Prom Night at Jefferson High – Forrest Smith

Forrest Smith

I was sure she was pissed off, but I thought I could, maybe, let it ride and she would forget all about it. Her text to me after I got out of AP English that afternoon proved that she was pissed pretty bad and my chances of letting it slide by were slim to none. The text to me read, “U R not takn me R U? I never want to see you AGN ever. U R such an AH.” Take her to the freaking prom? We might be dead by then it’s three months away.

Holy crap, what a drama queen. What did I do? Only the same thing I did every other year, since we started goin’ with each other. No big deal, the stupid prom comes around and all the whole damn school goes ape shit. She knows how I feel about the asinine waste of money and she used to be with me on it. This year she oughta know better. I have never bull shitted her about how fucking poor my old man is. It has always been fairly obvious, when she compares her nice little two story, brick-on-the-front-only, three-bedroom, two-bath with my two bedroom one bath flea bag apartment. The good old American system has worked just the way it ain’t supposed to work seeing what’s happened to my old man and Susan’s.

Everything that I ever read or heard says that the more education you have the more your paycheck will be. They make it sound like simple arithmetic. High school drop out equals ten bucks, high school grad equals twenty five, and a college degree gets you fifty, masters a hundred and MD or PhD, God only knows knows. My old man has a degree from a good engineering school, and he got laid off when I was twelve and we have been sucking hind tit ever since. He hasn’t had a decent paycheck, since then. Susan’s dad has only a high school diploma, or probably a GED, and a Union Card and makes a steady, pretty good paycheck at the Kia factory.

Maybe it didn’t work in my dad’s case, but I am not gonna risk bucking the odds because of the backwards way it worked out for him. I am definitely going to get out of high school with a good enough grade point average to go to State, and get the scholarship money that goes along with it. Before my senior year I screwed around and got piss ant little jobs a McDonald’s to make enough money to buy gas and take Susan to the movies sometime. Playing sports and working takes your time away from the book pounding and my grades weren’t good enough when I worked or played B Team Basketball. This year I swore to myself I was not gonna miss the boat, and I haven’t done anything but study my ass off. I had to get my GPA up and, if things hold and I stay on course, I will make it. Susan or nobody else ain’t gonna keep me from it.

So, if Susan is gonna be a complete bitch about my plan, so be it. I sure wish she wouldn’t be like that, because I’m sure gonna miss just being with her and talking about stuff. One of the things, I guess we won’t do anymore, is just about the best thing I like to do. On a pretty day we would hike over to this big old woods about a mile from school. It was like being up in the mountains. There is a really high cliff going down to the creek. We would go down on a little path hugging the side of the cliff, and Susan would get real scared. Once we were down we’d loll around on the creek bank and Susan was so glad to be safe she would let me get in a little smooch and even cop a short feel.

Just talking was probably the best thing, though. My dad and I can have some very good conversations, when he is home. He is a really good guy and tries very hard to make it better for me and him. The poor guy has no one to talk to with my mom gone. She cut out, when I was around twelve, when we lost the house and everything went to shit. I love my mom, but she never did have much life in her. She was half sick most all the time, when I was a little kid. She was always talking about her house and family in some jerk water town in Alabama where she grew up, and would take off at the drop of a hat and get on the Greyhound bus and go home for a week or two. She took me with her only once or twice. Usually she would just leave me with my dad. He would cook my supper and do everything your mom should do, so that’s why I love him like I do, probably.

One other person I can talk to is Ms. Carden, my English teacher, when she has time. She is the only one at my school that is even close to being a honest-to-God teacher. Somehow, she can make the stupid kids in her class pay attention and not be the usual dumb ass holes they are in every other class. She has told me that I should go to State and major in English because she says she can see something special in the stuff I hand in. She gave me a good lecture about getting a scholarship. She understands about us being broke. I told Susan what Ms. Carden said, and she said that was the dumbest thing she had ever heard of. What was I gonna be, a freaking teacher? They make less money than anybody. Susan’s not in AP English and is a little jealous of Ms. Carden, I believe, because I tell her what a terrific woman she is. I don’t love Ms. Carden, and I really do love Susan even though she is pretty dumb sometime.

Everything has been rocking along a lot better than in a long time, with my dad doing some sort of contract computer work making a pretty nice paycheck. My application at State and for the scholarship money, with the help of Ms. Carden, is getting approved. Even Susan texts me without callin’ me names. All of a sudden the week of the prom, and a week before graduation, the shit hits the fan. All this good stuff comes falling down to pieces.

The first thing that happened was my granpa called and told my dad that my mom was in the hospital with some kind of cancer and that they were going to operate on her. She had no insurance and granpa can’t cover her, so my dad has to come up with some enormous amout of cash, which he does not have, of course. Dad goes to the people he’s working for and asks them for a loan on his future paychecks. They almost instantaneously let him go. He leaves for Alabama the next day, and gives me all his cash, which is almost two hundred bucks and the keys to the Civic, after I drive him to the Greyhound Station. He says the rent’s not due for a month and he’ll be back before then. We hug each other cry like babies.

The next thing was I get a letter from State’s admissions office telling me I have to get another copy of my SAT test grade. There is a problem with my score, which is way lower than it says on my paper work. I had just put my dad on the bus and I couldn’t believe that this was happening. School had been out a week, but the teachers were still there, so I went to see Ms. Carden to help me get this mess straightened out. I went to the office to check in and find where I could see her. The secretary looked at me very strange and said Ms.Carden was no longer at Jefferson High and she thought it would not be a good idea to find her, even though she couldn’t tell me where she was, anyway. I drove home wondering what in the hell was going on.

