A Reintroduction: Chapter 10

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 10. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

On the couch and all alone again, I scroll to Ant’s number. She put it in my phone after dinner the other night.

I should tell her, I think, not about Pete and Ms. Benevo, but about me and her, Ms. Benevo. She’d understand. She always understood even when I didn’t. Maybe. Maybe she won’t.

I feel my eyelids getting heavy. They flutter down, down, down like an angel on high descending. And I’m seeing through fewer and fewer crevices, fading into the shadows that surround me in my life, in my dreams – the ones that offer me no reprieve from the present.

Then, I’m not on the couch. I’m somewhere else I can’t see. It’s darker than a cave without a torch, a church maybe. Yes, it’s a church. And it seems familiar.

St. Peter’s, that’s where, and someone’s running for the bathroom. Without the sensation of my limbs moving, I’m following him. And I’m there and he’s rubbing his flushed face with running water, water as red as wine. He’s covered in it.

Under the incandescent lights that are uncomfortably bright, like we’re on a stage with the spotlights turned up, I see that the beads streaming down his face are glass. And although it’s blank, I recognize his face from somewhere.

He’s mounting the sink now and throwing his belt over the labyrinth of exposed pipes. What is he doing? I think, but I know what he’s doing with the strap fastened around his neck and when he jumps it snaps taut – the same sound my uncle’s did before he belted me.

Wheezing, gasping, and flailing, he squirms and kicks and tries to reach the sink behind him, but his legs aren’t long enough – only a few inches away, a chasm that could’ve been miles. The fear of the unknown bulges from his eyes. After one final heave, his arms fall slack and his feet dangle like a mobile from a crib.

His imperceptible face, lifeless and limp, is coming into view now. And those eyes with their sickly pallor, those eyes looking back at me are mine.

I blink.

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The Overlook Journal Returns

With a new school year having already begun, so too has the ‘Overlook Journal’ – Thornton-Donovan School’s student-run newspaper. As I have mentioned in previous posts “The Overlook Journal Rises” and “Toasting the Staff,” I commend the tireless work of the staff in first rehabilitating the sagging paper and now overseeing its prosperity.

Here’s to another productive year!

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year, returning and new Overlook Journal members!

I want to start out by commending last year’s staff on their most prolific year to date. Not only did the amount of pieces produced increase, but the quality of work did as well. There was much to be proud of, and the staff on the whole deserves the plaudits for a job well done.

With that said, last year is over. Now, as we begin a new school year once again under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Quincy Campbell ’19, we look forward to putting together a staff of dedicated and diligent student writers and editors.

Students, however, do not have to be the best in either of these fields, and they most certainly do not have to seek a career in journalism. Instead, we desire those who are interested in chronicling the myriad events of the T-D experience in a creative manner. Moreover, we are looking for diverse and engaging perspectives from anyone who wants to be involved in the production process – copy-editors and artists, don’t be shy. Remember that people do actually read and comment on the Overlook Journal, and, for some, this is their only remaining connection to T-D.

Based on what was achieved last year, the expectations have increased. That means more consistent coverage of T-D events across the board, whether it be athletics, clubs, new teachers, or travel – among other endeavors. That also means the production of one-to-two physical papers depending on the money available/funds raised. Finally, and most importantly, Quincy has formed a partnership with WVOX that will lead to student journalists participating as guests on the nightly show “The Millennial Perspective.”

I encourage any interested student to speak to Quincy about possible roles at the Overlook Journal. Looking forward to another bountiful and rewarding year, I believe the possibilities are boundless.

Sincerely,

Andrew Chapin

The Overlook Journal Moderator

Middle School English Teacher

Thornton-Donovan School

A Reintroduction: Chapter 9

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 9. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

“Man, need to smoke, need to,” Tommy had pleaded and pleaded until he got his way and in the process completely disproved his longstanding contention that weed isn’t addictive.

So here we are in the hallway outside our room where Tommy and Candace are rolling all over each other like marbles. Everyone’s pretty belligerent and giggling from all those bottles of wine.

I can hear a low moan droning on like an old, overworked dryer. Except this one isn’t that old, I think. Thank God Ant’s playing a board game with Large Charley and the nice and ugly kids.

I slide the card into the door.

The light turns green.

Click.

On the other side, it’s as loud as a slaughterhouse. And they don’t even know we’re there. Not yet.

“P-E-T-E?” Marie timorously mouths to herself.

