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Daniel lay awake with his eyes open, staring at a spider attempt to make its way from the ceiling to the floor. His fan blew hot air back and forth, back and forth, its consistent hum blending with the silence. His dark eyes followed the spider, now suspended in mid air, the air from the fan making its journey a difficult one. He watched it creep its way down, its spiny legs treading the think air. It was no more than ten inches away from his chest and SMACK! Her crushed it in his hands. Daniel looked at the sticky remains of the spider in his palms, wiped them on his bedcovers and rolled onto his side. Tomorrow he began his freshman year at the most pristine arts schools around. Daniel was an aspiring artist and had worked all of his 8th grade year putting together an ideal portfolio and when he received his letter of acceptance, he knew it all paid off.
Now he lay awake anxiously for the hours to fly by so he could get ready for his first day. He exhaled deeply and got up out of bed. He opened his window and shut off his fan. He listened to the outside, the cars running up and down the streets. His mother should have taken grandma’s advice when she said to never buy a house with yellow lines in the front lawn. But Daniel loved the sound of cars. He always imagined where the people behind the wheel were heading to or coming from. He got a lot of ideas for his artwork looking out this window. Daniel took one last look out his window before he turned to head for the bathroom. He made his way down the hallway, the only light coming from the television downstairs and the plug-in light of his younger sisters’ bedroom.
Daniel entered the bathroom and turned on the light. He could smell vanilla and fresh towels when he turned on the faucet. He ran his hands under the cold water. He took the bar of soap and worked it into a lather. As he rinsed he looked into the mirror. His eyes were dark and tired, although he didn’t feel it; his hair was even darker and very unruly. Daniel turned off the faucet and dried his hands on his shirt, ignoring the clean towel hanging by the shower, then headed back to his room.
Daniel sat at his desk and pulled out a sketchpad and some charcoal pencils. He began sketching he thought of his younger sisters sleeping in their bedroom. He sketched Mary in tight, bunched lines. She always slept in a fetal position. He added Heather in long, slender strokes. After value and little details like their matching bed sheets and plug in light were added, he tucked the sketch pad back into his desk and grabbed a can of Coke he had stashed in his bottom drawer of goodies. He cracked it open and took a gulp. His taste buds puckered at the taste of bittersweet bubbles and his eyes watered with satisfaction. Daniel set his soda on his bedside table and grabbed his book on tanks his grandfather gave him. He flipped page after page, looking at the pictures he had seen a million times before and read the captions he had practically memorized. He yawned and before he knew it, he was falling asleep with the book still in his hands and his can of Coke still whispering with fizz.
Daniel was up before his alarm clock buzzed. He was already dressed, his book bag b the front door, with all of his necessary art supplies tucked neatly inside. He was now pacing his room, wondering if he should attempt anything with his hair, but decided against it. He heard his mother call for breakfast and he made his way out of his bedroom. Usually he didn’t eat much for breakfast, but he decided it was a good habit to get into now that he was in high school and all. He sat down at the table.
“Bacon or sausage?” asked Daniel’s Mother from the stove.
“Bacon, thanks.” said Daniel getting up to get a plate.
His mother filled his dish with bacon, eggs, and waffles. Daniel had an appetite this morning and his mother was defiantly taking advantage of it. Daniel took a seat at the kitchen table. He was in high school now, so that meant he was up before his sisters. Breakfasts were going to be awfully quiet. He began to eat when his mother asked,
He replied with a mouth full of waffle
“Good or bad?”
His mother wiped he brow and began filling two plates with waffles and sausage.
“Good, I thought I was going to have to drag you out of bed this morning. Thought nerves might have gotten to ya.”
Daniel swallowed and got up to go to the fridge.
“Are you kidding me? I get to go to school for art. Art. I mean yea, you got your English and Math and History still, but I get hours of sketching and painting and sculpture all to myself.”
Daniel grabbed a bottle of water and opened it.
“Plus, this is going to make me a better artist. I get graded and critiqued on my work, so I know what I need to improve on. I can only hear, ‘That’s so good honey’ so many times. No offense.”
His mother laughed.
“What am I supposed to say? I’m not Van Gough, how would I know what you need to improve on?”
Daniel took a few more bites of his breakfast and checked the clock. He had twelve minutes before the bus came.
“I don’t expect you to know what I need to improve on when it comes to my artwork, your specialty is making an awesome breakfast.”
Daniel washed his hands in the kitchen sink and dried them on the towel hanging under the spice cabinet.
