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After the night he had with his dad, Brad was sure that he would not be allowed to take the job as Chris' helper in the gymnasium. He was almost afraid to ask about it, but he knew that both Chris and the coach would be waiting to hear the answer when he got to school. He finally got up the courage and explained everything the best that he could to his parents.
"We'll have to see about that, son," his dad said with that look that told Brad not to push it any farther.
"Dad, I am very sorry about last night," Brad said, changing tactics. "I was completely out of line and I realize that. Please forgive me for my sin against you and Mom."
"That is a very mature attitude, Brad," Mom told him with a smile.
"Yes, son," Dad agreed. "It's a pity that you didn't think of it last night before you opened that mouth of yours in anger."
"I don't mean to bring up the subject too soon, Dad, but I just remembered something else that I should mention to you about the job in the gymnasium."
"You know I don't like to hear you harassing me about a decision I have to make," Dad warned.
"Yes sir, I just thought I should point out that my teacher for the study period that I would be missing is Ms. Phillips," Brad said quietly. "I don't know if you will want me to miss the chance to be around her some more since you want me to watch her for you."
"Samuel, I don't think I like the idea of Brad being around that woman all the time," Mom told Dad. "Perhaps if he had the job in the gymnasium it would give him time to think on other things than her evil influence over him."
"The decision is mine to make, woman," Dad snapped. "Need I remind you that the wife is subject unto the husband?"
"I'm very sorry, Samuel," Mom whispered. "I was only concerned for Bradley's soul being around that terrible woman."
"You are responsible for the boy's physical needs, I will see to his spiritual needs," Dad ordered. "Bradley you may tell this coach that I would like to meet with him before I agree to this. I would not want to put you out of Satan's frying pan and into his fire."
"Yes, Dad," Brad agreed with a smile.
He had done it. He knew if he played the religion tricks they would agree to the gymnasium job. He was still smiling when he arrived at the school that morning.
"Well, it looks like you're thinking about that friend of yours again." Brad turned to see Chris standing beside him outside the building. "I wish someone would smile that way about me," the boy added almost silently. Brad had heard him, though.
"Well, it just so happens that I was thinking about you," Brad announced cheerfully. "My Dad is going to agree to the gymnasium job as soon as he talks to the coach."
"Hot Damn!" Chris yelled. "OH! Shi...oot. I'm sorry, Brad," he said with a blush.
"I told you yesterday Chris, Dad's the preacher, not me," Brad grinned. "I agree with you. Hot Damn!"
"You know to be very careful what you say and where, Brad." Both boys turned to see Ms. Phillips a few feet away from them. "Do not forget the position you are in, just because you are getting that which you need most in life, for the first time."
"I don't think she's gruesome," Brad whispered when she walked away out of their sight. "Strange, but not gruesome."
"Your coach wouldn't either if I had gone out with him when he asked," the woman's voice came back to them.
"How the heck does she do that?" Chris wondered aloud, and then cowered when he realized that he had said it out loud. There was no response from their English teacher, though.
"I don't think I want to know," Brad told his friend. "My dad was not happy about her last night. He wants me to spy on her in class for him. I think he wants to get her fired."
"A couple of the church folks in town have tried that before," Chris told him. "It never works. She doesn't do anything that they can fire her for."
"Well, Dad is determined," Brad shrugged. "She's the reason he's willing to let me have the job with you. He doesn't want her around me anymore than she has to be."
"Whatever gets you the job," Chris said with a smile. "We're going to have a blast."
"Oh yeah, I'm sure washing stinky towels and clothes is real fun," Brad said sarcastically.
"It will be with both of us doing it," Chris defended. Just then the bell rang and the boys hurried inside the building to their first classes of the day.
Brad was on time for the grouchy spitting coach's lecture on history today. Not that it seemed to make a difference to the coach. He was still grouchy and he still spit all over Brad through the long lecture. Brad gave serious thought to bringing an umbrella to class next time.
He made his way into Mrs. Holstedt's class just as the tardy bell rung. He thought he knew where he was going, but had ended up at Ms. Phillips' class an hour early. He had to run to make it to the correct class on time and of course who should stop him in the hall but Ms. Phillips.
