The Day of the Dead
Owen and His Pals’ Saga Continues
The students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary started lining up by class at the sound of the first bell. They were scattered around the courtyard, usually playing hopscotch, tag, or some other game to pass the time. It was a quarter to eight, and the teachers expected their students to be ready to go inside as soon as they arrived. Owen and Jackson waited near the entrance to the courtyard for Cooper. Almost never going anywhere without him.
“You think he’ll show?” Jackson asked Owen.
“He should. The late bell’s about to ring.”
“I haven’t talked to him since Friday night.”
“Yeah, my dad was pretty upset that I stole the Black Cats from his office.”
“Mine too. Well, that I smashed the Johnson’s pumpkins and helped cause the fire.”
“I didn’t realize how bad it was until my dad showed me the video that was posted on YouTube.”
“There was a video?”
“Yeah, it shows us running from the Johnson’s house and the grass catching fire.”
“Where was the camera?”
“I guess it was mounted on the door to keep an eye on trick-or-treaters.”
“Oh…” Jackson sounded embarrassed. “Did it also show Cooper chasing us?”
“That’s gonna be bad.”
“We probably shouldn’t talk about it.”
“Too late!” Ashton shouted, creeping up behind Owen and putting him in a headlock. Ashton was one of the most popular kids in school. He was an even bigger bully than Owen could ever be.
“Hey, leave him alone!” Jackson jumped on Ashton’s back, trying to pull him away from Owen.
“And what are you gonna do about it?” Ashton questioned, executing a shoulder throw to escape Jackson’s attempted bear hug.
Owen assumed the warrior position while lying flat on his back to prevent further attacks. He rushed to his feet and was ready to go after Ashton when Cooper stood between them.
“Enough!” Cooper shouted with both arms raised as if he were suddenly appointed referee.
“Let me take him, Cooper.” Jackson huffed like an angry bull ready to charge at the moving target.
“It’s not worth it, Jackson.” Owen tried to calm him down.
The student body was now circled around the boys, chanting: “Fight, fight, fight!”
“We saw the video.” Ashton provoked.
“You boys screamed like little girls on Halloween!”
“That’s not so.” Owen tried to quell the truth.
“It is so. And you know it.” Ashton continued to taunt. “Cooper, made y’all piss your pants all the way to Shady Lane.”
“Did not!” Jackson grew angrier.
“Did too!” Ashton asserted. “I don’t even know why Cooper hangs out with you.”
Before the argument could continue, the final bell rang. Vice Principal Myers rushed over to break up the crowd.
“What’s the meaning of this?” He inquired. “Get to class; all of you!”
As he made his way through the crowd, he saw Owen and his pals still standing around. Ashton had run inside before Vice Principal Myers could catch him in the act. He was always pretending to be some kind of do-gooder.
“Boys! What are you all waiting for?”
“Nothing, Vice Principal Myers.”
The boys picked up their bags and headed for Mrs. Kirby’s class. They weren’t looking forward to her follow-up lesson on the American Revolution. The only thing they were concerned about was making it through the day.
“Did y’all do the homework?” Cooper asked.
“What homework?” Owen was still massaging his neck.
“The timeline assignment.”
“I thought that wasn’t due until next week?” Jackson asked sure of himself.
“No — ” Cooper was interrupted by the silence and stares of the boys’ classmates as they walked into their classroom. A moment passed before a voice on the intercom startled them.
“Attention: Owen, Jackson, and Cooper please come to the Principal’s office immediately.”
The room filled with laughter. The boys looked at each other in fear. Although Vice Principal Myers didn’t give any sign of them being in trouble, they knew they were dead. They weren’t going to be able to live down the incident on Halloween.
Principal Grimes was a former drill instructor in the Marine Corps. He treated everyone like they were Marines. It didn’t matter that many of the students at Wilson Elementary still hadn’t hit puberty. He expected everyone to live by a code. That code was: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. It sucked if you were a kindergartner still learning not to bring rocks in from recess. There were rumors that he would make you eat every one of those rocks as punishment. One rumor even went so far as to claim that he’d pass the salt to you too. Of course, the penalties were likely more severe for fifth graders.
The waiting area outside Principal Grimes’s office looked like an altar commemorating every student who had ever been in trouble and never heard from again. Ms. Martinez, the School’s receptionist, sat at the desk outside his office. She lit an incense and smiled at the boys. “To keep the bad spirits away,” she whispered. The boys clenched their noses.
After what seemed like an hour, Principal Grimes stood outside his office wearing his campaign hat — which often signaled someone was about to get an ass-chewing. He expected his students to stand at attention when he called their names.
“Students Owen, Jackson, and Cooper At-ten-tion!”
The boys stood up.
“What are ya’ll waiting for?” Principal Grimes questioned. “Get in my office!”
The boys shuffled inside.
“What’s this I hear about ya’ll starting some kind of fight in my courtyard?”
“Well, Principal Grimes, you see — ” Cooper tried to clarify the situation.
“I don’t wanna hear excuses,” Principal Grimes declared. “You boys have already done enough damage to the Johnson’s front yard.” He continued. “I’m gonna make this real clear because there are those who think you should be locked up and those that think you’re just kids. Since the incident didn’t happen on school property, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
The boys let out a sigh of relief — at least that meant they won’t be eating any rocks for breakfast or fireworks for that matter.
“However, let me be clear. I will not tolerate you boys trying to start any fights in my courtyard. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir!” The boys stood at attention and saluted Principal Grimes.
“Uh… Principal Grimes… Does that include the gymnasium?” Owen asked, raising his hand.
Principal Grimes’s eyes widened. “Get out of my off — ”
The boys ran out into hall before Principal Grimes could cause himself an aneurysm and sentence them to life in detention without the possibility of parole.
“We sure dodged that bullet,” Jackson said as they slowed down to catch their breath.
“No kidding,” Owen agreed.
“What now?” Cooper asked.
Owen pulled out a can of silly string. They exchanged looks of mischief. “We’re so dead!” They whispered.