Chapter 2

At lunch time I hang out in the library and bury my nose in a book. The last thing I want to do is talk to anyone about that damn fight – it wasn’t even a real fight. I knew that was all that my buds, Tim and Steve, will want to talk about. It’s a mixture of embarrassment and unwanted attention that sends me into seclusion. I am sure it will blow over soon, I just have to ride it out. Someone obviously captured it on their phone and now the damn thing is all over school. It’s probably on YouTube and Vimeo by now. I lost my cell phone during the summer, so I don’t know what the hell is being spread out there.

            I really didn’t need this ‘fight’. It just adds to all the troubles I had last year. Like the incident of me getting caught with a bottle of hydrochloric acid in my locker; which was blown way out of proportion. Trying to explain to Principal Lyons about wanting to make a hydrogen blimp by capturing the chemical reaction of the acid and magnesium in a beaker did not sway his decision regarding a month of detention. But what pissed off Lyons even more was the mice incident. I should have never released those mice from the science cages, even if I thought they were being abused. A few girls screamed and everybody freaked out; big deal. Really petty stuff, but now I’m on the list of malcontents.

            I have never been in the library at lunch time. It’s only me and a few other kids in here. I’m not sure what their excuse is. Probably just kids that really care and want to talk about their classes with others. They probably can’t wait for the piles of homework that’s coming their way. I guess I should be doing the same, but don’t want to. I know I’m not Stanford or Harvard material, so why bother? I’ll probably go to a junior college to get a degree in convenience store management. Holy shit, that’s scary.

            I guess I should be on my guard against Manny Gomes. My sister knows him a little, maybe she can give me the lowdown on his history. His dad must have beaten the crap out him, or maybe he didn’t get enough attention when he was a young kid. Now he has to act out to give his brain a shot of dopamine. Poor bastard is doomed with a lifelong malfunctioning chip in his brain. Screw this, I’m just going to deal with whatever goes down. Time to head to the worst class I have - Algebra II.

            As I walk down the corridor, I feel like people are staring at me. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.

I arrive at my class early. I’m the first to show up, that’s a new one. Where will I sit? My teacher, Mr. Felice, is a funny man. He looks up at the huge clock hanging above the door.

            “Fifteen minutes early, I like the excitement. Lucky for you the front row is still available,” Mr. Felice quips.

I chuckle, not because it’s funny, but because the back row is still available too. My first choice for such an awful class is always in the back. Something inside of me makes me head towards the front row - so my body takes me there. I can’t believe I just did that. The front row is the land of the geek. Plus, I’m going to have to make eye contact with Mr. Felice. He looks at me.

“Aw see, that’s how you do it, get in early and get a good seat. Just like going to the movies; it drives my wife nuts. I get there a half hour before the show. I get my popcorn and the perfect seat, then I’m happy,” he cracks.

            Algebra II was so dull the first day. I got through it. I must say, the front row was definitely a different experience. The smart kids, or the ones with bad eyesight, surrounded me. But it was okay. Hopefully some of their ‘smarts’ will rub off on me. I have to take this class all year long, so I better be sure to make friends with some of these brainy kids.

            After math, I start to walk to my last class. A kid named Zack comes up to me and sticks his phone in my face. He plays video of the fight. My skin crawls seeing it. The only thing I am going to say about it is that my friend Kyle was being picked on and I just tried to defend him.

Someday I might get in a real fight where actual punches get thrown and I stand toe-to-toe with the enemy. I hope this wimpy fight doesn’t turn out to be the last one in my life; because it will be a bummer if I have to retell this story to my grandkids. I will have to make up stuff and say I was whipping some ass until the principal and his jackboots had to pull me off.

            I’m in Spanish class, the my last one of the day. It’s my first try at a foreign language. When you live in California, and your city has a Spanish name - Santa Clara - you should know some of these words. As I head up the corridor to my classroom, a girl comes walking right towards me. I normally shuffle to the side and stare downwards, but she looks me straight in the eyes. My head explodes (figuratively), but I am able to flash a smile; or maybe it is a weird lip grin. We almost crash into each other and we do this little dance to figure out who goes where. She says, “Hi” as we pass each other. I return the same word. We each give a small chuckle, but she keeps going her direction and I go mine.

Wow, that girl is super cute. I don’t think I have ever seen her before. I will make a mental note of her. Note to self: she walks this direction before sixth period and has long blonde hair and wears boots. Not big boots though.

            I walk into Spanish class. The front row is available, but I’m not biting on that again. I take a seat in the back next to a guy I knew from last year named Art Rodrigues. We fist bump. We’re acquaintances that are almost on the friends level.

            “Hey Art, what are you doing in this class? Don’t you know Spanish already?”

            “Hah, a little. But I can’t read or write it man. This is the second time I am taking Beginning Spanish because I got an F last year.”

            “That’s crazy. How did that happen?”

            “Mr. Sanchez had it in for me when he heard me swearing in Spanish. Oh, and I didn’t study either. Now my mom is pissed and says that I shamed her.”

Art is a crack up, but I don’t think he will be good for me in this class because he could be too much of a distraction.

            Spanish class ends, then we pile out the exit. There at the door, stands one of the principal’s security guys. He is a big black dude with a shaved head. I never had to deal with this guy before. He stops me.

            “Got a second Fergus?”

            “Who are you?” I ask.

            “I’m Charles, school security,” he states while maintaining his tough guy image.

We step into the hallway.

“So, you want to tell me what went on outside the locker room?”

            “Yeah, no big deal, just some of us getting a little crazy,” I say in the coolest way possible.

Charles just looks at me, clearly knowing I just gave him a huge pile of bullshit for an answer. He nods his head and looks me in the eye. I turn my head away and look down; the clear sign of a lie.

            “You know that guy Manny Gomes is not someone to pick a fight with. I want you to stay clear of him, because if there is a next time you either get detention or suspension. You understand? … I know all about the stuff you did last year.”

            I am in a little shock here. Did he tell me not to pick on Manny Gomes? Or, was he warning me not to kick the hornets nest – so to speak. 

            “Don’t you know that he slammed my friend into a garbage can? Head first? What’s up with that?” I’m losing my cool a bit.

            “Let it go Fergus, for your own well-being. Gomes is not a bad guy.”

I can’t wrap my brain around what this guy is telling me. Why is he talking to me and not that jerk-off?

            “Yeah, whatever I’m outta here,” I turn and walk away. But Charles has to get the last word in.

            “I got my eye on you Fergus, don’t screw up because I’ll find out.”

            I walk home by myself with my headphones on. I want to tune out the anger I feel with Charles and Manny Gomes. Charles was probably a big football player in his day, and now he has to pretend he is still one of the guys.   

            Can you believe I already have homework on my first damn day? Can’t a guy catch a break? Screw it, tomorrow should be better, I will make sure of it. Next song on the playlist is called “My Hero” by Foo Fighters; a perfect song after what happened today.

 

Too alarming now to talk about
Take your pictures down and shake it out
Truth or consequence, say it aloud
Use that evidence, race it around
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He's ordinary
Don't the best of them bleed it out
While the rest of them peter out
Truth or consequence, say it aloud
Use that evidence, race it around
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He's ordinary
Kudos, my hero
Leaving all the best
You know my hero
The one that's on
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He's ordinary
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He's ordinary