The End

Chapter 43

Men Must Either Be Caressed or Else Annihilated

Following an eternity of questions and helpful advise, which very quickly morphed into accusations and threats, you and I finally managed to establish our senior schedules in spite of our supposed "guidance" counselor's assistance. Two weeks into the first semester, Ms. Rose at last had allowed us into the class we needed for graduation: Government and Economics. However, as we were Independent Study, the two weeks worth of make-up work was not entirely over-whelming. In fact, Mr. Pyre, our teacher allowed us to spend the majority of class time sitting in the History Office and copying notes from his laptop. The only unnerving part of this "treat" was the occasional pedophilic History teacher who would feel obliged to sit in the office with us.

Worse than the pedophilic teachers was the pedophilic student teacher. At first, we did not suspect him of being anything more than interested in helping us with our independent study. He instructed us to buy Machiavelli's The Prince, and from it, you and I were to independently study. For this purpose, you and I managed to persuade Ms. Farr to allow us to utilize the BAR, where, consequently,we spent most of our first periods until the book was finished. Pushing Machiavelli upon us was his only decent achievement.

His attendance soon became irregular due to, as he said, his night job as someone's cook and butler. When we inquired about our studies, he gave us his cell number, which was not as odd as the way he signed it-Geoff. Feeling a bit disturbed by this, you and I consented to call him Mr. Geoff, and the name stuck.

We made the mistake of calling him from your cell once, practically giving him your number. Mr. Geoff apparently took a fancy to you, feeling at liberty to call you, especially after the semester's close. Even now, he occasionally harasses you at work. I guess that is what you get for turning legal during your senior year.

The most distressing experience of our entire senior year occurred in this class, and you and I were required to write a term paper on it: the Denfer County Commissioners Meeting. From the rain that insisted on drenching us as we walked to the meeting to the pointlessness of the agenda discussed during the meeting to the massive commissioner who apparently felt his true calling in life was to be a sailor, inhibited only by the unfortunate, inconsiderate location of the ocean (a), all of it destroyed any faith in the current leadership of Denfer County and any remote desire to enter into politics of any sort. And that was just the Government part of our final.

While learning to balance our budget in the Economics portion, we, the class, individually chose a stock, "invested" $10,000 in it, and kept track of our earnings: That was the other half of our final.

Unlike the first half, this project was at least amusing. You chose to purchase Hershey stock, as the time of selection was just before Halloween, whilst I chose a completely random stock by the name of Bluegreen Corporation, which focused in resorts and land. Had I actually invested the $10,000, I would have made a profit of almost $3,000 in the span of one month.

(a) The massive commissioner replaced the "yes" used by all the other commissioners with the seafaring "aye," which is slightly overdramatic since Tennessee happens to be without ocean.

Chapter 44

Most Likely to Have the Attention Span of a Gnat

Once again, you and I found ourselves in that fateful room in E hall, sitting beside the fateful window (once we had removed Katy from it) and listening to old Treebeard. For the first month, I really tried to listen. I did, but my intentions failed to survive against the harsh conditions spawned by Mr. Garrett's monotone voice. I finally resolved to teach myself. Mr. Garrett had given up on you after Algebra II, and your motivation persisted no longer than two weeks before it surrendered to the reality of your attention span-that of a gnat. It was an act of God that you passed that class.

Impressively, however, your microsecond attention span was longer than most spans in the class. Rachel Cooke and her boyfriend had the shortest; they were eye-locked before they entered the room. To write of the alternate extremity, Alan Sharpe had the longest attention span I have ever witnessed in a math class. In fact, Mr. Garrett taught him and him alone. Everyone else was somewhere in the middle of passing the class because of their own ingenuity, passing the class because of someone else's ingenuity, or not passing the class at all.

Very few distractions disrupted the balance of Pre-Cal. That is to say, very few occurrences caused the class to be distracted from their individual distractions. One was Mr. Garrett deciding to mutter about infinity. This would not have been altogether unusual except that while he muttered, he felt the need to trace infinity's infinite, invisible zeroes with his finger along the walls of the classroom. A casual observer would have thought the man had lost his mind and decided to shoot down a fly with his finger (b).

A second was Katy tipping over her desk. I am not quite certain how she managed to do that, considering she was not at all influential in weight compared to the desk, but she did. One minute the class was happily ignoring Mr. Garrett's lecture, and the next thing we knew…Wham! Katy was lying in an entwined heap with her desk on the filthy floor.

