Poor Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson is my precalc teacher, and he is also the only male at the Westfield School. Unless you count Mr. Roebeck, the bio teacher, which I don’t, because he is approximately two million years old and the only manlike thing about him is that he wears neckties.
Oh, and also there are the maintenance men, but nobody counts them, because they are manual labor. We generally don’t notice them at all, except on Maintenance Man Appreciation Day. This is a holiday in March, but they don’t get the day off or anything. All that happens then is, whenever we see one of the maintenance men around school, we have to say to him, “Thank you for all your hard work!” Inevitably, the maintenance men will respond by looking like they want to kill us, or themselves, or everyone, and then they’ll sort of grunt, “You’re welcome,” and go back to emptying the trash receptacles in the bathroom stalls.
But Maintenance Man Appreciation Day is only one day out of the year. The rest of the time we lead an entirely man-deprived existence, with the exception of poor Mr. Thompson, who is our Brad Pitt, Elvis Presley, and James Dean all rolled into one.
Mr. Thompson is, at the absolute least, twice my age. He has an awkward, scrappy beard and high-top sneakers that are persistently too white, as though he polishes them on a regular basis. When he gets excited about a mathematical theorem, his voice squeaks. On his upper arm is an unarguably stupid tattoo of a smiley face, the result, my best friend Katie believes, of drunken misjudgment. Katie tells the tattoo story like this:
When Mr. Thompson was a young and impressionable math undergrad, he got it into his head to pledge a fraternity. All the new pledges had to drink a lot of alcohol—like one keg each, Katie says. (She doesn’t care that this isn’t physically possible.) In a drunken stupor Mr. Thompson wandered away from the frat house, fell in with a gang of thugs, made out with a sexy homeless leather-clad hippie transvestite, and got a smiley-face tattoo at the local drug dealer’s house.
Unfortunately, he never made it into the frat—due to some technicality, Katie explains, vaguely. And the sexy homeless hippie transvestite turned out also to be a gypsy, so she disappeared into the cloudy night, leaving Mr. Thompson with nothing but a broken heart and a goddamn stupid tattoo.
Now, I hope I’ve been clear here: Katie made this story up. It is a total lie. However, this doesn’t stop all the lowerclassmen from believing it. I mean, the tattoo is right there! Clearly visible! So obviously the rest of the story must be true, too, right?
So, in short, Mr. Thompson is all around a little bit lame. Plus he is married and has a three-year-old son. But! He is undeniably male, and so every girl at Westfield flirts with him. Constantly.
In class today, for example, Tasha sashayed up to his desk while the rest of us were silently trying to integrate an expression. Tasha cooed, “Mr. Thompson? I’m having a lot of trouble with this problem.”
Mr. Thompson said, “Just give it your best try. We’ll go over it in a few minutes.”
Tasha said, “Yeah, but it’s really hard. I think I need extra help.”
Mr. Thompson said, “Do you want to come back to the math office during lunch?”
Tasha said, “I was thinking more like Saturday. At ten p.m. At your house.”
By this point in his career Mr. Thompson doesn’t even have the decency to look scandalized by this sort of sexual harassment. He just looked tired and told Tasha to sit down.
Everyone else in the room was in hysterics. Mostly because there was no way Tasha needed extra help from Mr. Thompson. Because she is not technically in his class.
I’ll grant you it’s only four weeks into the school year, so maybe he hasn’t memorized all his class rosters yet, but still. Mr. Thompson does not notice much. The Tasha Incident was, Katie wrote to me in a note, further proof that he is in a DRUNKEN STUPOR.
I responded to Katie’s note by scrawling, Oooh, hopefully that means he’ll get another tattoo this afternoon!
When Mr. Thompson confiscated this note, he just read it, sighed, and said to us, “Katie? Violet? Please try not to write notes in class.” Katie and I nodded solemnly. Then he dismissed us all ten minutes early to lunch, which meant that everyone in my math class got two helpings of bread pudding!
I think Mr. Thompson may quit soon. It’s just this hunch I have.
© 2010 Leila Sales
and exclamation points
In English class this morning, Katie and I made a list of how far every girl in our grade has gone. The hardest part was remembering everyone. For the longest time our list had only fifty-two names. Turned out we were forgetting Rachel Weiss.
Once we had written down all the names, we marked them with cryptic symbols to indicate their sexual experience. The symbols had to be cryptic in case someone else was reading our list over our shoulders, which probably someone was, because the other option was to listen to Lily Vern explain, for the twentieth time, why Wordsworth is the only poet who has ever mattered. So we used a dot for kissing, a dash for second base, a star for third, and an exclamation point for going all the way. If you hadn’t even kissed anyone, you got nothing.
The list looked like this:
And so on.
Katie and I had a whispered argument over her dash. “You have not been to second base,” I hissed as Ms. Malone put up a Williams Carlos Williams poem on the overhead projector.
“Yes I have,” Katie insisted. “The summer after freshman year, with that guy I met on the Vineyard. Brad.”
“I remember Brad,” I said, “and I remember that he tried to feel you up. But you specifically said, right after it happened, that he failed to feel you up enough for it to count as second base. It was over the shirt, wasn’t it?”
“It was over the bra,” Katie said, like that made all the difference, “and I’m counting it now, retroactively, because sixteen is too old to have never been to second base.”
I refrained from pointing out that, by her logic, sixteen is also too old to have never been French-kissed, so what does that make me? There must be something deeply flawed about me that no boy has ever wanted to kiss me. Not that I have even spoken to that many boys who I actually wanted to kiss. Pretty much just Scott Walsh.
