Chapter 2

July 10, 2009

by Dahni

© Copyright 6/21/09

all rights reserved


The new Jr. High school wasn’t that new, but it was brand new to Ben. And so he thought, so would life be, for him. A new school meant new classes and new faces that did not know him and maybe a new chance at not being made fun of over his name. It would not all be new, not exactly the same as before, just different. But unlike elementary school when all the subjects are taught in the same classroom by the same teacher, here he would have many teachers and many subjects, which unfortunately, for Ben, included, American History. But only American History he was interested in was, making history in America. History would be his-story.

Maybe the old “have you Ben Silent long,” thing, was just grade school; just old school? Maybe things would be different here. And so they were, just not as he would have preferred or anticipated.

This new school became necessary, to fill the need for the many young adults which were, mostly coming from the western part of town. Many of these students were from, the upper middle class and the upper class. Ben was kind of like, on the border of the district. It was like being the middle child in his family. He was too far from one school and, for some strange reason, too close to another.  But he had to go to this one in the ‘middle.’

It was modern and newer for sure, but so was he, for the most part and not too many knew him. Ben was glad that his brother was no longer at this school and was already in high school. Maybe students, staff and teachers would not connect him with his brother. Maybe he would not have to live up to his brother’s athletic and scholarly reputation that he made here? Ben was glad that so few knew him here and this was just fine and he preferred to forget about the past and many of those from it. But most of the students here knew each other. The rich kids came from homes with their own swimming pools or were part of a private pool.  Several had their own horses.  They had fine clothes and just lots of stuff. They hung out together and had been inside each others homes. They went to the same parties. Ben was an outsider and they looked at him and treated him as an outsider, like someone that came, “from the other side of the tracks.”

He was not stupid. He could see them stare and whisper behind his back when he was at the drinking fountain or his locker. They were either too stupid or just did not care that they whispered loud enough for him to hear. These people did not know him. They didn’t know anything about him. What was worse is that they didn’t even ask. Apparently, it was unnecessary, as Ben was sure that they thought they were so smart, they had him all figured out? Ben was from the wrong side of town. He didn’t come from money and certainly did not possess the proper pedigree of snobbery and social graces. So he must be one of those ‘bad boys,’ a ‘hood’ or some other unseemly character. Grade school was looking good to Ben now. At least there, he knew why people tried to take advantage of him. But here, this was something new alright. It was something unexpected and not something he was prepared to deal with. Ben now had a reputation. And it was a bad reputation, one of which, he had not earned.

There was not a few that acted like Ben was being portrayed. Some of them even came from money and the ‘right’ side of town. But the ‘cool’ people must have had an answer to this abnormality. They must have not had the right kind of breeding, the right ‘papers’ and they must not have had, the right ‘kind’ of money. Then again, sometimes trouble just courses through the veins of some people, no matter where they come from.

Ben felt with all this new pressure, it was pointless to try and defend that he was NOT one of the ‘bad boys.’ He really didn’t want to be one of ‘them’ or one of  ’those’ rich snobs either. Nothing was new in this. There he was, stuck in the middle again. Oh well, if he couldn’t beat them, he might as well join them. And the bad boys had no memberships, they just took anybody. For the first time, Ben had friends. But it would be several more years until he knew, what a friend really was.

There was still, a lot of really new stuff going on in this school.  It was the first time he would be in a school, for just three years. Sooner or later and for most, it would be the first time in becoming teenagers.  But there were a couple of students that were held back a grade or two. There was one guy in the eighth grade that already had his driver’s license and even his own car. He was one of those ‘rich ‘kids,’  but slow, dumb or never doing the work, his background offered him no favors. This place was different. They did not take crap or put up with anyone or anything. They expected you to be here on time, in your seat and do the work. Ben would have to become much more imaginative to test and beat their system.

There were new hormones moaning here. Girls were getting interesting to guys and the girls were attracted to the guys. Girls were budding and the boys were beginning to bulge. Some were slower than others to mature. One girl, lost her toilet tissue stuffing, and ran down the hall in tears with the TP streaming and trailing behind her, while others laughed. Cruelty, meanness and teasing was not new here, it was just evolving.

What’s the big deal about being different? Everyone is different anyway, so why is it necessary to brand people, elevate some and lower others? These questions had no answers for Ben. But it just seemed like eating your favorite comfort food, if you could just be in a group. Accepted not for who you were or even what your wore did not matter, just as long as, you were part of a group. Like a real family, pretty much all one had to do was just show up and you were ‘in.’

