Scrappy Was Here
It all started with a shit. But before the shit, came lunch. And what a lunch it was. Roast beef with hot gravy, mash potatoes, fruit, and milk. Well, it could've been great. If the cafeteria ladies cooked nearly as well as they came up with intriguing titles. Roast beef? Well, I guess you could call the burnt piece of "meat" they gave us Roast Beef, and the watery brown fluid poured on top could be called gravy. As for the mash potatoes, well, they mashed something, but I'm pretty sure they weren't potatoes, and they might have been alive. The fruit, was rotten before coming off the tree, and the milk, rotten as it came out of the cow.
Now, as appetizing as it sounds going down your esophagus, it was even better coming out. I was always guaranteed to miss four minutes of my AP US History class "using the facilites." Today was no different, and at this point, my bathroom usage was so predictable, that I no longer asked my teacher to go, I just got up and left.
I guess that's the kind of privileges you get when your getting A+'s in all of your classes, including 4 you're enrolled in but do not show up to class, just hand in your assignments. It's not like I'm a genius, in fact there is one person smarter than me, Marcus Gaurilla, who has a 4.0 to my 3.9 (I didn't complete the back of a worksheet once).
I'm not the kind of guy who cries when I get a bad grade, in fact, I would like to get worse grades. Every time I get a test back, some smart ass (or rather dumb ass) will shout out, "and Derrick Barnes gets another a+!" Sometimes some other people will laugh but I've learned not to show emotion to the people who wish they could score as much as me.
Last week, my teacher Mr. Garundd kept me after class. He called me over and had me sit down.
"Derrick, I'd like to discuss the upcoming test with you. If we look at your last couple of scores, well actually all of your scores, I've noticed a pattern of excellence. Some of the other students are starting to get discouraged..." He went on to ask me to intentionally fail the next few tests. I said sure what the heck. So you'd think no problem right? Wrong, because Mr. Garundd makes the tests insanely easy. He asks simple, general knowledge questions that I can't see how anyone could get wrong. So I aced it, on accident.
Ok I've gotten a little sidetracked here. Where was I... Oh right, I was just about to take a big shit. You know, some of the greatest minds made their biggest decision while on the porcelain throne. Sophocles thought up Oedipus on the john. Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity while having a bowel movement. And Bill Clinton changed US history with his pants down. Ok, so the first two aren't true, but I was about to have a big moment.
I pushed open the door, inscribed with the now infamous words, "Scrappy Was Here," and sat down to... contemplate life. If you've been paying attention to anything above you've probably realized that I am not a real fit for high school. I'm seventeen and I have three times the credits to graduate. My first thought was I'd go to college. MIT, Princeton, Harvard, they all should be in my reach. But not all geniuses (which I'm not one) are fit for college. I've got my life all planned out (in fact I devised the 35 step plan in the very same stall):
Step 1: Birth
Step 2: Learn to walk, talk, and use the big boy potty
Ste- (You know what, in the interest of time, and to minimize the probability of embarrassment, I'll skip ahead a little)
Step 28: Graduate High School
Step 29: Rent a "pad" in the city
Step 30: Buy a computer, a printer, and a bed
Step 31: Write appliance and electronics manuals for income while writing several novels
Step 32: Publish several novels
Step 33: Become a Millionaire
Step 34: Marry for looks
Step 35: Retire Early
Ok, woah, back to the shitting and philosophizing. With my bowels moving, my brain moved better, and it didn't take long for a money making idea to form. God once said, "If you have nothing to do and your bored, create an entire planet with multi-celled organisms who can think, and make decisions for themselves." But that's not what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say is, that strange guy with the big glasses and the money signs taped to his shirt said, "If you want to make money quick then do what you know how to do."
And what do I know how to do? Homework.
Another thing the guy with the big glasses and the money signs taped to his shirt said, "The only way to make money is to advertise, advertise, advertise." I started to think it might be a problem that I was actually taking advice from this guy.
So I needed to get my name out there, make sure everyone knows about my business... without getting caught. An inherent flaw but somehow the druggies did it.
So that's where I would start. I pulled up my pants and left Scrappy behind. I went to back class and fell asleep in the back corner. I didn't need the Open Door Policy clogging up my brain when I had more important things to think about.
