Letitia Green was decidedly nervous. This was more than the usual first-day-of-school jitters. Apprehension swelled up from the pit of her stomach to her throat and, like an erupting volcano's lava, acid rolled up onto her tongue. So much depended on her ability to succeed in this last year of high school, her parents had hired a tutor for the previous summer months.
Especially versed in accelerated deprogramming techniques, Dr. Boyles had the impressive credentials of a 98% success rate with his students’ eventual graduation from 13th grade. Letitia had made significant progress, and her parents were pleased, even though it cost their daughter the full range of typical detoxification withdrawal symptoms. The finger twitching had subsided into an occasional throbbing that was easily soothed with a mild pain reliever, and her eye squint had all but disappeared.
The homeroom bell’s insistent tolling marked the school day’s start while Letitia slipped into an empty seat. Although the initial building entrance checkpoint where her backpack and person was scanned for possible contraband of zip drives, cell phones, memory cards or laptops had unnerved her, she had passed through, unscathed. She had heard rumors about students who had hidden such objects in unmentionable body places who were fined and deployed to rehabilitation facilities for intense shock therapies, and she shuddered for them.
“Good morning, students! Welcome to Exxon Mandatory Prep School. I trust all of you received an informational packet upon your departure from 12th grade at Cambridge High, and that you have made the necessary lifestyle changes through the summer to smooth the way into this school’s restricted environment. I want to emphasize that although the rules here may seem harsh, they are necessary and essential for your future college entrance exams,” her voice droning on, the key phrases and explanations already embedded in Letitia’s psyche from Dr. Boyles’ litany of speeches.
More relaxed now, Letitia spanned the room for previous e-mail and text-ing pals that she could get reacquainted with after the summer hiatus of separation.
“Bonnie . . . And Jason and Caroline! Wonder if they are still together,” old forbidden habits resurfacing as her detoxed fingers itched for an imagined miniscule phone keyboard.
Pulling her attention away to the day’s schedule that had been placed on her desk, Letitia perused what would become her next nine month’s classes:
Vowels and Verbs
Deprogrammed Text Terminology
Several subjects were familiar to her from Dr. Boyle’s teachings, and therefore, might be mostly review. Proper spelling (with no abbreviations or shortened variations of words) and grammar grade school memories had been reintroduced into 13th grade curriculum and was easiest for Letitia because she had done so well in those areas as a youngster. It was the most difficult for kids who had depended on phonic word structuring in their earliest years and who had been addicted to the lax text-ing messaging in their teens.
Other pilot programs like this school were springing up all over the country, a direct reaction to students failing college entrance examinations. Some states were even banning cell phones—or limiting their use—arguing that oral communication skills were sadly lacking in the present generation. It seemed that young adults were becoming so cocooned in cyber-space they needed reentrance into social interaction—
which explained the zombie-like, shell-shocked eyes of most of this student body, eerily passing through silent halls from class to class, Letitia among them. Up ahead, Bonnie Lapp had stopped at her locker for her communication manual and Letitia, her heart thumping wildly, timidly approached and tapped her shoulder.
“Uh, uh, I, I, I’ve mist u.”
Shuddering, Bonnie dropped her eyes, face-to-face contact too difficult, “Mi 2.”
They shyly parted with a little wave that promised a future easier conversation. All around them, other students took up their example and made tentative overtures to each other. Soon, a snicker or two could be heard and the halls assimilated the stilted interactions until a gentle drone filled the air.
Discouraged teachers took notice of the change as they awaited their students for First Hour and a glimmer of hope touched their hearts. Perhaps the generation would not be the lost generation, after all.
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