I texted Susan who always knew any and all gossip at school and asked if she had any scoop on Ms.Carden. She came back with a sarcastic tone that she was happy to report that my hero Ms. Carden had been canned for screwing around with Jake Porter. Mr. Bryant, supposedly, personally, caught them, and fired her on the spot. She also wanted to tell me the good news about the prom. Her date was Stu Pomeroy. I put the phone down and thought about all the ass holes in Susan’s text message.

Mr. Bryant was the Assistant Principal, who had just about enough brains to be a Nazi Concetration Camp guard. Ms. Carden had probably put him down someway, sometime, and he was getting even. Jake Porter was Jefferson’s best football player and dumbest student and had a full ride athletic scholarship to any number of Division One schools. He could be a starter on any of them, he was so good. But his SAT’s were so awful he couldn’t accept one unless he got them up to moron level. Ms. Carden was tutoring him after school and football practice, sometimes late into the night, all on her own time. The whole time his senior year and he had finally passed. I would bet any amount of money what Bryant saw was the big bastard giving her a bear hug of thanks with zero sex involved. What a crock.

Her information about the prom was the camel back breaker for me. How in hell she could go with Stu Pomeroy was the biggest joke I could imagine. He was one of the rich kids at Jefferson. He flunked out of prep school and came to Jefferson for his senior year, which he had to repeat. His claim to fame, other than his car, was he really knew how to make out. I envied him for that, but not where Susan was concerned. For Susan to go with him was a real shock to me. She had to know he was only taking her to get into her pants. Susan was a good girl at heart and I had to do something. I texted “Ditch the rich kid. I’ll take you. He only wants one thing from you.” Her reply was, “In your dreams, I’ll take his Jag over your Civic anytime.”

I don’t have a clue about what happened to me. After the last text I went to bed. I hadn’t eaten anything all day but I wasn’t hungry. I slept until noon the next day, but didn’t want to get up. I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to do anything. It was too much trouble just to get dressed, so I stayed in bed. Nobody gave a shit, if I never got up. I felt like I didn’t care, if I was dead. Dad called and I had to get up to answer the phone. I started crying like a baby. He got real shook up and said he would be home tomorrow. I started feeling like I didn’t want to die. I was suddenly hungry as hell, and I got up and ate two things of Ramen Noodles. The next afternoon I went to the bus station to get my dad. I was all cleaned up and feeling good. His bus came in and no dad. He doesn’t have a smart phone so I would have to go home to hear from him. I was super disappointed. I wasn’t mad at him in particular, and I didn’t feel like I had before, like not giving a shit about anything. I was just mad at everything. The whole fucking world.

I got home and found he had left a message on the voice mail. He couldn’t come until mom was better and for me to hang on a little while longer. I don’t want to hang on I want to do something that make somebody besides me hurt. I really want to hurt Stu and Mr. Bryant and I wouldn’t mind adding most of the stupid teachers I’d had for four years and most of my class. Why not? They would all be at the prom in a neat bunch. I am not thinking Columbine at all. I’m not a Goth or a stupid weirdo, and I am not gonna kill myself. Tomorrow I’ll go buy the gun I need.

I knew there was a hock shop downtown and I drove down Meridian Street and found two. It seemed like the cheapest place to buy a gun. I’ve never even held a gun except a BB gun. I read or heard somewhere that a AK 47 was the most notorious, hated gun by the anti-gun crowd. They were always wanting to ban them or their big magazines. I asked how much one cost. The guy behind the counter had two of them both priced way out of my range. The second shop was the same, he had several models but all more than I could afford. The second guy tried to sell me an old fashioned rifle that you had to pull the bolt up and down to load each bullet, it cost way less, but I didn’t think it would serve my purpose. When I saw the AK47 I remembered I had seen one before, but didn’t pay it much attention. It was in Susan’s old man’s gun cabinet.

Jack Shepard is the typical, numb skull, NRA member, a huge hunter and Second Amendment freak. I had to bite my tongue whenever I ran into him at Susan’s. He thought I was a little pussy and gave Susan a hard time about dating me. He would love to lend me his AK 47 because it would prove his superiority. I waited until his usual arrival home and time enough for his third beer. He was glued to Fox News, when I arrived. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and he was mellow enough to welcome me. I put it on real thick and told him how sorry I was about the prom and me and Susan fighting. But I explained truthfully about being broke. He was actually sympathetic and said he wished he had known, he would have bank rolled me for the prom. He hated the rich little bastard Susan had taken up with.

I told him I was over the disappointment and instead of moping around town while everybody was at the prom I was going to go up in the mountains and try to get me a deer. He lit up and said how glad he was I was getting what he said was more manned up. I told him, off course, we didn’t have a gun and I couldn’t afford one right then. Could I borrow on of his? You bet I could. He was tickled to death and brought out his AK47 which was the easiest gun for me to kill a deer or a wild hog which is what he liked to kill. He gave me some brief instructions and two boxes of bullets and loaded up the big old magazine I had heard about. He patted me on the back and said he wanted half the hog, or deer I brought back. I’m sure he thought I wouldn’t be much of a hunter He even gave me the route and gate code to get into his hunting club grounds.

The next night was the prom night. I drove to school and parked outside the gym and waited for everybody to go in. The teachers came dribbling in first, including Mr. Bryant. The dancing started but Susan and Stu didn’t show. I was antsy, Stu was my main target. After almost everybody who was coming was inside dancing, I hear the sweet bass vroom vroom of Stu’s Jag. He pulls in and lets Susan out. She looked fantastic. I almost got out and grabbed her, but, of course I didn’t. Stu finally goes in and I’m ready to do it.

After I sat there thirty minutes or so, I cranked up the Civic and drove over to Silver Lake. I park and got the AK47, and grabbed the barrel and threw it as far out into the black water as I could.

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