Friday, June 12, 2009

Good Girl, Bad Boy

Three high school teachers were chatting in the Borders cafe over their blueberry scones and cappuccinos. Shelley said, "I really love my job...except when I hate it." Emma and Judy sighed, and nodded in agreement. "My biggest challenge this year was the same as always: keeping the good girls away from the bad boys. It seems that just as soon one of those 110% pure, nun's-pet kind of girls hits high school, she pauses just long enough to decide who is the most surly, foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, useless punk with the worst possible future, and then hurls herself at him with cries of rapture. I just don't get it."

"Romeo and Juliet," Emma said wisely, "Bonnie and Clyde...and GUARANTEED to drive her parents crazy."

Judy watched the cream belly its spirals through her dark coffee. After a moment she said softly, "I had a crush on a bad boy in high school."

"EEEEKKKKK!" "You didn't! Get out!"

"I did. Oh, don't worry, I didn't have the guts to speak to him. But he enthralled me. Shane was dangerous and wild, and dressed all in black.He was a dark boy--black-haired and black-eyed. He wore some kind of savage musky cologne. He had big cleats on his motorcycle boots, so you could hear him before you saw him. He raced trains on his motorcycle, cutting through the crossings a hair before the train barreled through. The teachers were AFRAID to give him detention slips. He would swagger into class late, in a fog of cigarette smoke and beer fumes. He had a big jackknife, which the teachers pretended not to see. He'd flick open the big blade and casually clean flesh tissue out from under his fingernails. His father was a butcher, and Shane helped him in the cutting-room.

"As for me, I was a maiden nerd who wore goofy spectacles, read a lot, and my aching heart bled for him under my Honor Society pin. This was the beginning of the Madonna era, and many girls in my class aspired to copy her Early Strumpet look, with ripped stockings, tight skirts and desperate hoochie hair. This horrified my mother. She dressed me in pink sweatshirts with kitties on the front, and cut my hair in a sensible bob. I died from mortification.

"I secretly watched Shane, and he watched the blond prom queen who sat across the aisle from him. He got her attention in bold ways. He'd let loose with thunderous belches, and when people looked at him, he'd solemnly point to Her Highness. I guess he found a painful pleasure in the shades of horror and revulsion passing across her fair features. Or he'd blow his nose, honking tremendously into a dripping snot-rag, and then stare into its folds with cries of incredulous wonder and delight, as though discovering rubies and emeralds. She would literally turn pale with disgust. He must have figured that, if he couldn't get her, at least he could make her sick.

"Did he graduate?" asked Emma, always the teacher.

"Of course not. He got expelled. He did two bad things in the same week. First, he got caught making out with his slutty girlfriend behind the school incinerator. Then, he and his goon friends got drunk one night and vandalized the library. He was only allowed to come back once, to clean out his locker. And that's when we had our one and only high school conversation. Somehow I got up the nerve to talk to him. I stuttered out a few words, something about how Home Room would seem boring without him. He smiled at me, really looked at me with those dark eyes. Then he said something I've never forgotten. He said, "I'm sorry about the library. It made my mom feel bad."

"What happened to him after that? Did he go to prison? Did he get shot?"

"Shane inherited his dad's butcher shop," Judy said. "He still reeks of smoke and beer, but he's a good butcher. My husband and I go there to get our steaks for cookout, and our Thanksgiving turkeys. And to this day, Shane teases me about school days. He says, 'I suppose you're still readin' up a storm?' as though he were talking about some wildly impractical, exotic activity peculiar to me. And he asks where he can find one of those cool pink sweatshirts with the kitties on the front, for his daughter Theresa. He calls it a Chastity Sweatshirt, and says it would go huge on eBay. Theresa is a good girl. She'll be entering high school this fall.

"Shane has a beer gut now, and that curly hair isn't as black as it used to be. But..." Judy looked down into her coffee, sighed and smiled, and said in a very quiet voice, "he's still pretty cute."

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, some of the "bad boys" of this day and age really are butchers before they get very far in high school. There was a poignancy about Shane becoming an ordinary member of the community.