* * *
When the bell rang signaling the day to be over, I ventured to a place that I've never been. Some call it heaven, some call it hell. But most call it the alcove. It's the space behind the dumpsters where the alcoholics and the potheads all hang out to distribute, collect, and discuss poetry and politics.
I casually walked behind the dumpsters, inhaling the sweet aroma of decomposing trash, and decomposing souls, trying to act as cool as possibly possible.
"Hey homecats," I said, putting my hand up for a high five. I didn't get one. I walked to another stoner, "What's crackalakin cupcake?" He didn't respond.
They exchanged confused looks.
"Look, I came here cause I have a proposition."
More confused looks.
"Let's make a deal."
"What you want? Pot? Crack?Booze?" One guy said. He was dressed in all blackk and wearing one of those stocking caps that might as well have said, "I chose to screw up my life."
"No. ! I don't want... drugs. I want your guys help. I need you to spread the word about something."
"What's in it for us?"
I reached into my pocket, pulling out my only bargaining chip.
"Rolling paper?" He said.
"Not just rolling paper. This is special rolling paper that will enhance your smoking experience. You won't get the munchies, AND it gets free long distance."
A long pause. Please be high, please be high, please be high
"Free long distance!?"
* * *
I didn't eat dinner that night. I didn't go to sleep that night. All I could think about was my business. First things first, we needed a website. No problem there, .com was up and running in a few short minutes. Now all I had to do was sit and wait.
* * *
By sit I really meant sit. All great ideas come on the toilet, and so should great business practices. In the stall next to the Scrappy Stall I placed a pen and some extra toilet paper. It wasn't long before I had my first customer. I tried to handle things like Deepthroat would have.
"Uh, hello... Mr. Scrappy sir... I heard about you... um... how does this work?"
"I need a deposit," I said in the lowest voice I could get.
"Uh. A what? Heh... um..."
"Give me something of yours that's valuable so that I know you will pay me later," I said forcefully.
"um.... here ya go Mr. Scrappy." A shoe came under the stall divider. "Can't go without my shoe."
"Right so write down what you need done and I'll give you your receipt."
"Um. How do you spell English?"
"Good, good... and science?"
"It's okay just try your best." I was definitely losing my forcefulness. I looked at the workload. It would take me at most 10 minutes, but how much could I get out of this kid. He didn't sound like the tallest blade of grass.
"How much money you got?" I asked, cringing at the way I had to speak in order to sound powerful.
"34 dollars... and 122 cents."
"Well it's your lucky day. Because that's exactly how much this is going to cost!"
"Nice... um... okay so do I go now? Do you deliver or should I pick it up tomorrow."
Shoot. Hadn't thought about that.
"Just come back tomorrow before first period."
"Alrighty then... uh... thanks scrappy man..."
* * *
At home I did the few homework assignments I had been paid for, along with the homework assigned in class. Thanks to the doctor's note I'd forged with photo-shop and the printer I got for Christmas, I was out of class for 6 weeks with a ruptured fibula (no you can't rupture your fibula, but hey, creativity counts).
It was late. I had stayed up all night reading the 7th Harry Potter book...again. Before going to bed I checked my email. I'm one of those people who is very OCD about checking my email, and I can't go more than 3 hours without checking my email without feeling nauseous. I had disregarded the nausea (and minor indigestion) in the interest of finishing the book... again. So when I had read the last words... again... I flipped open my laptop and went to my mail box.
Any nauseous feeling suddenly transformed into loss of bladder control. 189 emails. 189! That's like only getting three emails, sixty-three times! Every single one had the same subject: A Form Has Been Fil...
That could only mean one thing. Those potheads knew a thing or two about marketing. I checked my watch, and was startled to find the little hand hanging out by the one. Get away from there! I thought. I don't have time for it to be one o'clock. I clicked on one of the emails. Someone wanted a four page essay about Ulysses S. Grant by tomorrow, and said they'd pay double if I could guarantee and A+.
What was I going to do? I quickly auto-replied to all saying, "Due to a technical malfunction your email was not sent properly, please try again at a later date." I was in over my head, but not if I got a little bit of assistance.
