Monday, February 12, 2007

Feb Story - 4

[NOTE: This is part of a progressive story. The first entry is here. Check the blog label Feb07Story for all entries]

     Daniel walked out of his office and glanced towards the chair at the far end of the room. Blake had a notebook in his lap and was intently scratching at the paper with a pen. Daniel shook his head in wonderment. He knew Blake fairly well and couldn't understand why he would suddenly be having problems with tardiness. Blake was a great student who was always overly respectful to everyone and very ethical in everything he did. Daniel's best guess was that there must be something in Blake's personal life that is troubling him.

     As the acting Vice-Principal, Daniel would chat with him about his attendance and come up with some sort of plan to get Blake back on track, but if it turned out that there were problems at home, Daniel would have to send Blake on to the school counselor and hope for the best. He wasn't terribly fond of "Doctor Samuelson." He found it overly pretentious that she was so adamant about being called "Doctor" even by her peers at the school. For the most part, the faculty maintained a very casual and friendly atmosphere. But with Dr. Samuelson, everything was formal and proper. Daniel was certain she was good at her job, and he was sure that if it came down to it, Blake would interact well with her, especially considering Blake's own rigid behavior.

     Still, Daniel hoped for the best with Blake. A small part of him actually hoped that perhaps Blake was just experiencing a bit of natural teenage rebellion in trying to push the rules by being tardy. At the very least, it would show that Blake was still a kid, and not some robotic student, wholly focused on studies and rules.

     As he stepped closer, Daniel could hear Blake muttering under his breath as he wrote in his notebook. Daniel had never seen Blake this intense. His blond hair was frazzled, tossed in every direction. His eyebrows arched slightly and his brow wrinkled with concentration. His deep blue eyes staring strongly at the paper in his lap, their piercing gaze looking as though they were trying to analyze the very construction of the paper and the ink.


     As Daniel spoke his name, Blake looked up sharply, his eyes still focused and intimidating. Then, with a sudden sense of recognition, his eyes softened and an embarrassed grin spread over his lightly tanned face. He hurriedly rubbed his hands through his hair, trying to push it into the well groomed part he normally wore. Blake sat up straight, setting his notebook and pen to the side as he adjusted his posture.

     "Mr. Call. What are you doing here? And did you realize you're wearing a suit, sir? Are you going to another funeral? My condolences go out to you sir. It's always difficult losing someone."

     It always amazed Daniel just how quickly Blake spoke. He always had so much to say, but most of the time, it was either very irrelevant gibberish or was laser focused on lesson plans and homework topics.

     "No Blake. No one has died."

     He chuckled slightly as he realized that Blake, like most of the students, had never seen him in a suit or even clean-shaven with his hair combed. He was certain he'd be answering questions like these for the next few days. At least until some formal announcement was made.

     "Actually Blake, I'm acting as the vice principal for the next few days. I figured I should try and look the part." He grinned as he saw Blake eye him up and down. "And as vice principal, I guess you and I need to have a little chat. Come on into the office Blake."

     He watched as Blake gathered up his notepad and pen and pushed himself to his feet. Almost as soon as he was up, Blake wobbled slightly and fell back down in the chair. He came to his feet again and steadied himself on the arm of the chair. Then, positioning his notepad under his left arm, he reached for a wooden cane with his free hand. Daniel hadn't noticed the cane until now and it surprised him.

     "What's with the cane Blake?"

     He watched as Blake walked softly forward, using the cane to balance his weight as the two walked towards the vice-principal office.

     "I was in a bit of an accident last week. It was the strangest thing actually. There I was, in the grocery store parking lot, when the shopping carts somehow escaped their holding pen and came charging at me. There must have been twenty or thirty of them. Most stayed in a large group, but a few escaped and shifted to either side, blocking my escape. I turned to run, fearing for my life honestly. But I was too slow.

