Meet Alem Reed - black hair, brown eyes, and a bad temper.
After getting kicked out of five high schools for fighting, Alem’s goal of getting a high school diploma was destroyed; that is, until he is asked to attend a secretive new school.
However, when he discovers that the new school is filled with creatures that aren’t human, (and view you as a potentially delicious snack) tough boy Alem needs every fight skill, dry comment, and ounce of wit he’s got if he is going to survive his senior year.
They call me Alem, The Asshole, Reed.
You won’t be pleased to meet me, ‘cause quite frankly, I'm a jerk, a money-lover, a troublemaker, an underage smoker, and an all-around not-so-nice kid. I prefer to believe I’m more honest about myself than most people I’ve met, but you can decide for yourself.
I’m not a genius, but I’m far from stupid—contrary to popular adult opinion. However, my cynical nature can be summed up in five, less-than-ideal, traits: I have a short temper when dealing with stupidity; I’m a big bluffer; I like pissing people off; I fight; and I have the good fortune of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. Go figure.
I was sitting on a dirty sidewalk on a muggy Sunday afternoon when I came to the horrifying realization that my precious cigarette supply was running dangerously low. My last baby was giving me the few sweet puffs of nicotine that its short life could afford. Thank you, Cigarette #200, your noble sacrifice will always be remembered.
I pulled my hair back and stared into the cloudy blue sky. Man, I hate days like these when there’s absolutely nothing to do. Once again, my old man was out working some new job trying to pay for the fleapit we call home and put food on our typically empty table.
My pops is an okay guy. We don’t have much but he tries his best to provide me with the essentials: food, clothing, a roof over my head, yadda, yadda. I know he cares about me, and I care about him too. Though I‘ll never tell him that, even under the threat of torture. But he’s never been the same after mom passed away.
As I was saying, Sundays suck. They suck big time. But Monday is the only day worse than Sunday, if you ask me. Especially tomorrow’s Monday, because I was finally going back to school after a three-day suspension. The reason I was suspended was because the principal, otherwise known as Principal I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear, decided that I was at fault for causing the impromptu rumble at school last Tuesday.
That was injustice.
I was minding my own business—Scout's Honor. Though I despise bullies, and their cronies, it’s not as if I go hunting for fights. Fights love me. What can I say? No matter how much I try to avoid them, they always seem to find me.
But in my defense, Clearington High School was the last—yes, the absolute last—public high school in the district that would accept me and it was the fifth high school that I had attended. The previous principals had kicked me out of all the others. So it was one last chance to complete my lifetime goal, which was to earn my high school diploma. So you can understand that I was not about to screw it up. I would not give up this dream.
Lady Fate—or Murphy—had other ideas.
At the beginning of lunch on that fateful Tuesday, three bullies, who slightly resembled the Three Stooges, were messing with a freshman wearing glasses. This was so typical and rather boring. However, they were surrounded by a large mob of howling spectators who were either trying to get involved or trying to avoid getting punched in the face. I was on the way to my lonely little locker, when coincidentally, this scene caught my eye and really pissed me off.
One of the bullies, a guy with greasy blond hair, lifted the kid off his feet and shook him like a rag doll. The bully mocked the kid's parents, his style of clothing, and how he looked. He was a wonderful example of how to be a disgusting human being. I elbowed my way through the middle of the crowd and waited. I thought the three idiots might notice my pissed off presence but the noise and commotion from the crowd distracted them. I didn't want innocent people in my way when I kicked their sorry asses, so I needed to do something to awe the sheep so that they’d back up and give me room to work. I went into my left pocket and calmly lit a cigarette—it’s amazing how that gets people’s attention.
Some folks probably wondered if I wanted to get into trouble because I’m seventeen and smoking is against the law for people my age. Most of those people probably concluded that I was either a total badass or damn stupid to smoke on school property. I prefer to think the former. When the catcalls died down and whisperers took their places in the back of the crowd, the bullies finally noticed. They glanced around, and met my infamous, cold, brown eyes.
The Blondie leader smirked. “What do we have here?”
“You really don't want to know.” I blew a puff of smoke out of the side of my mouth. Some idiot coughed.
“I suggest you leave us alone if you know what’s good for you. Or your face will become my new punching bag if you don’t back off.” Blondie narrowed his flinty eyes.
I raised my left eyebrow. It was clear that this poor excuse for a kid had neither seen me before, nor heard of my greatness; too bad for him. I stared at him for a moment, and then gave the jerk a condescending half-smile. It was time for one of my trademark fight starters. “For someone who has no balls—you sure have got a lot of nerve.” I took another long drag of the late Cigarette #185 and blew a large puff of smoke in his face.
There was dead silence.
Needless to say, the three idiots and I went through the motions. Blondie ended up with two black eyes, a broken arm, and a busted lip. Blondie Henchman One, ended up with one black eye and a swollen face. Blondie Henchman Two, after I had kicked him in the stomach, didn’t get back up to face me, and so was the least injured of the trio. I ended up with a small cut above my left eyebrow and that was my sole injury.
You might think I’m arrogant, but I’m a damn good fighter. Though I will admit that sometimes I am damn good at being an idiot too.