A third was Mr. Garrett randomly announcing his heart surgery. Never had that class been so silent. One could have actually heard a pin drop until someone began "Ohh"ing. Everyone else just stared at the man. You and I pitied him, but as we could have done nothing, we nonverbally noted that there was a reason for retirement. He should have quit while he was ahead.

(b) The majority of the class, who had focused their thoughts elsewhere until the sudden, circular movement, certainly thought so.

Chapter 45

Out, Out Brief Candle

I taught English 12, and I blame the daily grammatical exercise, the DOL, Mrs. Pierce forced upon us. For me, this was generally not the thought-provoking challenge it was supposed to be, and you were okay with most of it. Amanda, whom we met in French, was up to the daily assessment as well, but for the rest of the class, it was more than they could handle. We had found ourselves in the world's dumbest class. English was not, to say the least, rural America's strongpoint.

It was during one of these DOLs that I walked into an open door, and I regretted it for the rest of the semester. The DOL spoke of Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte Darthur and of the title's Italian descent. Having taken three semesters of French, I felt I should be able to recognize the French language when I saw it. On the back of the DOL, I corrected this misunderstanding mainly to satisfy my offended conscious. I was not counting on her actually reading it.

Mrs. Pierce not only read it, but she also announced thiscorrection to the class. From that moment onward, any time she decided to stress an important point, she would always turn to me-sometimesin mid-sentence-and say, "Isn't that right, Ashely?" Anytime someone failed to grasp a random concept, it was always, "Ask Ashely." Ashely was not happy with the situation.

I suppose some might find that to be ego stroking; however, those flung at my attention wanted a servant rather than a teacher. Besides, they already had a teacher, someone paid to shove grammar down involuntary throats, and it was not I.

Neither was I a student teacher. Ms. Brimley had that joy. In a way, you and I felt sorry for her. Then we remembered she chose this line of work, and returned to the previous state of intolerance for the student teacher's optimism. They all begin that way, but never does this ignorant state last, and our class-without our support-ensured that Ms. Brimley would be no exception.

Two specific activities in this class merit documentation. One was the group project completed during the second six weeks. You had the misfortune of working with Jared Abbot. This project required each group to make a class presentation for a randomly assigned topic. What was Jared's contribution? Presenting the origin of the word "fuck:" Fornication Under Consent of the King.

Two was reading Macbeth. The only drawback to reading Macbeth was that Ms. Brimley had invaded and was teaching. We not only read the play aloud, but we also were forced to incorporate a random scene into a group project. You, Amanda, and I did the best we could with the three witches.

Chapter 46

I Need Guidance

Mrs. Redwood and Mrs. Wright were sad to see you and I leave our office duties during the first semester, but they allowed it because we promised we would return to them. And return we did. Little did we know that we would be utilized by every official department: the Main Office, Guidance, Attendance, and even the library. We also ran copies, graded, and typed the Honor's Banquet and Graduation bulletins for Mme. Bishop. It was a busy semester.

In fact, before you and I had transferred into Government/ Economics the first semester, the Main Office was packed with people, mostly overspill from the undivided "Guidance" side of the room. We were running errands as usual, trying to direct this poor woman to the Cafeteria. However, somewhere amongst the throngs of people (c), we lost her. It was our first day, and we had just lost someone. What an omen.

Still, most of the duties were routine. The phone calls, for instance, never ceased and even became more ridiculous as the semester toddled onward. Once, you actually answered the phone to hear, "I need to tell you that won't be at school today because he got covered in poison ivy. I told him not to go rompin' through them woods, but he did anyway…" I cannot imagine the self-control it required to suppress the reflexive laughter as you gave her the number to Attendance.

We seemed to hang quite a deal more posters than the previous year. On one such excursion, it began snowing. You, Blake Pasmure (a), and I ran about outside, throwing snowballs and catching colds. The secretaries cast us a knowing look, but they said nothing. I guess our flushed faces, as well as snow-sprinkled hair and clothing, gave us away.

Guidance, as I mentioned, used our services quite a bit, especially Ms. Rose. For a woman who had to deal with our wrath at the beginning of every school year, she depended heavily on us. Not her aides, mind you. She had two of them, a happy couple, Julia Warble and Franklin Kyle, but she scurried to us for rounding up those students who were going to fail the twelfth grade and did not know it yet.