"Your mathematics instructor will understand that you haven't gotten your bearings yet, Mr. Daniels," she told him. "There is no need to run in the hallways. At least not yet, anyway."
Brad was still wondering what that comment was supposed to mean when he got to Mrs. Holstedt's class and heard the bell ringing as he walked in the door.
"Not to worry, Brad, you haven't learned your way around well enough yet," the woman smiled. "I won't punish you this week. Next week, I would appreciate it if you could make it on time however."
"I will Mrs. Holstedt," he vowed.
"Place your homework here on the desk and take your seat," she told him. As he was going to the desk, she called out to him again. "This is not the method I taught you yesterday for problem number eight."
"My mom showed me how to do it that way and it made more sense to me," Brad said nervously as he started to blush under the attention of the whole class. "I'll try it your way again. I'm sorry."
"Never apologize for using all your resources to learn, Brad," the woman corrected him. "In fact, since it seems that several of your classmates had trouble with the same problem, perhaps you could come up to the board and go over the problem as you solved it."
Brad dropped his books on his desk and went back to the front of the room. He took the chalk from the teacher's hand and then glanced back at his homework which she also held. Taking it into his free hand, he proceeded to copy it to the board.
"Please explain the steps as you go, Brad," Mrs. Holstedt urged him.
Brad tried to remember everything the way his mom had told it to him the night before. He must have done a pretty good job, because the teacher didn't interrupt him again. She let him explain the entire process to the class before telling him to take his seat. She then went into her own lecture that told the class that the method that Brad had used was to have been taught today anyway.
That class ended with no more attention being drawn to the new boy in school, thankfully, and Brad headed back to Ms. Phillips' room for English. When he got there, Chris was standing in the hallway smiling at him as he walked up.
"Looks like you found this class okay," Chris said as they walked into the room.
"Yeah, but I found it an hour too early," Brad told him. "I found this room instead of my Math class last period, that made me late for Math."
"Mrs. H is cool, though," Chris said with a smile. "She wouldn't get you into trouble unless you really deserved it."
"Yeah, she told me that I don't have to be on time until next week," Brad grinned.
"Brad, Chris, if you could tear your attention away from the drama of new student orientation and onto the drama of Romeo and Juliet, please," Ms. Phillips announced from the front of the room. "Now, prepare to read parts from your textbook. I will be assigning roles for each of you to read. The more familiar you are with your part, the higher your grade for participation in the class project."
She glanced around the room in silence before continuing. "There seems to be a distinct shortage of female students in this class, therefore we will be required to do some traditional Shakespearian casting." She saw the blank looks from around the room before continuing. "Chris, as one of the best readers in the room, you shall be reading Romeo. Every line of Romeo's in the play is now your responsibility. Learn them as best you can to better enhance the learning experience of your peers."
Ms. Phillips went around the room then assigning the other parts based on people's reading skills and level of inhibition at public speaking. The really quiet boy in the back corner of the room got cast as the apothecary. The two girls in the class were put in as Lady Capulet and Lady Montague. The kids in the room all looked up to the front of the room with the same silent question.
"As there is not a sufficient number of girls in the class, and the two that are here are disinclined to a large part that leaves only one alternative for the role of Juliet. I must pick a boy to play Juliet. This decision will come back to haunt me, but I believe it is the best course of action for a number of reasons. The first is that it is true to the traditions of Shakespeare. In that day and age, women were not permitted on stage. It was considered unseemly, which means inappropriate. Young boys or small men were given the roles of the female characters."
Brad suddenly started to feel nervous. He hadn't been picked for a role yet, and the only one left according to the list of characters was Juliet. If she called his name, he would have to read a girl's part. He started sliding down in his desk so that he would be less noticeable. How could he ever discuss the readings with his dad if he had a girl's part?
"Now before I announce the reader of Juliet, I want to remind all of the readers that I would like for you to act out the scenes as much as possible here at the front of the room," Ms. Phillips said. "Now for the second and most immediate reason for this decision to pain me, the name of the reader: Brad Daniels. Brad, you are an accomplished reader in the language in which Shakespeare wrote. I will be asking you to help the other students as they struggle with the unfamiliar syntax and spelling of Old English. You, of course, will recognize it as the same language as the book from which your celebrated father spouts his weekly tirades against the evils of our town."
