Jet ended up sitting next
to Johnny in detention. While this was where Johnny traditionally spent the first hour
after school each dayat least on those days that he actually went to schoolby
this time Jet was usually home, snacked out and trying to avoid the kids on the block who
always, it seemed, wanted to play baseball. This was, in fact, the first time in several
years Jet had to stay in detention, something which is more easily explained by luck than
culpability. Getting sent to the principal's office was a common occurrence, usually for
espousing his philosophy of the day. Being assigned additional homework, often in the form
of writing "I will not talk out of turn in class" one hundred times, was far
from unheard of. But detention? That was another matter altogether.
Hed been sitting in English
class minding his own business, numb with boredom since Johnnys surprise entrance
and hasty exit had made for a rather premature class climax. Two rows away Rubber Boots
flipped through his navy blue loose leaf notebook trying to find a white page with the
light blue lines that hadnt been written on already. How could it be that there were
no blank sheets left when his mother had braved the brutal early August heat by going to
Woolworth's at the very first sign of a Back to School Sale and bought enough three-hole
punched paper to stock a large stationery store?
"Gimme a piece of
paper," he said to Neckless.
Neckless nearly shouted from inside his turtleneck, which was still encasing his head.
"Shhhh!" Rubber Boots
hissed at him. "You're gonna get us in trouble."
"Can I borrow a piece of
"You gonna give it back when
"I wasn't planning on
"Okay," Neckless said
as his hands groped the top of his desk, "take this one."
Rubber Boots reached over and
took the pale yellow piece of paper his friend handed him. He glanced at the printing on
one side, then turned it over and wrote on the blank side. When he was finished he folded
it in quarters and nonchalantly dropped it on Neckless desk.
"Pass it to Jet,
"Will you stop that
already!" Rubber Boots scolded. "You're gonna get us both caught."
"Just pass the note to Jet,
"The one that's right in
front of you."
Neckless reached out and knocked
the note off the desk, but thanks to a lot of luck and just a touch of instinct, snatched
it out of mid air before it could hit the floor.
"Where's Jet?" he
"On the other side of you
where he always is."
Neckless thrust the note to his
left, swiping the side of Jose's head with his hand, which wasnt difficult
considering the exaggerated size of the target. Jose spun around sharply, lashing out with
his right arm and brushing Neckless hand aside like an obnoxious gnat. Using far
more force than he realized, he knocked Neckless hand into the side of Mary Margaret
Dickerson's head. Mary Margaret, who the kids called M&M despitethough perhaps
because ofher insistence on using both names, instinctively slapped Neckless
hand, sending it flying back towards Jose's face. Like a tennis champ defending himself at
the net, Jose's hand flew up, successfully blocking the shot and sending Neckless
hand careening into his own desktop. The commotion, not to mention the interesting
sequence of noises, caused the class to turn and stare at Neckless. As Miss Hellstrom
looked up from the book she'd been reading aloud, the note fluttered out of Neckless
hand like an injured butterfly and landed gently on the floor.
"Is that your note?"
she asked Neckless.
He sat quietly, for without his
sight he had no idea the teacher was speaking to him.
"No, ma'am," Hanner
answered, not having any idea the teacher wasn't speaking to her.
"I was talking to Mr.
Francis," Miss Hellstrom told Hanner, then turning to Neckless, "Is that your
"Nope," he said
"I can't hear you."
"I said nope."
"You said what?"
"I said no, ma'am," he
"Mr. Francis," the
teacher announced as she walked towards him, "I can't hear a word youre saying
when you hide inside your shirt and mumble into your chest. I want you to take that shirt
down from around your head so we can bask in the glory of your smiling face and feast our
ears upon your responses."
"No," he said, raising
the volume of his voice a little louder.
"Im warning you. If
you don't take it down, I'm going to do it myself," she said, reaching for the ribbon
that secured the turtleneck above his head.
shouted in anguish. "Dont do it!
