|Copyright ©2013 by Ronyx
All Rights Reserved
If school gets any more boring, I’m going to stand up in class, strip off my clothes and run naked through
the hallways. I’d love to see the look on Old Man Armstrong’s face. He’s the principal here at Lakeshore
I jumped when I heard Mrs. Walker shouted out my name from the front of the room. “Mr. Barrett,” she
hollered angrily. “Maybe you would like to tell everyone why you’re smiling and not paying attention in
My heart jumped into my throat, and I had to swallow hard to breathe. I didn’t realize that the thought of
running naked through the halls had made me seem so amused. I quickly glanced at the board to see if
she had written anything. I could try to wing it and pretend I had been listening, but she had erased what
she had been on the board. I looked around at the other students who were staring at me with amused
looks upon their faces.
“I wasn’t thinking about nothing,” I responded timidly.
She strolled down the aisle and stood before my desk. “I wasn’t thinking about nothing,” she said
mockingly. “You’ve sat in my English class for a year, and it’s obvious you’ve learned absolutely nothing.
She turned to address the rest of the class, who were by now giggling at her as if she were a stand-up
comedian. “Can anyone tell me what is wrong with Mr. Barrett’s response?” She looked down and said with
a wry smile, “I wasn’t thinking about nothing.” Several hands shot up into the air.
Tears of embarrassment formed in my eyes as I looked up and asked,
“Why are you picking on me?”
“Why Mr. Barrett,” she replied sarcastically. “I’m not picking on you. This is an English class and I’m merely
using your statement as a learning experience.” I heard several students around me giggle.
She turned and pointed to Kim Lawton, who still had her hand raised. “Miss Lawton,” she asked. “Can you
tell Mr. Barrett what is wrong with his comment, ‘I wasn’t thinking about nothing?’”
“Certainly, Mrs. Walker,” she replied with a giggle. “Casey should have said he wasn’t thinking about
anything. To say he was thinking about nothing would indicate he wasn’t thinking.”
Mrs. Walker clapped her hands together. “Excellent response, Miss Lawton.” I glanced over angrily at her,
and she returned a deceitful smile.
Mrs. Walker stood over me once again and said, “Now would you like to rephrase your answer to my
question, Mr. Barrett.”
I folded my arms defiantly and replied, “No.”
She glared down at me for a few seconds. She then started walking back toward the front of the room.
“Very well,” she said as she turned toward me. “Then you will write five hundred times, I wasn’t thinking
about anything.” Twenty-five students in the room burst into laughter.
“You’re kidding, right?” I shouted. “They write sentences in the second grade.”
“Well,” she huffed, “You’re acting like a child, so I’ll treat you like a child.”
Before I could stop the words from exiting my mouth, I muttered, “And you’re acting like a bitch.”
I don’t think there is a shade of red on a color chart that would describe the angry look on her face.
Several girls in the room let out a gasp when it finally sunk in that I had actually called Mrs. Walker a bitch.
Well, actually I hadn’t. I said she was acting like one, but I guess there really isn’t a fine line when it comes
to this sort of thing.
She raised a hand, pointed angrily at the door and shouted, “Get out!”
Emily Hayes rose from her desk and volunteered, “You want me to go get Mr. Armstrong?” Mrs. Walker
ignored her and approached me. I glanced over at the door as Emily ran out.
She towered over me and shouted loudly, “Get out of my classroom!”
I looked around the room as everyone turned to stare at me. I rose and stood defiantly before Mrs.
Walker. “I don’t know why I have to leave.” I then leaned toward her and said mockingly, “I didn’t do
nothing.” I made sure to emphasis the word nothing.
I jumped when she raised her hand to slap me. She drew it back before she did. She folded her hand,
glared at me and said, “See what you almost made me do?”
I smiled bemusedly and replied, “I didn’t make you do nothing.” Again, I stressed the word nothing.
Suddenly, Mr. Armstrong shouted out my name as he entered the room. “Casey Barrett! My office. Now!”
As I walked away, I made sure I gently brushed against Mrs. Walker. I wanted to intimidate her, but I
didn’t want it to appear like an assault. As I left the room, I could hear the chatter of students as they
discussed what they had just witnessed.
“I don’t care,” I muttered to myself as I stormed down the hallway toward the office. I turned to see if Mr.
Armstrong was following me. He wasn’t, so I assumed he had remained in the room to get Mrs. Walker’s
explanation of what had occurred.
I considered leaving the building, but I knew if I did, Mr. Armstrong would call the police and have me
arrested. This was my third infraction this year. He had already suspended me twice before. I was pretty
sure I was looking at a possible expulsion this time.
I’m not a bad kid, honestly. I really try to do the right things. But when I do, it seems like something
happens, like today, that gums up the works.
