Jet was walking into his
English class when Rubber Boots came running up behind him. "Did you hear about the
"Yeah, they sell food there,
"Not that. The
robbery!" Rubber Boots said impatiently. "You know, when that guy broke in and
stole all the bags?"
"When did this happen?"
"The other night. Didn't you
"Dont think so."
"God, it's been all over the
place," Rubber Boots said. "Some guy broke into the Food House a couple of
nights ago, but instead of taking the money he stole all the paper bags in the
"What for?" Jet asked
"I don't know. It doesn't
make much sense, but it was kinda cool."
"You're shittin' me,"
"No, it was in the paper and
on TV and everybody's been talking about it, I mean..." Rubber Boots stopped
and looked curiously at Jet. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"
Jet held his hands towards Rubber
Boots with his palms outstretched. "At no time did my hands leave my arms."
"Damn," Rubber Boots
said, feeling foolish at being taken by Jet, "When will I learn?"
"I dont know, but as I
see it youve got two choices: you can either live and learn, or die and
forget," Jet said.
"Ya know what was really
cool about it?"
Rubber Boots looked around to
make sure no one was listening. "It happened the same night we went to the
"So if the cops find out
they'll probably wanna question us."
"As suspects," Rubber
Boots said, then dropping his voice half an octave to where he hoped it would remain
once it finally decided to change, "Where were you on the night of the robbery?
Come clean, boys, we know you don't have an alibi." Jet shook his head slowly.
"At the library, huh? That's a likely story. Were there any witnesses? Can you
prove what time you left? Did you see anyone suspicious on your way home?"
Rubber Boots' eyes lit up and his voice reverted to its usual soprano range.
"Wait a minute! We did see someone on our way home, remember?"
"So I bet Johnny and the
Turk did it!"
Jet clapped his hand over his
friend's mouth. "Sh-h-h-h! You wanna really get us in trouble?"
Rubber Boots pulled Jet's hand
off his mouth. "You dont think they really did it, do you?" he asked
in quiet awe.
"I don't know," Jet
said, "but I sure wouldn't say things like that too loud if I were you."
Jet left Rubber Boots standing
with his eyes wide and his jaw hanging. He walked into the classroom and took his
seat. Hanner was holding a compact in her hand, trying to brush her hair to an even
density in front of her eyes while futilely peeking through the strands to view the
results in the small mirror.
Jose Rosenbloom was napping in
his chair, his huge head lolling backwards over Jet's desktop, obliterating the
surface in a full cranial eclipse which forced Jet to hold his books on his lap.
Neckless was sitting stock upright as if his mother had given him a
broomstick suppository after breakfast, his turtleneck pulled completely over his
head. Johnny had yet to show up.
whispered. "Hey! Neckless."
"Wha?" came the muffled
"What's with the new
"You like it?"
improvement," Jet said.
"That's what I figured, but
it's hard to tell from in here."
Jet turned to Hanner, who was now
rearranging her hair in front of her eyes strand by strand. "Can I borrow that
for a second?"
Hanner tried to look at Jet out
of the corner of her eye so as not to disturb her hair as he reached over and took
the compact. "I'll give it right back."
He turned and held the mirror in
front of the headless wonder. "Check it out in the mirror," Jet said.
"What do you think?"
Neckless turned his body towards
Jet, then tilted his head first one way, then the other. "I can't see a
thing," he said.
"And?" Jet asked.
"I like it."
Jet held the compact out to
Hanner. "Thanks," he said. Hanner turned her eyes towards Jet, trying to
see through her hair as her hand impotently groped the air. Jet took her hand, held
it palm up, and placed the compact in her hand. Hanner nodded her head ever so
slightly, her well-placed bangs barely budging.
Miss Hellstrom walked into the
room and sat on the front edge of her desk. "Good morning, class."
"Good morning, Miss
Hellstrom," they said with no semblance of unity.
"Mr. Rosenbloom, we're ready
Jose sat motionless, his head
thrown back, his Adam's apple jutting obscenely from his neck. His mouth hung wide
open, spittle forming a jagged, slippery trail to his chin. Poses like this can make
bachelorhood a forgone conclusion.
"Jose! Wake up," Jet
"Mr. Rosenbloom," the
teacher said, "desks are for learning, beds are for sleeping. If you're really that
tired I suggest you go see the nurse and get excused from school. Then you can come
back tomorrow well rested and be an active participant in this class."
Jet kicked the bottom of
"I'd like to think you're
exhausted from spending inordinate amounts of time doing your homework for this
class," Miss Hellstrom continued, "but judging by your grade history and
class participation, I tend to discount that theory."
CRASH! Everyone jumped in
their seats as the classroom door slammed shut. Everyone except Jose. Johnny
Kasouska sauntered into the room with all the urgency of a Sunday stroll in the park.
"You're late, Mr.
Kasouska," the teacher said.
"Do you have a note?"
Four people in the class hummed a
note. The teacher glared, instantly silencing the drone. Johnny handed her a crumpled
piece of paper, then stood silently, shifting from foot to foot as she unfolded and
read the note. She looked at him questioningly. He shrugged his shoulders.
