Title: The Converse [pun intended]
Author: Leftcoast "So Fresh, So Clean" Punk
Censor: PG-11 [language and disturbing imagery]
Genre: Too bad 'shit' isn't a genre
Frankly, I would be quite happy for marching band tournaments every Friday but that's just me. This is in first person present tense. I don't think I've ever done this before. Ah well. "Mad props" to offloe for giving me the idea and suggestions. Okay, so I think offloe wanted more of a funny satire, but I wasn't up for it so there.

* * *

I know it as soon as I step into the office. The secretary is staring at me with condescension as I ask for a copy of my schedule. I wish she wouldn't. It's bad enough that I'm new here. I haven't done anything horrible, hell, I was a National Honor Society student at my old school. I smile and tell her thanks. As I leave, I see her mouthing, "Fucking daddy's girl." I pretend to ignore it.

I'm prepared to go to my fourth hour class [hey, it's my first day IN THIS TOWN, so I couldn't have been here in the morning], but I look out the main entrance window to see something that is too out-of-place to ignore. A group of people are around the flagpole. Someone is being attached to it, in fact. A blond boy in a jersey with duct tape over his mouth is thrashing as the others do their work, throwing punches to keep the kid in line. I squint and see that these people are using tape and cleaning snakes to keep the kid secure. Cleaning snakes? Those are what kids in band use to clean out trumpet valves or tuba valves or whatever they play. I frown and figure that the aggressors must have stolen the snakes from the blond kid.

I turn heel and go into my fourth period class, social studies. The vast majority of the students appear to be what one would label "punks", "skaters", and "goths", or a mix of said styles. There aren't a hint of the classic Abercrombie tank tops and sweaters. No one has long hair, unless it's up in a mohawk. Everyone has studded belts. Many guys have ripped pants, plastered in safety-pinned patches and band names. Same with the girls. I notice several pairs of those black horn-rim glasses. Everyone has either flourescent-hued hair or obviously dyed black hair. I doubt there is a naturally colored hair among them.

Okay, so there are two in the back, a girl and a guy. They are both brunette, neither one wearing plaid, studs or any form of bondage clothing. They're conversing with a guy with a blue mohawk, blue-and-black striped shirt, leather jacket with a million patches and pins and shit-stomping combat boots. Actually, it is more of a minuscule fight than a conversation. The blue-mohawk guy is laughing, calling them posers and telling them they can never be punk because they don't have the money. The brunette girl, wearing a baby-blue cardigan over a white tee and jean skirt, simply says that being punk rock is too high-maitenence and turns back to her copy of Seventeen magazine.

"Quiet, dudes," says the teacher. I hide my gasp. The teacher is a man, on the wrong side of forty, wearing plum lipstick and a dress. The black dress draped on his frame is hardly adequate in hiding his paunch. I consider myself to be fairly liberal, though the words "trend whore" immediately spring to mind. I dismiss the thought. His merit should be based on how he teaches, not how he dresses. "We have a new student here at Joey Ramone High. Won't you come up to the front of the room and say some stuff about yourself?"

I gulp and come up to the front of the room. "Hi..." I am at a complete loss of words. "Um... I moved here from Arizona, and..." From beneath the floppy hair hanging in their faces, it's apparent that the class doesn't care one bit. I'm feeling the full wrath of those stony stares. Judging me. Mentally ridiculing me. I wish more than anything that I could sink into the floor, so that they could walk on me as desired.

"What are some of your hobbies?" asks the teacher. I appreciate his efforts at trying to prod me.

"I was on NHS and JV cheer." I regret the words as soon as they come out. Two girls whisper to each other, gesturing at me. They pass along whatever funny comment it is and I see the stares turn into smirks and grins, not a drop of the earlier hatred disappearing.

"Ah. Well, you may take your seat." I mentally praise my effeminate teacher and sit back down. "As we were talking about yesterday, we're continuing our discussion of the pros and cons of anarchism and fascism. What they are, and examples of both."

I raise my hand. "Aren't those both a bit extreme to have pros and cons for?" I honestly couldn't think of a positive thing for either one.

"Shut up, you capitalist pig-bitch," says someone in the back of the room.

I don't turn around. "I hate to break it to you, but every time you go to the store to buy a new CD, that's capitalism in the works."

The kid doesn't respond before reverting to the two all-purpose words for when a statement is too difficult for Mister Anarchy. "Fuck you!"

