Friday, November 19, 2010

Spanner Chapter 5: I Lerned Alot in Skool

The most “manga cliché” part of this novel I originally planned as a manga is the high school setting. Sure enough, here we are back in high school (even if the school in question is not the one I went to back in the day). But this onetime school outcast (I was the weird kid whom the jocks nicknamed “Space Helmet”) refuses to romanticize his teenage years. For, face it, my youth was hell. And so, probably, was yours, even if it wasn’t as bad as mine. And the jock, prep, and mean girl princess cliques remain as hellbent as ever on making life hell for those beneath them in the social hierarchy.

Now, into this unlit powderkeg where kids with adult pull persecute outcasts and misfits, where earnest educators struggle against fascistic boot-camp martinets, throw a Molotov cocktail. Better yet, fly her in on a hoverboard, just like the one that Spanner himself rides. And watch the chaos ensue.

Class is now in session. You had better hope that this turns out to be a positive learning experience.

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Book 1: Rock City Blues
Chapter 5: I Lerned Alot in Skool

Education is what remains after one has forgotten
what one has learned in school.

Albert Einstein

2 September 2014
6:30 a.m.
Bremerton High School is a typical American high school in a typical American exurb, though it is dangerously close to the unforgivably liberal big city of Seattle, just an hour’s ferry trip away. Bremerton may be a mutant cross between a liberal college town, a conservative Navy town, and Twin Peaks, but at least its high school is typical of its kind. Except, some people insist, for a couple things. One, its football team sucks, and always has. Two, it has an unusual problem for exurban high schools: an unfortunate tendency for adults to invade the school from outside to beat up students. Even stationing security guards outside the entrances hasn’t helped the problem much, for these adults are gangsters and can beat up the guards.

It’s the first day of the 2014-5 school year, and the students are crowding in early so they can find their homerooms before the bell signalling the first class sounds. Since the coup, by law every student in every school, government as well as private, must wear a uniform. The students must buy their uniforms in advance, or they won’t be allowed in. Under the cruel “sink or swim” policy imposed by the Cartel through Confederate police power, poor students who can’t afford uniforms are banned from school altogether, though richer students and parents who have a conscience (unlike most Corporates) routinely cheat this rule by buying uniforms for their poorer friends. The boys wear uniforms resembling the Navy dress blues an officer like Will Becket wears when informing parents of sailors that their sons are dead. The girls wear Japanese-style schoolgirl sailor suits with short sleeves and short skirts, the difference being that these uniforms are solid blue with yellow trim. One way to tell the Hip from the Cool is the word they use to mean uniform: the Hip Kids speak of “livery” like the English do; the Cool Kids go Japanophile and say “fuku.”

The students whose uniforms are approved are then identity-checked to see if they are registered. If they are found in the school registration database, the security guards allow them in. The process is cumbersome and time-consuming, so some students will unavoidably miss their homeroom periods and sometimes their first-period classes. Fortunately, no demerits are given for missing periods on the first day as long as students check in.

Some students are allowed to push their way through the crowd at the entrances without an identity check. That’s because their identities have already been verified beforehand. They are the athletes, cheerleaders, and student council members. The athletes have team patches or wear special scarves depending on their uniforms and the cheerleaders wear their own uniforms. The student councillors can easily be distinguished by a special addition to their uniforms: epaulets. Apparently a Kitsap County School District bureaucrat (probably a retired Navy commissioned officer) was watching the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena and thought epaulets for the student council were a cool idea. The Councillors adore their epaulets because they Exude Authority. Everybody not toadying the Student Council knows they look silly as hell.

A few are not students at all. They are the tutors, and their uniforms are distinct: the boys wear black and the girls wear yellow. They are college students who spend half their school day as tutors and teachers’ assistants. The ones of high-school age may also be there because they play on at least one of the sports teams. Right now, one of them is flying in on her hoverboard.

The arrival of Shira Thomas is announced by the noise and airflow of the board’s lifters. She hovers high above the crowd, moving slowly until she finds a patch of grass on the other side of a bush from the crowd so she can land. The more perceptive students notice that she’s wearing a blue thong under her yellow skirt. She lowers herself until she finds what she feels is the right altitude for her dismount. In one fluid motion, she flips upside down, turns the hoverboard off, removes it from her feet, catches it over her shoulder, and lands on her feet; she shows her thonged butt in the process, but doesn’t care. The fanservice dismount gets a loud cheer; some students raise up both hands, all fingers out, signifying “10”.

