Over the Wall 1200 words

Over the Wall

By Artemis J Jones

Work on yourself first, take responsibility for your own progress.     I Ching

I am standing here twenty years later, staring through a chain link fence. Looking up, I notice the fence is about eight feet high, and no barbed wire at the top. My hands are gripping the links of the fence and I am filled with a sense of déjà vu. Pressed by youthful exuberance, I feel a need to climb and go in. No guards around, so up and over I go.
When I started working in the race shop, my goal was to become a genuine member of the team. Being hired by the team, does not make you a true member; you need to prove yourself. Once you go on the road and show that you can do, what the team needs, and discover for yourself if the team can work with you; that is the moment you become an integral part of the team. To prove yourself, you need to go over the wall.
 From the very first day, I had some baggage, a bit of an ego, and the false pretense that I actually had laurels to rest on. The Team Manager, Craig, saw this and immediately began putting me in check.  My first assignment … sweep the floor! After a few months of this mentally tasking duty, I was given a serious assignment; to Dyno test all the engines.
Every engine needed to be tested before it was placed in a race car. While I was doing this, Craig watched me, looking for flaws like impatience, bad judgment, and a negative attitude. Craig toned me down once when a tedious task revealed a little impatience in me, but, other than that, I was doing well. He gave me other assignments and, together with Bob, our metal fabricator, we began working on the American built Porsche 962, next season’s car.
After the current IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) season was half way over, I decided to take my harbored impatience with menial tasks in the shop, and put it to good use. I built a practice wall outside the race shop. It was two and a half feet high and ten inches wide, the same size as most safety walls around the country. I made it with concrete, cinder blocks and reinforced with rebar. After that, I built a stationary, practice, fuel storage tank and assembled a fuel hose exactly like the type of hose used at the track to fuel the cars during a pit stop.  I filled the tank with water, and then I put on a fire suit and began testing my skills. The hose, by itself, weighed thirty pounds and could hold eight gallons of fuel, which weighed seven pounds per gallon. So the combined weight on race day would be eighty-six pounds resting on my shoulder.
Practice, consumed my time every afternoon, when my other assignments were completed.  When the rest of the team was in the shop, they would watch me and, many times ask me, “Why do you want to go on the road?” Call it harmless bi-polar curiosity, because they all knew the answer and, at the same time, slighted life on the road. Yet, they would never give up the bond of the team.
During one practice session, I brought the house down with laughter. I knew sometimes it rained and the cars continued to race, so I decided to practice in the rain. I had the fire suit on and sat on the bench, just as you would while you were waiting for a car to come in the pits. I made a dash for the wall, put my left foot up on it, stood on the top and pulled on the hose, but it did not move and I fell backwards, landing hard on my butt. When I hit the ground, I bumped the valve open on my end and dumped eight gallons of water on myself. Everyone got a good laugh from that! In such a fast paced business calm and focus were the prized attributes so I continued to practice and improved my focus on every task at hand.
As time figuratively chewed itself up and the season neared its end, I knew I would not be going over the wall, but there was hope.  Craig had been watching me for months, and he commented on how he really liked the improvements in my performance, and he saw my attention to details on everything I did. He was very happy with the engine program that I was in charge of and made note of the ones I rejected.
Porsche Racing Millstones. Great book for the racing buff.

“Those bad engines could cost us a race,” he said. “Great work.” He then asked me, “Do you still want to go on the road?”  “Yes,” I replied. He nodded and walked away.
By now it was December and we only worked for two weeks.  Before we closed for the holidays, Craig told me he wanted to use me during the nightshift, for the 24 Hours of Daytona race, at the beginning of the next season. I was ecstatic, but did not show it. Craig also mentioned “Adjust your sleep patterns.”
Race day came; I watched the beginning of the race and headed for the trailer to rest. I fell asleep and began having a dream: I was climbing over a fence.
As my feet hit the ground, I am filled with total recall of that moment in my life. Craig was up on his platform, he told us our car would be coming in. The time was three a.m. As I sat waiting, the glare from the lights of the track and from the cars blinded my eyes. While the sounds of engines screaming in a torrent, penetrated my ear plugs. From that moment on it was a visual world of knowing what to look for and look out for.
No speed limits on pit road in those days, so the cars frequently came in at over 150 mph. Derek was driving and he was known to slam on the brakes and slide the Porsche 956 into the pits. Several other cars were coming in at the same time and Derek raced everyone down pit row. With the fuel line on my left shoulder, I closed my mask. As Derek hit the brakes, the car swerved into our pit, and I moved towards the wall. I put my right foot up on the wall and I looked down at the car, too close for the other team members to change left side tires, I landed in a small crevice of space, latched the hose to the car, signaled the tank operator and opened the valve, dumped fifty gallons of methanol in a few seconds. Signaled to close the tank, closed the valve on my end and leaped up horizontally with my back to the wall and, in one movement, cleared it. The other team members finished replacing right side tires, and Derek took off. It was seven point nine seconds of my life I will never forget. Craig gave me a thumbs up!
At that moment, my first time over the wall, I became a team member.
 © Copyright 2014  Artemis J Jones 
(c) Copyright & Revised 1/2015 


SHARK ! 1800 Words.