For this, and many other reasons, you and I made nametags that read as follows:

Insert name here

Proud member of the Pony Express

It is rather distressing to note that the only unsuitability in this title was the fact that we lacked the funding to use actual horses. They would have made our rainy trips to the Central Office a bit quicker.

(c) A mass of people can never be in just one mass; it is always in a swarm of masses.

(a) He never went to his first period Gym class and instead spent his time in "Guidance," which in turn meant he spent a lot of time harassing us.

Chapter 47

Smiling Mannequins

The necessity for an honor class drove you and me to depths of bubbly, optimistic insanity, a.k.a., Anatomy and Physiology. To be a nursing student (or teacher), according to what you and I observed in that class, one must be incredibly happy, incredibly blonde, or mostly, incredibly both, not to mention incredibly social. Group activities were a daily occurrence, typically involving teamwork and far too much physical contact for our liking. Since we were in an honor class, we even played with toys to illustrate the body's "defense system." This atmosphere to us was like a crucifix to the flesh of a demon: excruciatingly painful. Worse than that were two details of the class-Mrs. Stacey's determination to "win us over" and the mannequins' presence in that room.

The cheerful disposition of our teacher, Mrs. Stacey, did not allow her to understand that the world was not a happy place and neither were the people in it, particularly the two darkly dressed seniors seated at the end of the enormous U and separated from the rest of the class by a few empty spaces on my right. She tried everything to include us in the fun-filled environment, but she succeeded only in making the task harder for herself, forcing us further into a state of seclusion and resentment.

You were an easier target than I was; you always have been the nicer, more tactful person. However, she found it very difficult to pry so much as a smile from my face, partially because my lips naturally turn downward and partially because I am very stubborn. I told her I would not succumb to her ways, and succumb I did not. But she never gave up. Even in the end, when everyone received a certificate for being in HOSA (b) they tried to conjure something positive they could put on my certificate. It was amusing to discover what they thought of me. I was apparently most likely to develop "robots to complete all my tasks so I do not have to be around people-unless I want to." I could live with that.

The mannequins in the nursing room where A and P was held bothered me, but despite my severe dislike for them, I managed to stay in the same room, and while I have this irrational disdain for inanimate, humanly detailed dolls, it is not an irrational fear (c). Nevertheless, the mannequins' presences made A and P a very challenging course, especially since Mrs. Stacey incorporated them into many material-related activities, such as identifying body parts. I refused to look them in the vacant eyes, much less handle them. You finally had one on me.

(b) We were forced to join the medical club to be in the class.

(c) Probably the most irrational fear I have ever encountered was Kimberly Fairfax's phobia of balloons. Birthday balloons were a big no-no in the BAR during our freshman and sophomore year.

Chapter 48

How to Hang a Sign

Physics was supposed to be a "smart class," a class in which intellectual giants exert their ingenuity, mediocre pretenders exert their charm, and yielding friends of either group are just along for the ride. From this class of supposed reputation, one should learn useful bits of information such as how fast cue balls travel before collision, at what angle a sign should be hung from a building so that the supporting cables have equal forces, and the highest point reached by a projectile shot from a specific distance. Unfortunately, or else fortunately, Ms. Gorge taught the class, which was very small (nine people) due to the unwritten label that hangs over it. This being the case, Ms. Gorge did many labs with our class.

All the labs were grouped boys against girls save for the egg drop, and none is worth recalling save the egg drop. The object of this lab was to construct a protective case, weighing within a certain range and consisting of certain materials, for an egg, which would be dropped from several stories from the Gym's stairwell. You, Rosa Margen, and I, the only seniors amongst the six juniors, were one team; Davido (a) and Seth Kirkland were a another team; Katie North and Anna Kaparthy were a third team; and Alan Sharpe and Clark Mann were the "best" team. From inclining altitudes, the eggs were dropped. Sadly, Alan and Clark, who put so much effort into their egg case, lost their egg to the distance between the first story and the ground. You could see the tears in Alan's dejected eyes as he beheld his egg's innards seeping into the concrete.

Ms. Gorge thought of our class as a guinea pig. The woman, who was a very…boisterous person to begin with, felt that she could have heart to hearts with our little group instead of having class. Thus, on occasion-usually after tests-you, Seth, Davido, Alan, Katie, Clark, Rosa, Anna, and I dragged our desks into a circle-like arrangement and talked about problems, both classroom-related and personal, although the latter was always done by Ms. Gorge.

