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Delinquent’s Last Day
Fall is coming and that’s great. Relaxing is also great. The two go together perfectly. As trees fall asleep so do I, which is why I’m daydreaming under the largest maple tree on school grounds. As I lay on my back staring up into the outstretched arms of the canopy, I watch the leaves shift and sway 50 feet above, slowly changing from summer green to autumn shades of red, yellow, and orange. Mid-day sun pokes through openings created by a gentle wind just enough to cast sparse shadows on the earth and grass. The gentle wind has a cool touch balancing out the sun’s ebbing heat. Nothing in this world is wrong. At this moment, it is perfect. I wonder what’s happening in English.
At this moment, this perfect moment, a shadow, darker than the rest, looms over me. The warmth of the sun is cut off, completely throwing-off the balance of hot and cold. I remain motionless. It’s one of those deer-in-the-headlights feelings.
“Hey, uh, are you supposed to be out here?” Darn, I’ve been spotted and I stayed so still.
“Well, yes, Mr. Dimnlits,” the school’s designated cop. “I’m dual enrolling and I don’t have class today, for this period.” Hopefully he won’t see through my lie. Only first and second period are given to students for dual enrollment, not fifth. But, today is Friday, no school in college on Friday.
“You should be in the media center then, not, uh, wandering around.” Who was wandering around? I sure wasn’t. At least my prefabricated lie worked out. If you’re up to no good, very obviously up to no good, then prepare ahead of time. You know, think it through. Mr. Dimnlits gave me a stern “I dare you to challenge me” face.
He was surprised when I said, “Yes, you’re right,” gathered my backpack and walked toward the media center. It’s really just a library with computers. This cop is new to our school of Sherwood High with its mild-mannered, point-pushing, of-course-communism-in-theory-is-a-great-form-of-government-but-it-is-human-nature-to-be-greedy-and-corrupted-by-power, know-it-all atmosphere. He just expected the worst.
Oh well, the media center is not a shade tree but it’s all right. There are books and computers and students… nosey, gossipy students.
“Please.Sign.In.” I read aloud to myself earning a glare from the bookkeeper. Can’t sign my real name or I’ll get caught later on for skipping. The teachers usually have no need or even bother to take a head count. Who’s name shall I put? Somebody already wrote Henry Potter. Seymour Buhts? #1 Delinquent? No, I’ll go for a classic. “Edward Callins,” or whom ever. Another glare. I put my head down and walked on using my most remorseful gait.
“Todd! Yoo-hoo!” What is that dreaded voice, and it’s speaking my name. “Todd.” I promptly turn my back and examine the-
“PffAH!” A book hits the back of my head and I tumble to the ground. Irony.
“Don’t ignore me you butt.” She stalks over, “Get Up.” This is the second time someone towered over me today. Trying to avoid further commotion I rise and comply.
“Hello Lee-Ah,” the name is spat out as sarcastically and belligerently as possible. I glance at the bookkeeper and motion for us to take this deeper within the confines of the library, NOT media center. She acknowledges and follows. I rub the bump on the back of my head.
“So, why aren’t you in English?”
“What better place to study the complexities of the English language than in a room piled high with scripts of it?” She doesn’t buy it. “Because I’m a nefarious ne'er-do-weller without the slightest- Fuuuhuhu.” This time she pokes my side. Beats a book to the head I guess.
“Crucio! I stopped caring once you told me what I already know.” Geez, she cut my rant short and imposed the Cruciatus Curse on me. What a moody Junior.
“Why are you here?” I retort.
“Well, that, sir, is none of your bees wax.” The edges of her lips curl mischievously and she walks over to a window trying to hide her face. As if that would give me a clue as to what she was doing.
“Don’t leave me hanging, temptress,” the metaphoric wheels of my mind turn. “Were you skipping class?”
She dodges my comment and stares out the window.
“You, of all people are skipping?”
“Wow, the day has finally come.”
“You are a devilishly bad apple, aren’t you?”
“Todd!” She looks at me with concern and maybe even fear instead of malice. I soften and walk to her position in front of the window.
“What is it?”
She points to the untamed and wild forest next to the library and consequently the school. Large flames jump from tree to tree carried by the gentle wind. It brings all the colorful leaves to life. A whisper floats out from Leah’s lips, “Crown Fire.”