Each day weather permitting I go to the beach. I clean the sand out of the wheels and pivots of my wheel chair. I lube the hubs on the front wheels. Pack my day bag along with my binoculars and wheel myself down Ocean Drive. My destination: the giant palm tree on the south east corner of the Villagio Hotel Property. It's the perfect spot. It's about fifty yards from the water at low tide. The brick pavers aren’t too difficult for a wheel chair, so I manage.  I really love this spot the sidewalk and common areas are a rustic Mediterranean color and the palm gives me shade for most of the day. My only competition for this tiny piece of real estate is Jimmy the Bum. Jimmy, who is drunk most of the time, occasionally beats me here. He panhandles, sleeps, and picks up old cigarette butts to try and smoke what’s left of them. Today I'm first so Jimmy will have to take the other side of the sidewalk. I got my spot!
From about ten o'clock to two o'clock the walkway is busy, tourists mostly going back and forth from the restaurants and hotels. Families carrying their beach bags, husbands, boyfriends, lovers talking to their wives, girlfriends, lovers- who knows. I enjoy the activity and I eavesdrop a little.
The afternoon is typical Jimmy is sleeping off his early morning drinking and I am watching all the beach goers. There is a couple that has my attention. A man and women together, she is coated in suntan oil, I can see it glistening off her bronze skin from here. He is just sitting and watching everything. He seems to be a very observant man. His girlfriend—I don't think they are married— sometimes checks his glances, she is suspicious, but she remains quiet. I just think he is observant.
About twenty yards north of their position another couple is enjoying the sun. I’m sure they’re married. They display a lack of interest in each other that many married couples show in public. It’s hard to really know what that means—it could be trust—it could be who cares. They talk and I guess they both decide he would go to the food stand and get some refreshments. He walks by me and heads for the stand. On the way back he says hi to me and asks if I'm a vet. I say “yes” and he commends me for my service. What a nice guy!
I watch both couples, the married couple, and the observant man who is coupled with the jealous women. The married man goes into the water, while the observant man just sits under his umbrella with his shades on. There’s a lot of people in the water today, the tide is low, water temperature is seventy-three degrees. The low tide is great for children to play in, there is no shelf or drop off. So many kids are on boogie boards, floats. Families playing together. It's a beautiful day.
I look for the married man, but I don’t see him. I glance towards his chair, look at his wife, she is sleeping, but I cannot see the man. So I gaze over the crowd. Maybe he got out of the water and went for a walk on the beach. I look up and down the beach, then I see him pop his head up in the water. He must be quit a swimmer, to stay under water that long. So I look back at the observant man, he is watching something, his head perks up, something has his attention. I look back towards the married man, he has gone under water.
The observant man gets up and starts yelling shark, shark as he runs towards the beach where all the children are playing. I see the fin, it’s definitely a shark. The life guards come to life leaping from their sedentary posts.  The jealous women, watches her boyfriend as he runs towards the water. The married women, wakes up and begins looking for her husband.  Everyone else stands up with their cell phones and they all begin recording the excitement. Children are running for their moms and dads. Moms and dads are running for their children, and the wife stands at the edge of the water looking for her husband.  The observant man is still yelling shark and he is in the water. The married mans head pops up and the shark is right behind him.
There is thrashing and the water turns red. The observant man stops. He stares at the spot where he last saw the married man, and he does not leave the water. I look around many people are still  recording the event with their phones, but some have stopped. The ones that stopped go to their chairs and begin texting or whatever it is that they do. I glance at Jimmy he is sleeping through all the excitement.
Best Shark Book 