These discussions usually began as classroom-related, and through a digression of interest, generally ended in Ms. Gorge relating her current family crisis.

"How did the test go yesterday?" Ms. Gorge would ask (b). "Anything you didn't understand?"

Crickets would chirp in some far away land before Ms. Gorge would look at you and Seth.

"Did you two have any questions?"

You and Seth would exchange glances. "We don't understand it."

"What don't you understand?"

"All of it," you would answer.

"How can you not understand it?" a frustrated Alan would question you. His intellect would be in the way of his understanding of not understanding. "It's simpler than the stuff we did in Pre-Cal!"

"I don't understand that, either," you would answer.

The frustrated Alan would groan, and silence would follow.

"Well, how about you David?"

Ms. Gorge turned to silent student of paternal Japanese descent. A blank stare would emerge from his rather large eyes, followed by a reptilian-like blink. He was a wrestler and a track and fielder (Alan encouraged the latter); he never cared for academics.

"Well, I think…" Anna would begin.

"Shut up, Anna," The previously silent Davido would speak. "Nobody cares."

"David, you're so mean."

Anna, the maternally Hungarian student, would squeal and slap Davido's arm.

"Yeah, David," Katie, the offensive sister of Bonny's on-again-off-again boyfriend, would feel the need to lecture. "You should be nicer to her. And why don't you want to study…"

Once she would realize that everyone-except Ms. Gorge, who would be apparently pleased with the participation in her discussion-was mimicking the Davido Stare and was focusing it on her, she would stop. After several moments of silence, Clark would make his voice heard.

"Why can't we all just get along?"

Glares from you and me.

"Well, I'm glad we can talk." Ms. Gorge would say, oblivious to the fact that we would rather not. "Me and my mom can't even do that…"

And without so much as a breath, thus would enter the personal problem.

Rosa and I rarely spoke during these discussions for two reasons. One, we were rarely addressed, and two, we had no desire to interrupt the disorder of the situation. Chaos is a vengeful creature when disturbed, and we knew better.

One of the more interesting projects was Safety Week. As Ms. Gorge was the teacher sponsor of everything the Main Office could spit at her, she was inevitably stuck with this, too. Alan and Clark enjoyed skipping class to play dress up in Crash Dummy costumes and to wander around in the cafeteria handing out pamphlets: The rest of us were disturbed, but at least someone enjoyed it.

Due the size of the class-and to Ms. Gorge's healthy appetite-our class accomplished many feedings. On Thursdays, Ms. Gorge would order us to take two lunches, sometimes three, because of their being Chicken Nugget and Macaroni and Cheese Day. A few of the other days ended that way also. Our class would also feast, from time to time, on Pizza or Chick-fil-a, thanks to her sponsoring Student Council, but we would always take our scheduled lunch so Ms. Gorge would not be seen not eating.

Probably the single oddest "advantage" to being in Physics this year was the trip to Erlanger. It was originally intended for the Health Occupations Class, but for some unknown reason-I believe it was the dynamics of the helicopters-Ms. Gorge pulled a few strings and strongly encouraged our class to attend. It was easy to decipher who were the Physics students and who were leaning toward a career in health services: We segregated ourselves. Beginning with the bus ride there, the Physics class, with an exception of Anna, sat as one in the middle of the bus. We listened to the prerequisite explanation of the hospital, playing with the free can holders and pens, from one table, and we took the tour as one group. It was nice to be rid of Anna, and if we could have murdered Katie and stuffed her body in one of the many large machines, you and I would have been even more satisfied with the conditions of the trip.

My favorite part of the hospital was the amputee ward. The nurse who greeted our group displayed an appropriately eccentric sense of humor, and the leeches were awesome. Nevertheless, the boys more enjoyed the tour of the helicopter and the launch pad: Boys and their toys, I suppose. You and I were unhappy to have our souls stolen while standing in front of the flying contraption. Ms. Gorge could have lived without her picture.

(a) Davido was thus named as a shortened version of his real name, David Ido.

(b) She did not like to come to class on test day.

