The scene is a small Jr. High in Southern California, circa 1991.
72 degrees and sunny
Slight breeze out of the North-Northwest
Children are playing, smoking, engaging in premarital smooching, and otherwise doing what children did in those days. The lines in the cafeteria were akin to the lines of any public institution in the state of California, which is to say, crowded. Pre-teens shuffled like zombie cows, not really wanting the food they were about to buy, but driven by the promise that, maybe this time, the plastic-wrapped microwaveable pizzas will be better. Nothing is ever better the second time. Well, maybe sex, but I digress.
That kid right there by the library; that's me. I didn't really like the library. Sure, books were fine, but the fact that they were in the library just ruined it for me. There's no more dismal place in the world than a Junior High library. All the lights are yellow and dim, reflecting well the teeth and minds of the librarians inside. There's no shortage of Judy Blume, but don't ask for Orwell or Nietzsche, and you won't be disappointed.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Me. I was always a little big for my baseball cap, intellectually-speaking (you couldn't wear a cap because only gangsters wore caps and they didn't want a shooting) but I never liked to show that side of myself. Call it The Zebra Effect. I could survive better if you couldn't pick me out of a crowd. That crowd there; my friends. Nice and average, and me with them. Sure, I didn't much care whether Anna Nicole Smith could beat up Pamela Anderson in a mud wrestling match, but I could fake it like a champ.
The eagle has landed. Teachers, the eagle has landed.
The campus went quiet for just one brief moment. The silence was deafening. Predictably, the short attention spans around me went back about their business, with a sort of selective amnesia of which I wish I were capable.
"What do you think they meant by that?"
"The Eagle Has Landed
. Sounds like a code for something
"Does it matter?" turning aside, "No, Pamela would definitely win. She's a lifeguard...
Yeah, it mattered. Anything mattered that could get my mind off battling mammaries. The PA system had directed the code toward the teachers. What the hell could it mean?
That's when I saw it. Imagine a thousand penguins competing for the last sardine in Antarctica. Now make those penguins teachers. Now make that sardine a receptionist with a fistful of envelopes.
The Eagle Has Landed. The paychecks had arrived. Why the code? Why the secrecy? Did they expect us to believe by their dead eyes and their dead words that they were volunteers? Did it matter? I guess not.