A head neck and torso wash up to the beach. The man who had a kind exchange with me, just moments ago, is gone. His wife is holding her hands up towards the water and she looks over at the man who tried to warn everyone. She must be in shock.
Most people stop recording the event with their cell phones. Paramedics come rushing by me with stretchers and they all step on Jimmy’s feet that are sticking out in the walkway. People are coming off the street to see what happened, the walkway is getting crowded.
The jealous women: goes to her boyfriend. Suddenly he is a viral man and she is aroused, she shows this by kissing him passionately. They hug for a moment.  He walks out of the water, shaking his head. I can tell he wanted to save the man.  The life guards and paramedics talk to him, a few pat him on the back. His girlfriend enjoys the attention he is getting, he is shy about it.
The medical examiner arrives while other city services clean up and gather information. The tourists who recorded some of the event are gone, others who witnessed and recorded all of it are talking with police, and a few to local news crews. I guess it will be all over the local TV news tonight.
The observant man and his girlfriend leave.
I sat and thought about what I had just witnessed. The observant man saved a lot of children, the shark went right through the area where they were playing. I toss an old cocoanut at Jimmy to wake him up. Startled he hits his head on the brick wall and spills all the change the passers-by tossed into his cap. I guess it's time to go home.
I’m lucky. My apartment is on the first floor, it’s small, but I like it. I have a computer desk that my chair fits up to nicely. I like to browse the internet sometimes. So I make a sandwich and roll myself into place. When my browser comes up it always shows me the latest news on CNN, FOX, and the local stations. I also watch You-Tube videos. I always watch the most popular videos of the day.
CNN, FOX have more war stuff— ISIS stories. The local channel has the weather, always the weather, the only good news they can report is the weather, because the weather is always good.
You-Tube has taken life though, there is a bunch of videos streaming in- fresh new content- that everyone loves to see. All the top videos today have a similar title. SHARK ATTACK — SHARKS SWARM MAN— SHARK EATS MAN ALIVE— and the most popular of the day MAN WATCHES SHARK EAT ANOTHER MAN.
The views of all the videos are soaring, the most popular was at 200,000 one minute then 2,000,000 the next. And the world that now …sees itself as a witness, to this horrific event, is weighing in with comments.  The streams of opinions never seem to end, but they all say about the same thing.
Cavegirl21:    “It was horrible, he just stood there. What a coward.”
Avenger17:    “If I was close enough I would’ve saved him.”
I'm a slut 18:   “Did you see the look on the woman’s face as she looked at that coward.”
Lonlygirl12:   “I'm horrified. The coward looked like my father who left us.”
Braveheart29: “I will find that coward! I’ll teach him about bravery.”
Enlightenus4: “Our society is failing. We must all seek the truth to understanding.”
Anger69:         “I'll beat his worthless ass.”
Sugarlipps:      “How can someone just stand there while their best friend gets eaten alive?”
Monstor99:     “My rage shall be felt throughout the land.”

Monstor99: also quoted Edmund Burke, “that evil succeed when good men do nothing.” 
   The bravado: pouring out of their empty souls, as they espouse their opinions of life and mankind.  How pathetic to sit in solitary self-imposed confinement and criticize the world. Every video I watched was of the shark attack: that I witnessed. All the brave commentators were nowhere near the scene of the attack.  The up-loads showed all the videos were posted by companies called XCITE, CONTENT MEDIA, YOUJUSTSAWIT, and others. They all pay for videos. The people who made the short videos had their story and they got some quick cash.  This all got under my skin, I was angry. So I thought about it and responded.
       My online name is GWVET54 and this is what I wrote back. 
I saw this shark attack, and the man you all are condemning tried to save the man who got attacked. He did save several children who were in the water. They were not friends, he was brave, and his actions should be commended.
      Responses were as follows.
         Sugarlipps: Where is your video, if you were there. You’re probably the coward. People like you are ruining the internet.”
        Avenger17,Braveheart29, and Anger69 all replied with the same answer: YOU’RE A LIAR! In capital letters of course, they wanted me to feel their anger. I didn’t.
      I turned off my computer and turned on the TV for the local evening news. First story, shark attack, they did not pin point the location for fear of scaring away the tourists. But they did show video that showed the man running into the water and warning everyone: although the news commentator said, “He sure caused a panic, but children were saved.  So I guess it was worth it.” They mentioned there was a victim, but did not disclose any more information about him.
   About a week later, on You-Tube there was another video of the attack. Someone named Clarity33 posted it on their channel. So I guess Clarity33 was on the beach that day. It had a few hits, and one comment about the man warning the children. But most people had already moved on, satisfied that they knew the real story.

Copyright© 2014 Artemis J Jones

I'm a Scumbag 2700 Words

 I’m a Scumbag 

“Our dreams give us a moment of redemption. Then reality returns.” ~ Unknown

By Artemis J Jones
Can this be the end? I can barely breathe and penetrating pain through my abdomen has frightened any movement from my limbs. A paramedic is trying to talk to me and she is staring at my face, commenting and asking me questions.
“Sir, sir what is your name? Can you hear me? Do you know what happened to you? I’ll keep the blanket on you. You need to stay warm, your oxygen levels are low.”
The ambulance is loud, the sirens are blaring, the road it travels on is bumpy and straps hold me on the gurney. I am on a path to be saved – the promise I made, and the lie are the same and must be protected.  The lights inside the ambulance flicker then it stops, there is no attendant. Everything goes black.
       My eyes close, but I can still hear voices. Other voices, a man’s voice, distant laughter. My tongue begins to swell, I am gasping for air. The paramedic returns and talks to me. “Sir, I’m going to put a tube in your throat.”  I gasp for air ….
Bright light comes for me, and I am in a room, it pushes through the cracks between the curtains, over the top of the valance and it pushes right up to my eyes, forcing them to open. Night and darkness are my comforts. But I want something, life, my eyes now open reflexively.
A nurse comes in my room, she greets me as sir, and she does not know who I am.
“Sir, do you know where you are? What is your name?  You were brought in a few moments ago. You’re in really bad shape. There was no ID on you.” she continued with “We’re giving you blood, and we need to stich your abdomen. You’re on an IV for fluids and here is your pain button. Right now we will make you comfortable”
I fade out of consciousness … the light recedes. My mind wants it back … knowing I must follow the path that light illuminates or face certain death.
My eyes open, giving me hope to travel on the path of light towards what I seek. Memories take over and control my thoughts.  There is clarity in my mind, but it’s not welcomed. I’m thinking about a name, my name. I’m yelling and fighting with a woman and her visual image is clear in my mind. I slap her, she swings at me, she is screaming, “Stop … stop!” At that moment, a man comes into my memory, vague, distant, and large. I continue to think about the memory, when a nurse and a sheriff’s deputy come into the room. The path of light fades, but remains faint near the top of the valance. Now I am tensed-stressed.
The nurse checks me and says nothing.  The image of a deputy now comes before my eyes in black and white. The deputy introduces himself.
“Sir I’m detective Robert Moreno of the Hendry County Sheriff’s department. I’m investigating your case. You were found at the intersection of 9th Avenue and Everett Street. A deputy found you lying on the road face down, with your head up on the curb, unconscious. You had multiple contusions, bruises and stab wounds. There was no ID on you and we need to establish your identity. Sir, do you know your name?”
“My name is Denny … Denny James Franklin.”
“Do you know your address? Where do you live sir?”
I stare at him, confused for a moment. I’m getting flashes of different places in my mind- a house with bricks, a trailer. The numbers 489 flash in my mind. I’m looking at a house, with 489 on the front ….
I blurt out, “I live at 489 Ninth Avenue.”
“Do you have family? Is there anyone we can call for you?”
“I have a girlfriend. We live together at the address I just told you. I’m not sure of her name.”
“Do you want us to call her? Do you know her telephone number?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure I live with a woman, a young woman. She has Auburn hair. Can I rest? I mean, I need to rest. I’m tired.”
The nurse leaves the room. Detective Moreno is silent for a moment, but stares at me, and then he begins to write on a card.
“Mr. Franklin, I will leave you my card. Your case number is on the back of the card; my name and number are on the front. Call me if you can think of anything that will help us determine what happened to you.”
I watch as the detective leaves the room. There are bandages covering my abdomen.
Looking down the length of my body, I notice there is a long bruise across my chest, wider up near my left shoulder. Moving my hands around, touching my chest, abdomen, and sides, I feel tender, sore spots. I stop moving my hands, I don’t want to know more, but the memories come back and, at the same time, I see myself from above the bed, staring down on the havoc of my condition. Delusional? Now I ache for the bright light, to give me salvation, but my eyes are closing again.
      Who am I? Some scrawny-ass pussy that everybody beats up? Someone beat the shit out of me. Why? And … who the fuck stabbed me? I can see and hear people talking about me in my mind. “He’s funny, Denny is so funny.”  Girls are laughing. They’re young and one is familiar. The girl with Auburn hair; someone calls her Jennifer. Yeah, that’s it, Jennifer is my girlfriend, a little plump, with auburn hair. A smile comes over my face, an impulse, sudden. I am looking at her boobs. They are nice! My smile continues, Jennifer is my girlfriend and she has nice boobs, large and firm. She is laughing and looking at me and then the memory is gone.
 I’m still looking, gazing at myself from above. There is no mirror above me, but I see myself in a vision. My head is oddly shaped. I see how I look and I’m ugly, with grayish eyes, bald, but not in a sexy way. My hair is growing back, but I look more dirty than sexy as specs of keratin push through the dermis wrapping my skull. There is no intimidation that emanates from me. When people look at me they’re not concerned. I am obtuse. I can remember a woman saying that to me once. “Denny you are obtuse.”  By definition, I’m simple, undiscerning. Then why did someone stab me and beat me?
Tears well inside my closed eyes, and a reflection of myself from those tears, lays witnesses to my receding life. I beg for the light-I lie to get it back-I force my eyes to open with every ounce of strength that possesses me.
        Slow flashes of light and sounds surround me. The darkness remains my comfort, but I hope the light will return. People are in my mind now and they all have identities. There is Bo, he is in the trailer. The trailer always has the curtains closed. Bo has beakers, vessels, glassware and tubes in his kitchen.  There is a glass coffee table in his living room, which is very small. The chairs in his living room are from old cars, bucket seats. Bo works in a junkyard. There is also the memory of Jennifer. I know I like Jennifer. I see her laughing, playing with me. She keeps telling me ‘You are so funny.’ Why did Jennifer and I fight?
