It’s the End of the World As We Know It
I woke up to my older brother literally shaking me awake. Liam is a senior in high school. He spent the last week with his band in California. Talk about lucky. I guess he got in late last night and thought he would wake me up early on a Saturday morning.
“Stop! I’m awake, you butt!!” I yelled.
“Are you sure? Because I’m not sure,” he said still shaking me.
“Moooom!” I yelled.
“Alright you baby,” Liam said letting go of me. “So, ask me how California was.”
“How was...” I started groggily.
“Awesome!! Best trip ever.” Liam said loudly.
“Dude! It’s 6:30 AM! On a Saturday,” I said looking at the clock.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m going back to bed,” Liam said like he was bragging. “You, however, get to spend the day in detention, trouble-maker. Mom wants you downstairs in 20. Have fun.”
I heard Liam laugh all the way to his room. I groaned and thought about getting up. Today was going to be worse than a school day. Only because it’s a Saturday. Weekends are sacred to me. I got up and got ready.
“I told Liam to have you down here in 20 minutes not 30,” Mom said handing me a plate of eggs and bacon.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Where is your backpack?” Mom asked.
“Why do I need it? It’s detention not school.”
“If they let you work you should work on some of your late assignments and get caught up. I have your lunch here, too,” Mom said.
“Okay,” I said.
After breakfast I grabbed my backpack, slipping my iPod and earbuds in as well as my lunch. I followed my Mom out to the car. It figured it had to be a nice sunny day. That just made me feel worse. We were both pretty much quiet all the way to Mountain View. It was weird seeing just a few cars in the parking lot and no people. Mom stopped by the entrance.
“Have a good day,” she said.
“Yeah right,” I mumbled.
“Sorry, habit. Make good use of your time and I’ll see you at 2:00.”
“Bye,” I said as I got out of the car and shut the door. I started toward the empty looking school hoping that they totally forgot about Saturday detention. I pulled open the door and walked in. Two kids were sitting on two different benches. I looked around for a sign or something.
“If you are here for detention we are supposed to wait here,” said a nerdy looking kid on the first bench.
“Thanks,” I mumbled and sat on a third bench. I pulled out my iPod and put on my earbuds. Time to escape to heavy metal heaven.
After a few minutes I looked up as some blonde girl walked in. I’m pretty sure she’s in my grade. I think nerdy kid told her we were supposed to wait here. She sat down on the other end of my bench. After another minute or two I noticed some poor kid come in with his mother. How embarrassing is that? When someone told them we were supposed to wait here his mother kissed him goodbye and left. That’s when I noticed another almost Goth looking girl was sitting on the other end of nerd boys bench. I wonder when she snuck in.
I felt an icy cold breeze and smelled the strong perfume. A quick look up proved what I already knew. Principal Callahan was standing there doing a quick count of bodies in the entryway. I pulled out my earbuds. Not because I wanted to hear a word she had to say to us, but I knew it was better if I took them out before she made me.
“Good, you’re all here,” she said smiling. “Benjamin, spit the gum out now.”
A boy got up and tossed a big wad of gum into the trash can and sat back down. The janitor brought a lunch cart over and Principal Callahan thanked him. As he walked away she pulled the lunch cart in front of her.
“First, I want all your lunches on the top of the cart. I see a few of you actually brought a backpack with you. I commend you for planning to make good use of your time by doing some school work, as detention is not fun time. However, you can do school work on your own time. I want all backpacks on the bottom shelf of the cart. In this basket on the side I want all cellphones.”
I heard some moans as we were gathered putting our stuff on the cart.
As we all headed back empty handed to sit down Callahan asked, “Do I have all your belongings now? I don’t want to see anyone with an iPod, cellphone, Gameboy or any kind of gadget you may have. Your pockets should be empty.” She looked around as we all nodded. “Alright then…”
“Are we just going to sit here all day?” Asked one of the boys.
