by Wanda Cunningham
No one in the office questioned the note at all and Chango escorted me toward our second period class, History. He bopped along as if listening to some rhythm I couldn't hear and once he motioned to me that I carry my books against my chest.
I felt embarrassed doing that, and excited to sort of have permission to do so. I usually had to stop myself from doing it two or three times a day and now, someone was telling me to go ahead. I wasn't sure exactly how I felt about that.
We were a few minutes late for class but Mr. Durant had a standing rule about being tardy: take your seat and wait for him to call on your for an explanation. He simply nodded to show that he had seen us and went on with his lecture about post-World War II rebuilding in Europe.
I'd read this part of the book but Mr. Durant always added stuff in his lectures that might be on a test, you had to pay attention to get a good grade. So I listened, but I kept getting distracted thinking about Danny and his friends and what might happen in the future.
When the class ended Mr. Durant called Chango and I up to him. "Bowes, Urbaá±ez." I walked up and handed him the slip from the office, Chango stood beside me and just grinned.
Mr. Durant looked at him and said, "Well?"
"I don't gotta note, I just kept Bobby company," said Chango, not changing his grin. "I'm an escort, like those destroyers you talked about last month."
Mr. Durant frowned at him then at me. I realized I was standing there holding my books funny. I tried to change from cradling then in my left arm against my chest to holding them down at my side like a boy but I almost dropped them.
"Do you need an escort?" Mr. Durant asked me.
I probably blushed. "Chango's just a friend," I said. I couldn't think of anything else to say.
Mr. Durant is tall and bony with thin, dishwater blond hair, Woody Allen glasses, and the biggest, brownest eyes I'd ever seen on someone as pale as he was. He had long dark eyelashes, too. Maybe the glasses magnified them. He just stood there, one hip on the corner of his desk, looking at us for a moment.
I wondered what he thought he saw.
"Do you need an escort, Bowes?" he asked me.
"Sometimes," I said. I didn't look but I knew Chango's grin had gotten wider.
We got out of there without much more than a curious look from Mr. Durant. He didn't seem to know what to make of the situation.
"Third period," I said. Chango nodded. "I've got English, but we don't have that one together."
"I had to retake English II," he said. "But I got Study Hall for third, so I can walk you to your class." He grinned at me. "You go ahead, I'll follow. Danny says you wiggle your butt nice."
"What?" I know I squeaked.
He made motions, so I walked away, trying not to think about whether I really did wiggle my butt. I knew I had spent hours at various times worrying about that, trying not to do it. And now–now I felt confused. I was supposed to wiggle?
At the door to Mr. Kerry's class, Chango came up beside me to say, "When class is out, you wait for me, I'll be here and we'll go to the office so you can checkout for your doctor's appointment."
"All right," I said. "Are you sure this is all necessary?"
He grinned at me, his wide trollish face showing a lot of teeth. "Nothing is going to happen to you, Los Norteá±os have got your back."
"Huh?" I said.
He left without explaining that. Norteá±os was how some Mexicans referred to people from the US and Canada and norteá±o was a music style, similar to American country music or zydeco; Norteá±o also meant the fractured Spanish a lot of Mexican-Americans spoke, called Spanglish in English. I wondered if Danny's friends called themselves Los Norteá±os, like a gang name.
Mr. Kerry called me in to the class before I could spend much time on that thought and we read poetry aloud from handouts he passed around. Nineteenth century stuff, though some of it had phrasings that made it sound much older. When my turn came, I read Coleridge's "Xanadu." It sounded good but it didn't seem to mean anything and I said so during discussion.
"Do you think poetry should mean something, Bobby?" Mr. Kerry asked in his soft voice. He'd come to the US from Ireland back in the sixties and his voice had a lilt to it, though not much of a real accent. He had a long face and green eyes and wasn't much older than his students.
"Wouldn't it be better if it were beautiful and it meant something, too?" I replied.
"Hmm," said Mr. Kerry. "Anybody want to refute that idea?"
I don't know why but I blushed. Someone brought up Star Trek and Mr. Kerry looked pained. "Ah, yes, television, the vulture eating our livers," he said. This produced a lot of laughter. "Oh, sure, now, you all understood the reference?"
I made the mistake of nodding and then had to explain to the cast about Prometheus who was sentenced to have his liver eaten, "But it was an eagle, not a vulture. A vulture wouldn't eat him if he were still alive," I finished just as the bell rang.
Mr. Kerry kept grinning at me as we filed out of class. At one point, I looked back and he nodded and winked at me. I looked away quickly, not sure just what that was about.
One of the boys in class, a big guy called Gordon, last name or first name, I wasn't sure, bumped into me. I said, "Excuse me," but he didn't move out of the way.
