for you?”

I shoved my hands in my pockets. “Strike two.”

“Homo-schooled?”

“Do I look that way?”

She turned to eyeball a bunch of girls in prairie dresses with wheat-colored hair tied back in thick ponytails, playing patty-cake.

“Just moved here too,” I said, trying to keep the talk going.

“Son,” she said, spitting a bit, “I’ve lived in this asstown my entire life.”

“Why are you over here, then?”

“I was stuck over in that wasteland for seven years, including kindergarten.” She jerked her thumb back to a pack of kids across the field, girls with fake tans, oversize glasses, and "JUICY" written across their buttocks, bobbing their heads and flipping cell phones with one hand. Once every few minutes one would toss her head back and laugh, mouth open like she was trying to catch invisible rain from the sky.

“I finally escaped. Monroe,” she said, nodding.

“Coy.”

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