Besides all this stupid pecking order, grouping, groping, and gushing gee-whiz eyelash batting and impress the girls with some bravado, there was school to deal with too. Classes and teachers all seemed to have the same agenda, to get knowledge into heads of these emotional creatures and get them passed on to the next grade and for the next group of teachers to deal with. This school had a reputation to uphold. The whole city did. There were several colleges in town and a university. The whole town was based, built and thriving on education. The schools, colleges and the university here were, known across the country, for its educational standards.

Ben was running out of excuses. This first year of the three years he would be here, would be the last time he could use his grade school ploy of getting out of class and going home.

“I split my pants,” was just not cutting it anymore. This place was advanced. They would not put up with crap. They had ‘the enforcer’ to paddle the butts of smart-asses. They also had duct tape, which to Ben was more embarrassing than even getting his bare butt paddled. “Oh he knew the drill, “Drop your pants and bend over!” Here, if you split your pants, they would cover the hole with gray duct tape. They could also send you to the gym teacher to borrow some gym shorts. And of course, one would have to wear them over the pants that split on purpose or for real. Duct tape or shorts over your pants, everyone knew and you weren’t going home, until the end of the day.

One needed to be a much more creative here; a highly evolved and an intellectual giant, to foil the smart people in charge here. One guy got out of school after the police showed up and raided his locker, for a reported bag of ‘weed.’ No one thought that was too funny when it turned out to be just that, a plastic bag with dried weeds in it. It did get him out of school though. Ben did not have the guts or the stupidity to try something like that. It was bad enough that he was hanging around the guy, the unofficial crowned leader of the bad boys. Ben didn’t even like him. But Ben was after all, part of a group and that had to count for something.

With the lack of fortitude or just too smart to waste time on such a scheme, Ben had no choice, but to stay in school, day after boring day, unless, unless once in awhile there was something interesting or something that interested him Yes, Ben actually stayed in school longer than he was used to or desired to.  And by that fact alone, he might even learn something. WOW, what a concept, in school and learning!

There was still a lot of looking out of the window and dreaming whenever he could get away with it, but these teachers were smarter and much more aware than what he was used to.

There was art class and Ben enjoyed it and his teacher encouraged him. He aced the class.

There was English, which started out poorly, but changed after a confrontation with his teacher in class. Besides gym, this was Ben’s first male teacher. The girls went gah-gah over the blond haired, blue eyed good looking guy in his Ivy League sport coat. He wore a three piece suit or a jacket and a tie every day and he was smart. But Ben could not stand the guy.

One day, Ben was looking out the window. Then all of sudden, the room was silent. That was loud enough to catch Ben’s attention. When he turned back towards class to see what was going on, everyone was staring at him and his teacher did not look too happy.

“It is nice of you to rejoin us Ben,” was the next sarcastic thing Ben heard. And that was followed by spontaneous laughter, in unison from the whole class. Ben’s eyes must have turned red, not his face with embarrassment, but his eyes with anger. He was about to explode.

Mr. Mason raised his hands for effect. “Quiet class, perhaps Ben has a reason for his not paying attention. Ben, can you answer this question?”

Ben could see several smirks from jerks and he could feel the vein in his neck throbbing, as he waited for the shoe to fall. He it come he thought.

“Ben, can you give us a reason why, you cannot seem to afford to pay attention.”

Ben was just infuriated now and he just let loose.

“Yeh, I can give you two. I was told that public education is supposed to be free so, I don’t have to ‘pay’ attention. And even IF I had to pay attention, no one ever told me how much I’d have to pay attention!”

It was out now. Nothing Ben could do about it but wait for whatever was coming next. But he vented. He spoke up. He did not just sit there a take whatever this arrogant teacher wanted this room of mindless rats to think and do. Yes, he was glad he spoke his mind and he felt a little better. But he was still mad and nervous too, waiting on whatever was coming.

Heads turned to the front of the room and some were lowered as if they were ducking to avoid the crossfire of something being thrown from the front of the room to the back at Ben. The room was instantly and strangely silent. The pause seemed to last for an eternity.

“Ben, you have been silent, far too long! That was without a doubt, the funniest thing I have ever heard.”

Then Mr. Mason did something Ben had never seen him do before. He laughed. And Ben found himself, for perhaps the first time, not being laughed at. His teacher was just laughing. And others were too.