Today I was really trying to pay attention in class. But it is hard for me to pay attention because I have this
tendency to daydream. Maybe I did laugh a little when I thought of running naked down the hall. Still, why
did Mrs. Walker have to pick that time to act like a real bitch? I really didn’t do nothing.
I was already struggling in class. I failed last quarter, and I was trying this quarter. I had passed the last
two tests- barely. At least I did study for them.
However, just like every other time, something happens. Two weeks ago, Mr. Latham, the chemistry
teacher, got on me because I wasn’t wearing goggles in the lab. When he assigned me detention, I told
him I wouldn’t serve it. He wrote me up, and Mr. Armstrong suspended me for three days. Earlier in the
year, I was suspended for another three days because I skipped out on an assembly, and I went outside
and smoked a cigarette. Mr. Dudley, the football coach came around the side of the building and saw me
before I could get rid of it.
I mean, so I forgot to put on my goggles during lab. What’s the big deal? I have seen other students
forget, and Latham joked about it. But me, he assigns detention.
And big deal, I didn’t want to go to some boring assembly about drug abuse. I don’t use that stuff, so why
should I care? Okay, I smoke, but that’s not really a drug. Right?
I entered the office and plopped down in a chair beside the door to await Armstrong. The secretary glanced
up and rolled her eyes at me. She probably realized she would have to write a letter of suspension soon. I
gave her a snide smile and brushed back the long, black hair from my forehead. She shook her head and
rolled her eyes again.
Ten minutes later, Armstrong entered the office. He glanced down without saying a word. I rose and
followed him back to his office. It was a trek I had made several times before. I walked over and dropped
into a chair against the wall. Armstrong left and returned a few minutes later with a manila folder in his
hand. Judging by its thickness, I assumed it was mine.
He thumbed through it, laid it down on his desk and looked over at me. He sighed and said, “What am I
going to do with you, Casey? Your poor mother is going to be disappointed again.”
I sat rigidly and angrily replied, “My mother has nothing to do with this. Suspend me if you have to, but
leave her out of this.”
Armstrong rose from his chair, came around the desk and sat atop it. He looked down and said, “Your
mother is one of my top educators. She’s admired by everyone.” He sighed and added, “But you...”
I stood, and at 6’2” I towered over him. He shrunk away from me. “But me, what?”
He nervously jumped from his desk, walked around to his chair, and sat down. He fiddled with my folder,
and then he said, “You’re so rebellious. I don’t know how your mother handles you.”
He jumped when I slammed my hand down on his desk. “I told you to leave my mother out of this!” I
walked to the door and opened it. Turning, I asked, “Am I suspended?”
He looked sadly at me and announced, “Yes.”
“Fine,” I replied. “See you then.” I slammed the door, headed down the hall and left the school grounds. I
noticed one of the school resource officers watching me from the steps as I walked through the parking lot.
I guess he was watching to see if I would vandalize someone’s automobile. If I knew what kind of car Mrs.
Walker drove, I probably would have.
* * * * * *
When I heard the front door slam, I knew Mom had arrived home. I was in my bedroom playing a video
game. School is out at 3:30, but she usually doesn’t get home until an hour later. Either she works with
students after school, or she has to attend faculty meetings. When I was in grade school, she made me
wait for her at the elementary school I attended. Now, we lived about a mile and a half from Lakeshore
Academy, so I walk home. I enjoy the walks because it gives me time to clear my head from all the
bullshit I have endured during the day.
It’s not easy being a teacher’s son, especially when your mom teaches at the same school you attend. It
doesn’t help either, that she is a very popular teacher. You would think it would make me popular, but it
hasn’t. I’m just not one of those people who want to be popular. In fact, I’m happier when people just
leave me alone. I guess I send out this vibe that other students can read quickly.
Girls used to come on to me all the time. I don’t want to sound egotistical or anything, but I am graced
with some good looks. Mom and Dad are both attractive, so I guess I inherited some good genes. Mom
looks like Winona Ryder. She thinks it’s really cool when kids tell her that. Dad looks like an over-aged
baseball player. In fact, he did play baseball in high school and college. He tried to get me to play little
league when I was younger, but I found standing in a field waiting for some skinny batter to hit me a ball
boring. I tried for two weeks to like it, but I finally told him I didn’t want to play anymore. He moped
around the house for a few days, and he refused to talk to me. But that was a long time ago, and he’s not
even around anymore.
“Casey!” I jumped when she hollered out my name at the bottom of the steps. “Get down here now!”
It doesn’t bother me. I’m used to her little tirades by now. She’s always screaming at me about something.
I don’t think I’m a bad kid, it’s just that I can’t get into the program she wants me to be in.
We have this barrier between us. She screams at me, and I just shut her off. She hates that. I used to
scream back, but then I realized she enjoyed the confrontation. Being a teacher, she had a lot of
experience at it. We weren’t on a level playing field, and she would win all the arguments. If I sit and listen
to her and don’t respond, I can watch her go from angry to frustrated in about ten minutes. She still thinks
she has won, but I don’t give her the satisfaction of letting her prove it.
