Check it out! Chapter two is now out.
“Balls!” Jones came into the staff room and slammed the door.
“What?” came the reply from Barovsky without looking up from his marking.
“Out of the mice!” which was meant to explain the initial exclamation
“What mice? Have you seen mice in here again? I’ll clean up my mess, but you know it’s not all mine”
“Not those mice. The computer kind. Some stupid friggin’ kid has taken the balls out of the mice in my computer lab.” Jones poured himself a cup of coffee but only half filled the cup.
“Why the hell would anybody do that?” Barovsky put his red marking pencil down.
“How the hell should I know? Do you know what goes on in the mind of a fifteen year old? What would go on the mind of a fifteen year old? Sex? Anything else?
“But what’s the big deal? It’s only a little ball.”
“Yeah right! I’ll just run out to Business Depot and buy a bunch of mice balls.” he steamed. “You can’t buy balls, you gotta buy the whole damn mouse. I don’t know why we even have mice with balls, nobody else does.”
“They were free.” as Science Department Head, Barovsky prided himself on not spending money.
“It’s not like it’s only happened once.” Jones continued, ignoring Barovsky’s explanation. “It keeps happening and I’m sick to death of it. If I, no when I catch that little bugger, I’m gonna shove those balls up his nose– or worse.”
“Hey, calm down. It’s not worth your career over a couple of computer mice. Remember ol’ Jenkins the day he snapped. Grabbed that little Van Luiten kid by the front of his shirt, picked him up so that his feet were dangling in the air and walked him right out of the classroom.”
“Yeah and the kid was squealing like a pig.”
“And by that time we had come out of our classes to see what was going on” joined in Mrs Templeton. “We thought he was marching him down to the office.”
“And then he took the kid shoved into an empty locker and locked him in there.”
“Really?” asked Ryan the new guy. “What had the kid done to him?”
“We never did find out for sure. There were a couple of good rumours going around though.”
“No really, you gotta know what the kid did. Tell me.” Jones pleaded.
“We can’t. We’re sworn to secrecy.”
“ Get out of here. Sworn to secrecy by who? Jenkins has been gone for years”
“Yeah, I think he’s dead. Wasn’t it last year?” Roberts would have been better to stay out of the conversation.
“Nah, that was Phillips, Jenkins died right after he retired.. Thirty-five years teaching, retires and buys a Winnebago so he can tour the country, but croaks before he can leave.” If Rickards thought he was helping, he was very wrong.
“No I don’t think so. That was Burns.”
“So what do you mean: Sworn to secrecy.”
“It means we can’t tell you, even if we wanted to. It’s a secret”
“Oh just shut up! So tell me what happened to Jenkins.”
“He made up some story about how he had come out of the classroom when he heard some banging coming out of the locker and he was just getting Van Luiten out of the locker.”
“But what about all the other kids in the class? They would have seen Jenkins pick him up and carry him out.”
“Oh yeah. They all saw it. But they hated Van Luiten more than Jenkins did. Not one single kid came forward to tell the truth.”
“So they bought the story. They want to buy the story. It always the easy thing to do. Otherwise there’s a big hassle and principals hate big hassles. Sweep it under the rug, sweep it under the rug.”
“What happened to Van Luiten? D’ya remember?”
“Yeah the family moved away a year or two later.”
“I saw him a few years ago at a gas station on the 401.”
“Hell no. Buying gas. For his Mercedes. I think he’s in real estate.”
“Half of you behind the red cone, the other half behind the yellow one. The ball goes to the yellow cone. On the whistle head of the line from the yellow cone starts running trying to get to the other end of the square. At the same time…”
“We know the drill, coach. We do it every year.” interrupted Scottie van Doornedorp, a kid whose attention span was short and his mouth active.
“When I want your opinion, Scottie, I’ll give it to you.” retorted Coach Johnson, a year or two away from retirement and not a great believer in the future of Bengal football.
“Oh, burn.” added Steve. If Scottie had an entourage, Steve was it. Scottie shot his friend a look which said ‘whose side are you on?’
“Can I continue?” asked Johnson, ignoring the barb.
