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High School Satire This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Nothing in the world simultaneously produced such opposite emotions in Ezekiel as East Maple cheerleaders. They were both bringers of shallow liberation and deep conformity; possessors of natural beauty and manufactured artificiality; givers of girlish sweetness and unfeeling ostracism. They twirled weightlessly through the air like lunar ballerinas – scantily clad ballerinas. Their costumes were carefully calculated, following some secret formula crafted to raise male testosterone to levels of euphoria, feistiness, and chauvinism. Just as they had been exploited, they in turn sought to exploit. They were angels. They were demons.

And Ezekiel was a number. He had a student ID number, 514317. A locker number, 7091. And a lunch number, 2689. His textbooks had numbers too, but he couldn’t remember them.

It was a seventh-period pep rally. Pep rallies were marginally better during seventh period. A few rebellious students would sneak out of school just before an afternoon pep rally and skip directly to freedom – if they managed to avoid getting caught during the run to the parking lot. Ezekiel had tried once, unsuccessfully. In addition to Saturday detention, 10 of his five accidentally earned spirit points had been subtracted as punishment, leaving him with a negative total.

This was East Maple High, which prided itself on graduating more students than any other high school on the East Coast – students who then dropped out of college at the highest rate of any high school alumni from the East Coast.

Shouted the cheerleaders: “East! Eager! Maple! Manly! Bobcats! Bomb ’em, Bobcats, bomb ’em! Gooooooo Bobcats!”

Or, as Ezekiel’s friend Rachel Hanson had once written for an English assignment:

“E is for Enmity, A for Alcohol,
Drink some after the game and worries will
dissolve. S – you will Sweat for us! T – you will
Thank us! In the mighty bobcats we trust!
M, Male supremacy, barely disguised
under A, Athletic equality, believe our lies.
P, Parade of conformists, join today!
Love who we command – never betray;
Embarrassment for all who go astray.”

“Love who we command” had been a reference to a new student dating service – Sweetie Service – run by the SGA. All students had filled out one-page questionnaires in their first-period classes. The results were used to find ideal matches among students. ­Students who pledged to select their Sweetie Service match as their homecoming date not only received free tickets, but also a whopping 1,000 spirit points.

“At least in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party never spoiled dating,” Rachel had once remarked privately to Ezekiel.

As for Rachel’s poem, it had received only a C due to its poor meter, awkward word choice, and uneven diction.

When at last the pep rally ended, Ezekiel swam through a sea of loud student factions to escape the gym. Squeezing his body between two unresponsive preps who moved like trees taking a walk, he glanced up and witnessed, for a fleeting moment, the two most opposite people in the universe passing in close proximity to each other.

One was Damien Petito, towering quarterback of East Maple’s varsity football team, a young man so embellished head-to-toe in decorations that he might be mistaken for a German kaiser. His plum purple and gleaming gold varsity jacket – the epitome of East Maple High – was worn so often that it was now part of his very skin, and yet, it never faded. To many, Damien was East Maple’s living, breathing mascot. Hanging from his jacket were countless ­spirit medallions, not to mention three seven-point stars denoting “Student of the Year,” a prize given to the person with the most spirit points. A fourth star was inevitable.

Crossing Damien’s path was Joseph Gilman, one of the notable East Maple intellectuals. Plaid-clad, skinny, and somewhat disheveled, Gilman was the National Merit Finalist whose name had been misspelled in the very back of the East Maple Telegram in six-point type. The administration could hardly stand broadcasting the success of such a heretic. No one knew Gilman’s actual GPA, but rumor had it Joseph was a spectacular underachiever who maintained a 3.4 with almost no effort.

Ezekiel always wanted to talk to Joseph, though he rarely did. He wanted to tell him, “I am like you. I don’t understand them.” But Ezekiel knew he and Joseph had little in common.

When Damien and Joseph crossed paths, they looked beyond each other. Each was invisible to the other. Joseph could walk past Damien burning alive and Damien would never notice – and vice versa.

