Snow Day (It’s Not One)

We treated it like a snow day without snow. I’d heard certain places got so hot schools closed for heat days. So, I figured Mother Nature was the only force that could halt the yellow buses from rolling — wrong.

A letter addressed to vice principal Manuel was received around 10:30 a.m. in a small envelope, along with what appeared to be a printed address pasted onto the front, authorities said. The note inside appeared to also be computer-generated, and was pasted on a blank piece of paper; it read, “The whole school will be blown out on Tuesday, Sept. 20th at 11:30 a.m.” The note was later sent to the County Sheriff’s Office for forensic examination

We went to the same place we’d go on actual snow days: Dead Man’s Hill. Instead of sliding down the hill on saucers and toboggans, we puffed Salem’s and slugged bombers of Stella. Kenny, Greg’s older brother, bought them for us in between classes at CC. He cut his last class and joined. He picked up a trash can lid and bent it between his forearms, testing its tensile strength. Instead of ice there was choppy grass and dirt patches. Still, he took off running.

“No shot,” I said.

“Bet?” Greg said.

“Bet what?”

“Your bike.” Greg was still figuring out if he was a prankster or a bully.

“Sure.”

“Mr. Manuel is dead,” Greg said.

“What? Says who?”

“Fucker addressed it to him,” said Greg.

“It’s only a threat,” I said, wondering where Mr. Manuel was and suddenly curious about his absence, he was the dean of discipline and controlled the school’s narrative like a Scientologist. We watched as Kenny flew down the hill at a breakneck clip, fighting the rough terrain. I saw an image in my head of this kid who wore a Metallica Dolores t-shirt, but figured the band sold way too many albums. Greg said it was this older kid in his P.E. class who didn’t want to get changed in the locker room and claimed he didn’t own shorts. He transferred in mid-year from the Bay Area, causing gossips to float rumors that he was gay and possibly the progeny of the Zodiac — evidence was underwhelming for both.

Kenny hit turbulence three-quarters of the way down. The lid split and he tumbled the rest of the way, bouncing slowly, the hill seemingly lunar. We made our way down carefully — the spill looked painful — and I pulled a shard of plastic out of his arm, blood squirted on my jacket like urine. Kenny wailed.

The kid ended up having enough fertilizer to do a couple neighborhoods worth of lawns, enough ammo where inexperience wouldn’t be much hindrance. Mr. Manuel got the salutation, but the suspect lacked the follow through, his academic record said as much. Manuel was there the following Monday, strong man shtick sharp, students safe as they ever were.

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