A glass of crazy, p.3
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.3

           Tina Laningham
 
"In the back," I said to Rafa, pointing at two empty desks.

  His eyebrows scrunched together. "We never sit in the back. The probability of getting called on is highest in the back and lowest in the front."

  That's the logic I normally used to get Rafa to sit in front with me. I'd made it up in sixth grade math when we first started learning about probability and it had worked ever since. How could I argue with my own rationale?

  Since I wasn't willing to admit I'd made it up just yet, I shot him a weird look and he shuffled to a desk in the far back row. That's when I realized I was turning out like Mom, master of "the look." Or was it Dad? He always used math percentages to get people to support his causes. Maybe I had a little of both in me, which was scary because I'd just decided I didn't want to be like either one. If those were my choices, a cold ruler or a lying cheat, I really wasn't going to like myself when I grew up.

  Mr. Oliver stood at the front of the room with his arms crossed, studying students as they wandered in. It freaked me out that he was abnormally tall and as wiry as the oval glasses sliding down his oily nose.

  "Um, do people still wear bow ties?" I whispered to Rafa.

  "I heard he's good," Rafa whispered back. "He just looks funny."

  With a long, pointy finger, Mr. Oliver slid the glasses up his nose and waited for that obnoxious bell to stop blasting.

  "Good morning, writers," he said with an English accent. His wicked smile revealed a mouthful of brown stained teeth. Everyone stared in silence, waiting to hear what the odd teacher who looked like a character from a Charles Dickens novel would say next. "You came into this class as students and in nine months, you will leave as writers. To achieve this extraordinary endeavor, you will write in your journals every day."

  Okay, first of all, that's not going to happen. Obviously Mr. Oliver and I needed to have a serious conversation about my writing genre. I do not journal. That's for people who aren't creative enough to write a real story. When Rafa asked for a pencil, I gave him one and whispered, "Journaling is puking your feelings over and over."

  "Yes, you will write in your journals every day," Mr. Oliver continued. "No exceptions."

  Um, like no. I'm already a writer. I have a genre. My genre is fantasy. I don't do feelings.

  Scanning the rows of desks, I spotted the triple Ps doing synchronized gum chewing along the side of the room. I rolled my eyes. "Lovely." I accidently said that in my out loud voice and-whoa-double take! Sitting right behind them, also doing synchronized gum chewing was ohmygod, Megan.

  Okay, stop. Breathe. "Megan," I whispered as loud as I could, but she obviously didn't hear me.

  "First, I will need samples of your writing." Mr. Oliver took long strides toward the back of the room and reached way down to pick up a small trash can in the corner. With two fingers, he held the plastic can as far away from his body as possible, as if it contained fatally toxic germs. "You may write a piece about anything-any genre, any style, any point of view, as long as it is not poetry." Mr. Oliver looked down at the first triple P and nudged her arm with the trash can. "We will write poetry later in the year."

  With her pinky sticking out, Priscilla extracted the gum from her mouth and flicked it into the can.

  "What you choose to write is entirely up to you." He held the can by Presley now. Mr. Oliver didn't even have to make eye contact to get Presley to put her gum in the trash. "I simply need to understand your various levels of writing."

  With her pinky out exactly like the other two, Paige did the same.

  Megan had already swallowed her gum because she was way smarter than the triple Ps. I ripped out the first page of my class journal and wrote:

  Where have you been? Did u see the news??? OMG Help!!

  The first rule of note writing is never put your name, or the name of the intended receiver, on the note. Chances of interception by the teacher: fifty-fifty. Megan and I had created this rule back in third grade when we first discovered the art of carrying on a conversation all through class. Unfortunately, we'd figured out the odds of getting caught the hard way. I folded the note exactly eight times.

  After returning the trashcan to the corner, Mr. Oliver bounced a teabag in his cup, which explained the brown stained teeth. "You may take five minutes to discuss your idea for a writing piece with a partner."

  Rafa slid his desk toward mine. "I need to be partners with Megan," I said. "We haven't talked?"

  Mr. Oliver called on Megan who had her arm stretched high in the air.

  "Can we write about something on the news?" Megan peeled her eyes toward me and suppressed a smile.

  That one drew snickers, but this time I didn't bolt. With my eyes wide open, Megan had punched me in the heart. I wanted to run, but my legs wouldn't move.