She walks past the shrub and threads her way through the crowd to the front door. One boy in Tournament insignia grabs her arm and attempts to drag her back. ”Hey, you can’t go in without checking in!”

She takes his hand off her arm. “Excuse me, but I’m already checked in. I have to help set things up.” She squeezes back to the door. The guard scans the card hanging from her neck, the card registers with a bleep, and with a sweep of an arm the guard ushers her in.

Already a gang is threatening a boy in the cafeteria. After she checks in her hoverboard at the front desk, she goes up to the scene and prepares to intervene. The boy is very pretty, but he is not cowering. Shira can tell by his stance that he’s a martial artist. His angry challengers are not adult invaders but students wearing epaulets and special hats. The epaulets are not the ones student councillors wear. These boys are the Tournament Leaders, the most savage of the jocks, and their leader is the hulking Head Boy, krav maga prodigy Barton Green. Shira can’t keep her eyes off the insanely beautiful boy they’re picking a fight with. He looks almost exactly like Leila...

Bart’s accent: West Texas. Probably rural. “Yo, pretty boy. You sure you ain’t a faggot?”

The pretty boy’s accent: Ireland. Dublin. “You wanna rape me, Tex? You gotta beat me first.” He flashes a mischievous grin and dances like a boxer. Kickboxer. This is MMA.

“You shoulda entered the Tournament. Then I coulda smashed your pretty face official.” Shira crosses her arms.

“Hey Barty, how do you like always having to look over your shoulder? Trusting no one ’cos everybody’s always trying to take you out or take you down? Somebody’s out there, waiting to stab you in the back and tear you down from your throne. Can you handle that, Bart? Can you?”

One boy behind the pretty one, smaller but more muscular, rushes him from behind. The pretty boy flicks out his elbow, hits his attacker’s nose hard, sends him back so he falls down. Always, he keeps looking into Bart’s eyes. The other boys step back, intimidated. “Nice try, Bart. Again?”

Bart hits his left palm hard with his right fist. “Well, Robert Shelley. Looks like I’ll have to smash in your pretty-pretty faggot face myself.”

Shira clears her throat.

Bart turns around and stares down at her. She stares back and does not flinch.

“Stay out of this, girl.”

“I think it would be a good idea for your imperious majesty to go back to your homeroom right now. And take your little band of Arschlecker with you, too.” She meets his sneer with a cockeyed smirk.

Bart’s gang, offended by the German slur, circle around Shira, ready to beat her up. Bart holds up his hand to signal them to stop. He stares at this impertinent and contemptuous young woman for a minute longer. Then, saying nothing, he leaves, and his boys follow him. The smaller boy, his number two, flips her off and barely restrains himself from calling her a bitch.

Shira looks back at Robert Shelley. He is staring at her in open-mouthed wonder. “You look so much like Leila,” she says. “Are you her brother?”

“So you’re the one! You saved her life!” He runs over and hugs Shira hard. That was quick, she thinks. Usually these pretty boys need their egos buttered up first... She puts her arms around him and hugs him back.

“You forgot to kiss me,” Shira says. Robert kisses her hard on the lips. They share their kiss for a seemingly endless moment. When it’s over, she gasps, “I think I’m in love with you already.”

“Rob. Call me Rob. And yes, I’m Leila’s brother. Twin brother, in fact.” That explains it, thinks Shira.

“You’re just as beautiful as your sister, Rob.” He smiles and blushes.

Both Shira and Rob can feel the angry stare searing into their flesh. They look to the side to see the tall girl with the aristocratic blond curls glaring at them. Her face has the harsh beauty of the Beckets. The jacket she’s wearing over her standard-issue blue sailor fuku bears the epaulets of the student council; the insignia on the left breast pocket identify her as the council president.

“What do the rules say about inappropriate public affection in public?” demands Charmian Fleer in the “Southern belle” accent considered cool by the In Kids.

Shira narrows her eyes. “They say, ‘Don’t piss off almighty Princess Charming by hugging one of the pretty boys she covets for herself, or she’ll bite your head off.’”

Charmian gasps at the bronze-skinned interloper’s insolence. She grits her teeth angrily. “Don’t think I won’t report you for this. I know you, Little Miss Celebrity Superbitch. Try anything foolish, Shira Thomas, and I’ll destroy you.” She turns around and haughtily flounces away. Rob fails to suppress a giggle.

Another girl, short, cute, and blond, approaches, staring in terror at Charmian as she leaves. Then she turns to face Shira, eyes wide open in terror, and whispers in her ear, “Do you realize who that is?”