“Although, the waffles could have been a little crispier.” Daniel said, he winked at his mother.
“Dan, you have plenty of time relax, your bus stop is right down the street.” said Daniel’s mother with a laugh.
”I know, but I want to get there early, just incase.”
Daniel’s mother hurried to give him a kiss on the cheek.
“Okay then, have fun!”
Daniel grabbed his book bag and gave his mother thumbs up before walking out the door.
Daniel approached the bus stop. The nice weather had given him plenty of ideas for an oil pastel drawing. He made it to the bus stop and took out his cell phone. He had 6 minutes till the bus came. Daniel had made perfect timing. He took his book bag off of his shoulders and bent over to put his cell phone away safely when he seen a pair of boots standing next to him, the right one tapping on the concrete. He zipped his book bag shut and stood up to see a tall, lanky teenage boy with bleach blonde hair and blue eyes. He was looking over his shoulder, perhaps for the bus or a friend. His huge headphones draped over his long neck were blasting some bass embellished heavy metal. He had a military jacket covered in so many pins and patches it was a wonder if he set off metal detectors on a daily basis. He had a bullring in his crooked nose and his baggy drawstring pants were tucked into his red-laced boots. Daniel had expected this kind of kid going to an art school but not until he had gotten onto the bus at least. The blonde kid looked back from over his shoulder, brushed something off of his sleeve and put his hand out to Daniel.
“Adam.” he said over his headphones’ blaring tune.
Daniel took his hand and shook it firmly.
“Daniel.” he replied with an awkward smile.
Adam reached into his pocket and pulled out a bag. Daniel didn’t look at him. He wasn’t all that sure if this was the kind of kid who wanted to fight if you looked at him funny.
Daniel looked at Adam then to the bag in his hand. He was holding a bag of Lemonheads.
Daniel reached into the bag and took a few. Adam dumped some into his mouth and bobbed his head to the beat of his music. Daniel figured he should start conversation with this guy; he was obviously being nice towards him.
“Nice boots.” Daniel said, popping some Lemonheads into his mouth.
Adam put his foot out in front of him and observed hiss boots.
“Dr. Martens.” he said, crunching Lemonheads. “These bad boys have done me some good, no doubt about it.”
Daniel looked at Adam who was looking at the scuffs and scratched on his red-laced boot in adoration. Adam swallowed his mouthful of candy and stuck the bag back into his pocket.
“So you a freshman then?” Adam asked with his hands tucked into his pockets.
“Yeah, I am pretty excited for my first year of high school you know because of art and all.”
Adam leaned back and laughed, he put his hand up in the air. Daniel looked at him, slightly taken aback; trying to figure out what he said that was so funny.
Dude, art majors rule!” Adam said putting his hand in the air.
Daniel gave Adam a high five and smiled.
“So you are in the art department too.” Daniel assumed.
“Yup, second year.”
Daniel nodded. The bus was approaching; Adam shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Daniel picked up his book bag off of the sidewalk and flung it over his shoulder. They walked to the corner and the bus opened its doors. Daniel immediately heard the chatter of students and something that could have been an instrument. Adam stepped onto the bus. Daniel immediately noticed a set of white, lightening bolt like S’s on the back of Adam’s jacket. Daniel got onto the bus; it closed its doors and roared on its way.
The bus squealed to a stop in front of the school. The outside was flooded with students that could very well fit in with kids from his middle school or another planet. He got off the bus and suddenly had an arm thrown around his neck. It was Adam.
Daniel smiled weakly and put his arm around Adam. At least he had made one “friends so far. Adam snorted and spit on the ground as they walked by a group of dance majors, who looked at him in disgust.
“I have some friends I would like you to meet.” Adam said gesturing in the direction of a group of kids who looked similar to Adam himself.
“Sure, why not.” answered Daniel, feeling a little nervous.
Adam and Daniel made their way top the group of teenage boys standing by a huge oak tree. Adam high fived most of them and took his arm off of Daniel. He stepped back to give Daniel an introduction.
“Fellas, I’d like you to meet my buddy Dan. He is a freshman art major. I met him at my bus stop, and I must say, he is exactly what we are looking for.”
The group of boys looked at Daniel. Daniel suddenly felt ill with nerves. What were they planning to do? Why was he exactly what they needed?