Johnny strolled past the teacher
and spotted Jose, still lost to the world. He leaned down and put his mouth near
"Federales!" he yelled.
Jose remained motionless.
"Remember the Alamo!"
Still no response.
Johnny looked up at Miss
Hellstrom, "Maybe he's croaked, Teach."
He put his mouth right next to
Jose's ear. "Oh Jose," he softly murmured, "you must take me again,
you over-sized specimen of manhood. Only more forcefully this time." Jose began
to stir, first his crotch, then his head. "I've never had a man who could make
me feel the way you do." Jose moaned gently. "Take me, Jose. Take me like
you've never taken a woman before."
Jose jerked his eyes open.
"Take me home for
tacos," Johnny said as he stood up and walked to his seat.
"Well, good morning, Mr.
Rosenbloom. I'm glad you could join us," Miss Hellstrom said as she turned and walked
to the blackboard. "Now let's begin, class."
* * * * * *
Ten minutes later, a jiggling
motion caught Jet's eye. It was Rubber Boots waving a small piece of paper from his seat
two rows away . Jet raised his eyebrows questioningly. Rubber Boots pointed to
the paper, then at Jet. Universal School Sign Language for: "This note's for
you." Jet pointed at the paper and then at himself: "That note's for
me?" Rubber Boots nodded furiously: "Yes". Jet waved his
hand beckoningly: "Well, bring it on."
Rubber Boots waited until the
teacher turned toward the blackboard. He thrust his hand out, holding the note in front of
Neckless. As the teacher turned back to the class, Rubber Boots yanked his arm
back, slapping the note loudly on his desk and covering it with both hands. Miss
Hellstrom picked up a book and began to read aloud. Rubber Boots looked at Jet, who
beckoned with his hand. Rubber Boots again jabbed the note in front of Neckless.
"Pssst," he whispered.
"Pass this to Jet."
Neckless, who couldn't see the
note through his turtleneck mask, turned towards Rubber Boots. "What?" he said
"Shhh. Pass this to Jet,
"Pass what to
Neckless blindly put his hand out
for the note, smacking Elise Baumthe blonde who sat in front of him and was
unaffectionately known as the Blonde Bomberin the side of the face.
"Hey!" she barked in
surprise, "what the hell you doin'?"
"You're gonna be
sorry if you do that again."
"I said I'm sorry."
"What's going on over
there?" the teacher said, looking up from her book.
Hellstrom," Elise said ever so sweetly.
The teacher went back to reading
aloud as Rubber Boots put the note on Neckless desk. "It's right in front
of you," he whispered. "Now give it to Jet."
Neckless put both of his hands on
his desk, blindly groping the desktop until he knocked the note to the floor.
Hearing it fall, he leaned over to the left just as Jet bent down towards
his right, each grabbing for the fallen note. Their heads hit, making a loud
cracking noise like two wet woodblocks.
"What is going on
"Nothing," Jet said as
he scooped up the note. He and Neckless were each rubbing their heads.
"I'll take that," Miss
Hellstrom said as she strode quickly towards Jet.
"I wish you could," Jet
said, "but I think the bump's gonna be all mine."
"The note, Mr. Banker."
"The one you have in your
hand," she said, now hovering over Jet's desk.
"That's not a note."
Johnny leaned over Jet's shoulder
to take a look. "Looks like a note to me," he said. Jet turned and glared
at Johnny. "Of course I could be mistaken," Johnny continued, "it
might be your death certificate."
"Mr. Banker?" the
teacher said, holding her hand out.
"Miss Hellstrom?" Jet
"The note, please."
Jet looked at her pleadingly,
hoping that if he delayed long enough she might change her mind and go back to
teaching the class. Johnny kicked the underside of Jet's seat.
please," he told Jet.
Jet slowly handed the note, now
damp and crumpled from his tight sweaty grasp, to his teacher. She walked to the
front of the class and leaned against the edge of her desk.
"I should read this
aloud to the class," she said. "Would you like that?"
"Yeah!" the class
"I was talking to Mr.
"I don't think so," Jet
"You don't think
"Well, I don't know what it
says, so I really can't say for sure."
"Then why dont we all
find out together?"
Rubber Boots was frantically
looking at Jet, his eyes wide with fear, his mouth silently screaming
"On second thought, maybe
that's not such a hot idea," Jet added quickly.
Miss Hellstrom looked at Rubber
Boots, his face frozen, eyes gaping, mouth wide open. She looked back at Jet, who was
trying to look as repentant as possible. This still-life tableaux lasted entirely too
Finally, she dropped the note on
her desk. "You may pick this up after class, Mr. Banker."
Rubber Boots went limp, dripping
in his seat. Jet leaned forward, taking refuge behind Jose's head. Neckless rubbed the
swelling knot on his forehead through the fabric of his turtleneck. Johnny leaned
forward and whispered at the back of Jet's head.
"Aren't you the lucky
"There's no such thing as
luck," Jet said.
"Don't I know it,"
Johnny said knowingly.
* * * * * *
The bell rang. The sound of books
slamming, desks shuffling, and feet hitting the floor was deafening. Jet was almost
through the door when he heard his name.