Shira flashes a cockeyed smirk of mixed amusement and annoyance. “Yeah. Charmian Becket Fleer, daughter of the supreme commander of all Northwest Navy bases and would-be military dictator of the State of Cascadia, granddaughter of the notorious head of the NPA’s psychic Crime Prevention Division, student council president, and an old family friend, so to speak. Me, I’m the daughter of her dad’s nemesis, the Superintendent and future Mayor of Metropolitan Seattle. Already it’s promising to be a fun year.”

The girl continues to stare, first at Shira, then at Rob, obviously not knowing what to say. Rob whips out his phone to check the time. “Uh-oh, gotta go! See ya later!” He kisses Shira, picks up his backpack nearby, and leaves.

Shira looks back at the cute girl. Her jaw has dropped. After a long pause, the girl whispers, “Oh my god you kissed Rob Shelley—” Shira grins at her as she runs off.

She feels the imprint of someone’s gaze. She turns toward the person looking at her and sees that she is a good-looking dreadlocked black girl in a blue uniform. She realizes the girl has been watching all along. The girl winks, and then leaves. Shira watches her, and then leaves as well.

6:45 a.m. “Hi, Shira,” says Leila. She’s wearing the yellow sailor suit of a tutor, just like Shira.

Shira hugs her. “Hi, Leila. I’m so glad you’re here.” Leila sighs and rests her head on Shira’s shoulder. “I met your brother. He actually kissed me.”

Leila suddenly raises her head and stares at Shira in disbelief.

“For saving your life. He really loves you, Leila.”

Leila sighs in relief and lets her head fall back onto Shira’s shoulder. Shira gives her a gentle friendly kiss on the cheek.

Polly interrupts. Her sailor fuku is blue. “Uh-oh, tutors, it’s the procession. Get ready for the big introduction.” She leads the two yellow-suited girls to a spot in the middle of the cafeteria where they have a surprisingly ideal view of the hall side. Jennifer, also in yellow, is already there, talking to Shira’s current boyfriend, Dexter Conway. He is the first-string runningback on the football team, black and handsome. His head is shaved beneath his cap. He’s temperamentally sweet and kind, and Shira considers him almost as beautiful as Rob. Jennifer speaks in an English accent she contracted during her years growing up in Victoria, the one city in Cascadia where the prevalent dialect is not Outer Midwestern.

When Dexter spots Shira, he quickly walks over to embrace her. “Hey, beautiful.”

Shira purrs, “Hiya, gorgeous,” then kisses him.

Jennifer hugs and kisses Shira while she’s still in Dexter’s arms. “Hey, cousin, let’s go meet some new people.”

“She’s right! Gotta go! Later, love.” Shira quickly kisses Dexter on the lips and leaves with Jennifer. Polly and Leila follow.

A pretty redhead wearing blue grabs Leila’s arm and tries to pull her away. She has Leila’s Irish accent. “Hey, Leila, let’s go, we got—” She looks at Shira because Leila is.

“Oh,” says Leila apologetically, “This is my sister Fiona.”

Fiona waves. “Hi.” Shira smiles and waves back.

“Fiona, this is Shira. She saved me the other day.”

Fiona Shelley gasps, her eyes and mouth go wide — then she launches herself into Shira’s arms. “It was you! Thank you!”

Jennifer clears her throat. Fiona takes this as her cue to take her sister away. She waves to Shira, Jennifer, and Polly. “Bye!”

“Did you really, Shira?” asks Jennifer.

Polly answers. “Yes! She really did. She was awesome!” Shira nods and winks.

“Well, shall we?” Jennifer leads them toward their friend Corwin Belmont, Jr. Cory is talking to the short blond girl, a shy girl with shoulder-length brown hair, and an Asian girl. The blond and brown-haired girls have their arms around each other’s shoulders. “Oh, and this is Mimi Scott and her best friend Nancy Chandler.”

Mimi smiles and waves. “Hi, Shira! Hi, Jen!” Nancy waves shyly and blushes. Shira waves back at them.

Cory is interracial like Shira: his father is a New Orleans jazz trumpeter of the Marsalis school, while his mother is a former fashion model from Sweden. Shira is one of his oldest and closest friends. “Hi, Shira.” He hugs and kisses Shira.

Polly tugs on Shira’s shirt. “Uh, aren’t you steady with Dex?”

Shira hugs Polly. “Of course I am! Cory’s an old friend.” She kisses Polly on the cheek.

Shira?” Shira looks back at the Asian girl and recognizes her at once.

Sei-chan!” The two girls hug each other and jump with joy at the mutual recognition.

