Let Them See What They Want to See
“We’ve got to move quickly,” I said to the club the next day at lunch.
“I can’t believe we won,” Tallie said.
“Why not? Zombie Charter School is awesome,” Frank said.
“But we wrote it to say how much this school sucks,” Emig said.
“We said it well,” Fretwell said.
“There is no way Blok would approve this,” Dawn said.
“Or Stone,” Buskirk said.
“She convinced Blok that it should win.”
Heads turned towards Brink.
“What do you mean? Stone sold it to Blok?” Dawn asked.
“Exactly that,” Brink answered, taking a potato chip from Carrie Unser.
“How do you know?” Tallie asked.
“Is it important how I go about knowing? Isn’t it enough that I know?”
“But if that’s true, then we were chosen for some reason not having to do with the playing being good,” Dawn observed.
“It is good!” Frank said.
“We go on stage and there will be a riot. I wrote that role of zombie number twelve as Wraithe’s model. He sees this play and I’m dead,” Tallie said.
“Oh right. Wraithe is going to the theater! That’s a good one.”
“Why worry why we won. Do we want to do it or not?” Bayless asked.
“I’d like to act on stage,” Tuttle said.
“Me too,” Zognorf said.
“I would absolutely piss in my pants,” Koptich said.
“Then what part is Koptich playing!”
I thought about this. I thought about of the letter to the editor. I thought about mom. Brink saw the worry on my face. She and Carrie moved to sit next to me. They put their arms over my shoulders. I was careful not to reciprocate.
“Stone wants the play to succeed,” Brink whispered in my ear. I smelled vinegar-onion flavored chips.
“Because then she drives another nail into your mother’s coffin,” Carrie whispered into my other ear. Her lips grazed my ear. I had been teased.
She moved away and ate more potato chips.
“Can you imagine the crowd’s response when the line at the end of the play is recited: We need a new school. A school for zombies!”
“But that’s supposed to be a knock on this school – Blok and Stone’s school,” I said.
“You think our students can detect satire? No. Besides, it’s not the students Stone wants a response from. It’s the reporters and parents she’s inviting.”
Carrie licked her vinegary fingers and pulled a folded paper from her top shirt pocket.
I unfolded the slightly greasy paper. Another Xerox copy of an email.
To the parents of Blissfield High School students:
Some parents have expressed an intention to transfer their child from BHS and enroll them at the planned new charter school. Before you make a final commitment I urge you to understand the dangers associated with such a decision. Please be my guest at the opening of our school play – ‘Zombie Charter School’. Once you see this, I doubt whether you will want your child to transfer out of BHS. Until then,
Vice-Principal Jane Stone
“Geez, how do you get these?” I asked.
“Oh, hacking is easy enough, especially considering how many people are on your side,” Brink explained.
“I have no side to be on!” I protested.
“Stark. When are you going to understand that you are a symbol? These dead heads don’t see your suicide attempt as a sign your mom has no skills to run a school. They see it as a sign that this school is suckling the life out of them. They want to die too. You tried. That means a lot to them.”
“Hey, I didn’t do that because of school. Who would kill himself over school? It was my uncle. My uncle!” All eyes turned towards me. I whispered to Brink, “Among other things. They totally have it wrong.”
“Let them see what they want to see. Let them hear what they want to here. What’s the point? You represent hope.”
“Oh brother. They are desperate.”
“We all are. Why do you think Carrie and I sit up here? For the food?”
“I don’t have answers.”
“And we don’t look to you for them. You didn’t write the play – we did. And it feels good. And we’re going to put on that play.”
“And my mom suffers as a result.”
“Hardly. I’ve seen you mom. She’s a weapon. She’s got this school freaked. They know your mom’s school is going to open. Blok and Stone have a list of parents they know are bolting this school. Your mom needs eighty-eight students to open the doors. She’s going to get them.”
“She doesn’t know that. It’s driving her nuts.”
“So Stone went to Blok and explained how that play could stop the bleeding.”
“I won’t have anything to do with the play’s production.”
“Big deal. You have no control over what you started. It’s never been your play. And no one where really thinks your mom will do any better at running a school. You see, lots of us have never felt better. We have our club, we made new friends, we have a cool lunch place and we’re going to put on a play. We’re starting to actually to do something – at school! I love the spying business. I’m thinking of becoming a cop.”
“Carrie too. And you kicked it all off. You and your tears. So jump on board Stark, enjoy the ride, or get out of the way.”
Brink and Carrie stood, hopped off the stage and left the cafeteria.
Lots of kids ate the school lunch. The aroma of Velveeta cheese, wilting tacos and mild taco sauce reached my nostrils. I was reminded of Emma’s meaty Olla Podrida. There was always something to eat. But I didn’t eat much. I lost weight. But Emma was wrong. I was not going anorexic. I lacked. Brink described what others are feeding upon. The landscape did not look hopeful, to me. I felt dirty and old. I needed a rinsing.