  In true British style, Mr. Oliver cocked his head and spoke directly to Megan with an even sharper accent, "If you must write about the sex life of parents, write about your own."

  Right. Her family was perfect. Mr. Applegate, the perfect doctor; Mrs. Applegate, the perfect community member; Megan, the perfect everything; all living in a perfect house together. With my whole body shaking, I stuffed the note in my pocket.

  Megan sat up straight. "That's why God invented friendworld."

  I turned to Rafa for some explanation, but he shook his head in disbelief.

  "Huh?" a boy across the room said.

  A girl leaned back. "Check friendworld tonight."

  My face got hot and I felt the thump, thump, thump of my pulse.

  "Easy girl," Rafa whispered.

  Okay, I'm not sure what I said next. Something about how this town needed a good hurricane to wipe it off the map.

  The next thing I knew, Mr. Oliver stood tapping the paper on my desk. "Write about it," he said.

  I gagged at mothball fumes rising from his tweed jacket and wrote at the top of the paper:

  Hurricane Abby

  Born a mere summer breeze, Abby danced upon the waves, delighting in life, until a cruel whisper knocked her unconscious and then went on its merry way. When Abby awoke, her sweetness was gone and all that remained was a bitter anger that stirred deep inside.

  The stirring began slowly. Pain fueled the circular motion, until the power of her rage exploded into a life of its own. Suddenly, Abby realized she wielded great powers that before, she'd never dreamed possible. Not wanting to waste her mighty powers, she chose a mark and set her course. It was a small island in the Gulf of Mexico, a beautiful island, but the island's beauty was wasted on its inhabitants, for they were cruel.

  Abby was not a murderer. She didn't want to kill anyone; she just wanted to destroy the evil virus that contaminated the island. Even the best scientists at the Centers for Disease Control were baffled by this virus, for it could only be transmitted through words-hateful words-meant to destroy the lives of innocent people. The scientists named the virus: Destructive Island Gossip and decided to call it, DIG.

  Abby knew she had the power to destroy the evil virus and relished the thought of using her rage for a good cause. She would become a superhero by doing what the greatest minds at the CDC could not: wipe out the spread of DIG.

  Slowly, she entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, giving the inhabitants time to scatter across the mainland. This strategy not only spread the virus so thin that it quickly died, it also gave Abby plenty of time to build up her powers to become a category five hurricane, the most destructive hurricane possible.

  The sight of the gossipy inhabitants fleeing the island amused Abby. It amused her so much, she sent a hearty laugh into the first gust of wind. Her mighty winds blew down enormous trees that crushed houses and flattened cars left behind by the inhabitants. And for the houses not surrounded by trees, she delighted in tearing off their roofs. She was the conductor of a symphony, orchestrating the darkest piece of music ever heard and it was beautiful, in a loud and angry way.

  For the finale, Abby sucked up the water in the Gulf and created a twenty fo
ot surge that swept the island clean. And when it was over, she looked back upon her work and smiled. The island was nothing more than a sandbar with every trace of human existence gone.

  Now at peace, Abby returned to the ocean as a summer breeze and danced upon the waves, delighting in the sweetness of life once again.

  Since the whole class was still writing, I had time to jot a quick note on the last page.

  Dear Mr. Oliver,

  As you can see, I'm already a writer. I would like to have permission to write a fantasy novel instead of writing in a journal. I am a member of the TFW (Teen Fantasy Writers) and they are having a novel writing contest this year. My goal is to win. Every week, I will turn in a new chapter for you to grade in place of a journal entry. Please let me know if this is ok.

  Sincerely,

  Abby

  There. No way would he say no to that.

  "In five minutes, I will collect your papers," Mr. Oliver announced.

  "What did you write about?" Rafa asked as I was making a few minor punctuation edits to my story.

  "A hurricane destroying Galveston."

  Rafa blinked slowly. "Nice."

  "Uh huh, Mr. I-don't-have-any-problems. What did you write?"

  "A new twist on Cinderella," he said with a proud smile.

  "Please tell me you're kidding."

  "No, this prince, he finds a glass slipper, right?"

  I rolled my eyes.

  "Okay, so then he searches the country far and wide, but he's not searching for the girl who can wear the slipper." His grin turned sly. "Here's the twist. The prince is searching for the other slipper because he loves the shoes!"