Chapter 49

Le Cercle Du Français

Originally, a French I and II alone existed. Due to your and my interest at the end of French II, French III sprang forth. Due to several individuals' interest (c) at the conclusion of our junior year, French IV and V was added to III. And due to our frustration with our schedules, you and I founded South Denfer's first French Club in many years. Thus, with the sponsorship of Mme. Bishop, Le Cercle Du Français was born.

You and I gave the infant club into the capable hands of Amanda, naming her President. You and I, being the founders, were Vice Presidents. Other members included Bonny, three other girls from the first and second year class, two boys from French IV, and Katy Labwell, the only non French-speaking (Spanish) student in the club.

Although attendance was small the first year, we had a lot of fun: feeding, climbing in and out of the window, feeding some more, playing French card games, spraying cheese into one another's mouths, discussing fundraisers and Mardi Gras, and feeding again. We did a lot of feeding.

Surprisingly, our legacy lived on. The year after you and I graduated, Le Cercle Du Français had over twenty members. It was our greatest contribution to high school: providing an alternative to the Spanish Inquisition and a place to eat freely spray cheese.

(c) We were a part of that interest, but our schedules prevented our taking them.

Chapter 50

The End

It was unfortunate that Mme. Bishop was in charge of the Honors Banquet: We could not weasel our way out of going. Since I was pulled out of A and P that fateful day (for which I was grateful) and informed with Rachel Anne glaring at me that I was the 2005 Salutatorian (of which I was grateful for neither the glaring nor the achievement), I had been dreading the day I would have to do something about it. The Honor's Banquet was just one step closer to speaking at Graduation.

It was also very boring. Everyone and his or her brother-they were a sexist group of people-felt the need to speak. Among the longest and most pointless were Principal Berner and Director of Schools Mr. Landing. Peter Churchill, Valedictorian and recipient of every award known to South Denfer (better he than I), spoke frequently throughout the entire banquet. He was a decent sort, but he was one of those decent sorts that made you ill because he was so decent. Therefore, when he made a comment about the football team during his speech, your father took vicious advantage of it. To Peter's mention of his fervent prayer for South Denfer's football team to go to Finals, your dad retorted, "He must have been praying to the wrong God." I cannot say my dad appreciated your father's sense of humor, but you and I found it rather amusing.

It was a dark and stormy morning, Graduation morning (a). I could count on one hand the number of times that I had driven alone before that morning , and I was driving to the 9 am meeting through a lake of water that had decided to migrate onto the road while practicing my speech, which required my eyes to abandon the road in search of the words. It was amazing I arrived at the school at all.

When I did arrive, the rain showed no mercy. I trudged through the lake, which was following me, into G hall to rendezvous with you in the Band Hall. Our hair was disheveled, clothes wet, and did I mention we were wearing white? The incompetent fool who decided honor students should wear white should be tarred, feathered, and drug through the streets from the back of a disgruntled horse. White is not my favorite color, especially when it happens to be raining. As you and I passed under the awning on our way to the classrooms to be organized and checked-off, we became aware of the rain's sudden cessation, and Irony laughed.

In E hall, you and I parted paths, and each entered her designated classroom. The restless seniors sat, stood, groomed, and conversed for a good half an hour before a teacher entered each room and ordered "Cap and gowns on." This task took a good fifteen minutes to complete, and by that time, the rain decided to make a comeback. The teachers swept through the rooms echoing a frustrating "never mind." Graduation was postponed until the rain decided to stop, which finally occurred as time approached 10:30 am.

One final time, the seniors crowded into A hall to await the cue that would send us on the march to the stadium. I stood behind Peter in the front of the line, listening to Jared Abbot make ridiculous comments (b). After a local newspaper reporter stole the souls of Peter, Rachel Anne, and I, that long awaited cue arrived, interrupting Walt Ranes' running about, shaking hands, and shouting "Congratulations" in Hebrew.

Down the road toward the stadium marched the talkative seniors. I was silent, taking in the moment and reminiscing about football games and uniforms, when I heard the familiar, yet oddly foreign, tune of "Pomp and Circumstance" dissolving into the air. For three years, you and I had played that song, and for the first time, we were able to hear how it sounded…and then we promptly blocked it out.