Principal I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear came roaring down the hallway like a possessed dragon, and before I could escape, he dragged my happy ass and Blondie Henchman Two to his office and sent Blondie and Blondie Henchman One to the nurse.
On my perilous journey to Principal I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear’s office, numerous lies and excuses swirled around in my mind, but each excuse sounded more and more pathetic the longer that I contemplated it. Mr. I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear and I were not on the best of terms. The guy hated me plain and simple. He had hated me since the day the school board forced him to accept me. This came after he had flat out denied my admission here in the first time.
So, because of his intense dislike for me, I've tried to stay out of his way and, for the most part, I have been successful until this particular incident occurred. When we arrived, Blondie Henchman Two was the first to go into the office after Principal I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear gave me a bitter glare. The feeling of hostility was, of course, mutual.
While Blondie Henchman Two was trapped in the Office of Evil, I still had time to make up something in my defense. But what could I say? I’m not the greatest of speakers. For all my boasting, my brain tends to shut down when I need it most. When things like this happen, I tend to follow my instincts, without thinking first, which explains how I manage to get into trouble even while avoiding it. I prefer to keep things short, sweet, and direct, which, as you can imagine, is another fault of my being. My mouth is always finding ways to get me into trouble. It’s my greatest enemy.
After several moments, the second henchman revealed himself and gave me an evil grin. Sadly, he appeared minus any bite or claw marks. Unnerved, I decided to use my infamous plan A. What is this, you might wonder? Well, it goes like this: I say whatever bullcrap that comes to mind until I can come up with a way to get myself out of the situation. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to incite my infamous plan A because Mr. I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear gave me a three-day suspension without even looking at me. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it. When I opened my mouth to protest, the smirk on his old face warned me that if I so much as uttered a syllable he would gladly expel me.
There was no way I was going to give this old fart the satisfaction of destroying my one goal in life—to graduate high school. I glared at him and held my fists tightly to my side, while trying to fight the strong urge to punch the guy’s lights out. I took the paper, mandating my suspension, and quickly walked out the door.
Whatever Blondie Henchman Two had said, he managed to place all of the blame on me. The stupid coward, the leader Blondie, and Blondie Henchman One, did not get suspended. I found that out later. They didn’t even get detention. Somehow, Blondie Henchman Two twisted the story around so that I became the bully and he, and his entourage, were the nice guys who rescued the innocent kid. Principal I-Have-A-Stick-The-Size-Of-Chicago-Up-My-Rear didn’t even ask for my side of the story. He swallowed their lie whole, like a ravenous dog, hungry for a meaty bone.
When my old man found out about my suspension, he gave a big sigh and looked me square in the eye. He didn’t say anything, but I knew he was disappointed. This made me feel like the biggest teenage scumbag in the world.
Now look, my grades are okay—okay enough in get into college, if I had the desire to go. My dad definitely wants me to go to college. Because neither he nor my mom finished high school and I think he has something to prove to the world. College was an unattainable dream for my parents. With decent grades and a good profile, they say that all students can and should go to college. And I knew that my GPA was fine, it was my student file that was the problem. It was bad - plain and simple. Even I know that plus one and minus one equals a big sad zero.
So I completed my suspension, however unfair it was. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday lying around the apartment and looking through my textbooks in an effort to keep up. I workout at home, and continuously bothered Mr. Chang, the owner of the Mini-Mart on the first floor of our building, for the usual trade—one carton of cigarettes for a couple of hours of free labor. As usual, Mr. Chang adamantly refused my offer. But in the end, he relented and I would get my carton of smokes.
He only agreed to the trade-off after several hours of my annoying banter and presence in his store. Then he sharply vowed to end my existence if I incriminated him for aiding a minor in the procurement of the dreaded tobacco. The deal was that I would work for him for three hours on the weekend in exchange for my sticky nicotine-filled friends. I nearly groaned at the deal with Mr. Chang though, because with him, the shorter the amount of time requested in the trade, meant the harder the selected task that he gave to me. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to the three hours of labor that I owed to Mr. Chang, for I believed that he would take pleasure in finding the most difficult task imaginable. I might venture to say that he was an unprofessed sadist, based on the sense of contentment that he displayed at my past pain and suffering, lifting heavy boxes around his Mini-Mart.
Despite his acute business sense and tough bargaining, Mr. Chang was a pretty cool guy. His family originally came from Korea. I knew this because I’ve known him ever since we moved to this crappy neighborhood three years ago. He has a son who is one year older than I am, and that guy was in college now: a nice college, Ivy League or something. I don’t know how he did it though, considering our past behaviors; it’s amazing he’s still alive. But Heaven couldn’t have helped him if he didn’t go to college. Mr. Chang was a real stickler for education, and he has hinted around inadvertently that he wanted to see me go to college too. It’s nice that he cares, but if I manage to make it to my high school graduation, I doubt I’ll live long enough to go to college.
After an uneventful three days of suspension, working out, and hitting the books, the weekend came and went. On Sunday, I spent most of the day watching TV until the lights were cut suddenly at 1:35 PM and hadn’t come back on since. The lack of electricity led me outside, in the muggy afternoon air, where I waited until three o’clock, so I could fulfill my end of the bargain with Mr. Chang.
I glanced at my watch. I still had an hour to wait. It couldn’t come fast enough.
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