After maundering on at length about these various teenaged trials-by-fire, I have purposefully left off what must be the most universal and most horribly traumatic: the category-defying, all-encompassing phenomenon of Getting Caught. It doesn’t matter who actually catches you in whatever act, whether it be school officials, or the cops, or neighbors: what matters is that your parents are going to hear about it, and then you will have to deal with parental wrath and reprisal. Neither of which is quite as horrible as the associated implication: you will have to talk with your parents. As in, “We need to have a talk,” which is then, horrifyingly, followed by actual talk. No teenager wants to talk with his or her parents about anything apart from curfew negotiations and can I have some money? But there is a thing worse than the parents who “need to have a talk”: the parent(s) who, thanks to your awful transgressions, stop talking. Such as, for example, my father, the ex-Marine Viet Nam veteran. But again I get ahead of myself.
After Tracy kindly informed my entire high school that it was I who was responsible for the bomb threat, the rest of the afternoon kind of passed in a haze, and not just because of the beer, although that either helped or hurt, I really don’t know. I mostly just felt kind of wrapped up in damp bedsheets, a sort of premature shroud of dread that hung on me heavily, because even a poltroon like myself could now see that I was clearly dead, much like the luckless William Katt, who was over on the beach chatting up a reticent Carrie White. “You poor bastard,” I thought, “you’re like me, but with even worse hair. You won’t live to see the end of prom night.” Then I thought of my father, and realized that, all things considered, I would rather be doused in pig’s blood and then hideously killed before facing whatever my dad came up with.
I eventually made it home and sleepwalked my way through the evening, with my dad (my mother was visiting relatives out of town) making some curious noises about the hubbub at school. I muttered that it was “pretty weird” before heading off to bed, where I dreamed of terrible things, like the acting of John Travolta. It was a rough night. And then morning hit, and I had to go to school. Where Everybody Knew.
If you’ve ever seen one of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies, you’ll get an idea of how it felt to walk around the school. People either gave me wary, “I’m with you” glances or hard-eyed “Soon your brains will be scooped out like nougat” looks. I knew the second I walked into the place that everything had gone drastically wrong, and that justice would soon be meted out in jagged, cruel strokes. But what could I do? Nothing; I shambled like an unstrung marionette to my first class, playing a part in a tragedy whose unheroic end was eminently clear. The teacher greeted me with an iron smile and a terse, pointed “Hello, Skot.” I waved goofily and dropped all my books. Smooth.
This agony went on until my second class, geometry. Then came the call. The speaker crackled: “Skot Kurruk, please report to the principal’s office. Skot Kurruk to the office.” Everyone looked at me silently, except the teacher, who looked at the floor. I stood up and exited, leaving my books on my desk, even then clinging to tiny shreds of nonhope: “If I leave my books here, I’ll have to come back! To pick them up! QED!” A friend told me later that when one of the school staff came by to gather up my stuff, it was like watching me being erased from the face of the earth.
I went to the principal’s office, where I was greeted by the vice-principal, the school counselor, and . . . the chief of police. He was holding my by-now very crumpled note. I’d like to say I gave them a bunch of Brandoesque fuck-you guff, but by now I was a babbling sack of undifferentiated terror. I do remember the cop saying “You know, we’ve got your fingerprints off this note.” This was pretty stupid, since (a) I had never at that point been fingerprinted, and (b) clearly about nine hundred people had touched the thing since I typed it. It didn’t matter; I confessed nearly immediately. (I did make a brief hopeless attempt at caginess: “Supposing I was the person who did this . . . ” Really, really pathetic.) After the obvious had been admitted to, the counselor put his hand on my shoulder and said, haltingly, “Skot . . . do you need . . . help?” I twitched at him balefully and blurted out, “Jesus Christ, no!” It was my only proud moment; everyone else in the room kind of chuckled.
After that came the waiting, because of course they had to call my dad, a small-town courtesy before they hauled me down to the police station to arrest me. Waiting was of course horrible, the worst, the fucking worst, except it wasn’t, because then Dad showed up. He looked like a fucking golem constructed out of wrath and moustache, and the aleph on his forehead glowed with an otherworldly malevolence, and all in all, I knew that doom had finally come. At this point, I just gave over to utter catatonia, and entered into a dream-state where Piper Laurie hectored me about Jee-zus and dirty-pillows. Anything was preferable to reality, where, incidentally, I was indeed arrested, printed, and released, with dark promises that we’d be hearing from juvenile court about a date.
I was given a five-day suspension from school, during which (it was May, remember?) I earned zeroes on no less than three major tests. During that suspension, I spent some real quality time with my crazed, vengeful father, who, depending on mood and timing, (a) threw things at me, (b) howled like a gutshot dog over my idiocy, and (c) devised foul, backbreaking chores to be done around our rural ranch. I shoveled out horse stables. I cleared a 20’x20′ plot of four-foot weeds with a scythe. I waded through a two-foot tall (I’m serious) stack of extra credit problems given to me by my wonderful and sympathetic geometry teacher. I don’t want to exaggerate here, but it was a million times worse than hell.
Things blew over, of course. I lived in terror of ringing phones; I was certain each time that it was Johnny Law calling to give me my judicial ball-kicking. But they never did, figuring that hey, they couldn’t do worse than my dad had. I returned to school, to somewhat embarrassed acclaim; some of my baseball teammates took to calling me “Boom-Boom” or “Psycho,” which made me feel like a particularly lame radio personality. I managed, through a freakish effort and not a little help from teachers who felt I had gone through the wringer, to maintain a better than 3.0 GPA.
And Tracy? I’d love to tell you that she and I got together, that she was dazzled by my half-assed outlaw ways, that she was my first love, all that. But no. Tracy and I remained only friends, but to be honest? I think I could have made a go of it with her, I really think I had a shot, but . . . oh, hell, I don’t have to tell you by now. We ran out of time, she ran out of time. She should have known better than to tease Carrie White.