The seniors inched forward, eager get it over with. Inches grew into feet, feet into yards, and yards into meters. The chairs in which we had been placed the preceding Thursday awaited our arrival, and slowly, we arrived, continuing to stand even after everyone reached their seats for what was supposed to be The National Anthem. Thankfully, however, that cup passed from us, and a boisterous teacher asked us to be seated so he could welcome us…

…And everyone else. He might as well have addressed everyone individually for all the time he took, and he probably would have if he had been given a list of everyone's name. Finally, after the welcoming was completed, an invocation was said, and the congratulatory remarks began, first by Berner-who read the speech Mrs. Wright had written for him-and second by Mr. Landing-who surprisingly did not quote Aristotle. This took an eternity, and while the Important People spoke, the seniors grew restless. I had to deal with Jared's underdeveloped sense of sarcasm on one side and Peter's overdeveloped sense of optimism on the other side. I felt like the cartoon character with a dumb devil on one shoulder and a bright angel on the other, and I wanted out of the cartoon.

At last, student speeches began. Walt Ranes, Class Representative, had the honor of going first. I was proud of the Walt; his speech clearly displayed his personality and offered some amusement. I was next.

I was, I will admit, a bit intimidated by size of the audience seated before me. Our graduating class alone was huge-though it should have been much larger-but the number of relatives in the stands was astronomical. Never have I seen so many people in one setting, and they all had to listen to me. I actually felt sorry for them, sitting there unaware of the sarcasm they were about to hear, but once I began my speech, that pity morphed into resentment.

I know I have an expansive vocabulary. As I will only use words whose definitions provide the perfect match to my meaning, the thesaurus has always been my friend and has resulted in an expanded horizon teeming with words. It was easy to forgive the seniors for failing to understand my language; I knew what sort of education they had just received. However, the adults, families in the stands and teachers on the field, they should have known better.

I became aware that day just how uneducated Langwood truly is. For such a massive audience, it was so silent during my speech that one could have heard a pin drop on the field's grass. I heard the individual intellectuals of the group chuckling at my sarcasm: I could hear individuals laugh! The number of people who understood my speech was roughly 1/50, and the sad part was I forced myself before hand to "dumb down" my words.

My address was a thank you to you for sharing this miserable experience with me, and a middle finger to the school for bringing this miserable experience upon us. It was a brief review of everything I have written in this memoir, and to that end, I have decided to include my speech for both your humor and a reminiscent summary:

It seems rather odd to find myself standing upon a stage behind a podium to deliver this very speech to a multitude of people seated before me. Although this achievement was not a particular aspiration of mine, I suppose God must find some ironic humor in my present circumstance. On the evening of May 19, 1981, my mother was, in a similar fashion, seated before her own multitude with, as Fate would have it, the earned title of Salutatorian. Luck, however, must have befriended her, for, much to my envy, she was not required to deliver a speech-the consequence of a guest speaker.

Understanding myself to be shunned by such luck, I have resolved to share in descending order fifteen simple laws of living and understanding which have been emphasized by my memorable journey through high school. A few of the chosen fifteen may be recognized as familiar aphorisms whilst the remainders were derived far more originally.

15.) The firsts of anything, though a tremendous breakthrough, are always deprived of the conveniences of those to come.

14.) Be ever cautious of the wishes you make; Fate may just humor himself to fulfill them.

13.) One day will cause you to remember this and laugh. For approximately 95 of all experiences this can be said. The remaining 5 fails to bring nearly as much amusement.

12.) There will always be some who either cannot or will not appreciate the creative mind.

11.) Food is not merely the key to a man's heart; it is also quite welcomed among teachers and can be held responsible for many truces and temporary alliances.

10.) Squirrels are curiously evil creatures…and the underlying cause of many less-than-satisfactory grades when viewed from the window of an Algebra II classroom.

9.) At times, it is as equally productive to pretend to comprehend something, as it is to actually grasp it.

8.) Will Rodgers once said, "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." To portray a literal example of the frightening truth of said quote, imagine yourself attempting to pass through A hall during a class change…I trust the relevance is self-explanatory.

7.) Awesome truly is an awesome word (and awesomely fun to say).

6.) One will never quite realize the necessity of something until it is gone-the ceiling, for example.

5.) Common sense is not as abundant as the term might suggest. In fact, after spending two semesters as an office aide in addition to my regular courses, I am prepared to announce that periodically it nearly fails to exist at all.

4.) To provide a common hatred is the simplest method to generating unity within any particular group of people; however, it is to one's great disadvantage to bear the occupation of popular animosity.

3.) Smart people often do incredibly stupid things. To this I may well testify.