Still swimming through the mob, Ezekiel escaped into the gym lobby.

“Hey! Bought your ticket to the homecoming dance yet?”

It was a loud, boot-licking SGA girl in a gaudy East Maple T-shirt, a bundle of homecoming tickets in her left hand and wad of dollar bills in her right.

“How much are they?” mumbled Ezekiel in a ­barely audible groan.

“What?”

“How much?” Ezekiel barked.

“Only $10 this week!” she replied perkily.

“No,” said Ezekiel, “I mean how many spirit points.”

“Starting today, we’re dropping our ­requirement from 30 to 15!”

Wordlessly, Ezekiel walked away. Several feet in front of him, Joseph Gilman was squeezing past ­unresponsive students planted in the dead center of gym ­lobby traffic. Ezekiel wondered if Joseph Gilman had even fewer spirit points than he. His curiosity was so ­intense that he decided to ask, even though it might be an awkward question. But as Ezekiel worked his way through the throng, Joseph was diverted by two of his intellectual companions: Ruth Bentsen, a tall girl who worshipped John Lennon, and Mathew McDaniel, a witty boy who worshipped Vladimir Lenin, not to mention himself.

“Watch out,” Mathew warned Joseph, gesturing in Ezekiel’s general direction. “The SGA girls will pounce on you.”

Joseph laughed. “School dances are a joke,” he said dismissively. “The students who go are predominantly simpletons.”

In that moment, Ezekiel realized he was even more alone that he had thought. Joseph had spoken not as a bitter outcast, but as an objective intellectual, critiquing a bad play or dismissing pseudoscience. Joseph did not care about the dance; Ezekiel, how­ever, was not so indifferent. As he trudged through the crowded halls on autopilot he wondered who Rachel was taking – if she were going at all. But his thoughts quickly faded, like snow melting under a disapproving sun.

He trudged on.

“Zeke?”

Focusing on the figure ahead, Ezekiel beheld a surreal revelation, like something out of a Salvador Dali painting: a figure with the face of Rachel Hanson and the costume of an East Maple cheerleader, pompoms and all.

“Rachel?”

“Hi,” she said, smiling bashfully.

Ezekiel felt as if he might choke.

“You okay?” she asked.

“Did you … join?”

“Didn’t you see me at the pep rally?” asked Rachel.

“No, I must not have recognized you.”

Rachel blushed. “I was afraid you wouldn’t understand,” she said. “I got back the results of that Swee­tie Service thing. Guess who they matched me up with?”

“Who?”

“Damien Petito,” she said with a smile, voice shaking with excitement. “He wants to take me to homecoming. Me! Rachel Hanson!” A demented laugh of mania and mastery belched from her mouth. “Can you believe it? Of course, there’s some tradition that football players only take cheerleaders to homecoming. So … I signed up.”

“You – you like him?” asked Ezekiel. A glimmer of irritation arose in Rachel’s blue eyes.

“Every girl likes him,” she said, as if reminding Ezekiel of the Pope’s religion. “Look, I’ve been so disappointed by high school. I’ve grown sick of it. There’s no fun in being bitter, Zeke! Enjoy your life.”

“I can’t.”

Slowly sobering, Rachel studied her old friend. Ezekiel did likewise.

“You don’t think I’m shallow, do you?” she asked after a long silence.

“No,” said Ezekiel, “I never have.”

“Well, I’ll see you around then.”

“See ya.”

***

Monday morning: the concrete classroom walls trapped Ezekiel like an insect in a cup. Dull sunlight seeped in through plastic blinds. All around him, students completed mundane Calculus warm-ups.

The loudspeaker clicked on.

“Saturday night, our school suffered the tragic loss of a beloved student, Rachel Hanson, who died after the car she was riding in struck a bus. The driver, Damien Petito, is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at White Hill Hospital. Today counselors will be available in the guidance office for students to talk to. We will now pause for a moment of silence in remembrance of Rachel.”

