“I beg your pardon?” said Alice
“It isn’t respectable to beg,” said the King.
I went to our Homecoming dance at St. Mel’s with a friend who was a girl. She wasn’t a girlfriend, just someone who happened to be a girl. She was a pretty girl, otherwise it wouldn’t count. Nobody is allowed to go by himself or even with another guy, no matter what kind of friends you are. You have to have a date to go to Homecoming. The dance was in the main gym the night after we smash-mouthed a mouthwatering win over Moeller’s, the Fighting Crusaders.
The big bad Crusaders slouched back to Cincinnati and afterwards we called them the Sad Taters. St. Mel’s takes no prisoners on the football field. No, SIR! Mr. Rote, our religion teacher, says mercy is a virtue, but not on Friday nights.
My dad worked the refreshment table at the dance. He’s a member of the Father’s Club. It was awesome for my friends and me. We had a boat load of free drinks, for sure. I must have had four or five cans of Mountain Dew.
Homecoming was the night Jake and Jess broke up. It isn’t the kind of thing that usually happens at Homecoming, but that’s what happened. It started when I saw Bert making a play for Jake’s girlfriend. They were dancing and the next thing anybody knew they started kissing, right on the dance floor. When you’re somebody else’s girl that’s rude and inconsiderate, especially out in the open.
Allan and I both saw it happening. Allan is one of my best friends. He’s a football player, not much taller than me, but he’s at least 250 pounds. He’s a lineman on the team, although he had to sit out after he got a concussion. He’s a white kid and pasty, which isn’t pretty, but he’s on the dot.
We all saw Bert kiss Jess plain as day. Allan walked right up to Bert. He was angry.
“Bert, what the fuck, what are you doing?”
Bert plays soccer, and is taller than me, but he’s a toothpick. He’s sort of ugly, too, to be honest. He was really scared for a second. Allan’s side shadow is bigger than him.
“I was, like…” he stuttered.
Allan was angry about it and I wasn’t happy, either, both of us being Jake’s friends. Allan faced Bert down, who started backing away, step by step. I stood there for a few seconds and then ran to find Jake. I didn’t want to leave him hanging. Hanging for what? I had to tell him. Bro’s before ho’s. That’s what a brother does. Everybody says so. She was obviously that if she was kissing another guy.
Jess is short skinny spunky blonde. She’s kind of pretty in her own way. I might even have liked her once. She was over to our house for dinner, with Jake, one night when Allan and Paul were over. My stepmom liked her. That was a black mark against her.
Jake was outside getting a drink at the refreshment table when I found him. There was Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and Mountain Dew. He was picking up a can of Sprite. The can looked big in his hand. Jake is almost a midget. I’m on the short side, but he’s shorter than me, by a long shot.
“Jake, Jess kissed Bert,” I said.
“What? Are you kidding me?”
“No, dude, I’m sorry, but it’s true.“
He was sad at first, and depressed, that he had just lost his girl. “I’m going to talk to her about this.” We went into the main gym.
“I’m sorry, dude,” I said. He was sad and really down. Then he jumped her on the spot, surprising everybody, except himself.
“Yeah, gangster,” I thought out loud.
“Thanks a lot,” he said, all sarcastic, and then said something to her nobody else could hear.
“We’re done,” he said, flashing his thumb and finger and walking away. He dumped her on the spot. Her jaw dropped. She was left standing there. Jake wasn’t blue about it the rest of the night. He had only been going out with Jess for less than three weeks, anyway.
I was rocking it in the mosh pit later when a girl suddenly threw up all over the floor because she was totally wasted. Somebody slipped on the liwuid mess and fell down, hitting his head and getting puke on his clothes. He smelled like beef liver with onions in a can after that.
Everybody merks their beer and booze before the dance. It used to be weed, but this last summer the school principal’s brother got a sweet contract for himself to drug test us, so now it’s drinking instead of drugs. At least it is during the school year. It doesn’t even do any good to shave your head, because they snip a different kind of hair from you, and the drug test works exactly the same way.
“Maybe I’ll just do LSD,” DB said, spinning his head in fast tight circles. DB is a nut, but that’s what happens when grown-ups get involved. They’re so crazy they make everybody else crazy. They make the whole world go nuts. They’re the lords of the fly world, eating everything, like maggots, all for themselves.
They don’t test for LSD because they have to get your pee, not just your hair, to do that drug test. The St. Mel’s men might start peeing on each other if it got to that. It’s too expensive, anyway. Our military even stopped testing for it because it costs so much.
I don’t drink much of anything, nor do my friends, but that doesn’t mean anything. If it weren’t such a big deal to drink or not to drink, guys wouldn’t do it so much. HONEST to GOD!
It’s mostly about being rebellious. Everybody think it’s cool and it makes them be cool. If guys could drink whatever they wanted they wouldn’t do it as much. Honestly, they just wouldn’t, since the temptation would be gone. But that’s the exact thing, the light in their eyes, they’re doing something forbidden, it makes them feel SO MUCH cooler.
Drugs, drinking, and smoking old-school at Homecoming are a tradition. Oh, yeah, I can feel it and smell it when I’m in the mosh pit. When you’re in the pit it’s pushy noisy hot rowdydowdy. It’s sweaty and a saloon and the tang is bad, like armpits and hot dog water. You dance and two-step in the pit and have fun. There are hundreds of guys and girls all pushed in together and the teachers are stuck and dumbstruck on the outside.