The memory of Jennifer’s brother and father come clearly to me. I am afraid of her brother, but her father really scares me. He is quiet and he always watches me. He says very little to me, but I always overhear him talking to Jennifer. He says stuff like, ‘Why are you with him? He is almost forty years old. He doesn’t own a car. How fuckin’ lazy is he?’ stuff I do not like to hear. One time he came to see Jenifer, because she had not answered his texts. He came over walked in the house without knocking and he was pissed. I looked at him with a smile -felt his dissatisfaction - his presence disturbed me. I tried to bullshit him more with a handshake, but he refused to accept my lie of friendship.        
Memories continue to flush out of my mind. They are vivid and purge everything that I wanted to believe about myself. My mind is pulled into catharsis, which I want to go away. I want to be something good, but I am not. The light dims, and begins constant flickering, my eyes open and shut rapidly. “Give me one more chance!” I plead,  “I will be different this time.
My reality is in darkness.  The night is a shield for the clandestine behaviors of a thief and a drug addict. I know now how I earn my money and where my customers are and my moments of opportunity, to steal anything I want. TVs, I-phones, maybe a car.  I also have opportunities to sell what I have stolen, do some part-time drug deals and skim off some extra goods for myself. Those thoughts bring comfort.
Detective Moreno comes in the room. Adrenaline pushes through my veins to my limbs and they are tensed, ready.
“ Mr. Franklin, You are indeed Denny James Franklin. I was able to make a positive photo ID from our records. I went to the address you gave me. It was not on file with motor vehicles, but I went there to see if anyone there knew of you. The house was empty. Someone had recently lived there, but most of the belongings were gone. There was a picture of you and a young woman who had blonde hair, but the photo had been partially burned. It was in a dish on a small table, next to a reclining chair. Behind the chair was a broken lamp on the floor and the lamp had blood on it. Do you know anything about that?”
“No, sir,” I answer quickly and try to change the direction of the questioning with a question of my own. “What color was the chair?” I ask.
“The chair is light brown. Mr. Franklin, do you know anything about the lamp?”
I’m silent. He knows more about me than I know about myself and I am scared. He stares at me with determination in his eyes. I’ve seen that look before, in other people, dealers, police, Bo, and Jennifer’s father. When those eyes of determination meet their mark- I need to turn away- but they follow me into my psyche. I close my eyes, but I feel the weight of their stare, fixed, focused and demanding.
“Mr. Franklin, the blood on the lamp wasn’t yours, we tested it. The sample gave us a DNA signature that did not match you, or anyone in our database.
“Am I being charged?” I ask Detective Moreno and then I assert whatever strength I’ve got for a moment. I use it to look back at him, and I stay silent. My instincts reveal themselves and I know I’ve done this before. I wait for an answer. Detective Moreno vanishes.
 The fight started long before the lamp was broken.  I was at Bo’s to get some goods. He had finished cooking a batch the day before and it was ready. I tested some samples.
“You’ve hit the jackpot my friend. Where did you learn how to make this? We can cut this stuff and still sell it for the same price.”
Bo gave me a few specs of goods to sell and threatened me as I walked out of the trailer. “I better see some money tonight, Denny, or I will put you in the crusher tomorrow.”
I leave the trailer to go visit my customers. They all want samples, some get a hook, some do not. I need some for myself. Bo’s stuff is by far the best it has ever been. I make a little money and I leave the old abandoned building we met in. I see a blue F-150 down the street with the engine running, but no one is in it, or nearby. I jump in, drive it up to Everett Street, shut it off and get out. I start walking down Ninth Avenue and Jimmy, a neighbor, stops me. He wants drugs. I’ll him some and then I head for my house.
When I first walk in the door, I greet Jennifer. She smiles. Everything seems fine. She is cooking some chili and we have it for dinner. I remind myself to make her laugh at something, anything, and it bolsters my hope that I may get some tonight. She starts talking and asks me about Melinda, one of her friends. Melinda is blonde and has a way better figure than Jenifer, but she’s less intelligent, more silly and boobish. Impulse forces a smile on my face. Melinda will laugh at anything and that is how I tagged her more than once. Jennifer shows me an older photo of Melinda and me, and tells me she came around that night, wondering what we were doing. Then her we changed to you.
“She wanted to know where you were.”
She asked a lot of questions- well not really- but the same questions over and over. We started fighting. Jennifer lit a match to the photo and placed it in a dish next to the chair. I put it out.
“I’m leaving,” she said. “You have no job and you’re an addict and a dealer.”
“Come on baby,” I reply. ”Let’s go play in the bedroom”
“No, and I mean it!”
I go to grab her and she resists, so I slap her and put my hands around her neck. She screams. In seconds, her brother walks in the front door with a bat in his hand.
“Let her go Denny!” he yells.
I grab the lamp, letting Jennifer go, and swing at her brother It breaks, cutting his arm. He looks at the blood, swings at me and gets full contact right across my chest. I fall backwards into the kitchen. I get up and run, as he pursues me out the back door. Jennifer’s father is there, and yells to her, ”Get in the car!” He has a knife- a fishing knife. He comes towards me. The look in his eye has a strange sense of desire, but not for pleasures that I know or understand. We struggle and he stabs me several times, but I escape and run.
I’m running down Ninth Avenue toward Everett Street thinking aloud, “Where is the truck I stole?” I see it on the other side of the intersection and begin to cross. Tires squeal and a car hits me as I cross. My body flies through the air, but the drugs and adrenaline keep me conscious. I land, unable to move, with my head on the curb. My eyes are open, my heart is racing, and blood is pumping out of my body. I hear sounds of a car leaving, tires squealing. Next, I hear footsteps from very heavy boots. I hear Bo’s voice.
“I want my money Denny.”
My hand is under me as I lie face down. I can feel the blood soaking into my skin. Bo puts his foot on my back pushing some air from my lungs. He reaches into my back pocket, takes my wallet, and walks away. My flared nostrils, imbibe the smell of the street and the sewer nearby.
Slowly, now, goes my heart. Eyes remain open, but no light will enter now. Two juvenile delinquents take a photo of me, laugh, and then walk away.
“Mr. Franklin you cannot be saved. Your hope for redemption has been declined-you’re mine!”