“I’m speaking now, Tyler. You listen,” said Principal Callahan like she was talking to a second grader. “We have an interesting group here today. You all are what I would call ‘underachievers’. All six of you are perfectly capable of getting good grades, turning in assignments, and getting involved with activities at our school; however, something seems to be holding you all back. You have all become lazy and some disrespectful. From this group there has been littering, failure to turn in assignments, defacing school property, skipping classes, and so on. It seems many of you would rather find yourselves sitting in my office rather than in class. So I have something planned to keep you all busy for these five Saturdays of detention. You are going to get to see firsthand how your actions affect others. You all get to be Mr. Dan’s junior janitors!”
“What?” It just popped out of my mouth before I could stop it. I heard other’s asking the same out loud and looking around at each other in disbelief.
As if on cue, our janitor walked out and set some stuff down in front of the wall I defaced. Which now had a long sheet of paper taped over it? I hadn’t noticed that when I came in. Principal Callahan waved the janitor over.
“I’m sure you all know our janitor, Mr. Dan. He will be giving you all jobs to keep you busy. You will be cleaning up your, as well as others, litter, scrubbing marker off of lockers, scraping gum off the bottom of desks, and painting over graffiti. As well as other fun things Mr. Dan might need help with. So, I am going to turn you over to Dan now. I will bring the cart back out with your lunches in three hours for a short lunch break. I do not want to hear a single complaint or hear from Mr. Dan that any of you are slacking off or not doing what you are told to do. Capiche?”
There was an off chorus mixed with my “yes” some “yeahs”, and another “capiche” or two.
“They’re all yours, Mr. Dan,” said Principal Callahan as she pushed our lunches and belongings toward her office.
I heard some kid whisper to another, “What did she say? Quiche?” What a bone head. Of course the blonde girl leaned toward him and explained, “Capiche is Italian for, ‘Do you understand?’” She looks like one of those ‘know it all’ girls.
Then the kid said, “Why is our principal talking to us in Italian?”
The janitor cleared his throat. I noticed he was holding something. “All right, crew. I’ve got tags for all of you like mine here,” he pointed to a thin green tag pinned on his pocket that read, ‘Mr. Dan’. “This way it will be easier for me to remember your names. When I call your name come and get your tag. Ben… Tyler… Savannah… Zoey… Braeden… and Sawyer.”
We all pinned on our lame tags. Then he led us over to the wall. He picked up a piece of paper with writing on it. He started giving jobs to each of us. The girls and Ben got gloves, a sponge and spray bottles to start cleaning lockers down the hall. Tyler and sawyer got the same and were sent to clean lockers in another hallway. Then there was just me and Mr. Dan standing there.
“Braeden…well I have a special project for you,” he said as he put down the piece of paper.
“Great, I can’t wait.” I thought out loud.
Mr. Dan ignored me as he proceeded to tear down the long sheet of paper covering my, “ SCHOOL SUCKS”. He rolled up the paper and put it in a recycling bin. “Alright, my man Braeden. You get to wash off what you can of your artwork here. I’m sure it won’t all come off. So the next step will be to primer and then paint the whole wall. Right now, there are the sponges and a bucket of soapy water I suggest you get to scrubbing. I will be walking around checking on you all as well as doing my jobs. There is a step ladder around the corner too if you need it. Any questions?”
“Nope,” I said.
With that Mr. Dan walked down the hall. I looked at my message on the wall and took a deep breath. I wouldn’t have made the letters so dang big if I had known I would have to scrub them off. School sucks is even truer now. I grabbed a big sponge and plunged it into the warm soapy water. As I lifted it up ten times heavier and dripping like crazy, I squeezed a bunch of the excess water out into the bucket. Then I started scrubbing away at the last, ‘S’. I scrubbed and scrubbed. I was determined to wash it off so I didn’t have to primer and paint too. The black spray paint was being very stubborn though. I moved to another letter. Same thing. I cursed many times under my breath. Why wasn’t this just washing off easily?