Brad wanted to crawl under his desk and die, or at least hide for the rest of the year. He couldn't explain this to his dad. He would never be allowed back into the school again. He would never sit down again. He might never breathe again.
"Class, read silently while you grow accustomed to your role," Ms. Phillips instructed them. "I will walk around the room to answer any individual questions you may have." Not that it was a surprise to Brad, but she walked straight to him first. "Brad, I must confess that I too am fearful of the repercussions of this decision, yet I have reason to believe that it is the correct path for us both to take. Will you attempt this dangerous endeavor with me? I can tell you now there will be emotional and physical pain ahead for both of us, but I say it once more. I am firmly convinced that this is the right path for the two of us."
"I will trust your judgment, Ms. Phillips," Brad told the woman nervously. "You're right about the pain ahead, though. Dad is going to go through the roof when he hears about this." Brad wasn't sure what was making him, but he suddenly felt that he had to tell his teacher about his father's plans for him. "Ms. Phillips, you should know that my Dad has asked me to spy on you. He wants me to tell him everything you say and do in class."
"Thank you for telling me that, Brad," the woman genuinely smiled for the first time since he had been around her. "You didn't have to do that, but I am glad that you did. You have earned my respect, as I seem to have earned yours. That is very mature on your part, but be careful to not let your growth and maturity put you in danger at home." She placed a hand on his shoulder for just a moment, and then walked away quickly. She went to each of the other readers and spoke to them quietly as she had done with Brad, but he noticed that as she did it, she frequently looked back at him.
When the bell rang, Brad got up quickly and hurried out of the room before any of the other students could say anything to him, including Chris. He told himself that it was because he didn't want to be late for Art class, but deep down he knew the truth. He didn't want to be picked on for reading a girl's part in class.
That day in Art class, Brad learned an important lesson about himself. He was allergic to the modeling clay that the class was using for their pottery projects. He touched the clay and within minutes was broken out in a red, itchy rash to his elbows. Mr. Kennedy recognized the problem immediately.
"That's enough pottery for you, Brad," the man said as he surveyed Brad's arms. "Go to the boy's room and wash your hands and arms very thoroughly and then see the school nurse. She may need to administer an antihistamine." The man looked at Brad's face and grinned as he explained his last word. "That would be a dose of allergy medicine."
Brad made his way to the nearest boys' bathroom and rushed in. The itching was driving him crazy already. He was still scrubbing his arms when the door opened and another boy walked in. Brad didn't look up immediately, as he was still desperately trying to end his suffering.
"Well, what do you know?" a boy's voice called out from behind him. He looked up into the mirror and saw one of the boys from his English class. "It's Juliet. Aren't you supposed to be in the girl's bathroom, Julie?"
"It's just a stupid class assignment," Brad began. "There weren't enough girls in the class. Someone had to read the part."
"That's true, but that someone didn't have to be Romeo's new best friend," the other boy pointed out. "I can't wait to see you guys act out your lines in front of the class. Be sure to tell the other girls if Chris is a good kisser, Juliet." Brad bolted from the room as the boy exploded in laughter.
He ran to the nurse's station by the office. The nice old woman looked at his hands and arms and asked him if they were still as red as they had been before he washed them. Brad told her that they weren't, but that they still itched. The woman got out a bottle of calamine lotion and smeared it all over his arms, and told him to go back to class.
"Getting into the part already, huh?" Brad had walked out into the hall just as the boy from the bathroom happened to be walking past. "You look good in pink, Juliet." There was more laughter as the two boys walked away in opposite directions.
"If all they do is laugh, you are in no danger," Ms. Phillips said from beside him. He was startled by her voice because he hadn't seen her in the hall. "Teachers get free periods too sometimes," she said as she walked away.
Brad couldn't shake the rather selfish thought that if she had heard the other kid making fun of him she could have stopped it. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that she was right however. The boy had only laughed at him. There had been no threat or violence. He made up his mind that he could handle a little laughter at his expense.