Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Loyalty Test

Photo courtesy of  Robert Knapp, Portland, OR
Eleven days before the launch of Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, I am putting up the last of the excerpts here on the blog. This is the setup to a test that Will eventually fails.


It was a clear cold night, down in the single digits. He shoved his hands deep in his coat pocket and wished he'd never befriended a kid named Hercules. As they walked up to the main building, they kept off the path, walking the long way by the golf course. Suddenly, they heard a long scream, a sound of pain and horror coming from Buhler Hall.
"What the fuck," Will whispered. Hercules paid no attention. He was single-minded. They continued as if they'd heard nothing and then slipped behind the back of the main building. Hercules pointed. There was a dim light on in one window, visible through what must have been a crack in the Venetian blinds.
"See. He always leaves his desk light on."
"That doesn't mean the tests are there."
"Will, man. I need your help."
"This is the only way you can think of to pass the freaking test?"
"You know I can't pass it."
"I think you can."
Hercules turned away in disgust.
"I don't even care if I go to college or not. That's bullshit. It's overhyped. I'll do this on my own. You just keep quiet. Pretend you never knew me. Fucking pussy."
"Hey. I'm not a pussy. You know that."
"Yes, you are. You've got too much to lose. Too much riding on that Yale application."
"I don't give a crap about that."
He spun suddenly. Even in the night Will could see he was angry, angrier than he’d ever seen him.
"Go on. Get the fuck back home. Don't want to mess with your college resume."
"Don't be a shit head."
"Yale’s calling, Will."
"Forget that."
"Bow wow wow. God damn pussy bulldogs."
“Pussy bulldogs?”
Will tried to tackle him but Hercules was too big. He spread his legs and spun him. Will managed to get a headlock to bring him down with him. They were up on the hill, and Will sensed he was falling a long way. Hercules stood up on the hill above him as he got to his knees.
"I'm going to help you, you shit-head."
Hercules laughed and walked away.
The next day Will learned someone in Buhler, a junior, had been taken away sometime in the night. Rumors flew that the kid had been tripping on acid. He finished typing up his Shakespeare essay in the morning during a free period and looked out the window at the snow falling. There was a major snow storm coming, they said. He had the radio on listening to a Top 40 station out of Stockbridge playing Eric Carmen's All by Myself. He hated that song.
He thought about what Hercules had said. It was true that he was applying to Yale and Harvard, for that matter. But he had convinced himself that he didn't care where he ended up in college. He figured he would beat all the status-conscious kids who would shun you if you sat at the wrong table in the cafeteria, kids so caught up with themselves that he didn't even rate a shunning, at the only game in town that seemed to count. That's what he told himself. But somewhere inside there was a niggling doubt about this self-imposed honor code. There was a flaw in the logic somewhere, like the screams of the boy in Buhler Hall reprimanding him for hypocrisy, for not living up to his own standards.


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