“I’m a Scumbag” © Copyright, Artemis J Jones, 2014

Teenagers 2900 Words


             Antidisestablishmentarians: we were in the library discussing people going against the establishment. Anarchists and protestors people who create rebellion, strife and all that good stuff. I am supposed to be their mentor, but I can't stand my mentees – they are all in need of a good lesson about respect – but they don't know it.  I signed up to volunteer as a study aid. To help people find resources in the library. However, I was duped.
On my first day the librarian called me into her office and explained the details of the job.    
“We have a big problem in the afternoon during the school week. The police won't help us, and they suggested recruiting a volunteer to help manage the teenagers that come in after school. The teens are supposed to study, but they form groups and talk to much. We figured if we could get someone in here to guide them it might solve our problem.”
    “So the problem is they just talk to much?”
“Well, no they walk the library, hide in the corners and make-out with each other, mimic other patrons etc. ...”
    “No thanks, I'm leaving,” I stood to walk out.
“Did you finish all your community service requirements?”
    “How do you know about that? You talked to Sergeant Backus huh,” I sat back down.
So I got assigned to a meeting room in the back of the third floor of the library. I stand at the entrance on 2:30pm Monday through Friday and march the teens up to the third floor study room. They hate it. The walls in the room are sound barriers with padding on the walls: seems to have been designed for this lowly sort of creature, the teen. I could throw a few against the walls just for fun, and no-one would hear their cries for help.
Each day I look at their subjects they are supposed to study, most lie and say the teacher didn't give them any work. Some try to put their heads down and sleep, while others attempt escape so they can find a private corner: sex in public places seems to be the latest teen fad. Every day the sex capaders say the same thing and ask the same questions.
“Weren't you young once T- Rex? Come on let us have a moment together”
   “That's Sergeant-Rex to you, and sit your ass down. Get your work out.”
“Damm -- why you such a butt-hole?”
I look at him quickly and do not answer, starring him down until he buries his head in a book and pretends to read. - Illiterate little shit in black, stinks like he hasn’t had a shower for a day or two, hormones raging. His pricey little bitch tries to give me a dirty look, but bows her head in a book. I speak up and ask them all about respect.
   “What is respect? You corner boy, you go first”
“It is something my parents want and never get”
“Just like you they think they have earned it. Well none of you have, we are going to take over the world, change it, make it better.”
“By inspiration”
   “Put your inspiration out there in the world, without respect. What do you have?”
  “What did your parents do that was so awful? Did they go to work and buy a house, take you to the doctor, buy you food? You’re all just rocks tumbling down a hill out of control. No regard for anything outside your own self-centered view.”
I stopped talking but my mind kept on thinking, dolts, dweebs – self-absorbed – smashing their families apart, arguing with mom’s, dad’s, for their own personal whims and pleasures.
“We inspire each other, and we accept views from each other.” Said a dark eyed wimp at the end of the table.
“Really, that’s all you have to say. You don't inspire each other and I have seen that first hand many times. What you see as inspiration and respect is really join my club, be like us and we let you in. There is no respect in join my club- it’s all false.”
“Hold on T-Rex, we have individualism, we aren't like all you conformist adults, and we respect each other for our differences.”
They all nod in agreement. 
“Hey pregnant girl, you get respect from the boy who knocked you up? Where is he? Nowhere- to- be –found! So now you are sliding up to corner boy over here, you going to give him something that he wants. How about giving yourself something you need. Stop making it easy for the boys, take care of yourself, show some respect for your body and your baby.”
“I hate you … you're an asshole” She gets up and leaves the room, crying. Corner boy follows her out. The rest of the table stares back and dreadlocks -Mr Individualism starts to speak.
“Why did you say that to her, it was mean and disrespectful?”
“Being a mother is hard, you can’t just follow any boy to the corner and take care of a child, that’s not the path to raising a kid. However you’re right about what you just said. I need to excuse myself and go apologize. Mr Individualism, you are in charge. Take everyone down to the second floor video room next to the reference section.”
I leave to find pregnant girl with corner boy – in the corner – but right now he is not trying to cop a feel in public. He has suddenly turned compassionate.  My eyes spot a chair near them. They give me an unwelcome stare.
    “Pregnant girl, what is your name?
    “Would you like to report my behavior, I was disrespectful, and you are owed an apology.”
“No not right now”
    “I am sorry Kerry. Corner boy, what is your name?”