I turn slightly to see the brown-haired girl hiding a chuckle. I smile at her and she doesn't respond. The next thirty minutes of class discussion are very one-sided. I don't even bother to make commentary. All I hear about is how the government is trying to bring us down, that the government is all some sort of fucking crock. I grow dizzy when I hear them talking about how the government is trying to push their fascist patriotic agenda into the schools. My classmates are whining about being oppressed. One girl went as far as to say that we should abolish religion. I am scared of these people. It's bright in the classroom with the standard fluorescent lights, but I feel like I'm trapped in a dark corner, with these nut jobs wielding the torches of anarchy.

The bell finally rings. I eagerly put on my backpack and head out the door, but someone grabs my backpack, stopping me. I spin around to see the girl from social studies staring at me intently. She isn't bad looking, with a round face and long sleek hair, but she is staring at me with an expression I can't place. Fear? Surprise? Pity? "You better watch it," she says tonelessly. Before I can respond, she is lost in a crowd of rowdy skate-punks.

I notice that not everyone is dressed up in punk-rock/goth/skate garb. There are several guys in dress shirts and ties skulking through the halls, cracking loud jokes and generally being obnoxious. These are the macho men that exist in every high school. "They must be on varsity football," I murmur, more to myself than anyone else.

"Varsity drumline."

I jerk my head to see the girl standing by me again. She smirks at my expression. "Marching band tournament today. Varsity football? You have got to be kidding. I think there's maybe 12 guys in this school on football." Her expression softens. "You're new here. I don't think they'll be that mean to you on the first day."

"OI! Found yourself a little girlfriend!" one of the muscled drummers in a white shirt and black tie screams at us.

The girl blushes. "Rot in hell," she calls cheerfully, raising a middle finger. She turned back toward me. "That's my dick of an ex-boyfriend. He plays quads for varsity drumline. Jerkoff." Her voice choked.

"With the snappy shirt and tie, he looks like he's about set to go out and sell some Bibles," I comment.

She laughs and immediately tries to hide it. "Let's hope they didn't hear you. You have lunch this hour?" I nod. We wander over to the cafeteria. There are no indoor hot lunches. The only option is vending machines; there is an entire wall full of candy and soda machines. She sees me staring in shock and says disdainfully, "This is what the student body wanted." I tell her that I'm not hungry, so we walk past the punks flinging food and the table of drummers in ties. My companion gets nailed on the shoulder with the gooey remnants of a Snickers bar, but she shrugs it off and keeps walking. We walk past the stairways, out the main entrance and across the street to her destination: the flagpole. The blond boy I saw on the flagpole earlier is still there. Now that I am up close to him, I can see the battering he took. He is screaming against the silver tape on his mouth, though stretched-but-not-broken snakes and tape show his attempts at trying to set himself free. The girl pulls out a pair of scissors from the back pocket of her backpack and cuts through the tape and snakes. The boy peels the tape of his mouth, still screaming.

"The marching band got me..." he wails, wrapping the girl in a hug.

"It's okay," she says, rubbing his back. Again, she notices me standing there. "This is my brother. He's a freshman on the football team. The brass players in the band hate his guts."

"They put Ben-Gay on the inside of my jockstrap!" the boy screams. Tears are trailing down his face, over a real winner of a bruise forming on his left cheek. It hurts to even look at him. "They did this to me yesterday. When are they going to kill me?"

"What's the worst that could happen?" I ask, trying to make him feel better.

He turns toward me. "They're gonna crucify me!" I stare at his sister, awaiting confirmation.

"Three years ago, there was a football player here who was magnanimous, made good grades, had friends and a wonderful girlfriend," she says softly. "A giant cross was nailed to this pole. A group of students attached the football player to it with sixteen-penny spikes through the palms and feet. He was beaten, his eyes were gouged and he was partially skinned alive, mainly the chest and throat." She cleared her throat. "Suspicions were raised but they never found out who did it. The case was dismissed seven months later; the principal even said something trite like 'Boys will be boys.' I was a freshman when this happened." She stares at her shoes. "That football player was my brother. They hate us. They hate us for not conforming to their nonconformist movement. I don't know why."

I pinch myself, hoping that this is an awful nightmare I will wake up from.

* * *

I'm not saying all football players are good, or that all punks are bad. Conversely, not all football players are bad and not all punks are good. I just wanted to reverse the roles with a darker twist. So don't flame me for ripping on punks and whatnot.