Daniel looked anxiously to each of the boys that were in front of him. Adam laughed and put his arm around Daniel again. He knew he was in for a freshman pounding, but why him? Obviously he appealed to these boys, so he might as well take it and try to defend himself as much as he could. He knew what would happen if he tried to run. He planted his feet firmly on the ground and braced himself.
“Make it quick” he said, a little edge to his voice.
Adam looked at Daniel and to his group of friends.
“Dude, what are you talking about?” He gave Daniel a punch in the arm and nudged him away.
Daniel looked at them surprised and gave a sigh of relief.
“I thought I was going to get my freshman welcome.”
One of the boys in the group, one with black hair, brown eyes, and boots like Adam’s but with blue laces lit up a cigarette and took a puff. He passed it to Adam who replied
“Well you are. But we aren’t gonna kick your a**. Come on Dan, do we look that intimidating.”
Adam stepped back, the cigarette hanging between his lips and draped himself between the blue-laced boot kid and another with dirty Converse All-Stars. Daniel wanted to say yes, but bit his tongue.
“Ha ha, No not at all. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Adam gave the cigarette back to the kid with the blue-laced boots and ruffled his messy blonde hair. The biggest. Meanest of them all eyed Daniel he could practically feel it.
“So what do you guys think, he in?”
All of them looked to the oldest. He didn’t say a word. The kid with the blue laces took a puff from his cigarette and tapped the ashes off in front off Daniel.
“You sure he can handle guys like us? He looks a little weak to me. A mama’s boy, maybe?”
Daniel had no idea what was going on, what their plans for him were, but he could tell he didn’t like this kid.
“You kidding me? Look at him, this kid had got game.” Adam answered. He put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder.
The kid stepped back and took another drag of the cigarette and raised his eyebrows in disapproval.
“I see potential in this kid, he’s in.,” said the oldest taking a step forward and holding his hand out to Daniel.
Daniel took his hand and shook it firmly; he was beginning to feel ill with nerves again. Adam was giving his a pat on the back. The kid with the dirty Converse All-Stars stepped forward and gave him a handshake. Daniel looked to the kid smoking, all he gave him an insincere head nod. Daniel gave a weak side smile.
“See? I knew you would like this kid. So I guess I should fill you in on who your new brothers are.” Adam said taking the butt of the cigarette out of the blue laced boot kid’s mouth and took the last puff left in it.
Was this a club for social outcasts?
“This chimney here is Derek.” Adam said pointing to the blue-laced boot kid who flipped Adam the bird.
“That there is Gabriel” He nodded top the dirty Converse kid who smiled back.
“And here’s the guy who made it all possible, this is Larz.”
Daniel didn’t know what to think of a guy with a name like Larz. The meanest guy gave him a nod of recognition, the tenants in his thick neck flexed. Daniel looked at Larz up and down. He was built like a brick wall. His legs were practically tree trunks laced up in yellow Dr. Martens. Was this a group of modern artistically talented punks? Adam flicked the dead butt of the cigarette past Gabriel’s head and laughed,
“You are pretty damn lucky we like you so much kid. Who knows what would become of you without us taking you under our wings. You might have ended up like that”
Adam pointed to a group of geeky looking instrumental majors playing tuba and other wind instruments.
Adam pointed to the group of dance major’s he launched a loogie in front of, the guy’s were comparing waistlines with the girls. Daniel winced. What was this group then? If they weren’t the instrumental majors, or dancers, modern day artistically talented punks, or social outcasts, where was he just inducted?
A bell rang loudly from somewhere, everyone on the grounds were picking up their things and chattering, getting ready to head to their first class. He turned to the other guy. They were waiting for him to step in with them. He stepped in, a little uneasy. Larz said something so fast he didn’t catch what it was. Then all four of them put their forearms to their chest and snapped them outward in a Roman salute. Daniel stood there confused and shocked, where did he see this before?
“I’ll see you get you your first class okay,” said Larz giving Daniel a pat on the back.
“Yea, sure, thanks Larz,” replied Daniel, a little nervous to be left alone with this guy.
Adam, seeing that Daniel was obviously in good hands, turned to walk with Gabriel and Derek. Daniel shifted his book bag from one shoulder to another, he looked up at Larz, he was looking dead ahead. His pace of walking was almost a march, so clean cut, so strong, it seemed impossible to break his stride. Lucky Daniel was tall or else he would have to skip to keep up with this guy. They approached the big brass colored doors of the high school, Larz and Daniel pushed through the double doors of the next four years of Daniel’s high school life.