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Throwback Thursday: New Age Acceptance

Originally posted on January 19, 2017, “New Age Acceptance” lauds my students for their acceptance of differences among their peers. While these kids still might not know how to look you in the eye when they talk to you or shake your hand or ask a follow up question or even put their handheld device down, they respect their peers in a way I’ve never seen before.

And for that, I commend them.

Bullying seems to be a common theme in the classes I teach.

Maybe because I was bullied growing up. With my chubby visage and round glasses, my awful posture and general uncoordinated nature, and my awkward and nerdy demeanor I’m surprised I didn’t kick my own ass.

Or maybe it’s because bullying is such a prevalent, yet still overlooked issue.

In reading The Chocolate War with my ninth grade students, there’s a particular scene that dictated our discussion one of the days. In it, a bully, prompted by the antagonist Archie Costello, calls the protagonist Jerry Rennault a “fairy.” This challenge to his masculinity incenses him and eventually leads to his being savagely beaten by a group of kids.

So, one of my students asks what’s the big deal with being called that. I responded with a question: “How would she like if someone degraded her based on her ethnicity?” She nodded her head in realization. I had implored her empathetic side. She understood the hurtful capacity of words.

When I was her age, though, I would have asked the exact same question.

After all, I come from the generation where Eminem mainstreamed the word “fag” to the point where our own teachers called us it without qualm. Homophobic slurs were as ubiquitous as morning greetings. And the stigma – my God, the stigma – of someone classifying you as a “homo” was akin to being a leper. No one wanted that distinction, even if you identified as a homosexual.

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A Reintroduction: Chapter 8

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 8. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

In a quaint Italian square, the familiar street-hustlers hocking their miniature David statuettes and brass-plated Leaning Tower of Pisas are beginning to pack their goods away. Shadows playfully tag each other in the fast-descending dusk.

The group, meanwhile, pushes on into the undetermined night on streets that are as anonymous as we are, devoid of breaking dancers and beating drummers, the destination in front of Glenn and only Glenn. She leads us into a hole-in-the-wall that from the outset resembles a typical old man bar, a dump.

Ant tells me to be nice, her arm neatly looped around mine. But it’s so hard, I whine, when we might be walking into the next Buddy’s, which was the dirtiest, dumpiest old man bar of them all around the block from Balaam. If the wind is blowing the right way and the windows are open in the chem. lab, you can potentially catch a whiff of the Buddy’s special – a pungent blend of piss and urinal cakes and crab cakes.

“I think you’ll be surprised,” Ant, always the optimist, says, “that some of the best food is in the littlest places.”

What’s surprising to me, besides that she’s giving me the time of day and that she picked me to begin with, is that she hasn’t asked me about Jess, but I don’t mention that. I actually don’t say anything once we get inside, too busy eating my words once that smell – tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, fresh fish – hits me. I haven’t smelled anything like it since both my grandparents were alive and we were still a family – and I’m thinking this what I came to Italy for.

“Well?”

“The dated chairs and faded paint notwithstanding, you were right.”

“As usual.”

“As usual.”

And I swear it could’ve been sophomore year again – it felt like déjà vu – until we get to our table. And there’s only one.

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A Reintroduction: Chapter 7

I have finally, FINALLY finished editing ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’. Now, I have to find the time to send it out. And not screw up anything as I have in the past.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 7. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

Wishing wells bring me back to a time when I was young and actually believed they were real. Sure, I never got that pony I wanted, but, if last night’s anything, sometimes wishes do come true. But not because you threw a penny in a fountain, I remind myself.

There’s clearly a difference of opinion between me and Ant on the matter at hand. It was if we hadn’t broken up, just hit pause and then picked up right where we left off.

“Please, please, please tell me you have change?”

“Ha! You don’t really believe in that, do you?”

“What if I do, Mr. Too Cool?”

She has this quixotic look on her face. Like I just threw down the most elaborate prom proposal in the ultimate, cheesy expression of teenage love. Or like last night was our first kiss.

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Throwback Thursday: The Return of the Student Newspaper

Originally posted on November 9, 2016, “The Return of the Student Newspaper” lauds the efforts of the editor-in-chief and his staff.

They really were the most productive and diligent staff I’ve managed during my eight years at Thornton-Donovan School. Based on the precedent set last year, I’m eager to see what new heights they will reach.

Check back tomorrow morning for my welcome letter to the new staff!

