Cha(p)ter 0ne:

Assignment

'S . E

Fact 1:

Pluto should have won that audition he pulled for the orange juice bottle cover shoot.

He was robbed, by that giant blob.

I've always hated the sun. It was always too bright, too happy, and I never did understand why it had to lie to everyone and call itself a star. 74% Hydrogen and about 24% of Helium doesn't make a solid rock.

Fact 2:

Singing at 4 a.m. in the morning the day after your best friend failed her Biology test should be considered a corporal crime.

"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt! His name is my name too…"

See? Even on paper it looks like it sounds: bad.

Rant:

It's strange how hearing your best friend murder a childhood classic can kill your day more than butterflies and gumdrops. I guess that's only because butterflies are pretty, and gumdrops can be thrown at people. Or, because no one really knows what a gumdrop looks like. My uncle has come up with a conspiracy that they're all made by the same company because bubblegum companies dislike competition.

"It's genius. They create a hard candy that's terrible for children. It damages your gums, and breaks your teeth. It even crushes your childhood. I ordered some for your birthday." He'd always decide he needed to tell me that before bed when he still lived with us.

Scarring his niece at age four quickly cost him that honor though, and he was shipped off to the western states that year. I haven't seen him since, and I don't know what to think about it.

Those were the days.

When I smelled like a daffodil, with Tide washing detergent sprinkled all over, and bounty fabric softener in between my toes, 'cause I couldn't wait to put my socks on before they were dry. In those days, things always smelled good when they were wet. Like mildew and paper bags, green grass, and potatoes. Fish sticks and grits, my all time southern favorite.

Yes, those were the days, when the sun didn't blind me; of course, those days are gone now. We're living in a near apocalyptic world.

Random question for the day:Are the life expectancies in the south significantly shorter due to premature exposure to the sun?

0101010101010101010

"Elle, what is this shite?"

I looked up from dunking a pez dispenser in my coffee to see my Journalism teacher glaring down upon me, his hands situated on his uneven, wiry hips. He came from across the water; I declared it my responsibility from day one to maneuver him in the correct American mannerisms. One: teachers do not slam hard-labored on articles on the desks of their students, causing coffee to spill directly on her lap.

"Teacher's aren't supposed to permanently scorch their students," I glared, picking up my article from my desk, "or curse. I could report you." He raised an eyebrow at my horrible attempt at a threat. I winced. "Or not."

He pushed aside my other papers, strategically landing directly beside my computer and dropped his feet on my lap. They weren't supposed to get this close to students either. Especially with muddy boots. I huffed and ignored him, looking over the article he had marked all over.

Why are you writing an article about the sun? Why is it called "Elle's Scene" when that's not the name of your column? This sentence sounds awkward. Do without these two sentences. Do without the whole paragraph. Just, scrap the entire thing. I'm having a word with you.

I felt like crying by time I deciphered between his red pen and my original words. Looking up at his impassive face, I whispered, "Was it really that bad?"

He sighed and brought his attention back to me. "Elle, I know you can do better than this. Hell, your essay Freshman year which got you into this class was better."

"That's not true. Everyone improves after freshman year," I said, frowning.

"That's true, and you did. The last two issues with your story featured show that. I was ready to send in one of your pieces to The Time, but then this happened." He crossed his arms across his chest. "What happened?"

I bit my lip, teasing the sores from where my coffee scorched me earlier. "I don't know."

He jumped off of my desk, and made his way over to his office, a small cubicle we bought for him last Christmas, telling me to find out. I called his name, making him turn back around.

"What if I can't?" I asked.

"Elle…don't make me think about that." He pulled an article from the wall and tossed it towards me, its thinness making it fall extremely short. "That's Zach's editorial. Read it. Be inspired. Become the Elle readers and I fell in love with, and do it by the paper's next deadline."

I gaped at him. That was in three days. I had barely scraped enough time by to get the "piece of shite" I had written earlier out of my brain, and Mr. Trent wanted a new and improved version on Thursday. I thought of protesting, but he was already seated, and the jacket was pulled, blocking him partially from view; he was out of the room. After picking up the editorial Zach wrote, I realized something extremely important: it was about horoscopes.

0101010101010101010

The lunch line moved along as I trudged tragically, letting the detention kids pile on whatever food they found suitable. It didn't matter too much to me—my life was over and it began with the little sleep I realized I would be receiving in the next few days because of the assignment Mr. Trent had given me. If Zach had read my article, I was sure he would have seen the inner genius within it, but there was a new policy on the paper requiring all articles to go through the teacher before they reached the editor. Completely inconsequential, but it was still implemented.