  All I could do was gaze at his soft, brown eyes and his sweet, dimpled smile. That story was so gay. My eyes welled up. I just hoped Rafa could wait until they were finished bullying me to come out of the closet, because when that day came, he was definitely gonna need protection and I wasn't sure I had enough fight in me for both of us.

  Mr. Oliver collected the papers and dismissed the class. I took a deep breath. Writing had made the forty-five minutes pass quickly.

  "No cafeteria today," I said to Rafa. "I need a break from these creeps."

  "We'll eat outside." Rafa pulled a brown paper bag from his backpack.

  "I didn't bring a lunch, but I'm not hungry anyway."

  "There's plenty in here." Rafa dug around in the bag. "If you like chicken and bread and, uh, we can split this orange.

  Naturally, every bench was taken and we ended up on the grass. All I could stomach was a bite of bread and a slice of orange.

  "I hate Megan more than I hate the Kat creature, if that's humanly possible."

  Rafa stared at the ground and mumbled something in Spanish.

  "I mean God, does Mr. Oliver really expect me to write in a journal that everyone I've ever known is a traitor and that my life is ruined forever?"

  Rafa was quiet for a moment and then he started rambling about something, but depression had already covered me like a heavy blanket. Not a warm, comforting blanket; more like a blanket that cast darkness. I didn't care about anything anymore, not even Rafa, who sat right in front of me explaining which relatives were coming to visit next week. I listened, but his voice sounded far away.

  That afternoon, I was on my own. Rafa wasn't in any of my classes, but it was okay because by then, I was completely shut down. The numbness had returned, which worked out fine because math and science weren't exactly emotional subjects. I tuned out the other kids and focused on things that meant nothing to me, like numeric equations and the botanical names for plants.

  After school, I ran to the corner where Mom waited in the white Mercedes. I wouldn't have even noticed the news van behind Mom's car if the man hanging out the window hadn't pointed a camera directly at me. I slid in and slammed the door harder than I meant.

  "Get me out of here," I said harshly.

  Mom didn't say anything. The tension in the air was so thick I could hardly breathe. Her silence felt cold, but at least it felt familiar. I never thought I'd be happy to get home.

  Finally, I made it to my room and pulled the note I'd written to Megan out of my pocket. Without opening it, I hurled it across the room. It ricocheted off the wall and landed in front of a framed photo of Megan and me at the beach when we were ten. I dumped the note and the whole framed photo in the trash.

  Math equations ran through my brain like the scrolling news feed at the bottom of the TV screen. I opened my math book, but I wasn't sure why. I hated math. Yet I sat on the floor and worked every math problem in the book from beginning to end like some kind of weird alien had taken over my body and was doing whatever it wanted. By the time I finished, the sky had turned black and according to my phone, it was almost midnight. Oh, and I had seven voice messages, not that I cared.

  Thank God the ten o'clock news was over. As I flipped through the channels to find some mind numbing sitcom, I heard the word "Galveston" on the weather channel and backed up. Why were they talking about little bitty Galveston Island on a national weather channel?

  The image slapped me in the face like a salty wave. A tropical storm near Cuba had just been upgraded to hurricane status with Galveston Island in the center of its projected path. The cone of uncertainty looked huge, spreading from Lake Charles to Victoria, but right in the middle of that cone was a line that connected Hurricane Ike to Galveston Island.

  I fell back on the bed, letting my head splash into the pillow. The motionless ceiling fan staring me in the face had a different Chinese symbol on each blade. I had no idea what the symbols meant, but one thing I knew for sure was that today I'd written a story about a hurricane wiping out Galveston Island and now Hurricane Ike was coming.

  "Sugar baby," Dad's voice resonated in my mind, "be careful what you wish; you just might get it." The look on his face had said the rest: and you may not want it.

  I fumbled for the phone. Kat creature or no Kat creature, he was still my dad and I had a right to call. But when his phone went straight to voicemail, my heart landed in my stomach. I listened to the long, computer generated message and waited for the beep.

  "Dad?" I said weakly, but couldn't think of what to say next. "This is your daughter." My voice grew stronger. "Remember me?" I might've sounded angry, but I really wanted to cry so I hung up.

  Something stirred in the pit of my stomach. I stared at the TV in awe of the weird coincidence. Hurricane Ike was really coming and even though any normal person would've felt panic and fear, I couldn't help but smile just a little.

  - 4 -

 
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