Not everyone crams into the mosh pit, but a large crowd does, for sure. The smarties stay out. The meek and mild stay out. The good boys and girls stay out. There’s a stage at the front of the gym and everybody swirls it, surging in tight, and facing whichever which way all ways all together. We dance to slow songs, rock, techno, whatever. The best are Skrillex, Kid Cudi, and M & M. I love ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ except I hate it at summer camp, where the kid on the bunk next to me plays it every night on his guitar. We finally broke his guitar, that’s how much we hated it. There’s another song, ‘White Roses,’ I’m high on for slow dancing.
It’s all horseplay in shirts and ties and skirts. The girls look sweet. Nobody’s brains are guaranteed in the pit. Everybody goes there to live it up, that’s all. We like it. The girls like it. That works for me. We all get going get amped get excited in the pit. No one can help it. Romping in the pit is the greatest when you’re rubbing up against some girl to Lady Gaga’s ‘Disco Stick.’ You don’t even have to look them in the face since most of the time it’s from behind.
The parents don’t know the grinding that goes on. Girls put their butts on you and figure eight. Sometimes we form lines, forty or fifty of us in a conga line. Nobody’s parents want to know about that. NO WAY! BELIEVE ME! I can hardly believe it myself.
You can get in trouble for grinding. All the teachers are there and they watch out for it. They call it pelvic thrust dancing, or at least Mr. Rote does, who’s got an eagle eye for it. He’s young and knows, and he’s our religion teacher, too. There’s a strict rule that you will get kicked out of the dance for doing it, but none of the teachers can ever get into the mosh pit, so hardly anybody ever gets caught, unless Mr. Rote has his eye on you.
They will mark your hand with a Sharpie if they catch you, which Mr. Rote does all the time, and if they catch you a second time, they kick you out of the dance. Guys go all crazy, all sweaty and flustered, after the first time, trying to rub the indelible Sharpie mark off as fast as they can.
Not many guys ever get kicked out of the Homecoming dance, but Allan’s older brother did. It was funny to all of us although he wasn’t laughing. Girls don’t ever get kicked out because it’s at our school. Just the guys get the boot. I saw a couple of them being dragged from the pit and kicked out of the gym. The Dean of Students had their cell phones and was looking through all their messages.
St. Mel’s is a private school. They aren’t funded by the state. They don’t have to stick to the state rules like the public schools. They are under a higher power. They can’t hit you, but they can, if they want to. If a teacher hit me, I would be very, VERY upset, but they can do just about anything. THEY CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT! Everybody knows that. The school from end to end is just like Mr. Hittbone’s Rules.
They can look through your phone and anything else of yours, bags, pockets, lockers, everything. I’ve seen cell phones thrown away into trash cans. “Don’t bother,” they say when you reach down for it. They look at you and there’s nothing you can say. They can drag you away. I don’t even know all the stuff they can do.
They can kick you out of school, for sure. If you do something bad it is suddenly Steck Time. He is the Dean of Students, who is a mangy mean man, tall thin pale. He can say, “Don’t come back tomorrow.” When Mr. Steck-It-To-You says it he means it and he can make it stick. Because it’s a private school they can lock you out and you can’t ever go back. And then you’re out, that’s all, and you have to try to explain it to your parents and grandparents and the neighbors.
Nobody ever believes you and they even resent your explanations. I’ve heard of some kids who got thrown out once-and-for-all for good. That’s bad. I play it smart. You’ve got to watch your step.
They won’t kick you out of school for grinding. Everybody knows that. You have to get caught stealing computers, or smoking weed, or something like that. Not always, though, since it depends on who’s doing the doing. There’s a guy’s father who owns a jewelry store in Rocky River, and when his son got caught smoking weed on campus, he didn’t get kicked out. Diamond Jim talked to the Dean, somebody probably got a karat stone and after the deal was done the kid might still have gotten thrown out, but didn’t, obviously. It wasn’t even a close call.
The girls at our dances sometimes come from public schools, but mostly they are from St. Joe’s, Magnificat, and the other Catholic schools all around. Are good Catholic girls the same as good girls? Are you pooping on my face? God, no, they’re not good! That’s why they’re Catholics. We believe we’re bad right out of the gate. That’s why we can go grinding at the school dances and not worry about it. There’s always confession afterwards.
There isn’t much difference between a Catholic girl and a public-school girl, although there is. It seems like Catholic girls can be even worse than regular bad girls. They go to extremes, like wanting a guy more than regular girls do. They just want to have boyfriends. They want to have somebody, anybody, they can say is their boy, someone to be on their hip side. They are thirsty for guys, like bright-feather hens at the well.
The Catholic girls aren’t even that hot, at least not most of them, not most of the time. They think they are, but thinking doesn’t make it so. There are more hot public school girls than Catholic girls. Some of the Catholic girls think they are better on the scale of everything than other peeps, which is rude, and mostly mistaken, but that’s how they are.
Many of them seem to think they are on a totally upper level over other girls. They believe their status is higher, which I think is ridiculous. They truly think they are better than other people, at least better than public school girls, for sure.
I have some good friends who go to Mag’s, but St. Joe’s, no. St. Joe’s girls are Catholic girls all out all over and done. They are ever not so nice. I will run past Joe’s with Scar and keep going before I even look at them playing lacrosse on their fancy new playing field on Rocky River Drive.
If you are hanging out with public school girls, or Catholic girls, and the other side walks up, it tends to be that the public-school girls are the nicer girls. They can be your friend right out of the box and they are sincere to you, too. The Catholic girls are kind of low and frank. The wrapping stays right in your face. The public-school girls are like me, asking what your name is, and being interested in you.
Catholic girls are like, “Oh, hi, WHO are you? I have to GO.” You can tell they don’t care. The only time they CARE is when they’re GRINDING, but that’s a TOTALLY different kind of caring.
It’s the kind of caring you care about for ten minutes.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus