This post is a work in progress. I'm challenging myself to add to it daily (well, almost) until the story is finished. As some of you may realize, I am a frequent visitor to Gale Martin's blog Gem-osophy and frequently leave quirky comments on her posts. Gale challenged me to expand on my 'imaginative' comments and develop a story. So what is the president of Gale Martin's Novel Writing Cheering Squad supposed to do but accept the challenge. I hope you enjoy it, and return as I build on the story.
The Possession of Joshua Banks
By Frank Sirianni
On the first day of school, the first question in students' minds is, "Who are you?" Their second question is, "Who are they?"---Unknown
"Good luck with your first classes," belted out Mr. Lundquist over the loud buzzing that marked the end of Homeroom. No Sister Margaret Mary standing in the playground swinging her bronze desk bell collecting students after recess. No bell, just a Jeopardy wrong answer buzzer, but four times louder and longer, telling everyone to buck up you're in Junior High now. "You have five minutes to get to and settle in your first period classes or you will be given a late slip. Three late slips in a week and it's detention."
No one heard.
Chairs dragging over the floor, back packs zipping and unzipping, students laughing and re-acquainting with each other that attended previous schools together drowned out Mr. Lundquist's warning. Eighty students spilled into a hallway that fifteen other Homerooms of eighty students were now flooding. "Fifteen broken bags of coffee beans bursting," Joshua thought making sense of the controlled mayhem to ease his nervousness.
"What about coffee?" quizzed a grinning student walking right beside, but unnoticed by Joshua.
A freckled face reddened even more as embarrassment over-took nerves for Joshua realized he said half of his thoughts aloud as he often does when stressed. "Um...Nothing, just thinking," stumbled Joshua as blush became burgundy for now he was on the spot to say something. "I'm going to Art 101."
"We're in the same Class. Name's Tommy Taylor, what's yours?"
"I'll just call you J, 'kay?"
Joshua looked over at Tommy about to object at his branding, but burgundy-blush made room for crimson as he noticed a small surgical scar from a cleft palate making his upper lip appear to tear under elastic forces of Tommy's wide grin. "No, that's fine," Tom said swallowing back his objection to his new nickname. Joshua squeezed out a smile hoping to ease the moment. "If I can call you T, that is?"
"I'm cool with that. Fair's fair."
Room 211-B was large, but not large enough to hold the sardine packed students occupying the room. Joshua and Tommy looked at each other silently confirming that there had to be some mistake. There could not be this many students in one class. As they walked further into the class, they were directed to the middle where there was a large bowl on one of the art tables with a note stating 'Art 101 Students, Please take ONE, and ONLY ONE paper.' Three teachers were at the front of the class. One was giving instructions. She informed all students that there was a scheduling error for Art 101 resulting in a class size three times that of normal. Introducing herself as the Miss Manning, the Art teacher, she introduced Mrs. Sernicky, the Dance teacher to her left, and Mr. Dellview, the Typing teacher to her right. She told the students that on the pieces of paper in the bowl is a number from one to three. Students with a paper with a one will take art, two will take dance, and three will take typing, but no matter what class they end up in, if they pass, they will receive credits for art because it was their chosen elective.
Mannequin still, Joshua gaped at the paper in his hand as if the single hieroglyph scribed on it needed its own Rosetta Stone to reveal Pharaoh's secret. Tommy tried to get Joshua's attention but couldn't break the Wal*mart-shopper-till-slip-savings spell that had Joshua frozen in place. Tommy thought of saying 'It's real,' but opted to give Josh a real hard twisty pinch on his upper arm instead. "Ooooouch," Joshua complained. "What was that for?"
"I was asking what class you ended up in, but you just stood there looking like my ventriloquist dummy."
"My Dummy. Father Anthony gave me a dummy over a year ago to help me with my speech therapy for my lisp. What class did you get?"
"Typing. I don't know if I want to take typing."
"Just a sec," Tommy said and squirmed and elbowed his way through the barrier of student bodies. After a few moments Tommy returned to Joshua's side. "There's no way in hell I was going to get stuck in dance, so I traded numbers with someone."
"Traded to what?"
"Typing. Everyone knows that all the cute girls take typing to become secretaries."
"No, it's true. You should see all the gorgeous girls in the secretarial pool at my Dad's Office Building. Why do they call it a pool if no girl is wearing a bikini?" Tommy snorted out a belly laugh at his own joke. "Besides, you looked like you could use a friend in class."
Joshua smiled but didn't respond. His smile said everything Tommy needed to know.
Mr. Dellview was the first instructor to gather all his students together to take them to his typing lab. Their new class assignment was Lab 3-c which was located on the other side of the school by the gymnasium. Mr. Dellview was explaining that this typing lab was set up as an emergency measure to handle the overflow from art class. "We had to pull some old Underwoods out of storage because the real typing labs are in use and have full classes," he explained as they turned the corner from the main hallway down toward the gym. For Joshua, Mr. Dellview may as well have been chanting 'Dead men walking' as he led students, en masse, to the gas chamber. Joshua tried to distract himself with different thoughts, "What was that song I liked this summer." All efforts to recall the tune, its name, or even its performing artist avoided Joshua. Just the drumming sound of many footfalls pounding like Zimbutu war drums kept Joshua focused on perceived doom.
Mr. Dellview reached for the levered handle of the double doors to Lab 3-C, an echoing slow motion click-click as that of a sawed-off shot gun readied for firing stopped Joshua in mid step. Students filed into the lab laughing and talking teenage chatter. All except Joshua, standing deer in headlight still, his feet were unwilling to move to make his way into the class. He knew this ominous feeling had no basis, but, try as he might, he could not shake it. It was a cold feeling. Not the crisp, playful wintry cold of a fresh snowfall, but cadaver cold. Dead, rotten, maggot-eaten, smelly corpse cold. If there ever was such a feeling, Joshua had it and couldn't shake it. "It's okay," said Mr. Dellview in the most calming tone his teaching skills could muster for he noticed Joshua's hesitance. "The typewriters don't bite, but, as you learn, the documents you'll be able to type could. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the typewriter is the machine gun equivalent. Think of the power you could gain learning this skill."
Joshua nodded at his instructor, but his words were just a buzz in Joshua's ear though he thought he understood Mr. Dellview's meaning. Joshua smiled and added "That's why there's no one wearing bikini's in a secretary's pool." Realizing he screwed up Tommy's pun, and noticing Mr. Dellview's expression change from a warm smile to plain puzzlement, Joshua's shit-flung-through-a-screen-door freckled face reddened again. Embarrassment pushed cadaver-cold aside momentarily, and Joshua bolted into the Lab almost yelling, "Tommy, did you save me a seat?"
Tommy waved Joshua over and he sat down at the make-shift typing desk beside Tommy. The desks were simple eight foot folding tables with three typewriter stations for each table. Eighteen desks were in double rows down the length of the class. The lab had a counter and sinks down one side, and sliding black-boards down the other giving the lab the appearance that it may have been a science lab at one time.
......to be continued....