Over the past few years, the student newspaper has been bogged down by apathetic and entitled editors. They have failed to realize that the fish stinks from the head down. Those in charge set the example for the staff to follow – good or bad. The same analogy extends to administration and even teachers. If they, like a newspaper editor, do not model the proper approach, then those who work under them do not take their jobs seriously. Why? Because when rules are not enforced and when standards aren’t upheld, they cease to exist. Yet, some still wonder why kids chew gum in school or violate the dress code.

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ICYMI: We Will Never Forget

“ICYMI: We Will Never Forget” is a past recollection I had about September 11, 2001 – the day that dissolved our naivety, jarred our sense of safety, reminded us just how feeble peace is, and brought us together as a nation undivided – a recollection that still remains the same.

I still have a hard time comprehending what happened on September 11, 2001. Since then, the word terrorism has become more common in the English vernacular than the articles a, an, and the. We’ve waged wars, we’ve chased ghosts, we’ve blamed this group and that group only to see the strongest of them all rise. And in between, thousands of innocent people have lost their lives in the name of an ideological difference.

Time Cover via Time.com

I’m not politicizing a national tragedy; that’s for politicians to further their own interests. What still stupefies me is the range of emotions associated with the day. One moment, I might feel a strong nationalistic pride in a country everybody loves to hate but at the same time doesn’t mind the freedoms it affords them. In another instance, I’m lugubrious thinking about all the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who never made it home that day. And in another, I might resent those responsible and those who still harbor and protect them.

Sixteen years have passed and the event has become written history that my students learn about and reflect upon. What’s written in a synopsis, though, does not in any way capture the tenor of the moment. The faint scent of smoke. The billowing black cloud juxtaposed against the horizon. The kids hanging their heads, serious and somber. The teachers, unable to reach their loved ones on the phone, fleeing from the classroom in tears.

For me, at 13 years old in my freshman year of high school, 9/11 seems as real to me today as it was then. This is why I make it a point to convey the emotions of the moment to my students. I don’t want to push an agenda, though; I want to allow them to realize the fear we felt, the anguish of seeing people who we knew in an unknown despair, the love we knew when we embraced our families that day, the sense we had that our world would never be the same. And with our eyes no longer open only to the plight of the world but the plight of America as well, it never has been.

For those who lost their loved ones in Manhattan, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. For those who died due to illness associated with. Those who fought and continue to fight to defend freedoms so many take for granted whenever they spit on a cop, burn a flag, sit during the Star Spangled Banner, or riot in the name of personal interest.

We will never forget that day. We will never forget your sacrifices. And we will never forget you.

For more, see “Generational Landmarks: September 11, 2001.”

A Reintroduction: Chapter 6

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 6. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

It’s unbelievable how little you care about when you’re loaded.

A couple days ago, I was shitting my pants about getting caught by Bags and getting sent back to the big, hollow house. Now, we’re sneaking out to that “hot club” Lilly’s sister set us up at, and it only took a happy pill and a half to get Lilly to stop worrying about her mother and the future and everything that could go wrong – everyone besides Pete.

He was staring at the fuzzy TV screen in the dark when I left, staying in tonight, not feeling “too hot,” he told Tommy. I’m sure, since he miraculously came down with something the second his phone buzzed, which was about 10 minutes before we left. And everyone bought it. Besides me.

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A Reintroduction: Chapter 5

I have finally, FINALLY finished editing ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’. Now, I have to find the time to send it out. And not screw up anything as I have in the past.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 5. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

He wasn’t real.

It was a dream.

All of it was a dream.

That’s what it seemed like in the museum – that I wasn’t awake – when Pete and Tommy practically had to drag me down the street to St. Peter’s Basilica. Now, I’m here in the church, the drug having worn off but still feeling like a queasy bag of shit, more strung out than those junkies outside Grand Central Station with their pitiful dogs. This is why I never take pills, I think, walking through archways adorned with idols and statues of saint this and that.

I don’t know where Pete or Tommy or anyone else went although I have an idea where one of them is. Besides Becky. She’s to my left sketching something – a dove it looks like, fluttering through a towering, Gothic canopy. At its base is her own personal touch, the Balaam crest – the torch with the Latin I can’t read – wooden, dignified, and old.

In so many ways, Becky’s not like the rest of us. She doesn’t have a car, a designer backpack, artificially-whitened teeth, or even a cell phone, I think. After school, she works at the Walmart right down the block from Balaam. The girl had to fundraise to get to Italy, for Christ’s sake.

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