Sample chapters

Chapter Three

I tugged on the age-worn, scared brass doorknob and the door opened. I paused after crossing the threshold, the heavy door closed behind me. I waited - I wasn't struck by a fiery bolt of lightning. Nothing. The sky didn't fall. I wasn't sucked into a black hole. Maybe this was an omen of good things to come of what I'd hoped and dreamed. Maybe my luck had finally changed. Maybe this was the very change I needed and wanted in my life, ya know?

Padding up the marble stairs, I gazed over the banister at another set of identical stairs which lead down to the first floor. Then I continued my ascent to the second floor, the main floor of Henry Starr Senior High School.

The familiar scent of pine disinfectant and saw dust tickled my nose. Every public school I'd gone to always had had the similar scent, no matter if it was elementary or junior high. At that point, I added the high school to that list.

Students milled about in the hall. The building was rectangular in shape, and the hall went around the entire floor, traffic moved in a complete circle of the building. There were two lanes of walking traffic, the right lane moved to the right while the other lane moved to the left, just like driving a car. I didn't drive yet, I wasn't old enough to have a license. Next semester I'd be old enough to take drivers ed, then I'd get my license to drive. As I looked around me, I wondered what kind of chaos would ensue if someone purposely reversed the flow of foot traffic? I had no plans to find out, and the students were content with the status quo. The school was like a miniature version of our town, as long as you stick with the tried and true ways, there was no reason to question the possibility of change. Why would anyone want to try to improve on perfection? I suppose with stagnant thinking like that, that explained why nothing in our town ever changed, it's just the way things had always been and would always be.

For some reason, maybe because it was the main floor of the school, I couldn't explain the draw I had the second floor. Swept into the stream of moving bodies, I found myself sucked like a rubber raft in the swift current of a river. I searched around for faces, anyone I might have recognized. Girl/boy couples walked hand in hand, whispering private messages to one another; cheerleaders walked in perfect formation as if at any moment they would break out into one of their routines, they laughed at their own inside jokes which only they are privy they were totally oblivious to the world which they have come to believe they controlled. The jocks strutted like they had corn cobs up their butts, patted each other on the backs while checking out the cheerleaders. The rest of the students, members of a mix-match of various social and economic backgrounds moved in a mechanical fashion, rarely speaking to others, occasionally they'd pass a co-member of their particular background to acknowledge their presence with a nod or a weak hand gesture which may or may not have resembled a wave.

Then on the very bottom of the high school social ladder were the school bullies. No matter what school, they were the gaggle of guys who just don't measure up and were kept behind while everyone else advanced to the next grade. In elementary school, they were the guys I always tried to avoid, even though some of them were in my classes. They were always much older because they were continually held back in school because of their failing grades and their inability to keep pace with class assignments. In Junior high school, they were labeled "shop boys" because the only future, for them, would be found in a trade school. The high school "shop boys" were even more intimidating than those encountered in the lower grades. They were bigger and a whole lot older. Why I'd bet some of them were old enough to legally buy beer. Those neanderthals were a dangerous breed, they knew they had no future so they didn't care about rules or laws, most of them would end up making automobile plates in a state-run prison facility. Geez, those guys give me the heeby-jeebies. They must have had a similar effect on the other students cause they were always avoided and ignored as if they don't exist.

In my opinion, school, no matter if it was elementary, junior high or high school wasn't much different than the rest of the world. Everyone got labeled if ya liked it or not, and that label would stay with ya for the rest of your goddamn life. If ya ask me, that kinda sucks a big one. Ya know?

The traffic flow lead me to a stairway which went to the third floor, I exited the hall by way of the stairs. The third floor wasn't nearly as busy as the second floor. The foot traffic was lighter, the people less social and slower paced. Most of the third floor was occupied by the "brains" and "nerds." I suppose since the library was located on that level was what attracted them. The third floor had an entirely different feel than the second, I didn't like it, so I searched for the nearest stairs and took them to the first floor.