     “Even with their wobbly wheels, they managed to run me down. I heard them rattling behind me and turned to face them, my arms out to brace against the attack. They were so fast, so powerful. I was knocked to the ground and my leg was pinned beneath the bottom tray of the front carts. I went to the doctor and found nothing to be broken. My knee had been extremely hyper extended and my ankle was sprained. I have scrapes up and down my leg. Frankly, I feel lucky to be alive. Have you ever been attacked by shopping carts Mr. Call."

     As they entered the office, Daniel motioned for Blake to sit in a chair in front of the desk. The speed of Blake's mouth outpaced the speed of his limping walk creating a large disparity in the two. Daniel's mind had wandered slightly as they had slowly walked the few steps to the office, and he wasn't entirely sure he had heard the story correctly. Had Blake actually just suggested that he was run down by dozens of shopping carts?

     "Um, no Blake. I can't say that I have. You say these shopping carts attacked you? How does something like that happen? Did you see anyone push them at you?"

     "No sir. The parking lot was empty aside from me and those devilish carts."

     Blake stared matter-of-factly across the desk as Daniel sat down, his eyes squinting softly with unbelief.

     "Well, that's definitely one for the books Blake. I'm sure not many people have been attacked by a mob of shopping carts." Daniel shook his head and chuckled, then pulled out an attendance sheet. "But, as you have surely surmised, that's not the reason you're down here talking with me today. It seems you've been having trouble getting to class on time recently. And you've had some sporadic unexcused absences as well. What's going on Blake? I can't say this is the sort of thing I would expect from you."

     Blake's gaze dropped and he sighed softly, shaking his head. It looked for a moment as though he was going to cry.

     "Mr. Call. This has been eating me up inside. I feel my soul ripping to shreds with each passing moment. Shame and disgust are writhing inside me like strange violent beasts devouring my insides and pulling me into a pit of despair. I feel like a thousand invisible eyes are watching me day to day, judging me, ready to pounce on me and expose my sin. I am prepared for the worst, Mr. Call."

     Daniel wasn't sure what to make of this narrative. It felt both tragic and humorous and Daniel had to bit his lip to keep from laughing. He picked up the phone to call Doctor Samuelson. It sounded as though Blake would need some counseling after all. There was definitely some deep seeded pain he needed to work out, and Daniel suddenly felt inadequate.

     "Now Blake, I'm sure it's not all that bad. I'm going to call Doctor Samuelson and have her chat with you for a bit. I'm sure that whatever the problem is, you and she will be able to work it out."

     As he pressed the button on his phone to dial the Doctor, Blake looked up, a little confused.

     "You're not going to expel me, are you?"

     The phone immediately responded with the Doctor's voice mail indicating she was in a "session." Daniel hung up the phone.

     "Expel you? Blake. A few tardies and unexcused absences might get you some service work or detention. If it grew to be a real problem, we might even have to take additional steps. Mainly we’re concerned because this is you we’re talking about. The perfect Blake Percival. That’s really the only reason we’re even having such a big discussion about it at all. But what I'm more concerned about are these feelings of worthlessness and despair. I want you to talk with the school counselor and try to work things out. You're a good kid Blake. She can help you see that again."

     "I know I'm a good kid, Mr. Call. That's why I feel so bad. As far as needing to consult with Doc Samuelson, I don’t think that’s really necessary. I can tell you where these feelings are coming from. Every time I'm late to class because I have to hobble along slowly with this cane. Every time I miss class because I need to go to the doctor, or just need to lie down and elevate my leg. Every time I fail to live up to the highest possible standards as a student a bit of me dies. My perfect attendance record is sullied. My reputation is destroyed beyond recognition. I have become the kind of student, the kind of person that I never wanted to be. Every time I open my locker and see my 'perfect attendance' and 'citizenship' awards staring back at me, tears well up in my eyes. I feel like Hester Prynne with a large 'A' for 'Attendance' burning a hole in my forehead. Please punish me Mr. Call. Please give me a way to redeem myself."

