"It's just another summer reading skit we're putting on--"
"You'll get booed. I'm serious, those snotty kids will think they're better than you and boo."
"Well, they can boo until their throats are sore and a tear courses down my cheek. I'm just doing this to please my fans."
"Mm." Pat rubbed at his head. "I got hit on the head with a pizza stone last night."
"I hate it when that happens."
"My mom drives me crazy. She was reaching for a tray in a cabinet, and she got me to do it for her, but she kept meddling and the pizza stone fell down and hit me right on the head. I got a concussion. I saw two of everything for hours..."
I wanted to say he was BORN with two of everything, but I have limits to my jackassery (possibly).
The next morning I was driving to Graland Rich Kid Academy for the Rich. Passing the statue of Bernie Sanders, I went to the office and announced my presence.
"Is it just you?" the woman said, horrified.
"No, no." I adjusted my headband. Didn't I look ready? "There are two others coming..."
The woman led me across the campus to the big building. There we met up with Ginny and Jonah. It was 8:25 am, and already we were late. Graland was very regimented compared to some of the other schools we visited where the kids wandered in and I became a chilled-out entertainer.
Jonah looked at me as if he'd been hit with a pizza stone.
"What am I doing?"
"First, take my picture. I need it for my blog!"
"Your blog sucks."
"They aren't frightened yet. But they will be. They. will. be."
"What's with the white tape on the floor?" Jonah said, handing me back my phone.
"Those are our marks, I guess."
"What are marks?"
"A book in the Bible. The plural one."
Also on the stage sat a decorated veteran. Scowling. Two children at a podium and microphone led the auditorium in the pledge of allegiance. Jonah, Ginny and I crouched by the podium going over our lines as the room thundered patriotically all around.
"Should we stand and say the pledge?" Ginny said, concerned.
"No! The world needs laughter. Now, you're Athlete One." I pointed at Jonah. "Got it? Oh, and Athlete Three."
Jonah scanned the script. "No, I'm not doing that--" Athlete Three was described as twirling on her toes. "Nu-uh. No way."
Jonah had been a performer last year at Steck Elementary, and he told Karen under no circumstances would he do it again this year. Karen pulled him into the office and worked him over for thirty minutes. He came out again a beaten man.
"Maybe I'll get a four...?" he had said, his wan smile wavering like an English biscuit.
The pledge over, the kids introduced us. To tiny applause we stepped out on the stage, waving as if we were the grand marshals of a parade no one wanted. Then I broke into a silly run, running around the stage. I trampled a few children, but it was worth it.
"Athlete One!" Ginny the Coach shouted. "How long do you have to read for to win a prize?!"
"Uh............" Jonah consulted the reading folder. "Three hours," he said in a deadly monotone.
The children burst into giggles. Meanwhile I was killing myself for my craft and I was getting nothing. Nothing! We went through the next two prizes, and Jonah sounded as excited as a teenager reading from the Torah. More giggles. I jumped around. Nothing! Finally, it was over.
Ginny waved her flag. "Get ready... set... READ!!"
We clapped for ourselves. Silence. As we waved and walked off stage, a small sound came from the back of the theater.
It was a boo.