"Mr. Banker, didn't you
Stopping abruptly in his tracks,
Jet caused a twelve person pile-up that rammed into his back. He turned and fought
his way against the exiting tide of students.
"In the future, Mr. Banker,
I hope you'll send your notes by mail and not pass them in my class," Miss
Hellstrom told him.
"I wasn't passing it,"
Jet said. "I was the passee."
"You're still guilty,"
she told him. "Of being the recipient as well as making up words that aren't in
"But you told us English is
an evolving language."
She picked up the note from her
desk and handed it to Jet. "I strongly suspect the English language will evolve
very nicely without your help, thank you."
Jet jammed the note in his pants
pocket and headed out the door. Johnny sauntered up to the teacher's desk and stood there,
both hands thrust in his pockets.
"What can I do for you, Mr.
"My excuse?" he said.
"And what is your
he said, nodding toward the folded piece of paper on her desk.
"What do you want it
She picked up the note and handed
it to Johnny, who stuffed it in his shirt pocket next to his cigarettes.
"Don't even think about
trying to use it again," she told him.
"Would I do something like
that?" he asked innocently.
The teacher shook her head.
"Don't push your luck, Mr. Kasouska."
"Luck?" Johnny said
laughing. "If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all."
* * * * * *
Just as Jet reached the bottom of
the stairs, Rubber Boots grabbed his arm and pulled him under the stairwell.
"What'd she say?" he
"She wanted to know who the
note was from."
"Did you tell her?"
"She said she'd fail me if I
"Oh shit," Rubber Boots
said in panic. "My parents'll kill me."
"Can't say I'd blame
"Man, what am I gonna
"About what?" Jet
"About this. They'll kill me
when they find out."
"They'd kill you over a
"You don't know my
"Probably a good
thing," Jet said. "But I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. They'll never
"How do you know?"
"'Cause I didn't tell her a
"But she said she'd fail
you," Rubber Boots said in astonishment. "You mean you'd take the rap for
"You have a lot to
learn," Jet said as he put his arm around Rubber Boots' shoulders. "To me,
friendship is not only sacred, it's the very foundation upon which life is based. You
see, friendship is the greatest bond two people can have. It's the strongest
motivator there isother than money, maybe." Rubber Boots smiled at Jet
admiringly. "And the longer you know me, the easier it'll be for you to tell
when I'm bullshitting you and when I'm not."
Rubber Boots smile melted
as he realized what he'd heard. He threw Jet's arm off his shoulders and pulled away.
Jet grinned as he pulled the note
from his pocket. "Now let's see what you had to say that was so damned important
you got me in trouble."
As Jet read the note, his smile
slowly changed, first to bewilderment, then to understanding, then to ironic realization.
He handed the note to his friend.
"I don't want it,"
Rubber Boots said. "Just trash it."
"Read it," Jet said.
"I don't wanna read it. I
"Read it," Jet said
Rubber Boots took the note and
scrunched up his face as he read it.
To whom it may concern:
Please excuse John Kasouska's tardiness. He was detained due to official business relating
to an ongoing police investigation.
Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.
(signed) Officer Milo Jenkins
* * * * * *
The Turk was standing at his
locker when Johnny quietly sneaked up behind him and threw his arm around his throat in a
choke hold. The Turk tried to spin around but felt the arm tighten around his neck.
He grabbed Johnny's arm and futilely tried to wriggle out of the hold, flopping
around like a dying fish at a weigh-in station.
"Hey, it's only me,"
Johnny said as he let go.
"It's a good thing,"
the Turk said as he rubbed his throat. "I was about to pulverize you with a
Korean Death Flip."
"You and how many
"Just me, myself and
I," the Turk said.
"Yeah, three to one and I
still would've kicked your ass."
"Hey," the Turk said,
"where were you this morning anyway?"
"I had an appointment."
"Not even close."
"I had a very special
meeting with some of our fine men in uniform," Johnny told him.
"What's this, twenty
questions?" the Turk asked. "Just tell me where you were already."
Johnny reached into his shirt
pocket and pulled out the crumpled piece of paper with a flourish. The Turk took the
paper and opened it. He read it once and looked at Johnny questioningly.
"Read it again," Johnny
said. "I know you can figure it out."
The Turk read it again slowly. He
looked at Johnny, then at the note, then back at Johnny. "I don't wanna sound
like an idiot," the Turk said, "but I still don't get it."
"Well you do sound like an
idiot," Johnny said, then as if talking to a three year-old.
The Turk hated it when Johnny
used that patronizing tone of voice. "You don't have to treat me like..."
"Just read the fuckin
"Well, was I right or
what?" the Turk read aloud. "Did you see the look
on Hellstormtrooper's face when he walked in? I thought she was going to shit
a brick. What do you think? FBI? Secret Service? CIA? I'll bet you a
zillion dollars they were all questioning him. If Johnny didn't knock over the Food
House the other night my name isn't Rubber Boots."
Johnny snatched the note from the
Turk's hand. He stared at it in disbelief, giving way to understanding, then back to
"His name ain't Rubber
Boots," Johnny said menacingly, "his name is shit."
[ Chapter 12 ]