Eric headed to study hall where his friends would be waiting. There was much to get done before the new semester started.
“G Shock!” Gerald looked up as Wayne squeezed through desks to greet him.
“Michelle Brown,” Wayne said with a smirk.
Pulling his glasses far down on his nose, Gerald scolded “Those young girls will throw you off your game. Keep your eyes on the ball, son!”
A few others in the group chuckled. Wayne’s bravado had no effect here and behind every smile was assurance. He really likes Michelle and the boys approved.
Quickly sliding into a desk, Marcel tapped Gerald on the shoulder, “Sorry G, I need your help with this. Geo is killing me.”
“That shit is mad easy. You just not a visual person, that’s all. Let me finish this up and I got you.”
Eric burst through the door exactly one minute late. “Rochambeau!”
“Rochambeau… Rochambeau… RO. CHAM. BEAU!” The chorus arose in a cacophony of volumes, accents, and levels of exclamation.
With his chin held high, he motioned delicately to clap. “Order! Let’s get this homework.”
They burst into riotous laughter and commenced their secret handshakes. Dap, dorsum slap, finger tap, wind it back, knuckle crack, dripping sap, laid back.
Just then, loud heels pounded outside the door and it flew open.
“Do you plan on getting started?!”
“Yes, ma’am, we’ve already started.” Eric rolled his eyes while his back was turned.
“I heard you all the way down the hall! Rochambeau whatever.” The teacher grew big with ego and they all smelled it. They fell silent.
“Miss Tenet, that’s how we get motivated. We get all that aggression out then we ready.”
“What does that word mean?”
“Rochambeau? Nothing Miss Tenet,” Eric scoffed and waved it away, letting his voice get low to contrast her increasing volume.
“I can get Mr Saul in here to find out!” Palms resting, Miss Tenet was staring from across her desk at a tall, lanky, and dark boy of 16 in a jacket he’d not yet grown into. She waited for an answer.
Eric folded his hands and brought them to his face, with his index fingers resting on the corners of his mouth as if in deep contemplation. He looked up.
“Miss Tenet, you ain’t gotta understand everything. It’s not for you.”
“Yessir!” Someone loudly interjected as a few muffled laughs rose behind Eric.
Standing straight up, Miss Tenet crossed her arms at her chest. “Suit yourself,” she said, rushing toward the door.
“Miss. Tenet! Golly… Rochambeau was a French general instrumental in American victories during the Revolutionary War during the Yorktown Campaign. He was also involved in the French Revolutionary War and narrowly escaped the guillotine. We invoke him as a little battle cry. We overcome these battles with the books.”
Miss Tenet was deflated and embarrassed for escalating a non-conflict. She clutched her chair and turned her head toward an inspirational poster about gratitude to gather her thoughts.
“Please keep it down. I’ll be back in an hour.”
“Sure thing, Miss Tenet,” Eric said sweetly.
The minute the door closed, the boys collapsed in a huddle of amusement on the floor.
“Yo, why is she so nosy? Damn, go do your job! Check my report card. I’m good,” Eric said, shaking Marcel’s hand.
“Not a leg to stand on,” Gerald said. “She could get it though.”
They all broke out in giggles again.
“Nah. I mean, I like to be told what to do, you know what I’m saying?! But not like that,” Gerald said, shaking his head.
“Bash, is that shit even true?” Wayne was impressed by the apparent improvisation.
“Brotha, I have no idea!” Eric led another round of laughs.
The rub of jackets being removed and chairs being pulled out gave way to throat clearing and page-turning. Marcel whispered questions as Gerald explained the third chapter geometry lesson on congruence.
Outside, heels came pounding again as Miss Tenet peeked in to find the boys diligently scribbling away or reading. She breathed shallow and stared inside, almost disappointed they weren’t slacking. She was still sore. There was nothing like being bested by a child.
Just then Eric looked up and their eyes met. He stared back calmly, almost curious. He thought about Shakespeare and all the world is a stage. He’d met this character before and knew how to handle them. He smiled slightly and waved, giving a corny thumbs up. Doe-eyed, Miss Tenet pounded again down the hall.
“Whew! She’s got a lot of growing up to do!” Gerald said.
“A lot,” G repeated.