2.) Oddities happen. During such events, it is always in one's best interest to avoid asking the almost involuntary question "Why?" In cases such as these, ignorance truly is bliss.

1.) "Do not be sheep!" exclaimed my vexed Geometry teacher. "Think for yourselves!" Although his actual intention for this decree was to motivate my classmates to complete the assignment individually, the mathematician exemplified with his analogical reprimand an essential truth. Be yourself. Live and understand as an individual, and your journey through high school will have indeed been of great emphasis to your future.

I shall conclude with this Russian proverb: Love many, and trust few, but always remember to paddle your own canoe.

Peter's speech was directly after mine, and thankfully, he was not overly optimistic and included some humor. When he sat down, we congratulated one another and prepared to take The Walk. Once Ms. Rose finished her "I've been with these students for four years" speech, the time finally came. Peter and I stood up, leading the sheep behind us to line up at the stage.

I followed Peter onto the stage. The Valedictorian handed Berner a poster that read, "We're stuck on you" and promptly stuck onto the poster the gum he was chewing. Laughing and fighting the urge to "accidentally" miss the poster, I stuck my gum in a corner by itself.

As I walked down the ramp, I wanted very much to spit in hand before I shook the School Board members' hands, but again, I controlled myself. I rejoined Peter standing before his chair, and there we stood, laughing at those who adorned the poster with their gum and feeling offended by those who were too good for it (Rachel Anne). After an eternity of only a few letters of the alphabet, our section (I believe you were behind me somewhere) was allowed to sit.

We sat for a very long decade before the "diplomas" were all finally handed out (c), and Tiffany Pageant commenced the changing of the tassels. Peter, not knowing when to throw his cap, sent it soaring into the air before the unofficially designated moment, recasting it at the appropriate time.

The boisterous teacher made his closing remark-"Go Bears!"-and at last, we were free. More caps soared through the air, people ran screaming from the stands, Katy and Bonny mauled me, and the smarter Band students fled the scene. You and I shed our caps and gowns the moment freedom rang, but you were commanded to redress by your brother and your sister-in-law for a soul stealing.

After everyone had their way with us, you and I turned our backs on the stadium that had been our Friday night dates for so long, and scampered through the mass of cars to reach the buildings. We dropped off our accessories in the BAR and hastened our gait to reach the library before everyone else, for we knew what awaited those we procrastinated about their diplomas: freakishly long lines. We were in and out of the library in about 10 minutes and off to the BAR to wait for the crowd to disperse.

In the hour it took to leave, you and I said our goodbyes to the freaks that had occupied so much of our time. For the most part, we were not sad, we were grateful. Our time there was over, our work completed. Nevermore would we wander the campus in search of a place to hide. No longer would we need an agenda to use the potty. Our days of toil and misery were behind us, and our leashes removed. We were free.

(a) How appropriate for the morning of the end to begin like unto the ending of the beginning day: in sheets of rain.

(b) Ironically, Rachel Anne was angrier than I was about my having to hear the comments, albeit for a less compassionate reason: She wanted to be the one having to hear Jared's comments. However, since she could not have her mother change her grade in her Duel Enrolment course, as she originally planned, she wanted to settle for being lined in respect to rank, which did not happen either.

(c) Actually the diplomas were booklets into which the actual diplomas we had to fetch from the library went.

Growing up, one is told there is a moral to every story, something to learn from every experience. One is also misinformed that one is sent to school to get an education and not to focus on the boy (or girl, depending on one's gender and sexual orientation) in the desk next to one. However, this message has been mistakenly devised. One is sent to school to prepare one for Life. Textbooks cannot prepare one for Life; they can prepare one to give the right answer, make the right association, but they cannot prepare one for living.

From South Denfer, you and I adopted many new morals and discarded some old ones. We achieved our education and allowed our minds to wander to thoughts about the attractively quiet boy in the back of the room, but what we learned was that life is lived by interacting, or not, with those around us. Social skills are why children are sent to school; high school is nothing more than a miniature version of the Social Economic Status represented in this country.

But more important than the morals and the education and the social skills, what we learned in high school was when to stop. Thus, Heather, in those times of living, when the world is against you and even you are considering switching sides against yourself, remember what you once told your church congregation during your talk on perseverance: "Sometimes, you just have to say, 'Well, fuck,' and go on."