Every sound in the room died. If he shut his eyes, Ezekiel could believe that he was the only living thing in the universe, alone in an infinite void. He felt an icy vacuum growing inside him, so chilling he would jump in a bonfire to end the cold. His ears rang with the song of dying cells.

“Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.”

“I pledge allegiance to the flag –”

She was gone.

“of the United States of America –”

Damien had killed her.

“And to the Republic for which it stands –”

He had been drunk.

“One nation, under God, indivisible –”

Why her?

“With liberty and justice for all.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 224 comments. Post your own!

GabrielleFantasy said...
Jun. 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm:
This is really good!! I love your flawless writing style :)
 
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Eilatan This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 5:38 am:
this is so sad, i miss Rachel already!
 
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Item-89 said...
May 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm:
Wow I really love satires. (Actually I'll be posting one when I finish editing). This was truely amazing. Really, it was really good and I can't offer any advice because I see no flaws. Keep up the good work. And if you have the time check out my story (only one up at the moment.)
 
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iwanttobeforeveryoung said...
May 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm:
Wow.  I loved how you kind of talked about it from Zeke's point of view with out actually bashing how the school was.  Amazing!
 
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Penelope This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm:

I agree that you don't need to change anything about this story. The fact that Rachel clearly means so much to Zeke makes her death just as influential as it would have been if you wrote more about her. 

I won't call this an accurate picture of high school, but it is an awesome description of what some kids see in high school.  Keep writing, I can't stop reading this story, I look at it every time I log on☺

 
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RyanDouglass said...
May 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm:

Fantastic story. I can really relate to Ezekiel. The writing is amazing. Really, it's almost flawless. The way you wrote the ending really affected me.

I don't think you need to develop the character of Rachel more but maybe just have a few lines explaining the history between Ezekiel and Rachel.

 
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KenzieKenzie said...
May 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm:
This was amazing. but i don't agree how every says "focus more on Rachel" when the story was more about Zeke...still awesome. great job[:
 
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^unshed.tears said...
May 13, 2010 at 11:30 am:
this was really good!!!!! it makes you think about how our society is set up. please keep writing!!! you're really good!! :)
 
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kisekinya said...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 10:25 pm:
Wow! You did a great job! Its a little sad to me... but I love it!
 
kisekinya replied...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm :
Not like, Wow thats sad, but my emotion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!... Never Mind...
 
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Petra S. said...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 7:13 pm:
This isgreat.Iwould also agree you should have focused more on Rachel. I read a book once that reminds me of this alot. its called "Looking for Alaska" by John Green. Really great book
 
GreenEyedGirl14 replied...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm :
I read Looking For Alaska too. The only part that reminded me of it was the died in a drunk accident, but in the book she was the one driving drunk, not someone else.
 
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rayj095 said...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm:
Very good writing! Maybe a little less details, and develope Rachel more. But over all, I loved this writing!
 
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greenwithvelvet said...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm:
Great job! I agree that you should have developed Rachel a bit more. It would have made the ending more of a punch in the gut. Right now it is a tap on the shoulder. I think the word choice was great, it helped develope Ezekiel and the setting at once. Nice job!
 
munkyman95 replied...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm :
That was so good, I loved the ending, the open-mindedness of seeing the difference between Ezekiel and both the intellectuals and the popular kids, the writing quickly brought you up to date with both Ezekiel's charcther, his feelings and the setting he was in. And the ending stopped me dead, I read it over to make sure, it was nothing short of brilliant, and I don't think I'm exaggerating 
 
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bellasbyline This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm:
I think the story would have been better if you developed Rachel more. I think that overall, your writing was very good, but this would have been a better story if you focused a little less on the details and more on feeling.
 
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Lola_Sveroski said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm:

Oh my. I liked it. The end was kind of... WOW. I really liked it. Well done.

 

 
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Nora S. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm:
That was amazing. Clever, well-written, and moving.
 
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hkay14 said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 11:15 am:
wow! that was amazing. took me really by surprise. 
 
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massizme said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm:
woah, man. fantastic, detailed, devestating, gorgeous, and i am running out of adjectives !! you go!
 
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