“This is a tackle drill. So the ball carrier is going to let himself be tackled. Now let’s review what a proper football tackle looks like.”
“Instead of what, Coach? A volleyball tackle? A baseball tackle? Fishing tackle?” Scottie thought he was pretty funny. Maybe it was his way of showing off for the younger players.”
“Doornedorp, five hills. Only put your equipment on first.”
“My helmet doesn’t fit, Coach. I guess my brains are too…”
“Scottie, that’s enough.”
“Sorry, Coach. Are you coming with me?” There was something about Scottie which didn’t allow him to stop once he got started. Most of the players present smiled at the thought of Coach Johnson running hills. He had seen the better part of 58 years and had consumed his fair share of beer.
“No, you’re doing it alone.” It was always questionable whether Scottie would make it to the end of the season. Sometimes it looked like he was going to quit, sometimes it looked like a coach or a teammate was going to kill him. Neither ever happened.
“On your way Doornedorp.”
“But you young fella, you remember this: that was then and this is now. You hit a kid now and you might as well pack your bags.”
“Oh come on. I’m not really gonna shove balls up anywhere. I’d just like to, that’s all” Jones got back into the conversation
“Well you know it could be worse. They could be deleting files or changing settings.”
“They’re doing that too. It’s just the ball thing pisses me off a lot more. I can change settings back, but you can’t buy mouse balls. Go ahead just phone up the store and tell them that you want a gross of mice balls and see how they react.”
“Yeah, I take your point.”
“That’s fine. Take my point, but you had better keep your hands of my mice balls.”
“So who do you think is doing it?” asked the new guy.
“I don’t know. A nerd, I imagine. Some guy who needs more homework or a girl friend.”
“I bet it isn’t. I bet it’s a jock. You know steal the balls and play table hockey with them”
“Playing table hockey isn’t a jock. It’s a wannabe jock”
The two groups didn’t have much to do with each other.
“I still think it’s a nerd. Only a nerd would think of stealing a ball out of a mouse. I get so mad when I think of this. I’m going to hurt someone. I’m going to hurt someone.”
“Hey don’t you have an on-call?”
“Shit! What time is it? I gotta go.” Jones rushed out of the staffroom, leaving his marking behind.
“He does get excited doesn’t he?”
“It is kinda of funny the way his face gets all red like that isn’t?”
“He’s gonna give himself a heart attack is he keeps up like that.”
“What are we going to do with a bag full of balls?”
“We could put them back.”
“To be nice”
“Why start now?”
“We could put them back one at a time”
“You mean mess with his head?”
“I like it”
“In the mean time. D’ya want to play table hockey?”
“Right then, a proper football tackle. First watch their balls. They can fake with their heads or their hands, but where their balls go, they go. Don’t come at them too fast. Break down, get low and stick your shoulder into them. Wrap them up and drive through until they’re on the ground. Don’t stop until you hear the whistle. Let’s have a demonstration.” Coach Johnson looked around for an experienced tackler. His eyes went to Skates first then Invisible. Then he found Jordan White in the crowd. “White, come up here and show us how it’s done.” At the front of the yellow line was the tall, skinny kid who was holding a football. He wasn’t paying any attention whatsoever to Coach’s instruction. He seemed to be day-dreaming. In fact he wasn’t. He was watching the girls’ field hockey practise. L.B.S.S.’s lone playing field was divided into three sections during practise time. At the east end were junior football players frantically learning the game. At the west end was the senior team showing off and squeezed into the middle were the field hockey girls.
Fortunately for Coach Johnson it was only a practise. Forty or so girls perpetually bent over wearing those short field hockey skirts is enough to distract an entire football team. Field hockey ‘kilts’-as they call them-every father sends his daughter off to high school so she can dress like a $60 hooker. As it was the field hockey were only distracting the tall, skinny kid and Scottie who had stopped doing his five hills after one. He was hoping that no one noticed.
“Stretch” called out Coach not knowing the kid’s real name. “Come over here and let White show us how to stop your progress.”