Larz and Daniel walked the halls, some students looking in their direction, others purposely looking the other way. They approached Daniel’s first room, Room 206 English.
“Hey thanks for showing me where I need to go, appreciate it.” Daniel said, not knowing what else to say.
“No problem. I will be here when your class let’s out, we need to talk about where you stand in our little,” Larz paused trying to find the words.
“Club.” He finished.
“Yeah sure, I guess I will see you then.” Daniel replied, Larz turned to leave.
Larz gave him a nod and marched off, striding down the hallways with precise, solid footwork. Daniel took a seat in the front row of his English class, first on one there. Oddly, he wished he wasn’t.
Larz was waiting for Daniel when the bell rang ending first period. When he seen Daniel, he started to walk towards him.
“You can miss second period right?” Larz asked Daniel, no expression on his face.
Daniel did not know what to say, first day of school and he was being asked to skip? He couldn’t, what if he were to get caught? Detention on his first day at his dream school. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
“I don’t think that is a very good idea. I mean, it is the first day of school here and all, and I need to get familiar with my classes and if I were to…” Daniel looked at Larz, who looked at him sternly.
“I mean, well, I could miss the first bit, but I have to make it so I don’t miss the entire class. You know?” Daniel and Larz began to walk.
“Understandable. We’ll make this quick. We have after school to talk. Follow me.” Larz replied, leading Daniel down a hallway filled with upperclassmen. They approached a locker, Larz’s locker; he unlocked it and swung it open. Larz began rummaging through papers and supplies in his book bag. Daniel peered inside. The paint was chipping and it was relatively small, at least it was relatively small for a guy like Larz.
“Here.” Larz said handing Daniel something wrapped in a wrinkled brown lunch bag. Daniel took it. He had no clue what was in this bag. He wanted to open it right then and there, just incase it was something illegal. But, Larz stopped him.
“Just wait till you get somewhere alone. All I can say now is I see a lot of potential in you kid. Adam, being the idiot he is actually found what I think is a keeper. I am gonna teach you everything I know first hand alright Dan?”
Daniel looked at him without blinking. He had no clue what he had gotten himself into, but he felt good about it. He had actually found his niche in a matter of hours. This was going to be quite a year.
“Okay.” was all Daniel managed to say, even though he had so many questions for Larz to answer.
The bell rang; Daniel was not going to be that late for History. He needed to get to Room 418 though. Larz gave Daniel directions and he hurried to his class.
Daniel entered his classroom, only a few minutes off. He took a seat in the back of the class where there was an open seat. The teacher was sitting behind his desk taking attendance. There was a murmur of talk amongst students. Daniel reached to grab a notebook and pen from his book bag, when he realized he still had Larz’s gift in his hand. He looked around to see if anyone was paying any ounce of attention to him. No one. He opened the creased and crinkled bag and reached inside. He felt tight knit threads under his fingertips; he peered into the bag at what he had in his hand. Daniel felt his stomach drop and his heart leap to his throat. A patch. Bright red and white, all smooth except for the tight stitched, ink black swastika. He hurriedly put Larz’s little gift into his book bag under all of his supplies and zipped it up. He tucked the book bag underneath his seat and looked around the room. Daniel had no clue what he had gotten himself into, but he knew that yes, it was going to be quite a year.
When lunch came around, Daniel looked for somewhere to sit, when he seen Adam waving him over to a table of their “friends” he immediately felt uneasy. But, he took his tray and made his way over to the table of guys and took a seat in between Larz and Gabriel. They were all talking to one another about teachers they hated, students they hated and their classes, which they hated. Larz hushed the group after a while to make an announcement.
“As you know we have an addition to our movement, Dan.” he gave Daniel a nod of recognition.
“So we need to set him up, okay? I already gave him his patch for his jacket, which, by the way, he needs pronto and we need to get him some footwear. I am leaving this to you Derek.” Larz said giving a nod to Derek who agreed, apparently not to happy about it.
Derek was obviously more aware of the dress end. Derek took a bite of his cheeseburger and asked Larz with a full mouth
“I could hook him up with Travis’s old jacket Larz, the boots I can pick up, maybe tomorrow after work, but I have to pick up Squirt here on my way home. So we could head out there.”
Larz gave Derek his side smile and answered,
“Yes, that would be great. What do you say Dan?”
“Yea sure, thanks Derek.” Dan replied picking at his food on his lunch tray.
“Mmm-hmm.” said Derek chewing his food.