We stood watching the flames consume whole trees that took a lifetime or two to grow. Seconds passed, precious time wasted gawking at nature’s fury still worrying about our attendance in fifth period. We need to act and become mobile again. Chisel, no hammer, away the marble encasing our legs with no regard for its contents, if only to warn the school. We need-
“You two, uh, come with me.” Our heads whip around to find the source of the voice. Where is Mr. Dimnlits? A snickering boy steps out from behind a long and dusty row of bookcases. “Hehe, expecting someone else?”
“There is-” I’m cut off.
“There’s a Crown Fire raging about 100 yards from the school, Danny.”
This is Danny, a sophomore, “A what?”
Leah continues, “And we have to warn the school.” The fear has left her and she now seems determined. Her eyes scan the walls that are vacant of books. “Oh and a Crown Fire is a fire that eats up whole trees instead of just the underbrush.” Danny’s blank face prods the explanation further, “Fire is a good thing. It burns underbrush before it can pile up. Smokey the Bear was anti-forest fire. He is responsible for the burning tinder box right there.” She points out the window and Danny’s jaw drops.
I interject, “Before Smokey can burn us alive, let’s find the fire alarm.” Ironically, he reaches to the little red box right next him that says “Pull in Case of Fire” and, do you know what, pulls it. Before the wailing of 50 Police Sirens on a high-speed chase blows out all our eardrums, I see a smile flash across his face. Not an evil smile though, one of pure, unadulterated delinquency.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” he says. Leah and I silently agree with hands clasped firmly against our ears. I can’t believe it, this situation that is. I ditched English like a boss, or imbecile, took a power nap under the shadiest of trees, and I am now partaking in the classical art of fire alarm pulling with my friends. This would be a great day if it weren’t for, you know, the inferno. Here it comes.
Alarm shrieks come from every direction and sound surrounds us. Water starts raining down dampening the cold weather clothes we wear and pages of long forgotten books. Leah looks at me and smiles, despite the painful noise. “I skipped class because a friend asked me to!” she shouts. “She wanted to go off campus so I just came here!”
“That’s cool. I was just sleepy and-” I’m always getting cut off. All the sound dies and the lights over head pop and go out leaving us in semi-darkness. Leah’s look of panic returns and she rushes to the fire alarm next to Danny.
“What did you do!” she yells in exasperation, while rapidly pulling on the useless alarm lever. Her statement was aimed at Danny not me, by the way.
Danny steps backwards and loses all the color in his face. Even the freckles on his nose hide from Leah’s wrath. “I killed everyone. We’re dead. The Bear’s won.” Then he jumps out of the window, Leah screams (in horror, not anger over losing her prey), glass goes everywhere, and I laugh.
I lean out the window and look down at Danny, both figuratively and literally, “Please take your suicidal tendencies to the third floor, or even the second. All the tenth grade kids will laugh when they hear you jumped out of a window three feet above the ground.” Sure I’m cruel, but he’s a dramatic mess. I take a book and clear away the jagged glass left in the frame. Then I proceed to help the bloodied Danny stand. His arms are cut and scratched but not badly.
He whimpers and pulls a piece of glass from his shoulder avoiding eye contact, “Sorry.”
“Like HELL you should be!” Leah roars appearing in the window, followed by a barrage of books. “Go tell EVERYBODY about the fire you BUTT!” As he scampers towards the school buildings, Leah says, “Faculty will listen to a crazy, bloody boy more than us. Help me out.” I give her a hand as she hops onto the well-manicured lawn of Sherwood. “Let’s just leave before we’re toast. I can’t handle any more vicious bouts of screaming. It’s far too unladylike for my gentle vocal cords.”
“Right, whatever you say, madam,” I chide. There is never too life threatening of a situation to be condescending.
We merge into a crowd of swarming high school students filing onto busses. The fire is slowly eating away at the media- library, and favorable winds have pushed it in the opposite direction of the school. I end up sitting with Leah and we talk openly. The buzz of excited and worried students makes our conversation indiscernible from the rest of the gossip.
“Did you see Danny?”
“Yeah, the bookkeeper and Mr. Dimnlits led him onto another bus.”
“Still care about our absence from fifth period?”
“Do you think we will get blamed for the fire?”
“Nope. I think I know who did it.”
“That girl that wanted me to skip with her. There are rumors that she smokes, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt up until she wanted me to leave campus with her.”
“How do you know it’s her? What’s her name, Nancy, or something?”
“Yes, Nancy. When she left me in a big pout, because I wouldn’t come and me being a goody two shoes and all, she walked off to the trails in the woods next to the library.” Leah looks at the thickening smoke in the sky and at all the ironic golden leaves on all the ironic sleepy trees. “I think she’s dead.”