A Shark Could Nibble on You
“CJ, what would you say if I told you that you and your friends could no longer sit on the stage at lunch?” Mr. Blok asked.
“I’d say ’you’re the man’.”
“It’s your stage. We have no right to it.”
“CJ, I’m wondering if this club is doing you any good.”
“Your group is starting to look…What I mean to say is that some students feel uncomfortable with you on the stage.”
“Why? All we do is talk and eat our lunches.”
“That’s not exactly true. Many students cry. Hank Tuttle ran off screaming this morning.”
“He had a reason too. Don’t you feel like screaming about Jimmy Swindle?”
“Yes, that was terrible. But that’s not my point.”
“So if Tuttle was sitting at a chair in the cafeteria and ran off screaming, then that would be acceptable?”
“This is what I’m talking about CJ. Your club is demonstrating an intransigence, that nothing matters except them.”
“That’s pretty much true. But that has nothing to do with the stage. On or off, nothing much matters to us.”
“Then this club is not helping you. Why have it?”
“Help is not what these kids need.”
“But that’s our job – to help students.”
“Mr. Blok, you really don’t believe that you can help every student, do you?”
“Yes, I do.”
There wasn’t much I could say to that.
“Mr. Blok, this club is like a flotation device. You’re out on a rough sea. You grab on. Now, does it help? Technically, I guess so. It keeps one alive. But dangers remain. A shark could come and start nibbling on you. Big waves could drown you. And if waves and sharks are absent, there’s still the issue of getting back to land. And you aren’t there to help. So we hold on.”
“Isn’t that something, just to hold on?”
“No, CJ it is not enough. You are here to thrive.”
Mr. Blok spoke like a man of many slogans and mottos.
“Tell me about the play.”
“Curtain goes up in a week.”
“You mean it’s happening?”
“I was led to believe that your club was having difficulties.”
“No. And I’m it too. Zombie number six. I emanate power.”
“Really? Well this is positive news. It seems you are thriving.”
“Holding on Mr. Blok.”
“CJ. I need a favor.”
“Were you threatening me?”
“When you started this conversation. You implied that the stage was off-limits. Are you offering it back, if I do something for you?”
“No. What a mind you have CJ. Don’t you want to give back to the school that gives to you?”
You are a silly man, I wanted to say.
“Then why ask me for a favor?”
“It involves someone you know.”
“Are you asking me to be a spy?”
“Don’t be so dramatic CJ. Yes, I need some information, but I’m not asking you to spy. You kids…”
I thought I could read Mr. Blok well, but at that point I wasn’t so sure.
“Screen? Why not ask Emma. She’s dating him.”
“I know that. I’m afraid Emma’s allegiance to Joseph would prevent her from doing me this favor.”
“What do you know about my allegiances? Maybe I’m jealous of Emma and that I love Screen.”
“I see no evidence that you love Joseph. You and Frank Spalding make a nice couple.”
“Don’t say that Mr. Blok. It sounds awful. I’m anything but nice. Besides, you’re way off base.”
“Then I’m right. Carrie’s doing you favors, isn’t she?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, Mr. Blok.”
“CJ, do you know that Joseph was expelled from his last school.”
“No. And I don’t care.”
“He dressed up as a vampire for Halloween.”
“He was kicked out for being Dracula?”
“He brought to school a jar with red liquid. It broke.”
“What do you mean, coulis? It was real blood.”
“Screen is a young man that surprises.”
“Don’t you want to know where he got the blood from?”
“You’re going to tell me.”
“No, I’m not, because no one knows. That wasn’t his first time involving Joseph and the macabre. But what I care about is the present. There’s a rumor that Joseph took a fetal pig from the school lab.”
“How did you find that out?”
Mr. Blok looked up at a camera perched in the corner of his office. Great, I was being filmed.
“CJ, I need to know what Screen planned to do with that pig.”
“CJ, this is serious. We need to know if Joseph is a threat.”
“Because he stole a dead pig?”
“Does Joseph come to your house?”
“I’m not sure I like this.”
“Can you please delicately find a way to talk about this? I need to know if Joseph intends to do harm at school.”
“Mr. Blok, first, we don’t spy on each other. Second, I happen to know that Screen is unusual, but that he is no threat. I am unusual. Club Dead is unusual. That doesn’t make us a threat.”
“Third. You are asking me to violate plain old decency. You want me to snoop on my sister’s boyfriend. That’s not going to happen.”
Mr. Blok’s avuncular countenance morphed into a scowl of a snapping turtle.
“What do you know about vials?”
“Seventy-seven of them.”
As the door of his office pasted my behind while I walked out, I realized that he was a man who threatened and followed through on his threats. Club Dead, starting tomorrow, had to find a new place to eat lunch.
And he wanted his vials back.