“Doug. Who’s watching the group?”
    “Dreadlocks or Mr. Individualism- whatever his name is.”
“Let's go down to the second floor.”
    “What are we going to call you, T-Rex?”
“Mr Joyce”
 Neither Kerry or Doug  were as I previously imagined. We were separate entities, but out of that, a conversation emerged and nothing was left out. Families, problems, and friends all became part of the dialog. Kerry told me the father’s name and told me how abusive he was so she broke up with him. I told her she had courage and did the right thing. She smiled. I asked Doug a question.
   “Why did you follow her out of the room?”
“ Because you upset her”
   “Is that the only reason? How did you feel when she left crying?”
“It hurt me inside. I didn’t like seeing her upset and hurting”
   “You had compassion and empathy, she was more than a pair of breasts”
“Damm you cut right to the bone Mr Joyce. But you are right. Kerry is a nice girl, she needs love and respect. You know I have a job, yea I uh bag groceries at Super K foods.”
   “So what is next?”
“Mr Joyce my baby is due in July. Doug has been with me before I was showing. I told him I was pregnant on our first date. He could have ran, but he stayed with me.”
  “Wow Kerry, it must have been a hard moment, but you told the truth. You showed courage again. Kerry … I was wrong about you.”
We went down the elevator and walked into the video room. I walked over to dreadlocks – Mr Individualism- and asked him his name.
   “Dreadlocks- what is your name?”
“Leon Duprice”
   “You know I could tell the rest of this bunch looks up to you.”
“How’d you figure that out?”
   “I watched, black eyes, sourpuss, and dream weaver all look at you when you responded to my questions. They all wanted to hear what you had to say and couldn’t speak for themselves. And the gay twins were in a trance. You were bigger than life.”
“Their not twins, but they do dress alike, very strange. What is your name T-Rex?”
   “Mr Joyce.”
“We have been meeting here for more than two months and things were about to get a lot worse. We all voted to push you off the balcony or something. We didn’t want to kill you, just hurt you in some way.”
   “You know I would’ve taken a few of you over the edge with me, used you all as a landing pad. But I felt the tension, and something had to be done. At first my approach to the group was to be a tough guy, show everyone who is boss. My roots in the Marine’s I guess. But this week I just wanted to talk to all of you. Instead I had to play babysitter and track you all down again and again. So I devised a plan to get us talking. I know it was risky, but failure would do nothing for any of us, because we would not change. I don’t like failure. Can you get everyone back to the room?”
“Yes Mr. Joyce”
Leon rounded up everyone in a few minutes. It was clear he was well liked and respected by the others. As they took their seats they all began to stare at me like some collective thought was ready to burst out of their uncontrollable mouths.
“Mr Joyce, why are you here?”
   “I got into a fight last year”
“No … we don’t believe you, nice thoughtful Mr. Joyce,” said Doug.
“What happened, did you whip some butts, blacken some eyes?” commented Leon.
“I was in a bar, minding my own dam business, commiserating about my lost buddies. The news was on the TV, some story about three marines killed by a roadside bomb. A regular patron of the bar was sitting about three stools away from me, he started saying stuff – ‘jarheads, didn’t know what hit them, bet they couldn’t find any pieces of em.’ He was drunk, and I ignored him for a little while, kept on drinking my beer.  Then he gets up and asks me, ‘hey you were a jarhead, what’s it like over there.’ I just ignored him. He poked me. I told him to back-off! He jabbed me in the side again and said, ‘you got a softspot there don’t you?’  I hit him hard he went over a table and some chairs got knocked down.”
“He deserved it”
“No, I could’ve gotten up and walked away, but the word softspot hurts deep with any Marine.  When I was in the war we would go on patrols of certain areas on a regular basis. Our troop carrier can carry about ten Marines. I was in a patrol that got hit when our troop carrier went over a roadside bomb. Three of us survived, and one of my buddies started to look for injured. He walked a few yards and then I heard those words, ‘I got a softspot.’
A softspot is a dead marine who is buried under rubble. The few of us that survived completed the search - walking slowly and carefully using our feet to look for the dead.”
They all sat there speechless, imagine that a teen with nothing to say, the girls had tears in their eyes and the boys hung their heads.  My innate sarcasm waned. I regained my composure and thought about refocusing the group on something besides me, I was uncomfortable with the sympathy and attention that their eyes bestowed upon me. I thought about where I would start, there are fifteen students in front of me, none of them depending on me to save their lives, carry them through battle, the stuff I feel like I understand. But I did have a gut feeling about a topic.
“Should we as citizens go against the establishment? Should we rebel and why should we do it? My name is Mr. Joyce and today we will discuss this question.”
One of the gay twins spoke first.
