Night of the Day-Glo Stick

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“She generally gave herself good advice (although she very seldom followed it.)”

I didn’t miss St. Mel’s during Spring Break, NOT AT ALL. I didn’t give it a thought, the empty hallways, the empty classes, the school all dark. I thought about Mr. Hittbone for a second, wondering what he could might be doing, with nothing to do.

I didn’t think long. Spring Break is about lighting it up. My Uncle Gediminas and I threw a day-glo stick for Scar to fetch all night towards the end.

It was nice being away from everybody. I hung out with a new friend who lives in Avon Lake, and all my old friends, and didn’t think about school. I had been staring out of windows a lot, anyway, waiting for spring. I felt like a crab apple tree sniffing out warm weather. I needed a break.

I did a lot of reading and relaxing. I re-read the ‘Hunger Games’, which is absolutely one of the best books of all time. It is a series, there are three of them, and I read all of them when they first came out. I was in middle school back then and we had a book fair one week at school. I spotted it there, right on the spot, and snagged it.

Not many people knew anything about it, but I saw what it might be, new exciting, right away, and I had a feeling that it was going to be something. It said’ Hunger Games’ on the cover and it looked very cool. I read it and after I finished it I bought the second one the day it came out. When the third one came out I got it right away, too.

I’ve re-read all of them because the movie is coming out and I’m going to see it as soon as possible, and I want to have it all straight in case the movie screws it up, which I know it will, although I hope it won’t.

It’s about a semi-post-apocalyptic America. Everything is run by the Capital. That’s another name for Washington, but they don’t call it Washington. There are thirteen districts, although now there are only twelve, and the Capital tells them all what to do. Every year they have something called the Hunger Games. Each district has to send one boy and one girl to the games. They all go to an arena and they have to fight each other to the DEATH. The last person left is the WINNER.

They win a life of LUXURY. Everybody else wins a body bag. It’s a cruel world!

Mr. Orwell told me to read the story of Theseus and I would understand what ‘Hunger Games’ was all about, but I didn’t. I don’t think he read my new ‘Hunger Games’ so why should I read his old thing called Theseus? Besides, I don’t believe it really had anything to do with the ‘Hunger Games’. How could it? That was then and this is now.

I don’t usually read too many books, much less re-read them, but the ‘Hunger Games’ is a series I’ve re-read three times. The emotions, the action, and the conflicts are all great. It’s all so real, not like home, more like summer camp.

Barely anyone I know reads. GOD, NO! They feel like they’re missing out on something when they’re reading. “It wasn’t half-bad,” they’ll say. “At least for a book.” Then they hit the phone, the tablet, the laptop, the TV, the cineplex.

My dad reads a little, and one of my uncles is always talking about books, but at St. Mel’s nobody reads. Some of the kids don’t even crack open the textbooks they’re supposed to read. That’s how much they don’t like all the butt load of words in books, no matter how short they might be.

“What if you’re reading something and there’s a misprint?” one of my friends asked. “If it was a cookbook you could get food poisoning.” They just don’t want to stick their fingers in the socket for themselves, or maybe they do. It could be a word to the wise, but lots of my buds are not wise men.

Truly, almost everybody doesn’t read, not us and not the seniors. They think reading is a waste of time. They would rather watch anything on their phones and tablets. That way they don’t have to imagine something to make it real. But if you ask them about video games, almost nobody would say they were a waste of time. It doesn’t matter that they are totally not real. I don’t think they are a waste of time, and I love to play them, but I like to read, too, at least a little more than most.

In our English class we hardly read any books. We mostly read parts of them. I read the entire ‘Inferno’, even though I didn’t have to. I liked it because everyone is always getting ripped up from their mouths to their butt holes. We read a smidge of the ‘Odyssey’, but it was for a project that involved an essay. The ‘Odyssey’ is long, although Mr. Orwell says it isn’t. Nobody cares what he says, because it is long. It’s retarded, too, although some parts are good.

The first three months of school we read different parts of it. We read the sirens passage and, basically, some of the other good parts, like about the Cyclops. That was really something, him being stabbed in the eye with a nasty burning poop-filled sickle thing. Fee fi fo, going to Detroit. That was like a video game.