"It's mine," Jet said
suddenly, leaning way down and picking up the note, almost tipping over his desk in the
"Well, Mr. Banker," his
teacher said, her hand poised over Neckless head mere inches from the grand
unveiling, "I'm glad to see you decided that honesty is indeed the best policy. Why
don't you bring the note-that-was-so-important-it-just-couldn't-wait-until-after-class up
to the front of the room?"
Jet stood apprehensively,
clutching the note tightly. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Neckless trembling
like a vampire who had barely escaped a deadly ray of daylight. And beyond him was Rubber
Boots, his eyes closed tightly, slowly shaking his head back and forth.
Banker," the teacher said impatiently. Jet walked to the front of the room and faced
the class. "Good. Now please open the note and read it to the class."
Jet let out a gust of air and
looked at Miss Hellstrom with the biggest puppy-dog eyes he could muster, the picture of
conjured up innocence, but she just looked at him impatiently. "I must be losing my
touch," he thought to himself as he unfolded the pale yellow sheet of paper. Rubber
Boots had a look on his face that said a railroad spike hammered in one ear, passing
through his brain, and emerging out the other ear would be a welcome relief at the moment.
"Read it," Miss
Jet took a deep breath.
"Come praise the Lord at an old fashioned revival featuring the Quite Reverend John
Joseph Matthew Paul III," he read. "Live and in person. You've seen him on TV,
Miss Hellstrom walked over and
took the paper out of Jet's hand. It was a flyer for the Quite Reverend's impending
revival which a young man in a navy blue suit had handed Neckless on the way to school
that morning. She turned the paper over and saw the scribbled handwriting on the back. She
handed it back to Jet.
"Now read it."
Jet looked at Rubber Boots, whose
eyes were bugging out so far they threatened to pop out of his head and fall into his
shirt pocket for convenient carrying. And him not wearing a pocket protector. Jet looked
back at his teacher. Her eyebrows were arched clear up to her hairline, silently
questioning whether he was going to start reading it while at the same time warning him
that it had better be soon.
Jet looked from the note to
Rubber Boots, then back at the note. He looked down and slowly tore the paper in half.
"Mr. Banker?" the
He lined the two pieces up and
with great deliberation tore them in half again.
"What are you
He stacked the pieces and tore
them. Again. And again. And again.
"I'm talking to you, Mr.
Walking to Ed Frederick's desk,
which was the first seat in the first row by the door, Jet dropped a small piece of the
mutilated note on the desk top. Then he stepped behind Eds desk and placed a torn up
piece of the note in front of Sheri Banks. He continued walking down the row towards the
back of the room, pausing to give each person a single small piece of the note.
"Mr. Banker?" the
teacher called out. "I asked you what you're doing!"
Jet picked up the pace, walking
down the second row and depositing a piece of paper on each desk.
"Mr. Banker, stop that this
He handed a piece of the note to
each person in the next row.
He finished up by giving two
pieces to each person in the last row, then walked to the front of the room where he
looked directly at Miss Hellstrom. He took the four pieces of paper hed saved for
himself and balled them up, then popped them in his mouth, chewing ever so slowly and
"Mr. Banker," his
teacher said in exasperation, "you get to the principal's office right this minute and
you've got detention after school."
As Jet continued chewing on the
wad of paper, Rubber Boots picked up the small piece of paper from his desk and placed it
in his mouth. So did Jose. One by one, every student in the class put their piece of paper
in their mouth, some in an obvious manner, others sneaking it in and swallowing it whole
before their teacher could see that they'd really gone through with it. All, that is,
except Hanner and Neckless, who would have gladly been a part of the proceedings had
either one been able to see what had transpired. Ignorance may be bliss, but it oftentimes
isn't any fun either. Jose reached over and took the piece of paper from Hanner's desk and
tossed it in his mouth, then took Neckless and did the same.
Jet swallowed hard; the chewed-up
paper was a rather hard, unyielding lump, much like his mother's solid chunks of rice. And
him without a glass of water, iced tea, or even milk.
"Mr. Banker," his
teacher said sternly, "I hate to have to say this, but Im very disappointed in
"Well," Jet said as he
walked to his desk and gathered up his books, "youve got to face lifes
[ Chapter 25 ]