The stage remained the same but the scenes had changed.
I sat in the school’s main office. Carrie shuffled papers. I smiled at her. I think I dozed off.
Then the secretary ushered me into Mr. Blok’s office. He sat at his desk. Mrs. Stone sat in a chair next to me. We both faced Mr. Blok. I did my best to witness, not judge, and get through this.
I reminded myself about my recently crafted generosity plans and their vulnerability. I was not in a giving mood.
I switched to Frank, then to Carrie, then to Brink. Mr. Blok asked me several questions. I did not hear the first part of his a line of questioning, only the last part.
“Why did you disobey?”
“Because my parents can be pushy.”
“What? What does that have to do with what we’ve been talking about?”
“I haven’t been talking.”
“Haven’t you been listening?”
“Well, Fabain, I have been saying that you are turning down a new road, one of insubordination.”
“I told you that your club was not to meet.”
“But Carrie Unser brought cupcakes.”
“Mr. Blok, it was a meeting to end the club. I had no intention of defying you. We gave Club Dead a shot, you didn’t like it, so it’s over. No biggie.”
“That’s not what Mrs. Stone reports.”
I reminded myself that building tension would bring me joy.
But where was my much ballyhooed harmony that preceded an explosion?
“Your tears will not help you,” Mrs. Stone said.
I looked up astonished.
“Is that what you think? That my tears are a ploy? To gain something? Mr. Blok, I must leave now.”
“No Fabian -”
“Please Mr. Blok, call me CJ.”
“Do you really think changing your name will help? You are who you are. Live with it. Deal with it. Do you think that you are the only one who has problems? If I were to cry as much as you for every slight I’ve experienced, I would never stop crying.”
“Mrs. Stone, let’s stay positive.”
“Positive, with this spoiled brat? Yes, that’s what you are. Even your mother agrees.”
“Death is a fact of life. How did you think suicide would help?”
“I didn’t know. That’s why I tried.”
“Oh, that’s why you tried? Hadn’t you thought about God?”
“What do you mean?”
“God, up there. You know, the unmoved mover. Don’t you young people have religion?”
“Mr. Blok, I don’t think Mrs. Stone should be speaking to me this way. What I believe about God is a private matter. School is no place - ”
“Oh will you give it a rest!” Mrs. Stone thundered. “Don’t you know what happens to people who kill themselves?”
“Mrs. Stone, not that it’s any of your business, but my family doesn’t go to church, so -”
“I can’t believe it. An atheist to boot! Mr. Blok, what is happening to the spirit of this school? Well, since you are so ill-informed about the destination of your soul, I will tell you: it is going down!”
“I’m not sure I have a soul. I’m still trying to work that one out.”
“You know what we should do with this one, Mr. Blok, don’t you?”
Mrs. Stone stopped her questioning and roared in laughter.
Mr. Blok’s laughed too. Now this took my theory of the absurd a little too far. I rose to go.
“No yelling. In Club Dead we have a no yelling rule.”
“You’re not in Club Dead. Don’t think you can avoid the topic. You’re going to hell.”
“Mr. Blok, the nature of my soul is my business, not yours or the vice-principal. Mr. Blok, why don’t you listen? Mr. Blok!”
I looked up and saw Carrie stand over me with her hand on my shoulder. She handed me a note. I unfolded it and read:
You fell asleep. They left yakking on their walkie-talkies. Something about trouble in the parking lot.
“Thanks,” I said to Carrie. “Talk to me?”
“You were dreaming.”
She cupped my cheek with her hand and kissed me. It was like a small drink of iced water. She walked out of Mr. Blok’s office, leaving me alone.
I firmly believed that dreams sent messages. The hard part was translating them.
I saw a knife and blood. Death – as in the big end – hovered. I saw no evidence of heaven or hell. No sign of a god. I said “Soul!” Uncle Grant appeared and we talked about the need for a person to live correctly. I did not know what he meant. I asked him “Are you religious?” He said it had nothing to do with what he was talking about. “Do believe in heaven and hell? The afterlife? Nothingness?”
That’s when Carrie woke me.
Had she kissed me? My mouth was moist and cold.I had five minutes to catch the late bus. I liked school at this hour. Pockets of noise echoed, but the school day’s purpose had ended. Some kids grew sad when school ended. It was a death for them. For me, it was a beginning. I was dead during the school day. So wasn’t it time for me to find some meaning in this part of the day, the part that was mine? I wished Carrie were here. I bet she could talk about the soul.