I hopped onto my Instant Messenger to check if any smart people where on. Only Todd Margolis who hates my guts and has tried to kill me on two occasions (I'd tell you about that but this is a pretty exciting part of the story).
This was an emergency though. I couldn't wait much longer. I flipped open the school directory. Sure it's probably not polite to call someone's house at one o'clock, but then again, it's not polite to leave a friend in danger of screwing up his life.
No one answered.
This was serious though. I couldn't just sit here and let this happen. All this money was going to waste. I'd have to suspend the website, for a day, and only a day. Then, maybe, I could organize a plan.
* * *
"Thank you all for coming. I know that many of you took time out of your busy World of Warcraft schedules, and some out of ballet, and piano, and viola, and what ever else you do. But I have a deal- a proposition for you."
"Make it quick Barnes. The Shebanian Knight isn't going to kill itself." Xiao Ling said (Asians always have good GPAs)
"Right... What would you say if I could promise each of you, at least $200 by tomorrow?"
There were some chuckles.
"What if I told you that in a week, you could be making over a thousand dollars? What would you say, when I told you that what I have in my hands could change your lives forever, and gain your respect throughout the school, throughout the state, throughout the country? What would you say if I-"
"What's in the envelope Barnes? Remember. Shebanian Knight..."
"Right." I opened the manila envelope and pulled out the packet of papers, slapping it down on the table. The words on the cover page read Scrappy Inc. "Say hello, to easy money."
* * *
That night I made $350 sitting at my desk. The next night I made $525. Money just kept pouring in. I continued to run business in the stall, bringing along my laptop to do assignments on my porcelain throne. I forged doctor's notes for the others too. Soon, the D-Hall bathroom was an enterprise, the toilets, our seats of power. Between classes, lines of people formed to get into the bathroom. People began to grow a relationship with certain stalls, only trusting homework assignments from one person. We posted our specialties on the outside of the stall doors, so that people could know where they should go.
We also expanded to other schools. We set up trash cans in remote areas that kids could "throw" papers out in. Then we would come by and collect them at the end of the day to see what kind of assignments we had.
Everything wasn't perfect however. We had a couple of close calls. For example, during class a custodian walked in to clean up. We sat on the toilets trying hard not to be seen as suspicious. Then later that day, a teacher walked in to use the restroom. I had thought this one through though. I quickly opened a MP3 of bathroom sounds, and made it sound like we were having some... troubles. He waited a little, then realizing this could take a while, left to find another bathroom.
I was sick of the close calls though. We needed another meeting.
* * *
"We need to lay some serious ground rules," I said.
Rule Number 1: Tell no one about this
Rule Number 2: Make sure only to do as good as requested
Rule Number 3: Trust no one
Rule Number 4: except everything in cash
Rule Number 5: Don't get Caught
Well we thought our rules would do well, and that we'd just continue to operate until we graduated. After a while it lost that sense of excitement committing a crime gives you at first. We just operated on auto pilot, and our cash flow remained pretty steady.
As the other Scrappies (as we called ourselves) went off blowing their money on whatever they felt like, I began to save my money. I even began to think that this might become my full time business.
* * *
As finals slowly arrived, we sold some study sheets, but for the most part, homework was not given out, and the Scrappies had decided that all was over. We began to pack up for the season. But then we got a letter we never expected to get. It was in the bottom of one of our special trash cans with the words "Special Assignment" typed on the front in big black letters.
I brought the letter to the meeting, and asked the rest of the group what to do with it. We decided it would be safe to open it. I mean, its just a letter, what was it going to do?
I peeled at the paper and carefully pulled out the single sheet of paper. On it were explicit directions to steal a test.
"Steal a test?" Xiao asked.
"No," I replied coldly, "not just any test. They want us to give them the answers to the state History final."
"How much money are we talking about here?"
"Do you think they really have that kind of money?"
"It's possible," I said, "I mean, it says it's for more than one person."
"We need to meet with this kid privately. Does it have a name or phone number?" Marcus asked.
"Yah... It's Mr. Garundd."
* * *
"Are we going to respond or not?" I asked holding the would-be response letter in my hand, ready to be placed in Mr. Garundd's mail slot.
"What's the letter say?"