I drenched the sponge and held it with both hands and scrubbed as hard as I could. My arms got sore, water was dripping all down the wall and some on me, and it only slightly faded the paint. At least I think it faded a bit. Man this was the worst. I seriously thought about throwing the stupid sponge and running out of the school and refusing to ever come back. If I could figure out how to make that work I’d do it. Thinking it through all scenarios had me right back here either by force, fear, or giving up and agreeing to come back.
When Mr. Dan came back I was taking a break. “Hey, why aren’t you working?” He asked annoyed.
“I’m just resting my arms for a minute. Dude, this soap is not working. I’ve been scrubbing and scrubbing and it is barely faded. Do you have like some acetone and dry rags in your closet?” I asked hopefully.
“First of all, you don’t call me dude,” Mr. Dan said angrily.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Second, you are not using chemicals. Just keep working.”
“Can I get some more soap or something?” I asked.
Mr. Dan looked at the soapy water in the bucket. “You have plenty,” he said and walked around the corner.
I threw a few dry sponges at the wall as hard as I could. This was ridiculous. Isn’t there some child labor law or something? I was going to google that as soon as I got home. I bet the school can’t make us work like this. I’m going to prove it and next week we will all be chilling in a classroom reading or doing school work. I personally will be sketching like I actually planned to do today.
I grabbed the stupid sponge out of the soapy water and tried again. This may as well be an army camp. Only I’d be scrubbing the latrine with a toothbrush! Actually a toothbrush might work better than these useless sponges.
Half an hour later Mr. Dan caught me sitting down pushing a mop up and down the wall. I wasn’t even trying to put any muscle behind it anymore. It was pointless to even try to get the graffiti off. So why bother, but I had to do something to make it look like I was making some sort of effort.
“What is this?” Asked Mr. Dan.
“My last lame attempt at something that is absolutely impossible with what I have to work with,” I replied.
He shook his head and I’m pretty sure he was smiling. “Alright, you’re done here. Let’s clean up this stuff and put it away. There is a sink in the janitor’s quarters to dump this bucket in. I’ll let you do that.”
“You know there are ways to get this off. Do you always spend this much time scrubbing the wall just to end up painting over it?” I asked.
“Heck no, I don’t have that kind of time.” Mr. Dan said like I asked a stupid question. “I use chemicals or paint over it.”
“What? Then why couldn’t I do that?”
“Chemicals are not good for kids let alone anyone to breathe. I can’t risk killing off the brain cells you have. You may use them one day.” Mr. Dan joked. I think.
“Then why didn’t you just let me paint over it?”
“Because you need to learn that defacing school property is wrong and isn’t easily washed off. Whenever you do something like this someone has to deal with it. You think I like cleaning up after you kids every day? It is my job, but when you pull stuff like this and don’t help out by throwing out your own garbage, and stick gum under desks which is just lazy and disgusting! Plus the school has to spend money to buy more supplies and paint. You kids, you just don’t think. Do you do this stuff at home? No you don’t. Now go empty that bucket. I think you get a lunch break soon.”
I walked away mad at first. I can’t believe he made me scrub the stupid wall for over two hours knowing it wouldn’t come off! What is his problem? If he doesn’t like his job he can always get another one. Geez! I would never be a school janitor. I lugged the heavy soapy water bucket through the janitor door. I looked around and found an old metal sink behind shelves of supplies. I dumped out the bucket and set it on a counter by another bucket. I noticed a yellow warning sign on a cabinet. “Kids are an occupational hazard”. It made me laugh. I should probably be offended or something, but I wasn’t. There sure were a lot of supplies! There was a desk with a computer, clip boards, lists, order forms, a used coffee cup, and pens. I looked up at the corkboard where pictures were pinned up. Funny comics and what I assume are Mr. Dan’s kids and family. Plus the night janitors family too. I looked back at all the supplies. I started to get a guilty feeling. Because of me I was costing the school money. Then again school wasted a bunch of my time. So maybe we’re even.
I went back to help Mr. Dan put stuff away and bring out a tarp, pans, brushes, and primer. Finally Callahan came out with our lunches!
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