Shift 9: Ready

I was so excited about getting to go to school. I was going to school! It’s all I could think about.

All I had to do was show up at the front office with the flier and say, “This is me.” And I’d be in.

I was going on Monday.

Deon brought me a math textbook that he got from a neighbor. Algebra is fun. I did sixty-eight problems over the weekend to get ready.


I even re-memorized the quadratic formula. And it made sense this time! I can hardly wait to hear the teacher talking about math, to smell the white-board markers, and to solve problems. Maybe the classroom will have an actual chalkboard with chalk. I love the sound of chalk as it slides across the board. I love the softness of chalk dust. I even like the scent.


I met another girl from Windenburg. Her name’s Sofia. We talked about high school. She goes to a different school than the one I’ll be going to, of course, but still. It’s high school. I’ve only ever been to middle school. I don’t know what to expect.

She said at her school, everybody’s cool.

“You’d fit right in,” she said. “We like people who’ve got their own style. We’re not about everybody being the same. You’d be one of the cool kids in no time.”


Ah! Maybe high school is all about diversity!

Middle school really wasn’t, but I got away with being me since I was so good in track. If it’s cool to be yourself in high school, then I’ve got it made. I don’t know how to be anybody but myself, and I don’t know how not to be me.


When Deon and I were having lunch, another Windenburg teen, Luna, joined us. There was some kind of extracurricular Sunday trip from Windenburg that day.

She asked me what school I went to, and I was able to reply, Oasis Springs High. Before, when anybody asked, I had to make up something lame. I like not lying better.


Of course I saw Yuki, too, since she came over on the same field trip.

I told her I’d met Sofia and Luna. She sort of rolled her eyes.

I told her what Sofia said about how I’d be cool at their school.

Yuki laughed.


“It’s easy for Sofia to talk about cool,” Yuki said. “She’s the gate-keeper of cool. It always works like that at a school. There’s a handful of kids who decide who’s in and who’s untouchable. I used to be in. Now I’m pretty much out.”

I was shocked. Yuki said it was because she liked this one video game that everybody else thought was lame. Plus, she started eating lunch with this girl that everyone else was avoiding because she said odd things at odd times. Yuki got tired of seeing her eating alone, so she started eating with her. Then, she wasn’t cool.

“So,” she said, “Sofia can say that you’d be cool, and you would, because you are. But then, once it got around that you and I are best buds, and once you started being friendly to everyone on the X-list, you’d be out, too. It’s the same old nonsense as anywhere.”


I took a walk that night so I could let my thoughts loose with the flowers and the stars.

Dang. Yuki’s words had me worried. I never was good at following the rules for who you can talk to and who not. Usually, I’m oblivious, and when I’m not, I don’t agree. It might take a while until I become established on track before I get that kind of freedom where I can do anything, be anyone, talk to anybody, and not be shunned.

I guess I might have to tough it up for a while. I hadn’t been the new kid since second grade.


I woke early the next morning to catch the city bus to the school. Deon had loaned me bus fare.

I was the new kid. OK. I was ready.

What if they ask where I’m from?


Dang! I realized I was gonna have to invent my own back-story.


It better be good.

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