We read a few more parts, but they were so bad I can’t even remember them. Then we had to write an essay about what we read. It shouldn’t have been hard, but it was actually more hard than not, because of Mr. Orwell. If you don’t write your essay how he likes it he won’t give you a good grade.

I don’t know about that. You just have to get used to it. He’s a boat load. He’s got some of Mr. Hittbone in him. He lives in Bay Village. He’s always telling us how great it is to live there. I don’t know about that. It sounds like there’s nothing to do, although last year a friend of mine who lives in Lakewood got in trouble when he shot rocket fireworks that he had tied M80s to level to the ground down Lake Road on the Fourth of July and one of them exploded under a car that a yoga teacher was driving and she stopped, got mad, even though nothing was damaged, and called the police, who dragged his butt back home and told him to stay in Lakewood where he belonged.

Mr. Orwell is younger than a lot of the codgers at St. Mel’s and has a totally different style of teaching than most of the other teachers. I like him, because I can relate to him, but sometimes I dislike how he teaches and grades. We have English class every day and he’s had us write a butt load of essays this year. I don’t know about that. I don’t like writing essays.

He had us write one about home in the book, another one about women in the same book, and even another one about why it takes Odysseus so long to get home to his wife. Mr. Orwell grades every essay and no matter what grade you get you have to revise it. It is more writing! I got a 93 on one of them and I still had to revise it. When you revise it, if you do something different with it that he doesn’t like, he will give you a lower grade. That’s the grade that will count, the revised grade, no matter what.

Sandy told me you have to write a lot of essays in college, and she thought he was prepping us for that, so it seems like what he is doing is actually a good thing. But we do a ton of vocabulary, too, Greek and Latin words, and words with all kinds of weird endings. He said he wanted us to know where words came from. WHO CARES? Even grown-ups don’t care. Most of them would laugh in my face if I told them I was studying Greek words, words from thousands of years ago. They would fall down laughing! Or they would not care one bit.

Mr. Orwell said he usually has students read a book over the Christmas holidays, but he had us do a group project, instead, which I thought was a horrible idea. We had to pick a part in the ‘Odyssey’ and work with a group on it.

There were three of us in our group, including me. The others were Tommy and Tyler. I called Tyler a few times, but he never answered. I called Tommy, who was good at drawing, texted him, and booked him, and then called him again. He finally came over to my house. It was a struggle.

I had a great idea for the cover of our project, which would be a bow. “At the top there’s going to be a bow, cocked and ready, and a long arrow in the shape of a question mark, going down to a T made out of a trident, and under that the title of the thing all in capital letters,” I told Tommy.

“All through the arrow there’s a question mark, which is about Odysseus being gone so long, and where he was for so long, and being all clueless to his wife and family and the whole kingdom. There are his wife’s boyfriends, too, who had to shoot an arrow through rings, to get the honeybun” I said.

I had a bunch of them in the drawing. There was a big Cyclops eye, too, and axes with little circles right at the top of the question mark, and then it all curved down. At the down curve, right in the middle, there was the poked Cyclops eye, and then the sirens, all pretty on the water, and everything ended up with the trident.

It was all about showing the main points of the book. The top part was dark gray, the middle was white with lightning bolts and the sea, and the bottom part was blue. I did the rough draft, but Tommy threw it out and drew it out because I’m bad at drawing and he’s a good artist.

The other part of the project was to dress up like something from the book and take photographs. My idea was that we pose like it was a modern day, now not then. I picked the Lotus Eaters, because they’re all on dope, and stuff. But Tommy and Tyler were worthless guys. They’re not too smart to begin with and they didn’t care, either. I had to tell them what to do, bring the camera, and then one of them, Tyler, who else, forgot his clothes.

I had to let him wear mine.

