• First Day New SchoolShut Up And Smile by Bowling For Soup

    It was always a long wait for all of the trailer park kids to get on the bus, but Jennifer Donavon and her two younger brothers always got on last. Rain or shine, they were last. Brandon always got on first, followed by David, the youngest Donavon sibling, so they could sit together like their mom told Ms. Wendy they had to. Jennifer always got on last – one earbud swinging and the other firmly shoved into her left ear. It was a rare occasion to actually see her without headphones of any kind on, actually, and this was no exception.

    “You know you can’t drink drinks on here, Jenny,” said Ms. Wendy, fixing Jennifer with a familiar look of amusement, irritation, and fondness.

    Jennifer gave her the same look, took a long drink from her coffee cup, and kept walking towards her seat, in fact the only empty seat on the bus by this point – two seats behind the wheel well, one seat behind her brothers, and on the left-hand side of the bus, directly across from me. She gave me a up-nod of hello before pulling out her phone and fiddling with her music.

    “Hey, fatass, don’t sit this close to the back of the bus! You’ll throw us over in a curve!” said one of the three red-headed siblings from the FEMA side of the trailer park.

    With a grin, Jennifer turned in her seat and winked at him. “See, now that’s the point, Joshua. If I don’t sit back here with your big a**, your momma’ll tilt the bus so far forward, the bumper’ll scrape all the way to Lizana,” she said brightly. Ms. Wendy was Joshua’s mom, and she wasn’t exactly the smallest lady who’d ever driven a bus in Mississippi. Joshua spluttered, and Jennifer turned back around, singing some song about ice cream and sailing around the world.

    I turned back to the book in my lap with a smile on my face. Oh, this year promised already to be interesting, and this was only the first morning.


    The bus ride from Lizana Elementary to the new high school was less than eventful. Mr. Vance explained that, as long as we didn’t leave a mess, he didn’t give a single flying ******** what we did on his bus short of murder, and of course there was the general ‘How did your summer go?’ sort of conversations. Generally, however, most people were too tired from spending all summer up till two or three in the morning to actually talk about anything interesting.

    When we finally got to the school, we were all herded up the sidewalk into the gym. Everything was all gleaming and new, and the floor was freshly waxed. All the different classes – freshmen, seniors, etc. – were separated into different groups, with the seniors making up the smallest group by far. Not surprising since most of the class of 2010 had the choice of staying at Harrison Central instead of coming here, but it was still a bit of a shock. Jennifer’s – and mine as well, I suppose – group, the clad nearly all in black group of nerds, freaks, weaboos, punks, goths, and general outcasts, had congregated up near the top of the senior section, and she and I headed over. Surprisingly enough, she stopped and said hello to the deaf freshman sitting on the bottom row of their section, and even made halting conversation in sign with him and his interpreter before joining the rest of us. Nearly everyone hugged her, as they had me, and it honestly felt like coming back home.

    “Alright now, everyone. Can we quiet down for a few minutes just so we can get everyone sent where they need to be?” A large man – in both height and stature – stood in the center of the gym in kahkis and a green polo, holding a microphone in one hand and a paper in the other. Most of the students started cheering and laughing, because Mr. Sanders had been the assistant principle at the ninth grade school, and a very favorite authority figure in general. “C’mon, y’all. I gotta get y’all outta here and to first period.”

    After everyone had finally settled down enough for him to be heard, Mr. Sanders looked at his paper and began giving instructions for how the day was going to go. He began dismissing the school in chunks, then. Freshmen first, then sophomores, and juniors last. The seniors were asked to stay back, and we were all sort of confused.

    “Alright, now I know a lot of y’all have friends who stayed behind at HC. I understand that y’all don’t think this year is gonna go well without them.” There was a general murmur of acceptance. “Y’all should look at it this way, though. Each of you was brave enough to start over in a new place for the last year of your schooling. What was supposed to be a lazy walk in the park is gonna be something exciting.” Mr. Sanders seemed excited for us, and, looking around, a lot of people were actually very into the idea of being pioneers, after a fashion. “Y’all are seniors, so we’ll do our best not to baby y’all. Of course, y’all are gonna have more privileges than the other kids, but you’ll have more responsibilities, too. Those younger kids are gonna look up to y’all and see how you cope with this new school so they know what to do. We’re asking – I’m asking that y’all do your best to graduate this year with all your ducks in rows, alright? I’m sure a lot of y’all are smarter than you look, so it shouldn’t be too hard.” A few people didn’t think that was funny, but the majority of the class laughed. “Good. Now let’s get y’all to class.”

    There was a general mass exodus from the bleachers, and I pulled out my schedule to see which direction I had to go. “Oh, cool. We’ve got English first together.” The sudden voice behind me made me nearly drop my paper.”Woah there, Sam, take it easy,” said Jennifer cheerfully, hoisting her backpack up on her shoulder more effectively and giving me a sly smile. “It’s only me.”

    “Y-yeah, it’s you. Let’s just get to class before Sanders gets a hold of us,” I said, jamming my paper in my notebook and starting down the high ceilinged hallway that lead to the main foyer. Jennifer followed my long strides easily, humming another song quietly, this time some Repo thing I only half remembered.

    “I really hope we don’t have to do some stupid Shakespeare this year. I hated Romeo and Juliet last year,” she said as we made it to the top of the stairs and took a left at the computer labs. I rolled my eyes. Only Jennifer would worry about which Shakespeare we would do this early in the morning on the first day of school. She was sort of notorious for being a literature buff, and had corrected a teacher last year for some improper use of a sonnet as an example of something or another. “Maybe we can do A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” There was a certain wistfulness in her voice that made me smile as we joined the general trickle into the classroom.

    “- so that’s why they moved me from ninth grade science to senior English Lit. Now – ah! Stragglers. Why don’t you introduce yourselves first, since you took your sweet time getting to class.” The tiny little white haired woman smiled up at us as we came in, and we looked at each other before Jennifer gave me a little push, indicating that I should go first.

    “Uh, well. I’m .. uh, I’m Sam Ladner. I’m 18, I like video games and drawing and Dungeons and Dragons and that’s really about it,” I said truthfully, rushing past the teacher once I was done before she could make me talk again and almost falling into the first empty desk I came to.

    The teacher nodded. “Nice to meet you, Sam. Now, if you please?” She motioned to Jennifer, who raised an eyebrow in such a Spock-like reaction, I would have giggled if not for the mortification it would have caused.

    Jennifer pulled her schedule from the back pocket of her jeans, gave the teacher a smile, and glanced at it before putting it away again. “Well, Mrs. Mueller, my name is Jennifer Donavon, and, seeing as how you were a Science teacher before this, I probably know more about almost any piece of literature we’ll read in this class than you. I’ve been reading at over a college reading level since I was in elementary school, and I also write. I’m 16 till the 11th of this month, and I’m a Leo, if you couldn’t guess.” With a smile that practically bounced her ponytail on its own, Jennifer went to back of the classroom and took one of the last empty seats back there. “Oh,” she said, in an almost afterthought kind of way. “If you have any questions about the pieces in the syllabus, feel free to ask.”