"Mr. Garundd, yada, yada yada, what is the reason for this request, blah, blah, blah, we would like to meet with you privately, etc. etc., sincerely, the Scrappies."
There was a long silence, filled with only the sound of thinking brains.
I knew we didn't have much time to stand in the office before we'd be noticed so I interrupted the contemplation, "Well. Let's hope this is the right choice." I kissed the envelope and placed it into the slot.
* * *
Four days later we were sitting in a dark room, around a circular table. The Scrappies wore baseball caps that covered their eyes, and dark clothing. Mr. Garundd was dressed in normal teacher clothes.
"So what do you want?" I asked, deciding there could be a spelling mistake and maybe he meant "steel is best" rather than "steal a test."
"I need you to steal a test." Well, there went my spelling mistake idea.
"But aren't you a teacher?" Marcus asked.
"Yes. A teacher whose about to lose his job. Every single student in my class is failing. Except for one but, he could be the next Hawkings." He answered. I had to try really hard to hold back a grin.
"So you figure, if all of your students ace this test..."
"Then I'll have my job more secure."
The three of us walked to a corner to discuss, before coming back to reconvene.
"Alright. But only if you've got sufficient funds."
* * *
The test was in 4 days. Not a lot of time to steal a test. Hell, I didn't even know where they kept them. Xiao did some research (Asians are great at research) and found out where they keep the tests before they're delivered to the schools. (Apparently the local Postal Service holds on to them for a week before privately sending them to the school. It's amazing what they talk about in those stupid parent bulletins if you care to read them) That was easy enough, but actually getting there would be a different story. We held a meeting.
"Okay. 32 Becton Street. That's 4.2 miles from the school and 16.67 miles from my house. I don't have a car, and I only have my permit so we need to remember to budget time for walking" I said, tapping my pen nervously as I looked around the table. "How are we going to get this test, from the post office?" No answer. I knew what the problem was. We were math-leats, science Olympians, and World of Warcraft players. We weren't cut out for this kind of thing, and if there's one thing nerds are terrible at doing, it's admitting when they don't know the answer. "You guys, I think it's time to turn the tables."
The next day at school I went back to the guys who'd help me start it all. High as ever, the stoners sat behind the dumpsters.
"Hey it's mister big words! Back for some grass?" He held out his lit joint. I felt a shiver in disgust, either because of the thought of inhaling an illegal substance or the thought of putting something in my mouth that came from his.
"Gee. Thanks. No guys I need your help."
"Someone stole your protractor?" one guy joked. The whole group burst out laughing. I chuckled nervously.
"No, not exactly. Actually the opposite. I need to steal something, and, I need your help."
"What do we look like a fucking clinic? Every time you need help you come bitchin' to us. What's in it for us?"
* * *
With 1 day left for planning, we held what would be our final meeting. Three Scrapies showed up along with four Pot heads.
"What do you know about stealing a test?" I asked the largest one, Pete.
"Easy. You sneak in when the teachers not there. It's always in the drawer with a lock on it, but they always forget."
"Oh... well... er. Have you ever stolen a car?"
He turned bright red. "What the f-? who've you been talking to? I've nev-! Where do y-? No I haven't stole a car!"
Clearly a yes.
"Well, if we needed you too, would you know how?"
No response, but the look in his eyes told the whole story.
* * *
I woke up early that morning. I brushed my teeth and showered for 40 minutes. I continued to run the plan through my head. It was simple really. It was a simple little act. It's too hard to steal a moving vehicle, and it requires multiple dangerous acts and countless felonies. No, no. Our plan was simple.
The Post Office Opens every morning at 7 am but the Mail Men (and women now with this PC crap) arrive at 6:30 to collect their parcels and whatnot. With just a simple call to the Post Office the night before we learned which car would be going to the High School: Car 82; Carrier: Tammy D. Each car leaves at a different time, Tammy Leaves at 6:52 am. We'd get to the post office at 6:30, and watch until Tammy walks out with her hand truck of boxes and her bags of letters. Pete would take a box and cut through the parking lot. At some point he'd crash into Tammy, knocking the boxes off of the hand truck, and his onto the ground. Then, he'd switch the boxes. And take the one labeled Security Seal and replace his own. That simple.
