Where I Go
Author's note: Many kids don't read because they can't relate to the story so they get bored. However, with Zack... Show full author's note »
Chapter FiveToday I think I’ll look for a new lunch table to sit at. I need some time away from Tony and Mark. I don’t want a repeat of what happened Friday night or anything like it. At least not today.
I walk through the double doors and stare across the barren desert of unfamiliar faces. I recognize a few from my classes, but don’t know their names. I could meet a hundred of them on the street and never know that we went to the same school unless they told me. Mark and Tony are the only ones I know; the only ones who have ever talked to me here, the only ones that keep me convinced that I’m not invisible.
Then I see one boy sit down at an empty table near the window. He pulls out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a book. Everyone is walking past his table, but nobody sits down or talks to him. He’s invisible too. Why can’t we be invisible together?
“Hey, Milo,” I say as I sit down. He peers out at me from behind his book.
“Oh, hi, Zack! Do you need help with your homework or something?”
“No, I just needed a place to sit. Is this seat taken?”
“Never is… Where’s your lunch?”
“I don’t have any money.”
“You put it down somewhere and then it was gone?” How’d he know? “Happens to me all the time. Would you like half of my PB&J?”
He hands me a triangular half of his white bread sandwich with the crusts cut off. Then we eat and talk. I can actually follow the conversation, and he listens to me and cares about what I have to say. That half an hour goes by in a flash, something I wish would happen most days. Today was different, though. I was laughing for the first time since I came here. I didn’t want it to end.
I sit down in my seat in History and drop my backpack behind me… on a girl’s foot as she walks by. She trips and almost whacks her head on my desk, but I put my arms out to try to catch her. We both fall to the floor and her books are scattered all over our row. I immediately start to apologize. I could have just cracked her head open, but she’s just sitting on the floor laughing.
I pick up all of her books and put them on her desk for her. She thanks me and asks if we’ve met before. I’ve only been sitting next to you for a month now. “I’m Zack.”
“Kayla.” She smiles, brushing a strand of her short, brown hair away from her big brown eyes.
At that moment Mr. Grant walks in and tells us to put our books away. The room begins to buzz with panic. There’s one kid in the front row about to duck for cover under his desk. I asked Kayla what was going on. She told me we were about to have a stand-up pop quiz. It’s something Mr. Grant does where he’ll tell one row to stand up and he’ll ask those kids questions. You can’t sit down until you get one right. Some kids have stayed up the entire class period.
“Back row,” Kayla’s head whips around at Mr. Grant, her eyes widened to the size of quarters. “Stand up.”
The second I leave my chair my mind goes completely blank. What have we been learning about? What class am I even in?!? History, get a grip, Zack. I can’t remember a thing though. I think we’ve been learning about some war. But which one? There are so many! If people would just get along I wouldn’t be having this problem.
“Mr. Allen,” he stands towering over me staring down his long nose, “who was President of the United States when the Civil War began?”
“Uhh…” Oh, God. Why now? Why me? Everybody’s staring. This isn’t even a hard question. I just, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“Yes.” Wait, was I supposed to say no? How do you answer that question?
“Abraham Lincoln,” Kayla says as she sits down.
Mr. Grant turns back to me and leans over with his hands on my desk. “Mr. Allen,” his black eyes lock on mine, “have you studied at all this week? Be honest now.”
“Yes?” Well, I was a little preoccupied Friday night and just plain unmotivated the rest of the weekend.
“I can tell you’re lying to me, Mr. Allen. Your eyes are darting around the room. You are panicking because you know that you do not have any of the answers. Perhaps you should pay more attention in this class instead of daydreaming.”
A smile emerges from the black goatee. I swear I see fangs. “Very good.”
He kept going down the row asking questions. Some people had the same trouble that I did and had to answer a bunch of them. Mr. Grant never seemed to get mad at them, though. One by one they plopped back down into their seats with sighs of relief. With just a minute left of class, the girl at the end of my row got to sit down. I’m the only one left standing. Mr. Grant turns on his heel and begins walking back towards me, each step of his steel-toed boots echoing through the silent room. “Mr. Allen.” He stops and leans over my desk again. “Where was the treaty that ended the Civil War signed?”
The bell rings and everybody starts to get up to go to their next class. “Nobody move! You’re not leaving until your classmate answers the question.”
We’re all doomed for detention. We’re going to be here all night. I didn’t know the answers to hardly any of the other questions. Now I'm under even more pressure because everybody else is going to be punished for me being terrible at pop quizzes. I can feel a bead of sweat slowly rolling down the side of my forehead. It's so quiet in the room that I can hear my heart beating, and it just keeps getting louder and faster. What am I supposed to do? Then I feel a sharp pain in my ankle. Kayla just kicked me under the desk. I glare over at her and she points to something written on the cover of her notebook.
