I am rage.
* * *
I feed a furnace in my belly with a constant cache of coal. It never gets low and I never burn out. It sizzles and sears; it expands and it ebbs. Still, I am in control.
* * *
I get a letter from the principal’s office. I am a candidate for valedictorian.
* * *
In fifth grade Jenna Penney bet me fifty cents I couldn’t get straight As for the marking period. Straight As, every period for eight years with interest, inflation and so forth: Jenna Penney owes me about seventy bucks.
Pocket change. Piddly squat.
I made seventy last Tuesday, when I sold Jimmy Chang, the wise-ass, his bi-monthly stash.
* * *
I go home and I tell my mom about the valedictorian thing.
“Mom,” I say. She looks at me. She’s shocked. “It’s between me and Charlotte Carr for valedictorian.”
She cries, but not because she is proud.
Masochist is what the guy said, that dumb therapist that she made me see a few years back. Dr. Douche is what I call him. So masochist is what he said. But I say unique. To-may-to, to-mah-to.
* * *
There are four months left. Four months to either earn the title of valedictorian or to pilfer and swindle from Charlotte Carr. So poetic, the ‘pilfer’ and ‘swindle’. I’m like Robin Hood, except I lack the moral code. There are no poor to serve. It’s goddamn high school — there are just repugnant rich boys and chirpy cheerleaders. So I find Charlotte Carr.
“Hey Char,” I say. I use my sit-in-the-front-row, raise-my-hand-for-every-question voice. “How ’bout we partner up for the final Chem project? It would really help our GPAs.”
Charlotte stares at me. I think she’s pissed, and she probably has reason to be, if that kind of crap mattered to me. Last May at the junior prom, Charlotte was up for Prom Princess or whatever the hell the title is. I couldn’t stand the desperate labels, the tween drama of it all. So I set the ballot box on fire. Charlotte saw me go into the room, and she’s at least fairly intelligent — she’s up for valedictorian against me, after all — she must have deduced that I was the arsonist, adding one and one to make two.
Charlotte fixes a smile. Good girl.
“Sure,” she says. “Let’s meet in the library after school.”
* * *
I see Lockley Moore heading into the bathroom with a group of friends before sixth period. Lockley’s holding a liter bottle of minty mouth rinse. Lockley Moore. His parents must have been assholes to give him a name him like that. Asshole parents or not, there are tastier ways to get drunk, and I happen to be the school’s very discreet, very in-demand peddler of said resources. I tell Mr, Logan, the vice principal and, as far as he’s concerned, my BFF, that shit-for-brains Lockley Moore and friends were stumbling and acting peculiar and, as the class do-gooder, I’m concerned so could he check it out?