“My name is John. I believe we should fight any injustice.”
His twin friend added
“My name is Duke. We should fight all injustice around the world. There is a lot of bullies who are full of greed and they want to control everyone.”
Leon cut in and stopped the conversation.  Mr Joyce showed us something today, none of us really knows the other, in fact we do not know each other’s name’s. We don’t talk to each other in school. We all started by description. Leon went around the table and pointed to each group member and wrote down their names.
Black-eyes. “Bobby”
Dream Weaver.”Cheryl”
Sourpuss. “Kaitlin”
I am Nelson. “Chuck”
Leon injected, “I knew your name was not Nelson.” 
Hedgehog. “Ben”
Mole. “Eric”
War Gamer. “Joe”
Surfer.  “Jake”
Baby face. “Jennifer”
Cornfed. “Bailey”
I stopped them for a moment.  “Bailey I was wrong for allowing your nickname to be said in this room. It was hurtful.” The rest chimed in apologies too.
Descriptions are a wonderful thing when you are discussing objects. But humans defy this process, we all have something inside that is not defined by our exterior. We are good, bad, ugly, beautiful, and many times cruel. Leon had control of the room as I continued to think about these once vile creatures as humans.
“Lets’ finish our discussion- going against the establishment.”
“Chaos is good when organized subjugation has power,” said Leon.
“Fancy words, Leon, but you may have a point. How else can you break something that is bad without injecting chaos into the situation?” I said.
“Voting, we can all vote for our party and our causes,” replied Bailey.
“Good one Bailey, We are going to vote as soon as we turn eighteen,” responded Kaitlin, Cheryl, and Jennifer, then they added in unison – as Independents, not dem’s or pink elephants.
“Wow, going against the established parties of power, without anarchy, you all can organize and recruit more independent voters.”
“I’m not going to vote. I’m going to fight.” Then Joe stood up and added, “I do not want this war to continue, and I will be a part of it’s end.”
“Joe why do you want to do that, become some warmongers puppet.” Asked Leon.
The rest of them bowed their heads a little, not sure about how they felt after hearing Joe’s words.
“Joe that is a huge decision. Have you told your parents?” I asked.
“No. Anyway it is just me and my mom.”
“You have to tell her and talk to her about it. You cannot just walk out of your house one day and tell her goodbye I am joining the Army. You’re her boy, the only thing she knows, and you are everything she has worked for over the last eighteen years. You will not be ready to be a soldier if you cannot tell your mother about this – it’s very important. To be in battle you need a clear head to survive- it is not a video game.”
“Thanks Mr. Joyce. Said Joe.
“I need to tell you all something. It’s no surprise that I’m not a fan of your age group. I like to keep my distance. Most adults feel that way about teenagers, but there is a limit to our displeasure- it is finite. We are not filled with hatred towards all of you, and we do remember our own youth. But we need to let our dislike of youth fade, because we also know that you are the future. We look at you and we see our recent past whether we like it or not.
When you look at adults, it’s easy to see imperfections, so don’t expect perfection. Teenagers get caught up in this- this high expectation of perfection from adults- and it leads to trouble. People become misguided when they want to much from other people. Example, a guy likes this girl, they talk get to know each other a little, but the guy gets serious quick, because he needs something- at that moment the girl backs off. The guy fills with tension and stress because he cannot understand the situation. This is a huge moment in the young mans life. It is the moment that he needs to teach himself to walk away, and that is very difficult for a young man to do. The young man can be filled with thoughts of failure, of contempt for his girl, of contempt for society. He becomes immersed in failure. But he has not failed. He has not failed because he tried, and that is more important. So he sits in a wallow of self-loathing.  This is where he must accept himself- as is – and get up and try again.
And young ladies, you are not off the hook. You have many problems of your own as you travel on the road to self-acceptance.  Your judgment of each other based on looks, your need to have the attention of men. Many young girls believe they are entitled to a fairy tale life, you’re  not!  Attraction takes on many forms, and looks are a part of that, but basing your life- on how hot you think you are- is a trap and you will be your own prey.
When an adult sees this, they are repulsed, but they know you are young, so many just let it go- without the mentoring that is needed.  It is moments of not mentoring when needed that adults fail youth. What both sides need is to talk and listen to each other, especially the last part, our society if very loath to listen to one another.”
“ Mr. Joyce, most of us feel that adults just don’t want to hear it.” Leon commented.
The rest nodded their heads in agreement.
“That is your moment -- that is the time when you stand face to face with an adult and demand to be heard.”


© Copyright 2014 Artemis J Jones