From that moment on, Ben and Mr. Mason bonded. Now no one ever said a word to him after class, but Ben had something from all them that day. It was something that he had never had before. Maybe just a little bit, but Ben had respect. Ben aced English. And from that day forward, no one ever made his name, the blunt of a joke, ever again. Oh, there would be some implied smiles, but never was his name used to cause him grief.

Other subjects and other teachers were not able to reach Ben. He tried football and was deemed too small for the line. He was moved to the back and actually started to both enjoy it and got better at it. But who gets kicked off the football team for smoking? And who flunks gym when, all one had to do was to show up and take a shower? If anyone could accomplish these things it would be Ben and he did. Ben picked up the nasty bad-boy group habit of smoking. He never liked it. He thought his lungs were going to explode the first time he inhaled. And cigarettes stunk and made his breath smell and his clothes. He even noticed nicotine stains on his fingers. His teeth started to yellow. He really had to be careful to hide not just this secret from his mother and father, but that he hated smoking from ‘his group.’ “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That was a stupid line he heard and remembered, but it did apply to Ben. But speaking of stupid, how stupid is it to be caught smoking on school grounds,  right after practice and by your football coach? Ben was kicked off the team that very day. But the coach never told his parents and he was grateful for that.

Taking a shower and even showering with other guys didn’t bother Ben The problem was, it was difficult to grade a student that rarely showed up for class. No class? No need for a shower. Neither or not much of either? No passing gym class. Like before, pretty much all you have to do to pass gym is, show up and take a shower.

Ben just could not get math. Algebra might have well been a foreign language to Ben. Some referred to this branch of math as ‘algae-bra’ a tiny female sea creature with small breasts with not ‘enough’ to fill it out, like the brassiere worn by the poor girl who had lost her TP stuffing. Those were some really educated  thoughts, NOT! But, Ben was, really good at counting, especially the minutes and the seconds on the clock, before this boring class was over; school was out, for the day or the week or the summer.

Music class was cool to Ben. He loved to sing. He was quite fond of his young an attractive music teacher. All the guys seemed to love to be quite taken with her. She directed many a musical and several plays. Ben noticed that she frequently sat at lunch in the cafeteria with his English teacher, Mr. Mason. They must have talked about him and his story-telling. She once asked Ben to modify one of the scripts in a play and develop a new character and dialogue. He loved that. And on Fridays, his music teacher would often gather the whole class around a circle, dim the lights and quietly start to adlib just some soft instrumental music, strumming her guitar. “Ben, tell us a story,” she would say. He did and often. Ben loved those times. Maybe it was the low lighting? Maybe it was her strumming. Maybe both, but it was like  sitting around a campfire, just making up stories that he loved most that got him outside of himself and his ordinary shyness. Ben aced music class.

Social studies? Taught by Mrs. Warton? Most students called her, Mrs. War, not to her face, but behind her back because, she was tough. She had what seemed like, a war with Ben and Ben battled her, the whole year. If he somehow survived and made it through jr. high, her husband, Mr. ‘War,’ would be waiting, for him in high school. Little did Ben realize then, but the very first person he would meet in high school was, Mr. Warton. Ben imagined that he and his wife Mrs. Warton must have sat around the kichen table and discussed him, probably the worst student she ever had.

For the present, it was Mrs. Warton. She taught social studies. And that particular year their was a big focus on American history. Ben thought he had died and gone to hell because not only did the subject bore him, it was required to produce the dreaded, ‘presidential notebook’ as a major portion of his grade. “Oh, my God, here we go again,” Ben thought.  “Here we go again with all those dead guys and dead presidents.”

Benjamin Franklin who? Thomas Jefferson who? And his presidential notebook? Not memorable and incomplete. His boredom and utter discontent was, complete!

To this day, Ben does not understand how he ever graduated into the 8th grade, sucking at math, failing social studies and flunking out of gym. Perhaps it was a mercy passing? Maybe it was a “he’s got potential,” passing? Then again, possibly, it was because they had to pass everyone or lose their standing as one of the a top Jr. high schools in the country? Whatever the reasons or however it was done, Ben was glad to get the hell away from American History and ready to dive, headlong into summer.

What a summer it would be!


Click here to: Chapter 3

One comment

  1. […] Eagle Just another WordPress.com weblog « An American Eagle (an introduction) Chapter 2 » Chapter 1 July 10, 2009 by […]

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