I’m a Teller of Tales: An Excerpt from ‘Reunion: A Story’

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10:55 a.m.: South Miami Senior High School: A Classroom:

On the last day of school, things always seem to take place at a slower pace than usual, especially after the last final exams have been completed. Since Finals Week is so markedly different from the norm, with schedules switched to accommodate final exams, there is a battle between the faculty and the restive students for the maintenance of order and discipline. The administration insists on enforcing strict attendance even on this last day, and the students demand to be released after 180 days of boredom and drudgery. For the first two days of Finals Week the administration blusters, bullies, and cajoles, and a majority of the student body remains on campus to review for the remaining exams. 

On the last day, however, as soon as the third period (actually, it’s second period, but old habits die hard) bell rings there is a mass exodus from the school, even though there are a few faculty and staff members stationed like guards in the hallways as a deterrent. They are either bypassed or ignored altogether, and in some cases the teachers simply turn their backs on the whole thing. There are more important details to attend to – grading exams, recording grades, and putting away materials until another school year begins in the fall semester – and standing guard duty seems to be a waste of time. What few students remain do so out of habit or loyalty to friends, favorite teachers, or alma mater. In every classroom small groups of students sit together in a corner or at their desks, exchanging yearbooks, pens and maudlin inscriptions. On each of the high school’s three floors, a smaller group of students, with no place to go and nothing else to do, pulls itself together into a work party and carries away armloads of textbooks into the departmental storage room. An even smaller group just wanders aimlessly about like a desert tribe without a leader or plan of action.

Every once in a while, the silence that has prevailed since the last finals period commenced is broken by the loud metallic SLAM of a locker being violently opened. This is followed by the soft thudding sounds of notebooks being carelessly dumped on the carpeted floor. Papers fly all over the place like an out-of-place snowstorm, becoming, for a few hours, a weird carpet upon a carpet. Then the silence returns, only to be broken again by the slam-thudding sounds or an infrequent “Hey-hey-hey Cobras, Number One, Cobras Num-ber One!” chant recalling football games and pep rallies of the past. The chant echoes eerily through the halls…then the silence returns, falling like a final curtain on a deserted stage. This is South Miami High on the 14th of June, 1983.

“Here you go,” I said to the attractive cheerleader (ex-cheerleader, I mentally corrected myself) whose yearbook I’d just signed. Hastily I had jotted this entry: To Ann Saroyan: It was nice having you for a classmate in English this year. It really was a trip and a half! Best Wishes, Jim. I closed the yearbook and handed it back with an I-aim-to-please smile.

Ann Saroyan – she looked sort of strange dressed in “civilian” clothes; I was accustomed to seeing her in her cheerleader’s uniform – beamed happily. Her hazel eyes gleamed with end-of-high-school joy. “Thanks, Jim,” she said. She smiled at me and handed me my yearbook. She had quickly scribbled: Good luck in the future. Love, Ann Saroyan, Class of ’83.

“Thank you,” I said after reading the inscription and closing my yearbook. “Really.”

Ann smiled again. She looked wonderful. I stood there for a minute, still thinking how strange it was to see the captain of the cheerleaders in jeans and a brown-and-beige plaid blouse. She was very pretty. She leaned toward me slightly and kissed me chastely on the cheek. “Goodbye, Jim,” she said in a half-whisper. Then glancing back over her shoulder at the clock on the wall, she gathered her belongings and walked out of the classroom, presumably to collect a few more yearbook inscriptions.

I watched her leave, and after looking around the nearly empty classroom – Mrs. DeVargas, my English 4 instructor, had departed some time before to get a cup of Sanka so she could finish grading some thirty-odd final exams in the refuge of the English Department office – I grabbed my backpack, stuffed my yearbook inside, and walked out into the corridor.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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