“You two know each other?” asks Cory.

“We became friends when I was an exchange student in Japan,” says Shira. She looks at Jennifer. “Seika, this is my cousin Jennifer. Jen, Seika Tachibana.”

Behind her, another girl screams, “Iyaaaaaaaa!!!” She glomps Shira violently from behind.

Haru-chan!” scolds Seika. “Yamete yo!” Haru-chan sticks out her tongue mischievously at Seika [*bleeeeeh*].

Shira says, “And this is her cousin Harumi.” Harumi lets go of Shira, bows to her new classmates, and says, “Yoroshikuuu!

Then the bell rings, signalling that the first day of school has officially begun. The whole group races to the cafeteria as fast as they can.

7:00 a.m. The PA system announces that the grand introduction is about to begin. When the winded group arrive and assemble at the position Jennifer originally staked out, Seika asks, “Why does this school have to have a ‘grand introduction’?”

“Normally this would be time for homeroom,” Polly explains, “but on the first day of school the administration introduces the top of the school hierarchy.”

“Hierarchy’s a big thing in the New Confederacy,” says Jennifer cynically. “I'll try and keep our fellow plebes from rioting.”

“And I’ll supply the color commentary and Kremlinology,” adds Shira.

Charmian enters in her full regalia, followed by her sisters Christian (short brown hair, bleached bangs) and Julian (dark brown hair, long). She looks more like a queen than a mere student councillor. Shira quietly mocks, “And now, enter Princess Charming, the all-powerful mean girl in chief, and her yes girls. Even Bart’s ego, bloated as it is, can’t match her imperious narcissism. She’s almost as bad as her Aunt Drusilla.” Polly giggles.

Then Bart enters, and stands beside Charmian. The Tournament champions and the team captains cheer him with a roar. “Finally,” says Shira, “there’s a guy who doesn’t realize how lucky he is to have a life.”

Polly looks at her nervously. “Uhh...what do you mean?”

“First Bart challenged Rob Shelley, who’s obviously a better fighter than he is. Then he came dangerously close to challenging me, which would be a fatal mistake ’cuz I own his style. He should thank me for sparing his life, but he won’t ’cuz his almighty ego won’t let him. You weren’t there, of course.”

“You’re right, I wasn’t. Anyway, why isn’t Dorian Fleer the student council president? Isn’t she older?”

“Dorian’s nowhere near the bully Charmian is.”


“Well, well, well. Speak of the devil.” Dorian Fleer, Charmian’s less imperious twin sister, enters in the uniform of the new lacrosse team, bearing the stick of the sport. She is followed by her cousin Deborah Becket, already notorious from New England to her native Texas as the women’s sport’s most ruthless enforcer.

Polly says in surprise, “They actually play lacrosse here?”

“Now you know why the Fleer sisters aren’t going to some elite private school in New England. Dorian’s the varsity team captain. It’s her job to start the team up.”

“So how come there’s no boys’ team yet?”

”They don’t have enough male players yet. Besides, Cascadia’s such a soccer state that we call soccer simply ‘football’ like in England.”

As the introductory procession continues, the voice on the PA introduces the rest of the student establishment for the year. On the Student Council:
  • Barton Green, Head Boy
  • Charmian Fleer, student council president
  • Robert Marshall Brinkman, senior class president
  • Christian Fleer, junior class president
  • Vitaly Rodchenko, sophomore class president
  • Lady Penner, freshman class president
  • Kelly McLendon, council vice president (and Charmian’s Special Friend)
  • Rachel Brinkman, secretary
  • Lucy Wilkinson, treasurer
  • Deborah Becket, student body liaison (a.k.a. Charmian’s chief enforcer)
  • Barry Longmuir, ranking NJROTC student officer (and Debbie’s fiancé)
  • Karen Kubota, head cheerleader
Shira says, “Behold our all-powerful Princess and her court of ruthless toadies, all wearing epaulets, except of course Deadeye Debbie wielding her big stick, which she sorely wants to whack you over the head with. Remember that they were appointed to their lofty positions because their parents hate us mere humans. Naturally, we’ve placed a spy in the throne room.”

“So how did they get elected?” complains Polly. “Weren’t there supposed to be student council elections?”

“Of course there were. They were held by the parents according to the sacrosanct American principle of One Dollar, One Vote.“ Shira grins; Polly groans.