Tyler wore the dress clothes I gave him, and Tommy and I were in shorts and mesh shirts, like we were working out. In the picture we grab the dressed-up Odysseus and try to feed Sun Chips to him. I had the idea to use Sun Chips instead of lotus berries because they are delicious. After we did the picture, we had to describe the shooting angle, the framing, and the mise-en-scene, one of Mr. Orwell’s fancy words. We had to write a paragraph, too, about why we chose the part we did.

I had to do it all, which was busted, because Tommy and Tyler wouldn’t do anything. They went home. Tyler forgot to give me my clothes back.

We also had to pick someone to interview, each one of us, so they ended up having to do something, the big butt turds, which is what they are since they hardly ever do anything.

The person we interviewed had to be a girl from 14 to 20, or a woman, 21 to 55, or 35 to whatever they were, as long as they could talk. We had to ask them a certain set of questions, and after that we had to make up our own questions. Mr. Orwell told us to use his questions and their answers as a springboard, although I wasn’t sure what he meant by that.

We had to ask them about the roles of women, what they expected in a relationship, and things like that. It didn’t matter that the book was written three thousand years ago! It was just a crap load of questions that didn’t mean anything. I didn’t even ask Tommy or Tyler whether they did, or not.

We didn’t read much of the ‘Odyssey’, anyway. It was really about Mr. Orwell wanting modern day depictions of whatever, so we did that. I don’t understand why we did it.

We don’t read much in English class, which is kind of sad. At the beginning of the year, after we came back from Christmas, we watched a boat load of movies. The first one was ‘Batman, The Dark Knight’, with Keith Ledger, the actor who killed himself. I don’t know what it had to do with English. The next movie we watched was ‘28 Days Later’, which is a zombie apocalyptic movie in England. At least it was about creepy zombies and was in England, which has something to do with English.

Mr. Orwell said we were doing film studies, and it was so we could learn the language of the camera. I have NO idea, JEAH! I hardly ever watch movies. Who cares about them?

My Uncle Ged, who reads books, was over our house one day and saw I had the ‘Hunger Games’. He asked me about it. I read some of the first pages to him, the ones filled with Roman names.

“What else do you read?”

“I read the ‘Inferno’. It was good.”

“I’m impressed. I didn’t read that until I was in college. What else have you read? The ‘Iliad’, Homer’s other book?”

“No, but I think I’ve heard about it.”

“How about ‘Paradise Lost’?”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“That’s a tough one, sorry. How about Jane Austen?”

“I don’t know her.”

“George Elliot, or any of them?”

“Wasn’t he a poet? We read George Bilgere in class. He’s from Cleveland. He’s a famous poet. I think he’s still alive.”

“I’ve never heard of him. In my own backyard, too,” he laughed.

“He’s famous, he teaches at John Carroll, and everything.”

“How about Ernest Hemingway?”

“I’ve heard of him, he’s a poet, too. We read ‘Hills of White Elephants’.”

“James Baldwin, anybody like that?”

“No, never heard of him, who is he?”

“Charles Dickens?’

“I know him. He wrote the Scrooge movie. I saw the old one. My dad loves it. I went to see the play at Playhouse Square. It was exquisite.”

He gave me a funny look. Scar barked. I got a little nervous. Uncle Ged makes my stepmom nervous because he doesn’t care about anything she has to say. I felt like her for a second.

“I read a book called ‘Leviathan’,” I told him. “I don’t remember who wrote it, but it’s kind of middle ages, about this prince in England who controls all these giant robots. It was very cool. And I read an awesome Greek mythology series called the ‘Demigod Diaries’.”

“Oh,” he said.

We were sitting outside in the backyard throwing a dazzy orange day-glo plastic stick for Scar to catch fetch bring back. It was a clear dark night with an almost full moon. The light was yellowish on the house.

“That’s OK, read whatever you want, whatever you think is good,” said Uncle Ged. “Don’t worry about anything or what anybody says.” He clapped his hands to call Scar to come back to us.

I threw the day-glo stick again because, honest to God, I barely knew what he was talking about. Uncle Ged was a grown-up, I knew, I could tell, but he was telling me to do what I wanted to do, which was a surprise.

A big surprise. Scar brought the day-glo stick back. It made a dim crawly pool of orangeness at our feet where we were sitting.