He looked down at me and made a sucking noise. "Bet you'd like to such Kerry's dick," he said.
I didn't say anything but tried to move away which is not easy when a lot of kids are trying to go through a doorway at the same time.
"Fuckin' fruit-sucking fag," said Gordon. "Oh-but-it-was-an-eagle," he whined in a falsetto. "And then you giggle so he knows how cute you are."
I didn't think I had giggled.
Another boy, just as tall but fatter, came up on the other side of me. "Is this pervert bothering you?" he asked, talking to Gordon, not me.
"Hey, Lotto, yeah. The fruity smell is just sickening." They both snickered, as if that had actually been funny.
"Gordo and Lotto? Why don't you guys go have lunch, it's your favorite class, isn't it?" I don't know why I said that.
They reacted by bumping up against me, one side then the other and knocking me down. I scrambled to get out of the way before they could kick or stomp me and realized that Mr. Kerry had appeared.
"You boys are going to be late for lunch," he said to them.
Gordon sneered at him, but Lotto (I remembered his name, it was Frank Lott) said, "We ain't late."
"Not yet," said Mr. Kerry. "But if you aren't out that door in the next ten seconds, you will be staying here for half an hour then reporting to the office for further detention."
"Huh?" said Lott.
Gordon grabbed his arm and pulled the idiot through the door.
Mr. Kerry sighed.
I sat up and started gathering my books back together.
"Does that happen much?" Mr. Kerry asked.
"N-no, sir," I said.
Chango arrived just then, standing in the doorway. He looked at Mr. Kerry for a moment then asked me, "Someone knock you down?"
"Uh?" I said.
Mr. Kerry smiled. "Hello, Albert. A minor run-in with a couple of swinish types."
"Who?" Chango asked him.
Mr. Kerry shook his head. "No, you know I won't tell you."
Chango nodded and looked at me.
"I'm not going to say, either." He offered his hand to me but I stood up without it, holding my books in front of me. "Thank you, Mr. Kerry," I told the teacher.
"You're welcome, Bobby. If they bother you again, tell me. Once is an accident, twice is a pattern; don't let there be a third time."
"Tell me," said Chango when we were out the door.
I shook my head. "You'd go after them."
"Oh, I know who it was," he said. "Gordon Ryan and Frank Lott. But you got to know you can tell me things like that."
"I..." I said. "What are you going to do about them?"
He shrugged. "Up to you. You tell me, I take care of it so they know not to bother you. You don't tell me, and I know anyway," he grinned showing a lot of teeth, "I tell Danny and it goes a lot worse for them."
"What would he do?" I asked, worried that Danny would get in trouble.
"Maybe put them in the hospital," he said. "Just as a warning." He thought about it for a second. "Probably just Lotto, Gordon is smart enough to understand a lesson."
"Crap," I said.
He grinned at me.
"Okay, what would you do?" I asked.
"Deliver you to Danny, you're going to be gone all afternoon. You won't need me. So I can stay here make things–scary for them."
"You're not going to hurt them or get in trouble yourself?" I asked.
He shook his head. "They may need to go home and do laundry," he said. "No blood, just shit in their pants."
We stopped at the office and got my exit pass before we headed toward the parking lot but Danny met us halfway to the gate, waving from near the end of the administration building.
"Chiquita!" he said, grinning at me. A dark-haired girl stood beside him, Sylvia, his "other" girlfriend. She looked at me as if I were a rabid skunk she might have to shoot.
"Do I tell him?" asked Chango.
"No," I said. "Do whatever you think you need to." I walked toward Danny.
Chango nodded. "Hey, VEEK-tor," he called, exaggerating the Spanish pronunciation of Danny's other name. "All safe and sound, but I've got something to do." He headed toward the construction site behind the principal's office where some workmen had been putting in a teachers' outdoor smoking patio.
"How is it, Bobbee?" Danny asked me, exaggerating my name, too.
"Okay, I guess. Hi, Sylvia," I said.
"Hello," she said, being pleasant enough. Maybe I had imagined her being mad about things.
We watched while Chango picked something up and put it under his left arm then walked toward the fence. Danny glanced at me and grinned. "Someone give you a hard time?"
I shook my head.
Chango turned at the fence then ran at the Administration building, aiming for a blank spot between the windows. Using his speed and one hand, he ran right up the wall and lifted himself onto the roof.
"What?" I said. "What's he doing?"
"Somebody must have made trouble for you," said Danny. He grinned at me. "Chango's a fucken apeman, ain't he?"
"What did he pick up and take with him?" asked Sylvia.
"Paving bricks," I said, hoping Chango didn't get into trouble or actually hurt someone.
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