I slowly walked into the den and plopped down in a Lazy Boy recliner. It was her favorite chair, so it was
my way of showing her that her little exhibition of power wasn’t going to bother me. By now, I already
knew the script.
She began immediately. “What is going on inside your thick head?” I silently muttered the words before
they left her mouth. “Don’t I do everything I can to provide you a decent living?” Wait a minute. She
changed the script. This usually follows, “I work hard everyday.”
“I work hard everyday,” she continued to rant. Ah, yes. There it is.
I mumbled, “But you don’t appreciate anything I do.”
She walked over, stood before me and shouted angrily, “You smart ass! You think this is cute, don’t you?”
I looked away and mumbled as innocently as possible, “No, Mother.”
“Well it isn’t!” she shouted. She continued to pace around the room and inform me how rude and
disrespectful a child I was. As usual, she compared me to every student she’s ever had, or will probably
ever have in the future.
Then came the rant, “You’re just like your father.” For the next fifteen minutes, I had to listen to how he
was the cause of their marriage going into the crapper. I believe she was probably the cause if he had to
endure hours of her endless raging about his personality disorders.
Six years ago, when I was eleven, he left. I woke up one morning, and he was simply gone. Vanished
without even a goodbye. I get cards on my birthday and Christmas. I don’t even bother to read what he
writes. I just pull out the twenty-dollar bills he stuffs inside them, and then I discard them into the
wastebasket. What do I care? He couldn’t even tell me he was leaving. In one of her rages at me, she once
mentioned that he was living with a new wife in North Carolina. That’s all I know, and even that is more
than I care to know.
“Mrs. Walker is a dear friend of mine,” she exclaimed. I had to endure a lecture for ten minutes about how
my behavior had embarrassed her. “Mr. Armstrong called me into his office after school.” Another ten
minutes how her good friend, the principal, was bending over backwards to keep me in school. Then it was
another ten minutes relating how other students were talking about how rude and disrespectful my
She stood before me and hollered down, “What made you think you could call a teacher a bitch?”
I was going to say, “Because she is,” but I knew that would give her the opening to continue another half
hour rant. I just wanted it to end so I could go back to the peace of my room.
She walked over to the window and peered out. She folded her arms and said quietly, “I should have
gotten you counseling after that incident with Rollie Patterson.”
For the first time I spoke. “Leave him out of this! He has nothing to do with it!” She turned, and I saw tears
in her eyes.
“You’ve never been the same since that afternoon,” she cried softly.
I turned my head and looked into the kitchen. “You’ve never been the same,” I replied bitterly.
It was a hot, summer afternoon three years ago. Rollie and I had been best friends since kindergarten. We
were fourteen, and we had just returned from the community swimming pool a few blocks away. We went
to my bedroom to change out of our swimming trunks. We had seen each other naked many times, so it
didn’t bother me to pull off my trunks and stand naked in front of him. That day, however, was different. As
I grabbed for my underwear, Rollie grabbed my hand.
“Don’t get dressed yet.” His voice was heavy and quivered nervously.
“Why?” I asked, but I already knew. For months, we had been playing a flirtatious game. What had started
out as playful shoving and pushing when we were together, had escalated into wild romps in our bedrooms
where we would end up wrestling with our bodies grinding sensuously into one another.
Rollie put his hands on my hips and pulled me towards him. I didn’t resist when his lips touched mine. We
both knew what we wanted, and it was time to end the game. He led me over to my bed, and for an hour
we kissed and caressed. We lovingly explored every inch of each other’s body. It was more intense than I
had ever imagined it would be. That hot, summer afternoon I became aware of who I was, and what I was.
There was no shame or remorse. What we felt was pure and innocent.
Until my mother walked into the bedroom.
She was supposed to have been attending a conference all day. That morning she told me that she
wouldn’t be home until after seven, and that I should make dinner for myself. However, one of the
presenters didn’t show, so she left early.
She caught Rollie and I naked in bed. We were on our knees, and I was kissing his neck as I penetrated
him. Neither of us saw her enter until she shrieked. We pulled away, and covered our nakedness with a
sheet. Her eyes were wide, and they had a wild look. I’d never seen that expression on her face before.
Not even when she was arguing with Dad.
She cleared her throat, and calmly told us to get dressed. We didn’t say anything as we put on our
clothing. Our innocence had been replaced with fear. Before he left my bedroom, I gave him a quick kiss,
making sure that my mother was not standing outside in the hallway.
As I opened the front door for him, my mother approached and said, “I’ve called your father, Rollie. I
thought he should know what you’ve done.”