Maybe I should just start lying, like Katie was doing, or counting things that obviously don’t count, like, “Remember the time my cousin David kissed my cheek? I get a dot for that.”
Wait. No. Ew.
© 2010 Leila Sales
Mischa and Zoe are the only girls in the junior class who have had sex, so they got the only two exclamation points on our list. For the rest of the morning, whenever Katie and I saw them, we exclaimed, “Mischa!” or “Zoe!” This cracked us up, but Mischa and Zoe were less amused, since they weren’t in on the joke. Not to mention that Mischa is never amused by anything. That is just her way.
Katie and I got lunch from the cafeteria and carried it outside. The breeze had a bit of a bite to it, the first hint that it really was autumn. The midday sun shone down brightly, filtering through leafy branches of elm and maple trees and onto the bench swing in the courtyard where Katie and I sat. Katie rocked us lightly back and forth as I picked apart my ostensibly chicken sandwich, looking for a single piece of actual chicken. Westfield is pretty expensive, and I’m not sure where all the tuition money goes, but definitely not into the cafeteria’s budget.
Around us the courtyard was filled with girls sitting on benches or lying on the uniformly green grass, propped up against backpacks and doing their reading. A few girls had taken off their shirts, trying to eke out that last bit of summer tan, even though technically we’re not allowed to do this. Westfield doesn’t have a strict dress code, but “Keep your shirt on” is a standard rule, and one that I like to follow. It was a little too chilly to be parading around the schoolyard in a bra or bikini top, and anyway, I don’t tan—unlike Katie, or Pearl, or Genevieve, or my other perfect-skinned classmates. I freckle.
The school building, resplendent in aged brick and ivy, encircles the courtyard. To our left extended the playing fields, and then, far beyond them, I could see the tips of the Boston skyline rising into the clear blue sky. I felt like I was in one of those photographs that the school sends to prospective students. Except for the shirtless girls. They generally get cropped out of Westfield’s promotional materials.
“I want a bra like that,” Katie commented.
I followed Katie’s gaze to see a well-endowed senior sunbathing in an electric-blue bra. “Right, and you would know,” I said. “Since you’ve apparently been to second base and all. So you’re like the bra expert now.”
Katie rolled her eyes at me. “Whatever, Miss Moody. Anyway, more important than my sexual experience—”
“Your awe-inspiring sexual experience,” I put in.
“Right, more important than that, guess what Mischa! did in physics today?”
“Made fun of Emily for using a drugstore-brand hairbrush instead of a designer hairbrush.”
“Did she really?” I shook my head. “That is so bitchy. Why is Mischa so bitchy? Why does Emily’s hairbrush even have anything to do with her?”
Katie nodded her agreement. “But you know what made me feel a little better about it?”
“The knowledge that Mischa will die someday?”
“No. The fact that I can put an exclamation point at the end of her name.”
I cracked up, and we both shouted “Mischa!” across the courtyard with hearty enthusiasm.
© 2010 Leila Sales
never mind, I can’t say it
Sex ed has got to be the most embarrassing subject a high school could possibly teach. It’s also useless, since the only thing Ms. Wheeler lectures about is various forms of birth control: the pill, condoms, sponges, etc., all of which may be academically interesting but is still practically meaningless, since I don’t know any boys. Well, okay, I know Scott Walsh and a few other Harper Woodbane guys—but I can’t imagine ever being in a position where exchanging sexually transmitted diseases with any of them would be an option. Learning how to protect myself from chlamydia is nice, but if Ms. Wheeler really wants to sexually educate me, she could start by teaching me how to talk to a boy without choking on my own saliva.
Today in sex ed Ms. Wheeler talked about what our “options” would be if we got pregnant, which is ridiculous, since everyone knows that if you get pregnant, you get kicked out of school. The Westfield School offers a few key perks that our local public schools do not, including
a) no one ever brings a gun to school.
b) every student goes on to a four-year college.
c) none of the students are ever pregnant.
Those are the rules.
Still, Ms. Wheeler told us that if we got pregnant—presumably through immaculate conception, since 96 percent of us aren’t sleeping with anyone—then we could get an abortion, or we could carry the baby to term before giving it up for adoption.
Rachel was taking copious notes, I assume because she thought there was going to be a test on this material, not because she was truly worried about getting impregnated. Rachel, like me, doesn’t have even a dot next to her name. I also couldn’t help glancing at Mischa(!) to see how she was taking all this. She sat in the back of the room, painting her nails, looking bored and virginal. Playing it cool, Mischa.
Pearl raised her hand and asked, “But if you get pregnant, can’t you keep it?” We laughed at her because, like, no, you can’t keep it. We’ve all met Pearl’s mom. She’s the dean of admissions at Harvard Business School, and she’s just counting down the days until Pearl is old enough to be CEO of a multinational corporation. If Pearl thinks she can just give all that up to become some child raiser, she is even more of a moron than I thought.
Ms. Wheeler, though, is the sort of teacher who doesn’t believe in telling students that they’re wrong—which may be why she teaches sex ed as opposed to math. So she just hinted to Pearl that it’s hard to be a full-time college student while mothering a toddler. Duh, Pearl. Then Ms. Wheeler had us all say “vagina” a bunch of times in unison, so that we will become comfortable with our vaginas.
Do you see what I mean about sex ed?
© 2010 Leila Sales
Mostly Good Girls
It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie.
When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success—but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge epic failure?
- Simon Pulse |
- 368 pages |
- ISBN 9781442406810 |
- October 2010 |
- Grades 9 and up