“Appomattox Court House?” I whisper as I read. That sounds vaguely familiar.
“What was that, Mr. Allen?”
“Appomattox Court House.”
“That's correct. You may go.”
Everyone packs up their books and practically sprints out of the classroom. I don't even get the chance to thank Kayla. Right now I'm just hoping that I don't get into trouble with the gym teacher for being late. If I run, I might make it just in time.
When I walk in, Mr. Jacobs is in the back room getting the floor hockey sticks so he doesn't notice me. I make a break for the locker room so he doesn't catch me, and I change fast enough so that I'm out right as he's calling my name for attendance. The red team gets stuck with me for floor hockey since I'm one of the last people to be picked. I start off sitting in the bleachers because it's always the first people who get picked who get to play the whole time. Not that I mind. I’m much less likely to humiliate myself sitting over here. Milo seems to have the same idea, so I go over to sit and talk with him. I tell him all about what just happened with Mr. Grant and ask if he is even allowed to do that. Milo says that it's his classroom and he can do whatever he wants. Personally, I think that it is totally not fair.
The buzzer goes off signaling the end of the first period. Mark and Tony come over and sit in the bleachers with us.
“Zack, where were you today?” Mark asks. “You weren't at the lunch table.”
“What are you doing talking to this loser?”asks Tony.
“Excuse me,” says Milo, “but I believe that you, sir, are the loser in this situation because it just so happens that my aspirations extend beyond stocking shelves in the back of Wal-Mart for the rest of my life."
“Well, at least I can make a shot.”
“Let's see how far that gets you in life.”
“Come on, Zack, stick with us or you’ll catch the nerd disease.”
“Zack can talk to whomever he likes.”
“Yeah, if he wants to be a loser too.”
Okay, now what? Mark and Tony are going to shut me out if I keep talking to Milo. Is losing one friend worth keeping another? Maybe I can still talk to Milo without those guys thinking I'm a loser. What they don't know won’t hurt them, right?
Kayla moved her seat next to mine in Math the other day. That worked out quite well for me because she is really smart, and algebra is really hard. She’s been helping me get through all of the work that Mr. Thompson has been giving us. I think the teachers just team up to maximize the torture. I mean on Tuesday Mr. Thompson gave us thirty-eight problems to do for homework. Maybe you’re thinking hey, kid, that’s not that bad, but those thirty-eight problems covered four pages in the math book. On top of all of that, Mr. Grant assigned us a five-paragraph essay on the effect the Emancipation Proclamation had on the Civil War. It’s due by the end of the week. I can’t write five paragraphs in a week! That’s crazy! Does he think that I’m some sort genius? Or like a high school student or something? It’s not just five paragraphs either, because I keep on having to write rough drafts until he thinks it’s good enough to pass in for a grade. Nothing I do is ever good enough for him!
I’ve been ranting to Kayla about this all math class, but I really don’t think she’s listening to me because this was her reply: “Do you want to go the movies with me on Friday night?”
Where did that come from? “What are you going to see?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to see?”
“Well, I was supposed to go see Warp Speed with my brother, but he already went with his friends, so I guess we could go. The commercial had a car chase and ninjas in space.”
“Oh, okay. Do you want to get some dinner before the movie?”
“Let’s see, on Fridays Mom makes meatloaf so yes. Definitely.”
“Okay, so will you pick me up at six thirty?”
Then she starts giggling and turns to the girl behind her and squeals. What did I do? That conversation wasn’t that funny. I still don’t get girls. They both whisper to each other and look over at me and giggle some more. This carries on through the rest of class.
I tell Milo about how weird Kayla is acting when I get to English. I invite him to come to the movies with us. He just smiles and shakes his head and says, “I think you two would be better off if I left you alone.” I don’t see why that is. We’re just a couple of friends going to watch a ninja car chase movie. Besides, Kayla doesn’t really strike me as a high-speed, kick-butt ninja battle in space movie kind of person. I need somebody there to share my excitement with. Milo says we can rent it at his house once it hits video stores. I guess we could do that, but why wait?
Milo tells me I should just go back to reading now so I’ll have less to do for homework. He says he’ll help me with my history essay if I finish before the end of class.
Mrs. Evans stands up at the front of the class and starts talking about the book and asking questions, which means Milo’s not available to answer mine anymore. He’s too busy being the only student involved in the class discussion.
I sit back in my chair and wait for the bell to ring.