I mean it…for reals.
I leave the old brick and stone edifice every morning around ten o’clock.
I suppose back in the 1890s or something, it looked pretty impressive. Now, my school, Big City Downtown Public High School, looks like any other of dozens of similar structures, old office buildings, the post office, cheap apartment structures with old storefronts on their bottom floors that line the more typical streets of downtown.
From there, it’s about a fifteen minute walk along crowded streets filled mostly with taxis and pedestrians snuggled up against the late winter chill to my destination, the Big City Juvenile Rehabilitation Center. I scamper up the stairs, yet another old stone edifice, and enter, signing myself in at the front desk in a vast foyer before proceeding into the facility itself.
“How’s life, Hector?” asks the guard at the facility’s entrance. It’s the same question the imposing, muscled gentleman asks me every day. And I give him the same stock answer, “Could be better, glad it’s not worse.”
He buzzes me in. I head down a wide hallway past a few offices. I’ve been as regular as rain in the rainforest for so long here nobody even acknowledges me anymore other than with a polite nod or wave. Tutoring the inmates (I guess technically they’re called patients) is one of the ways dreamed up by BCHS staff to keep me occupied while I finish out my senior year. I passed all but two of my required classes by the end of my sophomore year. I blazed through AP Calculus and AP Government this year, but I still needed a requisite number of days in school to qualify for graduation. So I spend my days doing “aiding” for my favorite instructors and work-study programs outside the school, each of which pays me real money. A blessing to be sure, considering that I basically live on my own, though the sensei at Downtown Dojo, my martial arts mentor, does give me a roof over my head and signs my parental permission slips and that sort of thing.
And one of those gigs is tutoring the inmates at Big City Juvie, as we call it.
And wouldn’t you know that my student at the time is Janey, the same girl whose life I saved a month or so before in the alley behind the DL. Astonishingly, the parents had committed her to the in-patient residency program after discovering the extent of her addictions—no small leap of humility for a police lieutenant—and when it was discovered that I was on the private tutor list for helping inmates stay current on their schoolwork, while in the program. I guess it was the girl’s demand that I be assigned to her or she would do some dire thing like refuse to eat or beat on her attendants at every opportunity until the arrangement was made. The father had at first not allowed it, but a hunger strike of several days, along with the refusal of the staff to attend to her after she’d flattened the nose of one of the CNAs and practically castrated another, caused him to have a swift change of heart. The day I began seeing her, she personally apologized to the entire staff of attendants and had been the very soul of cooperation since.
I head through another security check at the entrance to the Center’s library. Here I have to completely empty my pockets of everything, something I find frustrating, but I guess it’s a sign of the times. I can pick them up on my way out. A number of tables are arranged in convenient rows. Scattered among them are small groups of students and their instructors; some tutors are students like me, but most are older ladies and gentlemen without a bad bone in their bodies. Janey spots me immediately, as if she’d been waiting all day for this singular moment. Her braces-filled smile nearly shatters her face.
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Genre – NeoGothic Horror / Thriller
Rating – R for violence & language
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