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Future Geologists of America
I got up at the dreaded time of 6:30 AM. I was soon at the school, in front of the looming and creepily cheerful school bus. I was with five other students—what a self-esteem booster. Why did I even sign up for this field trip?
We are going to a science exhibition by the FGA—Future Geologists of America. What an exciting title, right? I guess geologists have a union, or something.
So, I finally got on the bus. It was as clean as a bus can get, though I'd never walk on it barefoot. The other four students all look tired and depressed, a very common personality in high school. The seats were made out of the cheapest leather the school could find, personally selected by the Principal of the school to save twenty dollars.
The bus driver was just like my usual mental picture of one—fat. His hairline was quite small, his shoes oddly small for him, and he was quiet. Well, if the trip was going to be a stereotype of a bad field trip, it might as well be a good stereotype.
The bus ride was two hours (of hell). The seats were bumpy and uncomfortable, the sun was constantly shifting with the road to be in my face, and the scenery was yellow, yellow, and more yellow, dry grass. The sky was its usual blue self. Those are the two primary colors of the trip—yellow and blue.
My fellow students sure were not acting like my fellow students. Any attempts I had at making conversation resulted in them ignoring me or awkward silence. I guess geologists aren't much for talking.
Truth be told, I don't plan on being a geologist. I was told by my counselor I just had to do this, I didn't want to be in school that day, and my parents encouraged me to. But, I don't want to be a geologist. After all, Plato did not philosophize on the truly inherent meaning within the rock and we don't have courses titled "The Rock and Western Civilization," I hope.
I finally managed to catch the attention of one of them by joking about two chickens and a rock. He leaned in closer, expecting more.
I said to him, trying to sound casual, "So, how 'bout them igneous rocks, huh? Mighty fine things."
He scoffed at me, and went on to pull a book out of his backpack. The title is The Rock and Western Civilization. I hoped it was about the wrestler guy, not an actual rock.
We finally arrived there. The building was, well, small. On a small table to the right of the door was an old lady in a white, foldout chair with a table. There was a piece of paper taped onto the table plainly saying Future Geologists of America. The lady herself has round glasses that look as old as the women. On the table were ten pamphlets, printed with the paper used in everyday printers.
“The exhibition is free for y’all as long as y’all sign here,” the old lady said.
She whipped out a clipboard with lined paper on it. It was titled “Proof for Funding.”
The other students and I each signed the paper, not really thinking too much about. After all, signing a piece of paper is a good trade-off for a day off from school.
We each took a pamphlet and walked into the small, inconspicuous building. Inside it was also quite small. There was three tables out, formed in a half-circle, in the center of the building. The interior felt grey, somehow. The tables each had a bored person manning them, with the same cheap tables and chairs. There were also two chairs at each table for visitors.
The people at the tables didn't notice us—one of them appeared to be either daydreaming or lightly dozing. The four other students announced they had to go to the restroom, and left together like the gang they were.
I was now alone with the teacher, who I just noticed really. Oddly, I didn't notice her up until now. She is of average height, has red hair, and appears hunchbacked. Her hunch gave her an almost menace about her, only strengthened by her horrible attempt to smile at me.
Her fingers are quiet bony, and her fingernails are painted a ghastly black. Her shoes are a light brown and her clothing consisted of a brown color too. No wonder I never noticed her—she blended in with the seats on the bus.
Well, I turned around to the tables before I was frozen in place by her Medusa stare. I went up to one table where the man was lightly drumming his fingers on the table and staring at the floor. I noticed he had the book The Rock and Western Civilization.
I coughed loudly, hoping he would take the cue. The man flinched for a moment and then he turned to me slowly, examining to me to ensure I am here. He straightened his black jacket, looked me in the eye, and asked, "How are you?"
I responded with a quick, "Okay."
"Well," the man said, "my name is Tom. As you can see, this is a session for the Future Geologists of America. However, there is not much here. All we have is this."
Tom pulled out a rock. It was black. Then he put it back down on the desk.
"I got it outside," said Tom, "and it is not that bad. I lost the last one. Look, I'm sorry we don't have more. You won't find more from the other two, Mary and Fred. Let me guess: you are here to get out of school for the day."
Puzzled, I responded with a feeble, "Yes."
"Daniel, this happens. Geology is a profession only for certain people and you surely are not one of them. You might as well leave now. Don’t worry though; it’s not that big of a deal."
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we both win. I mean, we three get money and you get a day off school. So, we win.”
The gang of four came crawling back to the main area. The one who I talked to earlier came forward to talk to Tom.
“Hello, Sir. I would like to see your rock collection. What do you have?”
Tom picked the rock back up from the desk and showed it to the boy.
“Is that it?” the boy said.
“Don’t you, you know, have more?”
“Well, I could always make an exception for you,” said Tom with a smile. “I hid one outside, a quite nice one I was saving for a friend, but such a geologist as you deserves it.”
The kid smiled, confident in his ability to charm.
Tom walked towards the exit—I decided to follow him. The boy eagerly tagged along. Tom came out the exit and turned right to a group of gravel stones.
“Now then,” said Tom as he rummaged through the gravel, “this piece looks good…aha, yes, this is the piece. Quite a looker, no? Here you go, kid. Have fun with it—you deserve it.
The boy’s hand was trembling with excitement. He took the small pebble into his hand with an ecstatic smile.
“Thank, thank you, thank you! I read about this in my book! Thank you!”
The happy fellow ran off to the corner to go examine his newfound prize.
Tom smiled as the boy ran away then turned to me.
“See? He’s happy with the rock, you’re happy with a day off, and we get money. Everyone wins!”
“But,” I said, “you only have a rock, and not even much of one.”
“So? In fact…I forgot to give you a rock too! How could I?”
Tom began to rummage through the gravel, took out a rock, and held it up to the sunlight.
“Quite a charmer, no? Here, have fun with it.”
He handed the pebble into my hand.
I wasn’t sure what to feel. Here I am, with a day off and a rock in my hand.
“You sure look like geologist material to me! Oh, by the way, did you sign that sheet when you came in?”
“Well then,” Tom said, “it was nice having you with us today. Go on now, you future geologist!”
I flashed him a feeble attempt at a smile to avoid an awkward situation, then turned and went back to my teacher, or whatever she was supposed to be.
“Well, Miss, I think I’ve learned enough for today. He even gave me a rock.”
She flashed me a much better, genuine smile. Then she looked at her watch.
“Yup, right about the same time as always. Perfect! Okay everyone, time to go. If you never got your rock from Tom now is the time to capture today’s wonderful event in your heart forever young geologists!”
Everyone nodded except for me and the boy.
We all walked out back to the bus. The boy waved bye to Tom—I didn’t wave. I walked into the bus with an odd feeling, like I won and yet gained nothing. We were there for a mere ten minutes but are bus ride there and back was four hours. But whatever—I got the day off from school.