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The next morning Jet looked around his second period
English class. Nothing had changed. He sat at the same desk with the same initials still
carved into the top. The same teacher stood in front of the same blank faces holding the
same book and pushing those same slippery glasses up the bridge of her nose. And the kids
surrounding him? Hadnt changed a bit. Apparently it takes more than one crime to
change the world.
like most teachers, insisted that her students sit in the seat shed assigned to them
during the first week of the school year. While some teachers arranged them in
alphabetical order, and others put the shorter children in the front and the taller ones
in back, Miss Hellstrom opted for pure randomness. By having the children draw seat
numbers out of a shoe box which shed covered with aluminum foil to make it look
festive, she made the years seating arrangement appear to be both fair and
But fairness depends on
your point of view. At twelve years old Jet was already resigned to the fact that you
dont get many choices in life. You live with the family you were born into, you play
with the children who live closest to you, and in school youre surrounded by the
kids you are because your teacher cut the slips of paper in different sizes so some
heavier ones naturally sink to the bottom of the shoe box. Thats unnatural
Thus Jet spent the
school year sitting behind Jose Rosenbloom, a gangly Hispanic with a head the size of
a basketball which obliterated Jet's view of not only the blackboard, but the entire
front of the classroom. Joses mother was forever explaining to him that his
head was very much like a Great Dane puppy's oversized pawsgiven time
he would grow into it. This attempted consolation was a mixed blessing at
best, for Jose had calculated that he would have to grow to be seven feet tall
and weigh over three hundred pounds for his head to be in correct proportion to his
body, and the tallest member of his family was his Uncle Maxie who stood five foot
ten inches while wearing two-inch heels.
Jose's real name was
Irving Ramirez, but he'd been saddled with the nickname Jose Rosenbloom during the
fourth grade and it stuck to him like the smell of dog shit on the bottom of a shoe.
During the summer vacation between elementary and junior high school, two boys broke
into the school records office to change their history grades. While they were
there they changed Sarah Rider's file to show that she was a boy, enrolled Mark
Armstrong in Home Economics and made a slight change in Irving's file. During home
room on the first day of junior high school, Irving discovered that in the eyes of the
school system he had officially become Jose Rosenbloom. That night he went home and,
not telling them why, insisted that from then on his family was to call him Jose.
Taking the path of least resistance, they did.
To Jet's left was Hannah
Jandolyn Myana, petite though overly well developed for her age. Due to intensely
cultivated pretensions as a poetess-to-be, she insisted the teacher and her
classmates call her H. Jandolyn. The teacher acquiesced, for having once had a
cryptic haiku published in an appropriately obscure literary magazine with a
giveaway circulation of 742 copies, she fancied herself quite the versifier. The
class, which unanimously held the opinion that a haiku was seventeen syllables in
search of coherency, simply called her Hanner.
Seventh grade was the
beginning of Hanners "ugly years" as she would later call them. It
wasnt so much that she was ugly, but rather that she was in the throes of
an uneven adolescent bloom, her childhood cuteness having faded while her adult
features had yet to make the scene. Yet Hanner was so convinced of her ugliness that
she combed her hair straight down over her eyes until it touched her nose, never wore
her much needed glasses outside the privacy of her bedroom, only spoke when
absolutely necessary, and absolutely refused to let her photograph be taken. One day,
five years after being seated next to Jet in English class, Hanner would discover a
two-page spread in the family photo album of candid shots taken of her during the
ugly years. She would remove the photographs and ceremoniously burn them one-by-one
with a Bic lighter, leaving a gaping hole in the pictorial family chronicles and a pile
of ashes in the bathroom sink.
On Jet's right sat Jesse
Leslie Marion Francis, who besides being the only boy in the school with four girl's
names, also held the dubious distinction of having absolutely no neck. None.
Neckless, as he had been dubbed since third grade, was a human ball with a head on
top. His mother, who had about as much right giving fashion advice as the Pope
did about sex, reasoned that wearing turtlenecks would give her son the illusion of
having a neck. Thus Neckless amassed the largest collection of turtleneck shirts and
sweaters in the free world. He obediently wore them every day, their high collars
covering his mouth and nestling the underside of his nose. The illusion worked
wellNeckless appeared to have a normal neck, but no chin or mouth. His voice,
muffled through the fabric gag, sounded like a mad bomber trying to disguise his
voice over the telephone. If the mad bomber was a soprano.
Directly behind Jet was
the notorious Johnny Kasouska, the school systems oldest seventh-grader.
On that first day of
school when the seating assignments were made, Jet looked around at what the randomness
had wrought. Shrugging his shoulders he said, "Thats life." He would go on
to say it many times before the year was out.
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