The first floor was crowded, that's where I saw some people I recognized. The extra traffic was probably cause of the north entrance were students were dropped off by parents and those who rode the buses. Also, students who drove their cars to school entered from the west doors, nearest the student parking lot. The majority of students entered the building through one of those two doors, both entrances were located on the first floor. I'd entered the building on the Southside, the seldom used doors in the front of the building. There wasn't much use for that entrance since it was nowhere near parking and it wasn't convenient for drop-offs. I simply used the south doors to make a more dramatic entrance for myself.

From exploring the three floors of the old main building, I discovered the sophomores dominated the first floor, the soshes and jocks ruled the second floor, and the nerds hid out on the third. I knew I wanted to be on the second floor 'cause that's where the popular kids hung out. I knew I wanted to be popular, but I just didn't know how to go about getting to be popular. You see, I wasn't sure where I belonged in the high school social hierarchy. I wasn't popular, by a long shot, but I aspired to be. I suppose I was probably considered by others as the nerdy type, but I didn't wear a plastic pocket protector full of ink pens in my shirt pocket. I definitely didn't have an athletic build, I was tall and really really skinny, or the term I preferred: lanky. Through most of school, I'd been taller than others in my classes and I'd always been - lanky. In junior high, I put on a few pounds, not that I was trying. It just kinda happened all by itself, I figured my body was finally catching up with my height, but the weight gain stopped after just a couple of pounds, so I was still - lanky. I didn't play sports, and I was always the last picked when they formed teams like in gym class when we played dodgeball, I was always the one everyone ganged up on and they'd hit me with all the balls at once, to eliminate me right off the bat, I guess I was an easy target. On the playground, I couldn't hit the volleyball to save my life. I was always afraid the damn ball would slam into my face and break my glasses.

Then, in my own neighborhood, when the neighbor team captains chose players for football, I was always the last to be chosen. About my eyeglasses, I'd always wanted to get some fashionable frames, but all of the stylish frames didn't fit the bony bridge of my nose. Momma said I'd inherited my Daddy's narrow bridge. So, since nothing good fit my face, I ended up with nerdy type eyeglasses, you know the ones, they've got those pads that sit on each side of the bridge - they look really retarded. That's how I came to look like a nerd. For my sophomore year, one of my goals was to re-invent myself to become popular. To achieve that, the third floor would be off limits. As for the first floor, I barely knew any of my own sophomore classmates, over the summer they'd become different people. It wasn't like I'd ever been friends with any of them. To them, I was the person who blended in with my surroundings, I was a bonafide wallflower. I was, simply someone who hung around but was never included. I admit I was no social butterfly. I preferred being by myself, it was safer that way, no one could hurt my feelings if I just didn't join in. I knew I could always depend on me. I'd never disappointed myself.

So, to be popular was not going to be easy, I had my work cut out for myself. How would I propel myself from being a nerdy nobody into being a popular somebody? I'd start by infiltrating the soshes and jocks kingdom on the second floor. I'd observe and learn - then, of course, I could always hope some of their popularity would rub off on to me.

I decided, at the nearest staircase; I'd return to the second floor. Just as I turned to take the up stairs, I hit a brick wall ...


* * * * DISCLAIMER * * * *

Language and terms used in this work of fiction may not be suitable for all ages. If you are an individual subject to sensitive literature, be warned.

The above provided complementary chapters are offered on an "as is" basis. This sample read was taken directly from the UNEDITED first draft. The final published chapters may not appear as herein written, due to future edits and rewrites before the full manuscript goes to printing.

This is a work of literary fiction loosely inspired by actual events. Some written events, locales, businesses, individuals, and dialogue may coincide with actual events, locales, businesses, individuals, and dialogue. In order to maintain anonymity in some instances the names of events, locales, businesses, individuals, and dialogue have been changed or modified to protect the privacy of actual individuals, living or dead. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner to enhance the storyline.

This is a period work of southern coming-of-age fiction told from the perspective of an eighteen-year-old male, set between the years of 1971 - 1974, along with memory flashbacks from the 1950s and 60s. In keeping with the true integrity of the southern genre; regional terms, words and common slang of the specified time period have been used in the telling of this tale and should not be construed as politically incorrect, derogatory, demeaning, or to belittle or insult persons in any fashion by today's social standards.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Thele


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