I never saw him after that day. His parents barred him from seeing me ever again. Before the start of
school, they moved. To this day, I don’t know where he is. I keep checking Facebook and My Space, hoping
that he will appear, but he hasn’t. I have an account, just in case he wants to contact me- but he hasn’t. I
want us to talk about what happened. It was special to me, and I feel there hasn’t been any closure.
My mother and I have never really talked about what happened. I know she hates me, but she won’t say
it. I keep hoping that in one of her rages, she’ll yell it out. Then I would know. But she hasn’t.
Occasionally, like tonight, she’ll bring it up. Usually, it’s because she feels guilty because she didn’t get me
counseling. But I don’t need the counseling- she does. I’m okay being gay. I regretted that she saw us, but
I have never felt guilty about what I did that day with Rollie. I learned things about myself. For several
years, I had felt this uneasiness and tension. I knew what caused it, but I held back, hoping that maybe the
feelings and thoughts would go away.
That afternoon with Rollie was a revelation. It was as if all my fears and uncertainties vanished with his
kiss. I miss him. I want him to know what we did wasn’t wrong. I want him to feel free like me. However,
it bothers me to think that he may be somewhere lost in a world of uncertainty and guilt. I whispered that
day in his ear before my mother entered, “I love you.” I want him to know I meant it.
* * * * * *
I was sitting on the patio watching the sunset. I could see storm clouds off in the distant, and occasionally I
could hear a faint rumble of thunder. I didn’t turn when I heard the patio door slide open. I figured it was
my mother checking to make sure I hadn’t left home.
It’s ironic that she grounds me when I get in trouble at school. I never go anywhere, but I guess it satisfies
her parental authority. If she really wanted to punish me, she would take away my video games. She tried
it once, so I spent the entire two weeks sitting across from her in the den glaring at her. She squirmed in
her Lazy Boy chair, and she would occasionally ask me if I had anything better to do. I would say, “Nope.
You took my games away, remember?” Since then, she’s never removed them from my room.
I looked over when someone sat down and said, “Hey, Casey. You okay?” It was Terry Moller. Terry is
probably the closest person I can call a friend. He lives next door. He is a sophomore at my school, and
occasionally we walk home from school together. He usually talks, and I pretend to listen.
He is also gay. I know he has had a crush on me since they moved in two years ago. I have never told him
I am, because I only tell people on a need to know basis. So I have told no one, not even Terry. He’s cute,
but I have no interest in having a boyfriend right now.
I don’t encourage him to come over, but I also don’t discourage him. I know it makes Mom nervous when
he does appear at the door. She knows he’s gay, the whole school does. I get amused watching her parade
past my bedroom every ten minutes. She pretends not to look, but I can see her peek in the room as she
goes by. I guess she’s seeing if I’m having mad, passionate sex with Terry. I would close the door and
make her really worried, but I’m afraid Terry would take it as an invitation.
I hurt his feelings last year when he looked into my eyes and said lovingly, “You have the bluest eyes. I
just want to swim in them every time I look into your face.” I know he was testing me to see how I would
react. He didn’t appreciate it when I fell back on the bed and laughed hysterically. He left the room in a
huff, and he wouldn’t speak to me for weeks. I felt so bad, I approached him in school and apologized. Of
course, now he thinks I’m interested in him, so his visits have become more frequent.
A bolt of lightning lit up the sky in the distance, and seconds later a rumble of thunder could be heard.
Terry looked over and asked worriedly, “Did you get suspended? I heard what happened at school?”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Dunno. Probably. Mom didn’t say.”
“She seemed pretty mad when I came to the door,” he said. “I didn’t think she was going to let me in.”
“She’ll get over it,” I remarked. “She always does.”
He looked over and stared. “I just don’t get it, Casey,” he said. “Your mother is so cool.” He looked into my
eyes. “And you’re a cool guy. I don’t know why you can’t get along.”
I laughed slightly and replied, “Life, I guess. It just happens.”
I reached for the cigarette pack, pulled a cigarette out, placed it in my lips and lit it. I inhaled deeply, and
then blew circles out through my pursed lips. Terry stared at the rings as they floated out of my mouth.
“You really shouldn’t smoke,” he said. “It’s going to kill you some day.”
“Yeah, well,” I replied as I blew a few more smoke rings into the air. “You gotta die someday.” Terry
looked worriedly at me.
Just then, another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed soon by a rumble of thunder. I looked over at
Terry and asked, “Hear that?”
He listened a few seconds before replying, “I don’t hear anything.”
“That’s it,” I said. “Hear how quiet it is?”
Terry nodded and responded, “Yeah.”
“It’s like that,” I continued, “because birds don’t sing before a storm.”
“No,” he said, “but they’ll sing again when the storm is over.”
I shook my head and asked, “What if the storm never ends?” He looked up at the darkening sky and didn’t
* * * * * * *
Chapter 2 Return to TMJ
Birds Don't Sing
Before a Storm