     Daniel bit his lip again to keep from laughing as Blake fell forward out of his chair, kneeling in front of the desk, his hands clasped in front of him, begging forgiveness. It seemed ironic to Daniel. When he had been in high school, he missed nearly as many classes as he attended, and he almost never arrived on time when he did show up. Yet here he was, being asked to judge and punish a student that was his polar opposite. Prior to this past week, Blake had never missed a day or been late for class ever. From his speech, Daniel suspected that Blake had maintained this high level of excellence all his life.

     "Blake, let me just tell you that you are not going to be damned for being late to a few classes. I respect your lofty goal of perfect attendance. You set a great example to students all over this school. They all look up to you. No one thinks less of you for being tardy, especially considering the reason for your tardiness. You're rushing from class to class with a cane Blake. Being late a few times as a result, is nothing to be ashamed of."

     Blake started to interrupt, but Daniel held up his hand. Blake acknowledged and let Daniel continue.

     "Blake, I personally do not feel you need ANY punishment for your tardiness and absence. I think it's punishment enough to you that you will not be getting a 'perfect attendance' and 'citizenship' award this term. Additionally, if you can get me a doctor's note for the absences you had, I can justify those absences and will even be willing to write off a few of the tardies so that we don't have to put you on any type of probation.

     "But Blake, I still want you to take some time with Doctor Samuelson. I think you need to work to be a little more forgiving of yourself. Everyone is entitled to trouble in their life Blake. We all need to screw up now and then. It's how we grow. You need to accept that, and be far less critical of yourself, especially for small, simple mistakes. You need to be able to acknowledge where the real trouble lies and overcome those obstacles.

     "I'm going to talk with Doctor Samuelson and let her know the situation. I’ll try to set up an appointment for you to meet with her later today, but if you haven’t gotten a message by lunchtime I want you to stop by her office and set up an appointment. Will you promise to do that?"

     Blake nodded silently, his blue eyes soft and wispy as he stared across the desk.

     "I am also going to give you a note and talk with your teachers. Except for extreme situations, I am going to have them release you 5 minutes early from class so you have extra time to hobble to your next class without risking any more tardies. How does that sound?"

     Daniel scribbled a quick note on a piece of paper. When Blake didn't respond, he glanced up. Blake was still staring wordlessly at him. Except for intense study sessions, Daniel had never known Blake to be silent, especially when asked a direct question.


     "Sorry, sir. I'm just trying to come to grips with all you've said. Perhaps I have been too hard on myself. I appreciate this conversation, sir, I really do. Thank you so much, for everything. I promise to do better. I'd better get to class now, hadn't I sir?"

     He stood slowly to leave, glanced at the door and then back at Daniel. Daniel wasn't sure what to make of this boy. He held out the permission note to Blake, who pocketed it with a word of thanks and then turned to leave.

     "Be sure to talk with Doctor Samuelson, Blake. And if you ever want to talk with me, you know where to find me."

     "Yes sir"

     "Oh and Blake...forget the 'sir.' It's still just Mr. Call. Or call me Daniel...I told you before you can call me Daniel. As much as you're in the library, I feel like we can be on a first name basis."

     Blake shot a smile over his shoulder and then hobbled out of the room. He pulled the door closed behind him as he left. He grinned to himself and then chuckled under his breath as he walked slowly into the halls. He liked Daniel Call, he really did. He was a good, honest, trusting person that genuinely cared about the students. Blake hated having to lie to him the way he did, especially such an outrageous lie. But he needed to try and feel out Daniel, to determine where he stood and how he would behave in his current position as vice-principal. Blake still had work to do, and he had to be certain that he controlled all the variables. At the moment, he felt like he did.

     Except for the Commander. Blake's thoughts suddenly returned to him. He knew that there was no controlling that one. He knew that the enigmatic Commander was the one variable he may yet have to deal with. But before it came to that, Blake still had a few more tasks to deal with.

     He pushed open the door and stepped outside, momentarily blinded by the early morning sun glinting over the trees. Adjusting his grip on his notepad and cane, Blake glanced around and then sprinted for the parking lot.

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