Jay and Olivia were already waiting for me at a table in the back, waving me down when they noticed I was almost out of the line. I made my way towards them, not heeding anything in my way, and tripped on a backpack lying haphazardly in the walkway. Miraculously remaining standing, I glared at the thing and its owner, both paying me no mind, and finished my journey. Slamming my tray onto the uncharacteristic orange table, I slid onto the bench and decided to see what was for lunch today. Staring back at me were breathing mashed potatoes, brown green beans and perfect bread. I knew which one item to avoid.

Olivia smiled sadly at my lunch and split her PB&J with me. I thanked her and gobbled it down with my water as aid.

"So," began Jay,"what'd Trent say about the article?"

She looked at me worriedly, her arched, blonde eyebrows scrunching up. Her hair was in waves today, loosely cascading down her shoulders. It was pretty.

"I like your hair today. It's very goddessy," I smiled. She blushed, thanked me, and then pressed me on the subject. I sighed. "He hated it."

"Oh."

"Well, what did he suggest?" Olivia asked.

"He gave me the editorial Zach wrote to read."

"Ouch."

"That's not bad at all," Jay disagreed. "He obviously liked Zach's for a reason. You should understand why so he can like yours too." I should have held back on that compliment.

"I already know why he likes Zach's more. He's a guy."

They rolled their eyes, not believing my reason at all. I started to explain how it was true when Zach suddenly appeared, deciding to sit next to me, despite the final seat on Jay and Olivia's bench.

"How's it going, guys?" He smiled at us, winking at me.

"Fine," I said, taking a rather large swig from my bottled water. Jay and Olivia greeted him more warmly, but I didn't really care. He wrote about horoscopes, Mr. Trent loved it, but I couldn't write about the sun? What kind of world did we live in?

"You never usually sit with us. Where are your other multi-talented friends?" Jay joked.

Zach was half of a modern Renaissance man. He was editor-in-chief of the school paper, president of the drama club, and a member of the band. Not necessarily the most popular oriented activities, but they would look good on his college application. There was something about him that made me not like him, though.

He laughed. "They're all in Death of a Salesman. I couldn't handle auditioning for too many plays this year. Band is pretty hectic."

"But as the drama club president, shouldn't you be in almost all of them?"

"Yeah," he chuckled nervously, "I guess you're right."

A silence fell between us, and Jay and Olivia sent me a look. Zach left after a few more minutes, and we had three remaining in lunch. Olivia was the first to talk.

"You didn't have to be such a bitch to him, Elle."

I frowned. "I only asked an honest to God question."

"It was more than that, and you know it," Jay added, regarding me coldly.

I held my hands up in defense. "No need to crucify me. I get it. I was a total diva. Won't happen again. Swear." I tried my hardest at the sweetest smile I knew.

Jay sighed. "Whatever. Did you even read his article?"

No. I focused my eyes on the table, toying with the cold and inedible food before me. She glared and kicked me from under the table. Olivia ran her hands through her dark locks and smacked me across the arm.

"What the hell, Elle?" I smirked at her rhyme. "Don't, even, laugh. Give it to me, I'll read it right quick."

I dug into my backpack and pulled out the article declared holy by Mr. Trent. Olivia took it eagerly and allowed Jay to read it as she did. Bored, I decided to glance around the cafeteria I had only recently began eating in once again. When I was a Freshman, during the first nine weeks of school, the cafeteria was the only place we were basically allowed to eat. Of course, I had never witnessed any so called "Freshman hazing," but I was extremely paranoid about watching a student get dumped into a waste bin, or end up in one myself. Thus, my friends and I stuck to the cafeteria. We dared to leave that room when Zach mentioned how he had a few Sophomore friends from band he hung out with, and if we hung out with or near them outside of the cafeteria, we would be fine. He was a pimply faced gangly teen then, and now he was still gangly, but lacked the pimples. Instantly, Jay, Olivia and he became friends. To me, he was a friendly acquaintance and nothing more; Junior year, that was not going to change.

Outside was more than we had ever thought it would be, residing in the cafeteria during our only free hour for the first half of our new life. There were two courtyards, a senior one, and one for the rest of the public, with benches scattered around another area without tables. In that area stood a gazebo, and that was where all of the band members, and creative artists enjoyed their solitude. Happy hour would consist of a random person playing a guitar piece, and a few girls joining in with singing. Sometimes a poet would speak a spoken word piece, and to me it felt like heaven. Creativity had its day and life in that small area tucked away from the school, and in there, I found my peace.

As the years went on, more people began to learn about our area, and pollutants destroyed what was once ours and made it public. I was truly one for sharing, but when something that is already shared becomes a means of privacy I think it should always remain a means of privacy, despite what anyone thinks. That brought me to why we were currently in the cafeteria. It looked like any typical cafeteria in any typical high school movie. There was only one regular lunch line, and then there was the snack line, where nachos and pizza were served. I found it pointless to spend money on such unhealthy food, but evidently not many people agreed because that line always remained booming. The walls were painted purple, with a yellow accent wall, and despite its boring atmosphere, it felt like a circus every time I walked inside.

