Cast of Thousands, chapter 21
The bell rang, much to Ms. Woods' annoyance. "All right, you're all off to lunch. If anyone has any questions or problems, they can come talk to me right now."
Jessica sat at her desk, fiddling with the edges of her essay uncertainly. She finally got up, slowly, and wandered to lunch, thinking that it was too scary to talk to the teacher. Maybe one of her mothers would have some helpful ideas.
It was nice and quiet in her out-of-the-way lunch corner outside, under a lone and overlooked young tree. She could almost pretend that she was at home or in the park, someplace that belonged to her, instead of beached on a precious short break at school. She opened up her lunch and buried herself in a book for the rest of the brief break, barely coming out of her reading daze when the bell ordered her to run along to Art class.
She pulled her rolled-up dollar bill poster out of her backpack and turned it in early, gladly receiving more paper to draw another one. This time she considered what she thought money should really look like before she began. She drew quickly and carefully, filling the outlines of the enlarged bill with peacocks, constellations, rainbow splashes, and sunbursts. Instead of the pyramid, she drew a sunny meadow; instead of the dead president, she drew a caricature of herself. Underneath the meadow she wrote her own motto - "Listen to your heart" - and sat back to look at it, satisfied.
It was very different from her original work. She decided it needed a careful coloring job with lots of detail, and began to just shade in the edges. Once again she zoned out on the coloring job, sliding into what she thought must be some sort of artistic meditative state, and barely noticed the passing of time until the classroom was empty. She rolled the new bill up quickly and ran off.
And kept on running, because it was her class' day to run the mile in gym class. Dressed in the black and goldenrod gym outfit and tennis shoes and pounding her way around the quarter-mile track, she dropped into a slow jog and let her mind fly away, fantasizing about what amazing heights their zine might reach. The newsstand downtown might sell zines... what was it called? And maybe the Avid Reader, if they hadn't already read the review of themselves in the first one? Maybe she and Marcy could convince the children's bookstore that they should carry zines made by kids. It might even encourage other kids in her school to make some. Or maybe the Poetry Club could make a little booklet of all their poetry to sell and make into presents for people. And then that would be even more reason for different places in Davis to carry zines, because there would be even more for them to carry and more people trying to get them to carry stuff. And there was a comic book store downtown... but maybe they were only interested in actual comics. But it was worth a try.
Sweaty and panting, she reached the end of the track, respectably placed more or less in the middle of the class. It was hard not to be in the middle of the class, though. Everyone else was either so bad at running or so apathetic about it that they walked most of the way, or so into running that they might as well be on a track team the way they went all-out.
She flopped down on the grass and the teacher snapped, "Walk! Walk!"
"If you don't walk your muscles will all cramp up," a purple-haired girl next to her explained. She was lying flat-out on the grass.
"Then why aren't you walking?" Jess said, a little indignantly.
"Oh, I don't care what my muscles do," the girl said, shooting Jess a vampiric smile.
Jess shrugged and began to pace in a circle. "Not good enough!" the teacher snapped again. Jess could see where the girl got her attitude from. She shrugged at the teacher and enlarged her circle a little.
"Mr. Belvin, I think the bell rang," the purple-haired girl said laconically, sitting up.
"Oh- fine, everybody go," he said in peevish tones.
The class trooped in to change before the second bell went. Jess looked at her watch. "The bell didn't ring!" she said in surprise.
"No, it didn't." The purple girl smiled sweetly. "But someone had to shut him up."
Impressed, Jess glanced at the name inked on the front of the girl's gym clothes. "Then thanks... um... Laetitia."
'Laetitia' snickered. "It's Mo actually. I just wanted to see if he'd notice what name I put on there. So far he hasn't."
"I don't think he likes what he does," Jess said, in a moment of insight.
"On the nose," Mo said. "And he takes it out on all of us."