“Stop my what?” asked Stretch to himself after he realized that Coach was talking to him. He more or less stayed where he was.
“Come on out here.” continued Coach and the tall, skinny kid mechanically obeyed.
“On the whistle go.” yelled Coach who then blew his whistle immediately.
“Umph.” said Lyndsey Baggott as she whacked a field hockey ball. It went past the goalie in the make-shift goal of cones and into football territory.
Ignoring where he was the tall, skinny kid looked for the origin of the noise.
“Grrr.” said Jordan White as he took off.
“Umph” said White as he hit the totally unprepared tall, skinny kid, driving back five yards.
“Ooooooh” said the tall, skinny kid as all the air in his lungs escaped.
“That’s what I’m talking about.” said Coach. “That’s a textbook tackle.”
“We’re tackling textbooks, now?” said Scottie who had returned from running his hill. “Maybe if we played against textbooks we could win a game.”
“I think we’d better call 911.” said someone after having a look at the tall, skinny kid.
When the tall, skinny kid came to, Lyndsey Baggott had her lips firmly over his. Her long blond hair was falling over his face. He could look down her top-she wasn’t wearing a bra- and see her breasts heaving with every breath she was giving him. This excellent state of being continued for an undetermined period of time. Was he dead? Was this heaven? He could almost hear harp music.
But what was this pounding on his chest? He looked around for the source. OMG it’s Coach Johnson hammering his fist down. He is covered in sweat. He looked back to Lyndsey, only it’s not Lyndsey. It’s Coach Tanker, the girls’ field hockey coach. The forty-something, somewhat masculine girls’ field hockey coach giving the breathing part of CPR. And the harp music he could almost hear is the laughter of the other football players. Only Lyndsey Baggott, who is really there appears to care that I’m dying.
“I’m okay.” protested the tall, skinny kid as he jumped to his feet.
“Whoa, there Stretch. Let’s have a look see before we go any farther.”
“Coach, no seriously. I’m okay. I just need to sit down a bit.”
“Coach. That really was a textbook tackle, eh?” Scottie just couldn’t keep quiet.
“Shut up, Scottie.” said Jordan White. If you looked into his eyes, you might say that a little of the usual cockiness was absent.
“Here let me help you.” said Lyndsey, forgetting about the ball that she had come over to the football practise to get. She held his hand and helped in over to the bleachers where she sat down with him.
“If getting tackled by Jordan White gets me noticed by Lyndsey Baggott, he can do that to me everyday.” thought the tall, skinny kid as he checked for missing teeth.
Set in present day rural Ontario, Granite and Chalk tells the story of a high school overwhelmed by innovation. Its staff, from the naive newbies to the jaded veterans just want to be left alone to teach like they know how. But education has become a political ping-pong ball to be used to further the careers of bureaucrats and politicians. So the students of Lord Byron Secondary School are marked according to how smart they look. If that causes a problem, they can talk to the dog in Guidance.
The cast of characters is broad, from a Principal determined to bring back God to a history teacher who burns books. In between is a football team who prays to Allah…just in case, a group of good girls who demand the right to fail and a superintendent who talks to the little round buddha sitting on his desk and who hears the buddha answer.
In the face of this insanity Jason Ryan, a young and still innocent teacher believes he can fix everything if only he can talk to the Minister of Education. To do that he is prepared to use everything in his power from singing telegrams to kidnapping and murder.
But don’t fear. There’s also an expert from the United States who knows how to fix everything that’s wrong with the modern school: he blows the buildings up.
Have a go at chapter one and if you like what you read, write me a comment.
James Russell was born in Toronto, but asks that people not hold that against him. He was very young at the time. After having studied at Carleton, York, Queen’s and the Université de Rennes in France, he ended up teaching French in Sydenham, Ontario for more than twenty years. Finding there were no more verbs left to conjugate, he moved on to another career as a writer. He has explored several media including washroom graffitti, notes to his children’s teachers, the occasional naughty limerick and stern letters to the editor of the Kingston Whig-Standard. Granite and Chalk is his first novel.
He currently lives in Sydenham with his wife, their three sons and three cats.