Next to be introduced are the captains of the varsity sports teams:
  • Football (American tackle, the prestige sport): Barton Green (again)
  • Wrestling: Roger Becket (Beck) Skeever
  • Girls’ lacrosse (new sport this season): Dorian Fleer
  • Boys’ soccer: Russell Longmuir
  • Girls’ soccer: Lindy Corson
  • Boys’ basketball: Jamal Robinson
  • Girls’ basketball: Marlette Walker
  • Baseball (boys’): Vince Corson
  • Softball (girls’): Courtney Richter-Thomas
  • Boys’ track & field: Marcus Creel
  • Girls’ track & field: Ciera Walker
Bremerton High has other sports, such as gymnastics and swimming, but they are not prestigious enough in the eyes of Admiral Fleer’s hand-picked school administration for their captains to earn a presence here.

“Now that our superiors have been introduced,” says Shira, “you have to realize that the real purpose of the American high school is to field championship football teams. This is especially true in Texas, of which Cascadia is really little more than a glorified foreign colony for as long as allow them to own us. Our job as tutors is to make this school resemble an actual educational institution.”

Shira’s cynical commentary to her friends brings attention to them. They find themselves surrounded by students, all staring at them. Suddenly they are hit by the realization that they are famous: Shira the video blogger, adventuress, and serial tormentor of authority; Jennifer the girl scientist and heckler of religious people; Leila the suicidal goth fashion model; Polly the teenage witch.

period 1. Shira and Jennifer attend history class. Mr. Smith wears his gray Confederate Army uniform proudly in front of a class all dressed in blue (except for the tutors in yellow). He says, “Before anything else, y’all gotta know that slavery was what made America...”

Pale blond Jennifer stands up to interrupt. “And of course you forget how slavery destroyed the Old Confederacy. The thirty percent of the Southern population that was enslaved? Almost all the slaves defected to the Union.”

Mr. Smith points angrily at Jennifer. “And what were you people during the War for Southern Independence?”

My people? During the War for [clears throat] Slavelord Supremacy, before we came out West, my family were Southern Unionists. We spent the war freeing slaves.” Jennifer winks.

period 2. Shira attends biology class. Mr. Jones announces, “Our great nation’s Holy Prophet, President Palin, says all that science crap is un-Christian and therefore un-American. So, in the name of Jesus America, I’m gonna teach y’all how God created the world in six days and made the American race Number One!”

Shira stands up and says, “You might as well, since you just proved yourself an evolutionary throwback.”

period 3. Jennifer attends English class. She already got bad feelings about this when she found out the teacher’s name was Mrs. Turnipseed. Now Mrs. Turnipseed announces in front of the class, “Howdy, y’all! Ah’m heah ta larn y’all Anglish!”

Jennifer stands up and says in her Victoria English accent, “How, when you can’t even speak it?”

principal’s office. The principal, Dean Principal (his real name), orders Shira and Jennifer into his office. He sits behind an elevated, extra large desk, smug in the superiority of his position in the hierarchy. His face sports an eternal smirk. Behind him stands the stern figure of the vice principal, Honey Sue Falconer. She has the bearing of a drill instructor, which she was in the Marines, where she rose to the rank of Major. She prefers to be addressed by her military rank. They like to play Good Cop, Bad Cop with their unfortunate victims wayward students.

Principal Principal feels no need to speak up. His rank speaks for him. “Now what do you young ladies think you’re doing?”

Shira replies, “Just finding out why nobody learns anything in school anymore.”

“We were hoping you were doing education here,” adds Jennifer, “but you were only doing catechism.”

“You might as well be preaching Scientology.”

Silence!” shrieks Falconer. “You’re here because you’re committing insubordination! You’re supposed to do what we tell you to do and believe what we tell you to believe. That’s an order!

Shira says, “Then you’d better throw just about every kid in this school into the brig, Major, ’cuz they’re all shirking your orders and making fun of your classes.”

The Principal swivels his chair to look up at Falconer in amazement; Falconer looks down at the Principal in shock. Then they glare angrily at the girls. Falconer growls, “Get out.”

In unison the girls salute Falconer and shout, “Yes sir!” Then they scurry out the door giggling.

lunch. The morning tutors and their circle of Hip Kids share their observations in the library, away from the main body of students.

Shira rolls her eyes and smiles ironically. “Boy, we’re gettin’ quite the edumacation today...”

Jennifer sighs, “Like the bumper sticker says,” [affects a screechy sitcom ‘stupid redneck’ accent] “‘I lerned alot in skool.’”

“The word is ‘naff,’ right, Jen?” says Shira, by way of pointing out the notorious fondness for Anglicisms that Jennifer absorbed with her Victoria English accent.

