Dear Sir, You Shall Taste My Blistering Fury
If Joanna Matheson can't pull off an amazing science fair project, she's doomed to spend summer back in school. Fortunately, her best friend Edgar is there to help out. But when Edgar jumps ship in the midst of their project, Jo finds her grades sinking without any hope of salvation. Resigned to her fate, Jo decides there's only one thing left for her to do: get revenge on Edgar.
Monday morning found me on my way to another long stretch at Kelso Amboy Memorial High School. I was at best half-awake--what self-respecting teenager wouldn't be?--but aware enough of my surroundings to notice a commotion down by the school announcement sign. A crowd of my fellow students had gathered around the sign and focused their attention at the base. This intense interest piqued my curiosity, so I altered my path to go and see what the kerfuffle was about.
As I walked, a distant voice called my name. "Jo!" I stuttered to a stop. My bell-bottom jeans began soaking up the morning dew as I searched for the source of the voice. "Joanna!" There it was: Agnes. My best friend was about a block distant, just within shouting range, waving to get my attention. I waved back, indicating I had noticed her, then returned my attention to the sign.
A steep-banked creek cut through our schoolyard, separating me from the sign. On the opposite bank, where the tree-covered lawn became a schoolyard proper, dozens of half-awake students were engaged in some kind of spirit event. There were cheerleaders dispersed through the crowd, waving pom-poms and leading the gathered students in the stomping of feet, jubilant yelling, and chanting of chants. Beneath the school sign, two older students capered about, doing just as much as the cheerleaders to whip the crowd into a frenzy.
These two were Cal and Hez, a pair of second-year seniors who didn't so much attend classes here at Kelso Amboy as live at the school. Visually, the two were complete opposites. Hez was short, fat, and hairy, while Cal was tall... fat, and hairy. Okay, they were identical, differentiated only by four inches plus or minus on the average height curve. This morning, they were dancing on the concrete base of the school sign, holding overlarge posterboards emblazoned with "The End Is Near!" in neon lettering. Cal waved back and forth, yipping and ululating, while Hez bounced up and down in front of the gathered students, leading the first few ranks in a chant of "Three more weeks! Three more weeks!" As the chant spread, I half-heartedly joined in.
Once the chant was self-sustaining, Hez leaped and grabbed onto one of the sign's support beams. "Yes, folks," he crowed, letting go with one hand to make sweeping gestures, "The end is near indeed! Three more weeks is all we have until the Great Amboy Jamboree! Those elect among you have already taken the steps to secure your place in the world to come! But those who tarry, and you, Teri, and those who have waited until darkness falls fear not! Tickets are still available, booths are still open, space remains for all who repent!"
The crowd cheered at this pronouncement.
"And who pay $49.95 for an exhibition booth, or $10.95 for general admission."
There was another cheer, more subdued this time.
Hez let go the beam and dropped back to the base as Cal abandoned his sign. Both fanned out sheaves of fliers to the gathered students.
Speculation raged on-and-off for the past three years, passed on to my class when we moved up from junior high: just what was up with these two? Though no one saw them in class, they were always the center of attention when it came to pimping out the school via shows like this. Hell, they performed the morning announcements. The going theory as to the source of their influence was that they were the illegitimate children of our assistant principal. While that provided an explanation for their carte blanche, it did fail to consider that Kelso Amboy was a memorial high school, not a feudal estate. Another theory was that Cal and Hez simply volunteered for any responsibilities they carried out. No one knew for certain, however, and the consensus was that their origins would remain a mystery...
"Jeez, you'd think they'd realize by now: no one wants to go to this stupid thing."
I flinched away from the horrible, squeaky voice shrieking in my ear; Agnes had managed to sneak up close, creeping cat-like on her creepy little feet.
"Hey, Aggie." I pitched my voice over the roar of the gathered crowd. "What's up with you this fine morning?"
She brushed a strand of dark hair away from of her glasses. "Fine morning indeed, when it starts out with the untempered screeching of a thousand capitalist stooges, making fools of themselves in an effort to partially fund a bankrupt school system. But think no more upon these fools, for I have matters of import to speak of with you."
I blinked, the beach ball of my mind spinning as I parsed her verbose declaration; it was far too early in the morning for her overly-complex verbiage. "Could I get that in plain English, please?"
She chuffed out her breath and rolled her eyes. "I want to talk to you about something; it's important."
Ah, so much clearer. I was about to acquiesce to her request for parlay when I heard a tremendous crash coming from behind me. "Oh, yeah? Do tell."
"Do you have any plans for this summer?" Agnes asked. She was positively vibrating with excited energy.
Before I could answer, there were screams of terror from the direction of the sign. I pivoted away from Anges, fighting for balance on the uneven embankment, and beheld the chaos that had consumed the crowd.
"If you do have plans," Agnes continued, "cancel them now. Because I got tickets to Bluker's Creek!"
I failed to react to what Agnes said. Perhaps it was the spectacle of Cal crowd surfing upon the cheerleader squad. Perhaps it was because Hez's pants had caught fire, and he now rolled about, trying to smother the flames.
"Jo?" Agnes prompted.
The cheerleaders beneath Cal bucked, tossing him into the air. He soared for a good ten feet before coming down atop Hez, smothering the fire. The crowd roared in approval.
"Hello, Earth to Joanna. You in there?"