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High School Satire MAG
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.
“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.
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.
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
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 –”
“With liberty and justice for all.”