“‘Stupid dirty wack’ is more like it!” wails Polly, revealing her familiarity with Shira’s Styler dialect. “I mean like, they won’t even let girls do anything in P.E. class ’cuz it’s quote-unquote ‘unladylike’!”

Jennifer stands up to sigh and pretend to faint like the stereotypical Southern belle, right into Dexter’s waiting arms. Everybody laughs.

Flipping through his homework assignment sheets, Cory complains, “Where do these people get this crap?”

Shira answers, “The obvious answer, ‘they pulled it out of their butts,’ doesn’t count.”

Rob adds, “It should. This American so-called ‘education’ is such a total travesty compared to even the worst schools in Europe.”

Seika says, “It’s a joke compared to what we had in Japan before the nationalists and the Yakuza took over.”

Jennifer sternly explains: “As you can see, the Imperial Confederate school system is not set up for education. They want soldiers, not scholars. America is, after all, an empire first and foremost.”

Karen says, “We can do something about it. I know there’s a way.”

Shira puts her elbows on the table and her head in her hands and sighs. “I agree, Karen. The only question is what.”

period 4. There are two factions among the faculty. One, brought in by Major Falconer, implements the anti-educational program of the Church of America as decreed by President Palin. The other, simply known as “the educators,” are the holdouts left over from before the Imperial Confederate government forcibly broke up the teachers’ unions and put the Church of America in charge of education. David Todd Whitmer, a graying fiftysomething math teacher, is their leader. He started the tutor program in the Kitsap County School District and serves as faculty advisor and homeroom teacher to the tutors. Until college classes start, Shira assists his teacher’s assistant during his fourth-period algebra class.

Bart Green, who is supposed to be in history class, barges in to protest the very existence of math, accompanied by Numbers Two and Three. “This is nonsense!” he barks. “This has nothing to do with the will of Jesus America!”

Shira laughs and strolls idly toward Bart. “Sorry to burst your bubble, Bart, but you can’t make heads nor tails of those all-important codes that God and Bacon slipped into the Bible and Shakespeare unless you know some serious math. Know what I’m sayin’?”

A light goes on in Vince’s head. “By God, she’s right! Bacon did write Shakespeare!”

Bart grabs Beck and Vince by their collars and drags them out of the class in a huff.

period 5. Jennifer met 24-year-old Sylvia Plame before school and discovered they share a common fascination with history. Now Jennifer assists with Sylvia’s history class, with Shira as her own. They cannot help but notice their shy friend Mimi gaze at Sylvia with undisguised hero worship just a few desks away. But Sylvia’s mind is on someone else. She can’t keep her eyes off Shira in her yellow uniform. Shira notices; she smiles and waves at her. “Hi.” Sylvia smiles back and waves.

After the bell rings, Sylvia takes roll call, and class gets under way, Kelly storms in the front of the classroom, goes into a rant, and pushes Sylvia around to disrupt the class, annoying the other students. “History is bunk!” she yells.

Jennifer gets in front of her to stop her. “As the philosopher warned, you’d better learn history, or you’re doomed to repeat it.”

“Bull pucky! There ain’t no such thing as history! Only Jesus America and Satan Satan Satan!”

Shira laughs out loud at Kelly’s cliché storm. Embarrassed at Kelly’s outburst, the other students start to fidget and moan. Shira stands up, covers her ears, and yells, “I can’t hear you, Kelly! La la la la la!” The other students laugh out loud.

“Stop that, you idiot! Take those hands off your ears and listen to me!” Some students laugh at her misaimed insult.

Shira willfully ignores her and screams, “LA LA LA LA LA LA...” The whole class falls over laughing.

period 6. Elspeth Currie, the youngest, best, and most popular physical education teacher, is a magnificent tall athlete with short blond hair. Elsie was a professional athlete once, until a series of bloody riots led by the Patriarchy movement led President Palin to ban women from pro sports. She’s the girls’ soccer coach, and half her players have a crush on her. Shira is the most ardent of them.

Shira worries that this class will go as badly as Polly’s first-period class. It goes perfectly smoothly, to her great relief. Elsie asks Shira to stay after class.

When the last students are gone from the girls’ locker room and the school day ends, Shira says as Elsie strips out of her sweaty gym clothes, “You wanted to speak with me?”

Elsie smiles back at her. “No, Shira, I want to look at you.”

“Well, okay!” Shira quickly strips naked, slam dunks her gym clothes into the hamper, and stands proudly in front of Elsie. They drink in each other’s athletic beauty for a few minutes until Shira suggests, “Let’s get in.” They go to the showers.