And as I stood in the shower, water rushing over my hair, fingers wrinkled to the point of insanity I realized how ready we really were.
* * *
At 6:40 it became clear how ready we weren't. Pete hadn't shown up. We had no back up plan. I stood behind a tree, with my eyes bouncing back and forth between the Post Office door, and the street where Pete would be coming from. No movement.
There's a saying "Time flies when your having fun." There's another, less-known saying: "Time flies when your about to commit a crime and you realize your running out of time to commit it in." Well time surely flew because suddenly the door swung open and out came Tammy. She hopped put her stuff in the back of the truck and drove off. I didn't know what else to do, so I chased after her.
* * *
At some point she stopped. Understandable, though if I saw a crazed lunatic chasing after my mail truck I wouldn't stop, I'd go go go. But she pulled off to the side and waited for me to catch up. She was unloading some boxes to deliver to an apartment complex. In the distance I could see the school. If the test made it there it was too late.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
I stared at her. I didn't exactly know what was wrong. I hadn't thought about what I was going to say. You know smart people are allowed to make mistakes too!
"Are you okay? How long have you been chasing me for?"
"I... need... water!" I said, slumping down on her shoulder for support. She lifted me off and I fell to the ground, hugging her around the waist.
"Do... you... have...water??"
She thought for a moment beforer entering into the front of the truck. She emerged with a bottle of water. I nodded appreciation as she glanced at her watch.
"Shit. I got to go deliver these. I'm just going to run into this apartment building okay? You'll be alright?" I nodded, and she walked off to make the deliveries.
I'd be more than alright, because now I had her keys.
* * *
I opened the back of the truck and took the box marked security seal. She'd made it so easy, as soon as I slumped down on her shoulder I'd taken the suckers. I started to close the door, then thought wisely and through the keys in first. That ought to slow her down, I thought. As I ran to the school, carrying this box, I realized how terribly wonderful my life had become. As soon as I dropped off this box, I'd make 6,000 dollars. I've saved up another 4,000. Not enough to survive for long, but if business continued I'd be grand. I thought about ways I could expand my business, my empire!
And forget that 35 step plan, I'd found a better one. The school was close now, and I was about to make the big time. A smile creeped onto my face. That's when I heard the sirens.
* * *
I turned around. The cops stepped out of the vehicle.
"What've you got in that box there?" One of the cops asked. He had brown hair and a handle bar mustache. Bad-ass if you asked me.
"Oh, I don't know, my mom asked me to pick it up from the Post Office. Said it was urgent."
The other cop, with a small red goatee gestured to the school, "you go there?" I nodded.
"Did you hear about the drug busts recently at your school?" Handle-Bar asked. Again I nodded.
"As a way of helping students who may be headed toward a life of crime," Handle-Bar continued we offer some of them deals as informants for us. Nice huh?" I nodded. I'd forgotten rule 3: trust no one. Screw you Pete, I thought.
"We heard from one of them. Said a kid, who looked like you, would be stealing a state exam. No I'm going to ask you again, what's in the box?" Goatee asked, as he gave me that "I'm a cop don't fuck with me," look.
"Don't know," I said, sticking with my story, "Mom said it was urgent though." I don't know why it surprised me when the cop took out a box cutter. But I should've known it would happen. Goatee stepped forward and took the box from my hands, placing it on the grown. With a smooth swipe he broke the tape and opened the box.
"Adult Diapers?" he asked.
I almost jumped for joy. I'd stolen the wrong box! It didn't say "Sealed for Security" on the tape, it said "Sealed for Protection" like they put on medicine bottles.
"Well that explains why it's so urgent," I said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I really must get home."
* * *
A year later, I sit in my apartment and write. My 35 step plan, though revised, still ends with the same few steps. This is my fourth piece, my last three full length novels (I'm just trying out this short story concept). In case your wondering Mr. Garrund didn't lose his job. Apparently, Pete's a lot smarter than I had thought. He had broken into the post office hours earlier to take the tests. I'm sure his 6 g's have been blown on more illegal stuff than I even know about. And as for the Scrappies business, it still goes strong. And the next time your in a high school bathroom, taking the shit to shit all shits, just stop and remember the story, of the stall marked "Scrappy was Here."