I surveyed my fellow classmates, recalling faces I hadn't seen since Freshman year. Again, my school was like any typical high school; it had an average student body number. Jesse Scott sat a few tables away from me, and I smiled dreamily. His skin was perfection; it was naturally tanned due to his mixed heritage, with only a mole showing a glimmer of imperfection. This imperfection only made his beauty all the more authentic. Eyes like a crystallized waterfall stared at the girl in front of him, laughing melodically in tune with his chest, moving up and down with his different emotions. He began to shift his gaze to me, noticing a presence staring at him, and immediately, I decided to focus on someone else. A few tables away from Jesse, sat Zach, nestled away in a corner behind the cafeteria door. I had thought he left when left out table, but he only moved to a different table in the cafeteria. Alone. His limp, chestnut hair hung in his eyes, and he flipped it back to clear out his vision. Our eyes locked in a stationary battle.

"This is long," Olivia murmured, far away from where I now was, "I'll give it to you later today."

I nodded, not really keen on paying her too much attention. I had already dazed out from reality for the greater part of lunch, and I didn't completely feel as if I needed to continue the trend. I smiled weakly at Zach, silently asking for forgiveness I was not quite sure why I was requesting. I had done nothing more than express my opinion, but seeing him there, in a place surrounded by rowdy teenagers, in such a silent state, cracked my heart. A person walked in front of me, and I was unsure if he saw my smile. I considered doing it again, but then the bell rang. Within seconds, he was gone.


Olivia had returned the article during fourth period, an hour and a half before school ended, while we had nothing to do because of a sub, and I waited until I got home to read the editorial.

"Stars Move Students While Life Stands Still"

A chant composed by theatre buffs regards a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth with reverence: fair is foul, and foul is fair. If fair were foul and foul were fair, then life as we know it would prove to be more than difficult. Thus is a truth of this generation. This line is spoken by three Weird Sisters, witches, in the opening scene of the play and resonates the supernatural theme found encased in the entire play. Whether maddened by black magic or insanity, the witches were onto a significant concept regarding society; the double-helix of life, as some may call it, but more specifically, the juxtaposition of ideas. Good may become bad when initially it was regarded as good, or bad might be good.

In the American language, what is "good" for you has become acquainted with what is boring, while what is "bad" is thrilling, exciting, and encouraged by one's peers. The illusions of words were juxtaposed then even as they are now. Tenth grade English teacher, Ms. Avers finds that "This redefining of English words is tragic and should be taken care of immediately, lest we murder the language evolved so eloquently from barbarian-speak." She went on to discuss how this change should begin at schools, but first in the students, agreeing that students should be motivated enough to learn the true meanings of words and better themselves academically and culturally. When I suggested that first they must relinquish the hold the media has on their mindsets, she laughed, alerting me to the fact that"…students nowadays look at horoscopes for guidance more than they do Lindsay Lohan." Of course, her remark was in a jest, as she laughed shortly after, but it significantly transformed this article from focusing on the bastardization of the English language to understanding the motivation stars deliver for teenagers. Evidently, it's a lot.

"Ad astra per aspera" might mean to Kansas to take the higher road through struggles, not letting anything destroy travel, but to students, it truly means "to the stars through difficulties." One student commented on how she utilizes Facebook's Daily horoscope to check her fortune for the day, financial advice, romantic advice, and lucky numbers. "It truly saves your life from falling downhill," 9th grader Marcie King stated, while showing me her daily Facebook horoscopes. I was awed by this spectacle, not owning a Facebook or Myspace myself. Even so, after researching websites with teens participating immensely in discussions, fate succeeds, tragically, in depicting what we do in life.

Take this article as a small, short, advice column. What fate might regard as foul, might itself be fair. Forget about the English momentarily, and focus on the here and now, presently, yourself. If we all waited for fate, the stars, or the gods, whoever you might individually believe drives this world on, then life would stand still, with every rock passing it by. Because as a rock ages, it grows, as it erodes, it disappears, traveling through time and space, life and death, a far more complex route of travel than that by those guided by fate. Do not let any horoscope or fortune teller advise you to avoid wearing yellow, or use 5,52,16, and 32 for the lottery, as they are your lucky numbers. Let fate take a ride for once, and guide it through your life, the one you only have a shot at living once.

I am not a computer horoscope, fortune teller, or wizard, but I believe that if you truly take the correct meaning of "ad astra per aspera," then you will reach the stars without adhering to them, and find your way, bypassing any difficulties. While you're doing that, I'll be spinning around in circles, climbing ladders and other crazy things attempting to avoid the curse I brought upon myself the minute I typed Macbeth.

I placed the article gently on my bed, glared at it, and sighed. I needed to get out.


Author's note: This work is the sole property of this author, and anyone found plagiarizing will face the consequences.

-Tewr