Elsie turns on one of the shower nozzles. Shira takes some liquid soap from the next dispenser and lathers Elsie’s smooth white skin with her hands. Elsie starts to protest, but Shira gently shushes her and soaps her entire body. After washing the soap off her body, Shira washes Elsie’s face and hair, and then kisses her.

Shira winks. “Your turn.”

after school. College classes won’t begin till the 21st, so the morning tutors get to skip afternoon high-school classes. Their group reassemble in the back of a coffee shop downtown on Fourth Street and order espresso drinks and Italian sodas.

Shira tells Jennifer, Polly, and Cory, “You know, I see the way all those kids have been looking up to us, and suddenly I realize, if there’s enough of us we can build up an alternate power center to the Council.”

“Wouldn’t that be a bit, y’know, suicidal?” asks a worried Polly.

“Not really. Enough of us are fighters ourselves, and most of us avoided the whole Tournament circus. They want war, we can hold our own.”

Cory points at Shira and winks at Polly. “I’m only the second best fighter in our capoeira class.”

Jennifer smiles sideways at Shira. “If we’re all such great fighters, why don’t we form our own fight club to take them on.”

“But if we do, we’d better be protectin’ rather than just bangin’. Karen says there’s one group in particular that needs our protection big time.”

Shira gets up for the door and winks at her friends. “So what’s keeping us? Karen’s waiting.”

evening. The tutors and their group meet the high school Gay-Straight Alliance in the meeting room at the downtown library. After the coup, President Palin decreed a ban on homosexuality, and on fornication and adultery as well, to satisfy the militant pastors who helped put her in power. When the United Corporations cartel was set up shortly afterward, Corporate eugenicists were so enthusiastic about the new Confederate policy that they zealously enforce it, much to the greater public’s annoyance and frequent outrage. The meeting is closed to keep hostile pastors and eugenicists out.

The six remaining members of Bremerton High’s GSA have been beaten down by relentless religious and police persecution, yet they refuse to give up on the cause. The gay members are Eddie Perry, refugee from theocratic New Africa; Lyssa Watkins; Chuck Johnson, her butch girlfriend; and committee president Lorelei Straight. The straight members (no pun intended) are Donald Vasquez and his girlfriend Lorine Kelly.

Karen represents the school’s Buddhist-led Victory Over Violence group, along with her cousin, softball captain Courtney, and her younger sister Schuyler. The tutors attending: Shira, Jennifer, her brother Connor, Cory, Rob, and Leila. The Shelley twins brought their sister Fiona. The others here are fighters offering their martial arts skills: Kio Marques, the big Hawaiian from Shira and Cory’s Brazilian jujitsu class; the dreadlocked black girl who watched Shira during school, Brandi Quinn, a Londoner; and Seika, whose fighting style is actually Korean.

“We’re so glad you offered to help us!” says Lorelei. She wears her blond hair in a ponytail.

Karen smiles enthusiastically. “Actually, we’re offering to join you.”

Shira checks the time on her Droid and says to Lorelei, “So are we gonna start the meeting and make it at least quasi-official?”

“Yeah,” adds Karen, “let’s start it.”

“Okay.” All eyes point at Lorelei. “As you probably already know, we’ve been under relentless assault from intolerant church groups backed by the new right-wing government. We’ll need all the help we can get so we can keep fighting the good fight.”

“You know I’ll do anything I can to help,” gushes Karen.

“Do you think you can take over from me, Karen?”

“If you want, I’ll do it.”

“I’m with Karen,” says Courtney. “I’m in.”

Lorelei grabs Karen and Courtney’s hands and holds them tight. “Thank you so much.” She turns toward Shira, and all eyes follow. “Can you help us, Shira?” The other five members look imploringly at Shira.

“Please, Shira?” begs Karen.

Cory says, “If you’re in, Shira, we are too.” Schuyler nods quickly to urge Shira to say yes.

“Hmmmm. I’ll have to seriously think about this...”

night. Shira flies a delivery for Pizza Mafia. Delivering pizzas on her hoverboard after school hours is an excellent source of extra money, but she also likes it because flying gives her time to think.

She thinks hard about the offer. You’ll probably end up having to fight Bart and his goons all the time, Polly warned. Obviously Karen will follow her conscience and sense of justice, and take over leadership of the GSA as soon as she can work out the legalities. But for Shira, it's a matter of temptation: she simply likes to thrash bullies and bring down bad guys. What Karen considers a moral obligation gives Shira a thrill. But behind the eternal tyranny of the jocks lies a much greater danger. You see, Bart and Charmian have pull...

