Most of Jared’s things were packed in boxes. He didn’t look up when Curt entered the room. He just kept stuffing his clothes into his duffel bag.
“What’s going’ on?” asked his roommate and best friend.
Jared sighed. “I got busted man.”
“Busted for what?”
Jared looked down at the floor. “Cheating.”
“Cheating? Come on, man. You’re the number 2 guy here. Seriously, what’s up?”
Jared looked up. “I did it man. I cheated. I confessed to ol’ man Riley and everything.”
Jared looked Curt straight in the eye, “I wanted to be number one.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I wanted to beat Ned. I thought I had to beat him.”
“What’s wrong with number two? I’m like, number 243.” They both chuckled.
“I envy you man. In my family, second is as good as dead last. You know my ol’ man. You know he and my ol’ lady, all my brothers, and even my sister graduated number one in their class here, every single one of ‘em.”
“So? You’re number two. The year ain’t over yet man, and there’s still next year. You’re smarter than that little weasel Ned. You could’ve past him for real man. What were you thinking?”
“I dunno… I wanted to finish the year on top. I hacked my way into the system man. I got a copy of the history final…”
“You can still pass the class, even if you failed the final.”
“I cheated man. Zero tolerance. I’m expelled. My ol’ man is over there right now talking to Mr. D. and Dean Riley, but he’s wastin’ his time. …And seriously dude, I want outta here. I don’t belong here anyway.”
“You belong here more than I do man.”
“Uh-uh. ...I wish I was you man. Your family accepts you just the way you are.”
“Your family loves you Jared. Your ol’ man goes to all the games…”
“And hangs out with his cronies. I’m just a kicker.”
“He’ll straighten things out, you wait and see.”
“I don’t want my dad buying my way back in…”
“What about that football scholarship to Wexford?”
“You know somethin’? I don’t even like football.”
“You’re talkin’ crazy. …You did this on purpose?”
“No, of course not. But now that it’s happened... It’s like this humongous weight has been lifted off my shoulders man. I’ve been thinkin’… I’m gonna go to Mediocrah High. I can be number one there, easy. I don’t wanna go to Wexford. That’s just what my family does. But not me, I’m different.”
“What about the team?”
“You’ll do just fine without me.”
“But, what about me? Who am I supposed to room with? It’s gonna be our Senior year…”
“You guys’ll find someone to take my bunk in the suite, easy. Seriously dude, this may just be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. …I’m gonna join the track team at MHS.”
“Yeah. I always wanted to do track. I’m fast and…”
“What’s gotten into you man? It’s like I don’t even know you.”
“It’s like I never knew myself man. I never wanted to do pre-law. I… I wanna be a teacher. Guess I messed that up, too.”
The boys heard a noise behind them. They turned around to find Jared’s dad and the dean standing in the opened doorway. Dean Riley nodded to the boys.
Jared looked up and saw his Dad wipe a tear from his eye. “Why didn’t you tell us son? Why? All this time…”
“I didn’t want to disappoint you Dad. I wanted you to be proud of me, like the others…”
“I am son. I am.” He turned to the dean. “You see? We just pushed him a little too hard. Can’t you give him another chance? He’s a good kid…”
“I know Gene, but rules are rules.” Dean Riley cleared his throat. Gene Sanders was a very generous alumnus. “It sounds like our boy Jared here has it all planned out.”
“But… Everyone in my family has graduated from Duppie Academy, for generations...”
“I don’t want another chance Dad. Didn’t you hear what I said back then?”
Mr. Sanders looked perplexed.
Jared looked at Curt. “We can still hang out man.”
“Sure, anytime man. You name the place and I’ll be there.”
The boys embraced.
Jared handed his dad the duffel bag. Dean Riley grabbed a box and the three of them left.
Curt sat down on the empty bed, stunned. “He’s crazy. God help him…”
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