Do I really want to do this? she thinks. I could be putting my family, my friends, and the whole school in terrible danger. Knowing Charmian, she’ll probably sic her dad on me, and he can use the whole Navy as his weapon. I might just be giving the Beckets yet another weapon they can use to destroy me and my family. If I tell them yes, I’ll be taking on a whole lot of responsibility. But if I do say yes, there’s a lot of people I can protect...

Shira flies her hoverboard in to a smooth landing in front of her customer’s porch. She gets off, walks onto the porch, knocks on the door. She delivers her pizza, takes her payment and tip, and flies away to her next delivery.

By the time she returns to the Pizza Mafia franchise office to pick up her check, her mind is made.

3 September 2014
ferry terminal.
“Hey!” exclaims Seika. “There’s Shira and Jennifer!” Excitedly, she points toward the two yellow-uniformed girls standing out among the morning commuters sitting in front of the terminal, waiting for the buses now arriving. She follows the leaping Harumi to them; Polly tries to keep up with them. Shira and Jennifer stand up to meet them. The girls trade hugs and kisses.

Seika, not aware of yesterday’s after-school discussion, muses, “I was thinking, shouldn’t we start our own Team?”

“Seika!” protests Polly. “Please, not where people can hear us.”

Shira winks at them. “Aw, don’t worry about that. Princesses and Tournament Leaders are way too stuck up to ride the bus.”

“Come to think of it,” says Jennifer, “we may actually have one already.”

Shira looks across the terminal’s car log and down the bus deck at the the crude and gaudy façades of the last surviving sailor bars on First Street. With a wicked grin, she announces: “Team Bremelo.

“Team what?!” gasps Polly.

“What’s a ‘bremelo’?” asks Harumi.

Shira clears her throat. “‘Bremelo’ is a portmanteau of ‘Bremerton’ and ‘buffalo.’ It means one of those fat ugly women who hang out at the sailor bars outside the gates of the Bremerton Navy base and stalk drunken sailors so they can take ’em home for sex. It’s a tradition older than the city itself.”

Seika and Harumi look at Shira strangely. “Really?” asks Seika. Polly facepalms and sighs. Jennifer successfully restrains herself from laughing.

“Here’s the best part. Bremeloes live for the moment in the morning when their hung-over mark wakes up and finds out what he really brought home.” Shira winks wickedly. Around the girls, people laugh and some groan knowingly.

Polly rolls her eyes and grimaces. “Oh boy...” Jennifer chuckles, amused by her reaction.

The girls mix into the small crowd assembling outside the door of the #24 bus. When the last passenger gets off, they move with the crowd and get on.

before school. Right after Shira gets past the entry checkpoint into the school lobby, Bart and Charmian storm up side by side and barge into her face.

“What do you two want?”

Bart growls, “I hear you’re defendin’ the evil sodomites now.”

Charmian demands, “Is that true?

Shira beams triumphantly. “Yes. It’s true. I’ve so made my decision. Karen is always right. So I’m joining the GSA along with her. In fact, I’m their new tutor representative. You can’t stop Karen no matter how hard you try, and there’s no way you’ll ever stop me. It stands to reason.” She winks.

Bart and Charmian stare at Shira in open-mouthed horror. Charmian grabs Shira by the scarf, pulls her uncomfortably close, and shrieks, “Are you so determined to betray every basic principle of morality?”

Shira puts her arms around Charmian and pulls her close, making her blush. “Depends on what you mean by the word ‘morality.’ I hear you people think nothing of beating up on dark skins.” She meets Charmian’s angry glare with a wicked grin. After an endless moment, Charmian struggles out of her arms and slaps her. Shira holds her hand to her stricken cheek and chuckles. “I do think Princess Charming likes me.”

The three of them realize that their confrontation has attracted a crowd of onlookers. Bart and Charmian look at each other, then glare at Shira. Still glaring, they stalk off.

Mimi runs up to Shira in a panic, grabs her by the arm, and warns, “Uh-oh, Shira, you’re in really big trouble now.”

Shira flashes Mimi her cockeyed smile. “Girlfriend, they don’t realize it yet, but I am trouble.” She winks wickedly.

on to the next...

Copyright © 2010 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

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[Revision 1.0.1, 11/25/10: Updated formatting, revised text for clarity.]
[Revision 1.1, 11/27/10: New layout for the entire series, plus text and continuity corrections.]
[Revision 1.2, 12/4/10: Text, story, and continuity corrections.]
[Revision 1.3, 12/16/10: All remaining "®" symbols removed.]

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